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Superwoman…

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MamahoodWe all have heard that woman are great, women can carry a million and one things on their shoulders and not flinch, that they can smile with tears on their faces and they carry a multitude of secrets in their hearts… Well there is one breed of a woman who definitely takes the crow. A woman called MOTHER…

I have been wondering how they actually survive, especially when the children are still under five. A typical Nairobi lifestyle demands  a “Five to Eight” kind of work environment, where you leave the house and five in the morning and return at eight in the evening. Work demands are varied with deadlines to meet, crazy bosses to deal with and keeping yourself concentrating on the job. When a mother gets home, they have to deal with hyper active toddlers, homework, and at night they can be awake half the night because, John had a nightmare and Jerry could not sleep and breastfed the whole night and Katie had fever that needed monitoring. And in the morning the cycle begins all over.

Wake up at four, dress up and go to work and be 100% productive. That is just basic family unit. Add the crazy tout who yelled at her, a friend who she needs to hook up because she needs a shoulder to cry on, a mum who is unwell, brothers and sisters who need scorning, a graduating relative, a bereaved neighbor, the careless driver who dented her car, the cop or “Kidero cop” who took her in for questioning on some unidentifiable offence, and the list goes on.

Well, if you ever catch her gesticulating, smiling sheepishly on the street, bad hair day, screaming at you for no particular reason, staring blankly or just on a 3% conversation concentration, give her a break. she needs it. She will bounce back in no time. but for just a second, let her retreat to a world only she lives in. The world of being a super person.

HATS OFF to all mothers out there who brave the world with a smile each day. Celebrate yourself often because, only God really understands what you go through in the motherhood journey.

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NFP: Just another form of contraception? By Jeanette Alexander

