Monday, December 31, 2007
Lee Anna really got into the gift-giving this year. She helped pick out gifts for all three of us. Below is Sawyer opening the little soccer ball Lee Anna and Daddy got for him. He LOVES balls--or anything remotely shaped like a ball (Christmas ornaments, oranges, etc.). When he sees one, he usually yells out "Baaallll!" and then grabs it and throws it, whether it's a real ball or not.
The kids' big gift from us was this little table and chairs. They were excited to have something just their size.
And in this last picture is Lee Anna demonstrating her impressive multi-tasking skills. She's modeling one of her gifts while she plays with Sawyer's. She got an apron that is just her size, since she loves to help us in the kitchen. She's even started washing dishes! And Sawyer got the hammer and pegs set, just like the one Daddy had when he was a little boy. However, we quickly discovered that Daddy had forgotten how much noise a toy like that makes. The kids love it, but I'm not sure how long Mom & Dad will be able to handle that. We'll see.
Check back soon for Christmas Adventures, Part II: Fun Times in Jacksonville.
Monday, December 24, 2007
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
We went to Lee Anna and Sawyer's school last week for their Christmas program. It was awesome. Lee Anna's teacher led the class in singing several festive songs, while a young lady played on a small organ-like instrument. The accompaniment and the melody were only tangentially related to each other in the harmonic sense. Perhaps they couldn't hear each other? No, they were each way too loud to use that for an excuse. Maybe we just have more to learn about Arab Music. No, wait, "Twinkle Twinkle" and "Jingle Bells" are both Anglo-American melodies.
For the music theory geeks out there, I think they were trying to sing Jingle Bells in our traditional major-key setting, while the accompaniment was set in the relative minor. Try it at home: play in a-minor while you sing in C major. It works pretty well, but the three-year-old set just didn't quite grasp the depth of what they were trying to accomplish. It's not on this particular video clip, but they also sang "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" with an entirely new (though strikingly similar) melody. 1-3-3-4-3-2-1-1, 3-5-5-6-5-4-3-1
Lee Anna seems to be protesting this lack of harmonic concurrence. She didn't sing a lick the whole time. Perhaps it's just a young case of stage fright. Evidently, her classmates were not so stricken.
Alas, she's only three. Maybe next year she'll bust out and sing for everybody.
And a good time was had by all.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
We have some real-live shepherds in our neighborhood this month. About a block away from here, there’s a make-shift pen with several dozen sheep getting ready for the big feast. If every family in a city of 15 million people is to sacrifice an animal next week, there have to be pens like this all over town. Wow.
On an unrelated, but moderately funny and culturally insightful note, our language helper showed up one day last week a few minutes before we expected her. It was a little after 1:00 (p.m.). We were eating bowls of taco soup when she got here, so we apologized and offered her some. She declined, since she had already eaten (and she probably wasn’t so sure about the spicy red stuff with corn in it), but insisted that we finish eating. As we hurriedly finished up, she asked, "Why in the world are you eating breakfast so late today?" We laughed and explained that the soup was actually our second meal of the day. On the local schedule, lunch doesn't happen until somewhere between 3 and 6 p.m., so in her mind there was no way we could be eating lunch already. What probably wasn't too strange for her was the idea of eating something taco-soup-like for breakfast. At her house they eat tomatoes and cucumbers for breakfast every day, sometimes with cheese. Maybe we'll get there one day, but right now we're still holding on to our Cheerios and pancakes!
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Sunday, December 02, 2007
Sunday, November 25, 2007
I am so happy to have our tree and decorations up. We're having our family time around the tree every night before bed and letting the kids act out the story with their nativity set. I love seeing their little minds begin to understand this beautiful story. Enjoy the pictures!
Friday, November 23, 2007
Here are the kids on Thanksgiving Day:
Here's Lee Anna concentrating intently to draw something she's thankful for. We are all so very blessed. It was nice to have a day to stop and dwell on some of those things. Stay tuned for pics from the day after Thanksgiving--getting out the Christmas decorations!
