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Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Story of the Third

I'm seventeen weeks along with Baby Galloway number three and it is about time I found the words to tell the beginning of his/her story.

For all of you curious people, no, this was not a surprise baby. At least not to me. 

Now for Ian, that's a bit different. You see, we had tried for over a year to get pregnant with Grace. And I talked about the trying every day to Ian, so he was very aware. With Sophia, we were trying as well and were prepared for a long struggle, but she came quickly and surprisingly easily. So when Ian and I decided it was time to start for baby number three, I was not in a huge rush and was not talking about it every day. 

We decide to start and then that was about the end of discussion. I wasn't talking about cycles and timing but I was thinking about it. I just didn't want it to be a stressful thing while it was early days. 

Plus, around the time we came back overseas my cycle became irregular for the first time in my life. I was exercising heavily and had lost 20 plus pounds and was under a lot of stress from the move. I wasn't too worried but I knew it could make the trying part more difficult. 

So, with just a couple of months under our belt I knew something was up in June. I had been on an 18 day cycle (I know, annoyingly short!) so when day 19 or 20 came I knew it was not things returning to normal. I just knew. No other real symptom except for fatigue. 

On June 19th, the girls and I were meeting Ian at a mall after work and we had gotten there early. I ducked into a pharmacy and bought a test.  I was taking the girls to the Toys R Us to play in the indoor playroom while we waited but stopped into the nursing mothers' room to change Sophia's diaper first. 

I settled Grace onto the rocking chair and Sophia was momentarily distracted by the rocker's stool. I figured, why not now? Why not here? 

So yes, I took the test in what is technically considered a public restroom.

I was super nervous even though I was sure I was pregnant. I've taken enough tests and seen enough negatives to know the heartache that it can bring. And really, it just takes just one negative test to start to feel that pain, doesn't it?

 True story.

I changed Sophia's diaper and turned to check on it when I saw the positive. 

And then snapped a picture of my girls and I. 

I put the test away and took the girls to play until Ian got there. We went to Macaroni Grill and I suddenly knew how I would tell him. 

I kept asking him to draw a picture of our family on the table (he is much better at drawing than I am,) for Grace. But Grace was all over him and was acting insane. Finally, in a huff, I drew a picture of us, including the new baby. 

"Why are you holding a cowboy hat?" Ian asked. 

"It's not a cowboy hat!" I said by followed by blank stares. 

"It's a baby!" I said, exasperated. 

 Shocked only began to describe his reaction. The best I can figure is that he thought we had decided to try and when I wasn't talking incessantly about it he simply didn't think about it. 

Not that he wasn't ready or wanting this baby, I just hadn't been reminding him every waking moment. 

Anyways, a week later we left on vacation to Greece knowing I was in early stages (probably only 3.5 weeks at testing,) so we kept it to ourselves. Eating was rough on our trip as Greek salad was out (no Feta!) and everything made my stomach churn. 

We returned two weeks later and full morning sickness set in. It was rough this time around. With the girls I would have momentary waves of nausea but with this baby it was all day, every day. I could barely lift my head up off the couch. 

We were set to tell our families but things kept getting in the way. I hate telling people over skype. Bleh. My sister guessed it randomly and then we really had to make sure our parents knew. Everyone was excited, of course. 

We will be finding out the gender at our next appointment and I am excited to know if it is a girl or a boy. Of course I want to mother a son one day but I would love to have another little girl in our bunch. Either way, this baby is a blessing!

That's this baby's story so far. An Unexpected (Yet Very Expected,) Surprise and gift for our family.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

What I Love Lately: Preschooler Edition

I have a few products and activites that have helped us get through a rough summer and I thought I would share them with you.

Grace is 3 years old and Sophia is 1 year and 11 months old (almost 2!)

Food: Frozen Fruit, specifically, frozen blueberries or grapes. It's HOT here and I love anything that is cool to help them chill out after a hot car ride. The blueberries are very messy though and can stain clothing, so they usually eat these without their shirts and with bibs (skin will get stained as well.)

