Friday, December 28, 2012

Deception Pass and Unique Lighting

One of the last days we were in Bellingham we made a day trip with my parents to La Conner (a town south of us) and to a vintage lighting store called Mary Davis Vintage Lighting. It was amazing! They had original 1920's lighting as well as reproductions and I could have been in there for hours. So beautiful! We will for sure be back to get lighting/chandelier for the living room and possibly kitchen/mudroom. Wonderful pieces and really sweet owners who you could tell were passionate about historic pieces. Looking forward to spending lots of money there!

We had lunch and afterwards my parents were heading to a another store and we were heading back. They suggested that we do a small detour and visit Deception Pass on our way home. The kids were happy so we went for it and were so thankful we did. It is breathtaking! 

We got out and walked across the bridge and around and it was beautiful. There were lots of beaches and trails you could go explore and so we will have to go back this summer which shouldn't be a problem since it is about 30-40 minutes south of our house! A nice way to finish up our trip in the Pacific Northwest!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas 2013

Christmas this year was pretty weird since my two younger sisters were backpacking in Thailand and not with us. It was the first time that my family hasn't been together on Christmas. I know that it is bound to happen sometime but it was still hard and strange. It was probably a good transition into not "normal" Christmas celebrations as it looks like we will be in Saudi next Christmas which will be a huge change for everyone.

We went to Christmas Eve service and enjoyed a beautiful candlelight service and then we came back for our traditional snack feast. My mom also makes tons of appetizers and we eat those for dinner. Lots of fun snack foods, appetizer and goodies to feast on.

We then got into our pajamas and read the Night Before Christmas, the Christmas story and then wrote our letter to Santa and put out cookies and milk and a carrot for the reindeers. Peyton was so excited this year and was ready to go to bed. She surprisingly didn't get out until we woke her up in the morning. 

We were all pretty blessed with lots of gifts and the kids were pretty spoiled. Thankfully we have a house now that we were able to leave some gifts at which also means things for the kids to do when we all head back this summer. We had a wonderful Christmas dinner and although it was small and missing a couple of family members it was nice and we were thankful to be back with my parents for Christmas. Next year should be interesting....I already brought some more Christmas lights and some new decorations home with us to help make us in the Christmas spirit in the desert. I am excited about spending Christmas in Saudi next year but nervous as I am sure it will be hard being away from family for the first time.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Snow days...

Nothing like snow to make it feel like Christmas! Bellingham doesn't get much snow in the city but my parents live higher and often get snow. They can have snow as soon as you leave their driveway into the rest of their gated community, the community won't have snow. 

We had a couple of days with light flurries and not much. Some would stick but nothing too impressive.

Well one day it started snowing with light flurries in the city of Bellingham so we knew by the time we got to my parents that there should be a good amount of snow. 

We were pretty shocked when we came back and saw this as soon as we pulled through the gate....

Since we knew there must even more snow by my parents and that there was no way we would be able to get up the hill to their house safely, we decided to park the car at the bottom and walk up in the snow. 

You can see their house at the top left corner. The hill leading up there is a difficult walk when there is no snow and it was hard work walking up. 

My dad came down in the tractor and drove Peyton up to the top. Graham however was scared to go on the tractor so we had to carry him up the hill. Nothing like carrying 33 pounds up a slippery and snowing steep hill! 

Of course all that snow means play time. We went sledding down the hill in front of their house, attempted to make a snow man and did snow angels. Poor Graham had to wear Peyton's hat as I forgot his at our house. They had a blast!

We didn't make it up to Mt Baker this year but they were having record snow falls. I am looking forward to taking the kids skiing one year. Lots of fun in the snow!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Some of the things we did in Bellingham

The majority of the time we were in Bellingham we were working on our house. But we managed to sneak in other activities.

We attended church as much as we could. My parents have made Hillcrest Chapel their church home and we have made it ours as well. Peyton LOVES their children ministry and is always looking forward to going and we are excited at one day being able to move back and get more involved. 

We made our annual sugar Christmas cookies and then decorated them. Graham was old enough this year to get involved with the process.

