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.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Day Two

Retraction: Upon further review, it's quite possible that Sawyer's hair has been cut like that for six weeks or more. You see, our last visit to the barber was a bit traumatic. I took him to the barbershop by himself, and about half way through the 5-minute haircut, he became concerned that Mama wasn't around and then seemed to begin thinking that he might not ever see her again. So he was screaming and trying to get down while the barber was trying to finish up. I forgot to ask at school today.

After school today, we took a trip out to our big spacious backyard to kick the ball around a little bit. In a city with 20 million people all trying to live within three miles of the river, your perspective on "wide open spaces" changes a bit. Beth and I have caught ourselves several times saying things that surprised us. For instance, at the "crazy art" place on Saturday, out in the countryside (really, it's several miles from the city) we were talking about living out there and how different it would be. I said to our friends that I've come to enjoy the "security" of having all the people around. Growing up in The Hub City of Northwest Florida (Crestview, pop. 20,000 or so) I never dreamed I'd find security in having a constant parade of strangers walk by my house.

Another evening recently, we were driving in a neighborhood we hadn't visited before and Beth commented that she wanted to move there because the streets were so empty and quiet. I told her to call her grandmother in the Mississippi Delta and try to convince her that this street was "quiet" when we could see tons of cars and busses, people buying and selling fruit, and lots of random business. Anyway, our perspective is changing.

All that to say, that every time we go out on the back porch, Lee Anna wants to play "hide and seek." Our porch is awesome. It's private (well, private as you can be with four other buildings overlooking your space.) It's clean. It has running water, and lots of toys. What it lacks, however, is lots of good hiding places. Basically, you can hide behind the tree, or up on the stoop by the back door. But we love hide and seek, so Lee Anna puts her head against the wall and we take turns hiding behind the tree, or crouching behind a chair and pretending nobody can see you. Sawyer likes to count, too, but he doesn't know his numbers yet, so he hides his face against the wall and shouts out one syllable sounds and then comes to find us.
We had a good day today. Went to McDonalds for a square meal with all the basic food groups. I sent a text message to a friend and asked if Sprite counts as a fruit serving. He wrote back that it's actually two, if you count the lemon and the lime separately. The kids had potatoes and tomatoes (in the ketchup) and poultry and two fruits each. Oh, and don't forget the frozen dairy products we had afterward!!

One more note about tonight, and then I'll quit rambling so I can go to sleep. After supper, Lee Anna and I agreed that we'd come home and take a bath, and then watch Diego before bed time. Well, poor little Sawyer didn't really understand the whole sequence, he just heard "Diego" and got in his mind that we were going home to watch his favorite cartoon animal rescuer. I put him in the tub against his will, and he really never quit crying about Diego until I got him out. "After your bath" is a pretty complex concept for that little two-year-old mind to grapple with. But now he's sleeping peacefully, having bathed and watched Diego. (Yes, Mommy, we brushed teeth and read our Bible story, too. :) )

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Bad Hair Day?

Genesis 2:18 -- Then the Lord God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone..."

Here we go again. About this time a year ago, Beth went to a conference in a neighboring country while I stayed behind with the little angels for a week or so. Click here to read about the first day. (The others are in May 2007 in the archives). So a year later, we're going to try again and see if it works any better. She's at a different coference in a different neighboring country, but those details aren't really pertinent to the present discussion. "Not here" is a sufficient description for our purposes.

I'm pretty comfortable with most of the parenting activities, with the exception of styling Lee Anna's golden locks. Fortunately, she stumbled on a headband this morning--the most simple of all hair accessories. It doesn't require any tying, pulling, twisting, or braiding. One simply brushes the subject's hair and then applies the headband to a central cranial location. No problemo. I thought it looked great. One of Lee Anna's teachers at school this morning had a bit more elaborate plan involving numerous tiny butterfly clips and some rubber bands. Like this:

Sawyer had a bit of a different, maybe even mysterious, hair experience today. When he got home from school, his bangs appeared to be a bit shorter than they were when I delivered him to said school. The teachers didn't mention it, they just said they had given him a bath today. (Not sure about that either. But I'm never really sure of what they tell me at school in their mix of English and Arabic.) I quizzed Lee Anna a bit, until I was pretty satisfied that she personally hadn't done the trimming. Maybe tomorrow we can shed a little light on this situation. Hurry back, Mommy!!!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Crazy Art

Today was lots of fun. We went with some friends to a neat place just outside the city. Its name is a cross between the Arabic words "crazy" and "art," and it's a perfect description of the place. They call it an "art school," but it's really just a neat place for kids to come and experiment with different kinds of art. The kids can choose from pottery, weaving, woodworking, jewelry-making, painting, and several other activities. They get to make two things and take home what they create.

There are also all kinds of neat things to play on there. It's really hard to describe the place. We have never seen anything else like it. They have all kinds of swings and these big woven lattice-type things that the kids can climb on. Since we were there last, they've also added goats and donkeys that the kids can feed and ride. It's also a working farm. There are water buffalo and gorgeous green fields. We went once about a year and a half ago and have been wanting to go back ever since. We're going to try hard to make sure we go back again before another year and a half passes!
Here's a picture we took on our first trip out there. Sawyer was a bit smaller than he is now. He's lying on the cool lattice play thing.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Summer is Here!

Summer has definitely arrived. We had several days this week over the hundred-degree mark. Yesterday, it hit 107! We're used to hot weather in July and August, but April is a little early for temps that high. However, Daddy knew just what we needed to deal with this unseasonable heat--some water hose action! As soon as we finished taking the green shirt pictures (see post below), he pulled out the sprinkler and started hosing the kids down. Neither of them was a bit happy, though, about getting their clothes all wet. I thought kids weren't supposed to care about stuff like that, but they did. So we quickly went in and changed into their swimsuits, and then it was all good.
We haven't gotten their little swimming pool out yet, so at first Jason just kept spraying them with the hose. Then we got this little green tub and filled it up, and that kept them entertained for a long time.
I'm sure it's the first of many days of water fun we'll have on our little patio this summer!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


When we picked up the kids from school today, I noticed how cute they looked in their lime green shirts (it wasn't the same shirt Sawyer was wearing when he left this morning--we always send a spare, and they almost always use it). When we realized that Daddy matched too, I declared an impromptu photo shoot when we got home. The kids had fun "cheese-ing" for all these pictures. Every time I took one, I had to turn the camera around so they could see it on the screen. Then, every time, no matter who or what was in the picture, Sawyer would say, "Awwww."

Our biggest picture-taking problem right now is getting Lee Anna to give us a real smile instead of her "cheese!" smile. I much prefer that problem over the old problem of trying to get her to quit covering her eyes and hiding her face from the camera!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Dance Party!

We thought you might enjoy this video of our kids dancing for us. We definitely enjoyed the live performance! The song they're dancing to is one that is played ALL THE TIME here at parties and weddings and things like that. One time, Lee Anna heard it playing and asked Jason, "Daddy, is that song about a party?" She knows we've never been to a party here where it wasn't played. You would never, ever be able to get Lee Anna to do this for you if you were actually here watching, so enjoy the video performance!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Mr. Avery, Part II

A couple of years ago I wrote a thank you note in this space to my 10th grade chemistry teacher, Bill Avery, for helping me learn to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit so Beth could set our oven here for baking cookies. Well, we decided more thanks were in order, since our little house has turned into quite the Chem Lab lately.

Most recently, we bought some antique silver bracelets at the old bazaar in town, and I wanted to polish them without paying $10 for silver polish. So I did a little Google research and found a recipe involving aluminum foil, baking soda, salt and hot water. The formula worked as well as it could, but these particular bracelets didn’t have a whole lot of silver plate left, so they didn’t come out all that spectacular.