TV Show: We've watched far too much TV this summer, but I'm okay with it because we've found some fabulous shows that they learn from, interact with, and talk about all the time! We love:

Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood- A spin off of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, but updated and animated for this generation, this show addresses so many social and emotional issues that little toddlers and preschoolers are bombarded with. Sharing, frustration, being too small to do certain things, or being sick and needing rest, plus many more. They all incorporate catchy tunes that your child will remember when in similar situations. I've caught Grace singing "When you're feeling frustrated, take a step back, and ask for help!" many times. And Sophia growls like a tiger whenever she wants this show. Ha. We get our episodes off of iTunes on our Apple TV and love them! Grace also loves the clips of real kids doing something that is connected with the episode after each short 11-13 minute episode. Free on Amazon Prime

Wonder Pets- Put out by Nick Jr. many years ago, this was a show that I remembered from my nannying days. Cute classroom pets go on adventures to safe animals in perilous situations. Exposing them to a huge variety of animals, a large vocabulary (Grace knows what Sumiya is- a Japanese style of painting, from this show,) problem solving, cute songs, and is safe for even the littlest viewers (no villains!) We loved finding episodes about animals we had read about or about places we were going- like finding a Greece episode set at the Parthenon! Free on Amazon Prime

Music: Elizabeth Mitchell. This folksy singer is putting out music as part of the Smithsonian's attempt to preserve American folk music and reinvent the music for a young generation. I love so many of these songs, and those that are new to me are catchy and fun. We often listen to it while the girls are taking a bath- it helps control the chaos and loudness that they often fall into. They know the songs by heart and Grace can be heard singing them by herself sometimes. They may be raised far from the shores of the USA but we want to help them understand their heritage and past and music is one of the easiest way for them to learn about that right now. Can be found here or on iTunes

Books: We don't have libraries here and our city has very few book stores. So, what we have on our shelves is often all we have. Though we have a great collection of books and it grows with every holiday or birthday, it can get old reading the same books so often, as I think we get through our entire collection every day or two. I have an amazing friend here that used to be a preschool/kindergarten teacher here and she has an awesome collection of books that she has let me borrow from each week this summer. Sort of like our own personal library! I kept these books in a canvas bag out of reach of the kids and brought them down only when I was reading with them or in their room, to ensure that they were well cared for. Three of our favorite books this summer were:

Aaaarrrgghh! Spider!, Walking through the Jungle, and Pinkalicious

Toys: I didn't grow up with them, so I will admit, I am a novice and not very creative with them, but Lego Duplo's are a huge hit in our house. Sophia likes moving them around and knocking things down but can not quite put them together yet. Grace loves building and inventing and has a very specific idea in her head when she starts creating. I'm excited to grow our collection some this Christmas and even more excited for when Grace moves up to regular, small sized Legos, as I think it will open up so many doors for her creativity! Ian is amazing at playing, building, and creating with them so I often save this as a "when Daddy gets home, guess what you can do!" activity. We do have a rule to keep them on our carpet in our family room so that the noise isn't unbearable when they clatter out onto the tile.

Baby dolls and accessories also a big hit with both girls and when I am needing a little relief and mommy time is when I send them upstairs to be little mommies. We have a stroller and baby crib that gets used every day and most times their toy baskets are dumped out and makeshift beds are made for the extra baby dolls. My beloved American Girl Bitty Baby gets played with every day and I am getting closer and closer to telling my parents they can get the girls their own. But first I want them to be able to dress the dolls themselves. Because they bring them to me all day long asking for a wardrobe change and it just drives me crazy.

Activities: Bathtime is made more fun and lengthened by the addition of bath crayons, music, story time in the bath, or even water color paints (check them on your grouting though first and make sure it comes off!) Cooking is a crowd pleaser with our girls as they both get stools to help from and can do many of the basic tasks like pouring, stirring, and cracking eggs. Grace loves playing I Spy and both girls love a good dance party, especially to Frozen music. Coloring is becoming more loved with dot markers, crayons, or markers. Puzzles are fun as well, and Grace can do a 24 piece while Sophia is still working on a 3-4 piece cut out shapes puzzle.