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
A good time was had by all.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Saturday, November 17, 2007
And just in case anyone was wondering, my children are not fond of these big oversized characters. They are very common at children's parties here, so these guys were all at Hardee's when we went one night last week. I know they are there to bring joy and cheer, but those are not the emotions they evoke in my children. Maybe when they're older...
And finally, I just have to share this secret that I learned from a good friend of mine. To make cookie dough out of any cake mix, just add 2 eggs and 1/3 to 1/2 cup of oil. I usually add some chocolate chips or nuts or whatever I have handy. The white cake/white chocolate chip combination is AMAZING! For this particular batch I used a chocolate cake mix and Heath bar pieces. Mmmmm.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Now, don't get me wrong, it's not that we don't ever see livestock in the streets here. We see carts pulled by donkeys and horses on a daily basis, and we see plenty of sheep, goats, chickens, etc. when we walk or drive past certain areas, but there are still parts of town where we don't expect to see farm animals. This was one of those areas, so the little woolly guys took us by surprise. Too bad the kids weren't with us when the sheep came by--they would have loved it.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
I added the pictures so you don't just have to stare at a blank screen while you listen. Enjoy!
P.S. No, we don't have a pteradactyl in our house. That was Sawyer making his contribution to the recording!
Friday, November 09, 2007
That being said, there are some words on this test that we are pretty sure she has not heard in our home--like orangutan (we usually just stick with "monkey"), courgette (apparently it's something you eat since it's in the vegetable list), and papaya (I just can't think of a time when we would have talked about papayas). And I'm not sure I could have distinguished between all those birds and flowers! So we're glad to know she's enhancing her English vocabulary at school, too, although we tried to tell them we'd rather have her take tests like this in Arabic!
Thursday, November 08, 2007
In a lot of ways, life here is a lot like life in America 50 years ago. Most everybody hangs their laundry out to dry. People know their neighbors and talk to them every day. Kids play ball in the streets without fear of being kidnapped (although they should probably fear the traffic around them a little more than they do.) I often see old army trucks full of young guys with really tight haircuts that look a lot like pictures of our grandparents in the WWII era. People use cash for everything, and don't buy anything on credit. The houses are different, but people sit out on their balconies and watch the people walk by, much like our grandparents might have sat on their front porches, back in the day. Teenage boys here generally go out with groups of boys. They like girls, but marrying one requires talking to her parents. Most moms generally stay home and take care of the home and the kids. Every time Beth leaves the house, she has on a floor-length skirt or pants. Ladies don't leave home without putting on their going-out clothes and fixing up their hair (or head-scarf), much like grandma would have done in the 50's when she was going grocery shopping.
So when Sawyer picked up a water gun and started making shooting sounds (see video above), we didn't call an anger management counselor to help him work through his aggression issues. This scene just reminded us that in a simpler time, little boys could play cowboys and indians without fear of the Political Correctness Police coming to tell them how wrong they were.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Here's a little sampling of the adventures these two have had as they've grown from barely-talking toddlers into wild and crazy bilingual kids.
We love you guys.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
It only sprinkled for a few minutes then, so when we went out to eat a few hours later, we decided to sit outside. The weather was beautiful, but the whole meal I (Beth) could see lightning off in the distance over Jason's shoulder. At one point, Lee Anna saw it and said, "Mom, the light came on in the sky over there!"
We came home and went to bed without any more rain, but around 2 a.m. we woke up to the sound of more pitter-pattering and even thunder! Then, we woke up again to the sound of Lee Anna crying. Apparently it's a good thing that it doesn't rain very often here, because the rain falls very loudly on the wall-unit air conditioner outside the kids' room. Lee Anna couldn't sleep because of all the rain noise. Finally, after a few futile attempts to get her back to sleep, we brought her to our room and she spent the rest of the night on a pallet on our floor.
