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Friday, June 24, 2011

Cultural Tidbits

*We're entering our first full summer of living in the desert. As the temperatures soar and energy levels plummet, I've been amused with some of my cultural observations lately*

-You know you live in the middle east when you stop by a restaurant for a plate of hummus to-go, and eat it in the car just as you would fries and a shake in the States!

-According to one of my teachers, the best treatment for a baby's stuffy nose? A little olive oil spread on the outside of the baby's nose. This home remedy was also her treatment for baby's constipation.

Only not on the outside of the nose, *cough, cough,* if you know what I mean.

-According to another teacher, the reason her son is in desperate need of a tonsillectomy? He occassionally eats ice cream.

True story.

-On that same note, it is somewhat maddening to see people drinking HOT tea when it is 115 degrees outside. But they truly believe that you must drink only things that are hot when it is hot out, otherwise you will get sick.

-A common phrase here is Insh-Allah (God Willing,) and they use it to literally mean "God willing," or to slip out of making a commitment. Ask if someone will be visiting you soon? You'll most definitely be answered with Insh-Allah. Leaves you wondering if they mean it literally (as in yes! I want to come and will come as long as it is in the will of God!) or if they are saying it to avoid firming up plans, (as in, crap! I really don't want to hang out with this crazy Westerner!)

-One of our male teachers, who happens to be one of Ian's good friends, just found out that he and his wife are expecting.

And when I say "Just," I mean, he was talking with Ian while he was buying the pregnancy test for his wife, got off the phone to purchase, take home, and use, then called Ian right back to let him know the joyous news.

Ian and some of the guys were going to have a celebratory dinner with him at a restaurant, but the teacher called to say a cow had been slaughtered in their honor (naturally,) and that the feast would be at his house.

Awesome.

On a more serious note, I'm so happy for this couple! They suspected infertility issues which is devastating in any culture, but here it might be worse. Societal pressure and family expectations begin only several months after marriage. The blame is placed on a woman if a baby is lost and no matter who has the infertility (the husband or the wife,) the wife is blamed.

-We finished our first full year of language school! Ian scored amazingly well and is at the top of his class. So proud of him. I'm still chugging away, making up for lost time during the end of my pregnancy and maternity leave. I probably only have one more week of lessons before I am officially caught up, but I will take classes all through July to fill in some language gaps. I have made alot of progress though, and I feel like I am alot better at communicating in Arabic!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Date Night

On Tuesday, our anniversary, Ian and I went out on our first date, post Grace being born!

I know, I know. 10 weeks is a long time not to have a date night. It's not because we didn't want to, and it's not because we don't have friends ready and willing to stay with her, but since a date night for us means crossing an international border, we have to have a little extra cash in order to do something like that.

SO, Tuesday, our friend Alison came and watched Grace. I only had one bottle of pumped milk, as I was at school all day and couldn't pump much to get a 2nd bottle. I was a little nervous that Grace was going to be screaming mad for her 10 pm feeding if we didn't get back in time!
Ian and I headed off by 5 pm, but the line at the border was so long that we didn't get to the mall until 6:30! Frustrating since the mall is probably only 10 miles away, but since we have to cross the border, it takes longer!

We stopped by the movie theater to go ahead and buy our movie tickets. The theaters work a little differently here. Movies are only out for a short amount of time, so that they can cycle through to something new. So, if you don't get to the theaters for the 7-10 days a movie is showing, you are out of luck! Plus, there are usually only 4 or 5 showings in a day. Well, the showing for the new X-Men was at 6:45, so we went to the counter, picked out our seats (they have assigned seating here!) Ian dashed off to find an ATM so we could purchase our tickets, and then we bought snacks to hold us over.

Afterall, our plan HAD been to eat dinner and then watch a movie, but there was only one more showing at 9:45 and that would be too late, so we adjusted our plan.
We really enjoyed the movie and I loved eating my peanut M&Ms and snacking on the nachos that Ian got. We had some annoying teenagers in front of us who were practically yelling through the first 10 minutes, so Ian had to pull the "adult card," and say "Hey guys, other people paid to see the movie too."

He got a "sorry sir!" And if that doesn't make you feel old, I don't know what will!

I guess teenagers can be disrespectful and loud in any culture, huh?

(on a side note, if you know any teenagers, or are raising your own child- PLEASE teach them the proper decorum for theater going.)

