wherever you go


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excuses…excuses…

But it’s a good one, really!  I meant to write posts more often with the new year.  I have lots of things to write about and travel stories, but goodness I’ve been tired.

But I have an excuse.

We are going to have another baby! I’m due in September.  So while I was in Pennsylvania it was understandable that all I wanted to do was nap.  I’m a little more awake these days, but there are still naps some afternoons.  Everything is going well.

Stephen’s mom, Bonnie, flew back to Saudi Arabia with us from the states and spent three weeks here.  After my mom being here before our trip, six weeks staying with Stephen’s Dad and step-mom, and then three weeks with Grandma Bonnie, everyone is quite sad to be with out a Grandparent near by.  It was so good for the kids to be close to family, and I enjoyed the company and help.  Especially as I’d prefer to sleep in and take naps most days.

We are getting back into a routine and appreciating time outside while the weather is still nice.  It’s getting hotter! We have gone to the pool a few times and Emery has a serious farmers tan.

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Refresh and Restart

We have been in Pennsylvania for a week, and my first remotely productive day was yesterday. I did laundry, ran the dishwasher, packed for our weekend, read a bit. And it felt so good. I’m hoping to have some time to think about our life and family and future, but I don’t feel free to do that when there are messes to clean up or phone calls to make or laundry to do. Even with some improvement yesterday, things are still cluttered and unorganized here. I might just have to realize that I’m not going to be very organized while I am living out of a suitcase. Some people can pull that off. I’m not one of them.

I like thinking about how I want life to be: what I want my priorities to be, what I want to be teaching my children, the qualities I want to see grow in myself over the next year or so. I dream about what life will look like in five or ten years and ask myself what needs to be happening now in order for that to happen. What do I need to be doing now to prepare for what is ahead? And I’m not a type A personality, so I can set up all kinds of goals and steps and weekly schedules without being ruled by them to the point of exhaustion. (No offense to you type A’s. I love you and quite often wish I had more of your drive!)

I have learned (and it took me almost 30 years…) that my process is to set up a system, it will work for a while, I’ll stop using that system, things will ramble on for a bit until I feel the need to reorganize and pull things together, I’ll set up another system that points me toward my goals and the process starts again. By system I mean anything that I plan to use to help me work toward my goals. This can be anything from a weekly schedule to posting things up around the house, using a new calendar or task app on my phone to journaling more. I don’t let myself get bogged down about being without a system for a time or finding that a system no longer works. No guilt. Just move on and try something a little different. Or a lot different.

How do you refresh your life, meet your goals? Am I the only one who has this rotating system craziness? Do you make New Years resolutions or do you restart throughout the year or is this something you never do?

Alright, I need to go make a phone call to set up an appointment. Then maybe some dreaming and planning!


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Flying With Young Children

I am sitting by a warm fire, Myka is reading a book near by, and Emery is napping in his room. Being in Pennsylvania is wonderful. I really miss Stephen, and I am glad it will only be a week until he is here too. Grandparents are amazing and I think those Grandmas actually Enjoy changing diapers! (At least, I’m going to continue pretending they do…) There is snow outside, we went to church this morning, and we will have a relaxing football filled afternoon. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Our journey here was long. So very long. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t horrible either. I kept a list of the things we used or that I wished we had with us, so I could pack better next time. It’s been helpful to look back over those notes and think about what went well and what I want to do differently.

This was our itinerary:
6:30 pm on Thursday – 1 hour drive to airport
10:00 pm – 2 1/2 hour flight from Dammam, Saudi Arabia to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
8 hour layover in Jeddah
8:30 am on Friday – 13 1/2 hour flight to Dulles (Washington DC)
2 hour drive to our home away from home – the Grandparent’s house
6:00 pm – arrive!

The two hour time span we gave ourselves to get checked into our flight, through security, and to our gate worked really well. We didn’t have much time just sitting and waiting, but I didn’t feel rushed. We realized on the drive to the airport that the stroller was left at home. It was the first thing I wished we had! Emery wanted to run all the time and everywhere. We had two small suitcase type of carry-ons, a diaper bag, and my mom had a backpack. With the stroller we could have hung the diaper bag on the handles, one person would have pushed the stroller, and the other pulled the two carry ons. With Emery, containment is critical. I had a wrap, but I didn’t take the time to try it. Plus, he is super heavy. Even with the added challenge of keeping Emery with us, this first part of the trip went smoothly.

