Saturday, May 19, 2012

One Year Ago

I wrote this post before we left for our cruise....we are still hopefully relaxing and enjoying our time away. We will be back in Kingdom on June 3. But I wanted to commemorate our One Year in Saudi Anniversary!

One year ago we left our comfortable life in Texas....with my parents down the street and other family an hour away, an AMAZING church home (Clear Creek Community Church), wonderful friends, a great small group and overall a full life.....for an adventure. One year ago today we headed to the airport with our 10 week old baby, our 2.5 year old and a BUNCH of suitcases excited about what was to come...a little naive and full of nerves.

What a difference a year makes....

this year has been an insane journey through highs and lows and every emotion in between. I have had moments of happiness, joy, excited, fulfillment, loneliness, emptiness, confusion, doubt, comfort and so, so, so many more. In a year we have experienced SO much personal change from moving, to adjusting to having two kids, to being away from family, making new friends, traveling around the Middle East with our crazy drive to Abu Dhabi and going back several more times, or flying back to the States alone with the kids, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain (many, many times), Dubai....and now we are on a cruise through the Mediterranean! Crazy! 

So many new families are arriving on camp and I so clearly remember when we came how eager, excited, naive and ready for the challenge we were. We totally underestimated how incredibly challenging it is to adjust to a new culture, country, religious environment....and do that with a new baby! Looking back....we were insane! But as incredibly hard as it has been and I would say that it has been one of the hardest years of my life....I am amazed at how much I have grown. It has been incredibly painful but I have grown stronger, more confident, more aware of myself and my emotions and responses and am becoming a better person, wife and mother daily. My relationship with God and understanding of what that looks like on a day to day basis has been tested, tried, challenged and is currently undergoing some major work. But it is still there despite not having a church home, not being in a religiously free country and despite some major challenges over the year. Our marriage has only gotten stronger which we are so thankful for and very aware at how that could have not been the case. We are thankful for the people, mentors, classes (Dynamic Marriage) and weekend retreats (Weekend to Remember) and time that we put into our marriage in the beginning to build a strong foundation based in His design for marriage that allowed us to withstand the stresses of being here and still grow as husband and wife. That is honestly....besides surviving a whole summer in Saudi and Ramadan and without our one of my major achievements of the year.

How are we doing after this year? Better. I have made some good friends here and enjoy the company of friends from all over the world...although the majority of my friends are from the UK or Scotland....and one German friend! I have found several people who provide deep, authentic and challenging conversation that I need to grow as a person and I a diligent in having regular time with them to converse without children around. I LOVE our house and it feels like our home. We have a pretty good routine and I have more good days than bad. Peyton has an abundance of friends, loves swimming lessons, ballet and her school and the beach. She has adjusted to being away from her G and Papa and Granny Martha and no longer gets upset when we Skype. She has become an awesome traveler and is doing well. Graham is thriving...although I think anywhere he had food he would be ok. He has baby friends, loves the beach, has great childcare providers in his life and is healthy. John will have to post on his experience thus far. We are so blessed to have my sister close by and I am incredibly appreciative of the time that we have been able to spend together and how our relationship has grown. year down in this crazy adventure...I don't know what the next year has in store for us and I don't know how long we will be here but I am trying to live in the moment. Find the joy and blessings in each day and be thankful for what has been provided to us at this moment in our life. What a wild ride it has been and I am looking forward to what HE has in store for us this year!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Vacation Time...Off We Go!

We are off on our 20 day Rome and Eastern Mediterranean adventure

I am SO excited about spending time with John and us having some wonderful time together as a family! But before we get to the fun stuff of being on the cruise ship, my scheduled massage and seeing amazing sights we have a long day of traveling and then getting to the cruise. We fly today out of Bahrain with a stop in Doha and then spend the night at a hotel near the airport and then head to the cruise ship tomorrow. A long couple of days but we are excited and know that it will be worth it once we are settled on the cruise!