We had a nice walk across the mall to this beautiful Indian restaurant. It was very authentic, no "butter chicken," here! But I did my best to read between the lines and found a chicken dish in a tomato cream sauce and thought that sounded like my beloved butter chicken, and it was!

We exchanged gifts. Kind of. As in, I forgot my card for Ian at home and had written his gift in there. I tried to be all clever, since it was our 4rd anniversary, which means your "Leather" anniversary and had promised Ian to get a new baseball (leather) glove and ball the next time we were in the big city.

Ian got me a beautiful gold necklace that had my name in Arabic script. He had given me a white gold one over 4 years ago, but I lost it in a Target while trying on necklaces in 2009 (boo.)

We headed home and had a good time chatting in the car and listening to some of our favorite music, Jack Johnson and The Postal Service!
And because every post needs some of Grace's cuteness, here is a picture Alison snapped of Grace while we were gone!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

{Three}

Today is our three year wedding anniversary!

We spent our first anniversary in our hometown of Orlando, Florida, our second up in Vancouver, Canada, and now, our third in the Middle East! No one can say we aren't adventurous!

I've loved the last three years and though they weren't picture perfect, my husband blesses me so much every day! I'm so glad I got to marry my best friend!

This year, I am too tired to do a wedding recap, SO...

Want to see a glimpse of wedding history? Read about our one year anniversary, our two year anniversary, favorite wedding pictures One, One-and-a-Half, Two, and Three!

Also read about The After Feeling- that glorious feeling when all of your planning and scheming has fallen into place!

And please, if you don't read any other post, PLEASE do yourself a favor and read The Morning After, to read about how my Dad was at the hotel on the morning after we got married. Especially if you need a chuckle today.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Baby Will....

A baby will make love stronger,
days shorter,
nights longer,
bankroll smaller,
home happier,
clothes shabbier,
the past forgotten,
and the future worth living for.

– Anonymous

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Grace is 10 Weeks! & Dance Recital

We had great start to our week, with our baby girl turning 10 weeks old and attending our little friend's dance recital.

Grace is now ten weeks old!

She has become such a joy to be around in the last 1-2 weeks.

After she eats, she usually gives us 20-30 solid minutes of smiles and grins. She loves the sound of my laughter and lights up when her Daddy talks. She'll even stop nursing to smile if I talk to her! Adorable!

This is an unofficial update on Grace, but I want to remember how she has also started sleeping more solidly at night, usually going from her 10 pm feeding to a 5 am feeding.

She's a rock star at our language school, often being scooped out of my arms by a teacher or student the moment we walk through the doors.

She LOVES being around people and seeing new things. It's almost like she could care less about toys or other baby things, but people and events fascinate her! So different from her Momma, who would much rather stay cuddled in bed, reading by herself!

Grace got all dolled up in an outfit from her Great Grandparents to go to the dance recital of some little friends of ours. Though there isn't a dance studio in our little town, a student at our language school offered to teach some classes for a couple 3 and 4 year old girls.

They took lessons for a couple of months and then had their recital today, at the end of our school semester! They danced to Jack Johnson's "Jungle Gym," and demonstrated how they stretch and their different positions- too cute!
Makes me think of my dance recitals as a little girl! I didn't dance for long, but I loved it when I was really little, and maybe, if she wants to, Grace may take lessons too!

{Though, I secretly hope she'll become a swimmer, just like I was!}

Saturday, June 11, 2011

*Katie*

One of my best friends, Katie, gets married today in our hometown in Florida. I'm not able to be there because my school semester is still going on, and it breaks my heart a little not to celebrate with her, her family, our friends, and her new husband!

Below is the "speech," I sent in to the maid of honor, to read at the reception, since I am the Matron of honor.

Katie,

When Jessica asked if I wanted to send in a toast, as your honorary matron of honor, I stumbled for days thinking what to say, how to summarize over a decade of friendship. I poured through pictures documenting our middle school, high school, and college days.

How could I tell you how much our friendship has meant? How could I express my love for you and my joy for you and Mike on this special day?

I'm not sure if I can do it justice, but I will try.

Though our friendship has changed through the years, the simplicity of it all began when we were starting middle school. My family had just moved to Oviedo and started at First Baptist. I went to the early hour, you went to the later hour. I was starting public school and you were home schooled. For all intents and purposes, we should not have crossed paths, but we did, and God had a plan for us!

To quote a much loved movie of our childhood "If God throws a curveball, don't duck, you just might miss something."

I am so grateful for your friendship.