On our first flight we used crayons, notebooks, books, small toy cars, rice cakes, sippy cups for each child, two Ipads for movies, headphones for each child, and pretzels. I was Sure the kids would fall asleep on this flight. They didn’t. Not a bit. They didn’t even act tired. So they were quite tired, though in denial, when we got to Jeddah.

I over packed in preparation for our long, overnight layover in Jeddah. I felt like I was in limbo there. Maybe purgatory… We had to get our checked bags, so we had all of our luggage. We couldn’t check in until four hours before take off. We were stuck in the waiting area at the check in gates until 4:30 am, and I wasn’t going to move sleeping kids even if I could go somewhere nicer at that point. The seats were uncomfortable, the announcements were loud, and no one got a lot of sleep. Stephen suggested that we take our little play tent from Ikea. Best. Idea. Ever. The kids didn’t go to sleep in it. We tried that for about 45 minutes, but they just giggled and wiggled and did not sleep. We had to hold them and cuddle, and then they fell asleep. We carefully laid them in the tent. I had Myka and Emery’s blankets plus a couple extra ones. I used an Iphone and an Ipad to play white noise (rain, actually) to help block out all the other noises and keep them asleep as long as possible. They slept from 2:15 am until almost 6:00 am. I checked in at 5:30 while everyone else was sleeping. (Is it important for gate agents to see the person they are checking in? I’m glad they let the children sleep anyway.) Then an employee of Saudia Airlines came over to ask us why we were there for so long. They noticed we were there for a while and thought we had missed our flight or something. They ended up inviting us to the first class lounge, and we were escorted through security.

The most important part of the lounge: Clean Bathrooms! with toilet paper, paper towels, and soap! My mom was pretty disappointed in the bathrooms in the main part of the airport. They also had a ton of food and drinks. Too bad we were too tired to eat or drink any of it. That still makes me feel disappointed. I like free things. We were only there for about an hour, but Myka and my mom got some more sleep. We then struggled with Emery to the gate and headed toward the plane. This is when I Really should have put him in the wrap. And Myka was so tired; she was crying and whining a lot.

Sometimes, Myka has the worst timing. But really it’s my fault. I should have taken her to the bathroom in the lounge. As we exit security and are waiting in a crowded room to board the bus that will take us to the plane, Myka announces that she has to go to the bathroom. Before I can find out if there is one I can get to without going through security again, we start moving toward the busses. But actually we just all move to another room to wait for the bus. When I see that the bus is filling up and we may end up waiting for another one, I ask an employee if we could possible get on the first bus (I apologize to everyone we butted in front of). After much fumbling of passports we get on the bus, and then the bus gets to the airplane, but then we sit. And sit. And wait. And good golly could we just get on the plane already! Finally they open the doors and my mom and Myka hurry ahead. Now I have the two suitcases and Emery. I just don’t have enough hands. A very nice person helps me get my bags off the bus and onto the tarmac. It would have been ok if Emery could have managed the stairs on his own, but the height bothers him, so he was barely crawling up them. Until some other lovely people help me get my bags up the stairs. And then another lady carries my one bag through the airplane to my seat. Thank you, all you wonderful people. I can’t thank you enough, but I promise to help others whenever I can. When I have it together. Whenever that happens… Anyway, Myka got to the bathroom, we all got to our seats, and we were settled and ready for our long flight.

The kids didn’t sleep much on this flight either. Emery took two naps and Myka took one. They watched movies on the seat back tvs and played games on the Ipad. They each had a little backpack with things to play with, and Emery especially liked the small plastic animals Grandma Becky brought for him. Myka had many fits and mini melt downs before she finally slept at 3:30 pm. With a delay before take off, it was a good fourteen hours on the plane. That is a long time, and they did pretty well considering the circumstances. Having my mom with me was a life saver. I don’t know how I would do it without another person along to help. The three of us wouldn’t fit in the bathroom. How do people do this on their own?!