We played in the rain often and shortly after getting there went to a consignment store for some rainboots which were a lifesaver. So easy to slip on and off and nice dry feet and as many puddles to jump in as the kids could find. Defiantly the way to go every winter! I am sure if we actually lived in Washington the winters/rain would get to us eventually but I LOVE it. I love the rain, I love knowing that it is what contributes the beautiful greenery around us and it doesn't bother me. I make sure to wear boots or my waterproof running shoes and a good jacket and I am set. I was a little cold somedays and so I need to upgrade my jacket but overall I loved the weather!

I bought tickets to take Peyton to the Nutcracker Ballet. It was a fun girls night with my mom as well. Peyton enjoyed it and was really interested in the first part and I decided to leave on a good note and so we left during intermission and went to get ice cream. It was at Mt Baker Theater in Bellingham and the theatre was beautiful. Totally unexpected. A fun night and maybe next year or the year after that we will make it through the whole show. I am glad we did it though and that she was able to attend her first ballet!

We visited many of our favorite eating spots. Had some mexican (or at least Washington's healthy version of it) and of course visited Rocket Donuts several times. John even got me a Rocket Donut coffee cup on our last trip there before we came back to Saudi so I could have a little bit of Bellingham with me here.

We love Bellingham so much! And every time we are there it feels more and more like our home! I love that John was able to spend more time there and see why I love it so much and why it feels like the right place for us to raise our family. I am even more excited that he gets to come this summer and experience the beautiful weather, parks, festivals, farmers markets and so much more! We really miss our new home of Washington when we are away....

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Flight back to Washington

Our flight back to Washington went surprisingly well...mostly because I had John with me and it is a thousand times easier to fly with a one to one ratio! I don't know if I will ever fly by myself again.....maybe....

We flew through London again this time and again the plane was crazy hot while sitting at the gate. The last time I flew with Graham, he ended up getting violently sick and throwing up the entire flight. Although there were several things that probably contributed to it, I do feel like the heat helped start it off. I was prepared for him though and had him dressed in really light clothes, no blanket and instructions for John to fan him until we were up in the air. I forgot however....about me....and I was the victim this time. I had already been under the weather and recovering from a cold and I did not do well. Thankfully John had Graham and I just had Peyton who unfortunately didn't sleep much on the flight but at least was content to just watch movies. I was so thankful that John was with me, I have no idea what I would have done on my own and am thankful that all the other times I have flown by myself I have not gotten sick!

We landed in London and had about an 8-10 hour layover so we went to check into a hotel, get showered, changed, eat some yummy breakfast and have some naps. We had already received our boarding passes in Bahrain so we could just go through the security and straight to our gate which was quick and easy. Our second flight yielded more vomiting for mom but other than a couple of crying episodes from Graham (which lasted all of two minutes each) it was a good flight.

When we landed in Vancouver and made it very slowly to the passport line as Graham now insists on walking and pulling his own backpack with no help (which is nice but SLOW) through the airport, I was worried about the line and having to wait with the kids and since I didn't have the solo parent card I didn't expect to get any special treatment. Thankfully we still did get some special VIP treatment and were moved to the front! We made it through, got our bags and were out to find G.

I LOVED hearing Peyton talk to Graham about finding her G and what to look for and on and on and on... As soon as we were out of the doors into the waiting area she starting looking for her and as soon as Peyton saw her, she dropped her bags and ran in between people as fast as she can to get to her for a big hug. Every time I see them see each other after a long time apart it makes the whole flight/travel process worth it. We were then off to drive across the border into Washington and for a month of enjoying family, our new house and rain!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Ready to Go!

We are all packed and ready to go to start our journey Washington tonight! 

The taxi picks us up at 10:00 PM and our flight leaves out of Bahrain at 2:00 AM. We fly to London and have a ten hour layover so we went ahead and booked a hotel room for the day and then we fly into Vancouver where my mom will be waiting to drive us down to the USA and to Bellingham! Peyton is overjoyed that her countdown chain only has one more ring left and she is planning on how she is going to great my mom. She was even talking to Graham about how she would help him find G if he didn't remember who she was since he is a baby and she is a big girl. So cute!

