Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Tiwi Beach & Shimba Hills Kenya

We spent the weekend in Tiwi with the Fairbournes, Leah, Tatiana, Kolby, and Lydia. I really appreciated our time in South Coast because Gwen and I got out of the house! Pictures below document some of Gwenji's firsts.

Gwen's first time in the ocean. The rays of light reflecting off the water was mesmerizing, she wouldn't look up. 
Thanks to Gwen's lovely schedule we get to witness the sunrise every morning

Shimba Hills hike
Family selfie

Trying to figure out this whole GoPro thing. Hoping to get better at videos this year.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Paris - La Ville Lumière

On our way back to Kenya we decided to take a break from traveling with Gwen, 24 hours of flying with an infant in lap was daunting. We justified stopping in Paris because of its price and location. 

Ben and I have shied away from traveling to the popular European cities because they tend to be expensive and lack outdoorsy activities. Everything I knew about Paris was from Sex and the City, history class, artsy people, friends who speak the language or want to be French (any place is more enjoyable when you can communicate). Here is the thing, as much as I love Carrie Bradshaw I have nothing in common with her. As we arrived in Paris, I was dying to know what the City of Light really had to offer.

I want to remember some of the conversations Ben and I had as we experienced the city. It happened more than once when we’d look at each other and ask, how? How?!...

Every morning I would walk to the boulangerie patisserie by our hotel order a croissant and point to two different treats to try (I lacked the courage to speak French, I am so self-conscious when it comes to languages). I would bring it back to the hotel, watch Ben as he tasted each item, wait for his approval, and we’d both always end up saying how are all of these so good? The croissants were so flakey and we'd get flakes everywhere; on Gwen’s head, our clothing, the stroller.

The streets of Paris are beautiful -- uniform and classic. There are some aspects of urban sprawl that Ben hates, so Paris was pretty much the antithesis of Ben’s disdain. Paris has also put some serious thought into lighting up the city and its buildings. Perfect lighting made it easy to take a lot of great pictures. We'd take pictures and wonder how are these turning out so well? Then joke oh yeah it's cause every corner cafe was picture perfect. I mean even the boats had great lighting. 

Notre Dame Cathedral 
One of our favorite things to do while visiting the churches and walking the streets was to think about how old everything was... This is older than the USA, than Christ, every thing we've studied is right in front of us, Napoleon himself probably walked these streets!  


At the Pantheon we sat down to take in how big it was and tried to think of a place like it in America. We couldn’t come up with anything. Then we started to think what if America tried to build something like the Pantheon? No game. How did people construct such incredible buildings in the early centuries?

Basilica of Sacré-Cœur

The Louvre was way too big. I have always heard it was a big museum, but come on. You could spend a week there and still not see or appreciate everything. My favorite thing about the museum were the rooms. They're huge and as impressive as the art pieces themselves. I loved seeing all the famous paintings. The Mona Lisa is smaller than I expected while other works are bigger than the apartment I live in. Nothing could have prepared me for The Wedding at Cana or Rubens' Marie de' Medici Cycle. I also enjoyed all the artists sprinkled about sketching other famous works of art.


Ben and I are happy to say people were remarkably kind. Our hotel and cafes were very accommodating as we rolled in with a bundled up baby and stroller. I think people really appreciated Ben using his broken French (Creole). We were able to communicate almost all of our needs and sincerely express our appreciation for the great serviced we received.   

There were references to the Charlie Hebdo shooting throughout the city. I think the terrorists hoped to propagate fear, but I didn't sense any breakdown in Parisian spirits.  

We were impressed with how easy it was to travel around Paris with an infant. The streets are wide enough for a stroller, people love babies and the extensive metro system made visiting every arrondissement easy. We did spend a lot of time carrying the stroller up and down the metro stairs, but two people carrying the Gooz wasn't difficult. Strangers were also helpful and willing to lend a hand.

I realized all my reservations about Paris were superficial. I was a wide-eyed tourist and left understanding why people adore this city. We hope to visit France again and take our time through more of the beautiful sites. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

My Family in Atlanta

I was in Atlanta, GA with my family for roughly 4 months. I haven’t lived with my parents since high school and they moved to Georgia when I was in college --the "South" and small family dynamic was pretty foreign to me. After spending so much time with them I have a newfound appreciation for Georgia and most importantly my family, not matter how far we all are from one another. 

Days after the hospital. 