We were all shattered by the time we got to Dulles, but so glad to be back in the US. It didn’t take us long to get through customs, and we were soon being picked up by Grandpa Sands and heading towards a home and bed. It was pretty cold out, but it was great to see snow! We had the kids coats ready, but the car was warm and we got them inside quickly. I kinda appreciated the briskness in the air. Haha! They both fell sleep on the ride home. Myka didn’t ever really wake up when we got to Grandpa and Grandma’s house. Grandma Gail held her, and she would stir, whine, and go back to sleep. Emery woke up all cheery and talkative, however. He had lots of questions. “What’s this? Oh. Chatter chatter. Plane! Laugh! Snow! Chatter…” He was charming.

Things I Will Do Differently:
- I always think I will freshen up at some point on these long flights, but visiting the bathroom on the airplane never makes me feel ‘fresh’. But I could have used a comb. I had one along, but it was in one of the bigger carry ons and was up in the overhead compartment. I didn’t get those down unless I absolutely had to. Next time I will definitely pack less, even with the long lay over. I had tons of snacks and hardly used any of them. Lots of activities, but we just stuck to the ones in the kids small backpacks. So we will carry less next time.

- I like the idea of carrying extra sets of clothes for an emergency or big mess, but I don’t think I’ve ever used the extra clothes I tote around. I realize this is like insurance.. The one time I don’t have extra clothes someone will throw up or spill a drink all over themselves. I find this whole train of thought annoying.

- Bring the stroller.

- Bring more books. When we were waiting for take off or landing and couldn’t have electronics out, books kept the children’s attention well. We borrowed some children’s books from a friend (a great idea!) and the new-to-us books really kept them quiet and still.

- I won’t worry about the kids sleeping or not sleeping. Our first night here they slept great, and we are pretty much on a normal schedule. I’m making that statement a little early; sometimes that jet lag hits a couple days after traveling. We will see how the week plays out, but so far so good.

- Be patient. Poor Myka. She was so very tired and was bursting into tears about everything and nothing. Maybe I should have put her in the wrap… I was always hurrying her along, but we were never late for anything. I could have been more patient.

Thinking about what I want to do differently makes me excited about doing it again. Is that crazy? Talk to me in six weeks, right before we head back, and see how I’m doing!

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New Friends and a New Year

January 1st is being overshadowed by our eminent travels.  I haven’t really thought about it being a new year or taken the time to shake off the old and dream about the new.  Once I am in Pennsylvania relaxing with family I’ll sit down to clarify my ideas about how I want this new year to be.  I’ll start by looking ahead and thinking about how I want life to be (or how I want Me to be..) in five or ten years; then I’ll back up and figure out the day-to-day practices and yearly traditions that get us there.

For now I’m packing and thinking about dealing with flights and layovers with my two kids.  I am So Incredibly Thankful for my mom and that she is traveling with us!  As it gets closer and I figure out more ways to deal with the challenges I’m feeling more at ease about the whole thing.  Will I ever be able to travel without it being a ‘learning experience’?

In between bits of packing we are still going outside and playing with friends.  We had a New Years Eve dinner last night with four other families here.  It is so good to have friends here that we can get together with, and all our children played so well together (with a few minor fits thrown in just to keep things interesting).  One family just arrived here a couple weeks ago, and another will be moving back to the US in a month.  It’s interesting forming friendships with all this coming and going.

Here are some pictures from our fun outside today:

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Guest post by the house guest

My mom is here visiting for a couple weeks over the holidays, and I wanted to share her perspective on this crazy place with you!  Enjoy!

 

I am having an awesome time – of course, just because I am with the kids and grandkids, it would be awesome anywhere!  But, this is a very interesting culture.  Very friendly, helpful, loving people… at least superficially.   I don’t know what they are really thinking or saying!  LOL!