This trip seems to have been much more stressful preparing for with arranging plans for the house, and working to set up a contractor to start some work on the crawl space and then also ordering the majority of our items that we normally take the time to go around and buy since I knew we would be busy with the house. It just seemed like so much going on and extra long lists this time around. But we have gotten as much done as we can and are ready to enjoy a month in Washington!

I am incredibly thankful this time because John is flying with me both ways and he has the whole month off! I am so excited to have a whole month with John and have help on both legs of the flight! This is proving to be incredibly more helpful than it already was with both me and Graham catching a pretty bad cold. I have been sleeping and useless for the past two days and have a tiny bit more energy today while Graham started getting sick yesterday with a cough and runny nose. We are praying that he either heals quickly, or that it doesn't progress much worse and that he continues to handle it like the champ he is and with the smile he normally has!

So....11 more hours until we head out..... :)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

This year marked my first Thanksgiving in Saudi! Last year I headed back to the States mid November and John stayed back in Saudi. It was a little crazy to think how fast a year has gone by and how different life is here a year later. For one, I never thought that I would feel as comfortable as I did about spending a major holiday here and it was a wonderful feeling being so excited to spend the day with friends and how much it felt normal and like home. It was truly a wonderful day and helped affirm how much difference time makes!

We spent Thanksgiving lunch at our friend's house and we enjoyed one of the best meals we have ever had on Thanksgiving. Everything was delicious! Everyone was assigned or volunteered for a dish and we all searched high and low around the Kingdom for all the ingredients and nothing was missing from the traditional Thanksgiving feast! What I also loved was that since it was all prepared by different people/families, it was a whole new taste experience and so much fun to taste everyone's family recipes. Our favorite by far was a sweet potatoes soufflé! It was outstanding! We both don't love sweet potatoes but we went back for seconds and thirds. So yummy!

One family, a Saudi coworker of our hosts, had a cake made at a bakery in the shape of a turkey. It was pretty intense and had so much detail. The best part was the white and dark meat inside with chocolate and vanilla cake!

We even enjoyed some football. It was a downloaded game from the week before but it was nice to have football playing!

We had a wonderful time with friends and ate a bunch! It was a pretty great Thanksgiving! One more week until we head back to Washington and kick off Christmas time!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Lemonade Stand

Pretty much since this summer I have been asked daily by Peyton to do a lemonade stand. I wanted to wait until it wasn't miserable outside and we are finally getting a break from the heat so we marked it in the calendar to do it on a Friday morning and it was a huge success. 

We made signs, picked out the table cloth and got everything together the night before and then Peyton and I made brownies as well as oatmeal chocolate chip cookies to sell. I had sent a Facebook message to friends who lived in our camp and posted about it the next morning and finally the day had come for her to do her lemonade stand and so the morning of we made the lemonade and set up and were ready for business.

Graham kept asking for lemonade and would steal several cookies at a time so he does owe Peyton :) Peyton did everything herself and did such a good job of greeting everyone, taking their orders and saying thank you. It was fun to watch her take ownership and handle everything!

We had lemonade for sale at 25 cents each and baked goods were 50 cents. We sold out of the brownies quickly and only had a couple of cookies left and when we added everything up Peyton made $40 USD which was amazing! We were so thankful to all our friends who came by and neighbors and everyone who supported her. She had so much fun!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Quick trip to the UAE....Daddy as well!!!

John had a long week the end of October for the celebration of Eid but he had a test to take pretty much right in the middle of it which cut into our travel plans but we still wanted to get out and do something and after much discussion decided to go visit my sister and this time John was coming with us!

We flew out Thursday morning and it was so incredibly busy with everyone leaving due to the holiday weekend. We were nervous that we would miss our flight it was that crazy! We flew from Bahrain to Dubai and then drove straight to Abu Dhabi to meet up with my sister and have dinner together that night. John has never been to Dubai so I decided to do the drive through the city so he could look around. He loved it and all I kept hearing was "wow, look at that."

