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.

Friday, May 30, 2008

On the Road

We got a new little bitty camera, so I feel a little more comfortable snapping pictures of things like this while we're on the road without looking quite so conspicuous. So over the next...well, I don't know how long...we're going to try to share with you some of the things we see regularly when we're out and about. These guys are transporting some animals in this truck--goats, I think--and I guess there just wasn't enough room for the last guy, so he's just jumped on the back. This truck was probably doing 30 mph down the street. But that's a little deceptive. We use metrics here, so he' s doing 50 on the speedometer in his truck. And this isn't a farm road out in the country. This is a major thoroughfare in the biggest city on our continent. This is a fairly normal occurence--the truck carrying animals, the guy hanging on the outside of the vehicle....
And I wanted you to see this intersection because it's just so much fun. It's one we drive through frequently, and it is complete chaos. Several roads are merging here, and in a work of engineering genius, it is arranged so that most of the cars from the right are trying to get all the way to the left, and vice versa. The unwritten rule for driving in a situation like this is that you just try to keep moving and fill up all available space. If each person is careful not to hit anyone with the front of his car, the other people will take care not to hit the other three sides. You really can't worry much about the guy behind you--even though he is so close behind that you can smell the garlic on his breath.
To the untrained eye, this looks like people weaving out of their lanes. What the trained eye might see, however, is evidence that someone needed a job (painting stripes on the road) and all of the useful positions were already filled. The lane stripes serve no purpose in the movement of traffic. One just drives where one finds space for one's car.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Silly Kids

Here are the kids having a little fun with the fan. Sawyer is apparently more concerned with volume than accuracy--in his notes and words. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A little more showing off...

These are my other new favorite pictures. They're from our beach trip, and they're also up on my wall. Well, the one of Lee Anna is. The one of Sawyer will be soon. We had a little bit of trouble the first time I took it to the photo store. The girl working there was very sweet and friendly, but had no idea what she was doing, so we ended up with a picture of evil Sawyer with no eyes, just little black slits. We'll try again soon, and hopefully it will work better.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Time For a Little Redecorating

Since most of you will never get to visit my apartment and stand in front of my walls to admire pictures like these, I thought I would share them here. :) And I also just wanted to show this frame because I'm so excited about it. I have always loved having things custom-framed (especially since the kiddos came along), but in America wasn't able to do so very often because it is so, so expensive there. Here, it's a different story. Framing is very affordable, so I've done a lot of it! I've had several things framed for the kids' room, all with navy blue frames but with different, brightly-colored mats. I finally had to make myself stop because I was worried about how many frames I was accumulating.

This time, I decided that instead of getting a new frame, I should change out the pictures in one of the old ones.
The "Before" picture is what has been hanging in the kids' room for the last year and a half (sorry the picture is so dark and blurry--it looked cuter than that in real life). The pictures are of Lee Anna at age 2. Recently, though, I discovered that we had gathered quite a collection of "face paint" pictures (since that's something they do a lot here), and thought it would be fun to put them all together. So that's what I did.

I love how it turned out. As you can see, Sawyer hasn't gotten quite as elaborate with his face painting adventures yet, but I'm sure it won't be long before he decides he wants the full tiger face or something else doomed to end up all over my clothes before we get home!
Thanks for letting me show off a little.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

She really was watching!

This one's for you, Mimi!

You may remember that about two months ago, we had some special visitors from the states who put on an incredible VBS for our children while the adults were in meetings for a few days. Beth's mom & dad (aka Mimi & Papaw) were a part of that group that came, and one of Mimi's many jobs each day was to teach the kids the songs and motions that went along with their Hawaiian VBS theme. Then, at the end of the week, the kids presented all those songs for the parents.

Those of you who've been with us for a while may remember the Christmas program at Lee Anna's school. You know, the one where she just stood there and didn't say a word or sing a note or move a muscle the entire time. Well, once again at this event, she proved that she is not quite comfortable on the stage. You'll notice in the pictures below that Lee Anna wouldn't even stand with the other kids in front of the audience, and she's only standing as close as she is because I'm right behind her!

