Tuesday, May 31, 2011

How It All Went Down...

I thought since it was our anniversary, I would be all mushy and write our engagement story…because there are some people who have never heard it…and it is fun to tell.

Before we started dating, A and I had both applied for a study abroad program in Cairo, Egypt.  We had done this separately because we both had in interest in learning further about that part of the world.  When we talked about dating, we took this into pretty serious consideration because the program had a no relationship rule. We didn’t know how it would affect us if we were both accepted to the program and had to break off our relationship after 9 months. After praying about it, however, we decided to begin dating and see how God worked things out.  I ended up not being accepted to the program and was devastated by the thought of us being apart for 3 ½ months. 
We dated for the next 9 months and the relationship became quite serious. Both of us had put off dating for a few years prior to that…just believing that God was calling us to focus on other things and would lead when He brought the right person along.  We had talked about marriage before A left for Egypt, but decided that we needed to take the time apart without the commitment of engagement hanging over our heads.  When A stated that he couldn’t promise that God wouldn’t turn our world’s upside down with this trip I became nervous…but I agreed that we were being led to have open hands and open hearts as we went into this time. So, we said a tearful goodbye at the airport and he was gone. 
The months went by (a very powerful time of growth in my own life that I hope to write about soon) and closer to Thanksgiving than Labor Day, I got word that A wanted me to come to Cairo to spend a week with him there.
I was elated and all of my friends were sure that A would propose during our time there.  I got giddy thinking about it until I mentioned it to A in an e-mail (in a joking/nosy sort of way). The next time we talked on the phone (we talked a total of 7 times in that 3 ½ month period) he told me to get the idea out of my head.  He said that we had been apart for too long and too much had happened in both of our lives that we needed to talk through and learn through. Until that happened, there would be no ring.  I was sad, but saw his point. So I boarded a midnight plane bound for Egypt after one last hug from my dad with no thoughts of diamonds floating around in my head.
After a 10 ½ hour layover in Amsterdam (4 1/2 hours longer than expected due to weather, plane problems, etc.) I crashed the moment my weary body found its seat in the plane.  I slept for the whole 4 or 5 hour trip to Cairo – not feeling take-off or landing.  It was the most solid chunk of sleep I had gotten in days. Cramming for finals, packing and being way too excited in general had hampered my resting. 
In Egypt, I went through the immigration/customs/baggage process (only leaving my passport at one counter – I thought he had slid my passport through and he didn’t, so he ran after me to hand it to me). As the doors flew open and the hot desert air hit me, my eyes locked with A’s and were instantly filled with tears.  He looked tired and worried and frustrated. 
He was tired and worried and frustrated because I was 6 hours late (by the time I got through the airport and got my bags) and he had no word from me if I had not made the flight, had had trouble, etc. The flowers in his hand were wilty and his cab driver was grumpy, but it didn’t matter.
We hugged and smiled and laughed. We walked to the car where the driver stowed my suitcase before taking off through the quiet streets in the pre-dawn light. 
We arrived to the apartment I was staying at (with a friend of A’s) and after putting my suitcase inside, went up to the rooftop to take in the view.  The early morning call to prayer sounded, roosters crowed, horns honked, and we were lost in the joy of being reunited as we danced on the rooftop – smiling cheesy grins the whole time. 
We went our separate ways after a few minutes to get some sleep.  Late the next morning, I came out of the apartment building to find A sitting on the step.  He had been up early and been to the bakery and the fruit guy and the yogurt guy and the juice guy...and now a beautiful breakfast was at our disposal.  We ate and talked and soaked in the beautiful surroundings (we were in a nice part of Cairo).
After breakfast, we ventured out – heading to A’s favorite park. We sat together as many other couples did, talking and loving each other. The boys playing soccer curiously lost control of their ball whenever it came close to us…giving them the perfect opportunity to practice their English.
We had falafel sandwiches from a street restaurant for lunch, we walked more in the afternoon.  We went to a shisha restaurant for supper. I got really sick from my sandwich and enjoyed frantically searching for bathrooms for the rest of the trip.
The details of what we did on which days is a blur now…it is all written down in my journal packed in a box in America somewhere…but here are the highlights.
We went to the pyramids and walked around.  We walked out into the desert and sat on a sand dune to watch the sunset.  I remember thinking at that point in time that it would be the perfect moment for a proposal, but then remembered that it wasn’t happening. So I just enjoyed the sun setting over the sand and pyramids.
Seriously, I know you are all jealous!

We went to the largest chu.rch in Cario – built into the side of a mountain. It is a fascinating story that I will ask A to share with you sometime.  Next to it is a cave that was the site of the ancient chu.rch in the times of Paul and the spread of Chris.tianity.  It was an awesome and humbling thing to sit in that room and feel centuries of souls that had worshipped in that place.  The place was thick with history and was sacred. 
We walked through ‘garbage city’ in wonder of the industry that people have built out of oppression.  We went to an outreach center and were encouraged by the small rays of hope that are being shone into a very tough part of society.

