Saturday, June 22, 2013

How To Back Your Baby (Infant to Toddler)

Remember when I told you I learned to tie Elijah on my back the African way? This is where I teach YOU! I will always be grateful for West African women demonstrating "backing" their babies (and for the missionary who encouraged me to give it a shot). Elijah was the wiggliest, energetic buddle of love -- walking at 8 months! If he can learn to be "backed", just about any baby can. It takes practice, but it's well worth the trouble. I've recorded an instruction video and written out the steps.

Instruction Video

How To Back Your Baby (Infant to Toddler)
  1. Loosely wrap the 2-yard fabric around your waist to keep it accessible.
  2. Lean over and lift your baby onto your back.
    (Have a spotter or a bed behind you the first few times until you and your baby get used to balancing on the back.)
  3. Lift the cloth from your waist over your baby and center it under both your baby's and your armpits.
    (The cloth could also go over the baby's arms if he/she is sleeping or smaller.)
  4. Fold one side over the other and tuck under at the top.
    (At this point your baby should be secure is the cloth is under his/her. Stay leaning over if the cloth is over the baby's arms.)
  5. Lift the bottom edge of the cloth just under your baby's bottom and pull your baby's legs to either side of you.
    (An infant's legs will stay inside the cloth and a toddler's outside.)
  6. Twist the two ends of the bottom edge of the cloth together in front of you and tuck them under. Done!
  7. If your baby falls asleep: Lean forward, untuck the top edge infront of you, lift the cloth over your baby's arms just under his/her neck, and re-tuck. This will cradle the baby until you can lay him/her down.
    (The cloth is a great little bed when there is none.)
Sleeping outside with fellow MK.

Sleeping at a restaurant.
Sleeping at home in the kitchen.

When I learned to "back" him, my chores became easier. It's much easier to wash dishes, cook dinner, clean floors, do laundry, etc... when Elijah's on my back and not under my feet, crying, or getting into trouble. Besides, he loves watching me work and feels included. And don't give up. You may even look like I did when I first started!

If you'd like cloth to try yourself, email me. We suggest a $20 donation to our Wagner Vehicle Project fund. Considering carriers go for $50-100, this isn't bad. And the cloth is straight from Sierra Leone, where our family will be serving as missionaries. Here are some samples.

Some of the cloth available to you!
I was pretty pleased to find a similar video on youtube and another and another..

Friday, June 21, 2013

Dearest 1-year-old

Dearest Firstborn,

Good morning, my son. I became your Grandma and Grandpa Lee this morning as I cut your pancakes exactly like they did mine over twenty years ago. It's your birthday, and I want this day to be special for you even though you won't remember anything. I want to strengthen your sense of belonging in our family and show you the love we have for you.

You're no longer 0. We've been trying to teach you to hold up your finger and say "one" for the past couple days, and you look at us curiously. You're processing so much now, and your imitation ability is growing. We celebrated two nights ago at a Twins game, and you happily repeated base as "bsss" and have been saying it ever since. Baseball must have made quite the impression on you, like it did your daddy. Maybe you also will learn to take your glove to baseball games and hope like everything to catch a ball in the nosebleeds.

You're learning furiously --- saying "pizzz" for please, and repeating "pee pee" at diaper changes and "baby" when you see a baby or doll, smacking your lips for hungry, clapping your hands for all done or amen, applauding when happy, shaking and nodding your head appropriately, throwing things away or handing them to people, drumming on containers, opening and closing doors and cupboards (and dishwashers and drawers). Your favorite it dancing! Our favorites are still "Mamama" and "Dadada," and sometimes we get an "-y" on the end which absolutely melts us.

Yes, we are smitten with you.

Most of all, we want you to know that you are wonderfully loved by your Savior, Jesus. You are his precious child, bought with his blood and washed clean in baptism. Your daddy and I pray that you will fall deeply in love with Him, but even more, know His love and sacrifice for you.
Precious son, I love you.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

My 11-month-old earns his first chore.

Responsibility is growing in our home. Elijah has earned his first chore: 

Throwing his diaper away! 
(in the wet bag pail if cloth and in the trash if disposable) 

He enjoys it and takes great pride in being able to follow instructions. Our little over-achiever has managed to find and throw away clean diapers as well... and toys... and my cell phone. We're working on what doesn't go in there. Also, Mommy found a dirty diaper outside the pail. Ufdah! Hard to scold the little guy when he's trying so hard.

