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Month: February 2015

Burnin’ Down the House

Burnin’ Down the House

Our current apartment isn’t equipped with any type of heating unit. I know when you read the aforementioned statement most of you thought to yourselves, “Of course you don’t have a heating unit! You live in the Middle East, silly girl.”

While our current location would be classified as a desert ecosystem, one thing I learned upon moving here is  “desert” doesn’t necessarily mean hot. We recently had a snow storm with 9-10 inches of snow in some parts of our city and this was our family Christmas card in 2013. Yep, that’s a five foot snowman. ChristmasBanner_2Pic_5x7-2

So, back to my original thought process. Because we don’t have a heating unit we use “sobas” which are small gas heaters on wheels that roll into a chosen room and then you co-habitate in that room the entire winter in an attempt not to develop frost bite from room to room allowing you to heat one room at a time.

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When the soba is lit, there is an open flame which is complete & utter lunacy if you have small children or boys in your home meaning if you have boys or small children in your home you need to be extra cautions because you do run the risk of  catching something on fire, getting too close and melting clothes or better yet, burning the whole dang house down. Just keepin’ it real for ya’. However, our other option is to deal with the house being a balmy 42 degrees (and that’s on a good day) so, we press on with the soba.

We’ve been fortunate not to have any major accidents thus far but I’d be lying if I said we haven’t melted several things on the journey. Just this month we’ve lost a Gap coat,

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a pair of pajamas,

IMG_9838 (3)completely mangled a plastic step stool

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and managed to burn the entire back end off a stuffed monkey. IMG_0025Praise the Lord for flame retardant materials, right?

Not to mention, we burned a hole the size of a football in my husbands Columbia coat and melted one side of a Nalgene water bottle but I was too distraught to even snap a photo.

I’ve tried to come up with cute and clever ways to keep the boys a safe distance from the soba, but for some reason I couldn’t find any ideas on Pinterest. Go figure. But, no need to fear, we’ve got it all under control now.

A quick trip to the hardware store for some colored electrical tape and our dilemma was solved.
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Now, at least the next time some unsuspecting soul melts the backside of his adorable new footie pajamas….it won’t be my fault.

Valentine’s Day and Boys

Valentine’s Day and Boys

I have vivid memories of being a little girl and my Dad walking in the door after work on Valentine’s Day with a big box of Godiva chocolate for my Mom. To some, that may not seem like much, but it’s a memory I still hold dear over thirty years later for various reasons.

#1= Godiva chocolate is expensive and when I was a little girl our family didn’t have a lot of money so I knew my Dad had sacrificed to buy such a nice gift for my Mom, the woman he loved. GODIVA36PIECE

#2= There was only one Godiva store in our state and it wasn’t exactly close to our house so I knew my Dad had gone out of his way to find this special gift.

#3 (and perhaps the most vivid of all)= when I finally got a little older my Dad surprised me and my Sister with a smaller version of my Mom’s treasured Godvia chocolate on Valentine’s Day. After that it became a tradition that my Dad would give all three of his Valentines Godiva chocolate every year.

As much as I adore the Raspberry Mousse Hearts with intricate red detail swirled throughout the design, it’s not the candy that I remember so fondly.

4322-26-CASE-RaspFlutHrtV1RGBIt actually has nothing to do with the candy at all. What I remember is that my Dad loved my Mom and he wanted to make sure on Valentine’s day (and lots of other days as well) that she knew that.

Fast forward 30+ years and I’m the parent, I’m the one in charge of making Valentine’s Day special for my children and I have a houseful of boys.

Of course, I want my boys to know we love them. I want my boys to remember Valentine’s Day, but more than that I want my boys to remember that I taught them how to make Valentine’s Day special because one day they’ll be the ones in charge of making it special for the women in their lives, just like my Dad did for my Mom. And lets be honest, I want my future Daughter-in-Laws to thank me.

This morning, the boys woke up (like they do almost every V-day) to a trail of hearts. But, because I’m a school teacher deep down, this year the hearts had messages written on them and the boys had to read the messages to know what to do next.

