Saturday, December 31, 2011

A public service re: peanut butter

I was quite surprised to learn that among the top ten reasons people found this blog was by googling either "who invented the peanut" or "who invented peanut butter." They probably ended up at this post. Oddly enough, this will be our fourth post referencing the brownish/orange delight that is one of my son's staple foods.*

But since that post doesn't answer the question, let me provide some more helpful information here:

The peanut (or groundnut in Nigeria) was invented by God. And a very good job He did of it too, if He doesn't mind my saying so.

Peanut butter was not invented by George Washington Carver. Among the fun little evidences of this came from a forum I found while researching the topic tonight. "hevach" wrote:
From the infalible Wikipedia (after reverting vandalism), there's disagreement between the Peanut Butter, George Washington Carver, and John Kellog articles.
According to the peanut butter article, John Kellog created peanut butter in 1890.According to the John Kellog article, he only patented a process for producing it.
According to the George Washington Carver article, Carver invented around 100 original uses of peanuts - a number of others were published by him, but weren't claimed as original, and 105 of the famed 300 were recipes which he published but he credited them to other sources. Anyway, some of those recipes use peanut butter, but none of them are FOR peanut butter. Also, by peanut butter, it refers to an oily grit invented in 1890 by George A. Bayle Jr.
Lastly, there's the creamy yummy stuff we know today as peanut butter, which was invented in 1922 by Joseph L. Rosefield.
George Bayle, eh?  It's a wonderful life when you've got peanut butter!

"hevach" also gets credit for the best pun of the night, by referring to  "peanut conspiracy" theories as being waged by the Illuminutty.

Hope that helps. Happy New Year.

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Elephant is a shower: Something I love about Nigeria

(Part 1; Part 2)

What is Nigeria like? Nigerians love children. They are aware of children and talk to them like no other people I've known. When Prince and I were walking through the market for Christmas presents, it was his attention most people wanted. The guards at our place talk to him more than us. Everyone (almost) wants to hold our baby. That means some interesting things at a bouncy castle I wouldn't expect in the US.

All at once, 10 much older children jumped on the same bouncy toy Prince was on, back when only one was inflated. Even though they were rowdy as anything, they were extremely careful about Prince. They would pause their own jumping when he came by. They all learned his name and would call out to him. One of them took him by the hand to help steady him and lead him around and around. In the US, other children on bouncy toys ignored him completely, unless he was in the way.

When other toys were blown up, Prince climbed up the slides. In the US, other kids were upset when Prince didn't go down fast enough. Some kids would push him. What do they do in Nigeria? This:

They put their arms around him and lovingly slide down with him. When they saw me carry him (barefoot on hot ground, protective parenting in action), they decided they would help carry him too! Now, he wasn't a big fan of that as you can see in the video, but they were attentive and caring and friendly like you could scarcely imagine a bunch of American or German kids.

Prince would get tired of a toy when there were too many people there, and run over to an attraction where no one was. Then other kids would notice he had left and go follow him so they could play with him too. When he finished with the first toy, all the other kids decided they were done too, and left. It was very surprising.

After a while, he brought two girls over to meet Mommy and her baby. "This is my mommy!" he said as if he were showing off quite a prize, Joy reports. They were happy to be introduced. (Thanks to his new Mario game where we meet Mario's "girlfriend" Penelope, he called them his girlfriends. Joy has since instructed him he will not have a girlfriend until he's at least 16. But I digress.) They came back a second time to be with and hold the baby so softly.

The elephant is a palm tree: bounce bounce

(Part 1) What is Nigeria like? Nigeria is better than you'd guess, in part because we've discovered we have to "do without" much less than we thought.

While I was at parent-teacher conference at the end of the semester, Prince's teacher told us about a winter carnival of sorts that gets put on around here every year for the kids. With bouncy castles! Sweet! Prince loved our daddy date to a place with bouncy slides before we came to Nigeria and I had never guessed we'd get a chance to do that here.

Prince got to run around on the slides once all were set up for a couple hours. He had a blast. We told our neighbors about it and they are planning to go every day until it's over. We're hoping to go a second time still.