She had the same dead-panned expression on her face the whole time, and only moved her hands when I moved them for her. Neither of her parents has ever really struggled much with stage fright, but it looks like our firstborn has a little case of it. I asked her one time how it makes her feel when she has to be up in front of a group of people, and she said, "Maybe it makes me sweaty."

So here's the good news: Even though she gave no outward indication, Lee Anna really was listening and paying attention on some level when you were teaching all those songs, Mimi. She loves to listen to the CD and sing when it's just our family, and she even let me video her singing them so you could see that she knows them. Here's the proof!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

A Little AquaFun!

Yesterday had all the makings of a great day for our kids--friends and a big swimming pool. We went to a place called Aqua Park to celebrate one of our friends'
birthdays, and we had a blast. The kids had a super time playing and swimming together.

Sawyer and his friend Chase had a little water war with these shovels. They were also apparently competing to see whose swimsuit could sag the
lowest without falling completely off. I think Chase won!
It took Lee Anna a while to get up the courage to go down this big slide by herself, but she finally did, and then she did it a bunch more!
Sawyer stuck to the smaller one, and he went down it a million times. It was a fun, fun day, and we were sufficiently exhausted when we got home.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Not bribery, just greasing the skids a little

This evening we went to another part of town to meet a friend at our favorite hamburger cafĂ© (McD’s) in her neighborhood. It was our first opportunity to drive ourselves there, but we’d ridden there in taxis tons of times, so we didn’t have much trouble finding it. In a taxi, however, one doesn’t concern himself with locating empty places in which to park his car. But after three trips around the big grassy round-about, we noticed a spot on a little side-street that seemed to be wide enough for two or three parking spaces. There were some people standing next to it, and we fully expected them to tell us that that was a private spot reserved for someone more special than us. But they didn’t, so we assumed it was okay to park there.

We returned an hour and a half later to find our shiny new Garnet-colored Toyota with a shiny Gold (okay, yellow) parking boot on the front left wheel. Now what? I asked a guy in a nearby parking lot, and he said it would only cost 20 pounds (4 dollars), and to go to the little police stand on the corner for help. So I went to the stand and found it deserted. I started thinking we might get to take a taxi home tonight. Finally I saw a policeman standing near my car, smoking a cigarette. He told me this was a no-parking space. I replied that I could see that now, but I didn’t know two hours ago. I asked him what it would cost me, he said the fine was 20 pounds, but we’d also have to do something with my license, and I’d probably have to go to the traffic department and spend all day doing something. But he didn’t start writing anything up. I got out some money to pay him, and he kept talking about the license and asked “What should we do?” Now American traffic police don’t really like to give you lots of options, so I was a little confused at first. But he kept asking what we should do, and looking at my money. I had already given him the 20, and I offered 5 or 6 more, but that didn’t seem to do the trick. I didn’t have any “medium-sized” bills. Either one-pound notes or a hundred. When I handed him the hundred (20 USDs), he immediately signaled to the guy with the key, and my car was released and we were on our way.

“On our way to where?” is a whole different question. As I mentioned, we’d never driven there before, so we weren’t real sure how to navigate the one-way streets and bridges to get ourselves back home. We followed our friend’s directions for a few blocks, but then we couldn’t find a place to turn around like we thought we should. Within five minutes we found ourselves in a shabby little village area by a little canal. We were riding down an extremely crowded dirt road in a part of town that’s not accustomed to seeing lots of foreigners, judging by the stares. Once I had to stop for a flock of goats to clear a path for us. We saw live chickens and rabbits for sale among all the vegetables (so close to our car that Beth could have reached out of the window and grabbed a chicken if she wanted to). In place of taxis, there were these little three-wheeled deals called tuk-tuks. They have room for the driver and two or three passengers. The deeper we got into this neighborhood, the less certain I was that we were actually going to get home tonight. I felt like we were headed toward the river at first, but I was wrong. Fifteen minutes later, we saw the lights of the big city again, and turned one last corner that took us to a bridge back to civilization.