We went to a Coptic chu.rch and I sat in awe through the three hour service, taking in the intricacies of the liturgy, the detailing of the building and the fervor of the worship.  We spent that afternoon with some friends A had made – a lovely couple who were doing big things in that country. They lived in the middle of a poor and busy neighborhood. Leaving their house and strolling through the streets was magical. It was there that I bought my favorite headscarf – the ‘old faithful’ one that I still turn to in a pinch to this day. 

Friends we made at the citadel that overlooks the massive city of Cairo.

 We met A’s friends, we explored neighborhoods of Cairo, we rode the subway, we explored different faith communities, we braved traffic and crowds. We shopped, and ate and laughed and fell in love all over again. It was an awesome awesome trip.

The night before we left (December 23) we took a walk on the Corniche by the Nile.  This is a romantic place lined with trees filled with Christmas Lights and restaurants. Couples stroll along hand in hand and occupy every bench along the way. The Nile itself is filthy, but the atmosphere is lovely.  We walked along holding hands until we came to a sailboat driver who seemed to know A.  A greeted him and said that he had been on the boat before with friends.  A said he wanted to take a ride on the sailboat and I readily agreed!
He went down to bargain prices while I went to use the bathroom in Chili’s.  When we had been settled onto the boat and had taken off, A put his arm around me and I leaned my back against him as we floated down the river.  The weather was beautiful, the scenery was gorgeous…it couldn’t have been more perfect. 
After a few minutes of soaking it all in, A leaned over and whispered something in Arabic in my ear.  I didn’t understand, but recognized the word love, so I thought he was telling me he loved me.  He began to sing (in Arabic) and I turned around to face him just as he switched to English.  A song about working together in the hard places of the world followed. The chorus basically said, Love Jesus With Me.  I began to cry (I do that easily). I remember thinking that maybe he was going to propose, but reminded myself that he said it wouldn’t happen.  I remember mentally kicking him because this would be a more than perfect opportunity!  Focusing again, he was finishing his song and suddenly was sliding off of his seat and onto one knee.  I remember crying and staring at him as he said “in other words, T, I love you, will you marry me?”  I laughed and said yes as I threw my arms around him to hug him.  We stood up hugging and laughing until the boat driver got too uncomfortable with our PDA and told us to knock it off and sit down! 
We spent the rest of the boat ride soaking in the thrill of our happy news – talking about plans and dreams for the future, talking about how A had planned this (he had bought a ring in Egypt and had it engraved by a jeweler there to read Love Jesus With Me in Arabic on the outside), when he had talked to my dad, etc.  It was so fun and exciting. 
The sunset on the Nile Rive as A was proposing. Thanks God!
After leaving the boat we went to a ‘fancy’ restaurant where we ate pasta and oogled at each other.  Finally late that night we took the subway back to our neighborhood and said goodnight.  We flew home the next night and were married 7 months later. And the rest is a very happy history!

Celebrating our engagement with pasta!

Seven Years Strong

Taken at Centennial Lakes Park, Minneapolis MN by my best friend

I can’t believe that seven years have already passed since I walked down that aisle and said ‘I do’. I don’t really feel that old, so to think about it being seven years ago makes me realize how ridiculously young we were when we got married. 
Young, crazy in love, full of wild and crazy hopes and dreams, stubborn as ever and ready to take on the world.  The young part is the only one that has changed in these seven years. Everything else is pretty much the same. And that makes me happy.
We have said for the last week that we need to sit down with a piece of paper and write down where we have been for each anniversary, but we haven’t gotten around to it.  I will share it when we do.  Rest assured that it will not be boring.  We have not spent our anniversaries in the same location more than once, I think. That is just how we roll. 
M-ville isn’t exactly known for its romance, so this year isn’t anything fancy. A is busy getting ready for meetings in the capital next week, Little t is teething and cranky and I am covered in flea bites, but like A said, it is a very good anniversary.  He commented on the fact that we have learned how to live well in this last year – with a baby and in this country (with a baby, no less!) both of which we don’t consider small feats.  So, we are celebrating M-ville style: Pancakes on the porch for breakfast (with 4 small Finish children staring at us), lunch together with a piece of frozen cake for dessert, and supper with guests. A wants pointy local dress shoes as his gift and I was given the go-ahead to pick out curtain fabric for the house we are moving into while in the capital next week.  Utterly and totally romantic… 
But it is. A prayed for us at lunch and I cried as we sat here holding hands. I am so amazingly blessed and humbled to be on this journey together.  It is not an easy one and there are few people crazy enough to embark on it. I never imagined myself finding someone to enjoy the ride with…but I have and I couldn’t be more thankful. 
So, here is to a lifetime more together… 

Couldn't be happier...then or now!
(This post was written on May 29th, our anniversary, but due to a houseful of guests and a lack of electricity/no internet, it is only now getting posted.)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cooking in M-ville/Recipe of the Week

