Saturday, July 30, 2011

Another Weekend in Bahrain

We had another wonderful weekend in Bahrain....we didn't do much shopping this time instead we spent lots of time at our hotel.

Graham lounged in the big leather chairs...

Peyton posed for some pictures in the "princess chairs"

Graham slept poolside and woke up to breakfast by the pool.

After eating, he changed into his swim attire.

Peyton enjoyed lots of swimming, diving for her swim sticks and the water slide.

It was a wonderful weekend had by all. We are excited about going back in September when Ramadan is over and to celebrate Peyton's birthday....we have some pretty fun surprises for her!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Love this house

I was browsing different blogs the other day and came across CocoCozy's blog (a home decorator blog) and found this lake house that I feel in love with! I never realized that this was exactly what I have always wanted in a vacation or everyday home but now that I have seen it...I am in love!

It was featured in Atlanta Homes and Leisure where they have a write up about it. I don't know how the all white would work with kids and a black lab but maybe we can do some alterations or wait until the kids are gone!

I think CocoCozy's blog is going to become addictive as I think about all the things I can do in a house in the future!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Midweek Ramblings

Here are some random thoughts about our week....
  • Feels like temp last Saturday was 129...that is too hot!
  • I am addicted to these cookies we can easily get at our store on camp. They are these dark chocolate biscuits with chocolate on one side and a butter biscuit on the other. They only have 12 in a package and if you are not careful you can probably eat all 12 (along with the 830 calories) in one sitting....not that I would know!
  • We had taco night the other night...surprisingly I can normally find all the basics for tacos and I brought a bunch of taco seasoning with me so we have them regularly...and when I went to the store to get the produce I looked to see about picking up an avocado, it was $13 per an avocado! I didn't buy one.
  • I went to the mall on the shoppers bus with both kids ALL BY MYSELF on Monday! I have gone to the mall only with backup so it was a big jump for me. I managed getting the stroller under the bus, both kids on the hour bus ride there and back and the four hours in the mall. At one point, I even got them both sleeping and it felt like I was shopping by myself! It was a fun trip and it made me feel like normal back home when I could go shopping by myself whenever and without my husband...kind just have to not focus on the fact that you were dependent on a bus to take you to the mall because you can't drive without being arrested and that you are wearing a large black gown.
  • I have been seeing the Mutawa more and more lately. I don't know why I am seeing them every time I go to the mall now. This time I saw him ahead speaking with a store owner about a suggestive picture in their window (it was a picture of a woman, in jeans and a long button up shirt with her face and hair showing) and then he turned and started confronting some western women about not covering their hair. I looked in my bag and realized that I didn't have my head covering with me (which I always carry in my bag in case) and so I quickly tossed Peyton back in the stroller (we were having timeout because of some whining issues) and ran into a store and into the back corner until he went by. What probably would have happened is he would have confronted me about not covering my head, I would apologize and say that I would go and buy one and we go our own ways. I have had Muslim friends who tell me to tell the Mutawa that I am not Muslim and don't have to cover my head and walk off BUT I don't like confrontation and am not bold enough to do that and would much rather just cover my head and walk off. Still praying hard that I can go the whole time here without running into them but given the increase in Mutawa sightings...not so sure about that!
  • I am going to Bahrain this weekend! John is too good to me and decided that my sanity is worth more than the money we would save by staying home! So one last trip before Ramadan!
  • Peyton is doing amazing at swimming and can swim to the bottom of the pool to pick up dive rings and swim back to the surface. She loves swimming lessons!
  • I started a photography class online through Clickin Moms on Lightroom. It is four weeks long with 9 assignments. After this class I will be doing a Shooting 101 class and then laying off classes and spending the year practicing and working on what I learned.
  • Tuesday night I had a girls night at a friends house. It was a wonderful evening relaxing without kids, talking and enjoying each others company. I am sad that my friend "S" is leaving for the rest of the summer and I look forward to September when everyone will be back. It was a fun night and I didn't come home until midnight :)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Parenting. Illustrated with Crappy Pictures.

Anyone who is a parent has to check out this blog I found called "Parenting. Illustrated with Crappy Pictures," it so funny and had me crying laughing...seriously crying when I read several of the posts!

My favorites are....What it is like to eat in a nice restaurant with kids and well child visits. Mostly though I loved the restaurant one and even when I read it a third time with John I started laughing and crying!

A good pick me up for the week and a humorous reminder that you are not alone!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Book Reviews

Since moving I have had the time to read many more books than I was able to in Texas. I have read four books since arriving in Saudi...I think I was able to read 2 maybe 3 all of last year!

Here is my review of the books (minus one) that I have read thus far....and if you have suggestions on other books I should read next please let me know....

