Thursday, December 22, 2011

Caleb's Walking!

While visiting Grandma and Grandpa O'Neill in Michigan, Caleb took some of his first steps that we could catch on camera! He has taken a few before, but this is some of his best walking we've seen. He is just three days shy of his first birthday.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Birthday party!

Caleb enjoyed his 1st Birthday Party a little bit early in Visalia with Grammie and Grandpa Griffis. He also enjoyed his first taste of dessert - a whole piece of chocolate cake!

The "Doljabi" (돌잡이) ceremony for a child's first birthday is a Korean tradition. The child wears a traditional Hanbok and different objects are placed in front of him. The first two objects he chooses are thought to say something about his future. Typical objects to be placed in front of the child: a pencil and paper representing being a scholar; thread representing skill and dexterity; a noodle representing long life; and money representing financial success. In modern incarnations of this tradition families may add other objects representing similar skills or paths in life.
In our ceremony, Caleb wore a hanbok given to him by Julie's former teacher's aide from TCIS, Sunah Chong. We placed thread, a ball (representing athletic skill), a stuffed animal (representing a love of animals), money, a Bible (representing a life in ministry), and a pencil in a semicircle in front of him and let him go...

Which two do you think he chose?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Grandma and Grandpa O'Neill come to visit

Caleb keeps us busy and joyful, and here are a few new videos with the little guy.

One game Caleb likes to play with Daddy is "Daddy's Gonna Getcha" - a little chase around the living room.

When Grandma and Grandpa O'Neill came to visit they had a great time playing with Caleb, and Caleb really enjoyed this book sent by his Great Grandma McClure - it has little flaps that make noises when you open them, and Caleb really got the hang of it quickly!

Playing horsey with Grandpa.

Caleb loves to eat and this day he was particularly enjoying mealtime:

Thanks for enjoying our videos! We hope you have a wonderful holiday season!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Caleb is Crawling!

In the world of babies, everyday brings a new developmental feat. So, what is new one day is old news the next.  Caleb has been crawling for about a month now, so it's not so new for him any more, but we realize that most of you out there haven't gotten a chance to see him in action.  We thought we'd better post videos of him crawling before he starts walking! Here are a few short videos of him exploring the living room in our new home in Orange.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

New home, new videos of Caleb

Hi everybody!

Here we are in Orange County, getting settled and ready for a new adventure!  We haven't been posting as much to the blog, and probably won't be, but we'll still use this as a place to share our precious Caleb videos.  He's growing so fast!

In July we traveled to Michigan for Peter's wedding and as a bonus, Caleb got to meet his cousin Timothy for the first time.  Timothy is just 15 days younger, and these guys had a ton of fun together.  Here's a video of their first moment meeting - Caleb was six months old here.

After we returned to California, Brian's mom came with us to help us get settled.  Caleb got a new high chair and started eating lots of different kinds of foods.  Here's a video of him enjoying the tart sweetness of applesauce.  Very cute!

Be sure to check our latest pictures on facebook:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

More baby videos

Enjoy watching Caleb in action!

This first video is from a walk we took with Caleb and Sierra some time ago.  The video is from February but I forgot to share it.  This shows what life is like here in Mali outside of our mission compound.

Next is a video from Easter.  Grandma and Grandpa Griffis sent Caleb a little lamb as a present, and he took an immediate liking!  He tried to eat the lamb to the best of his abilities.  (18 weeks old)

On Easter Sunday we went to church at Bethel.  You'll notice Caleb and Brian wearing their matching Easter cloth outfits - see our facebook album for a family picture.  In this video Caleb enjoys the singing.  (18 weeks old)

Sometime in the last few weeks Caleb has really discovered he loves playing with Sierra.  When she comes close he puts his arms out and leans in.  He especially loves "petting" (ie grabbing) her ears.  She has been very sweet and patient, and usually reciprocates (or preempts) the pets with a big lick to the face!  (18 weeks old)

Caleb also loves singing, or at least loves it when Mom and Dad sing.  A couple of his favorites are the Alphabet Song and The Itsy-Bitsy Spider.  Here he gives some smiles during the song and also tries to eat the camera.  (19 weeks old)

Finally, be sure to check out our newest facebook album with plenty of Caleb pictures!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

New videos

Happy Easter, everybody!  Here are a couple new videos of Caleb from the last couple weeks.  We have a couple more from Easter weekend, so stay tuned.

Caleb playing with his Spaceship toy at 16 weeks.

Caleb talking in the morning.  He usually wakes up a pretty happy baby, and this lasts anywhere from one to ten minutes, depending on how hungry he is.

Waking up in the morning.

At 15 weeks, Caleb discovered he could grab his feet!  He's 16 weeks now and changing so fast!