Unlimited play time for $3. In the US, an hour was $5.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Elephant is a rope: Nigerian Standard Time

What is life like in Nigeria? In the next three posts I will be explaining the same event our family went to, but from different perspectives. [Since one doesn't really require any pictures, it gets to go first. Click to be reminded of what the elephant analogy is.]

Nigerians are very sensitive about the phrase "Nigerian Standard Time," at least when used by outsiders. They will stand up and yell about it at AUN. When not in public, of course, they shrug their shoulders and invoke it constantly. (Funniest when spoke with a Jewish dialect:) "This is Nigeria! What do you expect?" Things kind of happen when they happen and you just have to get used to it. There are two flights to the capitol and they leave no earlier than their posted time, but often 2-3 hours later. Students stroll into class 15-30 minutes late unless you lock doors or impose sanctions. AUN drivers give you grief if you ask them to wait 2 minutes to go get one more thing, but don't apologize for sometimes being half an hour late.

If you need something done on time, you need to be very clear and even then get used to it. It is a very strange thing to be telling people what their business is and I really hope this doesn't become a habit. I feel bad doing it, but it is sometimes the only way ... like today.

We heard about a fun children's party in town and today we took our family to it. We were told it started at noon. We got there 1:15 to give it plenty of time to get started. They decided it would start at 2 instead. By 2:15 the guy with tickets hadn't even shown up yet and we bugged someone to go wake him up from wherever he was. He had walked past us several times, but was not obviously doing anything about the party or ready to accept customers.

The party was only partly set up. Prince got to play on it for a few minutes. When an organizer passed, I asked him when the rest would be up and running. He said it required more electricity than he had right then, so sometime around 3. I told him how long we had waited and how long we were willing to wait. "Okay, they'll be up at 3" he repeated, which I knew meant 3:15-3:30. I said, "No. It will be up before 3 or we will leave." Thankfully, a group of ten much older kids showed up and the crowding convinced them to finish the job. The rest was set up by 2:45.

The fact that Nigerians and Americans clearly use different words to talk about things that happen in the future, things that regularly happen at a certain time, and things that are happening now doesn't help.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas moments 1

Prince is an interesting fellow. His first present was, as he accurately observed with surprise, "Clothes!" It was clear the thought had not yet entered his head that clothes were Christmas presents. He then calculated much as Mr. Data would - though he has not yet met the beloved Android - and declared that he needed to go put his new clothes in his clothes drawer. This he ran off to do each time he received clothes.

If that were the end of it, there would be nothing much to report. But the next two days he was exceptionally eager to wear those new clothes. He even asked me on Sunday, "Daddy, are these the shorts that go with the Buzz shirt?" to make sure he didn't wear the shorts with the wrong shirt. So clearly he is interested... he's just showing it in unexpected ways....


For Christmas we were a church of one family. I based our Christmas program off the scroll of scriptures my mother made long ago at BYU, telling the story of Christ's birth and some of the prophecies of it. Among the things I enjoy about having my own family is getting the chance to read the scroll like my father before me. By itself that has been a wonderful and heart-filling tradition.

This Christmas, I wept as I read the scriptures aloud.

I have little enough idea why. There wasn't any particular revelation or realization or connection for me. My soul just longed to have been there.


Our favorite driver, Diamond, invited us to join his church for a Christmas party. Since he had been so kind as to accept our invitation to come to church in October, and since we looked forward to spending time with local Nigerians who aren't affiliated with AUN necessarily, we happily agreed. "One of the things we can say about the event is that Joy enjoyed it and felt comfortable," she adds. "This is high praise." We were placed in seats of honor by the pastor and church board (which meant we had a tablecloth and probably a wider selection of drinks). We had sung some Christmas carols to Diamond on one of our trips, so he signed us up to sing for everyone too.

That was a very nice part of it. Our singing is quite different from theirs, so it was nice to experience their traditions and share ours. When we sang Silent Night, Prince leaned in to the microphone for a big swoop during "sleep in heavenly peeeeeeaaaaaace." For many people, it was probably the most memorable moment of the evening, that swoop. Prince also enjoyed saying "Hallelujah!" after every other sentence from our MC. "Put your hands together for Jesus," Joy recites. Praise the Lord. Hallelujah.