All decent parents want to do what's best for their children. What Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother reveals is that the Chinese just have a totally different idea of how to do that. Western parents try to respect their children's individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions and providing a nurturing environment. The Chinese believe that the best way to protect your children is by preparing them for the future and arming them with skills, strong work habits, and inner confidence. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother chronicles Chua's iron-willed decision to raise her daughters, Sophia and Lulu, her way-the Chinese way-and the remarkable results her choice inspires. Here are some things Amy Chua would never allow her daughters to do: have a play date, not be the #1 student in every subject except gym and drama, play any instrument other than the piano or violin, not play the piano or violin. The truth is Lulu and Sophia would never have had time for a play date. They were too busy practicing their instruments (two to three hours a day and double sessions on the weekend) and perfecting their Mandarin.

I purchased this book because I saw the author on the Today Show defending her parenting style and addressing all of the negative comments being thrown at her because of how she chose to raise her parents. While on the Today Show she reminded people that the book was never meant to be a "how to parent your kids" or even suggest that her parenting was better. While watching the interview I got curious and bought the book. Then I found out we were moving, had Graham and moved and didn't get around to reading. Once I started I finished in about two days. Yes, if you read it intending to get advice on parenting, you will probably be outraged. BUT if you read it for what it was meant to be, an account of one mom's journey through parenting and her decision to apply a stricter non Western style of parenting on her girls and see the benefits and consequences of that decision, it is a good read. It was very interesting and at times I could understand some of the benefits of her style. A good, thought provoking read on the challenges of parenting no matter what style you chose and how not every child can be parented the same (even in the same family).

Growing up in California in the 1920s, Louie was a hellraiser, stealing everything edible that he could carry, staging elaborate pranks, getting in fistfights, and bedeviling the local police. But as a teenager, he emerged as one of the greatest runners America had ever seen, competing at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, where he put on a sensational performance, crossed paths with Hitler, and stole a German flag right off the Reich Chancellery. He was preparing for the 1940 Olympics, and closing in on the fabled four-minute mile, when World War II began. Louie joined the Army Air Corps, becoming a bombardier. Stationed on Oahu, he survived harrowing combat, including an epic air battle that ended when his plane crash-landed, some six hundred holes in its fuselage and half the crew seriously wounded. On a May afternoon in 1943, Louie took off on a search mission for a lost plane. Somewhere over the Pacific, the engines on his bomber failed. The plane plummeted into the sea, leaving Louie and two other men stranded on a tiny raft. Drifting for weeks and thousands of miles, they endured starvation and desperate thirst, sharks that leapt aboard the raft, trying to drag them off, a machine-gun attack from a Japanese bomber, and a typhoon with waves some forty feet high. At last, they spotted an island. As they rowed toward it, unbeknownst to them, a Japanese military boat was lurking nearby. Louie’s journey had only just begun. That first conversation with Louie was a pivot point in my life. Fascinated by his experiences, and the mystery of how a man could overcome so much, I began a seven-year journey through his story. I found it in diaries, letters and unpublished memoirs; in the memories of his family and friends, fellow Olympians, former American airmen and Japanese veterans; in forgotten papers in archives as far-flung as Oslo and Canberra. Along the way, there were staggering surprises, and Louie’s unlikely, inspiring story came alive for me. It is a tale of daring, defiance, persistence, ingenuity, and the ferocious will of a man who refused to be broken.

Unbroken was an amazing book. I read it two days. I couldn't put it down and it was such a well written account of a man's story through growing up, running track at the Olympics, going to WW II, being shot down and stranded at sea for days, being captured and his life as a POW in Japan, his rescue, life after the war and ultimately his redemption in Christ and how he spent his life serving God out of gratitude and realization of his ultimate need for a Savior. Great book!

Pink and pretty or predatory and hardened, sexualized girlhood influences our daughters from infancy onward, telling them that how a girl looks matters more than who she is. Somewhere between the exhilarating rise of Girl Power in the 1990s and today, the pursuit of physical perfection has been recast as a source—the source—of female empowerment. And commercialization has spread the message faster and farther, reaching girls at ever-younger ages. But, realistically, how many times can you say no when your daughter begs for a pint-size wedding gown or the latest Hannah Montana CD? And how dangerous is pink and pretty anyway—especially given girls' successes in the classroom and on the playing field? Being a princess is just make-believe, after all; eventually they grow out of it. Or do they? Does playing Cinderella shield girls from early sexualization—or prime them for it? Could today's little princess become tomorrow's sexting teen? And what if she does? Would that make her in charge of her sexuality—or an unwitting captive to it? Those questions hit home with Peggy Orenstein, so she went sleuthing. She visited Disneyland and the international toy fair, trolled American Girl Place and Pottery Barn Kids, and met beauty pageant parents with preschoolers tricked out like Vegas showgirls. She dissected the science, created an online avatar, and parsed the original fairy tales. The stakes turn out to be higher than she—or we—ever imagined: nothing less than the health, development, and futures of our girls. From premature sexualization to the risk of depression to rising rates of narcissism, the potential negative impact of this new girlie-girl culture is undeniable—yet armed with awareness and recognition, parents can effectively counterbalance its influence in their daughters' lives.

