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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.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

We Survived

July is wrapping up and all I can do is sit back and sigh with relief that we did it. We survived Ramadan 2014 in Abu Dhabi.

Growing up in Florida we used to say things like that. "I survived Hurricane season of 2004!" and it meant something because we actually faced national disaster situations.

I honestly think I can apply those terms to our summer so far. "I survived Ramadan 2014." Considering we don't participate in Ramadan, (the Muslim holy month that consists of all day fasting from food, water, and other things,) it is usually a difficult month for us nonetheless.

You see, most of the expat community (those who are from other countries but come to Abu Dhabi to work,) return to their home countries for 1-2 months during the summer.

Mainly because it is so blazing hot that you can't go outside for 3 months of the year.

But as of now we can not afford that privilege so here we sit.
In a city that has been vacated by alot of our friends and community.
During a month where I can't take a sip of water out in public.
Which means that I can't take my children to the indoor playgrounds at a mall for more than an hour. Which is annoying on so many levels.

Did I mention it was hot? Today the heat index was 129.
That's halfway to baking a cookie.

Putting it that way doesn't make it sound very hot.

And now I want a cookie.

All of my whining aside, we have made it.

Tomorrow is probably the last day. Probably because it is based on the lunar calendar so you have to wait until you see the moon actually phase out to the new moon.

I only cried hot, ugly tears three times.

And there was only weeping and gnashing of teeth by my stir crazy children five to six times.
Or maybe seven to ten.

And Grace has mostly stopped bursting into tears whenever we make a mad dash to the already turned on car from our front door.

Altogether we saved some money from eating out, spent that money on many an iTunes download of Dora and Team Umi Zoomi, learned just how creative we can get with playing with things you already have, and can add the accomplishment of surviving this to our resume.

I think next year we will make a trip to the States.

For my sanity's sake.

And now, maybe, I can resume my writing here. For over a month now, I get the girls to sleep, sit on the couch, and enjoy the silence for about 10 minutes. Then the construction crew starts outside our window (they can't work during the day since they are fasting!) and I drown out the jack hammer sounds with an episode of Rookie Blue or watch a part of Band of Brothers with Ian. Then we fall asleep. All without turning on my computer. Which is good in alot of ways (yay for quality time with my husband! And by quality, I mean we sit mindlessly in front of the tv. Together.) And bad in some ways (I miss writing! I miss the community here!)

So here's to the end of part of this summer. Only 2 more months until we can go outside again!

And then I will be all excited about where I live again because most of you people, in the States will be busting out the fleece and ski jackets. And we will just be seeing trees bud and flowers blossom. For our winter. Amen to that.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Crazy is the new normal

We have been back in Abu Dhabi for over four months now, our new house for three months. On one have it feels like we just got here, on the other, it's like we never left. We feel like this house is our home and we feel really settled. 

Speaking of the house, we finally bit the bullet and got a whole new family room set. It makes it feel much fuller and cozier. 

Ian and I celebrated six years of marriage on Saturday by going to a 5 pm matinee of Malificent and grabbing a burger and fries from Shake Shack. Fancy, right? We returned home at 8 since we were so tired and watched Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkeban with our babysitter! Who, I'm sure, doubts our coolness factor. 

Grace has been in preschool for the past two months and loves it. We have had the chance to go swimming quite a bit this summer and the girls love it but Sophia is especially a water baby. They are both growing and changing so much. More on that another day. 

I have been co-leading a woman's Bible study each week and we have just started hosting a small group (though with 30+ people "small" is a relative term.) I also started back to part time language learning. It's taking awhile to get a routine but I might have found a new tutor which should help build some structure into my learning. 

Ian is adjusted to his new job and position and, as a family, we are much more used to him being gone all day. There are still days when I call him to help with something that he can't really help with and I have to remind myself that his office job is different than when he worked at home. 

We leave for vacation soon and will return to Abu Dhabi in mid July when Ramadan is in full swing and temperatures are hovering around the 120's most day. Oh the joy. At least we get a beautiful "winter," and have the luxury of air conditioning year round. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Empty Frame- A Summer Goal

We've been in our house for almost three months now. (That's it? It seems like we've been here forever!) All of the boxes are unpacked and put away and everything is organized and in its place.

Including, empty frames. They are all over the place in my house, but they have no picture inside of them! I have two beautiful daughters and hundreds of pictures that are frame worthy but have not taken the time to print any.

As I stood in my house the other day and thought through what I could do with a free evening, my list of unfinished projects came to my mind. I origianlly thought that my New Year's Resolution would be to finish all of my unfinished projects but, at the time, we were uncertain of where we would be and what the job situation would look like.

Now, as the Abu Dhabi summer approaches (or is upon us, as it was 110 yesterday!) I thought that making one of our family goals for the summer would be to work through my list of unfinished projects. We can't go outside alot during this time and we are on a pretty tight budget, so I will mostly be doing things that are free or cheap in my house.

Does anyone else want to finish some projects with me?

Here are a few of the things that I could come up with:

-Print pictures for empty frames.
-Finish furnishing our family room! (most expensive task, obviously.)
-Finish designing photo albums online and save for printing at another time (2012, Sophia's 1st Year, 2013, Family Vacation 2014.)
-Lesson plan for the Fall semester for Grace.
-Laminate and put together all materials needed for the Fall
-Write in and finish the girls' baby books
-Finish Ruth Bible study by Kelly Minter
-Get caught up on our family on the blog
-Finish monogram art piece and vinyl word art

I'm sure more unfinished tasks will surface and I hope to get through them all

Friday, May 23, 2014

Like Riding a Bike....Right?

I've lost my voice.

Not in a medical way, but in a writer's way. I have almost no desire to write anymore.

Really, there is the desire, it is more like the energy has gone out of me. It is so sad. I can't even count how many times I have sat down at the computer, with ideas swimming around in my head, and then I just choose not to write.

Like I said, so sad.

I go weeks and weeks between posts and so much is going on with our little family and I am missing out on the chances to write about them!

So, pardon me over the next couple of posts. Things might get rocky around here, but I am forcing myself to get back into it.