Saturday, January 26, 2013

Desert Roses

One Friday a group of eight families all loaded up and decided to head to the desert to search for sand roses also called desert roses. We had the GPS coordintates and one family who had been before and so we were hoping to find the place and no one get stuck in the sand!

We packed up food, shovels and brought the dog along and off we went on our adventure. One of the best parts was that I chose not to wear an abaya (brought incase) and just wore pants and a modest shirt that covered most of my arms. It is always nice to not have to be covered up!

Here is a video of our caravan through the desert towards the sand roses....

Once we got there we unloaded, got the sand toys out and had a blast exploring, digging and finding treasure. 

And we came home with a pretty large assortment of different sized and shaped sand roses! A really fun day hanging out with friends, exploring Saudi and playing in the desert. We are hoping to take a trip to Hofuf and the Al-Ahsa Oasis  as well as some nearby caves in the near future. Not too much to explore in regards to tourist sites around here which makes it even more fun to explore the ones we have!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

New Year...New Systems

Every time we come back from a trip back to the States it feels like a fresh start to our life here. You are typically gone long enough that you don't remember the old routines as much and you have the opportunity to implement new routines, activities and improve where you want to. This time I put together three key things that have helped tremendously in running our home better.

The first was a busy box in addition to a "I'm Bored" list. The busy box is simply a box with multiple activities inside that are easy for Peyton to do on her own without guidance. Each activity is contained in a ziploc bag with all the materials needed. She has some science experiments (does it dissolve, will it float), pattern sheets, counting activities and just things to help keep her busy when she has nothing to do and is supposed to be playing by herself so I can get things done. She has loved the science experiments and I find it is hard to keep up with new activities for her! In addition to the box, I have created a list of activities to do as a family when the kids are getting restless. I plan 15 activities at a time and as we go through one I find a new one and add it to the list. Some of them I will plan on using again and once we do it and have gotten all the pieces together, I store them in a plastic tote in the playroom with a label so we can grab it down at a later time. My goal is to have 10-15 already prepared and in totes at all times so I don't have to be so diligent on planning them. Most of my ideas have come from Pinterest like Will it Erupt?, Multicultural Dolls, Pizza Delivery, and Letter Dominoes. And others have come from websites like No Time for Flashcards   and other blogs found from this Pinterest board.

Second thing I put in place was a TV Time Chart found on a blog regarding speech development called Playing With Words

I am not against TV and it honestly makes my life easier at times and I am mindful of what they watch and have guidelines on what they can or can't watch and also either read parent reviews on movies or watch them myself before they watch a new movie. But what I was finding to be hard was limiting the TV. Not because I couldn't say no but because it was inconsistent, I couldn't remember how much they watched or John would come home and not know that TV was no more for the day and because with a strong willed child like Peyton, it often works better when you have a system and can "blame" the rules versus, "because I said so." When you can say that, "the rule is," and it is a consistent system you can avoid many power struggles with a strong willed child and you give them the control which is really what they are looking for! 

So, we have the above TV graphic and clip all set up near the TV, she gets four clips each morning and each time she wants a cartoon she has to bring me a clip. If she wants a movie (a popcorn clip) she has to bring me the popcorn and two clips. This has helped tremendously in reducing arguments, staying consistent and teaching her to monitor her clips and when you use all your more. The first day she went through all her clips fast and was pretty upset later that she couldn't have any more TV. I have also found that since she LOVES watching TV that the clips work as a reward/consequence system and that I can remove clips from that day or the next (if we already ran out) as a consequence and that she is pretty quick to adjust behavior because she doesn't want less clips. All in all....a huge help in our house! Gives Peyton the control (and me as well but she doesn't realize it) and helps us stay consistent!

The last big implementation was for me and it was a weekly cleaning schedule. I made one based on our week (no cleaning for me on Thursday and very little on Friday since those are our weekends) and I wrote it out for our house needs not based on what you should do. I also made sure it was something I could do in 30 minutes a day so I could fit it in during the mornings while Peyton was at school. 

So far, it has been hugely helpful and it keeps me on track and is manageable. I have it on the fridge (with extras behind it so I don't have to print it off each week) and it has been a good system for us. The biggest change was doing at a minimum one load of laundry a day versus "laundry day" which helps keep things more manageable and when I take the weekends "off" then Saturday is not too bad to catch back up.

