Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas!

Happy New Year!

May 2012 be filled with blessings and joy. May you prosper and be healthy. May the world be a better place. May I finally have the strength to lose all those extra pounds that are weighing me down, and may all the problems in this part of the world finally be settled and people allowed to move on (why not throw that in there too?).

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas concert, 2011

After months of rehearsing and a lot of hours singing, practicing and fine tuning, we finally put on our AUB Choir and Choral Society Christmas concert this week. Assembly Hall was absolutely packed both nights. It was pretty amazing to finally see it all come together, and although I was nervous during the procession, it all went really well. It was fun to sing Britten's A Ceremony of Carols with the smaller group, and Hark! will always make me happy with a couple of spirituals to go, but what really blew my mind this time was the Rig Veda. When we first started rehearsing it I was not impressed at all, but boy did that piece take my breath away! (Figuratively AND literally speaking of course.) We ended the concert with Christmas carols outside, while the AUB Christmas lights were lit. Very festive and Christmas-y indeed.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Our little guy had pneumonia

We are not sure how Abraham got so sick, but it might be a combination of a number of things: 

-a very aggressive bacterial infection

-a lot of new germs (he practically lives in the playground where hundreds of kids play every -day, cats pee and poop, and random strange women kiss him every day)

-the fact that he doesn’t really blow his nose very well, and 

-our inability to get him to take anti-inflammatory medication, such as Panadol. 

It started with a pretty bad cold a couple of weeks ago, including fever, a lot of snot, and a cough. After Abraham got better, the cough lingered. Every night I would put him to sleep and after about an hour he would start coughing, so much I practically had to spend most of the night holding him up so that he could sleep. After about a week it got worse: he was getting a lot more congested, with a runny nose, and a constant cough (sleepless nights) that started sounding worse and worse, and eventually the fever came back. He was obviously suffering and would start crying every time he had to cough, point to his chest or to right under his eyes and say “Mama, that’s a boo-boo here.” After a couple of days of this, I came home one evening from choir rehearsal to find out that he had vomited, out of the blue and not from a coughing fit. Our warning flag went up. That night, as I was holding him in my arms, asleep, feverish, stuffy nose with a wet cough, I noticed that he was panting and wheezing with a heavy chest. My husband and I looked at each other and knew I would spend the next day taking Abraham to the doctor. As parents, we had the below passage practically memorized:

The major symptoms of pneumonia are:
·         Moderate to severe cough - often junky sounding, but not always.
·         Sustained rapid or labored breathing (as opposed to temporary rapid breathing from a high fever).
·         Medium to high fever - usually will be over 102, but not always.
·         Chest pains - not just during coughing, but in between coughing fits as well.
·         Vomiting - not just vomiting from a big coughing fit, but vomiting even in between coughing fits.
·         Blue color around the lips and face - from lack of oxygen.
·         Wheezing - although wheezing is more often a sign of a viral chest cold, it sometimes can mean pneumonia.
·         If your child has ALL the above symptoms, then he probably has pneumonia.

Yes, thank you Dr. Sears, my child has all of the above symptoms, except for the blue lips and face, which just meant we didn’t have to rush off to the hospital right then and there, but could get some sleep first.

We first went to see a general pediatrician at the AUB clinic, who after having listened to our story and to Abraham’s lungs suspected pneumonia as well. She sent us to the ER, where we spent a lot of time waiting, but also getting Abraham chest x-rays making visible the nasty little puss pockets on both his lungs. Two more doctors examined him before we left with the diagnosis pneumonia, a sinus infection, tonsillitis, and a mild ear infection in his left ear (which would explain his preference to lie on his other side). We got a nice strong dose of antibiotics as well, which I’ve had to force-feed my stubborn little 2-year old.

It took two days for the fever to break, and although Abraham is still visibly weak with a wet cough, he is definitely on the mend. Alhamdulillah, as our friends in Egypt would say.

Busy December

Happy Thanksgiving?! ... 

Happy 3rd of Advent! 