The moment the doctor told us we were having a girl I was scared. I wanted a boy so badly because I was scared of raising a girl in the world that we live in. Then when Peyton was born and has developed her own personality, one which is more drawn to boyish toys/movies, I am determined to try and protect her and allow her to grow up in her own way and own time. Yes, I know that she is God's child and ultimately I need to trust and rely on Him but it is my job to parent her and He gave her to me to guide, teach and protect as much as I can.

Anyways.....I loved this book. I didn't agree with everything (especially her views on premarital sex) but I did appreciate the insight into marketing, selling products to girls, the trends in how makeup, clothing etc have changed. It is a must read for parents of girls to truly understand all the forces pulling at our girls and how what seems as an innocent princess toy/book/movie sometimes is safe as it seems. I am not saying ban princesses but it does make you think about what your toddler is watching, emulating and what you as a parent might be innocently pushing on her.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

7 stages of moving

I came across a blog post on the stages of moving by John Hamilton and thought it was interesting and wondered how my process would be.

Throughout this I have been through the different stages (minus the final stage of adjustment) but what has surprised me is how the process can all of the sudden start again or jump from good to bad and back to good and sometimes all in the same day. I wish I could say that it is getting easier and in many ways it is but then you can have a couple of stuff throw you for a loop and you are ready to catch the next plane out of here. I have never experienced such wonderful highs and such lows so frequently. It truly is a roller coaster of emotions. This has truly been one of the hardest things I have done and many days I just wish we were past this (or never came) but I know that there is a purpose and I know that it will be good...I just have to be patient.

Here are the stages per John Hamilton....

1) Dread. This is when you are still at home and have to face the prospect of sorting, purging, organizing, packing. It’s powerful.

2) Freneticism. This is when you make lists of all the things you need to do – closing bank accounts, buying that stuff you know you will be more expensive in your overseas home, seeing friends, having parties…

3) Planning. An offshoot of freneticism but different. Still done before you move. It involves making lists of things you have to do when you arrive in the new place.

4) Waiting. Everything’s done. You’ve said goodbye to everyone [sometimes twice]. Now what? It’s like being bored – but with an edge. You can’t relax because soon you are going to get on a plane.

5) Euphoria. The honeymoon phase. When you arrive, you see the differences between the old and new culture in a romantic light. Some website says: “… an individual might love the new foods, the pace of the life, the people’s habits, the buildings and so on. During the first few weeks most people are fascinated by the new culture. They associate with the nationals that speak their language and are polite to foreigners. This period is full of observations and new discoveries. Like many honeymoons this stage eventually ends…”.

6) Negotiation. Now we’re getting theoretical. “The differences between the old and new culture become apparent and may create anxiety. That sense of excitement will eventually give way to new and unpleasant feelings of frustration and anger as one continues to have unfavorable encounters that strike you as strange, offensive, and unacceptable. These reactions are typically centered around the formidable language barrier as well as stark differences in public hygiene, traffic safety, and the type and quality of the food. One may long for familiar food, may find the pace of life too fast or slow, may find the people’s habits annoying, disgusting, or irritating. This phase is often marked by mood swings without apparent reason. Excitement turns to disappointment. Depression is not uncommon.”

7) Adjustment. They tell me that: “… after some time (usually 6 – 12 months), one grows accustomed to the new culture and develops routines. One knows what to expect in most situations and the host country no longer feels all that new. One becomes concerned with basic living again, and things become more “normal”.

I would probably add another stage right around Euphoria...a little bit before and after when you experience intense culture shock....when you realize that as much as you knew things would be different and you thought you could accept it, nothing really could have prepared you for this change and different lifestyle/views/religion/culture BUT you’re here.. you’re really not sure if you love it or hate it yet.. and often times you think, “oh my gosh, what have we done!?”

Pretty much I am hovering between culture shock/negotiation. Most days it feels like we have been here forever and are getting used to our "new reality." I think I am doing fine and then someone at coffee will ask if I am doing alright because I don't seem myself and I will break down crying (thankfully that happened outside as I was getting the kids in the car so it wasn't in front of lots of people).

I want our stuff so badly. I want to feel like this home and not a temporary house. I feel like because it doesn't feel like home I don't have that mindset that I have to get through the tough parts and that I can just leave. It feels temporary but yet I know it isn' is weird.

I MISS my family, friends and being a part of everyone's lives back home. It feels like our world/life has been thrown upside down and we miss everyone so much but yet their lives are continuing, they are doing fine and you wonder if they even notice you are gone (I know that our family and friends do miss us but it is part of the mind games that moving plays on you).

I want to be settled, I want to be able to get a car so we have a little more freedom and not feel so confined and restricted but that also means we really live here. See....lots of flip flopping and ups and downs.

Truly I can see us being happy here someday. I can see the possibilities. I am happy that John loves his job, is finding success and recognition and that he is less stressed, home a bunch and we are relishing in the abundant family time. I hold on to those positive moments and pray hard that they hold me through the lows.