The kids were both so excited to see their Auntie and had fun running around her house, making pizza with her, playing with her dog and then going out for dinner with her and a friend. I love that when we go out to eat whenever we go there and we go around 6:00 PM that it considered incredibly early and typically we are the only ones there so that means that we can usually eat at nicer places than we normally would with two kids because we are not going to be bothering anyone at all. When we are done is when some people start showing up. It works out great that our kids are still on American bedtimes and not Middle East ones!

The next morning we decided to all head back to Dubai for the day. We took the kids to the Dubai Aquarium and did a behind the scenes fish feeding as well. Our favorite part by far was the underwater tunnel. It was amazing to see sharks swimming above you!

We wandered around the Dubai Mall some more, enjoyed PF Chang's for lunch! So delicious! After lunch we wandered around for a little bit to pass time before the fountain show. I had seen the fountains in March with both kids when we went to Dubai just the three of us but we sat more to the front of the fountains this time as opposed to a side view which made it even better than the last time!

The next morning we woke up a little late and so we hurried to pack everyone up and head back towards Dubai to go on a tour of the Burj Khalifa before we headed to the airport. We had reservations to go to the top at 9:00 AM and from what I have heard and the policy that was printed on our ticket, if you don't show up for your time then you forfeit your prepaid tickets and have to pay again. We were also on a tight time schedule to make sure we had enough time to get to the airport. Thankfully we arrived exactly at 9:00 AM and made our way to the top of the word's tallest building! Because we were running from the car I forgot my camera so we only have a couple of pictures from John's iPod. 

We then headed to the airport and back to Saudi. John had his Professional Engineering exam the next day so once he got us home and settled he drove closer to the test site and spent the night at a hotel there so he would be more rested and not have to worry about driving the next day. It was an incredibly quick but fun trip to Dubai/Abu Dhabi and we always love any chance we have to spend with our Auntie Ashley!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Quality Time

As a follow up to yesterday's post about the article I found on parenting strong willed children, I wanted to share the other part of what has made a huge difference in our family. It might seem to be an incredibly obvious concept and it is, but what makes this more of a challenge is actually implementing it! 

What has made an incredibly difference in our family is the amount and quality of one on one time that Peyton has with me. I know....simple but making sure she has uninterrupted time with no TV, phone, email...anything....with quality conversation and activities has made such a difference. And also just slowing down our life. By living here we are naturally forced in a slower paced life. I can't run errands during the week, there isn't much "entertainment," to do any errands it is a seriously big trip and often not worth it and life is just slower and not filled with endless amounts of things to do which in conducive for more time with my kids and not running around.

Here are some things and ways I implement quality time with Peyton during the week...

  • During Graham's nap we have a routine of 30 minutes of play time with mom and then 30-45 minutes of self play where she has to do something on her own. I have a topic each day to help with picking something such as Saturday-craft, Sunday- board games and puzzles, Monday- outdoor activity like park or beach, Tuesday- baking day, and Wednesday- bible lesson themed craft. On the weekends we have no plan as our weekends are not nearly consistent with everything that goes on.
  • I spend time with Peyton at our coffee/ice cream shop about every other week and have intentional conversations with her about a variety of topics. I have found Pinterest to be incredibly helpful in finding questions and tips on talking about things. I also just let her lead the conversation and have learned about things that make her frustrated like her brother going in her room and we can talk through it and come up with a solution. 
  • Still struggling with this one but....limiting the amount of time I am on the computer so I am more accessible.
  • When Peyton does have her TV time, being more intentional about sitting next to her as opposed to somewhere else.
  • Evaluating whether a household task such as laundry, dishes etc is really all that important and whether it can wait especially when they come to ask to play and saying "yes" more often as opposed to "wait, or after this." I find that I often get trapped into the mindset of everything has to be cleaned, organized and done and that makes me a good mom when in reality my kids just want me. 
With Peyton being at school in the mornings four days a week I find making the one on one time with Graham much easier. We have Mommy and Me swimming twice a week, I take him to the park by Peyton's school and just make sure that a portion of the time Peyton is at school is set aside for just him. 