While I blinked, 1st, 2nd AND 3rd of Advent rushed by, a lot of work, daily choir rehearsals, parties, school activities, arrangements and sicknesses (including *a lot* of sleepless nights) happened all at once. At some point I found myself in the ER holding Abraham's hand while he was getting a chest x-ray, confirming our suspicion that he had pneumonia. The next moment I’m translating some German text into Swedish at 3 am. Then suddenly we’re having dinner with an old friend and colleague from our Cairo days. Continuously I’m kissing the boys good-bye to attend choir rehearsal. And tomorrow is concert day.

Does this post seem confusing and full of random mentionings and events? Then you got it right. That’s what our life has been like for the past three weeks. 


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving from Lebanon!

Because American Thanksgiving is not a holiday here, we celebrated this past weekend. We had dinner with friends at our house – a few families coming together – and cooked all the food ourselves (not a given here in Lebanon, I’ve come to learn). Turkey, a Butterball purchased at Spinney's, cooked to perfection, along with all the dressings, and pumpkin pie for dessert. It was great. The food was awesome, the conversation interesting and fun, and I think everyone had a good time. Almost as a holiday-caricature, half-unconscious,  after all the plates had been emptied a couple of times, we all leaned back, patted our full tummies, and moaned, unable to fit another bite, exclaiming, “Happy Holidays!”

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

11-11 somewhere down memory lane

Deep down in my memory basket I have preserved a cold, windy, dark and cloudy November day in Antwerp just about a decade and a half ago.

Just as it was getting dark, Prof. Husband and I, only young undergraduate students then, stood on the beach with a bottle of 1986 Margeaux that a friend had given us. Rough, black clouds in the distance over the English Channel threatened to launch a storm at any moment. It was too cold to drink and our fingers were almost too stiff from the freezing water the wind kept spraying at us to put our rings on, but there we were, exchanging vowels. Through sickness and health. Until death do us part.

We didn’t linger, but went to a warm, cozy local restaurant with brown wood paneling, red, thick velvet curtains, an open fireplace, warm wine and good food to celebrate the beginning of the rest of our lives.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Making cream cheese

The day before yesterday Courtney made cream cheese.

For some inexplicable reason Courtney’s very much into making things out of living bacteria for the moment - to our Jane-Buddhist maid's great horror. Following the sourdough phase, this apparently seemed like a natural continuation. We both often make yogurt, but this is slightly different, I think, in that it is a little more complicated. He’s currently working on a couple of different cheeses that take time, but the cream cheese was finished in just a couple of days (it's both great and a little disturbing to know how fast bacteria can grow in this climate). It turned out really nice, albeit a bit more sour than store-bought cream cheese.

The biggest problem we had was: what were we going to do with it? 500+ grams of full fat cream cheese. We would either need a lot of bagels, or… that’s right, we made cheese cake! Yum!

Now we just have to wait a few weeks to see how -or even if- the brie cheese turns out.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Time to catch up

So, I work a lot. I homeschool our boys, I take care of a two-year old 24/7, I manage the majority of our household duties, organization and planning, I help my husband with his work, and I work - as in; I have an actual paid job. For fun - and to keep my mind from going bonkers - I sing in a choir and in a smaller group, and I run.

I am always busy, but I don’t get overwhelmed, and I can usually manage all these things all at once. 

Yes, really. 

However lately, I haven’t been able to keep up. I don’t know if it’s the extra choir group or maybe I’ve taken on too many editing/translation jobs. It could be that my husband has been extra busy, that Abraham is getting more demanding, or that the older boys need more attention with regards to school work, social arrangements or sports. Whatever the reason, I’ve been in that perpetual state where I’m constantly playing catch-up for the past couple of weeks.

This weekend, extra long courtesy of Abraham’s faith in God, gave me a good chance to catch up. I only had one small, easy translation to do, and along with only two sports events, one administrative task and one social event, this provided me with some extra time to get things done. I didn’t go into it with an exact plan, but since I had an idea of all that had to be done, I decided I would just let urgency decide. When I woke up on Saturday morning, around 6:30 am as usual, it became clear to me what I needed to start the weekend with. I got Abraham some fruit and cereal, set him up with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and went back to bed. I slept another two hours, then I had a light breakfast and spent the next hour on the treadmill at the gym. I felt so much better. It wasn’t on any list, not even my mental running list of things that need to be taken care of, but boy was it urgent. I needed some rest and a moment to myself.