Moving stinks...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Midweek Ramblings

It has been a pretty boring week which unfortunately is a sign of what is to come next month....people are leaving on is getting hot and life is slowing down.

But here are some ramblings about our week and upcoming weekend....
  • Graham is teething which means lots of random fussy times, random night wakings and me wondering how in the world we survived on no sleep for those first few months.
  • Graham also started sitting up on his own which was exciting and sad because he is growing up :(
  • A friend here saw a Facebook post that I made last week about how I miss Saltines, Graham Crackers and sour cream and came by yesterday bearing all of those products. It was incredibly sweet, thoughtful and made me feel so blessed and affirmed that we are building relationships here and a community of friends here
  • Peyton and I had a girls night Tuesday and we took the shoppers bus to the mall just the two of us and went shopping, had dinner together and enjoyed our time just the girls. She loved the attention and it affirmed the need for us to do this regularly. It was a refreshing time for the both of us.
  • While on our girls night we were shopping at Gymboree for clothes for Peyton (she got to pick two outfits whatever she wanted...I liked one of them and was not so impressed with the other but whatever) she asked to buy something for Graham. We looked around and she showed me a shirt that was cute but too big and when I told her that it was cute but too big for him she replied, "no mommy, he is a little fat man, it will fit." I asked her who says that and she replied, "G." My mom did call him that one time and she for sure remembered it! It was amusing!
  • We were thinking about going to Bahrain this weekend but decided that we didn't want to spend the money on a hotel/food/travel and since we didn't need to get anything specific we decided to save the money and we are planning on spending Thursday morning exploring the souks
  • Our shipment arrival date in Saudi was pushed back a day. I was hoping it would move forward a day. Currently it is supposed to be in the Dammam port on August 9. I am praying hard that it arrives earlier, or gets processed through customs quickly and arrives at our house as soon as possible.
  • My sister just released an album available on iTunes....I am so proud of her and loved listening to her music while we were getting ready and I loved that as soon as Peyton walked into the room she said, "Auntie Shannon is singing." How she knew that it was Shannon I have no idea!
Another week in Saudi down...and off to another weekend!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Lost in a Dream

You know what is pretty amazing....watching your little sister work and work and work hard at her passion and dream and then seeing the fruits of her labor come forth!

My youngest sister, Shannon, is a signer/songwriter who has amazing talent and got the gift of music from somewhere (it clearly passed over me and my other sister)! She has been working on writing songs, producing and just working hard on her craft and passion and now she has her very own album!

You can check her out on iTunes...her album was worked on in Nashville and is a mixture of country, pop and easy listening. Check it out, preview songs and then buy it and support my sister!

And you should repost about it on your blog and spread the love!

So proud of you Shannon and wishing you all the success you desire!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

New View

Guess who has a whole new view on things......

Yes....that is my sweet little baby sitting up! He was sitting in my lap and I realized I wasn't holding his hands and he wasn't leaning on me so I tried to see if he could sit and he did! He managed for a couple of minutes at a time before he would realized what he was doing or that I was behind the camera and not holding him and then he would get excited and fall over and just laugh!

Monday, July 18, 2011


During my recent trip to Lulu's I was searching for some crisps that I had at Scottish friends house that she said she ALWAYS found at Lulu's....

However this time....they could not be found. I was pretty bummed! But I was determined to find something to replace them and so I looked in all the sections and found some Kettle Chips instead....not as good as the ones I was looking for but pretty tasty! I am glad that I can only get them at Lulu's which is an hour drive.....or I might be eating them constantly!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

How to transport goats

In case you have ever wondered how to transport livestock, more specifically goats, and you are without a trailer, all you really need is some rope and a pick up truck as seen on the way to the grocery store/mall yesterday....

The best part of this is that we saw two different trucks with goats tied up in the back. It was highly amusing. Not something you see on your way to the store in Texas!

Mid Week Randoms

Here is what is going on in no particular order or train of thought....
  • Peyton is now doing the Mom and Tot swim lessons and so we do it together while Graham chills in his stroller and another mom helps me out by watching him. Peyton is just to excited and silly to do a big kid group lesson. We are having is cooler than sitting outside but it is a little stressful. Praying that Graham just starts sleeping through the lesson but it is too hot and uncomfortable.
  • I made two good home made dinners this week which is big at our house. I just don't like to cook, have the time or have the ability to do regular grocery shopping
  • Peyton is getting freckle...I am trying to cover her in sunscreen and cover her up, wear hats but it might be a lost cause. They are cute though.
  • We started to look for a car. They are expensive. Have no idea what to do or get and slightly overwhelmed.
  • I met another mom who I really like and who has very similar parenting style/views as I do. I wish we could spend lots more time together but considering she just had triplets and already has two older kids I will have to stick with the time we can chat after swimming lessons.
  • I found out about another possible preschool that might work. I am going to check it out on Saturday. Our number one chose won't work for this year and so hopefully Peyton gets in next year and then she would go to the formal Pre K after that. But this would be a good solution for the coming year.
  • I am struggling with being homesick, doubting that this was the right thing to do and God's plan. I want to go home so bad. I have cried a bunch this week. I need to turn to God and find comfort there instead of complaining and crying but I am not doing that and gets harder, more overwhelming and I am more depressed.
  • It is HOT here.....feels like temperature the other day was around 128...gross and Friday it is supposed to be even hotter with 73% humidity. Gross.
Off to enjoy another weekend in Saudi!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Pictures of Peyton

