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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

On Miss Clavel and Dust Bunnies

It's been a settling in process here in Abu Dhabi. I have not had to deal with much of the "culture shock," side of things since I've had my go with that already, but just the unpacking, rearranging, hanging things on the wall, finding my balance type of settling in.

Grace has not handled it well.

Sweet girl.

She went the entire six months bouncing around from house to house, church to church in the States and even did well coming to Abu Dhabi for a week, then on to Jordan for a month, then back to Abu Dhabi in a hotel. But the day we moved into our house and she laid her eyes on her things and her bed, it all fell apart.

She has been just a glimmer of herself for the past six weeks.

It's rather heartbreaking. Sleep issues, waking up with nightmares, a complete rejection of Ian (since he is no longer working from home, we assume,) and a different demeanor entirely. It's so hard to see her grieve and handle the change. I stayed home for two weeks straight with her just to give her some semblance of stability and normalcy and that has helped a ton. We've laid down the law about bed time and reestablished lost routine. Slowly, surely, she is coming back to us.

There is still a part of her that is sassier, more disobedient, but I guess that is part of her testing the waters as a new three year old. Giving grace to Grace and extra snuggles has helped as well. Forehead to forehead, nose to nose, with her hot breath on me until she relaxes into sleep. I really do love those few minutes each day.

I've definitely had more and more "Miss Clavel," moments. You know the ones. Where she wakes up from her sleep and "knows something is not right," and takes off running down the hall? Yes, that has been me, several times a night when Grace wakes up screaming and disorientated. Nap time too. I've become a pro at taking our stairs 3 at a time in a maxi dress.

All the boxes are unpacked and everything is put away. Our living room needs more furniture and the house needs more carpets to help contain the sand and dust. For now, I sweep the entire house every day and I still get a dust pan full of dust bunnies.

And Sophia? She is our happy baby. Until you tell her "No." Then she is our screaming mad, inconsolable baby, with a perpetual state of diaper rash.

The summer is upon us, with temperatures touching 100 degrees each afternoon. And yet, I found myself with the doors open yesterday while the girls played outside in the water table because it felt comfortable.

That's where I am right now. That's what life looks like.That's my picture of motherhood, expat life as of today. I'm sure tomorrow could look entirely different. Or, perhaps, exactly the same.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

It's Been a Month

It's been a month since I have last written.

And clearly the break has not boosted my creative title making abilities.

Oh, well. The world keeps spinning and all of you can keep rolling your eyes at the ridiculousness.

It's been a month and alot has happened. I have found myself thinking about how much I need to share, but there has just not been time!

The girls' nap time was up 10 minutes ago, but since they are still sleeping I will try and steal a moment to be still and collect some thoughts.

Let's revisit February and March via a list, shall we?

1.) My birthday happened. It was a bit of a let down. Ian had to work late and I was stuck inside the hotel all day by myself with two stir crazy girls. Then, because nothing had been planned, I chose to go out to eat and Ian was able to meet us just in time. I cried that night that  we didn't have any birthday cake.

Just being honest with you!

Ian redeemed the oversight with an ice cream cake the next day.

2.) Ian's visa came through, which meant we could begin house hunting!

3.) We found a house! And signed a contract! And moved into the house!

4.) Everything fell apart and my dryer caught on fire.

5.) We've been in the house for 2 weeks and every box is unpacked (quite an accomplishment,) most of the curtains have been hung, and some of the pictures/art has been put up.

6.) Then, our house flooded. Yes, I know we live in the desert. But wouldn't you know it, the one storm we get a year happened just days after we finished unpacking and rolling out the new carpets. Lucky for us, our friends were here and they helped us as we ran around stuffing towels everywhere and catching rain in trick or treat buckets.

It's just the way things are here! The houses are not built to deal with rain. Luckily, no damage was really done and everything is drying out. Including the fifty cardboard boxes that were stacked outside awaiting disposal.

7.) I've started looking into preschool for Grace. And subsequently had several panic attacks about not providing the best for her and how she is going to be so behind her peers. Kindergarten is split into two parts here and the first one can be started at 3.5 years old! She is just not ready for full time school and I don't think that it would be the best thing for her. Luckily a friend explained the system to me and I think I have it figured out- Grace could start the second part of Kindergarten when she is 4.5 OR when she is 5.5 without doing the first part. Phew. Now to figure out how to afford a private school education! Public isn't an option here (locals only,) and I just do not feel called to homeschool her.