Not sure what chore #2 will be when he perfects this one. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Head Down: Child-Training From Home

Elijah is high energy and one of those half-second cuddlers. We learned quickly to face him out when holding him. He preferred seeing the world to nuzzling his face into our shoulders. Still does. Wiping my snuggle desires away, I have found great joy in wrestling matches and air tosses.

Taking a breather during our workation (Taken by Joshua Wagner)
He started walking at 8 months, and shortly after, this newfound independence made a strong personality even stronger. I began to feel less confident in my ability to control and curb his energies for positive action. As a wife and mommy, I feel responsible for creating opportunities for fun crazy times and peaceful quite times. A peaceful atmosphere is important for both my baby and my husband.

Signs that I needed to take more action at home...
  • Grunt/whine/cry/arch his back if he didn't want to be held.
  • Wouldn't sit still for reading a book, or other activities.
  • Prolonged, unconsolable crying after bedtime.
After conversations and gathering much needed advice, we learned a particularly helpful training tool -  affectionately called "Head Down." Basically we have regular sessions at home teaching him to keep his head on our shoulder and stay quiet. Josh and I do this individually with him and slowly increase the time of sessions. (Facebook me if you want more details.)

Results for Elijah...
  • Has an alternative to squirminess and back-arching.
  • Keeps more control in public, particularly at church and during speaking engagements.
  • Can sit through and enjoy story times and family conversations.
  • Calms down more easily, especially when overtired. 
The very best part of this new practice is that Elijah is so much happier as he learns to relax and take time to be quiet. He comes up to us several times throughout the day to give us hugs. Sometimes HE even initiates head down times.

P.S. After we started this, I saw this post from my friend and loved the tips she gives.

Happier baby. Happier Mommy. Happier husband. 

Learning to wife!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Workation: Does the Stress Levels Good

I planned a super-secret-surprise getaway for Josh. Except the only thing super-secret was the location. I blocked 4 nights and 5 days on the calendar several days ahead of time and went about my business quite normally definitely suspiciously.

This helped with the super-secret aspect...

Well, thanks to some friends, we ended up in their gorgeous cabin in Wisconsin. I packed two bins of to sort/scan/throw and work on, our scanner and laptops, a bin and cooler of food, and a bag of clothes. We had an incredible time plowing through our task list, enjoying each other, relaxing and watching movies in front of their fireplaces (it was cold and rainy), and doing a work project outside cleaning up brush, logs, and branches. We loved it!

It was extra special because we had made a similar trip in 2011 before we had Elijah. We relived some fun memories and made some new ones.

Commercial: If you and your loved ones are feeling this stress of work/home, I'd highly recommend doing a workation. It allows you a different environment to do much needed work, and you end up having more time to relax with fewer home/appointment responsibilities, especially if you keep meals super simple.

Learning to wife!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Raw-Knuckle-Causing Diapers & Chickens in My Kitchen

It happens. We have good moments and difficult moments (or days or weeks). When I first came to Africa, a missionary here encouraged us to refrain from facebooking/tweeting/announcing during emotional highs. Give them time. I'm grateful for this advice. As I reflect on the past three months of Africa-living, I smile at God's grace and mercy. Life can be grueling, scary, humorous, and breath-takingly enjoyable.
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6, ESV)
Spontaneous date with Josh: capturing lightning in Northern Ghana
 (Taken by Joshua Wagner)
I've definitely had high moments...
meeting people who are so different, yet so similar.  
seeing people's faces light up as I speak their language. 
eating delightful mangos, pineapples, and avocados. 
uncontrollably smiling as I watch my sweet boy discover DIRT! 
witnessing my husband guide our son in his first steps on his own at 8 months. 
watching my son laugh hysterically at my chasing of chickens. 
getting news of a house found in Sierra Leone for our family.   
cooking our comfort food - rice and curry. 
watching lightning flash through the clear night sky with my love.  
receiving starbucks coffee and chocolate from our supervisor traveling from the US. 
hearing praise for tying Elijah on my back the Ghanaian way.  
watching my (and my husband's) dreams come alive.
hearing the Word spoken in another mother tongue. Beautiful. 
Tying E on my back in Northern Ghana (Taken by Joshua Wagner)
I've also had a share of lows...
chasing chickens out of my kitchen.  
not understanding anything said around me or knowing anyone around me. 
desperately missing church services and liturgy in my heart language. 
hand-washing poopy diapers, as my knuckles become raw and I'm pouring sweat.  
being stuck without toilet paper.
throwing up Sunday morning from food poisoning, dehydration, or who-knows-what. 
watching my Josh lose 15lbs in one week, living on oral rehydration solution and yogurt. 
treating my 9mo-old for malaria. 
being in a different country from my love for two weeks. 
soaking food in bleach. 