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The hearts led them to the kitchen where the table was set with a gift for each boy, chocolate, tissue paper flower arrangements and enough pink balloons to make it look like Pepto Bismol had thrown-up in the kitchen floor.

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I cooked Nutella stuffed french toast and we ate off the real plates and by “real” I mean the ones that need to be washed after breakfast because they aren’t disposable. Don’t judge, life without a dishwasher is rowdy.

IMG_3366-1Was most of the day created from construction paper and curling ribbon? As a matter of fact, it was. Was it a 5 day Disney Cruise? No. Did it cost 100’s of dollars? No. But, it did take some thought and effort to make those boys feel special. And I’m a big fan of making everyone feel special on Valentine’s Day.

The International Man of Mystery and His Many Quirks

The International Man of Mystery and His Many Quirks

I thought it couldn’t possibly be true, but it is. All those adorable little things your children do when they are young…yep, you forget a lot of them. I know, shameful right?

When I was a new mom and people would tell me that I would one day forget a lot of the funny/adorable things my child would do I used to think, “No way. How could I ever forget the way he says eff-lant instead of elephant? It’s the cutest thing I’ve ever heard.”

“Keep a notebook and write it down.”  They’d say.

“Make a note of those things in their baby book.”

“Create a file on your computer so you can look back on the funny things.”

I must admit, I heard the truth from veteran mom’s but refused to believe I would forget even a single detail of my children’s lives.

It didn’t take long before I saw the error of my ways and started documenting those cute little things so we could one day look back at them. Today the handwritten notes in a baby book have morphed into a blog in the hopes of capturing the memories.

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Breck. Where do I even begin with this guy? He’s in a fun and challenging stage all wrapped up in a pint size bundle of yumminess with a handful of rambunctiousness and a pinch of mischievous thrown in to round him out.

IMG_0474He’s learning that the world doesn’t revolve around him, which means he’s constantly testing limits to see how far he can go. But, at the same time, he’s learning to communicate, developing his own little personality and finding out where he fits in our family and this world. It’s a hoot to watch it unfold but has the ability to bring me to my knees all on the same day. He has earned himself the nickname “International Man of Mystery” and rightfully so.

He has tons of little quirky behaviors that I don’t ever want to forget, like the fact that he’d prefer not to wear clothes and spends the majority of his day in Thomas the Train underwear, unless we are leaving the house and I make him put on clothes.
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IMG_7630He’s an absolute ball of energy and never slows down unless he’s sleeping. While his energy can be enjoyable to watch, it also means he breaks things often or steps on the chocolate peanut butter cheesecake you made for a friend’s going away party.

IMG_8375He wears rubber bracelets on both wrists and both ankles everyday. I have no idea why- but he calls them his “CrossFits.” Whatever works, son.

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He refuses to use the bathroom unless he’s completely in the buff. I’m not going to elaborate on this particular quirk but I will say you just have to trust me. I’ve tried to force the kid to use the bathroom without removing every stitch of clothing and he just can’t do it. If we’re at the gym, visiting friends or out in public- he removes everything, even his beloved “crossfits”, to use the bathroom. This one will really drive you batty when you’re crunched for time.

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IMG_9899We do a lot of walking where we live and every time we go somewhere he picks up a rock, puts it in his pocket and says it’s his “pet rock”. Without fail, the pet rock is always named “Meow.” Go figure.

IMG_9098His latest quirk is this zebra backpack. He wears it around the house. He wears it to the grocery store. He wears it to the gym. He wears it to visit friends, eat lunch, take a nap…you get the point. He usually can be found stuffing random things in the backpack that make him happy. Oh, and how could I possibly not mention the Thomas rain boots? They rarely leave his feet.

IMG_9889While I know the day will come that I forget all of the cute pronunciations (like when he calls a banana a ba-lana) or when you play I Spy with him and he says, “I spy with my little eyes right here...”, one thing is for sure– I won’t forget how he get’s in trouble and then brings me the spoon just to go ahead and get it over with.