Outings: We live in a mall oriented culture out here. Seriously. Everything is in a mall. Almost nothing is free standing. Grocery stores, pharmacies, movie theaters, restaurants, banks, and even medical facilities are all located in a mall. Most of the time we go to a mall to get out, even though we aren't doing much shopping. For awhile the girls were getting a treat every time we went out or went to the grocery store but I've tried to cut back on that because now they expect it! Our malls are massive, with wide walk ways, indoor playgrounds (and theme parks!) and places for the kids to move. They can even bring scooters or push cars in if they want, but I'm waiting until our kids are a little older and can understand respecting other people's toes and personal space.

Friday, September 5, 2014

White Picket Fences

We celebrated our four year "sandiversary," of being in the Middle East this month. The celebration involved keeping our heads down, trying to survive the insane heat and humidity, and just coping with day to day tasks of living overseas.

It reminded me of a question that gets asked to us very often.

"Don't you miss home? Don't you want to move back?"

The short answer is: Yes. We do want to move back.

The long answer is: Yes, we do feel a longing to live close to our family and childhood friends. We miss the familiar. The easy. The comfortable. We miss the "short," 9-5 work day. We miss the freedoms of speech, religion, and dress.

We miss holding hands and kissing in public.

We miss that our kids don't get to see us do that as often as they should.

We miss the community that a homogenous or semi homogenous Church family provides. (we have a great Church family here, but it is very fluid, changing often, and of people of many different cultures and backgrounds.)

We miss Thanksgiving with people that know what are Thanksgivingy foods.

We miss Christmas decor and a crisp in the air.

We miss having road trips and Starbucks that sell seasonal drinks.

I miss Target.

I miss college football.

Then there are the If Thens that I miss.

If we were in the States, Then my parents could come and help when we were swampd.
If we were in the States, Then we could find a reliable babysitter. That drives. Can I get an Amen?
If we were in the States, Then my house wouldn't be constantly covered in dust.

If we were in the States Then we would probably own our house.
With a white picket fence.
And green grass to play in.
And dry wall walls. Why I miss that, I have no clue.

But the fact is, we aren't. God has made His plan and direction on our lives very clear. We are to be here for now. We are okay with the fact that it is a flexible, ever changing thing. That we may be out here our whole lives. Or we may only be out here for this season.

Most days I don't even think about the white picket fences of my childhood dreams. I am in the present, with the ever present challenges of day to day life facing me head on. But also with the present day joys of raising my littles in a less commercialized world that cherishes the family unit. The demands by community involvement are far less than if I was involved in my hometown church and civic responsibilities.

But on those days that I do think about the white picket fence, it's because I long for stability. For love. For community. I struggle with homesickness and that ever challenging jealousy that comparison can bring. I see friends of mine buying homes or taking their kids trick or treating and I think of what I'm missing instead of what I'm gaining. I am faced with the decision of "Who should I invite to Thanksgiving this year? And will they know that sushi and egg rolls are not acceptable fare?"

My prayer for this season is to be content where I am. To enjoy the present with my little family. And to Be Still and Know that I am where He wants us to be. That's all I can really do, right?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Getting Cooking!

I love getting in the kitchen with the girls! They just love to "help," in whatever way possible. I use that term loosely because most days, when I am trying to get dinner on the table by a certain time, they are banned from the kitchen because they can get underfoot and will pull out random ingredients or utensils and just make a mess.

But on the days when I can slow down and include them in on the process, it's fun for everyone.

Today the girls and I were making some bread and some Banana Swirl. Grace repeatedly referred to it as Banana Squirrel, which, I assure you, would not be as appetizing.