In two months my baby will be 3! What an interesting/challenging 3 years it has been! She is so much like John and it just makes me laugh! She is so wild, silly, opinionated, strong, smart, curious and I just feel like these pictures capture her!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Graham: 4 months

My little man is already 4 months old and what a joy he is! I can't believe it has been four months since I went to the hospital to have him...time has flown by!
I am so in love with him and he is so much fun! Graham is such a sweet, easy going, content baby! He just goes with the flow and is pretty easy going which is wonderful with the unpredictable schedules some days.

I am loving baby #2 and finding that I am more relaxed, treasure our current stage as opposed to always looking at what he should be doing next, it is a nice feeling. I am also noticing that since he is the baby and more than likely our last, I have a hard time with the idea of being away from him and am even more sad when I realize he is growing up (like when we had to switch out his clothes to a bigger size). I haven't left Graham alone with someone other than John since we have been here and since he has been born he has only been with my mom and one time with my friend Sarah while I went to a doctors appointment. Eventually I will need to leave him with someone but I am in no rush and am treasuring this precious baby stage because I know it quickly passes.

Here are some stats on Graham....
  • He is a BIG boy...he weighs 17lbs 6.6 oz which puts him in the 90th percentile and he is 26.38" which puts him at the 95th percentile for height! Doctor said that if he keeps up like that he is going to be a big guy...maybe he will play football at Texas!
  • He is already in 6 months clothes and some of them are getting small. He is just so tall and chunky!
  • Graham is so heavy in his car seat and I just can't carry him around. I use our stroller all the time because I am not strong enough to haul him around.
  • He is healthy and growing like he should. He is strong and meeting all the milestones
  • He rolled over from his tummy to back this month and is so close to rolling from back to tummy. He gets onto his side and then can't get over the last shoulder.
  • He LOVES his Baby Einstein play mat and loves to look at the sun that lights up and plays songs. He will play there forever and the other day even fell asleep on it and napped for about an hour!
  • Graham is starting to discover his voice and is making these screaming sounds at you. He loves it when you mimic him and you can go on and on having a conversation with him
  • He eats 6 ounces of formula every 3 hours and then 4 ounces right before bed time
  • He is still sleeping through the night...8:00 PM to 6:30 AM! He will have one long nap during the day for about 2 hours and then a couple short 30 minute ones.
  • He smiles all the time, has had an audible laugh once but makes these gasping sounds that sound like a laugh all the time
  • He wants to walk, crawl, move....he loves to stand on his feet and try to walk. It is pretty amusing
  • He loves his "lovey" and likes to have it silky side on his head when he is sleeping in the car seat
  • He is grabbing at toys, pulling things to his mouth, constantly sucking on his hands and is drooling all the time so maybe teeth are on the way
  • Graham loves Scottish accents and constantly smiles, watches and coos at anyone who has a Scottish accent. Good thing there are several women that I have breakfast with on Saturdays who are from Scotland!
It is amazing how much fun number 2 is....Peyton was fun but we were so scared and worried about everything and making sure we were doing things right. This time we are so much relaxed and can just enjoy this time for what it is. We love having two and love the dynamic between them, the differences and just feel like our family is complete. We are so thankful for two healthy children and are looking forward to seeing Graham really start figuring things out these next couple of months!

I am hoping to get some good pictures of him and all his rolls but I just haven't had the time to sit down and do it and he has been kind of cranky from shots so hopefully soon! Stay tuned because they are pretty adorable!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Playing with the Perrys

We are so thankful to have our friends The Perrys only 45 minutes away! Last week I took a taxi to their house in the morning and arrived at 9:30 AM and we were able to spend the whole day playing. It was amazing! And since John now has his Saudi drivers license and we had rented a car to take us to Bahrain this weekend, he was able to pick me up! Which is great and will allow me to take more trips out there since I wouldn't have to pay for a taxi to come pick me up!

Peyton and Gavin had a BLAST together as always and I am so thankful for the friendship they have. For being opposite sexes they play so well together and I love that Gavin brings out the wild, dare devil, silly side of Peyton that I don't always see when she is around a group of girls. I am thankful that she has someone to bring that side out of her and allow her to play how she wants to and not how she is supposed to as a girl.

