Monday, December 24, 2012

... of Christmas

It's Christmas eve here.  Our first Christmas completely separate from any of our families and our first Christmas in a country where the large majority doesn't celebrate the holiday the way we do.
That did not mean, however, that there weren't massive amounts of people at Carrefour (the Wal-Mart equivalent) tonight or the worst traffic that we have yet to be stuck in (including our after rain street lake driving).  It took us 30 minutes - and I am not exaggerating - to get through the checkout line at Carrefour.  People cutting in line and other people's credit cards getting declined and having to ring up their large purchase twice were the main culprits.  We were trying to get the our church's Christmas eve service that started at 7pm, knowing we would have to leave at 8 to get the kids to bed within at least an hour of their bedtime.  But the traffic was so bad that they started the service at 7:30 to allow people time to get there.  But then we still had to leave at 8 because Selah was melting down and refusing to eat because of the noise, much less sleep.  We had parked really far away, so we had a 15 minute walk back to the car and then the drive (which would normally take a little less than 30 minutes) took us over an hour.  The kids were hungry and grouchy and tired and we were grouchy.  We almost got broadsided, were forced into taking two left turns that we didn't want to take and were overall pretty stressed when we got home.  We fed the kids and put them to bed and then looked at the sink full of dishes and mountains of laundry that needed to be done and decided to put them off.  I don't know until when, but it's Christmas eve.  I guess they won't be getting done tomorrow either.  Although I'll have to do the dishes in order to cook breakfast, which will have a sad lack of protein, because we weren't able to get to a store with a non-Muslim meat room.
Overall, it's not the way we expected to be spending our Christmas eve: stressed out, tired, and a little lonely.  I told Quinn that I just wanted to post a Christmas blog with this picture that we got of our family today and he said to me: "just don't make it too depressing" right before he fell asleep next to me on the couch.

I did get a tangible sense of God's presence in our car on the drive home and then felt so much more peace about the fact that this was apparently the way that this first Christmas was supposed to happen. I hope tomorrow will be more joyful and restoring, but I think the point is to be able to find Christ in it all, regardless of how stressed we feel and not to let unfortunate circumstances rob us of our joy.
So that's the goal for tomorrow as we open our very few gifts (we have 4 boxes from friends and family that were sent for Christmas a few weeks ago, but haven't made it here yet) and try and teach our kids that Christmas isn't about gifts anyway.  I think it will be good.  It's Selah's first Christmas so I want to to be kind of special.

Here's hoping your Christmas is full of the kind of joy, hope, peace, and love that can only from understanding that the greatest gift of all was born as a baby all those years ago in order to bring us back to Him.











Sunday, December 23, 2012

... of 25,000 (and 8 months)

This blog is 147 views away from 25,000!  Wow, blog!  We've come a long way since that first post back in  2009.  Not much readership back then.  I guess birthing a couple of adorable children really makes the numbers jump.  

Speaking of birthing adorable children...

I am behind on Selah's birthday post. I birthed her eight months ago yesterday.  Eight months doesn't sound like a long time, and I guess in the grand scheme of things it's not, but it sure feels like it's been a long time from where I'm standing.  I'm trying not to hurry her along too much, because I don't want to regret not savoring what is most probably going to be our last baby.  Gotta love those chunky cheeks now before they disappear into a skinny Smith face.  
So here's Selah's 8 month update:


Date: December 23, 2012

Weight: No idea. We don't have a scale and haven't taken her to the doctor.  I'm going to get their vaccinations in the new year, so she'll get weighed then.  I'm guessing she is, maybe, 16 lbs?

Clothing size: 6 months.  A few 9 month things that are a little big.  She's definitely loosing some baby fat and lengthening out a bit.

Feedings per day: 5.  We've started to be able to count on feeding times (mostly), which is really nice for planning outings and meetings and such.  She eats at 5:30am, 9:30am, 1pm, 4:30pm, and 7:30pm (give or take 30 min on either side).  She gets purees for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  

Naps: We've transitioned to two naps!  Finally!  Under rare circumstances she might need a short evening one, but I try to avoid that.  She sleeps until around 9am (with a dream feed at 5:30am), then takes a nap at 10:45 that could last anywhere from 45 minute to 3 hours (like today) and then normally takes a nap around 2:30 for an hour and a half or so.  Then we push her through the evening with no nap until bedtime around 8pm.  While she still gets a little over tired, her over tiredness is actually pretty fun and cute, instead of traumatic. A good nursing session in her dark room right at bed time usually calms her down and puts her right to sleep.  