This morning, we woke up to find this on our lovely back porch:
This is all dirt that the rain washed off of the trees. The trees look nice and green and fresh now, but the ground is a big muddy mess.
We might be in trouble if we ever move back to Florida!
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Saturday, October 06, 2007
For the past several months, we’ve had a guy come by the house every morning to see if we had any clothes that needed ironing. He would carry them to his shop and bring them back that evening, for about 20 cents (American) per shirt. When we got back from America, I called the shop and he said he’d send the guy right out. Well he didn’t show up, so I called back the next day. “Oh, I’m sorry, the makwagee was off yesterday, I’ll send him right out now.” But again he didn’t show up. By this time we had two weeks’ worth of clothes clean and ready to be ironed. We were starting to think we might have to actually try to locate our iron and see if it still works.
Since he never showed up, I walked to another cleaners/ironer’s shop at the end of our block. I gave them two shirts and two pair of pants, just to see that they’d do good work and bring them in a decent amount of time. When I got to this little shop, I saw a boy in there who I knew—he’s the son of the doorman in the building across the street from us. He appeared to be working there, and when he brought our clothes back later that night, I gave him a big sack of clothes that needed ironing.
Then it got fun. Our doorman came to the door and asked something about why I was letting the other guy do his job. He said he could take our clothes to be ironed. I told him I thought that’d be fine next time, I just didn’t know it was so important to him. The next night, two other guys came to deliver all the clothes I had sent the previous night with the young boy. As soon as they left, our doorman came and said that guy was no good, and I should be letting him (the doorman) take our clothes to a different shop.
Well, the next night, the two guys came back to see if we needed anything ironed, but our doorman followed them to the door and asked me if I wanted them to be there or not. I’m not sure what the problem was, but I told the new ironer boys that I was going to have to side with our doorman, since he lives at our building. I think it’s all clear now, but I still don’t know why my doorman doesn’t want me doing business with the guys on the end of our street.
Well, I thought it was all clear. Then tonight about 10:00, I went out to buy some groceries, and the young boy from across the street was out delivering clothes, several buildings down. He stopped me and told me that if I wanted him to, he could come get my clothes while our doorman was downstairs eating so he wouldn’t know about it! I told him no, thanks. This kid is about 10 years old and angling for my money like an old pro.
Any of you have people fighting for the privilege of ironing your clothes??
Funny, related side-story:
Our iron in America had a little button on it so we could spray water on the clothes as we were ironing. I’ve heard, though I haven’t witnessed this first-hand yet, that some of the guys here just keep a cup of water on the ironing board, to sprinkle water on the clothes. But, instead of sprinkling with their hand, they spray the water with their mouths!!
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
So, here are a few of the ways—some silly, some a bit more meaningful—that I have been modified over the past 21 months:
1. Different attitude toward space. In a city with this many people in an area this small, everything is pretty jam-packed together. The buildings, the stores, the cars, and the people inside them. So when we got to Florida, I couldn’t believe all the space you people think you need on the road, in your shopping aisles, and between your houses! There’s so much wasted space!
2. Being a pushy hostess. Cultural protocol here demands that you offer something 2 or 3 times before a guest will accept it. My mom and grandmother are great at being pushy…err, I mean, persistent…hostesses, but I am not. I’m still not great at it here, either, but I’m working on it.
3. Drinking without ice. When we had it coming out of our refrigerator door, I always drank my water or coke with ice, but here, since we have to make our own and the locals never use it, I hardly ever do, either.
4. Not smiling all the time. This is a big one. Those of you who knew me in my former life know that in many circles I was known as the “one who smiles all the time.” Just last week, a friend from college told me, “I remember how you always smiled while you blow dryed your hair.” She’s right, I did. Now I still smile, but not as much, especially not when I’m out by myself. I would draw all kinds of attention (not the good kind) and just look really weird to people here.