Gwen and her Glamma
Big geel, aka my mom. I don't know what I would have done without this woman. Some of my happiest memories were the hours after giving birth to Gwen. My mom stayed with me that night and I felt comfortable sleeping knowing she was right there. A shower and a few hours later my mom comes strolling in with bags of things for baby girl Gwen. It was the start of her endless generosity and obsession with my baby. My SIL said, moms/grandmas are special because they are one of the few people who love your children as much as you do. This is true, and I love what it has done for our mother-daughter relationship. Right now I miss my mom coming in my room, walking by e to greet Gwen with her token phrase What's going on girl, what's going on?! I wish I could cozy up with her in her and watch Million Dollar Listing. I definitely do not want to watch one of her favorite B movies, but I miss joking about them with her. My mom was always willing to change a diaper, dress Gwen up, bathe her and get me all my favorite snacks from the store. I felt spoiled with how well my mom took care of us. I realized how much she really loves me and sacrifices as a mother. I know I will be learning this lesson over and over as Gwen gets older, I'm just lucky to have witnessed and felt the sincerity of my mom’s love for so long.

I have always known my dad/Steve as a hard worker, but the past four months also reminded me how much he sacrifices for our whole family. I thought the first 36 hours of my life with Gwen were crazy; my dad was just as sleep deprived. He went from being in the delivery room, off to his calling, church, and then caught a plane to somewhere in the USA. I didn't see him until Thursday. It was humbling to see my dad come home exhausted and then find him doing something for the one of us. He was quick to help with dinner, Gwen, Collins, or just entertain us with some crazy story. My dad also has a talent for knowing the type of foods and restaurants I would LOVE and getting a baby to sleep. Right now I really miss watching him rock and sing to Gwenzo. He had the best lyrics about her mannerisms and gas.

Collins was born my senior year of high school; regrettably, we didn’t get to spend too much time together. It is apparent when you ask him to list his favorite people: #1 Conner, Evan, Mom, Dad, Ben, Gwen then me. I sort of agree with the order, so I'm not offended. I will cherish my time with Collins. He is such a sweet boy. Some of his acts of kindness would bring a tear to my eye, like bringing me water because he knew I needed to stay hydrated. Or the time he brought me “breakfast in bed” but left it on the toilet because I was on the shower. Had to eat it, the gesture was so thoughtful. He always invited me to do things with him and I felt bad when I was 9 months pregnant and couldn't keep up. What truly melted my heart was his love for Gwen. He told me, I normally don't like babies but when your sibling has a baby you love her. He is the best uncle and I can’t wait to see all the life lessons he teaches Gwen. 

Geezy/Evan was preparing for his mission when I was in Atlanta. I got there days before he got his call and then he was off to BYU-I. From a distance we watched and tried to help Evan prepare for his mission and seeing him before he took off was a beautiful sight. On our way back to Kenya we stopped in Atlanta for a few days to join Ev as he received his endowments and gave his farewell talk. It had also been awhile since I have spent some quality time with Ev and it is wonderful to see the young man he has become. First of all, he is TALL. I love seeing his goofy side come out because he is in a man's body-- a nice reminder that he is the same Geez. He gave an inspiring farewell talk and it was exactly what I needed to hear because I didn't want to see him go. 

Being home really made me miss having my whole family together. I want Conner back from his mission and wish Evan was only going for 18 months. Two years seems like a long time. By the time our family is together again it will have been over four years, we are basically at the half way mark. I can’t wait for the day we are all reunited. My mom and I are already planning that special Christmas.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

New Years in Oregon

Gwen's grand tour of America had us in Oregon for the rest of Christmas break. With Katie on a mission, family spread out across the country/world, it had been a long time since the Stevens had all been together. With the family growing each coming year we all know it is going to get harder to gather together as a whole family. I am grateful everyone made a special effort to come out this holiday season; I think we did an excellent job making good memories and cherishing our time together.

At Christmas pt. 2 Jade hated her Kenyan outfit, while Demi strutted around the room all proud of her new clothes. I wish I got more pictures of the night. This is the only pic I got of the geels.

Demi loved Gwen. She would constantly Shh! and tell us baby sleeping
Family Volleyball. Tina and her reign of terror
Jade loves the Oregon Ducks almost as much as the guys. We spent a lot of time watching football and cheering on Marcus Mariota. 
Massage train

Smith Rock on New Years Day
Before leaving PDX, we were able to meet up with a bunch of friends, meet baby Emi and Marcus took Ben to the Blazer vs. Laker game. It left us wanting more time with everyone, we can't wait to get back to Oregon.