You were my fellow book worm, my encourager, my "funny valentine," my entertainer, and my travel companion.

We've traveled all over the south, learned together in Washington DC, served in Brazil, explored London, walked in the footsteps of Tolkien and Lewis in Oxford, romped in Normandy, and frolicked through the sights of Paris.

You have been the shoulder for me to cry on, the ear for me to rant to, the sounding board for my ideas.

You are the laughter in my life, the song in my soul, my voice of reason, my kindred spirit, my best friend.

Katie, I never would have guessed, in a million years, that I would not be standing next to you on your wedding day. The miles that separate us as I am living overseas can not distance the friendship that we have, and so I must believe there is a reason that I am not dancing and laughing with you tonight before sending you off as a married woman.

I have loved hearing the excitement in your voice, over the phone, as you and Mike have grown closer together, become engaged, planned your wedding, and began dreaming of your life together.

As you and Mike begin your married life together I wish to pass on a few pieces of advice:
Love with your whole heart, listen with an open mind, and speak to uplift.
Katie and Mike, I love you guys and Congratulations!




Friday, June 10, 2011

Success!

I've had a good week. A really good week!

School is going well and I love having my private classes (as compared with having to be in a classroom environment where you are just one student among many.) I'm seeing alot of growth in my language learning, which is encouraging.

Speaking of language, I went on two local visits this week, and was able to use my Arabic much more! I was really proud of myself for stepping outside of my comfort zone and stretching myself in my language use.

Grace is sleeping in much longer chunks, usually 6-7 hours at night! We're keeping her up a little bit longer during the day between naps, and I think that is helping alot.

I finally got some social time in! I mentioned a couple of weeks ago how I was really struggling with loneliness out here. It's true. My selection of people (who are English speakers) is small and when those friends are busy, you are plum out of luck. I got alot of time with ladies this week though and it made my heart so happy. I miss my friends back home like crazy, and no one could ever replace them, but it is so nice to just "be" for a little while and not be wishing to be somewhere else.

I've also had great success in the kitchen recently. You see, Ian L-O-V-E-S his mom's cajun style meatloaf and I L-O-V-E my mom's midwestern style meatloaf. I can't make Ian's mom's meatloaf because it calls for pork sausage (hard to find in this Arab country!) and I feel bad only making my mom's because it isn't Ian's favorite (not because it is bad, just because he loves his momma's!)

Anyways, I found and tried a recipe that we like alot, so now we have "our" own meatloaf!

I also tackled homemade sloppy joes (I've always just used a seasoning packet, so doing it from scratch was a big deal!) sweet tea (I know, I'm southern, but somehow good sweet tea eludes me,) an orange cake, and fried spicy chicken!

Obviously, I made more food than that in a whole week, but those were the things I was proud of.

Another form of success I have seen this week is in the reading department. The past 3 or 4 months I just have not felt like reading! It always bothers me when I go through these phases, because I love reading, but sometimes I can't get into or am not interested in the books that I have available to me. Well, I picked up and began reading a fiction and a non fiction this week, so hopefully that will jump start me in the right direction.

And, just in case you are in need of a laugh on this wonderful Friday, here is Grace, mid sneeze:
*No babies were harmed in the production of this photograph. Baby was caught and re propped back up, against the pillow.*

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Donkey Brains

I'm not really sure if ya'll will believe me on this or not, so I loaded pictures just so you could see for yourself....

Yesterday, I visited with some local ladies for the first time since Grace was born. They gave Grace several presents, one of them being a toy.

While opening it in front of them, I didn't look too hard at it, just noted that it looked like a "Toy Story," toy and said thank you!

Later, I realized just how wrong I was.

Introducing....



Donkey Brains!

Yes, you read that correctly. The name of the toy is donkey brains.

Donkey. Brains.

Okay, I'll let that one digest for awhile and move on.
Here is the toy, up close and personal. You can see why I thought i was a "Toy Story," toy, as the toy manufacturer has illegally used a picture of Woody and Bullseye. Plus "donkey brains," is in the toy story font!

It's really a white "donkey" (aka, horse with big ears,) with Woody on his back. The donkey's legs move and head and tail sway.

And, according to the front, it lights up! I'm not really sure what part lights up, but I'll leave that to your imagination.

Also, according to the front, it is for 3+ players at a time. They must really be big into sharing around these parts for this one toy to be for 3 players.

But wait, it gets better!

Here is the back of the box....