I know it seems simple but it has made a huge difference and has been a big milestone for me to make sure to carve out more time for playing, engaging with my kids. I felt like before the household stuff took up a larger proportion of my day and I now seek to make sure that is flipped. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Pinterest Parenting Article Find

I defiantly don't feel like I am qualified to be offering parenting advice but I do like to share things that have worked for us. I have always been so appreciative of the many people who share their struggles, suggestions and advice and what I love is that as parents we can choose what direction we go based off of what we feel is right for our child and our family.

If you have been reading my blog for more than a day, I am sure it has come up or you realize that I have a pretty strong willed and opinionated four year old! She has been exercising her strong will starting at 9 months. That is just her personality and especially now with the polar opposite in her brother I made even more aware of her opinions. We love that she is opinionated, a leader and we pray daily that we know how to encourage it, foster it and teach her without making her an obedient child. We don't want a child that just says "yes" all the time, we want her opinions, her views but we want her to respect authority and learn humility when she needs to.

When she was younger until recently we implemented the teachings found in a book called, 1-2-3 Magic, as recommended by my sister who has seen it work in the classroom setting. We loved it! It was consistent, easy for whoever was around her to implement, clear and taught her the boundaries and rules in a consistent, easy to understand way with known consequences. We would still have our bad days but for the most part we had a good system going as long as we stayed consistent and not giving in even a tiny bit. We felt that we were doing well. At first we were always getting to three and always doing timeouts but eventually timeouts were rare.

And then she turned four....I don't know where the shift happened but it did and our 1-2-3 Magic system was not working anymore. I was feeling frustrated because I felt that she was disobey simple rules that she knew were wrong (hitting her brother, not sharing, talking back) and that everything was SO DRAMATIC! So much yelling and crying and being so emotional over being told "no" or "stop." We decided to read another book called Have a New Kid by Friday that some friends had been reading and it was working for them. We read it and felt that it wasn't right for Peyton and for us and that most of the behavior she was demonstrating wasn't falling into any of the categories that were discussed. I didn't know what was the reason for this shift but something was happening and something was causing her to feel like she needed to react the way she was.

Then one day I read an article on Parenting Your Strong Willed Child, that someone pinned on Pinterest and it was like a light bulb came on for us. I clearly saw Peyton in each of the points that were being made/discussed and could see so many examples from our day that could have been less dramatic if I took some of the approaches that were mentioned.

What we really saw was that know that before she needed strict rules and no discussion. It helped keep her safe, taught boundaries and she couldn't handle more than, "no," but now that she is at an age where she can articulate how she feels and can understand more about why things are the way they are, we are entering into a phase of our relationship where we need to communicate more. Yes, the answer sometimes will be, "because I am the mom/dad and this is how it is," but that doesn't need to be all the time.

"Research shows that  parents who pay attention can avoid power struggles, even with strong-willed kids, by empathizing as they set limits, giving choices, and clearly offering respect.  Adopting a policy of looking for win/win solutions rather than just laying down the law keeps strong-willed children from becoming explosive and teaches them essential skills of negotiation and compromise."

After reading the article, and some additional prayer, discussions here are some of the takeaways that we are now implementing with Peyton and have seen an incredible difference.....

  • Giving Peyton more ownership. Such as having her pick out her outfit for school out of the two I place out the night before, or having her remember to bring things that she wants when we go out (like a specific snack) among other things.
  • Giving her more choices whenever we can. We always gave her choices in clothing, shoes and often at lunch time but we are also looking for other places such as...we have to go to school, "would you like to ride your bike, walk etc." I find that the more opportunities I put in her life for me to say "yes" to then when I do say "no" she responds better and understands that I am not just saying it to say it.
  • Avoiding power struggles/opposition when possible and increase the listening on my part and the dialogue on Peyton's side. For example, one day she wanted to use a certain pack of stickers that she found in her sticker box but I accidentally put them in there and they were meant for scrap booking/craft projects for me. Instead of just telling her no and entering into a battle with her about using the stickers, I was able to talk with her through it. I acknowledged that I made a mistake and they shouldn't have been in there, I asked what emotions she was feeling and acknowledged them and then explained why we were not using them. After our conversation, she just said, "ok," and went on her way with no issues. Maybe to some parents it seems simple but for me it is a new phase of our relationship and new way of handling things and right now it is what we needed and is working. I heard someone call it "feelings first explanations," basically acknowledging feelings and empathizing before giving excuses/explanations. At many times this doesn't work and the response is, "because I am your mom and that is the rule," but when I can I seek to be more initial in starting having dialogues with her about feelings and opinions
Still a work in progress and the article goes into so many more things to consider but I have noticed a difference and found that this is a new phase of discipline and a good balance that allows me to be have rules/discipline and a sternness with Peyton without undermining her personality and giving it opportunities to grow in the appropriate ways. Hope this helps someone....and if least it is a documentation on where we are with our child raising!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Preschool Halloween Program

