We're Jason, Beth, Lee Anna, Sawyer, and Sarah Claire, a family of five living, learning, and laughing lots in Northern Africa.
We hope you can learn a little (and maybe laugh a little too) as you read about our latest adventures.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Christmas Adventures, Part I

Well, we're finally settled in one place for a few days, so we'll take the next few posts to try to catch you up on our Christmas adventures. Here we are sharing gifts as a family before we left for the states on Dec. 19th.
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

Christmas Greetings

Merry Christmas, Everyone!
كا سنه و انتو طيبين

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

And a Happy New Year?

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

A Little Christmas Cheer

Here are the kids wishing you a very merry Christmas in their brand new Christmas PJs. How could you not get in the spirit with pajamas like that?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Sheep Cow?

Each night when we talk about the Christmas story, we use the Fisher Price nativity set so the kids can move the characters around and act out the story. One night last week, we were talking about the shepherds, and we explained that the dog in the Fisher Price set was probably a sheep dog, and he helped the shepherds keep the sheep in line (we concluded this not because we know anything about sheep dogs, but simply because he came in the Little People Shepherds set). Lee Anna liked that idea, and brought the cow over and said he was a “sheep cow!” Then she introduced us to the sheep camel and the sheep donkey. Now the shepherds have plenty of helpers.

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

They really do like it!

I just want to clarify that despite the kids' completely expressionless faces in the pictures from the previous post, they really do like their daycare. Sawyer cries if we take to long getting out of the house in the morning, and when the taxi gets to the school, he climbs out and walks in (pulling his little rolling backpack behind him) and never looks back. Lee Anna also loves it, and is learning Arabic at an impressive rate. We are confident the day is coming when she'll start saying things to us that we don't understand! I just didn't want any of you to get the false impression that our kids are as forlorn about being at daycare as they look in these pictures.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Children's Day Update

On International Children's Day, we dressed up our kids. See below to see how we sent them to school. But then a week or two later they had the pictures back from the professional photog who was there that day. It looks like Lee Anna was authentic enough, so they didn't really change her outfit too much. But Sawyer... If this guy doesn't look like he's from around here, I don't know who does. His little American ball cap didn't make the cut. Somehow the Crocs got by the fashion police, or it could be that they tried to take his shoes off, and he politely declined. He's great at politely declining stuff that doesn't interest him.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

It's Christmas Time!

The day after our wonderful Thanksgiving feast, we pulled out the Christmas decorations and had lots of fun putting up the tree and setting up (and knocking down...and re-setting up...and knocking down...and re-setting up) the nativity sets. The kids were great helpers with the tree, and Lee Anna had some creative ideas for decorating that I wouldn't have come up with on my own. Like, let's put as many ornaments as possible on the same branch! Sawyer didn't really know what was going on, but after a while, he realized I was saying "thank you" every time he brought me a new ornament, so he started saying it with me each time!

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

Eid El Shokr (Feast of Thanks)

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone! We hope you had a great day giving thanks, enjoying delicious food, and being with people you love. We certainly did! We were reminded that we're not living in America when we had to explain to our housekeeper and doorman why we weren’t taking our kids to daycare on Thursday. They didn’t know it was a holiday (it wasn't for them!). It was also a little different having to fight rush hour traffic to get to our friends' house for the big meal. But once we got there, we had a wonderful time eating, laughing and celebrating His faithfulness together.

Here are the kids on Thanksgiving Day:

Have you ever seen a cuter pilgrim???

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

Global Children

Our kids celebrated International Children's Day at their school this week. The note we got said they wanted the children to dress in native costumes from their home country. Now as far as we can tell, most of the kids are from the country where we live, but maybe the teachers know something we don't know. Last year, we sent Lee Anna in blue jeans and a T-shirt, since that's what kids from her country wear, and the teacher said she didn't look "international" enough. Hmmm... So this year, we put Sawyer in his galabeya, since he was born here, and this little cap, and we dressed Lee Anna in her national colors. We had a hard time getting Sawyer to school because of the crowds of people who wanted to stop and see the little pale-faced, blue-eyed baby in a galabeya.
A good time was had by all.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Not to Be Outdone...

Sawyer is pretty sure he can do anything big sis can do, and since Lee Anna got to sing her ABCs on the blog, he thought he should get a chance to shine, too. Granted, he hasn't quite mastered all 26 letters yet, but he's getting there!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Three Random Things

Having a little fun with Sawyer's hair, pre-and-post-haircut.