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nfpContrary to popular belief, Natural Family Planning (NFP) is not “Catholic Contraception” like it is commonly misconstrued. It isn’t the outdated “calendar rhythm method” either, where a woman estimates when her fertile period is, based on information gleaned from her previous six cycles. This method is quite unreliable indeed. So what exactly is NFP and what’s all the fuss about?
Natural Family Planning or NFP is an umbrella term for scientific, natural and moral methods of family planning that can help couples either achieve or postpone pregnancies by observing the fertility signals of a woman’s body to determine the most likely days of conception in the month. Some methods of NFP include the Sympto-Thermal Method, the Creighton Model System of FertilityCare (CrMS), and the Billings Ovulation Method (BOM).
The BOM is the method taught locally at NFP Singapore. Essentially, NFP is an approach to fertility awareness and management; a way of life and responsible parenting.
Natural Family Planning vs Contraception
Contraception (“Contra” means against and “ception” refers to conception) is the deliberate use of artificial substances, methods and techniques to interrupt or sterilize an act of sexual intercourse with the use of a host of drugs and/or devices, to prevent pregnancy. The more common forms include the condom or sheath; the contraceptive pill, which contains synthetic sex hormones to prevent ovulation in the female; intrauterine devices (IUD) which prevent the fertilized ovum from implanting in the uterus; and male or female sterilization (vasectomy and tubal ligation).
In a very informative and enlightening interview on EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network), famed author and chastity speaker Jason Evert draws some clear distinctions between contraception and natural family planning and defines NFP as “the method of avoiding or achieving pregnancy based on observing the changes in a woman’s body that indicate her fertility. This method of planning a family, he explains, is scientifically endorsed by the British Medical Journal as 99% effective (with proper use), without the harmful effects of chemicals and devices. It is a “totally natural way to plan out one’s family if you have a good reason to space out your family,” says Evert.
He weaves in a great analogy about NFP vs Contraception being two women who want to maintain slim figures – one who’s dieting and the other who is bulimic. Both have the same goal of losing weight and keeping it off, he says, but their approaches and methods are entirely different. The woman who is dieting practises temperance by sacrificing and avoiding fatty foods while maintaining the discipline to exercise regularly. The bulimic woman, on the other hand, “binges on all kinds of fatty foods and then throws up to purge the weight-gaining effects of bingeing”. Contraception is like the woman who binges and throws up. NFP is the woman who practises temperance and sacrifice. Contraception is like bingeing on sex and then purging its life-giving effects, says the father of five, who is expecting his sixth with wife Crystalina Evert early next year.
NFP is Couple Orientated
NFP is also couple orientated and promotes sharing and joint responsibility in family planning. It helps cultivate intimacy in a marriage and enriches it, since the same qualities that make marriage work such as respect, patience, fidelity, regard, self-mastery, understanding and consultation are required and developed when a couple faithfully practises NFP. Since the methods of NFP respect the love-giving (unitive) and life-giving (procreative) nature of the conjugal act, they support God’s design for married love. It is an entire approach to life.
Love and Responsibility
In his book Men, Women and the Mystery of Love (Practical Insights from John Paul II’s Love and Responsibility), Dr Edward Sri highlights that according to the canonised Pope, contraception is not just immoral, it “destroys the love between a husband and wife in marriage”. He brings to light four important points St John Paul the Great made:
Accepting the Possibility of Parenthood: for sexual relations to become a true union of persons, it must be accompanied in the mind and will by the acceptance of the possibility of parenthood. Sexual union itself does not automatically bring about a true union of love. One of the key ingredients needed to make the bodily union between a man and woman an expression of an even deeper personal union of love is a willingness to accept the possibility that through the sexual act, “I may become a father” or “I may become a mother” (227-228). This openness to parenthood is crucial if love is to mature in a marriage. He adds: “When a husband and wife are truly open to life in their marital relations, it is as if they are looking each other in the eye and saying, ‘I love you so much I am even willing to embark on the adventure of parenthood with you’”.
Rejecting Parenthood, Rejecting one’s spouse: Contraceptive sex is not just a rejection of the possibility of parenthood, but a certain rejection of the other person, in that it prevents the physical union of marital intercourse from blossoming into a full personal union of love, says JPII (228). When spouses reject the possibility of becoming parents together in the marital act, the focus of their experience in sexual intercourse becomes merely “centered on sexual pleasure”. It is as if they are saying
“I want the sensual pleasure from this act, but I reject the possibility of you becoming a parent with me” (234).
Periodic Continence: While couples should never reject the possibility of parenthood in sexual intercourse, John Paul II teaches that they do not need to “positively desire to procreate on every occasion when they have intercourse” (233). Couples may face certain situations in which they desire to postpone the conception of a child. In those cases, they may choose to abstain from having sexual relations during the times the woman is most likely to be fertile.
Still open to life: According to St John Paul, the most important point to consider involves the couple’s attitude towards procreation. Periodic continence may be used to help regulate conception, but it should not be used to postpone having a family. The Pope explains, “We cannot therefore speak of continence as a virtue where the spouses take advantage of the periods of biological infertility exclusively for the purpose of avoiding parenthood altogether” (242), pointing out that the good of the family should be weighed seriously before practising periodic continence, as he notes that “giving children siblings can contribute in an important way to a child’s education and upbringing, since brothers and sisters form a natural community that helps shape the child”.
Fertility is a gift
Jason Evert puts it beautifully: “There is no reason to interrupt the sexual act at the moment we are supposed to be renewing our wedding vows. If we are going to come together as one flesh, it should be as God designed: in the love of husband and wife”.
After all, fertility is a gift, an end of marriage, for conjugal love tends to be fruitful (CCC 2366).

Finding Myself; Finding Peace when he is gone…

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Candle

When someone loses a beloved one, it is very easy for us to call and say sorry, or type RIP in their social media, or call and give a word of encouragement. I know I have done it. One of my favorite quotes has been “They are not dead those who still live in the hearts of the living”. My encouraging words have been “May you find joy in appreciating that they lived, than mourn that they are gone.” Its been a month since my dad breathed his last. It’s been almost two years of him living with cancer, and though I find solace in knowing that he is in no more pain, accepting and following my own advice has not been easy. There is knowledge that he will be gone. Nothing prepares you for the reality that he is gone. That those we love are gone.