Please pray for safe travels on the plane, the cruise ship and throughout all the ports/buses/taxis/trains that we will be on. We are seeing a lot in three weeks and there are tons of logistics that we have tried to figure out and pray that everything goes as smoothly as possible so we can have some rest and relaxation as a family and as a couple! 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

This was my second Mother's Day being a mom of two and it was wonderful! We celebrated mostly on Friday since that is our "Sunday" here and Peyton made me pancakes and coffee and I got to sleep in a little bit. We spent most of the day packing but it was still a great day with the kids. 

Today, Peyton had school and she made me a picture frame and then filled out a survey about me...

She did pretty well....

  • My mom's name is Che.
  • My mom is 30 years old. (pretty close)
  • My mom's favorite food is apple. (not really)
  • My mom's favorite color is pink. (not really)
  • My mom has short hair. (hmmm....I thought my hair was long)
  • I like my mom when she takes me out.
  • I don't like my mom when she scolds me.
  • My mom looks crazy when no crazy, not mad. (not sure what she was getting at here)
  • My mom looks funny when she is cooking. (hmmm....)
  • My mom is the best mom in the world because I love my mom.
So sweet! I loved how proud she was of her gifts and the big hug I got and it was wonderful! She is finally at an age where she can really express her feelings and I love it! It was a great Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

14 months...

Graham is now 14 months old! And he has changed so much since his first birthday! are such a boy! Graham loves to run, climb, get into everything and constantly keeps me on my feet chasing after him. His favorite place to be is outside and love the dirt and have no fear when we are at the playground and love climbing and the slides. 

Graham is still the happy, sweet and fun baby that he has always been. He has a constant smile, laugh and is just so pleasant! Such a joy! He has been teething the past two weeks and has gotten around 5 new teeth all at once. He LOVES his sister and is constantly following her, playing in her room and they play so well together. Your favorite game is still chase. You light up and run to the door with excitement everytime I tell you it is time to "get Peyton from school."I love that you give Peyton kisses and hugs every night before bedtime and you immediately run and find her when you wake up in the morning.

Graham still loves to eat and his favorite food is strawberries and any kind of vegetables. The other night we were out at Chili's and he loved the fajita chicken and ate almost as much as I did. He has three pretty big meals a day and two significant sized snacks and goes through milk like crazy. I am always buying milk! 

He is starting to push boundaries and see what he can and can't touch and gets so upset when he is told no. He loves to open drawers, climb on chairs, and is into everything. Whenever we leave, he runs to the door, grabs his shoes out of the basket and sits down waiting for me to put them on which is adorable and then when we come home he always tries to put his shoes in the basket himself. He is so aware of things around him, how things work and I am amazed when he does things and shows me how things work that I know I never taught him.

We are starting to cut out our morning nap, it is hit or miss. We still have a nice afternoon nap (when we are not teething) and Graham sleeps from 7-7 every night night.

Graham you are such a joy to our family and it is so much fun to watch you grow up and explore the world. I love your hugs and kisses and the watching the love you have for your family, your sister and life. We love you so much Graham and am so thankful for everyday we have with you!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Midweek Ramblings....

A bunch of randomness...

Remember how John was done with turnaround? Well...apparently that wasn't the case. He had one day when he had regular hours, that weekend off and then it has been chaos. Somedays he is home an hour late, somedays it is two and even three and I never know. I almost wish we were back in turnaround as it was predictable and he was getting paid over time. It is really hard and frustrating to don't know when or if he will be home and it has especially been hard on Peyton. I just want to cry....mostly because....

7 days until we depart on our cruise! And 6 days until we fly to Rome! As excited as I am.....I am a little stressed about finishing up packing and doing everything all on my own and watching two kids at the same time. Next week is super busy with friends leaving for the summer and saying good bye and so I need to finish this weekend with both kids, a birthday party to attend and makes me want to cry :(

I forgot Graham's extra clothes today at swim lessons. He swims before Peyton and so he has to sit in the stroller and wait during her lesson and I like to make sure he is changed out of his clothes. Since we leave right after Peyton's lesson, I wait until we are home to change her. I found extra clothes in the bag...Peyton's extra 3T clothes and surprise, surprise...they fit. Not really his color but they did the job. I can't believe they fit him...well, I kind of do believe it but still!

I was making lunch and in came Graham....pushing Peyton in the baby doll stroller!

Graham and Peyton were playing peek-a-bo in the back seat on the way home from Khobar. Such happy kids for it being way past their bedtimes!