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.
I realize that in America you can buy just-add-water cookie mixes (or pre-made cookie dough, for that matter!), but those haven't made it here yet, so this is the best shortcut to good cookies I know of!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Excuse Me, Mr. Sheep

We had a funny oh-yeah-we're-not-in-America moment this afternoon when we went to pick up the kids. When our taxi arrived at the preschool, neither Jason nor I could open our car door to get out because there was a flock of sheep running down the street--right next to our taxi. I would have literally bonked one of them in the head if I had opened my door. We have no idea where they came from or where they were headed, but we had to wait for them to pass before we could go inside and get our kids.

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

Sing it, Lee Anna!

This week, Jason was downloading some Arabic recordings of our language helper off of our voice recorder, and he came across this recording that Lee Anna made of herself a few months back. She's watched us use the voice recorder enough to know how to do it herself, so she just pushed the button and started singing away. She would never do this if we asked her to, but I guess since it was her idea, it was okay.

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

She Speaks English!

Today when we picked up the kids from school, Lee Anna's teacher was just raving about Lee Anna's test results. (Click on the picture of the test to make it big enough to read.) Since this is an "American" day care, they work every day on the kids' English vocabulary. Our two are the only American kids there, and the other parents really want their kids to get a good start in English, the international trade language of the world. Apparently, little Lee Anna speaks English almost like a native speaker! We spent about 10 minutes going over this test, with the teacher asking us if we've been working on these words with Lee Anna. "Did you teach her 'broccoli?'" "Did you work on 'plate and fork?'" "Did you teach her 'basketball' and 'baseball'?" No, we didn't sit down and work on them, but there's a good chance she heard about some ball games spending three years in our house. Now, Lee Anna's a sharp little girl, and I'm proud that she did well on her test, but I'm not sure it's all that amazing that this little American girl recognized a tree and an apple!!

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

Back in Time

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

Happy Halloween!

Halloween was a little different for our kids here. We couldn't just go from door to door, since most of the locals didn't know it was a holiday. And the houses here are all in big buildings, so it would be pretty strange to go door to door inside a big building. And we don't really know how to say "trick or treat" in Arabic, so nobody would understand why a small American kid was standing at his door saying something in English. SO, we improvised and had an indoor Trick-or-Treat party. Each of the parents got behind a door and the kids ran form door to door inside our friends' flat and collected candy. Our family costume theme was "Flying Things" so Lee Anna was a butterfly, and Sawyer was Batman. A good time was had by all. Here's Lee Anna avoiding the sting of bumblebee Lydia.
The Joker better watch out.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Bye Bye, Buddy

This has been a sad week. We had to say goodbye to some very dear friends. Lee Anna and Landon have been big buddies from the day we arrived here, and she will miss playing with him, fighting with him, and jumping on his bed!

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

Just Another Rainy Day in the Desert

In addition to all the fun and festivities of Jason's birthday, we also had a very unusual occurence--RAIN! When we went to pick up the kids yesterday afternoon, we could tell it was clouding up, so we asked the taxi driver if he thought it was going to rain. He assured us it was still too hot for rain (average rainfall through the summer months here is NONE). Well, not 30 minutes later, we started hearing the pitter-patter of raindrops outside, and sure enough, it was raining!

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.
Rain here is a big inconvenience. There's no drainage system in the roads, so it doesn't take much rain at all to create big mud puddles everywhere. Most taxis don't have working windshield wipers, so the driving can be even more dangerous than usual. A lot of nationals will just choose to stay inside rather than have to deal with the mud and mess. Lee Anna's class was supposed to go on a field trip today, but they cancelled it because of the weather (not because it was currently raining, because it had rained the night before!). I talked to a friend of ours this morning who's only been living here about 10 months. We were talking about the rain and I told him we were thinking about keeping our kids home because of it. I'm sure he was thinking, "What? Because it rained a little?"

We might be in trouble if we ever move back to Florida!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Happy Birthday Baba!

Today is Jason's birthday. He says he's still 29, but we all know that's not the case since he was born in 1970! We didn't have a big party, but the kids and I did fix him a special birthday treat and give him his presents. Here are the kids helping to crush the Oreos for his special ice cream dessert. They loved this part.Lee Anna also had fun sprinkling the pecan pieces on top. Sawyer just got to watch this part, although he would have much preferred to be sticking his fingers in the ice cream.
Here they are coloring Daddy's birthday cards.
And here's Lee Anna helping Daddy find his presents. In Beth's family, it's traditional to hide all the presents and then play hot or cold for the Birthday Boy/Girl to find them. Apparently 3-year-olds have not developed the brain capacity to fully understand this game. Lee Anna was very cute, but had no interest in waiting for Daddy to find the presents when she already knew where they were!
And here's Daddy showing off some of his presents. Yes, we gave him 4 pairs of sunglasses. Sunglasses have a way of not surviving for very long in our house, so we thought Daddy should stock up a little bit on his supply. They're not Ray-Bans or Oakleys or anything, but they'll keep the sun out of his eyes. We'll see how long these last. (And no, that's not all we gave him!)
Happy Birthday Daddy! We lit all 37 candles, so we had to scoop the wax out before we could eat!
And here's Lee Anna showing off the big candle that came with the little ones I bought. I can't imagine that there's a very high demand for Spanish birthday candles in North Africa, but hey, maybe I'm wrong.
Happy Birthday, Daddy. We love you.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

No, it's not a dress!