Saturday, April 2, 2011


We just got back from our spring break, and we had a wonderful time!  Julie's parents decided they did not want to wait till June to meet their grandchild, so we planned to meet somewhere in the middle between Mali and California - but since the midpoint is in the Atlantic Ocean we settled on Paris.

It was a short trip - only four days to see the City of Light! - but it was well worth it.  Caleb loved getting to meet his Grandma and Grandpa Griffis, and they love him very much!  Highlights include:

Travel: Caleb did a great job with travel, and enjoyed his priority seating in the bassinet in bulkhead.  For those who haven't flown with a baby, shortly after takeoff they bring out a small bassinet that attaches to the wall in front of your seats.  We made the rookie mistake of traveling without a pacifier (we don't use them at home) but luckily a fellow missionary in Bamako came to our rescue (thanks Becky!).  I'm pretty sure some other travelers on the plane thank her too.  There was only a one hour time difference, so we'll have to wait till June to find out about baby jet lag.  :)
Caleb arrives at Charles de Gaulle Int'l Airport

Grandparents: Julie's parents were ecstatic, of course, to meet their little baby grandchild, and it was nice for Julie and me to have some help watching him.  They even gave us a night on the town alone - Caleb's first evening without Mom and Dad!  I think this picture says it all though - the very first meeting.
Caleb meets Grammie and Grandpa Griffis

Hotel fire: Yes, our hotel did catch on fire.  We came back from seeing the Eiffel Tower at around 5:30 PM.  We first noticed there was a lot of commotion going on up ahead in the street.  Then we saw lots of fire trucks and police, and noticed a fire ladder up against a building.  Hey, there was a fire pretty close to our hotel.  Wait, a minute - that IS our hotel!  The block was roped off so we could not even get near.  A few police officers told us in broken English that there'd been a fire.  When we told them we were staying at the Best Western they made a face like, "Ooh, too bad for you!"  It was looking bad and we couldn't get much information about how extensive the damage was.  Fast forward a few hours: Julie waited with her mom and Caleb in a different Best Western lobby down the street while her dad and I waited in line for an hour or so to be escorted inside and claim our belongings.  Turns out the sixth floor was wiped out - one guy lost everything but the clothes he had been wearing, including his passport - but the fifth floor was only affected by water.  The parents' stuff (fifth floor) got a little wet and smelled like smoke, and our stuff (fourth floor) was nearly unaffected.  By 9:30 or 10:00 PM we were settled in our new hotel, a Holiday Inn on the other side of the river.  Our new hotel was nicer, location not quite as great, but overall we were thankful not to have had any damage and thankful to have a place to stay.

The sights: We had a wonderful time touring around, though we've begun to see how having a baby changes the way you travel.  We toured around Notre Dame, the Champs de Elysee, climbed up the Arc de Triomphe, saw the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night, went up the Eiffel Tower in the daytime, and spent one afternoon at the Louvre.  Four days is nowhere near long enough, but we felt good about what we did get to see.  L'Open Tour buses allow you to hop on or off all day at any of their tourist destinations, and that provided a great way to get around to the places we wanted to go.

Be sure to check out our pictures from Paris in our facebook album (It's a public link; you don't need facebook to view these.)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Out-takes from Mali

Living in a foreign culture means that you are bound to run into some funny situations due to misunderstanding or cultural differences.  Add in travelling with a dog, being pregnant, and having a baby in a foreign country and it's a recipe for confusion and comedy.  The following are some of our fun memories from our time so far in Mali.

1. Setting - Bamako Airport, shortly after landing.
Julie: (after searching for an airport worker who spoke some English) Excuse me, I'm looking for my dog. Can you tell me where the oversized luggage is?
Airport worker: You want a dog to pull your luggage?
Julie: No, my dog is the luggage. She is in a crate.
Airport worker: You put your dog inside your luggage?!
Julie: ...Thank you for your help sir.

2. Setting - Our laundry room the first week after we've arrived.
As Brian and Julie begin taking down a load of whites from the laundry line they realize they've been welcomed to Mali.  Lizard poop down Julie's white shirt. Mental note - fix the screens.

3. Setting - Koutiala Hospital, EVERY prenatal check up from 8 months on - this same conversation.
Nurse: I see you are having twins.
Julie: No, just one baby.
Nurse: (Looking at Julie's belly) No, you're definitely having twins.
Julie: No, really, I'm pretty sure it's just one.
All Nurses in the room: (Looking at Julie's belly and nodding in agreement) Congratulations on your twins.

Disclaimer to the twins story - I wasn't THAT big... it's just that Malian women and their babies are much smaller on average than American women and their babies. :)

4. Setting - Mission compound, two days after Caleb's birth.
Woman from the church: (Rubbing Julie's belly) Congratulations! When is your baby due?
Julie - (Pointing to Brian holding Caleb) This is my baby.
Woman from church: (Covers mouth and walks away laughing embarrassedly).