5. Drinking hot drinks. I’ve never been a coffee drinker, or really big on drinking any hot beverages, but that’s another thing that’s just part of life here. Hot tea is the most common, so I drink that when I’m served it, but I prefer “erfa,” which is a drink made from hot water, milk, cinnamon, and sugar. It’s delicious, and I drink it at least once a day in the winter and occasionally during the summer.
6. Talking about bodily functions. Ok, so this is a little gross, but I know my other overseas friends will understand. When you live in a third-world country with all kinds of germs and diseases your body’s not used to, you just find yourself talking about things that you never did before—out of necessity, not for the fun of it. That’s all I’m going to say about that.
7. Sending my kids to daycare. There was a time when I couldn’t imagine sending my kids to any kind of daycare on a regular basis. Now, I do it five days a week and don’t feel bad about it.
8. Dressing up. I am still getting accustomed to the Arab idea that going out of your house is always a reason to dress up. I wear dress pants or skirts most days, never wear tennis shoes and rarely flip-flops (my Arab friends would wonder why I’m wearing my house shoes in public). For someone whose friends teased her in high school for always wearing jeans and a sweatshirt (no, I was not a frontrunner for Best Dressed), this is a big change.
9. I’ve learned to be comfortable in unfamiliar places. There was a time when being by myself in a place I’ve never been before at 12:30 in the morning not sure which way is home and surrounded by people who don’t speak English would have tripped me out. When it happened this week, I honestly handled it just fine—and made it home! (That story will have to wait until another post. This one is already too long.)
Now I tag Angela W, Charity V, and Whitney S. :)
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Hi Everyone, this is Sawyer. It's about time Mom got this video on here of me doing all my newest tricks. I'm getting pretty good at this talking thing, if I do say so myself. I think you'll also like all the signs I can do. I love to look at my books and point out all the animals by doing their signs. If I see an animal I don't know, I always do the dog sign first, just in case.
Dad taught me the FSU war chant. I've been practicing for when he takes me to a game in 2009.
Enjoy the show!
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Then, when the conference started, we got to spend time with four other friends from Cleburne. Unfortunately, somehow we didn't get pictures of all of them. Barbara & Mattie are in our pictures, but Vern & Patti must have been dodging the camera. Oh well, we had lots of of fun with all of you!
No, Sawyer didn't ride all the way upside down. He had his own seat, and even sat in it a good bit.
This may be part of the reason they slept so well on the flights over. This picture was taken at 1:42 a.m., while we waited for our first flight to board. Lee Anna never went to sleep until we took off. By then, she was so exhausted, she slept the whole 5-hour flight!
Nothing like a little "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" at 1:30 a.m.!Welcome to America, Sawyer! Here we are in Atlanta waiting for our last flight. We called Mimi from a pay phone and I told Lee Anna to tell her we were in America. She said, "Mimi, I'm going to the America!" She got it right on the second try. America is kind of an abstract concept for a 3-year-old to grasp.
Here's Sawyer that first afternoon, when he just didn't quite know what to think about that tall green stuff. I think I'll just stay here on the pavement, guys.
And here's the last pic for now--Sawyer demonstrating that his ability to make a complete mess at mealtime is not limited to one continent.
Stay tuned for shots of all the sweet friends who came to see us!
Friday, September 21, 2007
When our family was getting ready to leave, I (Beth) told them, "It was nice to meet all y'all." And another friend of ours (who is, incidentally, NOT from the South) started laughing at me and said, "Isn't that redundant? All y'all? All you all?" I informed him that, redundant or not, it was perfectly acceptable to use the phrase "all y'all." He kept laughing, so I stuck my tongue out at him.
So now I need some support from our Southern constituency. Is it or is it not acceptable Southern English grammar to use the phrase "all y'all?" Please leave a comment and weigh in on this important matter.
This is all the stuff from the gift bag they brought us. We had to borrow a suitcase just to get it all home!