What? You can't read that tiny print? Here, I'll put it here for you to read. Enjoy!

The knowledge of intellect cartoon donkeys.
Improve children's performing ability.
Develop children's intelligence.
Culticate children's interest and confidence.

(All things are spelled exactly like the box.)

Two things of note:
1.) What does that first sentence mean? Ian and I rolled on the floor laughing, reading "the knowledge of intellect cartoon donkeys." Cracks me up! That's probably how I sound when I try to speak Arabic!
2.) Yes, you read that right. Sentence number four does say culticate, with a C, not a V. I'm not really sure what culticate is, but it has something to do with children's interest and confidence.

Also, this handy little plastic toy claims to increase your child's coordination, visual, creative, and logical associative skills.

Quite the claim from Donkey Brains, don't you think?

And you thought this post was going to be about me eating donkey brains, ha!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Water Under the Bridge

It's old news now, but I wanted to hold off telling this story for a couple of days, so that I would not dramatize it or over exaggerate anything. I have a tendency to do that, when storytelling, and I try to curb that very bad habit as often as possible.

Last week, we had two days planned where we had to be over the border at appointments. So Tuesday morning came, and we packed up and headed out for our first day, in the big city, where we had a passport appointment for Grace.

The day, as a whole, went down without a hitch. The heat and humidity was oppressive, and, I can honestly say I've never been that hot in my life. Poor Grace soaked through two outfits with sweat (the back of the car doesn't get the best air circulation,) and we had to make a mad dash for a photography studio to redo her passport photos. Turns out, when we got her first passport photos done, at a passport photo place, mind you, they gave us the wrong size. This usually wouldn't be that big of a deal, but the embassy's hours are 1-3 pm. And that is it.

Ha!

But we went as fast as we (legally) could, and made it back in time to submit all of the paperwork.

We had a late lunch at a mall food court, fed Grace in the parking garage, then made the two hour drive back. When we got to the border, Ian went into the office to get our visas cancelled for the country we were leaving. The officer inside asked to see me (sometimes, because of the culture, they will not ask to see the woman,) and so I, along with Grace came inside.

As soon as he saw me walk in with Grace, he demanded to see her passport. We explained that we didn't have her passport yet but we did have her paperwork (birth certificate from hospital and city, which is supposed to be acceptable.)

He said he could not let us through and he called in a higher ranking official who told us that under absolutely no circumstances could he let us into another country without having her passport.

You might think this would make sense. Usually I would say "of course, someone can't cross into another country without a passport!" But in this situation, the border is much more fluid than other borders, and the hospital told us we would only need the birth certificate. Plus, we had crossed back and forth 3 times already!

Ian followed the higher ranking officer backto his office and tried to reason with him.

"I have an 8 week old baby, she needs her bed. We don't have clothes or diapers. Please sir, think of my wife and baby! We don't know anyone we can stay with here!"

He basically told Ian "it's not my problem." He told us to come back once we had her passport, which would be in 2 to 3 weeks.

Frustrated and angry we got in the car and drove back into the country we had just tried to leave. We parked in a nearby apartment complex while I fed Grace and Ian made phone calls, letting people know the situation and trying desperately to find a place to stay. Of course there are tons of nice hotels, but we didn't have the cash to spend on that (believe me, we have reevaluated our emergency fund!) Finally we were put in touch with a guest house, given directions, and checked in.

As soon as we got in, Ian had to turn around and go back out. It was almost 10 and we didn't have any more diapers (problem!) and hadn't eaten since lunch.

I got Grace to sleep and she officially slept for the first time, not in her crib, but on a bunk bed!

The bottom one, of course, we aren't crazy.

Though, I don't think she'll be rolling her swaddled self anywhere soon.

Ian and I sat quietly, eating on the floor of our room realizing what a big deal this could be.

3 weeks, with only the clothes on our back and no way to communicate with our families back home. We decided we would probably go stay in the big city, 2 hours away, with some friends we had there, and we'd have to buy some clothes to get us through.

We weren't giving up yet though.

You see, the whole time I was pregnant, I had morning Dr.'s appointments. We crossed the border in the morning and returned in the evening. At the border, in the morning, we always got the same female border guard, and we had built a relationship with her. We had even brought Grace in to show her when we were first returning home!

She was also the guard who had let us (plus Grace) through, no problem, just like they were supposed to do!

So, the next morning, we got up, went to our Doctor's appointments like planned, then went straight to the border to try to catch our friend before her shift was over.