We like good food.  
I like to make good food, and we like to eat good food. 
That, however, is not always easy in this part of the world. 
Take Monday evening for example: Little T and I went to the bazaar (by car) with another expat family to pick up supplies for a team party we were throwing the next day.  The weather was gorgeous, Little t was in a great mood, we had a lot of fun browsing shops and finding what we needed. At 5:30, we were headed in the direction of home.  We stopped one more time and Katrina (mom of the family we were with) hopped out to pick up wrapping paper. I noticed what time it was and comment to Vesa, her husband, “it is nights like this where I really wish I could stop and get supper from McDonalds!”  Two seconds later Katrina re-enters the car and the first words out of her mouth are: “It is already 5:30, what are we going to do for supper?  Wish there was a McDonalds around!”
The moral of this story is not that McDonalds is good food. (Or that we even eat there that much at all.) Believe me, we are not so jaded as to think that. The moral of the story is that good food…or even not so good food…is not easy to come by in M-ville.
That said, I feel quite spoiled in this place.  Compared to our last location and some of the other places/situations that people live in, we can’t complain at all with where we are or what is available here.
But, spoiled as I sometimes feel, good food takes work. We don’t have a huge selection of veggies or good meat. There is no freezer section. Veggies are not pre-sliced, or even pre-washed when you buy them, and their availability comes and goes in a mysterious fashion. Rice has to be rinsed before it is cooked (usually 5 or 6 times) to make it edible. Beans and lentils are dried and must be picked through before soaking and cooking to ensure that all of the rocks, nails, birdseed, etc is out. Each step takes time and energy and…you get the idea. 
There is also the question of availability. Like I said, I realize I am somewhat spoiled here.  I have lived in Lal where potatoes and garlic are the only “fresh” vegetables available 9 months out of the year, so I complain carefully. Here, however, things vanish and I can’t plan on a meal with certainty because on that given day there is a very good chance that the vegetable I want to use will be completely absent from the bazaar.
For example:
 A few days ago, we had guests coming for supper. I found a really great recipe for eggplant burgers and was very excited to give it a go. First thing in the morning I sent kAkA to the bazaar to look for eggplants. He looked doubtful when I asked.  He replied, “I will try, but I can’t promise anything.  Two days ago Soile (lady we share our yard with) wanted them and I couldn’t find them. Yesterday, the bazaar was full of them – every shopkeeper had them! So, lets hope there are still some around.”  There must have a deep and burning desire in every cook in M-ville the previous night to have eggplant because he came back and said he couldn’t find a single one. 
Of course.
So, there I was, my supper plans dashed.  We ended up having some potato dish that was decent – not great – but food in our bellies.  That night, however, I was still dreaming of the beautiful eggplant burgers that were not to be.
The point of that is that I never know when things will just up and vanish and totally throw a loop in my best laid supper plans.  Like carrots. One day there were just no more carrots…couldn’t find a single carrot. And that was that.  Stir fry, carrot cake, steamed carrots, not possible.
In spite of the challenges, I keep getting lucky and coming across recipes that are really good and that work here.  I have decided to start passing them so that someone else in a similar situation may benefit from them (or ‘normal’ people back home, as they are really good).
This first recipe proves my point of good food taking work. 
We had guests for lunch two days ago so I decided to make this Minestrone Soup. I found this recipe in a book and we have eaten it often since then.  It is healthy and adaptable and I can usually find most of the ingredients here – in some form or another.  Little t eats bowl-fulls of it at a time, so that is a bonus!
So, this recipe has the potential to be really simple – use canned tomatoes and beans, a little chopping and viola! You have created a masterpiece!  Yesterday, however, it wasn’t quite that easy, it took some work.
First thing in the morning, I sent kAkA to the bazaar to buy potatoes, zucchini and tomatoes. 
I didn’t have canned beans, so after sorting and rinsing the beans (kidneys and garbanzos), I boiled them for 3-4 minutes and then soaked them for a few hours and then cooked them in the pressure cooker for 20 minutes.
I also realized half-way through that I was out of canned tomatoes (can’t get them here in M-ville) so I had to use fresh ones. They worked great, but it was an extra step to wash and chop them.
I also decided to use fresh green beans from the garden. This required going out to the garden, picking the beans, stemming them, washing them, chopping them and then adding them to the pot.
So, thankfully angel khAla’s daughter, Hope, was there that morning and did most of the chopping for me.  It wouldn’t have been bad, but I was also making BBQ chicken and baked potatoes for 30 people for that night, a cake for lunch and muffins for Little t (with Little t ‘helping’), so we had our hands full! 
After we got the beans cooked and everything chopped, the recipe was easy after that.  It was just the extra steps and legwork that made it seem tedious.  But we love love love this soup, so it was worth it in the end. 
Here is the recipe and I will add my modifications at the end. 
Mom’s Minestrone Soup   - Murree Christian School Cookbook
1/3 cup oil
¼ cup margarine
1 large onion, sliced
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 large carrots, diced
¼ kg green beans, cut up
Cook vegetables in large pot in oil and margarine until lightly browned
6 cups water
1 kg (2 cans or 2 cups chopped) tomatoes
2 med zucchini, diced
½ small cabbage sliced
½ bunch chopped spinach
1 t. salt or to taste
2 cubes beef stock/bullion
Reduce heat to low; cover; simmer 40 minutes or until vegetable are tender. Do not overcook.
1-2 cups cooked kidney beans
1-2 cups cooked garbanzo beans
½ cup uncooked macaroni noodles
Cook 15 minutes or until noodles are cooked and soup is slightly thickened.
- This time for veggies, I used potatoes, zucchini, onion, mushrooms, and green beans. Like I said, you can really throw anything in there, this is just what was available in my cupboard and the bazaar that day.  
- I also add 2-3 cloves of minced garlic when I add the potatoes and onion in the beginning.
- I add 1-2 Tablespoons of basil as well, usually toward the end of the cooking. Adjust to taste.
- I don’t use all of the oil – as I find it is too greasy if you use that much butter and oil.  So maybe half of 1/3 (math is my strong point, can’t you tell?!?)
- I also cook the pasta separately and then just add it to the bowls at the end. I find if I add it to the soup, it gets mushy and gross when used as leftovers. This make a lot of soup and the leftovers are awesome…but even better when the pasta isn’t soggy.
- We sprinkle parmesan cheese on ours and enjoy with a fresh piece of hot naan.
That’s it! Enjoy!  Let me know if you try it!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Slow Down