We had lots of fun and Peyton was full of funny phrases and moments and one of my favorite moments was when she told me that my friend was Mrs. Lindsey, her friend was Gavin and Graham's friend was Miles..."Mommy, we all have friends, I am so happy." It was cute and it is true that we all have friends!

We let them play for the morning, took them to Burger King to eat lunch and let them play on the playground inside and then got them both down for naps, watched a movie and then Daddy came and got us. A long and super fun day!

The older kids were really hard to get a good picture of since they were running/playing/chasing/tackling constantly but here is an adorable picture of the two babies.

Miles 6 months; Graham 4 months

Friday, July 8, 2011


This past weekend we took our first trip outside of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and made the trek across the causeway to the Kingdom of Bahrain.

It is amazing how a country so close connected by a bridge can be so different! Bahrain is an island in the Persian (or if you are in Saudi...the Arabian) Gulf. It is known for its oil and pearls and more recently for some protests as part of the recent Middle Eastern uprisings. We did see some tanks and checkpoint but things have died down and are pretty safe. We did check the US embassy for travel precautions and they have a list of areas to avoid and where to stay etc so we made sure to follow the precautions and the only issue we came across was the annoying detours due to tanks and roads being blocked to prevent gatherings at the Pearl roundabout where the majority of the protests have taken place.

Bahrain is so close but so different than Saudi...women were granted the right to vote and hold elected office in 2002, women can drive, they serve adult beverages, pork products, you don't have to wear an abaya and are permitted to wear western clothes, you can try on clothes in the store, there are no family/men only sections or entrances, women can and do work....I am sure I could find many more differences. Pretty much it is a welcomed break from Saudi!

We crossed the King Fahd Causeway (it is the third longest bridge in the world) which connects Saudi to Bahrain in about an hour which is pretty good as we have heard of four hour plus waits. You have to go through Saudi passport control, Bahrain passport control, Bahrain customs and then you are in!
We went straight to City Centre Mall. We went to get something to eat and had great chicken shawarmas. We mostly looked around to get a feel of what is there, bought a some shirts, looked at a bunch of home stores and I feel in LOVE with a couple of them, found an amazing artificial flower shop that has beautiful stuff. We picked on some Starbucks and then headed out. We went to Toys R Us to see what they had in comparison to Saudi and they had some more toys and more American brand toys which was good to know. We then walked over to another mall, Seef Mall, where we went to the Organic food store and got baby food for Graham for when he starts. They sell baby food in Saudi but it is all brands that I don't recognize and am not comfortable with giving Graham. I am planning on just making my own since you can't get anything here but I wanted to get some jars so when we are out I could have the ease of just opening a jar of food. I found Earths Best baby food which was what I gave Peyton and I was able to get 24 jars of assorted fruits, 12 vegetables and then 4 other random ones. I also found Oatmeal, Barley and Rice cereal. We loaded up and I am super happy that we found out about that place. We then headed over to our hotel to meet some friends for dinner, go stuck in traffic, was super thankful for our Garmin and made our way to our hotel where we went straight to dinner at a Mexican restaurant. I had pretty good enchiladas and a real Margarita! It was wonderful! Some friends were in Bahrain for the day and so they met us for dinner before they headed back and it was so nice to be able to spend time with them and for John to actually meet someone I have been spending so much time with!

After dinner we finally made it back to our hotel and got settled in our room. We stayed at the Gulf Hotel and were very impressed. The service was great, our room was really nice and we will be back for sure. I forgot Graham's pack n'play so I pushed two chairs together, laid a blanket down as a sheet and made a bed. Peyton got to sleep with us in the giant king bed. We relaxed, watched cartoons, got everyone a bath, ordered room service (dessert and some wine) and then got Graham down to sleep and then we spent the evening cuddling with Peyton, watching TV and enjoying room service in bed. It was so nice to spend that one on one time with Peyton. John and I can't remember the last time it was just us three and Peyton was loving it. She loved the whole hotel experience, room service, sleeping with Mommy and Daddy and just thought this was the greatest thing ever! It was so much fun!
Everyone had a really good night of sleep. We got up, ordered breakfast since we got up too late to go out and eat and then I went to get my hair cut while John took the kids swimming. The majority of the women at Aramco get their hair done while in Bahrain. I have heard that the salon at the Ritz Carlton and the one at the Gulf are the most recommended. I went to La Mode at the Gulf and it was great. The guy who did my hair is originally from Lebanon and was in Bahrain for 12 years before going to Australia for 5 years and now he is back in Bahrain. I got my hair colored for the first time in 4 years! During my pregnancy with Graham my hair got so dark and I wanted it to be lighten just slightly so I got subtle blonde highlights. I also got my hair trimmed and a moisturizing treatment because the water in Saudi destroys your hair. I love my cut and color and was so impressed with the service and quality. A pain to go to Bahrain to get your hair done but worth it! After I was done I went to find John at the pool and they were just finishing up. There is this splash area complete with a large playhouse type structure, slide, water fountains for kids and it was great. They had a blast and I just wish I was able to play with them! We showered, changed, packed up and off we went for more shopping!