The day after we did trick or treating Peyton's preschool had their annual Halloween program and parade. I had been hearing about it from Peyton for weeks as they had been practicing and talking about it at school for awhile. They had been practicing several Halloween/scary songs and also talking about saying "thank you for coming to our Halloween program," and she asked daily if it was the day and to make sure I had my camera ready. Finally the day came and she decided to be a Pirate for the day. 

We dropped her off at school and came back a couple of hours later for the performance. Graham was so excited to come and see Peyton and kept yelling his nickname at her, "Pey Pey," until she finally waved at her. He loves his sister so much! Here they are lining up and getting ready for the show!

I didn't know what to expect and it was absolutely hilarious! Peyton stole the show. She was so into it and knew all of the words and just did amazing! She was such an actress! She has grown up so much from last year and is so far from the shy and timid girl she was last year at school! 

And here is the video....enjoy! It is pretty amusing!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Trick or Treating Halloween 2012

Due to the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Hada falling right around the 31st, our camp had Halloween early to not interfere. So we headed out trick or treating on Sunday. It was a little weird to be trick or treating 10 days early but it also means we get to celebrate again next week with a small Halloween party with friends at our house. And since I felt bad and like I was leaving Graham out by putting together a party for Peyton and her friends....I am also doing one for Graham and his buds. So, we have two Halloween parties at our house next on the 30th and one on the 31st...we will be busy!

We had decorated our house earlier in the month and I will try to get out and take picture before we pick it all up. Peyton loved making it so very "spooky." Everyone goes all out on Halloween and I love seeing everyone's decorations that they either make or bring from home. One of our neighbors had glow in the dark fake spider webs which I loved as well as tall/skinny inflatable ghost and witch. It was pretty cool!

Peyton had informed me a long time ago that she wanted to be a ghost and so I hemmed a sheet up, cut a hole for her face and hemmed it and made sure to find face paint for her. She was so excited. Of course as soon as I started working on her costume Graham wanted to wear it and wanted to be just like her. I was kind of hoping he would want to do his own thing and be a pirate or something else but the closer we got it was pretty obvious that wasn't going to happen so I went ahead and found a pillowcase and got some holes and off we went. Super easy and cheap Halloween this year!

Before we left Peyton and Graham skyped with my parents and Peyton loved that she scared G and Papa. She is still telling me how when she got on the computer that G didn't know who she was and she thought she was a real ghost. She was really proud that she fooled them!

Graham quickly learned that you get candy by wearing this ridiculous get up and so he would walk up to a house...say, "boo," get some candy, say,"bye," and then walk to the wagon and sit and eat his candy until he was done and then get out and go to a house to replenish, come back, eat and repeat. It was pretty amusing and we have no idea how much candy he actually ate since he would start something, throw it away and then get more.

Peyton had a great time going to houses...all by herself....and yelling,"boo," at people walking around. 

I was surprised when about 45 minutes into it, she told us she was done and wanted to go home. I wasn't going to argue and so she got into the wagon and took off her costume and off we went home to count our candy. We managed to get home, bathed and have a piece of candy and still make it in bed right around our normal bed times which meant more time for mommy to sort out what candy she wanted from their stash!

It was not as busy as last year...probably because it was ten days early....but it was a good time. Both kids had a blast and it was fun to see everyone out and celebrating. I am looking forward though to the day when we hopefully are trick or treating in Washington where it hopefully would be much cooler than upper 80's and really humid. It was so miserable!