Keeping E entertained while washing diapers (Taken by Joshua Wagner)

I love my life. I love Africa. 
I'm so grateful for this time of learning, thriving, and refining.

The daily grind (Taken by Joshua Wagner)

Thursday, March 28, 2013


(For personal safety this will be posted after the event.)

I'm learning what it's like to cope/stayhealthy/thrive in the midst of loneliness. My man is gone for two weeks, and this is the longest we'll have been apart. It's for a good cause - he's in Sierra Leone scoping out our work and living situation for later this year. I'm so excited to hear all about it when he gets back.

The more missionaries I talk to the more I learn that being apart (due to meetings, gathering resources and supplies, etc.) is part of the missionary life. We decided it would be good practice during this orientation to think about the essentials for life during our times apart. So many of the things that came up are ones that hardly cross our minds back "home."

  • Safety: Do I feel safe? Are there people I can turn to quickly and easily?
  • Transportation: Do I have the ability to go where I need with baby in tow?
  • Health: Do I have what I need to stay physically healthy (hydrated, etc)? Emotionally healthy? Do I need/have electricity, water, internet?
  • Communication: Am I able to contact people I need? Can I communicate with Josh?

We're halfway through our time, and I'm really pleased with our setup. We addressed each of these things before he left, and we're doing great. Baby E and I are eating 2-3 meals a day, sleeping well, getting some exercise, doing fun activities, meeting some new people, and learning some new things. My man asked some missionaries and a local friend to look out for me, and they're doing a great job! We've even been able to talk to him briefly over the phone a couple times. *swoon* That's the only time I've been crying... when I hear his voice.

I'm grateful for some advice a friend in Norway gave from her experience of being alone: "Treat yourself to some good food and some fun project when Elijah is alseep."

That helps with the thriving part of being alone. So do all the prayers that are being said on our behalf.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Can I be their wife?

I often think about what it's going to be like living among the people to whom God is sending us. Will we be called "stranger," "outsider," "white man/woman"? For a time, no doubt about it. Maybe a long time. Maybe the whole time we're there. What's it going to take to become an insider, to really bond? Giving up hot showers (wouldn't want those anyway), lattes, air-conditioning? Living in local houses and eating local food?

Elijah with our friend Ama, who helped care for him while I was sick.

No. It's deeper than that.

Today, I sat and talked to Josh's Ghanaian best friend about families and extended families. I had heard that a woman is addressed as "our wife," and I wanted to know what that meant. He explained that when a woman is brought into the family through marriage, she not only becomes the "wife" of her new husband, but also all his brothers. They call her their wife. And his parents call her their daughter.

There is more to the relationship: All the brothers are obligated to care for her and any children that are born. They act equally as husbands to her and as fathers to her (their brother's) children. They are respected by her, provide for her and her children, etc. She also inherits the cooking duties for the entire family from the mother-in-law, because his parents are her parents. Extended families are large  enormous! This is where relationships are, and relationship is the currency of Africa (previous post).

I'm not sure what it's going to look like in Sierra Leone. I get the impression that this is the West African way. Is it okay to hope for an extended African family? To want to be called "our wife"? Or however it's done there?

Growing up, that's how my parents built relationships as missionaries in Bangladesh. There were local people we were "related to" through my mother and my father, and... those were the relationships that were deep.

Me with my auntie and late uncle (on my mom's side) in Bangladesh.
Learning to wife!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Would've thunk my family was kinda African?

So, to be able to relate to people, it's important to come up with things we have in common. Here in Africa, I feel like I'm always talking about my family. It's what I like to talk about and it's what they like to hear.

Nearly everyone lives in community, mostly with extended family. It's odd that our little family would leave our extended family in America to live "by ourselves" in Africa. In order to show them family is important to us and that what we're doing is that important that we'd leave them, I have to tell them stories.

I tell them about my sisters and all their kids. 

My sister-in-law and #5.
They love it. The media has told them that Americans only have one or two kids and don't breastfeed. When they hear that my sisters have 4, 4, and 5 (6th on the way) each... so far, they love it. Even they think it's crazy! "One of your sisters gives birth every year!!!!!!!" Yes, it's even odd here. I often get asked how many we're going to have. When I say as many as God blesses, they beam and exclaim with joy.
I tell them about my precious grandpa's funeral.