They had a dance competition and a cookoff and a singing competition and an eating competition and probably a couple others as well. Prince and I wandered around the new auditorium they are building, designed in two floors to seat 2-4000 members.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Cloth diaper datapoint

Some friends of ours are investigating cloth diapers and I thought I'd quickly share our data point below the fold.

Happy Christmas Children

The magnetic fish were a major win

Baby did a lot of this: nom-nom-nom

Christmas Carol Humbuggery

[Disclaimer: I do not believe everything I am about to write. I don't even believe half of it. It's just all in curmudgeonly good fun, folks.]

There are so many stinkin songs about missing that "Old-Fashioned" Christmas. They list the elements of an Old-Fashioned Christmas, and I've got to say, there are about none of them my Christmases are missing. The only thing missing is a log fire and I think my Christmas is plenty complete without it. So if other people have Christmases with the elements mine have (carols and presents round the tree, choirs, stories, family near, children excited for toys/Santa, etc.) what is it they are really missing?

1 - It's the Old Fashioned part. They've bought into the hype that presents (ie - a carved horse and a dress for your sawdust dolly) were better before the invention of electricity. They miss worrying about whether their children will survive this year's smallpox or scarlet fever epidemic. They've forgotten that the reason the family huddled round the fire is because it was the only source of heat in the entire house - or if we make it even more Olde Faschioned, the only thing keeping the wolves at bay - and the reason we told stories around that fire was because electricity hadn't been invented yet and there was absolutely nothing else to do in the dark. Yeah, that's something to miss.

2 - The more likely answer: what they really miss is the lack of responsibility. Christmas was magical because it happened without me having to do a thing about it. Mom and Dad took care of it. I miss not knowing how Christmas happened because I had to do it. Back in the Good Olde Days, I didn't cook the food, I didn't buy and wrap all the presents, I didn't have to come up with the colorful answers to confuse the kids, I didn't have to worry about how to pay for it all, I didn't have to do anything but wait for presents and maybe lick the beaters. I didn't sleep for excitement, not because I was up fitting screw R23 into parts J and the-Chinese-character-for-practical-joke that don't fit together, using a butter knife because the screwdriver is missing. A few decades later, though, we'll miss the Old-Fashioned Christmas when we had responsibility and knew that we wouldn't be forgotten in the Old-Fashioned Folks' Home ... again.

Now that you mention it, I Like my new-fangled Christmas.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Our neighbor, the farmer

In mid-November our neighbors across the street put out a sign selling their produce. We went on a family outing to check out their farm. There are a couple goats, several pens packed quite full of chickens, some gardens, and four catfish ponds.

Prince was only interested in watching the animals for a brief time at a time. He'd rather run around whenever possible.

Now we get all our chickens and eggs from them. The eggs are cleaner, larger, better quality, and cheaper than at the store. Probably all-natural too, but I would scarcely say free range.

In essence we have an informal contract with them - basically, they know they can expect us to buy so many birds each month and we'd like them so many weeks old. They appreciate being able to plan and we appreciate their proximity, reliability, and quality.

Now that I'm on break I want to spend some time interviewing them to find out more about livestock management in Nigeria for my meatpacking book.

The farm very much reminds me that birds of a feather flock together. All the coops were organized by bird color. Small white birds, brown, black, large white....

Beautiful afternoon, it was.

Prince did want to pause and look at the fishies. There are a lot of catfish in each tank and it was feeding time. He was held in shifts by our upstairs neighbor, the farmer, or me while we watched the feeding frenzy.

This is our upstairs neighbor who took us over to see the animals.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

For Grandma

The decoration was tatted by Grandma Jule and it just fits her head in a child-like Empress kind of way.

Merry Christmas, Grandma Jule.

Being a Father

Pres. Boyd K. Packer has often suggested to the young men that someday they would learn why, of all the titles God could choose, He asks us to address Him as Father. At first I assumed that being a father I would discover this wonderful world of the Divine inside me, such as feeling the love for my son that God feels for me. I've commented at other times that what this has primarily meant for me in reality was seeing the infant in me that God has been putting up with.  Joy interjects, "Amen! I feel like such a baby as a parent, all the time."