8.) I'm just a couple of weeks away from starting back to my Arabic language study! I'm excited to see progress and hoping to meet some goals during this term!

Yup, all of that happened in the last month and the girls are still sleeping. Time to sit still and be quiet for a few more minutes!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Five on Friday

Linking up Here for Five on Friday

1.} Valentine's Day- It's obligatory to write a little bit about our day o' love. This one was significantly less romantic than years gone by, mostly because us and our two daughters are living in a hotel room and we don't have a car to go anywhere. So we went to a mall, priced a mixer, had a heart attack, and stayed home the rest of the day! Ian and Grace picked me up some beautiful roses yesterday and the girls and I got Ian some almond stuffed dates (yum!) and cards.

2.} Big Girl Day- Well, it happened. Last night, when we put Grace to bed, we snapped a picture of her and her beloved pacifiers- one in her mouth and one on each pointer finger which she twirls around as she falls asleep. Today, when she woke up, she handed them to me and I hid them away. I could have just thrown them away but I am a little too sentimental right now. We spent the day as she wanted it- Presents in the morning (a 12 piece puzzle which she can finish in less than 2 minutes! a new book, and a thing of Gelli Baff) McDonald's for lunch, cupcakes for dessert, and cereal for dinner. Her nap time was rough, she cried and screamed, got out of bed to play with things in the room, and finally fell asleep. Bed time was semi calmer but she just lay there, like she didn't know how to fall asleep with out them. It was so sad. I'm sure there will be more hard days ahead of us, but this wasn't the worst start to it.

3.}South Beach- We're doing South Beach diet again, or our closest approximation to it. I've said it before and I'll say it again- we love SB for retraining yourself what are normal amounts of carbs/sugars to be consumed. I'm down 10 pounds and feeling alot better and more in control of my eating habits. America, you rocked our world, cuisine wise, but you also made us alot more unhealthy, ha!

4.}Birthday Blues- Do you watch New Girl? If so, there is a recent episode called Birthday that exactly explains how I feel about birthdays. I LOVE them. I think they are so special and that they are magical days. But I have such extremely high expectations for them that I am devastated when my birthday ends up looking nothing like I thought it would. So, I would really much rather be off by myself for the entire day than to be around people with my expectant "Aren't you going to whisk me away by plane to a surprise party at a five star resort?" look plastered all over my face. Please tell me someone else out there understands!

All of that to say: my birthday is on Sunday and Ian has to work. Wah-wah.

So it's me and my girls in our hotel room all day. I'll be the one telling my two year old to sing me happy birthday on repeat.

And also not to wet the bed.

Glamorous.

5.}Date Night- It's happening tomorrow night and I'm more anxious than excited.

Random hired babysitter+hotel room+limited English= one very nervous wreck Momma.

But I know how necessary date nights are and living in the city right now gives us the chance to more easily try out this babysitting service. Plus, I arranged the time so that the babysitter gets the girls during the long afternoon stretch and can keep them up until we get home.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

My Girls- An Update

 It's been a while since the girls have been the sole topic of a post, nearly five months since Sophia's first birthday and Grace's half birthday!

My girls are: Amazing, Wonderful, Hilarious, Loving, Energetic, Verbal, Intelligent, Helpers, Observant, and Learners.

And to be honest they are also: High strung, slow eaters, impatient, and (one) can have a bit of a temper.

I am so thankful for the daughters God has given us. Living overseas, in a male centric society, I get asked all the time by people "Just girls ma'am?" with a head tilt of sympathy. I bite the side of my lip most days, hug my girls close, and say "Yes! We have two wonderful daughters!" I really hate that they have to hear that all the time, like they aren't enough are good enough.

I am clearly meant to be a "Girl mom," first. A friend of mine, who happens to have two sons, lent us a bunch of toys to use while in the hotel. Part of the collection was a set of train tracks and trains. I set them up for Grace one day during Sophia's morning nap and Grace just stared at me like "What am I suppossed to do with this?"

I just stared back at her, because, frankly, I wasn't sure. Once I made the trains pick up a load of coal and do a loop around the figure eight, I wasn't too clear on what was to happen next.

Ha!

Grace:
 I learn so much about mothering from Grace everyday. It is a trial by error situation right now but I wouldn't trade a moment of it!