Graham is getting around 4-5 teeth all at once which means he is MISERABLE! He is not napping at all and just fussy. He walks around asking for me and that is fine but when I carry him he is still fussy. Nothing soothes him. No medication, chew toy, nothing! Not fun!

My hair dryer died. Not normally a significant event but our house is wired for 110V appliances while the whole rest of Saudi is 220V which means that they carry very little to no 110V stuff....especially not a hair dryer. We do have two outlets in the kitchen that are 220V so I am now drying my hair in the kitchen and storing my hair dryer next to my baking stuff!

I am doing a color consultation class on Monday. It is by an independent consultant with a program called House of Colour based out of the UK. The description from the website is that "through an expert Colour Analysis, Make Up tuition and assessment by Personal Stylists, you learn everything you need to become your own excellent personal shopper." You learn about what colors and styles work best for your body and skin tone and it sounded like fun. A friend asked me if I wanted to do it with her and I thought it would be fun and since John has been working so much, I seriously doubt he has had the time to do anything for Mother's Day so I told him it would be my Mother's Day gift. 

Praying hard that John is off from work this weekend....or at least is getting paid if he is at work...and hoping that I can finish packing.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Coming soon....Our First Visitor to Saudi!!!!!

I am so excited that we will be expecting our first visitor to Saudi this coming September....

.....John's mom!!! We booked her tickets yesterday and she arrives September 9-23 and I am really looking forward to having her here in Saudi, experiencing our daily life here and spending some wonderful quality time with the kids. The kids and I get back to Saudi and then 10 days later we get to have Granny Martha excited!

When we started talking about my trip home this summer and trying to take a trip down to Texas again by myself to visit with John's mom, I was overwhelmed and anxious about doing that trip again and when I realized it would cost the same amount of money to fly me and the kids to see her in Texas from Washington as it would for one ticket to Saudi....we started tossing around the idea of her coming to Saudi. I am so thankful that Martha was willing (with a few hesitations/reservations at first) to fly over here and take off time from work to spend a good chunk of time experiencing our new home. I can not wait to have her here and show her our daily life, shopping and hopefully take a weekend trip to Qatar (depending one what kind of visa she is issued) since John actually has three days off to make a long 5 day weekend while she is here...yes, we planned that! BUT most of all....I am excited that she gets to spend two weeks of quality, non stop time with her two grandkids, her son and with me! I am really looking forward to it! 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Thankful for the additional hands...

I am very thankful that living in Saudi has allowed us to have additional resources to help around the house. When we were in Texas we didn't have any additional help for household stuff but we managed and we had family nearby which was a huge blessing with childcare. When we arrived here we immediately hired someone to help with the outdoor yard care of sweeping, raking leaves, cutting grass and all the numerous tasks outside which has been a huge help and taken the burden off John so he can spend more time with us. We also have someone who comes and cleans once a week which has been awesome because I don't have to do the bathrooms, wash floors and feel stressed to get that done and not be with the kids. We felt incredibly fortunate and very blessed to have this extra help in our lives.

What has been missing though and what has been a huge need is help with childcare. With no family here, no childcare at gyms etc I was finding it hard to do things by myself and have some time to recharge/regroup and even more so was finding it hard to spend time with Peyton. I had tons of time with Graham while Peyton was at school but she never got one on one time and I know that one of her love languages is quality time. And I was overwhelmed with the day to day stuff that needed to get done and frustrated that I was always telling the kids "no' or "just wait" while I was finishing tasks around the house. I also have more play dates, coffee gatherings and just commitments than I would have had while we were in the States because there is nothing else to fill our time...I can't run errands until John is home. With Graham napping during the day it has been hard to go and visit people or take Peyton to play dates which is important to her life here so I was either missing events (and then feeling very isolated and down) or taking a cranky baby who needed to be napping and chasing him around and just being frustrated. We have known for awhile (since before I left for Christmas) that we needed regular help to give me a breath and allow me much needed time by myself and also with just Peyton. So... I have been looking for a LONG time for some part time childcare help but it is incredibly hard to find and everyone on camp is looking. I had given up....I figured that at some point in life it would be easier and I would be able to make regular dinners again, bake, do laundry regularly and not be so overwhelmed and that I would continue to do my best at building relationships for me and Peyton and just work through this phase.