New skills: Babbling.  She's been saying "blah, blah, blah" a lot recently.  She also does "da, da, da" and "ya, ya, ya" pretty well.  
This isn't really a skill, but her top teeth are finally breaking through. I think this teething episode has been over a week long.  So I'm glad they have finally make their way out.  Also, she's officially sleeping in her crib now and not in the Peapod.  I thought maybe not being able to sit up and crawl around in her bed may have been hindering her development.  Also the Peapod has been officially recalled and, while I am a huge Peapod fan and think that my kids are perfectly safe in them, it was a good catalyst to do what I had been putting off for awhile.

Favorite thing: Her feet.  Abram.  Pears.

Least favorite thing: Chunky baby food, strangers holding her, really wanting to go to sleep but being somewhere really loud and distracting.
We finally got her to fall asleep in the stroller in the Mall the other day right before we were going to leave.  So we decided to just keep walking around instead of transitioning her to the car, when we knew she would wake up.  She slept for 45 minutes and then we left.  

Potential Personality traits:  She's been more active and vocal recently, calling into question the extent to which she will perfectly exemplify the meaning of her name (pause and reflect).  She is still very observant and, overall, much more quiet and content than Abram was, but she is reminding us of her presence a lot more recently.
I noticed that they are both chewing on their left hand at the same time for a few moments in this video.  Not sure if it's genetic or one picked it up from the other.  But it's pretty cute.

Brother/Sisterness: I think they are going to get along famously as she gets older.  She thinks he is hysterical and he loves to try and get her to laugh.  The other day I was getting ready in the bathroom and had her on the rug right outside of the door and he came and laid down right next to her and started laughing with her.  They were both giggling up a storm for a good 5 minutes.  It was so fun to watch.

It's hard to image that in four short months, this little baby will be one year old!  She sure is a special kid and I cannot imagine our lives without her.






Sunday, December 16, 2012

...of breaking rule #1

No one had to tell me after we had Selah that the most important rule to follow in our new multiple child household was not to compare my children.  That's totally common sense, and a good one to follow for many reasons.  Topping this list would probably be for their self esteem.  There is nothing worse than being compared to your sibling and coming out as the one in want.  But that becomes more important later.  As babies, this rule is important mainly for one's own sanity.  All kids do things at different times and it just tends to cause anxiety and doubt when you realize that one kid is behind where the other one was at that age.

However, despite being well aware of the benefits of following this unspoken rule, I find myself struggling not to break it.  My children are very very very different from each other in many ways, of course they would be different developmentally, right?! Abram was a more emotional, vocal, hands on baby and he was crawling, standing, pulling up and eating finger foods by 8 months.  Selah is more even keel, quiet, and observant and, while she seems to be trying very hard to crawl, she is not even close to doing any of those things at almost 8 months.  She doesn't seem to have anything wrong that I should be worried about, so I'm trying not to.  And I'm trying not to compare, but it's hard when you blog!  It's so simple to just go back to an exact month and day and see what your first child was doing at whatever point the second child is current at.  Like this.

But Selah has been very fussy, which is what I've read is normal around 8 months because of all of the developing that is happening.  So I'm taking her out of character whining as a sign that something big is about to happen!


Until then, I thought I'd just share some cute pictures from the last week or so.


The boys (Abram, George, and Augie) admiring Selah... or her noise making walker.

Fun in a diaper box.
Abram actually asked for Selah to get in with him, after he was having so much fun being pulled around .
What a nice big brother.

Going for a walk to the park with Siena.  Not sure Abram really needed the jacket, but he sure likes it.  When we put it on he says "warm and cozy!" (from the "Big Brother" book)


Selah sporting her cool hat from Nana.  I think the flash may have taken her by surprise.  Maybe.

Anyway, I'm not worried about Selah.  I know I shouldn't be too anxious for her to become mobile, because it's going to happen soon and I will be lamenting the days that I could leave her unattended for a bit and know she would be right where I left her when I came back.  Those days are coming to an end.  I need to savor them.  And savor them I shall.

Monday, December 10, 2012

...of more (fast food, malls, and date nights)

These were things that I was not expecting to have more of when we said good bye to America and moved to the Middle East.  But we have had almost more of all of them than we ever had in the States.  I guess, maybe, I knew that we would be on mall overload from now on (which bothers Quinn more than me), but I guess I didn't realize how much American fast food has permeated this part of the world as well.  It's just easier to go to McDonald's or KFC here because they are on almost every street and you can be pretty sure about what you are going to get.  The same can't be said about any old schwerma place or Syrian restaurant. However, I do have to say that I have shied away from KFC's heavily marketed "Shrimpo" sandwich, although I can't really pinpoint why...

