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!