I spent the rest of the weekend more relaxed than in a long time, going through my chores with fewer sighs, and paying more attention to my family. Out of all the parenting advice I see, setting time aside for yourself is one of the most common articles, however I always look at them and think “Yeah, yeah, whatever. What parent reads this and has a revelation?” I do set time aside for myself – my scheduled music sessions every week, and exercise several times a week – but this weekend was different. I took a moment for myself, when I needed it, without working around some schedule, or putting everyone else first. 

Yeah, I know; what possessed me, right? 

I don’t know, but it sure felt good. Let me conclude this with the cliché:

This happy mother is a better mother.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happy Halloween in Beirut, 2011

Since we are finally getting to know more people here in Beirut, and since we’ve pretty much settled into our apartment, we decided to throw a Halloween party this year. Our invitations went out very late, and it’s a busy time for most, but a nice group of people still came. Courtney made some really nice dishes: lamb curry and chicken curry with rice and mint-yogurt sauce, gravlax, a thai salad, a Turkish carrot and garlic dip; and I made quail eggs, vegetable dip, and Halloween punch with gummy worms and ice blocks the shape of a hand (very popular with the little ones). Courtney also made a lemon meringue pie and a black bottom pie, and people brought cookies, cakes and more sweets than we could ever eat. We had the sliding doors open with tables and chairs on the balcony - it was a perfect temperature outside – and the kids stayed at the playground until it closed. In general, a good first party in our new home!

Later today, the kids get to go on their very first real Trick or Treat. Obviously we never went out in Belgium (trick or treat’ing has just started picking up there over the past few years) or in Cairo. At the yearly Halloween party that the CAC organized in Cairo, the boys would walk through “Trick or Treat Lane” where high school kids would hand out candy to the kids from class room doors, but that is as close to trick or treat’ing as my kids have ever got. Today, AUB has announced an official Trick or Treat time, and the boys will walk around the campus houses (knocking on decorated doors only) wearing their Halloween costumes and bringing Trick or Treat bags.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Art morning

Finger paint: one of this homeschooling mother's least favorite crafting tools. But this boy loves it so, that sometimes I make myself go through the effort of cleaning up the post-fingerpaint disaster that always follows.

What do you think the chances are of our Middle Eastern finger paint being harmful if ingested? 50-50? I could tell from the face he made though when he got some in his mouth, that it doesn't taste good at all. So at least I know he will not be eating it on purpose.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Boys practicing Taekwondo kicks in the living room

How do you take pictures like this without them being blurry? I am still trying to figure it out.

This past week I broke down and got the boys a full set of Taekwondo equipment (pricey! but necessary) and they've been practicing punches and kicks ever since - mainly in the living room.

"What happens next?" you might ask. William is like a brick; doesn't move an inch!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Come October...

Since the move and since my mom got here, every moment of the day for the past few weeks have been filled with something: everything from intense school work and translation work, to treadmilling and enjoying a cooking show on television with my mom at the end of the day.

I think of life being pretty much the same regardless of where you live. No matter where your home is; exotic Singapore, healthy Edmunton, or the chaotic Middle East, your kids will still need clothed, fed, schooled, they’ll still get sick when you least need it, and you’ll still need to work to make a living (OK, at least most people), go grocery shopping, do the dishes, and laundry. I know this, because I myself have fallen asleep, exhausted after a hard week, on the couch on a Friday night in front of a movie in Sweden, Belgium, the US, Egypt and Lebanon. If we were to move to Asia or Australia, I’m pretty sure I would do the same thing there. I also know this, because when I talk to my friends around the world, through Facebook or by other means, they are all doing these things too. These are things that come with that which we call ‘life,’ regardless of where you live.

Of course there are slight variations in our everyday life: I can’t shop at ICA or Walmart so I get my food from a Saudi Arabian grocery store where the products are different, which has an impact on our everyday meals. I don’t think we would eat as much Middle Eastern food if we lived in Edmunton. And when I buy ham I chat with Hissam who asks me every time if I know of some Swedish girl who would like to marry him so that he could leave Lebanon. I’m not sure a grocer in Boston would ask me this. (Although he might ask me if I know any Swedish girls, come to think of it.)