Some of the family gathered for the funeral.
I few months ago over 50 people gathered, ate, and slept at our family compound in California. We had three small houses and three campers. People didn't even have to sleep in the tree house! It's the way we roll, and we loved it. When I tell them that this is unusual in America but common for my family, they say "It seems you're already Ghanaian." You see, they live in compounds here, they work together and provide for each other in everything, and funerals are of utmost importance.
I tell them that in America, Josh and I live with his grandparents.
They love this and can totally relate.
Yes, what we've gotten ourselves into - helping people use and understand God's Word - is worth it. The pains of not knowing the language, unreliable electricity and water, washing diapers by hand, or soaking food in bleach, pale in comparison to the pains of being away from our family.

This, my friends, is how I bond with people.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Relationship is the currency of Africa

"How's Africa?" - You might ask.

I knew right away when we got off the plane in Accra, Ghana, that our next three months would be incredibly different from the previous three years of marriage we completed. 

Ghanaian children near Tamale, Ghana
(Taken by Joshua Wagner)

Relationship is the currency of Africa. Two of the most common phrases used here are "You are welcome" and "You are invited." The first is used to welcome people into a their homes, stores, or simply their presence. The second is often used to share a meal. If you happen to be near anyone eating, they will invite you to share their food. It's beautiful.

"How's Elijah in Africa?" Well, take a look here and see for yourself. He looks like this almost all day, everyday. 

Or, maybe you're wondering what on earth we're doing over here. If you'd like to follow the ministry we are a part of, check out our Facebook, WAGNER UPDATES, and you'll find pictures, descriptions and updates like below. I'll give you a hint: We're about making God's Word accessible in people's heart languages.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Monday, February 25, 2013

Reducing Stress: Packing To Do List

If you're anything like me, you might focus so much on what you're supposed to take on a trip and neglect the process -- inevitably making the whole process stressful despite your detailed list of items to bring.

When packing for this 3-month trip to Ghana, I was determined to enjoy the process, have times to relax and enjoy final moments with people around me, and leave confident that I hadn't forgotten anything and would return to a welcoming environment. It's really important to me to have everything neat and clean before leaving, so we feel welcomed back on return. This is what I did... Keep in mind, that I would love further ideas/advice from your experiences packing and traveling.

Packing To Do List
  1. Start early (if possible) and with a list
  2. Research what to bring (optional)
  3. Distribute items among bags
  4. Pay attention to carry-ons
  5. Keep a record

Entertaining Elijah with the simple things of life
& recording contents of bags
Now the longer version for more committed readers... :)

1. Start early (if possible) and with a list
I try to start with a list right away. Often it's just handwritten, but with a bigger trip like this (and even more for our later move to Sierra Leone), I use wunderlist. For me, it's super important to have a list that the hubs and I can both access and add to from the computer or our phones. Also, I like to save my list for future trips so I don't have to redo everything. I like to keep a running shopping list with this -- mostly because I hate shopping and only want to go once, if possible. Shout out to Amazon and 2-day shipping!
2. Research what to bring (optional)
Depending on what type of trip, this may or may not be needed. I wrote to a few missionaries and looked at a couple lists, like the CDC packing list -- so super helpful for missionaries.
3. Distribute items among bags
Once I had everything together, I pulled things for the carry-on(s) and then divided everything else into piles based on the number of checked bags (for us 3). So, each bag had clothing and other essential items, as equally dispersed as possible. This is for in case a bag gets lost. Also, it ended up making each back about equal in weight. I had to do very little shifting and guess work to get them the right weight.
4. Pay attention to carry-ons
I made sure anything super important or heavy was in our carry-ons along with a change of clothes. So, things like all our medications (didn't need to be included with our one quart-size liquids baggie) and copies of itinerary went in the carry-ons. Plan for delays, especially when traveling overseas. If you're stuck in an airport several hours, you want to be prepared. Also, it's a good idea to minimize carry-ons with small children, if possible.
Side note: Our checked bags were lost/delayed on our honeymoon, and I'm so glad Josh had me pack a few essentials in my carryon. Lifesaver! 
5. Keep a record
After the bags were packed and weighed with this amazing scale, I unpacked each bag and took pictures of the contents. And yes, I did use the pictures, not because luggage was lost, but to know which bag had what items! :)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

"Oh, you must be terribly busy!"

Sometimes people make me feel more stressed than I am. Have you ever heard the following?