We also read somewhere that if Sawyer’s diaper rash didn’t respond to the usual zinc-oxide cream, that maybe an antacid like Mylanta might take care of it. Well, being without Mylanta, I tried our favorite antacid—baking soda—on his little bottom, but it seemed to make him a little uncomfortable (I think that meant it was working) so Beth had to give him a bath to stop the itching (and the subsequent crying and whining). Then we read that yogurt might take care of it, so we spread some yogurt on him last night, but he’s not all better yet. Might have to break down and go to a pharmacy for this one.

But the most interesting Chemistry experiment was probably more a biology project (Thanks Mr. Hadd). We had a fruit fly infestation a few weeks ago, and I couldn’t seem to kill them as fast as they made more. We got all the fruit out of the kitchen and hid stuff in the fridge, but they just seemed to be everywhere.

So I went back to Google and asked about killing fruit flies. I found several trap designs, and made a few of them. The basic plan was to put some fruit or fruity-smelling vinegar in a container that they could get into but not get out of. So we cut a Coke bottle and turned the spout upside down, poured apple cider vinegar in the bottom and taped up the seam. The most effective trap, however, involved putting sliced-up lemons in a bowl, covering the bowl with plastic wrap and poking some small holes in it. They showed no interest in the lemons for the first few days, but once they turned rotten, they were all over them. They would crawl in to get the lemons, but they couldn’t get back out. We’ve been pretty much fruit-fly free for the past week or two!

The Traps

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Multi-Cultural Seminole Fan

Snack time in a different country isn't necessarily the same thing as snack time at home. Before moving here, we wouldn't have thought of giving our kids tomato slices to snack on. But since they spend time at a local day care, our kids' tastes are a little different. Sawyer will eat green beans or zucchini, only if they are cooked in a tomato and onion sauce with lots of garlic. So when he didn't get much supper last night at McDonald's, we brought him home and cut up a tomato to go with his mango juice (that's something else we didn't see much of in the states!). Many local families eat tomatoes and cucumbers for breakfast every day.
When we were in the states for Christmas, we wanted to prepare a local dinner for our famlies. So we went to the store to get a bunch of tomatoes and had our worst "sticker-shock" moment when we saw the prices. Here, we buy tomatoes for 10 or 15 US cents per kilogram (2.2 pounds). That's 5 to 7 cents per pound. In Publix in Jacksonville, they were asking $2.99 a pound for the cheapest ones!!!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Like mother, like daughter

Tonight I was sitting at the computer, and Lee Anna came over with her pretend camera and asked me to take a picture of her and her "family." I showed it to Jason, and he said he thinks she was trying to replicate the picture below. It's the background on my cell phone, so she sees it a lot. She's a cute little "mom," but I think my "kids" are still much cuter than hers!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Two Big Helpers

Sawyer's friend Judah came over to visit for a while yesterday. Imagine how embarassed these two boys were when they realized they had worn the same shirt! They got over it pretty quickly, and managed to have a great time. It's even funnier to know that this t-shirt didn't come from here, but was brought to each of us within the last few weeks by two different visitors from the states. In case you can't read the small print, it says "Daddy's Big Helper: Will Work for Cookies." I don't know about Judah, but I know it's appropriate for our little cookie monster.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Visitors from Afar

Here are the long-awaited pictures from our most recent group of visitors. This was a really cool experience for us. We got to introduce lots of people from our "former life" to our new life on this side of the ocean. They were all wonderful guests--very flexible and good-natured in spite of jet lag, mosquitos, and the tummy problems that sometimes come with eating new foods in third world countries.

Most of our visitors came to lead a program for our children while the adults were in other meetings. They did an amazing job! Lee Anna is still talking about all the things she got to do at her "special school." Our friends Ross & Rodney also came from TX to spend time with the grownups. They did an incredible job as well.

We were too busy with all those guests to take very many pictures, but here are a few that we managed to snap.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Sawyers and Sawyer

As many of you know, our son Sawyer is named after our dear friend Ross Sawyers. Well, almost two years after Sawyer's birth, we finally got to introduce them to one another. Ross and some others from the states came to visit us last week, and we had a really great time. I'll post more pictures soon.