Grace is 2 years and 10 months old.

Grace is very full of energy and loves to be socially involved. She's happiest when we are out and about and can interact with her friends.

She is slowly getting over all of her weird food aversions and even ate pasta recently! And the moment we returned to the Middle East she started eating cheese again. Never mind the fact that I still buy Kraft cheddar cheese, just like we did in the States!

She is getting into books and stories alot more. She can retell random Bible stories (Elizabeth and Mary, Joshua, and baby Moses.) 

She is in size 3T clothes and 7 shoes.

She takes one nap from 2-4 but I recently figured out that if I laid her down at 1 or 1:30 she would still sleep until 4! She goes to sleep at 7 and sleeps until 7 am when we wake her up.

Favorite Clothes- She's really into socks right now. I don't really get it.
Favorite Show- All about Yo Gabba Gabba, much to my chagrin. I feel like I am hallucinating when it is on!
Favorite Song- She's gotten into Zaccheus and Skip to my Lou in the last month.
Favorite Food- Chocolate Milk and Babybel cheese
Favorite Person- Momma or her friend Miya
Favorite Toy- A VTech Picnic basket and little metal tea set that she plays with everyday
Favorite Book- The Very Hungry Caterpillar or Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (classics!)

 She's my painfully slow eater. I have been looking for some sort of "Bite timer app," so that she has a constant countdown and reminder to chew her food, swallow, and take another bite. It drives me crazy! Not with all food, of course, just the stuff that she is not crazy about.

We are getting rid of her pacifiers tomorrow, on Valentines day! I am really excited/dreading it all in one moment. She always has slept with them so it will be a big deal tomorrow, when she lays down for her nap without them! We are dubbing it her "Big Girl Day," and told her it will involve presents, cupcakes, and being all done with her paci's! She is looking forward to it but I doubt she has any concept of what being all done with them actually means!

Sophia:

She is One year and four months old!

She walks, runs, and tries to jump. She has gotten pretty good at climbing on things, which Grace never did.

We just got her off of the bottle on Tuesday, February 11th. I kept it around because I wanted her to have some routine through all of this change but with us being in a hotel for several more weeks I just decided to go for it one morning! She fussed that first morning and then was fine!

Sophia takes a morning nap from 8:30-10:30 and then from 2-4 in the afternoon. She is a pretty light sleeper though so any change of temperature or noise during the last 45 minutes of her nap will mean that she wakes up!

She is my cuddly girl. She throws her head back to laugh and runs at you full speed (eyes closed and looking up at the ceiling while she runs!)

She can sign More, Please, Water, Food, Milk, Baby, Cheese, and Cracker. She says Momma, Dadda, Bottle, Baby, Book, Open, No, Up, Hot, Shoe, Sock, Shirt, and Ball.

She sits very still for book reading and it has actually helped Grace to learn to sit still for stories! Sophia really does love to look at books and points at things she recognizes over and over.

She loves to "dance," and will hold her hands out in front of her fingers together, and sing a song from Nutcracker as she twirls around.


She is in size 18 month clothes and size 5 Wide shoes. She is in size 4 diapers. She has six teeth but two molars are popping through as we speak!

A quirk about Sophia is that she HATES to be messed with. Meaning, if she didn't initiate being touched then she probably won't like it. (as pictured above.) I can never get any pictures of them together because Sophia becomes a little tyrant about being touched. Doctors visits are awful because she just hates being poked and prodded at. You can imagine how much fun bath time or nail clipping is! She doesn't mind getting dressed or diaper changes and she IS super cuddly. Just doesn't like being "messed with."

My girls are such precious little lives and I am thankful to be entrusted with raising them up. Can't wait to see what the next couple of months brings!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Word of the Year and a New Look

I know, I'm a month late with choosing my word of the year. But, to be fair, we have had a good bit going on, you know, with moving overseas and all.

I should clarify by saying I have chosen wordS of the year. Plural. As in two words of the year.

Bold/Still

They may seem slightly contradictory but I assure you, they are not.

I focused on the word "Still," months ago when I felt the pressure and stress from our approaching move mounting. Again and again I had friends going through trials and I would refer them to the verse in Psalm 46:10 that says:

"Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted among the earth."