I love being organized and finding new systems and routines to help our house run better! To me it just makes things go smoother and allow me the time and energy to focus on the fun parts of being a stay at home time, cuddles and making memories!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Back into the swing of things

Getting back to Saudi and our day to day life was such a breathe of fresh air! There is really no place like home! As much fun as you can have traveling or as much as you miss family or the is stressful, tiring and a lot to take in and do and it is always nice to be home and back to normal!

With the weather being beautiful we are outside pretty much everyday. I know that the hot summer is around the corner and we will have to entertain inside and I am soaking up the free entertainment via playgrounds and beaches while I can. 

We have had many trips to the library to pick out new books which we typically read over ice cream or lunch at the coffee shop on camp before heading home. 

We also had tons of birthday parties to attend when we came back. We had five or six in January! It was all lots of fun though and since we are each other's family in Saudi, you grow close to each other's kids and it is a lot of fun celebrating them and watching them grow up.

One of the parties was a horse party and they had horse rides. Peyton of course LOVED it and started the whole asking for horse lessons process again. Graham wouldn't touch the horse at first, then he touched it and allowed me to put him on the saddle but wasn't too pleased with that. 

Since the weather is beautiful and we live just around the corner and down the street from Peyton's preschool we are riding our bike or scooter or walking almost everyday for drop off and pick up. 

We also have been having loads of picnics for lunch time. Some with friends and some with just my crew! 

Peyton has started back with ballet and I love seeing her all dressed up and girly every time she goes. She has also started soccer (which will be a post of its own soon) but is really just waiting (very impatiently) for swimming to start back up.

Lots of wonderful family time and time with friends. The weeks are flying by since we have been home and we haven't been busy with anything too exciting but filled with some truly great days filled with lots of dinners with friends, game nights, starting a weekly learning based play group, watching the Bachelor with girlfriends, busy with client photography sessions but for the most part our days have been filled with spending quality time as a family and with friends. Defiantly the good life!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Kicking Off London

When John was booking our flights home, he saw an option of having a 20+ hour layover in London on New Years Eve and thought it would be fun to spend it there as opposed to flying on an airplane. So, we were heading to London to kick off 2013!

The kids did really well on the flight to London. It left later in the evening and they slept for a good portion, fussed for some but overall did well for young kids. Graham is almost nearing the age that Peyton was when we moved here and I remember how easy it was to fly with her at 2.5 so I am so very much looking forward to when this is a piece of cake. Peyton is really a joy and ease to travel with and Graham did well this trip so we are seeing the light!

We took the Heathrow Express train from the airport to Paddington Station. It was supposed to be super quick but we had delay as there was traffic on the track and so it took awhile. But Graham fell asleep and Peyton watched movies so it was fine.

We got to Paddington, took a cab to the area near our hotel and because some of the streets were blocked off we had to walk to our hotel which was little crazy with our bags and our crew. Once checked in we went in search of food and finally found a Mc Donald's that was packed! It was absolute madness outside and I was really starting to question this whole plan. Normally we would have just ordered room service but the hotel we were staying at was a more apartment/extended stay place with no room service. It was in a great location for the fireworks but that little room service issue was ind of a pain. We were able to finally get a table in Mc Donald's after the security guard took pity on us sitting outside trying to feed everyone and we ate some food. We then headed back to the hotel to wait until closer to midnight.

We started by watching a movie and then Graham and I fell asleep. John came and woke us up around 11:00 PM and after he verified that it wasn't absolute mass chaos outside and safe for our kids, we got everyone dressed and headed out.

We just had to walk to the end of the already blocked off street and we were across the river from the London Eye and in a prime spot for viewing the fireworks. It was such a fun atmosphere. Tons of people just dancing and having a great time and music and just a lot of fun. I had so much fun dancing with Graham! Peyton fell asleep on John's shoulders and we had to wake her up before it started. That kid sleeps through everything!

The countdown was illuminated on a building and it was so exciting to watch it start counting down and fell the anticipation building.

And then the fireworks started....they were AMAZING! The whole show was set to music and it was a blast. It went on forever and I was amazed at how many and how long the show was. It was so much fun listening to all the British hits and watching reactions from the crowd when their favorite song came on. The show had speeches from the Queen mixed in from her Jubilee and from the Olympic coverage. 
It far far far exceeded my expectations!

Watching the fireworks in London was such a surreal and kind of emotional experience for me. John and I both said it was by far, hands down the best experience we have had living oversees so far. We were so overwhelmed with gratitude that we have the opportunity to do things like this. A pretty amazing way to kick off 2013!