At BYU, he recently explained a bit more on what he meant. He and his wife twice heard doctors tell them their new babies might not live to leave the hospital. As they pondered the implications of that prognosis and sat in faith, he realized some of the depth of his love for a child he did not know. He had no pleasant experiences to think on, no past conflict that just needed a little more time to repair; just a small infant in his arms that he would give anything to help live.

As delighted as I am to be "coming home" after a long semester of late nights not spent with my family, it also means taking a much more active role again in my beloved son's upbringing. Some communications we had from school in the last weeks were disturbing and that behavior has been surfacing at home as well. This has meant a change of disciplinary tactics. Though he has been an active participant in identifying the consequences for his misbehavior (he even proposed his own deal for us out of the blue that we accepted most of), the carrying through with it never has been pleasant. As the daddy, a healthy portion of that falls to me.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Ethics in Children's Fantasy: Wizard of Oz

I'm reading Wizard of Oz with Prince at night. It's been pretty fun. In casting parts, he wants to be the Scarecrow. Daddy is the Tin Woodman, Mommy is Queen of the Field Mice, and Princess is Dorothy. After some thought, he decided the computer is Toto, because the computer loves him. Oh boy.

It's been long enough since I've read Oz that all my memories are of the MGM movie. It shocks me no end that the Wicked Witch of the West doesn't show up to threaten Dorothy when she lands in Oz ... doesn't threaten them once she hooks up with the Scarecrow ... doesn't ensorcel the poppies ... doesn't even seem to exist until they get to the Emerald City and Oz commands each of them in turn to kill the witch.

Our heroes then sit around to discuss the matter, and this is what we read tonight:
"What shall we do?" asked Dorothy sadly.
"There is only one thing we can do," returned the Lion, "and that is to go to the land of the Winkies, seek out the Wicked Witch, and destroy her."
"But suppose we cannot?" said the girl.
"Then I shall never have courage," declared the Lion.
"And I shall never have brains," added the Scarecrow.
"And I shall never have a heart," spoke the Tin Woodman.
"And I shall never see Aunt Em and Uncle Henry," said Dorothy, beginning to cry. ... "I suppose we must try it, but I am sure I do not want to kill anybody, even to see Aunt Em again." ...
"I haven't the heart to harm even a Witch," remarked the Tin Woodman; "but if you go I certainly shall go with you."
Therefore it was decided to start upon their journey the next morning.....
Seriously?! Some great, green, glowing head/women/beast/fireball thing tells you that the only way to get what you want is to commit first-degree murder for him, and you say sure? I don't much want to, but I'll do it anyway is the entire depth of your inner struggle over killing someone you've never met who has done you no wrong? You only have his word that she really is Wicked [don't get me started on the musical, folks] and here we have a child - only 9 years old or so for all Judy Garland's charms - preparing to kill someone to get what she wants.

And this is the morality tale we feed our children! This is Good Entertainment. This is Best Books. She's not threatening them or the destruction of the world and everything they hold dear; just standing in the way of their private wishes and they're suddenly willing to join the Mafia!

And when they find out the Wizard is a humbug, they call him a bad man ... and that's it! He says, no no, I'm a very good man, just a bad wizard ... and that's it! No remorse. No one wonders, "Gee, do you suppose we did the right thing in killing her?" No, no, they're just happy to get the thing they came for. Maybe there will be something later in the book that redeems these decisions that I've also forgotten, but my skimming forward is failing to find it.

Kids, for those of you reading at home, the Wizard of Oz IS a BAD MAN, okay? He has committed murder and conspiracy to murder, along with any number of assorted other crimes and scams. He has used and abused the trust of good, innocent people. Please also do not grow up to be like Dorothy or her companions, who either didn't know right from wrong or how to say "The things I want are less important than my integrity and doing what I know to be right."

Feeling Very Blessed

This is one of those "I cursed my fate that I had no gloves until I heard about a man whose $100 cashmere gloves would cost $100 to repair" things.