So Abram has had his fair share of chicken nuggets, hamburgers, and french fries this last month.  But, of course, he's not complaining.  The other day we drove out to the other coast to renew our visas and we ended up going to a mall for lunch.  There were probably lots of great places to eat in the city, but we knew that the mall would most assuredly give us the most options.  So we ate at Wendy's.  It was good.  I've also had more Pepsi in the last month than maybe in my whole life thus far.  It's pretty popular over here.  I hear Coke is too, but I haven't seen it.


After eating at Wendy's Abram guided us over to the video arcade and he rode his first "grocery store" ride.  You know, where you pay a quarter to rock back and forth on a elephant for one minute.  Only this was a truck full of musicians (there were animals ones, but of course he wanted to drive the truck).

Also, it ended up costing about two dollars to ride it. We agreed to it before we knew that we had to buy a rechargeable arcade card in addition to paying for the almost one dollar "ride".

He was very serious the whole time.  No laughing or smiling.  But as soon as it was over, he was begging to "do AHgin", which we did not.  We did, however, share a 28 cent McDonald's ice cream cone.  Spoiled little bug.

Selah was a trooper, even though she barely slept that day.  She's not a good car sleeper.  Fooey.

We also didn't really plan on having more regular date nights than we've ever had before.  So far, we've only had one and a half, but we will hopefully get one every other week!  Pretty cool!  Since we are living "next door" to our friends, we have set up for one date night a week and the couples alternate weeks, leaving after the kids are down.  For our first real one, we decided it was most appropriate to go do the most touristy thing in the city and get it out of the way.

So we went to dinner at Uno Pizza in Dubai Mall and then watched the fountain show at the base of the Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the world - if China or someone hasn't built something bigger yet).

(We happened to catch the fountain show that was choreographed to "Thriller"...)
(This country really loves their ice cream shops)

It was so nice to get out and spend time with Quinn alone and get to debrief and laugh and hold hands in the car (since you aren't supposed to do so in the malls).
I am excited for many more date nights with this handsome man where we explore new things and try to avoid fast food altogether.



Thursday, December 6, 2012

...of Selah in pigtails

You may remember this post from when we had just found out that our second baby would be a girl. At that time, and even shortly after she was born, I was convinced that she would look just like Abram - only a girl.

However, as the months have passed and our girl baby has gotten older and chubbier and more contemplative, we now see that she is very uniquely Selah. She and Abram look less and less like each other each day and sometimes I look at her and wonder where she came from, as I don't see any of us in her sweet little pudgy face.

I'm not sure she will be sporting these pigtails much in the near future, but I see them coming. And when they do, she will not be Abram in pigtails, but the one and only Selah in pigtails.



Sunday, December 2, 2012

... of Venice

Only without the history... and the beauty... and the boats. 

The streets of Dubai are not designed to be able to drain massive amounts of water because the very rarely need to.  However Friday was one of those rare days and we enjoyed a very long, wet, and trafficy drive home from church that day.  We are so glad we decided to buy a large SUV for many reasons, and the ability to wade through foot deep water on the highway turned out to be one of them.  So that was a fun day.  We came home to discover that our roof and windows were also not designed to be able to handle large amounts of rain and had a very wet rug, some wet pillows and a wet kitchen floor.  So, while I normally like rain, I am kind of hoping it doesn't do that again for quite a while.

I wanted to share a few adorable pictures of Abram being enamored with Selah.  I have recently become aware of how I talk to Selah, because I've realized that Abram copies me.  Whenever he talks to her, he squints his eyes and kind of grits his teeth and talks in a high pitched voice. 
It's pretty cute.  And she thinks he is the bee's knees. 
Don't let these pictures fool you.  She's usually smiling when she's around him. Quinn and I could not get her to smile for us a few day ago after her nap.  I almost thought something was wrong.  She was literally staring me down and then wrinkling her eyebrows when I was doing things that would normally get her to smile.  So I gave up and put her in her high chair.  Abram came over and stood in front of her and started smiling and talking to her and she was beaming within seconds.  And from that point on that night she was incredibly happy.  Not sure what that was about, but Abram seemed to know the trick!

Selah's solid food eating consists largely of orange fruits and vegetables, so we have another orange nosed baby on our hands.  I fished out a comparison picture of Abram from the same age just to see.  It seems like he may have been a little more orange than her.  Which is good, because it's not the most adorable of features.
Who am I kidding?  Whatever color noses these kids might have would not take away from how adorable they are.  

But maybe I'm biased...