5. Setting - Mission compound. Greeting a Malian female visitor who had arrived.
Woman: (To Brian) I' ka kene? (How are you?)
Brian: Toro te (No problem)
Woman: So mo go ka kene? (How is your family?)
Brian: Toro te (No problem)
Woman: Muso ka kene? (How is your wife?)
Brian: Toro to (No problem)
Brian (Using his new Bambara language skills, and cultural savvy regarding greetings) I' ka kene? (How are you?)
Woman: Toro te (No problem)
Brian: So mo go ka kene? (How is your family?)
Woman: Toro te (No problem)
Brian: Muso ka kene? (How is your wife?)
Woman: (...)
Brian: (D'oh!)

6.Setting - Koutiala Souvenir shop, 10 Days after Caleb's birth.
Souvenir Man: Is your baby 3 months old or 4?
Brian: 10 days.
Souvenir Man: French equivalent of "No Way!"

7. Setting - Streets of the outdoor market in Koutiala. (Background info: Malian women breastfeed their babies anytime, anywhere. It doesn't matter if you're walking through the streets, sitting in church, or riding on a moto.)
Julie and a friend are walking through the hot and dusty streets of the market while Julie is holding Caleb. When she stops to buy some cilantro, Caleb starts crying loudly.  Within 30 seconds of this crying, male and female vendors along with passersby begin yelling out in Bambara and French - "Feed the baby!" "Give the baby the breast!" "Put the baby to the breast!" Julie imagined Caleb smiling mischievously on the inside as he had found his biggest support group ever.

8. Setting - Mission Compound.
As Julie walks over to the school, she sees one of the guards, Dirisa, sitting in a chair. He picks up a bottle of Cheer Laundry Detergent, pours some into the lid and takes a sip. After the initial shock, Julie realizes that he is just drinking water from the detergent bottle. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle... taken too far.

Loving life in Mali -
Brian, Julie, Caleb, and Sierra

Monday, February 21, 2011

     Seven weeks into parenthood and Brian and I find ourselves in the place that so many new parents must experience; feeling more and more confident each day as we learn the cries, smiles, and noises of Caleb...until he does something to completely surprise us and remind us that we are utterly inexperienced at this world of parenting. The time really has flown by and we love watching Caleb learn and grow so much each day.  He's able to pay attention to faces, smile at us, and hold his head up on his own.  Each day brings a new discovery of this great big world for Caleb.
     After two weeks at home with me, Brian returned to teaching and took on the job as the only teacher for the six students we have here.  That was enough to keep him busy; meanwhile I was staying at home being kept equally busy by my one little guy.  Last week I was able to come back into the classroom in the afternoons to help Brian out.  Caleb has been a good sport about it by sleeping through most of school.
     A few weekends ago we borrowed a car and took a 5 hour road trip to Bamako, the capital of Mali.  While we were excited to get out of Koutiala (we haven't done much travelling at all this year) this was not just a trip for fun - we were on a mission.  We had to go to the US embassy to apply for Caleb's citizenship and his passport.  Caleb slept the whole way there despite the frequent driving off the side of the road as we passed large semi-trucks that took up more than their share of the road.  It always makes me hold my breath in anxiety as we pass by these truck bursting forth with all sorts of cargo - crops, boxes, food goods, animals, and on top of it all- people- packed in, perched precariously, and clinging to whatever is beneath them as the monster truck sways and tilts in the wind. We spent one night in Bamako and enjoyed our first real hamburger in 6 months. Our mission at the embassy was successful and we hope to soon get back all of Caleb's paper work, including a passport with a picture of a 4-week-old, floppy headed baby, who is gazing off into the corner.  
Road trip to Bamako!

Going for a walk
     Our days now are a strange mix of constant business and the continuing refreshment of not having a lot to do.  That is to say there are always diapers to be changed, a baby to feed and cuddle, teaching to be done, planning for the next day. But there are no sports teams to coach, professional development meetings to attend, or restaurants and movie theaters to frequent.  We occasionally take walks around our neighborhood and always laugh at how a 10 year old child can maneuver a herd of 10 long horned cebu through a pasture using only a tiny stick, then yelp out in fear and run at the sight of our dog Sierra on a leash. Neither of us ever imagined going on a neighborhood stroll and passing donkies, chickens, pregnant dogs, groups of boys playing soccer barefoot in the dusty fields, and women walking while carrying huge bundles on their heads and often toting 2 year olds on their backs.
     I'll leave you with those images and wishes for a very happy Valentine's Day.  Brian and I decided to forgo the Valentine's Hallmark Cards and fancy restaurants and just enjoy the melted chocolates that made their way to us on an apparently difficulty journey from kind hearts in America. But don't fear - the romance is not lost.  Thanks to our frequent loss of electricity we've been enjoying more than our fair share of candle lit dinners this year.

Lots more pictures over here on facebook (public link):