The lazy days of summer are already upon us here in M-ville.  The temp every day is about 95 degrees in the shade and the thermometer climbs valiantly above 100 degrees in places without relief from the sun. The kids have two more weeks of school, but have excitedly proclaimed that there isn’t any more new homework being given. The ratio of their time spent in school and in the swimming pool is becoming increasingly heavier on the wet side of things. These days make the simplicity and beauty of life here shine through. 
I had been thinking about the reality of life here before my friend Tara wrote this post about entertainment in Haiti.  After reading her words, I realized that though we live miles and miles apart, our worlds are quite similar. 
Like Troy and Tara, our lives mainly center around our home and family life. A goes to work at the office (next door to our house) and after work comes home and we hang out…sometimes with guests, or friends, or neighbors, often just the three of us.
This started basically out of necessity.  M-ville is nice, but it doesn’t offer any family friendly hang-out spots.  There are no restaurants to go to, no places to play, and the stares get exhausting after a while.  A few times we have gone to the park to let Little t walk around and interact with the other boys.  Sometimes on Friday mornings, we go on family walks and that is great, but few and far between.
The fact of the matter is – home is where it is at. And we like it that way.  It started as necessity, but has become a rich and welcome routine. 
Don’t get me wrong, I would appreciate a trip to a restaurant every once in a while, or a playground for the little guy.  I would love to go on a date that is outside of my living room.  But, we are learning to deeply appreciate our time.
We spend our time gardening, reading, cooking, jumping on the trampoline, hunting for turtles, having dance parties, coloring, baking, fixing bikes/motorcycles, sitting outside and listening to the crickets.  Just normal simple stuff and it is good.
I commented to A the other day that I am slightly freaked out to think about one day returning to life in the States with all of its hustle and bustle.  Before this season of life, we have been people to go go go, always looking forward to the next event, next encounter with friends, next opportunity.  Now, I wonder if that was the healthiest thing for us as people and as a family. There are good things to be about, don’t get me wrong, but the power and growth of a family and a home lays heavy on my heart in these days.
Maybe it is because that is the season we are in, little guy, no place to go, not a lot of options. But I am liking the pace and pattern of our life these days and hope it continues for a long time.  

Monday, May 16, 2011

Morning Musings

I was up early this morning...Little t woke up at 4:30 and I nursed him and changed his diaper before putting him back to bed.  I was back in bed at 5 and then laid awake for a half an hour telling myself I didn't really have to go to the bathroom that bad and not to itch my bug bites. Finally I gave up and got up so I wouldn't wake the boys up.  Sitting on the "veranda" with my Book and journal and coffee, I was almost giddy. Such a beautiful and simple time.  These were the thoughts on my heart...