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IMG_8860But, more than those other things, I’ll never forget trying for two years to get pregnant and the longing to have another baby and how thankful that makes me that the International Man of Mystery calls me– “Mama.”

All Things New

All Things New

Crossing cultures is hard. Really hard.

We recently welcomed some old friends to our city that moved here from the states. They had been here a grand total of three weeks when he commented on the fact that everything was new and how that made things difficult.

When we moved here almost two years ago, I remember feeling like everything was new and different, but I guess I never said it out loud. So, when a friend recently made that statement it was like I was hearing it for the first time. In reality- the conversations around you are new and unfamiliar; how you flush the toilet is new; the smells are new; the food is new; the way people dress is new; water pressure is new; how you prepare food… everything. It’s all so new.

IMG_6407Being constantly surrounded by things that are new and unfamiliar can quickly cause me to focus on the plethora of things I can’t do. If I’m not careful, I find myself becoming discontent and unhappy about the path our lives are currently on. To combat those “poor, pitiful me” moments, I’ve decided to be more aware of all the new things I have learned to do and focus more on those.

Of course, there are the obvious things, for example:

-I can have a conversation completely in the Arabic language. Boomski! Now how many folks can make that claim?

-I can cook mansef, makloubeh, baba ganoush, kabsa, tabbouleh and many other wonderful Arabic dishes.

-I can read and write in Arabic.

But, those are the “no-brainers.” I’m talking more about the kinds of things I’ve learned that I may have never mastered if we weren’t on this nomadic journey. You know, the kinds of things that I’ve even managed to surprise myself with.

For example:

-The city we live in is crazy busy and has an insane amount of traffic. Due to that fact we’ve had to learn to cross several lanes of traffic on foot while cars are whizzing by at the speed of light. The really crazy part is that I can do it without even batting an eye. I just step right out into on-coming traffic with a confident look on my face, like I own the place. Honestly, it has become second nature. I think I could now successfully cross Highway 280 on foot with all 5 kids in tow and never even get my heart rate the slightest bit elevated. Girl, I got this and I’m so proud of myself for it.traffic

-I’ve learned to cook everything from scratch. Instant foods are non-existant here. You mean you can’t find canned biscuits, break and bake cookie dough, instant Jell-o pudding, Grand’s cinnamon rolls, Bisquick, frozen pancakes or canned pumpkin? Nope. It’s next to impossible. But, the good news is that because none of those things are available here, I’ve learned to cook everything from scratch. And, I’m pretty darn good at it if I do say so myself.IMG_6616

-I can easily go 24 hours without having running water in our home and we’ve even managed to make it a total of 4 days without any running water in our home, and the best part is…I didn’t have an emotional come apart. I’ll spare you the details of what that really looks like for a family of seven to go four days without running water but trust me…it’s not easy, but I’ve figured it out. Just this week our water pump broke and we were without water for over 24 hours and it barely even got my feathers ruffled. Sure, my sink was piled up with dishes that needed to be washed and the toilets needed to be flushed, but other than that, we didn’t miss a beat.  I feel so rugged.

-I’ve trained my hair to go 5-6 days, 3-4 days without washing. I know most of you are reading this while simultaneously gagging at the thought of my nasty, greasy hair but after 2-3 weeks, it really wasn’t nasty at all. I’ve blogged before about the water situation here and how it can cause your hair to fall out, so the only solution was to have dry shampoo brought from the states whenever possible and train my hair to go without washing. To some of you that may sound just plain crazy but you’d be surprised how much time you can shave off your morning routine when you don’t have to wash and dry your hair everyday. I’m just sayin’.Unknown

I hope in no way this comes across as boasting. I recognize that apart from the grace of God in my life I’d be curled up in the fetal position on a weekly basis sucking my thumb and begging to move back “home” but God has been gracious. Really gracious. Not a day goes by that I don’t have the privilege of seeing His hand at work in my life, in the life of my husband and children and in the countless lives of the people we live among here in the Middle East. And sometimes, it’s better for all of us if we choose to dwell on those things.