 So, Banana Swirl is very simple but surprisingly tasty. Take 3 bananas (or more,) that are not overripe, slice up, and let freeze until hard. Put frozen banana slices into blender on high for about 30 seconds. I added about 1/4 cup milk to make ours smoother. It comes out smooth like ice cream! The girls ate it up.
 But not before Sophia ran SCREAMING out of the room when she saw the blender. Apparently she has some bad memories associated with it.

 Then, we made the bread and we sat.
 And sat.
 And Grace eventually asked:

"How long is the bun in the oven for?"

 "Nine months, sweet girl, nine months."
We're excited to announce Baby Galloway number 3 is on it's way!
Expected March 1st, 2015

 It's no secret, Grace wants a sister again.
But, if it's a boy?
His name shall be Bacon.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Family Pictures 2014

While we were in Greece, one of the volunteers from the States, who happens to be a photographer, offered to take family pictures for families. What a wonderful opportunity for us! We can't afford the ritzy photographers out here and don't have any friends who are really into (I miss you, Tami!)

It was a beautiful sunny day and we shared our time slot with another family who hadn't gotten a chance to sign up. It was rushed but relaxed as we had a bit of an attitude of "If it turns out, wonderful, if not, oh well!"

Grace was a bit of a sour grape because our photo session interfered with her pool time, (oh the drama!) and we were walking around the hotel pool for pictures but not getting in, but there were alot of great shots in the bunch!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Greece Vacation 2014- Evia

The majority of our vacation was spent at a conference center on the island of Evia, off of the Eastern coast of Greece. It was beautiful, green, and sunny. Hot enough to swim and enjoy the water but still a good 30 degrees cooler than what we were used to in the UAE.

To be honest, I don't have many memories from this time. Ian and I were there for a conference that had childcare so it was a definite vacation for us. We would wake up, go down to the hotel restaurant for breakfast, drop the girls off with some awesome childcare workers who had come all the way from the States to take care of the kids, then sit in meetings and seminars all day.

We got to eat lunch every day without the kids and catch up with old friends of our who were there for the conference as well. In the afternoon, we would finish at 3 pm, pick the girls up, change for the pool and swim until 6 or 7.

Yes, it was definitely Grace's favorite memory to date. She loved going to "class" all day and loved swimming all afternoon. She loved getting to choose her own food at the buffet and getting ice cream at the pool and after dinner. A preschooler's paradise.

Grace got much more comfortable swimming in the awesome pool there. She would lay on her belly in the shallows, submerge her face and swim for a couple of feet before coming up. And every time she would stand up and cheer. She was so proud of herself!

Sophia had a great time too but she is much more along for the ride at this age.

One night the childcare workers watched the kids for all of the parents and the conference arranged for a special dinner at a local Greek farm out in the mountains. We sat outside underneath the trees, ate delicious foods, and  watched a performance of the local dance. They invited us all to join in and though I wanted to, and knew that Ian would if I really asked him to, I knew he wouldn't really want to do that, so we didn't. Ha. I regret that now. I wish we had done joined in.

One evening we went into the nearest seaside village for dinner (Pork!) and ice cream with our dearest friends. It was such a good time for our hearts to be refreshed and spend time with people who understand our passion and calling.

The conference workers also put on a 4th of July party for all of us and we had such a good time. They blasted American patriotic music and had watermelon and ice cream and games for everyone to participate in. I most loved watching other hotel guests wander in to the outdoor amphitheater thinking it was a hotel event, trying to figure out what was going on. 

When the conference was over, we were supposed to be flying to Santorini for our "real" Greek experience. But, due to a miscommunication from the booking site, we didn't go but still had to pay. Good times. We decided to cut our losses and not try to go out there and book at another place last minute. Instead we stayed on at the conference center a few more days. We had some friends who were staying as well and it was good to get all caught up after the hubub of the conference was over.

We went into town with them one day and did a little souvenir shopping before eating on the beach. It was such a beautiful place. We went down to the beach twice as well, as the temperature dropped a little bit and made the pool a little too chilly for my desert babies' comfort.