Maybe I am the only one who feels this way…but early mornings in the developing world just have a mystical feel to them.  I know early mornings are nice everywhere…(wait, I don’t know that because I am not a morning person. I am more of a sleep however long is possible and then make a feeble attempt at being slightly functional before noon type person). But every time I make the effort to get up early, I am rewarded.
The sun shines clearly not yet hindered from the dust and heat of the day. The breathtaking silence of night sounds gives way to an explosion of sounds. Donkeys bray and chickens sound their wake-up calls.  Birds sing in the trees and flit and fly from place to place. Vehicles of all shapes and sizes fill the air with exhaust and noise as they take people to their places. People pump water, tea kettles whistle.  A hammer begins to pound, a gate opens, kids chatter as they walk by on the street. The broom makes it’s methodic morning sounds kAkA drags is against the cement.  The morning air begins to fill up with dust and exhaust, while at the same time fighting to maintain the freshness that lingers from the stillness of night.
I am literally choking back tears of awe and wonder as I sit here and bask in these moments.  It sounds corny, I know, but moments like this make me SO happy. 
Then I realize that it isn’t the moments, but the culmination of the moments.  It is life.
So full and so good. 
I frequently find myself with a lump in my throat as I realize the beauty and the power of these days. In reality there is nothing special about them. They are just days and we are just living life…but wow! They are sacred and beautiful in their goodness. 
Little t may be a nightmare and we may be hot and there are never ending fleas and diarrhea, etc.
But there is peace.
There is deep, abiding, overwhelming peace that pervades these days.  The way is not always easy, but it is good because He has called us to walk in it and we are.
It is crazy when I really stop and think about it at times.  Crazy that this place and this life could make me so happy. 
Security and freedom and sanitation are all figments of our imagination in this place.  And yet we rest in Him.
There is great potential for hopelessness and fear to prevail. But we rest in Him.
Misunderstanding, fear and paranoia are rampant in both of our worlds (the one we came from and the one in which we now dwell). Sadly, these two worlds tend to clash in very ugly ways these days. But we rest in Him.
Love for our families, intense longing to live life with them and deep guilt over being absent weigh heavily at times. But we rest in Him.
Who knows if this will be the calm before the storm?  Though they are beautiful and good and full and right for us at this time, we hold these days loosely. I am glad we can’t see around the corner, what will happen when we get around the next bend.  I am thankful that we have no idea what next year or next week or even today holds in store. Because even though these days are beautiful and I cherish them, they are not always easy. And I am very seldom strong. 
“The days are short, there is much work to do!” How can we not hold on tight with this in mind? Though we may not know what is ahead and it may be hard, we dig in in this place.  Jumping in with both feet, distinctly aware of the risk and the challenge, but thankful just the same for the gift of this life.
I know it sounds naive, but how can we choose anything other than Him and His ways?
Some days it feels like a real life lions den or real life fiery furnace. Just like those circumstances, I am sure it looks like that from the outside.  Crazy. Foolish. Dangerous. Chaotic. But there is peace in the uproar. Truly He is grace and hope and peace in the midst of this chaos. We cling to Him and we find life. 

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Turtle Hunting and Other Random Adventures