Then one afternoon a friend called and said she had heard of a woman who was looking for work and that my friend wanted to split the hours with me. We talked, worked out a schedule which gave us each time during the week and then we interviewed the woman. She was faboulous! The kids loved her, she was a former pediatric nurse who is having a hard time finding work in Saudi, she lives in the town next to our camp so she didn't need somewhere to live and she was willing to help me out around the house with dishes, laundry, bed making etc. which many people won't do. She has been with us for a little over three weeks now and has been an BLESSING! 

Priscilla is from the Phillipines and she has three children of her own that live in the Phillipines with her mother. It is incredibly hard to have someone who is living/working away from her three kids come watch your kids because you need a break...when I am sure all she would want is to be around them all the time. Some guilt there for sure but I am focusing on what is best for both of us....I need some help and she needs the work. As I said, she is a pediatric nurse which has already proven to be a huge help as Graham was sick the second weeks she was with us. I was telling John just a couple of weeks ago that I missed having a nurse line to ask simple questions! 

She has been an extra set of hands in my day to day life and has helped out so much! When Graham is sleeping she helps with stuff around the house, when he is awake she often spends time with him if there is something I need to work on. She loves our dog (she had two dogs in the Philippines) and will walk Titus and spoils him rotten. He is almost as excited to see her as the kids! Graham loves his morning walks and playground time with her and they get along wonderfully. Peyton is warming up to her and starting to ask to be around her more and more and also started giving her hugs goodbye but she hasn't stayed alone with Priscilla yet. Peyton always notices the things Priscilla does around the house and tells her thank you which makes me happy to see her treat others with respect. 

The BEST part is by far the time that I have been able to have with Peyton. We have been able to go have coffee and read books together, go swimming, go to the beach, play games and just have quality time with each other. I am so THANKFUL for that time with Peyton and it has made such a difference in her demeanor. Also, knowing that the day to day stuff is done or at least being done or will get done between the two of us is a huge weight off my shoulders and just allows me to be in the moment and treasuring the time with the kids. And I am enjoying the morning coffees with friends where I don't have Graham with me and can be intentional and focused on conversations and building relationships! 

We are so thankful for Priscilla and try to let her know as much as possible what a blessing she is to our family. We continue to pray that it works out and she stays with us as long as possible! I am beyond thankful and incredibly humbled that we are in a country/situation that allows us to afford to have help like this and am soaking up the precious time with my kids and trying to keep the guilt at bay. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Just another shopping trip...

Every shopping trip here is an experience. Whether it is rushing to beat prayers, praying for safety on the roads and the crazy driving, trying to find something that seems like it should be there or at that store...many, many times we just have to laugh. Well, the other night when we went and got the bike for Peyton we had a couple of instances that stood out to us. The first was when we went looking for air purifiers for our house. The dust, sand and wind really make for some bad allergies and we were hoping to find something to help in the house. We found some great Honeywell purifiers for the rooms but I was tempted to buy the following.....
Because whenever I think of a product promotion....I think of deep fryers and air purifiers. Totally random in my opinion. 

What is really blog worthy about our shopping trip that evening was the background music in the mall...wait, not music because that is forbidden in Saudi malls....instead we had this....

Yes....a fire alarm sound.....for the THREE hours plus that we were shopping. I almost LOST it! The AC was off because they like to turn it off in low peak hours and it was an early weeknight so I was hot, wearing my abaya, trying to buy kids clothes for our cruise in between prayers, Graham was crying because he wanted to walk and I was going crazy with the annoying fire alarm sound. Have no idea why it was going off. No one seemed worried. Pretty much we guessed that the guy who knows how to work that was either not there or busy and since there is only one person who knows how to do it, they just let it go and go and go. 

And although this wasn't in sister in Abu Dhabi posted a picture of something she found in the toy section of a store called LuLu's.....we have a LuLu's here but I seriously doubt that we have such a risque toy sold in the store in Saudi....

Another random find in The Middle East! I love how it is between a toy phone and a solar kit science thing. This place just cracks me up sometimes! 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

63 days...and finally DONE!!!