Life is also slightly different because of the way we are compelled to do things, i.e. how you get your groceries and where you do your sports activities, but this, in my experience, doesn’t differ from country to country, but depends on where you live in relation to what you need. So even though we only moved a few blocks last month, our life has changed dramatically since then, and we have had to spend some time getting into new routines and find a new rhythm of life. This kind of thing takes time, but I feel like we are getting there. Let this blog post vouch for that.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

October's little pleasures

Beach days...

My 10-year old son's birthday cake...
My new large kitchen with a view of the playground...

Saturday, October 1, 2011

While I was not blogging...

20 days is a long time – even for me - to not post anything, not even a photo. I’m sorry. Everything else took over for a while here.

The week before our move from our apartment in Hamra to AUB campus, I got a big job that I simply could not turn down. I worked continuously for several days, just keeping up with the bare necessities. When the work was finished, the move took over our lives entirely. Packing is hard work, and organizing everything surrounding a move (even if it’s just within the same city) will consume your life entirely for as long as it takes. When the movers finally carried the last of our things into our new apartment, after nine hours of transferring furniture, boxes, and everything else from our old apartment to our new, a few tears of exhaustion and relief rolled down my cheeks. I knew then that my work was only half-way done, as unpacking and organizing can be quite a challenge as well, but I felt the hard part was done.

We’ve lived in our new apartment for a week now, and most of our things have been sorted through and put away. (It’s easier to do all this when the kids are safe and happy, playing at the playground outside our window.) We’ve returned the keys to our old apartment to the owner, and purchased a few things for our new place. The professor has started the new semester classes, the boys have resumed their schoolwork and we are all slowly getting used to the luxuries our new home provide. We all feel it is as if we have moved to Paradise. We have a home phone! And proper internet, cable television, and did I mention, we live right next to the playground? We have a water dispenser here, and Nestle delivers water once a week for almost nothing. We don’t have to turn on the electricity for the water heater two hours in advance every time we want to take a shower or wash the dishes. Or rather, we don’t have to take cold showers, because honestly, remembering this kind of thing takes a lot of energy and planning, and with a toddler who can go from sparkling clean to a disaster in less than five seconds, it’s not always possible at all to plan ahead like that. Most of all, we’re not paying an arm and a leg in rent. In fact, I think we’re paying about a third of what we did at our old place, which means we have money left over for other, more pleasant things. We are honestly a bit shocked about how thoroughly screwed over we were last year. We all thought last year was hard; this family’s dark ages, and although we are all currently exhausted – mentally (both the professor and I forgot important meetings and commitments this week, and I almost forgot about my mother’s arrival yesterday) and physically (sore feet!) – from these past tumultuous moving weeks, we realize the potential the upcoming academic year holds.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Moving week...

 I am a big disliker of messes and clutter: I love cabinets, shelves with neatly stacked boxes and containers, tidy storage units and clean, elegant table- and sidetable-tops with room for a candle or some flowers, and my teacup and book. In my home, I am content when there’s a special place for everything: Shoes in the shoe cabinet, books on shelves, pencils, erasers, rulers in a small box in a drawer, toys in baskets, photos in the Egyptian chest, papers in sorters, and electronics in the electronics cabinet. I am not a neat-freak, but I like… order. It makes me feel comfortable and happy.

Our apartment is currently a mess: along with half-unpacked suitcases and everything that came out of them, there are open, half-filled boxes everywhere. Every surface is cluttered with books, school material, computer cables, toys; but there’s no point in putting anything away because it all needs to get packed into a box over the next week anyways.

Having to look for a small unoccupied spot on the coffee table to put my tea cup down kills me, and seeing all our belongings laying around the house makes me feel at unease and a little nervous. I keep having to remind myself that soon, soon I will get to organize everything in our new apartment. Soon.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Flying Czech Airlines via Prague with children - never been worse

Is it because I’m getting older? Or is it because over the years, I’ve been accumulating young travel companions? Whatever the answer, flying seems harder and harder every time I do it.