Nothing too exciting happening in M-ville these days (and let’s be honest, that is the way we like it).  The weather is hot. A is busy with work. Little t is getting new teeth. I visited the neighbors a few days ago. We are living life…and loving it!  Here are some random tid-bits from our life lately.
***We have several mulberry trees in our yard that have thousands of toots (word for mulberry here) on them.  When ripe, they fall on the ground leaving a gooey, sticky mess.  kAkA has been bringing his kids over to collect them this week so that has been exciting.  He has 4 kids. He has brought the three younger ones and then two of his brother-in-law’s kids. They hold a big sheet out and then he uses a stick to shake the branches and the toots fall out into the sheet.  They put them into a bucket and take them home. He keeps giving them to me, but we don’t like them, so I give them to the neighbors.  Little t has loved having other kids around. They are very very good with Little t and he enjoys playing with them.  The last two times they have been here at least one of them has offered to take Little t home for a few days and keep him for us.  Culturally it would be unthinkable for us to actually let that happen (the women in the office can’t believe that Little t does not sleep in the same bed with us) but it is fun that they offer. 
***On Easter Sunday we went on a hike in the hills (more to come about that later) and found a turtle on the way back to the car.  We were excited about it and it now lives in the garden.  There is another one that showed up here in the yard, so we have two turtles that we see from time to time.  Yesterday while Little t and I were in the yard, he was pointing toward the area where we saw the turtles last time.  I asked if he wanted to look for them and he nodded.  So, we went on a turtle hunt. I said “hmmm, I wonder were the turtles are”. Then Little t said “hmmm”.  He proceeded to walk around the whole yard with his hands on his hips saying “hmmm” as we looked for the turtles.  We didn’t find them in the end, but it was a grand adventure, let me tell you!  The big kids found the turtles later in the day and Little t is fascinated. 
***Our yard is ever the hub of excitement. I saw a neighbor boy beginning to climb over the wall into our yard today.  I left my lunch making to go out and see what he was doing.  Usually they lose their ball when playing soccer, etc.  As I stepped into the garden and asked what he needed (as he was hanging from the wall) he said, “stop, no no no! Don’t come in here! Go get your dog, but don’t come in here!” I told him that I didn’t have a dog and asked what he was talking about as I took a step forward.  Again he said, “don’t come in here! There is a snake! It will bite you!”  At that moment, his mother popped up on her side of the wall and after we had gone through the greetings, she explained that there had been a snake in their yard and when they had tried to kill it with a shovel it had ended up in our yard.  I asked a little more, but still have no idea if it was thrown into our yard or crawled into our yard, or…no idea. 
Anyway, we spent the next 20 minutes tip-toeing through the garden with shovels (him a big shovel, me a hand shovel) looking for this snake.  kAkA was gone eating lunch and A was at a wedding for lunch, so I was left to fend for myself.  To be honest, I was more humored by the whole thing than scared.  We rustled up all of the grass and weeds and found nothing.  Finally, after promising not to let Little t out of the house until he found and killed the snake (he was about 12), the boy left out the gate.  A returned then and I told him about the excitement.  He went to the garden with his shovel and looked some more but came up empty.
A few minutes later there was much cheering on the other side of the wall and the boy climbed on top of the wall to inform A that they had found the snake and we now had permission to let Little t out of the house.  Whew! (By the way, for all you worriers out there, the snake was a little tiny thing and it is very unlikely that it was dangerous.)
***A just returned from a wedding lunch thing…he was shocked that he had to wait 20 MINUTES before the food came.  I was indignant and reminded him that the last wedding I went to, we waited 4 hours for the food to come.  I am headed to the female half of this wedding tonight after Little t goes to bed, so we will see who has to wait for food longer.  
That is a big talk right now…about the difference between the way men and women are served here.  It started with a discussion by one of our co-workers who went to a very poor wedding in a house (most are held in wedding halls).  The families didn’t have much money and had done everything very simply. They hired someone to play music from 10 pm to 2 am.  Aziza, our co-worker got ready to leave (as did many of the other guests) at midnight because the bride and the food still had not arrived. The men had not given permission for the musician to stop playing for them and be able to go play for the women and the entrance of the bride.  Finally at 2 am, the musician quit and left and the bride showed up in tears, to no music and virtually no guests…men here can be jerks (to put it mildly).
A has a beautiful story about a man who was not a jerk, but I want him to tell it before I share…so stay tuned for some a story that will give some redeeming value to those with testosterone.
***In other news…there are big changes for the future regarding our team here in M-ville.  A lot of shifting of people due to the absence of a teacher, roles changing throughout the country, etc. Thankfully, we have peace about being here and are able to just ride the storm out.  Our biggest suspense through this is which of the ‘big’ houses we will get to move into. While we wish we didn’t get to move (because we like our teammates and wish it would work out so they could stay) we are excited about the prospect of having a guest room, outdoor dining area, etc.  So, soon we will be set up and ready to entertain guests…come on over!
***A word of warning – though we have a blimp flying over M-ville these days, there is no Goodyear Tire dealership here.  People are kinda freaked out by the Hindenburg sized balloon that is grazing our blue skies.  Everyone always asks what it is (like I know?!?). We try to ensure them that it is being used by the military to keep everyone safe. And we try to convincingly say that it is not being used to spy on people. Although, I will be honest, I feel a little creeped out being in my yard knowing that it is “watching”.  So, if you happen to be in this area and are in need of tires, don’t migrate towards the blimp, I am told they aren’t too friendly at the military base…
***We were asked if we were from Iran twice while out shopping the other day.  We take this as a compliment (because it means that we fit in-ish).
***I am struggling…some days I feel more proud of my garden than I do of my son.  I mean, I love the kid and all, but he isn’t producing zucchini, cilantro, spinach, lettuce, chives, green beans, strawberries, citrus trees, and flowers, now is he?!?  Little t and I spend a lot of time in the garden these days.  I have given up on my flower pots and no longer get all hot and bothered when he yanks the spindly green plants out of them.  Walking through the poppy patch still gets his momma a little worked up though. But we are both working on understanding each other better.  Basically, I just let him play in however much mud and water he wants to…
I am also very happy to announce that three of our four citrus trees are indeed living!  We planted these four trees (two orange and two lemon) that one of A’s co-workers had given him. They didn’t look that great when we first put them in the ground and admittedly, we didn’t really know what we were doing! Then they just looked downright dead for a few weeks…to the point that I considered yanking them out.  But one of them came around and now has beautiful leaves.  A few weeks later, I was considering yanking the others, but as I weeded around two of them, I realized that they had little tiny leaves coming out at the base of them…and the trunk was green! So, there may be hope after all.  But in all seriousness, we spend at least an hour in the garden every day and we love it.  It has become very theraputic for me and a good bonding time for the little squirt and I.
***Is anyone else blown away by the fact that it is the middle of May already?!?  I just can’t believe how quickly time is flying!  July and Dubai will be here in no time! Yippee!!!
And on that random note, I will end this completely random post. Have a great end to the week everyone!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

For the Grandmas...