It really was a great trip but rather uneventful. I am sad that we didn't get to explore more of Greece and see more of the sights. Ian and I have added it to our list of places that we want to go together, sans children. It would be such a romantic, interesting place!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Greece Vacation 2014- Athens

 In July, our family had the opportunity to go to a conference in Greece. We knew it would be alot of long hours sitting through meetings and that we would be mainly in a hotel conference center for that time. We decided to extend our trip before the conference to see Athens and after to see the island of Santorini. After an unfortunate series of events where our hotel confirmation was never sent, we cancelled the Santorini bit but then had to pay for the hotel (boo.) So the Athens part would be our only taste of Greece.

I'll be honest with you. Our expectations and vision for what this time would be is different than any other trip I've been on. Yes, there is magnificent historical and cultural places to see along with art and museums, but we weren't really expecting to see that on this trip. Really, our main goals were as follows:

1. Be outside
2. Eat copious amounts of pork
3. Hold hands/kiss in public

I know, I know. That's a bit of a letdown in what is seen as the cultural capitol of history. But we would only be there for a short time (just a little over 24 hours,) had two small children, and just needed a break from life in the Middle East.

We landed in the early afternoon, took a (long) taxi ride to our hotel, tried to rest, then headed out in the late afternoon to see the Plaka. It's an older neighborhood in Athens that has winding alleys with vendors, beautiful architecture, and tons of gorgeous cafes.

 Olives are the ONE food (normal food, I suppose,) that I absolutely can not make myself eat. I gag every time. Even the thought of the salty flavor sends me of the edge. Also, my girls are anti- pose-in-front-of-cool-doors. They just don't get my artistic vision.

 There were ancient churches and stair cases to more levels of the neighborhood with great views. And Grace was ecstatic just to be outside! and to run! and to explore! I love that they had this time.

 We got pork Gyros and gelato and returned early to the hotel. We could have gone to a museum but we were wiped out!

The next morning we had breakfast at our hotel and then walked outside to find a taxi. Our hotel happened to be at a stop for a hop on/hop off tour bus and since we had such an awesome experience with that in Paris, we decided to give it a go. We rode the double decker (covered,) bus to the Acropolis.
Then we walked and explored! Grace insisted we call her Princess or Rapunzel on this day, which I am sure turned some heads with tour groups.

I'm hanging my head in shame because we didn't really get to read or learn on this trip. We didn't take a stroller with us on this trip and chose not to bring our Boba to the Acropolis since Sophia can walk most of the time.

So if you are wanting to know the names or histories behind these pictures, you will have to do your own research, ha! Ian and I had a general understanding of what we were seeing and are both self learned history buffs so we weren't completely in the dark, but we weren't trying to teach the girls anything on this trip, so we didn't have mini on site lectures or anything. Though that would make me sound like a better mommy if we had. Oh well.

 After we walked around and saw the Parthenon we were HOT! I wasn't expecting that since it was only in the 90's, a good 20-30 degrees cooler than Abu Dhabi, but we were in full sun that time and ran out of water about an hour into our walking tour.

We came down off the mountain and got drinks and slushies and just sat on a bench in the shade. Silly, but that was one of my favorite moments.

After that, we went to see Mars Hill. I thought there would have been better signage explaining the Biblical significance, but no such luck. Grace loved scrambling over the rocks though and it blew my mind because of what happened here and who had stood here so many years ago.
 We walked through more of the grounds of the Acropolis and Grace chased around a stray kitten for awhile before the girls danced among ancient artifacts and just about gave me a heart attack. "Please don't knock that statue over!!!"

We ate lunch at a cute cafe and got back on the bus with the full intention of letting the girls nap while we listened to the provided audio tour but it was HOT and the bus was crowded. Drenched in sweat and just ready to relax, we decided to go back to the hotel and call it a day. We napped for a little bit and swam on the rooftop pool before ordering food and calling it quits for the day.

I'm glad we did though, because the next week at the conference was busy and we felt rested and ready for a packed schedule. Athens was fun and I'm sure there is alot more to see but I feel like we were able to hit the highlights pretty well.