While I come to terms, while I cry and let my shower wash my tears, I learn to encourage myself, to walk the path of knowing that phone number will never be answered by the same voice, to see pictures on the wall are our memoirs, the advice he ever gave is all I have, the moments shared of love are all I hold on to, and I cry some more because its saying good bye every morning to the man who was so present in our lives.

It’s been a month of total loss. I am probably still a mess even if I smile at you. I may come to your office and will probably cry a bucket. Maybe more than a month, because since that diagnosis, in your head you know the eventuality. But isn’t death a reality we live with everyday?As I sit back and reflect, I choose today not to mourn, but to be thankful.

28To be thankful to God for who he was to us. A man who loved his family, with a big bias to his daughters, of which he had many. He literally fought fights for his daughters. I remember some random guy who decided to abuse my sister with those vulgar unmentionable words. One day he was summoned and given a lecture of his life. Well let’s say it never happened again. I choose to thank God for the guy who not only instilled hard work as a character trait in us, but was hardworking himself. He was a pre-colonial man who never went to school, but he worked his way up the ladder as a professional driver for the public service, educated his children, built homes for the two families he had, supervised development projects at home and his dynamism and embrace of technology was such that by the time of his death could use a smart phone. He achieved much, am nowhere close to what he achieved. Hope someday I will. I choose to thank God for the sacrifices he made for us his family, his children. I choose to thank God for the discipline he instilled in us, for the advice he offered, for the shoulder we depended on especially at our weakest. I choose to thank God for the privilege of the moments of success and failure that we shared. For the support that he gave so we may live our dreams, for the tough love- he never shied away from telling you are making a stupid decision that will land you nowhere-, for the woman I am, for the relationships that we have with my sibling which he directly and indirectly contributed, for everything I learned from him, especially on friendships and how to live and interact with people- he believed in respecting everyone we encounter no matter how unworthy we thought of them (if that even makes sense) because there was something to learn from everyone. He was an exceptional planner who went for nothing less than excellence in what he organized, from when and how to pay for whose fees, which head teacher needs to be spoken to, which applications need to be proof read, which child is weak in which subject and what needs to be done, which one needs disciplining and how to discipline, which celebrations, who to hire, when to hire, who to speak and many more. He planned everything, to his grave. He left instructions on what to be done when he died. We only executed his plans at his death. He was a dad. I am not writing this because he was an angel. He was human. I am writing so that someday, my children who never met him will learn a few things from him. Hopefully they will ask questions about this grandfather who will forever indirectly influence the people they become.

I choose to appreciate those who traveled with me in the low moments. I give thanks to God because in all that we went through, we never lacked, materially, emotionally, spiritually. You and you and you, who prayed, who sent contributions, who traveled with me to see him, who came to cry with me, my spouse, my family,  my in-laws, my sisters and bffs, my godchildren, our God Parents, colleagues, priests, everyone. God knows you supported us and He will abundantly reward you. I still need you. We all still need each other.

FILE18592While I still walk this path of finding peace in his absence, it is easier to live with these memories. I will still cry every once in a while. However, I pray the peace of Christ that has been with us continue to be with us. May the knowledge that for him life is changed not ended console me. May I find peace in knowing he is in peace, he is not in pain anymore. He rests, totally. In death his face was at peace. His legacy lives in us, his candle burns in our lives, his influence is so much in us, his love for us we will always cherish. In his absence he lives because, they are not really dead those who still live in the hearts of the living. Fare thee well.

“Raha ya milele umpe, Eh Bwana, na mwanga wa milele umwangazie, Apumzike kwa amani- Amina”.