A word before I start...I uploaded these pictures to blogger in the wrong size...so they are a little fuzzy (the actual pictures are much clearer)...but because our electricity has been off and on all day today,  I am not taking the risk of trying to redo them...so please forgive the fuzzy photos. That said...
In honor of Mother’s Day, I thought I would share a post about Little t…I was going to post this a few weeks ago, but never got around to it. Now it is nice that I can use it as a tribute to his grandmas for Mother’s Day.  We are so thankful for the wonderful women in our lives.  Thank you Moms for investing so richly in the three of us…you have shaped us in so many ways and we treasure who you are. We love you. 
Okay, enough sentimental stuff…onto the good stuff.
In case you were wondering….

He is still stinking cute.  
Stinking stinking cute!  The boy just melts our hearts, every day.  Notice I said boy because it feels like he is getting so big.  Each day he is learning something new, exploring different things and his personality just continues to shine through loud and strong.  Here are some of his latest antics. 

Blue Dog is still near and dear to his heart.  If Little t had it his way, he would go everywhere with that little blue dog blanket.  We work hard at keeping him in the house i.e. not making trips to the garden, or the bazaar, or the swimming pool.  It takes a lot of persuasion at times because they are such good friends.  Usually after he wakes up, we can hear Little t gabbing away to Blue Dog in his crib.  Sometimes, we have been able to peek in and see him holding B.D. up and talking right into his face.  He also insists on having him at the table while he eats (another thing we are trying to phase out) he shares his food with him and gives him drinks, making sippy sounds as he puts the cup up to his mouth.  

Little t getting ready for a swim...with Blue Dog in tow. And you thought I was kidding!

Speaking of sippy sounds, Little t is big into tea parties and cooking right now.  He especially loves the real tea pot and his plastic cups.  He carries them around the house and pretends to pour tea into the cups.  He then hands out the cups and we all pretend to drink them.  He has also taken to “drinking” directly out of the spout (putting the spout in his mouth and tipping it up) which local friends find hilarious because old people here actually drink like this, so they love it. 
 While I am cooking, Little t is usually in the kitchen. He pulls pots and pans out and asks for utensils and will sit and stir the pots, put stuff in them, etc.  He has a thing for kitchen utensils and even when we go to other people’s houses, he asks for utensils to play with.  Today he got into a bag of beans and (under supervision) strung them all over the kitchen, dumping them into different pots and bowls. I am sure we will continue to find them in the days to come.  Thankfully he is good about not sticking stuff in his mouth! He is discovered that he would much much rather be standing on a chair that is pushed up to the counter than anything else…so he is quite the ‘help’ now.    

Helping make cookies/eating all of the raisins out of the batter.

In other culinary-related news…Little t now is using a fork and/or spoon when he eats!  It took quite a while for him to get the hang of this…and we didn’t push it, to be honest.  I didn’t have the patience or motivation to work with him, and he wasn’t interested in using the utensils for anything other than flinging food all over for quite a while.  In the last few weeks,  however, he has really gotten the hang of scooping stuff up with the spoon and putting it in his mouth.  He makes a big show of it.  Scoops it up and then looks at both of us with a big grin on his face to make sure we are watching before he puts it in his mouth.  We then cheer like crazy and he gobbles away.  It is progress that we are all excited about. 

The little man continues to be quite the talker. He babbles constantly and is picking up new words and signs all the time.  He now has signs he uses to say more, please, thank you, all done, washing his hands, eating, and bye-bye.  He also says the words all done, please and bye-bye as he does the signs.   
I recently read that around 18 months of age a child should have a vocabulary of around 50 words. Little t isn’t to that point yet, but we aren’t worried. Especially considering he is immersed in 3 languages (with the occasional Finnish thrown in) every day…we are cutting him some slack. Like I said, he talks all the time.  kAkA is always asking if we know what he is saying, and we don’t, but he always has a story to tell. The intelligible words he does say include: mama, daddy, car, shoes, cheese, please, all done, dog, yes, no, oh no!, that, keys, nan, tickle tickle, ball and water. He also makes the sounds for animals when asked. He does a pig, sheep, cow, donkey (and horse are the same for him), dog, cat, monkey, elephant, and chicken/bird.  He also points to his head/hair, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, belly, bottom, feet and toes when asked.  We continue to be amazed at how much he ‘gets’ and how well he listens.  He doesn’t always obey, but is always listening. He has started saying yes or no when we ask him questions (i.e. do you want more raisins?) and now says please for everything he wants to do (ride on the motorcycle, go swimming, go outside, have a snack).  He is a little communicator and we love it!