Today marks day 63 of John's shutdown at work which has meant 7 days straight of 13 hours days. He did manage to get one day off at Easter and then three days he was able to come home 3 hours earlier BUT for the most part he has been putting in some long and tiring days at work and I have been a single parent. 

Leading up to this turnaround, I was nervous and incredibly worried how I was going to manage the normal day to day, plus dinner, baths and bedtimes (they are in bed when he gets home unless I keep them up which happens more for Peyton than Graham) and then still do it all on the weekends when we have no activities planned. I was scared and seriously doubting my ability to manage. But....I can has gone MUCH better than expected! 

There has been some seriously really rough days but for the most part we have adjusted and are doing pretty well. And what has held us through this was the continued dependence and reliance on Him. I prayed a TON, read verses and reflected on them as much as I could, and daily prayed that He would step in when I was stumbling or getting tired. Yes, there were days where I was really frustrated, not doing praying and being a selfish/crying baby but when I look at the time as a whole, I can say that what has been interesting about this whole experience is how much stronger I am....when I am submissive and dependent on Him....and when we come out on the other end of things or situations I am much more confident in my role as a wife and mother. It has been so true that the challenge of living here and the difficult times has caused tremendous growth in many areas. I have learned so much about myself, how I process things, my feelings/emotions, strengths and weaknesses and am more conscious of my thoughts and perspectives on things and for all of that...I can say that I am thankful for this time. 

I have had some wonderful times of reflection, mediation and quietness which I didn't think would happen with two kids. And I have also had intense amounts of fun hanging out with both of them. We have had many spur of the moment trips to the beach, totally casual dinners...and sometimes cereal for dinner, and at the end of this my relationship with both of them has gotten stronger.

And I was prepared for it to last until we left for our vacation in two weeks. The other day was a really long day at our house and I was tired, overwhelmed, frustrated and so I took a moment and just prayed for some help, strength, perserverance. Within minutes of saying that prayer, I got a text from John that said, "I guess your call into the boss worked, off this weekend and 40 hour weeks until we leave." Not really the same boss he was referring to but "the boss" certainly answered a tired mommy's prayer! So thankful this is done and praying that it really is done and he doesn't have to go back in!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Packing for 20 days...with 2 kids

Pretty much I don't take a long time to pack for trips and since we have been traveling so much, I have it down and don't pack until the day before...even with two kids. I know what I need, how much and can get it done pretty quickly and without much stress. However, when I started thinking about traveling for 20 days with two kids, with formal nights, smart casual nights and separate outfits for dinner and swim stuff and the list goes on and on....I realized this was probably not a trip that could wait until the day before to pack. I didn't even know if the kids had enough clothes for 20 days (and kids can not reuse outfits) and all the special dinners and so I have already started packing for our trip which is still 12 days away. 

I had no idea how we were going to make the clothes last especially when Graham goes through clothes like crazy and doesn't have 20 outfits plus nice clothes. I don't buy him nice clothes because he is a boy...he grows too fast and destroys clothes! So, I came up with the idea of doing a may begin to laugh now. 

It has everyday that we are away...a column for Peyton, Graham, me and for everyone....I refuse to pack and plan for John and then also has the amount of formal, smart casual and casual dinner outfits and then three extra outfits and then at the bottom has items to remember to pack for each person. I figured this would help maximize outfits and space. For example, I am using casual dinner outfits for the cruise later in the trip while we are in Rome since I am hoping they can't get that dirty over dinner and I figured this would help everyone know what to wear on what day so we aren't wasting clothes and John doesn't ask me every day what to dress the kids in. The yellow boxes are outfits that I am missing (I am pretty sure I have something but I haven't finished laundry) and I am pretty proud that I have found combinations for all 20 days without having to buy too many new outfits! I have two extra outfits for Peyton and three for Graham and worst case...they can wear formal outfits or smart casual outfits the last few days....or dirty clothes! 

So...that is what I came up with to help pack for a family of four for 20 days away...12 nights at sea! I started pulling dresses for me to try on and see what still fits and what will never fit and hoping that I can plan enough this week so packing is pretty easy and quick next week....and we don't forget anything too important!