5 things to remember when your child gets a seizure/ Convulses

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Child

Mom monitoring a seizure in a child

The first time I heard of Epilepsy, was in a first aid class I helped organize for a group of pro-life students in 2003 when I was in college. And of course it rarely concerns you until it hits home… You will read a lot of the seizures, the types, and one thing you will realize is, most common child seizures are caused by fever. Of course there are those that just happen, and doctors brand them atypical, but in simple terms, that is just epilepsy. Your child has a seizure whose cause cannot be explained, then they have epilepsy. It is a big and scary word. And traumatizing. But it is actually scarier to watch your child convulse. Having witnessed 2 in a span of 6 months, I am no expert, but I have a tip or two to share if you ever find yourself in my shoes. This may not be limited to children, but if you ever be in a place where one is having a seizure, the procedure of what you need to do more or less remains the same.

A typical -grand mal- seizure more or less takes place in the same way or follows the same pattern. The casualty stretches out, goes rigid and falls, then jerking movements, then often but not always grinding of teeth, then sleep. Each phase takes different lenth of time. One seizure may not necessarily take as long s the one before, or one stage may take longer or shorter time than the previous one. Here is waht you do:-

  1. Thou shall not panic:- As a parent watching your child going through all that , the first instinct is, scream, pick up the child and run to hospital. I did that and when I got to hospital, I was asked questions I could not answer. So as a parent or observer, it is your time to be most sane. Everything that you are going to observe in the next few seconds to a few minutes counts in terms of what diagnosis and tests will be given to your child. Don’t panic, no matter how hard it sounds.
  2. Get a soft landing:- By this I mean, remove the danger from the casualty or remove the casualty from danger, whichever is easier. If it is a child, place them on a soft bed or couch or put something soft under them. This will ensure that when they jerk they do not injure themselves further. If the casualty is an adult, break the fall. Hold them as they fall, ensure the ground around them is free of stones, sharp object etc. Do not try to wedge the child’s mouth open or place an object between the teeth, and do not attempt to restrain movements (seizurekids.com). This should also apply to adults as well.
  3. Take note of what happens while the person is in the fit:- One thing you will sure be asked when you get to hospital is “Describe the seizure”. How will you describe if you did not observe? Take note of the times of each phase. How long did the casualty stretch or was stiff, how long did the jerking movements take, how were the jerks, just the hands or both hands and feet, how long did they sleep immediately after the seizure? Most importantly, check for fever.
  4. When they fall asleep,now do what you were to do in the panic state:- After seizure, the casualty sleeps. Now you can panic. Run to your room, get your wallet and baby bag, call a cab, run out of the door and call the neighbor. Get to hospital. Whatever you do, make sure you get you child to hospital especially if it is the first seizure. As soon as possible. After all the 3 above are done. If it is a subsequent one, you probably already have a neurologist, call them, inform them, schedule a check up with them.
  5. Be ready for the checks:- While you are riding to hospital, prepare yourself psychologically for the check ups. Once you get to the hospital, you will answer on what you noted on the above. Was the child on medication, remember the names of the medication he was on. Is there a history of epilepsy in your family? If it is the first convulsion, and there was no fever, and the above checks out as okay according to the doctor seeing you, they will do a lot of blood checks. They check for infections, blood sugar among many other things. If that comes out negative, they will do a head scan to check for trauma (read injuries to the head). They will actually tell you to hold the child as he goes into that machine. Its a tough journey. If that comes out normal, they will admit the child and monitor. when they rule out the possibility of a second seizure, you will be advised to go home and of course return if a second seizure does occur for a brain activity test called EEG. After this they will put the child on medication until their 6th birthday.

I am not writing this as a medic.Just as a parent trying to help a another parent who is going to go through the same or going through the same. It may sound tough that you have to act and seem like you have no feelings for your child, but the information you relay to the doctor is so crucial to your child’s well being and diagnosis. Trust God to see you through the desperate times, be strong for your child and be there for them when they do not seem to be fathoming what is happening in their tender lives. Perhaps my next big challenge next will be when he goes to school. I am not afraid, it is well in Christ. It always is…

Finally, you will realize I have used the word casualty when describing what you need to do. It is not because they cease to be your child when it happens, but because you must disassociate yourself with the mushy feelings of motherhood, you must choose to act as opposed to weep or scream, you must choose to be sane as opposed to emotional. Mushiness may cloud your judgment. Panic will prevent you from noting what needs to be noted. Detaching yourself may work, if only for that short while when your sanity is so called for.