This summer we didn’t even fly return to the US, but a meager 1,1 + 3,5 hours, with a one hour stop-over in Prague - from Lebanon to Denmark and back.

Checking in at Copenhagen airport is always comparatively easy, with short lines, helpful attendants, effective luggage- and security handling, and a wonderful children’s area. Every time I go through it, I wish I would run into the CEO so that I could give him or her an appreciative hug, and say “Thank you for thinking about me – nothing but a poor parent - and making my life a little easier!”

Once we leave Scandinavia, however, we are on our own. While the flying itself will be only slightly unpleasant (usually children will be occupied by food, sleep, or entertainment on the plane, and there isn’t really much that can go wrong), it is the queuing-part of a trip that will really kill any parent of young children. My youngest son, Abraham, is a very energetic two-year old, and like anyone his age, he does not like to wait in line. If he is put in a confined space to wait in line for a long time, he will eventually start to climb on the walls (literally), pull on the bands delineating the queuing area, try to run off, wander around, bother people, yell, or do whatever it is that people this age do when they get bored in small spaces.

Getting through check-in and security at Copenhagen airport and flying for a few hours is unpleasant, but not by any measures. In fact, all this would be all right – controllable - if Czech Airlines and Prague Airport weren’t so adamantly working against people traveling with young children.

Prague airport - which could be a quick, fun stop for us: off one plane, a play at the airport playground (which they have), and on board the next plane – is a long, queue-infested walk of terror. The Czech Republic – European Union – Schengen – WHOEVER it is – has turned a transfer at Prague airport into any parents’ nightmare.

As soon as you get off your first plane you have to stand in a no-line line to show your passport(s). People will be able to simply push their way past you and your children since there’s no system. If – when – you get past this, you have to walk through a transfer-transfer hall but to get to *your* transfer hall, you have to go through another passport control with often very long lines. To add insult to injury, on the way you will have to pass the airport playground and get through a tantrum - your child will SEE the fun playground and want to play but because of all the checks there’s no time to stop. The screaming will last you all the way to the next - seemingly random - security check. Really: why, oh why?! do they have to check our bags again when we are only transferring? We already went through this – in a much more efficient and pleasant way, may I add? – when we started our trip. In Prague, the lines will be extra long (because why keep more than one line open?), with no LEGO stops like in Copenhagen, and by the time you get to the actual security point, you will hold up the line trying to get your laptop out of your overfull bag with half a hand - while trying to contain a screaming and kicking toddler with all your might. (Try it. It’s hard.) Now, right after you don’t think things can get any worse (you’ve either dropped your laptop or your toddler at least twice) – the Czech security guards will be completely non-understanding and search you extra just for bringing kids – you’ll end up in a new, REALLY long line to go through boarding, with people consistently getting ahead of you in line. Because really; doesn’t everyone have boarding privileges over a mother with three young children? Czech Airlines rarely ever announce that people with children should board the plane first, and IF they do, they never enforce it. In fact, single people often push their way past people with children (because it’s easy – the parents are too busy keeping their kids in line under control to notice), and the attendants do nothing to discourage this. By the time you get on board, waiting in line behind every single passenger trying to fit their luggage in the over-head compartments, your children are beyond exhausted, at best.

Hint to all of you traveling without children who give me angry glances when my child is throwing a 30-decibel fit during take-off: IF YOU HAD LET ME ON THE PLANE FIRST, MY TIRED TODDLER WOULD HAVE GOT TO SETTLE IN AND FALLEN ASLEEP BEFORE TAKE-OFF, AND YOUR FLIGHT – EVERYONE’S FLIGHT - WOULD HAVE BEEN SO MUCH MORE PLEASANT!!

Did I mention one of my older boys threw up?

Sigh. It’s good to be home. No. More. Flying. For. A. While.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

End of the summer...

I am sitting in my mother’s garden in southern Sweden. It’s windy, cloudy, but a comfortable temperature. I can hear the boys playing in the forest, enjoying their last week here. The days are getting shorter, the nights are colder, and it’s getting time for us to head back to our real life, in Lebanon. Work, school, sports activities, choir rehearsals, dinners, dishes, laundry, play dates, the beach, and everything else that is part of our life in Beirut awaits us. As does moving out of our beautiful apartment across from Idriss in Hamra, and into a great apartment on the AUB campus, into a community, right next to the playground.