Each time I would feel a peace about our own situation and could rest in that stillness when I remembered that God will be exalted. If our own purpose on earth is to bring glory and to exalt God, then whatever change in the map of life that comes my way is for that purpose.

I knew my word for the year was going to be "Still." This was a trait that I wanted to strive for, to think on, and to help me focus on the sovereignty of God. We have alot of changes coming in our lives this year, especially in these first 2-3 months, and I had a real peace that this was something I needed to focus on.

I was surprised when the word "Bold," came to mind a few days after the New Years. I became greatly convicted about how my lack of boldness in certain areas of my life was leaving me without vision, identity, and purpose. I went to Scripture to see what boldness could be found there and time and again I found people being bold despite opposition and logic saying they should be otherwise.

Boldness with relationships, personal goals, language learning, social situations, and more will help me to reach the goals that I have placed before myself and I know that acting cowardly or hiding behind the veil of shyness or introvertedness will only hinder me. (note: there is a real time and place when those characteristics do affect how you act, but I know when I hide behind them instead of working with them.)

Proverbs 28:1 says, "The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion."

I am so excited to see how the Lord uses these words to grow and stretch me this year, and to see how His presence is affirmed again and again.

Also, thanks for sticking with me as I update the look of the blog! It's coming along but definitely needs some tweaking!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Never Once

Again, we are all settled. An uneventful day of taxis and flights and more taxis and hotels.

Well, almost uneventful.

Jordan (the country,) decided they weren't going to do daylight savings time anymore back when we "Fell back," but then the country was all in an uproar so they reinstituted it. Apparantly some of the wires got crossed and airlines and travel booking websites couldn't quite figure out what time our flights were really at.

We made it, so that is what counts.

(on a side note, our iPhones couldn't figure out what time it was either, so I ended up leaving it like it was and just constantly subtracting an hour when I looked at it.)

We are settled into our hotel apartment and looking forward to/dreading the next several weeks all in one breath.

Ian had his meeting with his potential employer today and it looks good! We should have the contract in hand tomorrow and the weekend to look it over. If all is good, he should be starting this Sunday, February 2nd! He's really excited about the position, (I mean, as excited as Ian ever gets, which is not much, ever.) and he's looking forward to starting on this new endeavor.

I, on the other hand, am in slight panic mode. Don't get me wrong, I am so thankful that the Lord provided this job for Ian and that it was the job we've been praying about for so long. It's just that I've never really done the "stay at home mom," thing. Well, I've been home, but Ian's worked at home for the last 2 and a half years, so he's always been around! But, starting Sunday, I will be doing what so many of you do on a normal basis, and I am pretty freaked out.

Mainly, I'm worried about the whole hotel apartment living situation. We have no toys for the girls (NONE,) and are confined to about 200 sq feet. Tight quarters! There are no parks our playgrounds within walking distance and we probably won't have a car for a month! Taxis can get us just about anywhere but when you add up the expense of the taxi, plus whatever you are doing, plus the stress of going out with a 1 and a 2 year old in a taxi (without car seats,) I'm just not sure it is worth it.

And, just for memory sake, here is how our conversation went after Ian walked in the door from his interview:
B: How'd it go?
I: It went well! They still have that position open and they want me to take it!
B: That's great? So when can we get our visas?
I: I don't know, I didn't ask that.
B: Okay, so when can we get a car?
I: Not until we get our visas.
B: Okay, so when can we get our house?
I: Not until we get our visas.
B: Okay, so when do you start? When you get the visa, the car, and the house?
I: No, this Sunday.
B: *crickets*
I: What?
B:Are you sure you don't want ME to start working this Sunday?

(and, truth be told, I actually cried a little bit when I found out that it was happening so soon. Grace has been having a really hard time with this transition and pushing the limit constantly. It's been the most draining stretch of parenting so far. So yes, I'm not looking forward to the next month, but I am looking forward to my expectations being confirmed or redeemed, ha!)

*Sigh*

And I know in a month I will look back and this will all be a fun memory. "You remember that time we lived in a hotel room with 1 year old and a 2 year old for a month, without anything to entertain them with besides McDonald's toys?"

But for now, I'm clinging to His promises of peace and patience and loving Matt Redman's song Never Once.

And if that isn't enough craziness for one post, this is just a heads up that my blog will be under construction through this weekend. Please excuse any mishaps or issues!


Monday, January 20, 2014

We're Making It

Well, we made it. In case you missed it, we finished up our time in the States, packed everything up and headed to the airport.