"Oh, you must be terribly busy!"
"I know everything is crazy right now..."
"You're probably stressed/overwhelmed/tired."

Don't get me wrong, transition is difficult for anyone. It seems that anything in life could cause stress... moving, packing, going to school, going to work, having babies, having children or grandchildren of any age, pretty much anything one does in life. Does everything have to be "overwhelming" or "too difficult"?

My sister Mary &
my baby E at 3.5wks
My sister is moving to a new home. She is a hard-working pastor's wife, has four children, and has lived in 6 states in the 10 years they've been married. This time it's winter in Iowa, but she's not pregnant like most other times. Rather than saying, "How on earth do you do it?!" I want to say, "How exciting to have a new home! What are you working on? What are you looking forward to? How can I help/pray for you?" Because, I know, in the midst of the long to do list, she's thrilled to be moving!

As I was packing for our 3-month trip to Ghana  (and for our 3-year term in Sierra Leone), I questioned and doubted myself much more when I heard something negative. Sure, it's good to be honest with difficult tasks. But if you're like me, your attitude about those tasks is greatly affected by what people say. I loved hearing something like...

"You must be so excited to go on this adventure."
"Be sure to have fun while you're at it!"
"What an exciting change."

Up next... packing to do list to reduce stress. Learning to wife!

Taking a taxi to the airport in Accra to fly to Northern Ghana.
(Taken by Joshua Wagner)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mastering Mommy

I was 18yrs old when I took my first class in linguistics. I didn't even know what linguistics was. I just wanted to work with Bible translation. That was 2005. Yesterday, my sister-in-law sent me these pictures of what came in the mail.

M.A. in Applied Linguistics
with a concentration in Bible Translation

Thanks to my husband's support and encouragement, I finished classes when Elijah was 7wks old and my comprehensive exams a few months later. When I heard that I passed and would receive my M.A. I said, "Now, I can be Mom!" 

I look forward to seeing how God uses this training for his glory alongside serving in my primary role of wife and mommy. My desire is the same now as when I started -- that I would have the honor of participating in the efforts of getting Scripture into the heart languages of the people.

Blog silence for the past year. Explained.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Hello. It is enough for today.

Antere. N Dagban yuli Wunpini. 
M bohindi la Dagbanli. Di sagiya zungo.

"Hello. My Dagbanli name is Wunpini. 
I'm learning Dagbanli. It is enough for today."

This is Elijah's babysitter, Rafia.
She named me Wunpini, meaning "God's gift,"
a local name people enjoy and can pronounce.
(Taken by Joshua Wagner)

I love that this is not only okay to say, but it's recommended in my training right now.* We all have limits, right?

Language learning is a very important part of being a missionary, whether you're learning a new language or simply learning how to communicate effectively cross-culturally in a common language (e.g. English and Ghanaian English).

My big takeaway is that it's okay to acknowledge where I'm at in the process. AND, it's good to say it aloud. "It is enough for today," or "This is all I know." People here are very patient and friendly and continually say that little by little we will learn. Biela biela - "small small" or "little by little."

This is an even bigger lesson for me. I'm a missionary wife and mother, planning to work and live in Africa for several years. Pretty much everything will take time and will come biela biela. That's okay.

Each of us takes a day at a time, uncertain of what each holds.

*Here in Ghana, my little family is getting ready for life in Sierra Leone. Josh and I are sitting through classes on cross-cultural living/working, particularly in West Africa. We are also learning some of the local language to learn a method taught here and tackle common barriers with language learning.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

When it's 106, sometimes you just need to ask

The palace of Ghanaian female chief
Taken by Joshua Wagner
My hubs, 7.5month-old, and I moved to Ghana for three months. I'm super excited to write about some of the experiences that I'm having here. Some days absolutely everything seems different from my wonderful and frozen Minnesota, and other days, I feel like this could be home.

When we moved into our room here in Ghana, we were so impressed with the accommodations, we thought little of the fact we couldn't get the A/C to turn on. We adjusted quickly to the 102-106 degrees F. Or, should I say 39-41 C? Our neighbor was talking about her A/C last night, so I thought I might as well ask the receptionist about ours. In a beautiful way, she walked down the porch, stood on a chair, and flipped a switch. 

A week and a half into our stay, we turned on our A/C.

Between the extreme desert dryness and the blast of heat when I walk outside, I'm not sure using the A/C is the best idea. But that decision isn't for tonight since we're enjoying it sooo much.

The Sun of Tamale, Northern Ghana
Taken by Joshua Wagner

how 'bout this...

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