Thursday, September 20, 2007
When we got back on Tuesday, we forgot to tell our bodies that we're six hours ahead of the East Coast. It's been a bit of an adjustment that's still in progress. The mornings are the hardest. When it's 8:00 a.m. and time to get going, it's only 2:00 in Jacksonville, and we all just want to stay asleep. At night it's not so painful, but we just aren't very sleepy at bed time. The past two nights, the kids have gone to bed around 9:00, then gotten back up again. Tonight we watched Lady and the Tramp at 11:30. That was right after Sawyer and I shared some ice cream.
On Tuesday night, we arrived at our house about 8:30. At 9:30, we put the kids to bed. I lay down with Lee Anna, and Beth with Sawyer, to help them get to sleep. Well, I fell asleep hard but woke up about 10:00 (just 30 minutes later). When I woke up, I had absolutely no idea where I was. I walked around the house for several minutes, looking for my parents. I didn't recognize this house at all, but after a few minutes I decided that I must live here, and maybe Mom and Dad were here visiting us. I walked around some more, still looking for them, and slowly it all came together. That was fun.
This is a blog, so I'm allowed to chase rabbits a little, right? Beth's mom brought us some pecans when we saw her in Florida. Lee Anna saw the bag and said "Hey, those are for ice cream and pancakes!" That's my girl.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Water Fountains, Rain, and St. Augustine Grass
We just got back from our first trip to the Land of Plenty. Wow. For the past year and a half we’ve had this feeling that we’re outsiders here, but that we’d really fit in fine if we lived in America again. Well, it seems we were wrong. We were all really surprised at how it felt to be in America. Here, we live in a really big, really crowded city. When we got to Jacksonville, we found that it is a pretty big, really spread-out city. There’s lots of space around all the houses, lots of space around the cars on the highway, big parking lots in front of big spacious stores. And there were no people on the streets at all. When you walk down our street here, you find men sitting out in front of every building—smoking cigarettes and drinking tea—and lots more people walking everywhere. But when we drove (not walked) down the residential streets in Jax, we saw no one. Everybody’s either inside or driving. We were really tired from traveling, so we went to bed early that first night. I couldn’t believe how dark and quiet the house was at 9:30 at night—no car horns, train brakes, people yelling, elevator noises, just quiet.
Sunday morning, we were at church with my Mom, and Lee Anna and I were walking down a hallway in the children’s area. Lee Anna saw a water fountain and asked, “What’s that for, Daddy?” So I explained that in America people drink water from fountains without cups. (Here, the water coolers have a community cup attached.) She drank a little and got a lot on her face playing with the water, and subsequently insisted on drinking from every water fountain she saw the rest of the trip.
The first day we got there Sawyer and Lee Anna were playing with a ball in my parents’ driveway. The ball rolled out into the grass, so Sawyer started to go get it. He got to the edge of the cement and stopped. He reached out for the ball and fretted a little, but wouldn’t take a step in that tall lush St. Augustine grass. He was fine crawling and running on the concrete, but hadn’t ever seen grass like that. It took a few days and lots of coaxing and hand-holding before he would venture out into it.
One morning I woke up and discovered we had left an almost-empty Dr. Pepper can sitting out all night (only one of many DPs consumed during our week in the LoP). When Beth and I saw it, both of us immediately thought, "Oh, no, it's going to be covered in ants," since in our flat the ants are so bad during the summer that we keep our Cheerios in the fridge. But there weren’t any.
It rained more in the 10 days we were in Jacksonville than it has rained in the twenty months we’ve lived here. A lot more. G.G. took the kids out to play in it, and they loved it! Average rainfall here is less than one inch per year, while in Jacksonville, it’s closer to 60 inches a year. Everything looks real green there. Anywhere people haven’t done anything to the ground there, something is growing. Here, if people aren’t watering everyday, we just have dirt.
Pictures and more stories coming soon...
Thursday, September 06, 2007
We head out for America later tonight, so watch for our next post from the good ol' US of A!