The 5 must-haves in that baby bag…

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Baby bagOnce a  mama realizes they are expecting, the next big thing is shopping (well, besides the regular check ups by your gynae or hospital clinic nurses). One item usually on top of the list is the baby bag. You have bought the baby bag, baby is here, you need to take baby to clinic, ow, what needs to go to the baby bag., there goes the first panic confusion.

I will highlight a few things that are important to pack in that baby bag, depending on the age of your child.

  1. Baby clothes:- In my short time of parenting, I have learnt that a baby will give you enough oops moments. You will undress the baby for weight checking and well, the freedom gives them a good feeling that they feel its time to relax all the muscles, including bowel and urinary tract ones. And they do it very excitedly, and smile at you afterwards. And he soils all his clothes. Grrrr. Well, no matter how close the clinic is from your house, make sure you pack a change of clothes. Two sets if your child is under six months and a set if he is above. Pack the same if you are going to church, to visit your friend, where baby goes, the sets of change of clothes go. A set for me was a roamper, and a onesie when they were under six, and a trouser, T-shirt and onesie now. When its cold, I add a vest to the set collection. I always carry one jacket, regardless of the weather. Even if you are staying for just one hour. The little angels have a way of surprising you.
  2. Diapers :- My baby is unwell, I take him to hospital and somewhere in the background a mama is asking if the hospital gives diapers. I look closely and she has an 8-10 month baby on her arms and no bag at all. I am not judging, but I want all of us to learn that children poop does not have a schedule and they pick an infection in a blink of an eye. Pack 4-5 diapers if your baby is under six months and 3 afterwards.
  3. Nappy liners:- But why and am not using nappies? Well, because you need something to wipe your baby, yourself and the person sitting next to you if baby spits or pukes. I find them very absorbent and light enough to carry around. Pack 2-3.
  4. Food:- When children are under six months, we worry when we leave them because we pack food (read breast milk) they will consume when they are away. When they are weaned, we worry when we carry them around, because you must have their meal plans in your bag, depending on age. Whatever you schedule for them to eat, pack it, if you have the insulation bags, the better, means food wont get cold. Breast milk is no longer enough and it is not a guarantee that you will be in a position to buy good baby friendly food wherever you are going. Its not much of a hustle, just pack, carry and feed baby when they demand. And yes, no one will chase you at of a restaurant for feeding baby with their packed food. The no food from outside does not apply here.
  5. Baby wrap:- By this, I do not mean toto wrap to carry baby around. I mean, something to cover baby with when they fall asleep. Not necessarily to do that but to place under them when you are changing. Be it a leso or shawl or cot sheet, something that baby can lie on when you are changing or sleep on when they are asleep and u are at your friend’s visiting.

But this is a lot to carry… Yes, it may seem a lot to carry and sometimes I find myself debating if I need all this when I am leaving the house, but I think of the oops moments and it is totally worth the heavy load. You may look like you carried the whole house and you are leaving for just two hours, but I have learnt that two hours for a child can be eternity. Be safe, or face the wrath of the community, when they yell at you. No, that shouldn’t be the reason, but you will be at peace and if the oops moment comes, because they do come,  you will be ready. All in all, we are used to carrying a lot of paraphernalia we don’t need in our hand bags. When baby is here, handbag is AOB, just make sure you have your wallet and hankie. Period.