Sawyer's modeling the traditional galibeya in these pictures. When we first arrived here, we were a little surprised to see so many men wearing what looks a lot like either a dress or a costume for an Easter program. We've gotten pretty accustomed to seeing them now, although I'm not going to be wearing mine out in public any time soon. We just got Sawyer's this weekend, and he loves it.
Look, G.G.!--they're teaching each other to play the piano. Sawyer has learned which button on our digital piano starts the metronome (click, click, click...) and he loves to play that!
Our little Texas-born cowgirl seems to be having trouble with the native livestock in this part of the world. Maybe we should let her start with steer-wrestling before we turn her loose on the elephants and camels.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Fighting Makwagees

No, it’s not the name of a new alternative rock band. Makwagee is the Arabic word for ironer, and we’ve had a small dispute lately that I thought you might find amusing.

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

Modified Self

A while back, a friend of mine tagged me (Beth) to write about how I’ve changed since I moved overseas. Then, shortly after she did that, we made our trip to the states (see posts below), and I was made painfully aware of how much I’ve changed since we left America on December 30, 2005.

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

Sawyer's New Tricks

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

Together Again

We got to see lots of dear friends while we were in the states. A whole group came to Jacksonville from Cleburne, Texas, where we spent four years prior to moving overseas. First we got to spend a day with the Williams family when they stopped by Jax on their way to Disneyworld. We ate some delicious Mexican food, then found a neat little place called the Hands On Children's Museum that had all kinds of fun things for the 5 kids to do. They had the most fun with the costumes and stage (see the photos below). That night we took them all back to Jason's parents' house for an authentic Arab meal (including Lee Anna's favorite, the slimy green sauce--see post below or click here). They all ate it and even liked most of it!

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!

On the Other Side of the Globe

Well, here are some photos from our trip--finally! I'll comment below each picture. Lee Anna and Ariel decided to share a seat belt for this particular take-off. The kids did a super, super job with all the flying. They were well-behaved on every flight (a total of 6), and managed to sleep a good bit, which meant Mom & Dad got to sleep some, too.
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.
And here she is smiling for the camera in her new dress from Mimi. Both kids racked up on handmade clothes on this trip--thanks Mimi, Aunt Stacy, and Aunt Belinda!
Yep, Sawyer got one, too.
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

Proper Southern Speech

Okay, so there's more coming about the trip to the states, but I don't have time for all that tonight, and I have a more pressing matter to discuss. Tonight, we got to meet all the family members of one of our good friends here. His family just flew in today, and we had a big dinner to welcome and meet them. They even brought each family an enormous sack of goodies--way too kind!

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

Jet Lag Strikes the Family

It's 1:38 a.m. where I am, and I'm sitting on the couch with my computer writing a blog post. I'm not sitting here alone, however. My 16-month-old son has been sitting up with me. And Lee Anna has been asleep for only about a half-hour--but she's not in her bed yet. Sawyer's asleep now, here on the couch.

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

People Without a Country, Part I

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

Dinner with the Davises

Before every meal, we bow our heads and give thanks for our food. We always hold hands around the table. Apparently Sawyer has been paying attention during his 15 months in our home. Every time we sit down and hold hands, he makes a terrible face like he's concentrating really, really hard, then bows his little head all the way down to his tray. One morning we were saying a prayer standing up, and he laid down on the floor so his head could be touching something. Why didn't we think of this sooner? Lee Anna is a typical three-year-old (except the part about speaking two languages and living on a different continent than the one where she was born.) As such, she frequently politely refuses to eat the food we lovingly prepare for her supper. One night last week we made a local vegetable dish called molokheya (imagine finely chopped spinach, boiled in chicken broth--but much slimier, like boiled okra) and served it with rice and chicken. Earlier in the week, she wouldn't eat her chicken or rice, but this time she insisted on dipping the pieces of fried chicken into the slimy green stuff as well as having it poured all over her rice. She ate more that night than any other night that week. Do all three-year-olds like to have slimy green chicken and rice?
And doesn't this look appetizing?
We head out for America later tonight, so watch for our next post from the good ol' US of A!