As we prepared to leave for Nigeria, we were told by more friends than I can count that the only thing keeping them going through their trials was the happy thought that at least they weren't going to Nigeria. ... Gee, thanks. Don't mention it, really.

        Did I just say I have more friends than I can count? When and how did that happen? How blessed I am!

And now my friends are returning the favor - at least I don't have their problems!

I've been overwhelmed on my overtime semester - working every night til midnight or 2am for months, only taking time off for family time on those nights I was actually home and then going back to it, and spent the last week in a feverish rush to get all the grading done for 120 final exams and over 150 papers in under a week.

       And how thankful I am I have had a job this entire time. Not all my friends have, like M&M. My first job market did not have the wonderful outcome this one did. I have colleagues and supervisors who appreciate and praise me. Not everyone has that either.

Coming out here was expensive. There was stress and misery and expense. It was really hard. Joy still gets a catch in her throat remembering it.

        Not nearly as hard as J&S had it. I just read on their blog what a terrible time of it they had! It was an expensive move for both our families, but we still had some savings to fall back on that has been replenished and doubled again. We had people at the airport waiting to greet us, a cool home to walk into, dinner ready for us, a dedicated bureaucracy who took care of everything for us at the embassies and prepped us for everything.... AUN takes good care of us. We are blessed.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Next Year's Halloween - a belated post

On Halloween, I sat listening to some random music while grading papers. I noticed that a number of the songs - though one would not normally consider them "Halloween" themed - gave some very interesting ideas for unusual Halloween costumes. I may try one out next year.

Who are you?
1 - I'm the guy who walked a thousand miles to fall down at your door [How'd that get on my playlist??]
2 - I'm the Great Pretender
3 - Moon Shadow. Mind if I follow you? [This may be my FB costume]
4 - I'm a happy girl  [I may have some difficulty with this one]
5 - I'm blue [budapu deepadoo daaaa, doo dapoo deee... that one]

And of course, Weird Al is always a fountain of insightful costume ideas. From "Midnight Star"
7 - Your pet may be an extra-terrestrial
8 - The ghost of Elvis [is living in my den]
9 - The Incredible Frog Boy [is on the loose again]
10 - Aliens ... are sleeping in my car
11 - The man born without a head
12 - Top psychics
13 - Hitler's brain in a jar

About that point I got back to work. Which is what I will do now too. Taa.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Prince Talks About School

My kids are having fun with my toys. And I don't like that. And I want to play with my own blocks. And my kids keep knocking down my building. And uh my kids are doing bad things. [He names two of the kids] are pulling on my shirt.

The man keeps telling me I need to go to the Club. The man is the driver on the bus. I was sitting next to him, and then he said I'm going to the Club and swim. Daddy, he doesn't want to take me home a lot. And he wants me to go back to the Club and swim.

When I got home then I do ask Mommy what happened.

Ms. Evelyn is coming back right after my birthday. I'm three years old right now. And then I just talked to Ms. Evelyn about what I did at school.

They keep pushing me on the swings. And I like that, Daddy. I like it when they push me on the swings.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Baby Fashion Model

Joy and I have discovered the joys of having given birth to a little doll. She's so much fun to dress up! We opted to skip one of Princess' clothing sizes (9 months) and so she's moving up between 6 month and 12 month clothes. At the same time, Joy is going on a camera kick to enjoy all these wonderful dresses that just look so darling on our little one.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


Please excuse me for a moment while I fanboy all over your monitor.


Ahem. For those who need a little more than that for their search engines, this is a video by Steve Nelson of "The Piano Guys" mixing Star Wars themes as he cello-duels himself as Obi-Wan and Vader simultaneously. Their cello bows become lightsabers and they do all sorts of cool little Star Warsy tricks and effects and then the Real Vader shows up to conduct and then he pulls out a WHAT??!?!? and and OH WOW you have GOT to watch the whole thing like 20 times or more at least and *drool drool slobber* WEEEEEEE-hehehehehehe oh MAN this is SO COOL

(Y'know, it's kind of a pity Prince isn't here to see his daddy going hyper. He doesn't get to see that very often, especially not lately.)