Stephen is working Christmas day… same day as all the others over here – although, what I found interesting was that EVERYONE wished me a “Merry Christmas”!  And I always returned the greeting!  :)  The Christmas dinner went quite well!  There were two other families here, each with two children.  So we had 7 adults and 6 kids ranging in age from 9 months to 9 years in Kelsie and Stephen’s apartment.  Stephen had deep fried 3 turkeys the night before and we made mashed potatoes, gravy, and 5 different kinds of cookies/treats and the other families brought a broccoli dish, a squash dish, cooked carrots, rolls, and cranberry salad.  It was all soooo good!

We still haven’t opened presents with the kids because Stephen has been working and will be off Friday and Saturday.  We will have our Christmas on Friday when he has off.  We will also be doing some sightseeing those two days.  Even though Saudi really discourages tourism, there are some things of interest.

This morning Kelsie, the kids, and I went (on the little bus) to the grocery store.  Fairly simple.  The bus arrives at THIS time… you are on it or you miss the grocery store.  The kids HAVE to be seat belted, so you have to find a seat that has a seat belt that actually works.  The adults-no problem-doesn’t matter… LOL!  This is THE grocery store bus that the grocery store sends to the compound to pick up customers!  I think my Giant at home should start this service.  The bus drops you off at the door, picks you up at the door, baggers load the groceries on the bus, the bus driver drops you off at your door at home and unloads your groceries!  Wow!  Not all of life is that easy over here.  LOL!  The grocery store had many familiar items in it and many that said “imported from USA”, but were actually products made in some other country…. funny!  I got some Arabic coffee and some Arabic pastries to bring home.  I forget to take my phone and take photos, but there was a sign that said no photos.  There were lots of security cameras, though.  It was a somewhat normal grocery store except for the pricing was all in SARs (Saudi Arabian Riyals)

Stephen will work until 4PM today, and when he gets off today, we will have dinner here at their apartment with a friend, Dean Sweigart, from Elizabethtown, PA!!  Haha – on the other side of the world – someone from my country, state, county, town!!

An interesting thing here is that this compound has a wall about 12′ high.  To get in the gate, each vehicle (bus, private car, company  truck, taxi) has to stop at the first guard house.  A guard comes out with a mirror on a long wand to walk around the vehicle and look underneath, nod approval, and then open this HUGE 12′ solid steel gate.  On to the next guard house….  They check to see if you are supposed to be on this compound and then they open a second 12′ solid steel gate.

When they have the call to prayer, one of the girls here said it sounds like zombies… it really does, and it happens 5 or 6 times a day.

If I have some details wrong, Stephen and Kelsie can correct the misinformation!  LOL

 


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My mommy loves me!

 

 

Yep.  Just look at all these things she brought from the US:

 

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We made treats for our Christmas dinner with these plus some Hershey’s kisses.  The chocolate kisses didn’t melt right (they were bought here in Saudi and were probably old), but they were still good.

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Typical Christmas treats!

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Yum…

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These. Are. My. Favorite.

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No! THESE are my favorite!

She knows how to make this girl happy.  Food from home is probably one of the things expats love the most! Thank you, mom!


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crazy weather

Back in November we had some crazy weather here in Saudi.  It rained and rained Hard.

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Our apartment leaked. Our brand new apartment.

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And then it leaked a lot more.

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The first time it leaked was during the day.  My downstairs neighbor, who lived directly beneath us, said she had leaks along the wall where the large windows are.  Sure enough we had some small leaks there too. The second time it leaked was in the middle of the night.  The thunder woke Myka up, and she came over to our room.  I told Stephen he should go see how our living room was, thinking there might be more leaking like before.  Nope.  Water was pouring from the recessed lighting.  We got every large bowl, bucket, cooler, and even some litter boxes that were not being used.  I then emptied all of the containers several times.  It was a big mess. I used almost all of our towels cleaning up, and our printer got water inside and is broken.

Here’s a video:

Some low lying areas flooded; drainage just cannot keep up with this kind of extended downpour.  The compound we previously lived in had standing water in the houses.  I am so glad I was only dealing with rain water not standing water mixed with sewage and who-knows-what grossness.

Saudi Arabia doesn’t know how to deal with this kind of rain.

Usually the rain makes things muddier here.  This time, everything was washed clean and then it got very green!  It was an exciting couple of days.

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