Why teaching is a great profession…

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I was recently invited to give  talk to a group of High school teachers. It was a challenge and a privilege.  I said yes, not because I had anything to tell them, but because I was doing a friend a favor. I pondered,wondering what to tell a group of teachers. After a long debate within, this was my message to them…

  • Amidst all the unimportance preached against your profession, teaching is still very important. I believe that there are three persons who have the capacity to impact on the life of a person, positively or otherwise;the parent; the teacher and the priest/pastor. You can influence their character, expand their mind, mould their values, direct them towards becoming the very best of themselves. It is all in the words, the power of spoken words, in the home, in the classroom, in the pulpit. Words that create or destroy, words that tear or build, words that makes one fly or bring one tumbling down. They come to you like wet cement, whatever impression you put on them lasts forever. You have limited time to interact with this soul, mould it well. Albert Einstein once wrote that teaching is the profession that creates all other professions. Honor your worth.
  • He who must once teach must never cease to learn. One must create time so that they can perfect their best. After you perfect you then you are in a capacity to perfect others in the field of your interest. Build yourself so you can build others. Become a masterpiece of your own person, then you can create beautiful works of art.
  • The world will not honor you for the work you do, you must then honor yourself. The greatest teachers, Henry David Thoreau, John Locke, Albert Einstein among others still remain influential to date, because they attached value to imparting knowledge and sharing it more than he reward they got while at it. You must love what you do beyond the the returns it brings you, not because the love will put food on your table, but because the rewards of your impact are beyond the finest food you will ever eat.
  • Organization must be geared towards a common goal. While each teacher has a unique specialty, all the resources, human, time and otherwise, must be harnessed towards the betterment of a student. Not only academically but all round success. A school therefore is not only a machine for learning but a culture where all work together to bring up a human person.  It is an environment where talent is nurtured, innovation is encouraged and values are grown. The school could be having a dream, but we are all a part of that dream.
  • A school is not a machine. We must realize that each person who comes into it is human, with its own uniqueness, different backgrounds, different environments of growth, different personalities and temperaments. Like my grandmother said, there are children born with teeth and others with none, meaning, our levels of interactions with different people come at different ages. We do not expect like thinking just because we wear the same uniform. We are different, abled differently, all needing love, acceptance and respect, in spite of who we are. If your contribution towards in this person is n making this person better at their best and improving on their worst, then you will not have lived in vain and your impact will be for generations to come.
  • Finally, what what the children become is your responsibility. Not because you wont have bad results, but because you gave your very best. Teaching is giving yourself to make someone else better. I believe in doing the very best, so that when you are old, and you look back and ask yourself if you would change anything given another chance, you would confidently say, I wouldn’t change a thing…

You are a teacher. You have one chance. Be the very best. Do your very best. Become the very best. By being, you help someone else become… 

A lesson on Faith…

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My Christian Religious Education class defined Faith as unquestionable belief in someone or something.

Ever wondered how much a little child believes in the magic of their parents? To a child a parent is its god, its authority is unquestionable, its power is everything and wherever parent is, then everything is alright.

Te first time i learnt this, I was traveling with my nephew o go and visit his dad. He was probably four years old. I have traveled with my son severally, especially n public transport. They never question you on whether the journey will be a success, they don’t ask in fear if they well get to where they are going. There is no fear in their eyes at all. Just a trust that as long as they are with you, they are okay. They lie on your chst and fall asleep in a belief that when they wake up, they will still find your beautiful face when they wake up.

Can we behold Christ in the same sheer abandon? Can we live in belief that even when our life is stormy, we can fall asleep in the arms of His love, with no worry at all? He promised to always be there. Do we believe in that promise?

A story of a captain in a sailing ship is told. This man, once on a journey, would go and pray a lot, yet there was no storm or sea disturbance. He kept praying, the sea was calm. People wondered. They chatted, ate, danced and had fun. A few days into the journey, a fierce storm engulfed them. They all cried out to God, but the captain remained calm and steered the ship. The wailed and cried and called out to God, some perished, some survived. Then one of them asked this calm captain why he was not ruffled. His reply, “When its calm, I pray, when its stormy, I do my job”. He believed in His God to have heard his prayers, and in the belief of His power, he calmly did his job.

May we have the courage to trust God enough to believe Him and his capacity to deliver His promises. Trust is a function of faith.  In trusting God then , we can unquestioningly live in calm hope that no matter what is happening in our lives, He is with us, He is working on our issues, and in His own perfect timing, He provides each according to our needs.

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