First stops were pet stores to hunt for dog food and a dog door for our house. We found two pet stores which both had a good selection of stuff. We found toys/bones/leash etc at one and pet food at the other but no dog door. The second store said to email them what we are looking for and they will work on finding one which is promising. We were able to save a good amount of money on dog food and it is reassuring that we are not limited to the one pet store we have found in Saudi. We headed back to City Centre mall to pick up some curtain rods that I found and then a rug for the kitchen and we surprised Peyton with a trip to Build a Bear. Both kids were amazing this trip and so well behaved and just went with the flow of things. Peyton was so polite and even when we went into stores or say toys she would never ask for anything and just so polite. We even passed Build a Bear the other day and she told us how she did that with G and Papa at the old house and explained the process to us and said it was so much fun but she didn't ask to go and do it or for a bear or anything. We decided that since she hadn't asked for anything at all and was being wonderful we would surprise when we left by taking her and she was so surprised and happy when we went. She picked out a camel and dressed her in a black and pink dress with pink heels. It was lots of fun and she just kept telling us what to do and how she did it with G and Papa and she can't wait to show them her camel. She also kept telling us thank you for her camel. It was fun!

We then packed it up and then we headed back across the causeway, put on my abaya and came home to Saudi.

It is amazing how much a weekend away helps! It gave me a break and made me have a little bit of hope that I can handle this. I also never realized how much it affects you to not get dressed, do your hair, make up and just get Saudi I don't take a whole lot of effort to getting pretty everyday since I just throw on an abaya over whatever I am wearing, am not supposed to draw attention to myself so I put on very little makeup and so I am never really put together. It felt so good to be able to be a girl! And I never realized how much the family section bothers me. When we went to Starbucks in Bahrain I commented on how nice it was, then I got to thinking....we have a Starbucks in Saudi.....why don't I like the Saudi Starbucks?.....oh....because I have to go in a small door and sit in the back section where it is cramped, dark and you have to sit in sectioned off booths and not look at Bahrain it was open, bright, you could sit and people watch in the mall. It was so refreshing!

We are already planning our next trip to Bahrain and are thinking about taking a trip just before Ramadan starts and we are stuck home for the month. We are hoping now that we have our first trip under our belt we will have a better idea on how to better use our time, save money and not need to shop as much and can relax and also explore some of the cultural things there. We are very thankful that we have this option so close to us!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Happy 30th Birthday!

John turned 30! He has been so excited about this birthday and before moving I had all these plans for a huge party and well...moving kind of changed things up a bit!

I tried to plan a surprise dinner for him at Chili's the day before his birthday but he figured it out awhile ago but didn't tell me he knew but he kept giggling to himself when we were walking through the mall to go to Chili's and Peyton kept going on and on about how she was going to see Gavin and I kept trying to divert her or explain how we were going another day. Anyways, his smile gave it away that he knew. He appreciated me trying to do something though! We had a great dinner with friends, co workers and enjoyed the company.

On John's actual birthday I spent the whole day at the Perrys and then John came and picked me up. We got the name and some directions to a local Indian place and we set out to find it. It was certainly an adventure and we finally found the place only to have to drive through all these back roads/alleys to find a parking spot and then walk back four blocks. We made it inside, went upstairs to the family seating area, got a closed in booth complete with our own door and looked at the menu and were utterly overwhelmed with all the choices and had no idea what to order. We very randomly picked four dishes and hoped for the best. I LOVED one of the dishes, hated one, and kind of liked the other two. We had so much fun! It was so an adventure, full of craziness in trying to find our way around, driving, parking, being in a non mall type area and ordering food that we had no idea what we would get. A fun way to spend the night and we both just felt so blessed to be able to have these adventures with one another.

I forgot my camera so all I had was the one on my phone...

John....hope you had a wonderful birthday in Saudi! We love you so much and think you are amazing. You are a blessing to me and to our children and I look forward to celebrating many more birthdays with you.

On a side kids are AMAZING! Peyton went to bed late the night before, had a long day playing with her friend Gavin and we didn't end up getting to the restaurant at 8:00 PM and leaving at 9:30 PM and she just talked with us, played games on the iPad, tried all the food we offered her and was a trooper. I am amazed at how much she has grown up since being here. She has adapted so well to our new life and how many times you have to just go with the flow.

Monday, July 4, 2011

What day is it?

Happy 4th of July!

It certainly is a whole lot different this year being here in Saudi! Most of the day I kept forgetting it was the fourth until I would look on Facebook. Weird feeling and made us kind of sad not be home with friends and family. We were sad when Canada Day came and went and we didn't really celebrate and then today it hit us again. Bummer day! I could go into more about how much we miss our freedoms but that would just make me more upset.