I am well rested, almost a little weary of the quiet, slow and uneventful life here that I long for at times during the busy school year. I am ready for some action! Days filled with activities, work and fun, friends, and exciting new developments. I even look forward to moving. It is a lot of work but it will also make for a fun step in our life; socially, health-wise (we’ll have immediate access to the sports facilities), economically things will lighten up a bit, etc. Good things will come.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The heir to the throne is carrying an heir to the throne

You all know I'm secretly a bit of a royalist, so imagine my joy yesterday when I got to share the great news with the rest of the Swedish people: Crown Princess Victoria is pregnant!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Kids out of control...

The boys have been playing with kids here in the village where we’re staying in Sweden, and have made a few friends, which is great. The bikes I bought for the boys off Sweden’s version of the Craig’s List at the beginning of the summer have provided the boys with a lot of freedom. They bike around the village with other boys and can go to the school playground whenever they want, without me having to bring them. It’s our first summer with this kind of independence for the boys. They are big boys now and I trust them. I know that they know to be careful on the bikes, that they know how to behave at the playground and towards other children, and that they are nice to others and look out for each other.

What I have no influence over however - as I’ve come to realize – is how other children act. William was at the school playground playing soccer with a bunch of kids, and when he was getting ready to leave, putting his helmet on to bike home, a boy came up to him and threw a handful of wet sand straight into William’s eyes. Twice. Somehow he managed to bike home, and I heard his cries as he locked his bike outside. When he came inside his eyes were totally covered in sand and he was rubbing them ferociously, screaming from the pain. Courtney and I tried washing the sand out as best as we could with water. It’s an amazing creation, the body, and how fantastic its defense system actually is. Your eyes will produce very large amounts of phlegm to lump together and expel foreign objects. It took us a while, but by bedtime William had a fairly clean, albeit very sore eye. It was red and extremely sore for a couple of days. You could see the cornea was scratched. We gave him Ibuprofen and kept a close eye on it (no pun intended, ha ha). Finally, three days later, William’s eye is much better.

The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers; Reclaiming our Passion, Purpose, and Sanity: the run down

I like books by Dr. Phil. Yes, really. And this book by Meg Meeker reminded me of Dr. Phil’s books. I assume a lot of you will disagree, but I don’t often appreciate these kinds of books. I don’t read a lot of books like this and admit my experience is limited, but from a handful authors (most writing on family, children or education), I have to say that the best I’ve encountered so far is Dr. Phil. Meg Meeker – or to make you even more upset, should I call her Dr. Meg? – gives sound and straightforward advice. She has a very clear idea that she presents, and it’s logical, kind, and good advice. It stems from natural back-to-basics gut feelings combined with scientific evidence and Christian morals (in the good sense). I know, that’s a mouthful of a theory – but it works.

Dr. Meeker suggests that we will become better mothers, wives and persons if we can create ten habits:

1. Understand your value as a mother: it doesn’t matter if you are fat, unemployed, poor; you are valuable!
This was a great chapter to open up the book with. Why are we so afraid of feeling good about ourselves? Why should we not be proud of who we are and what we accomplish?

2. Maintain key friendships: friends are good – they empower you, make you feel better, help you, and make your life happier.
This chapter made me thoughtful and a bit sad. In theory I think the author is right, however as an expat homeschooling mother, I don’t currently have any “inner circle” friends – I really can’t - in the sense that Dr. Meeker presents, and I’m feeling the loss. I do have really close friends, friends for life that were at some point that kind of friends, but now they all live far away, and although I know they are always there for me, it can be in spirit only. If something happened and I needed urgent physical help from a friend (and it couldn’t be my husband), I wouldn’t know who to call. I had close friends in school, close friends in college, and great friends in Belgium. I made some great friends in Cairo over the three years that we lived there. I’ve managed to make friends in Lebanon – I’ve met some great women - but I haven’t (yet) made friends like that. This takes time. Finding good friends is hard, and making great friends takes a lot of investment – time and emotional effort. After x number of painful good-byes, and knowing that we are not in Lebanon to stay, it’s particularly difficult.