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

...of roughing it

I remember when we first started to tell people that we were going to be moving to the Middle East. The response we got was almost always a question involving a tent or camels or both. No, we are not living in a tent. Yes, there are wild camels along the road. No, we haven't ridden one... yet.

We are not living in a third world country. There's a Baskin Robbins and a Dunkin' Donuts on every corner and we've already had our fair share of McDonald's. We live in a large house with our close friends and there are many things about our living situation that are actually better than when we were in Austin, but I'll get to those in a minute.

There are, to be sure, some aspects of life over here (some are the standard and some are unique to us) that have made me realize that there are certain things I took for granted in the States. Things that we don't really think about not having, but I am here to tell you that I should have been more grateful when I did have them. Here is a non-comprehensive list of those things:

A dishwasher:
You can get them over here, but they use so much water and are not budget friendly. It is impossible with children to do the dishes after every meal. So we usually do them after the kids go to bed. And there are usually a LOT. They are the main reason we have already had our fair share of McDonald's.

A dryer:
I know many, many people in the world don't have one. Lots of people don't even have a washing machine, so I am grateful for mine. But it brings me to number three...

Washing machine hook ups:
Having to run my output hose into the center of my bathroom every time I do a load of laundry made me more thankful for those hook ups I had in the States that I never even thought about.

A toilet seat:
This is unique to us. The other toilets in the house have seats. For whatever reason, ours does not. And it may have something to do with the fact that it is a perfectly round toilet. Maybe it broke and the last people found it difficult to find a replacement. Honestly, we haven't even looked too hard for one. Quinn has to do the looking and since he's only sitting on the toilet less than half of the time I am and his bum is bigger, he doesn't feel the urgency to find one. I feel that urgency every time I go into the bathroom half asleep at night and almost fall in.

Bedrooms:
Abram's "room" behind the curtai
Selah's  room in what, I think, was supposed to be the closet
Our “house” is two large rooms that have a completely open ceiling (the dividing wall doesn't go all the way to the ceiling) and an adjoining living room. While the bedroom is plenty big enough for all of us, we have tried to reduce visibility, light, and sound for Abram, Selah, and Quin and I. Sound is the biggest problem right now and they wake each other up from naps and in the morning all the time. Hopefully the next house won't have this problem.

Now, to even things out, let me extol the benefits of out new home in comparison to our old one:

Constant company:
At Steve's American Football game
Thanksgiving 
We have our own spaces within our large house, so we don't have to see them if we didn't want to. But right now, we want to! It's so good to have such close friends a few foot steps away. Abram loves playing with Siena and Augie and is learning new things from them every day. I love getting to do life with Katie and try and help her out during the day and take advantage of the help that she is to me.

Our bed: (See partial pictures in "bedroom" above)
We inadvertently spent twice as much on our bed as we intended (thanks, Ikea, for having two beds in two vastly different price points and naming them the exact same thing. I love you, but this was a serious fail). But we went with a king and got a really nice, memory foam like mattress pad and it's not creaky and about to collapse like our last bed and I love it. I am about to go there now and I can't get there fast enough.

Kitchen counter space:
Even in our relatively small kitchen, we have more counter space than we did in Austin. That was always my biggest complaint about our house. But I have enough room here to make mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes souffle for Thanksgiving at the same time!

Older, cuter, even better behaved children:
Abram is now two and he talks ALL THE TIME. It's really incredible how huge his vocabulary is. He's a little parrot and chooses to repeat the most random phrases from our conversations with each other. Our favorite Abram-isms right now are: “yest niiiiiiiiiight” (See video), “Aw wiyke it” (which he says like an Australian), and “Dere we gooooo!”



(My kids and their awesomely yucky noses...)
At seven months, Selah is just about the best baby that we could ever have hoped to be blessed with. She rarely cries, you can get her to smile no matter how tired or sick she is, and sometimes she is so quiet and agreeable that you might forget she was even around (but we don't, don't worry). A few days this week she only had a few 45 minute afternoon naps, but she made up for it today by taking two three hour naps... WHAT?! I mean, it's great that I can get stuff done, but I'm kind of glad that's not the norm or I would be sad that I didn't get to see her very much every day. She's just super cool and very different from that two month old who gave us a month of being wide awake and refusing to go to sleep (although she didn't cry then either.)

Overall, we are liking our new digs and our new surroundings. Quinn is making friends and we are both hoping to start to learn Arabic with a one on one tutor in the next few weeks! I'd like to try and blog more, so my goal is going to try and do just a short post with some pictures more often, rather not posting and then feeling like I have a ton of things to write about and pictures to show and having to set aside and entire night for the endeavor. So I hope to be seeing you here again soon!