Graham has been super fussy and not himself the past two days. He is just kind of miserable and I am not sure why. I don't know if he is getting sick or growing or what but I feel so bad for him. His cranky/fussy though is really not all that bad but I know that he isn't happy and something is not right. A friend saw him today and even she noticed that he wasn't smiling as much and seemed grumpy. Poor guy....I hate when I can't make things better for him.

We did start working on the projects here at the house to start making this place feel like a home. Peyton and I started painting the den/playroom. She was so excited to help me and she did great. I loved spending time working with her and she was so funny! She kept telling me that we needed to make the house pretty because Granny is coming and Granny will be so happy when she sees our house. Funny kid! We got two walls finished and we still have more to do but it should only take another night or so.

John picked up our passports with our visas in them and so that means we are headed to Bahrain this Thursday! He went and rented a car tonight and then we will be leaving here Thursday morning and driving across the causeway! I booked our hotel, made an appointment to get my hair done and started making my list of things to find/buy/shop at! One of the big stops will be a couple of pet stores to stock up on food for Titus and also hope to find a doggie door for him.

Other highlight of our day was hearing that it is looking more and more likely that my mom will be coming to visit us! I am really hoping that it all happens and Peyton was so excited to hear about it! It gives me something to count down to, look forward to and also get me out and more determined to figure my way around and what to do, how to do it so I can show her around when she gets here. Pretty makes me more determined to make this our home so we can welcome her here!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Weekend Round Up

John got Saturday off from work for some reason so we enjoyed three days with Daddy home is an update of our long weekend..

Thursday- We took the shoppers bus to the Mall of Dharhan. We got off, got lost in the mall, got in an heated discussion because we were hungry and didn't have enough coffee. Got coffee and food and then we had a great productive afternoon. We purchased two new phones, a Blackberry for both of us, which has been much needed. We have been borrowing a friends phone and needed to return them and get our own. We then went around and looked for a new Abaya for me and found one later in the afternoon at a great store that has a great selection and very reasonably priced! I also ventured out and purchased some clothes at a store I have always loved in Canada/Paris and in the Houston Galleria called Zara. I have been nervous about shopping for clothes for me since you can't try them on and it is hard to return stuff especially with my limited access to the mall. I bought two shirts and a skirt and I was nervous about purchasing without trying something on but I stuck with stuff that I knew works on my body and did really well. They all look great and all fit! We visited the new SACO World which is essentially our Home Depot/Lowes. They built a two story one at the mall so we checked it out, got some paint samples and made a list of things to come back and get! We visited some other stores that we have been wanting to look at and then grabbed some lunch and headed home.

Friday we did nothing! Nothing at all! We slept, watched TV and did was nice! It made me sad that it was Canada Day and we were not having our annual party with friends back in League City.....we had so much fun here and here. And Graham didn't get to experience his first Canada Day to the fullest. We did sing "O Canada" and wave around the paper flags that I found at a store last week. Graham smiled a bunch....I think he likes being Canadian!

Saturday, I was able to go to my Breakfast group without kids and enjoy my breakfast and coffee and talk without managing Peyton and Graham! John was so sweet to watch them in the morning and I had a wonderful chat with two ladies. I came home, John went swimming with Peyton while I stayed home and played with Graham. Graham and Peyton had a nap. John and I attempted to start P90X and realized we didn't have all the gear we needed. Then a friend called and asked if we wanted to go with him into Khobar that afternoon so we packed it up and did some major shopping. We went to Toys R Us for a bottle sanitizer (boiling water is getting old), then to the pet store (very unsuccessful trip), to Ikea (got one of the two rugs I wanted...the other should arrive in a month...which means 2-3 months), went to eat at Macaroni Grill (yum), picked up a chin up bar at a sports store, went back to SACO World and bought paint, Titus a bed and some storage shelves and then headed home. It was long night but we got a bunch done and have all the paint and supplies for Peyton's room and for our den/playroom which will keep us busy or a little while!
Peyton's room is going to be the blue...we are doing a main color and then on one wall doing some abstract squares that will be taped out in a lighter color. I wanted bright and beach colors. Our den will be the brown (Toasty Tan) which is similar to the color we had in League City. I know it isn't original but it looked good back home, works with the furniture I know will be in there and since I don't want to paint the whole house, I wanted something neutral so it wouldn't look so random and out of place. I got some more paint swatches to pick a color for our room and for Graham's room and then I will just wait on the kids bathroom until our stuff comes because I really don't remember everything I got.

A good weekend...a nice short work week which....picking up our Iqamas and Multiple Exit/Entry Visas.....celebrating John's big 30th birthday and then.....BAHRAIN next weekend.....Insha'Allah!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Clickin Moms

As part of my goal to learn more about photography and pursue my hobby, I joined an online website/group called Clickin Moms.

It was highly recommended by many friends and it has a great online forum, classes and will be a great tool to help me work on different things. I already signed up for a Lightroom class that will last a month and since it is all online, I can do it whenever I want during the week and it doesn't matter that I am in Saudi! I am really excited and look forward to having something that I enjoy keep me busy during the long hot summer!