I called a friend on the way home to tell him about the police encounter and he said it was money well spent for me not to have to spend a day or two at the traffic department.

How Diego the Animal Rescuer has changed our life

Two brief examples:

1. Last week on our trip out to the sea, the following conversation took place as we got out of town and into the desert:
Mom: Sawyer! Lee Anna! Look at the desert. You can see so far!
Lee Anna: No, we can't. We don't have great eyes like jaguars!

2. Lee Anna informed us during that vacation that she has decided she would like a red-eyed tree frog as a pet. Not just any tree frog, mind you. A red-eyed tree frog. How does she know that there's even such a thing as a red-eyed tree frog? Well, because our good friend Diego has a pair of red-eyed tree frogs that sometimes accompany him on his animal rescuing adventures. I told Lee Anna that I'm pretty sure red-eyed tree frogs have to live in places that average more than one inch of annual rainfall, but I'm not sure she's convinced yet.

For those of you without preschoolers, Diego has his own TV show which is all about rescuing different kinds of exotic animals. He has become my kids' undisputed favorite, which is why they talk about red-eyed tree frogs and rheas and pumas like we used to talk about puppies and kittens.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

My sweet husband and children brought me these beautiful flowers this afternoon. I love them! And, thanks to them, the wife of the doorman across the street is also having a happy Mother's Day (nevermind that she's not a mother yet!). There were 10 roses in this arrangement, but when they got home and Jason got them out of the car, she saw them and pulled out one of the roses for herself. We're glad to brighten her day a little bit, too!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Pedro Turns Two!

Today was Sawyer’s second birthday. He’s been nicknamed Pedro since before we ever saw him, since he was due (and came, I might add) on Cinco de Mayo. So, Happy Birthday, Little Pedro!
Since we left town for a little family vacation today, we started his birthday celebration a little early. Lee Anna helped make his cake last night. She thinks that the word birthday is synonymous with “cake” as in, “Mom, we really need to make his birthday!” or “Mom, I want my birthday to be chocolate cupcakes.” She did a good job, and, like any good cook, managed to sneak a few tastes for herself as well.
As soon as we set the cupcakes out on the table, Sawyer climbed up and started blowing on them. He has seen a few candles blown out in his day, and he was ready for his turn. When we finally sang to him, he was ready and blew both candles out on the first try.
Today, before we left, we let him find all his presents. I say “find” because, in the Stubblefield family tradition, we play “hot or cold” to find presents. The other day, Lee Anna was practicing this and told me she was playing “hot and warm and cold.” I said, “Oh, you’re playing hot and cold?” and she said, “No, hot and WARM and cold.”Sawyer was really excited about all his gifts. He’s at the stage where you have to work hard to convince him to move past the first gift to open the rest of them. He would have been completely content with any one of the great gifts he got today. You grandparents all outdid yourselves!
When the birthday festivities were over and we had finally finished packing, we headed to the beach. This is the same beach resort that we’ve been to several other times, and it’s fun to be back. We only got a few hours of swimming in this afternoon, but we’ll be back out there in the morning!

It’s been a special day celebrating our little man. What a fun, precious, entertaining gift he is to our family! We are so, so grateful!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Lesson Learned

Let's imagine that you, dear reader, were to attend a get-together around a swimming pool or other small body of water. At some point in the evening of our imaginary event, you might decide to change out of your swimwear into something a little more, shall we say, dry. After returning to the pool-side area, you would probably manage to stay dry for the remainder of the evening, assuming your friends didn't pick you up and throw you in. Well, based on today's little experiment, I would venture to guess that staying dry in such a situation was a skill you acquired some time later in life. Certainly not before your fourth birthday. I would also guess that if you and your brother did return to the water and get soaking wet right before a 45-minute trip home, your Daddy would not have been very happy with you. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

But then, you might say it was your Daddy's fault for allowing you to return to the aquified area after changing your clothes, mightn't you.