Miracle of all miracles, she was! I stayed in the car and she didn't even ask to see me or Grace, we got our stamps, then proceeded to drive over the border.

Coming home never felt so good!

Like I said at the beginning of this post, this could have been a much worse situation, but in the end, it all worked out. Praising the Lord for His hand on us during this time.

We can't go back over the border until Grace's passport is in, or we would risk not being able to get home.

I'm fine with 3 weeks of being stuck in this tiny town if it means I can brush my teeth, take out my contacts, and sleep in my own bed!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Happy Two Months, Grace!

Happy Two Months, Grace!

We love you more and more with every passing day, which doesn't feel possible, but it is. You bring more joy and laughter into our lives and have taught us so much already about what it means to be good parents. We can't wait to see how much you grow and change during this next month.

Love,
Your Mommy and Daddy


Clothes:Today I packed up her newborn clothes and put all of her 0-3 months clothes in her dresser and wardrobe. She can still fit in about half of her newborn clothes, so I may dip back into her pajama selection if push comes to shove. Most of her 0-3 months clothes are onesies, which are awesome for the heat, but not so awesome for a baby that loves to be swaddled. A swaddle blanket works best if it has clothing to 'grip' onto, and when she naps in a onesie, she breaks out of her swaddle 9 times out of 10.

Food: Grace is still eating every 3 hours, 7 am until 10 pm, and one feeding between 10 pm and 7 am, usually around 3 am. She feeds for 30 minutes solidly, at which point I stop her. I'm not really sure how long she would nurse for if I just let her go on indefinitely. During the school week, if I have class during her 1 pm feeding, I feed her a pumped bottle of about 2.5 ounces, and she takes it like a champ!

I cut out almost all dairy out of my diet, around month one, because I thought it might be causing her some discomfort. Things have calmed down and I am adding dairy back into my diet to see if that is what it was.

Sleep: We rotated her schedule around week five, to have a start time of 7 am instead of 9 am, and it has made all the difference (I'm not sure why, it just has!) Before, Grace would nap inconsistently and scream, every night, from 7pm until midnight, even with a feeding at 9pm! We also increased her "wake time," to one hour and ten/twenty minutes. Her naps have evened out, with her napping about 75% of her nap time.

Her bedtime comes after her 7 pm feeding, bath, and snuggle, and her 10pm feeding is more of a 'dream feed,' where we keep her swaddled, lights low, and sounds low. She falls right back asleep after this feed and sleeps until she's hungry.

Activity: Grace has become much more interested in things hanging above her, and rattles and bright toys attract her attention.

She loves sitting up, and is the most happiest when propped against things so she can look about. I've started tucking her in our bed, propped against the pillows in the morning, while I'm getting ready for school. She'll just sit and stare while I talk and sing to her.

On May 16th, 2011, at 11:29 am, Grace smiled at me for the first time, and completely melted my heart. She smiles a couple of times a day, but we have to really work for those smiles!

Personality: Grace LOVES eating, and is inconsolable before a feeding and happy as a lark after she eats. My favorite time with her is the 20 minutes or so after she eats when she is just the happiest baby in the world!


Miscellaneous:
*Grace had her first babysitter! Our friend offered to watch her during a particularly busy school day, when Ian was away over the border at an embassy. She stayed with Grace for an hour or so and Grace proved herself by peeing and pooping on our friend during a diaper change!
*Grace does great at school. Most of the time she stays sleeping in her infant carrier seat, but the teachers love her so much, they don't like it if I leave her in her seat! Most days, we bring her home smelling like other lady's Arab perfume, from when they held her!
*She LOVES her pacifier now, and we're working hard on not letting her use it too often, or as a crutch to fall asleep. Most of the time, we use it to settle her down when she has spiraled into a full on meltdown.
*She still isn't making many sounds, but occasionally she makes a few sounds!
*Grace had her 2 month check up yesterday, and she's put on 3 pounds in the last month, coming in at 10.3 pounds (25%) 23 inches (50%) and she got 3 immunizations, one of which was a 6-in-1 that isn't offered in the States but saves Grace from 5 extra pricks! She did great, peed on the doctor, pooped on the nurse, and screamed for about 2 seconds after her shots.
*Grace had her first night away from home- an unexpected one, but more on that another time. She did great and we're so glad we have a healthy sleeper! Who ever said "scheduled," babies aren't flexible has got it all wrong!