He has also started role playing (for lack of a better term) a little bit.  A few times I have caught him crawling around the living room while barking like a dog. Or a few times when I have gone in to get him from his nap, he has been crawling around his crib and mooing like a cow.  He also has a few wooden animal figures that he picks up and makes the sounds for them and walks them around the house.  A little creative genius, I tell you! J

He is also totally a people person.  He loves to give angel khAla kisses in the morning when she arrives.  He gives her a huge smile and then lifts his little cheek up so she can kiss it.  He is also getting the hang out of shaking people’s hand when he sees them and we encourage him to give salaam (hello greetings).  He is quite good about doing so with his right hand (the appropriate one).  The other day when we went outside after his nap, I told him he needed to go tell kAkA (who had just arrived for the night shift) salaam.  Little t marched right over to him and stuck his hand out.  He is also known to put his right hand over his chest (like saying the pledge of allegiance) when saying hello – this is a gesture that men do when they greet someone and Little t has picked it up.  We were at the office the other day in the women’s room and he shook the hand of every woman in the room. I was very impressed!

He is also very affectionate towards A and I. Every time A leaves the houses, Little t gives him kisses.  And each time he is going to lay down for a nap or bed, he insists on giving kisses first.  They are big open mouthed slobbery ones, that he says ‘ahhh’ for before he kisses us…but we aren’t complaining!

Little t has also learned how to walk backwards and it looks very ‘Michael Jackson-esque’ which we are totally humored by. Twirling in circles is also a new found hobby of the wee one.  He can be found twirling in a circle with his head and arms back (think Sound of Music) in the middle of the living room, or on the trampoline…again, very amusing.

Displaying a new trick - walking over the 'bridge'. (Notice how green our yard is). Also, notice the treehouse in the background that Little t now climbs into!

Always one to put on a show, Little t has the moves when it comes to dancing.  He loves to clap his hands and wiggle his little booty.  He also really gets into stomping one foot while he dances.  Whenever we turn music on, he starts to dance, especially local or Indian music.  The other day we were in the office and the administrator was playing music on his computer. The second I set Little t down he started to dance.  The men got a big kick out of this.  

On the outdoor front, Little t is a crazy man.  He loves loves loves water and mud and has a knack for finding it.  He is constantly dirty and/or wet.  We went to a teammate’s house the other day and within 15 minutes of arriving, he had found water and was completely soaked.  He played in the water for 2 ½ hours and at the end of that time had to run around naked for an hour because I didn’t even have a spare diaper for him.  He wasn’t complaining and found a great amount of joy in discovering that he could pee everywhere without a diaper on.  He loves working in the garden and is great at pulling weeds my favorite flowers. We have a large tub that we use for his baths that we have been putting in the yard so he can ‘swim’ during the day. He will spend a least an hour playing in the water, or his new favorite, laying down in it. He grins as he feels the water around the sides of his face.   He also has discovered the swimming pool that our yard-mates have and thinks it is about the best thing ever.  It comes up to his chest and he loves playing in it, splashing and walking around.  He has gone under a few times (accidentally) and was quite scared by it, but he always goes right back in after he finishes sputtering and coughing.  As you can imagine, this now means that I can’t leave him alone for a second because he makes a bee-line for the pool.  Even though it is covered when not in use, I have to constantly keep an eye on him, so it feels like a blessing and a curse.

Also, Little t has decided that he is big enough that he can ride the scooters like the big kids.  He hops on with his feet and hangs onto the handle and A or I push him around.  He grins and we get a workout. He has also started to actually jump on the trampoline.  He takes a few hops and then usually sits down on his buns.  Then he jumps up and does it all over again. He loves being on the trampoline and runs around on it and jumps.  When he and I are the only ones on it, we play a game where he chases me and I scream as I crawl away.  He laughs so hard and comes after me again.  It is quite the sight I am sure.  The big kids try to get him to play with them, but it just doesn’t get him as riled up (just overwhelms him I think).

I think one of his spiritual gifts is finding mud.  He is ALWAYS muddy.

Showing off his swimming/splashing skills

Pushing his truck around.  Check out the crazy hair!

Always observant, he never fails to point a helicopter when he hears it in the sky.  He points to the sky and says “ooohhh”

We are entering the stage of tantrums and it means there is never a dull moment at our house. He is quite good at letting those cries of protest rip as he arches his back and throws himself on the floor.  When he is really really upset he puts both of his hands on his face and shakes his head…very very cute. 

Little t has started tickling…everything. When he tickles, he says “tickle tickle” (with very clear words). He tickles everything, Blue Dog, us, his stuffed animals, people in books or on movies, his own feet or belly.  It is very very funny and so cute (and yes, it is one of the numerous adorable things that he does that we are attempting to get on film).

And last but certainly not least, he has started pray.ing.  We hold hands when we pr.ay before meals. If we ask him if he wants to pr.ay he will squint his eyes and let out a little jibberish before nodding his head to signal he is done.  We realized that he squints his eyes because he saw us squinting our eyes to watch him while we pr.ayed, so now that is standard practice in our house!  We all pr.ay squinty-eyed and we are all happy. 

So there you have it, the life and times of Little t…so cute and such a stinker!   Stay tuned for more!

"Happy Mother's Day! I love you!" Love, Little t