Us and our twenty pieces of luggage. Yes, that's right TWENTY.
6 trunks
4 suitcases
3 duffel bags
2 car seats
1 double jogging stroller and
4 carry on pieces


It took us nearly an hour and a half just to check in because our carry on bags were over the weight limit and I had to run into the terminal buy a new piece of luggage and run back out to lessen all of our loads. Then that new piece of luggage was checked in also. Whew!

I have NEVER had my hand luggage/carry on pieces weighed. EVER. And, because of that, we always make our carry on pieces the heaviest/densest things. We fill it with our computers, cords, hard drives, Bibles, books, and Ian's heavy shoes (ha!).

We made it through security rather easily and took the tram out to our departing terminal. There we stopped for a quick Burger King dinner (because nothing says "I'm about to sit on an airplane for 9 hours. Twice." Like fast food, right?) and got to our gate with only a couple of minutes to spare. We both got bathroom breaks then the gate called for any strollers so Ian had to take ours down.

(sidenote, when we bought our awesome double jogging stroller in August I had found a bag to put it in to protect it during travel, but didn't buy it. Fast forward four months later and that bag was DISCONTINUED! I couldn't find a bag anywhere, after three hours of searching online, that would fit our dimensions so I had to have a bag custom made. Ridiculous.)

Almost immediately our gate started loading and we made our way down the aisles with four carry on pieces and two car seats. We got the car seats installed pretty easily then settled in. The plan was to just occupy the girls with the stuff around them for the first hour, get them in their pajamas, do the night time routine, and have them go to sleep shortly after the meal service was over.

Well, an hour in the meal service hadn't even started so we went ahead with the plan and the girls were asleep within half an hour. Sophia slept for almost 3 hours in her carseat and then woke up disoriented and I was able to get her back asleep on my chest. Grace slept for 5 or 6 hours and then both girls were up for the last hour and a half or so of the flight.

We landed in Frankfurt, Germany, where we have missed a connection before and hoofed our way through the airport (without our stroller since it had been checked all the way to Abu Dhabi) and made it to our gate with only five minutes to spare! We got loaded on the next plane, let the girls eat during the meal service, and then tried to get them to nap. They both napped for about two 30 minute naps but that was it. The rest of the time was us keeping them quiet with toys and TV. It wasn't the best but it wasn't the worst either.

We landed in Abu Dhabi around 10 pm, went through immigration, and collected our luggage. We actually got flagged in the "nothing to declare" line because of how many bags we had, and, of course, my bag was the one they chose to open. Nothing like landing in a restrictive, conservative, Arab country only to have your bag with your unmentionables opened by a male guard. Luckily he was as embarrassed as me and had the female guard open it up and search it. Of all the bags, that was the only one they searched!

We got two taxi vans, loaded up our stuff, and made the 20 minute drive out to our hotel apartment. It was past midnight by the time we had checked in, got all of our bags up to a room, switched to a non smoking room, and got the girls beds set up.

My mind's a little foggy but I'm pretty sure we all slept until almost nine AM that morning, only waking to pull Grace into bed with us when she woke up disoriented.


We spent the next four days just hanging out in Abu Dhabi, seeing old friends, moving our luggage to our friends' houses, and getting over jet lag. Grace had no real issues but Sophia's eating schedule was all off and she woke up at about 11 pm (right when we would have crawled into bed,) and would drink two bottles! After that she slept all night!

On Saturday, January 5th, we woke up early, loaded up a rental car, and headed to the airport again, this time to Amman, Jordan. We were traveling to attend a conference and leadership training there. Our flight was on a much nicer airline and we had a bit of leg room- even though Sophia was a lap child on this flight. The girls only napped briefly but it was only a three hour flight, but that was nothing compared to our two nine hour flights just days before.

We've adjusted and settled in for our training and are enjoying our time in this neat city. Our days are long and filled with classroom type learning (I forgot how hard it is to sit still and pay attention for long stretches!) while the girls are in childcare. The girls are excited to see us in the afternoon but we usually have only two hours with them before their bedtime.

It was very cold for our first week and a half here but it has warmed up a bit and isn't too bad. We have one more week left and then will be heading back to Abu Dhabi for Ian to, hopefully, start his new job! We are so excited for what this means for our family and to have a home and roots again.