3. Value and practice faith: you need to believe in something good; be it God, the goodness of mankind or Allah. Faith, hope, and love are essential to our existence.
I don’t spend enough time exploring my faith. Do you?

4. Say no to competition: if you are constantly comparing yourself with other people, you will never be able to feel quite content about yourself, you will feel unsatisfied, jealous, and you will have trouble developing good friendships. Accept yourself for who you are, be happy for others, and you will be happier.
This chapter pointed out something I haven’t thought about a lot: how we compare ourselves to others, and obscurely turn what is good about someone else into something bad about ourselves. As Dr. Meeker points out, sometimes this bad feeling even turns into jealousy. Elizabeth Foss discusses reading blogs, and says:

"I think that blogs, for all their good and for all the community they foster, are particularly detrimental to helping women stop comparing. It's so easy to compare when it pops up right in front of you day after day.

Here's the thing: most bloggers sweep some powder across their noses and put on a little lipstick before they open their virtual doors. Even when we're honest about our bad days, most of us are conscious about how appropriate it is to put things in print. If the blogger comes from a print journalism background, even  more so. She understands the power of the written word and she's inclined to be prudent. We put on our company manners so to speak."
I thought about this issue as well when I read this chapter. I read a few blogs written by homeschooling mothers, writers, and although I find a lot of inspiration in their writings, it sometimes makes me feel bad to read about all the amazing activities, look at the beautiful pictures and find out about all the amazing things that happen in their lives. What is wrong with me who did not come up with all these fantastic, creative things to do with my family? Why haven’t I worked harder to find time to write like these mothers do and publish my work? I should have written several books by now! Why don’t I knit beautiful sweaters, teach yoga, take my daughters to ballet every day (if I had daughters), organize trips, finish my dissertation, run 10k every morning, bake beautiful cakes and all our bread, build a science lab in my kitchen, spend more time on teaching the boys music, pray and meditate more, and keep up with all the cool stuff on the internet? Clearly, there is something wrong with me; I must be lazy and stupid.

5. The money issue: money can never buy you complete security, or love, or certainty that your kids will turn out well. For these things, you need something else: your faith, hope and love, your time and effort.
Well. I can’t say this is one of our problems because we don’t have any extra money to spend on our children, and since there’s no option, we don’t feel bad – we just can’t. I can see how this would be a problem in a lot of families though, and especially here in Sweden it seems children have *everything*, yet they don’t seem more happy or closer to their parents.

6. Make time for solitude: we all need to think and spend some honest time with ourselves. It makes us stronger as persons and as social creatures.
I’m one of the mother’s who would say, “I don’t even have time to do things I LIKE – why would I try to set aside time to do something as boring as NOTHING?!” However I will give this a chance over the next month. I do feel like sometimes I need a break, if only for a few minutes.

7. Give and get love in healthy ways: Love your kids, your family and friends for who they are, unconditionally, and show it. Accept your loved ones the way they are, but don’t take no shit! “Nothing is tougher than loving well.”
My children are still young, and I have yet to experience the problems that seem to come with puberty. I am thankful that we have these early years to build up a good, healthy and loving relationship. Dr. Sears writes more about this topic in his Discipline Book.

8. Find ways to live simply: Don’t let life get ahead of you. Figure out what is important to you and live by it.
I found this chapter very helpful as well. There are so many things I still want with my life, things I am trying to do, and it is easy to lose track of what is important. Making a list of priorities when things get out of hand is a great idea.

9. Let go of fear: Don’t worry so much. You can’t control everything.
Hard for any mother. This chapter made me think of the time that William’s side was cut open by a sharp spinning nail at an ancient playground along the desert road Cairo-Alexandria. I remember how I felt when I looked at the wound and quickly concluded that this was something I could not fix by myself. I needed a hospital with a doctor, shots, suture kits, bandages. I was in the middle of the Egyptian desert, my boy was severely hurt, and I could not help him – I didn’t even know how to start helping him. Asking for help and receiving it was luckily not difficult, however the feeling I felt the moment I saw my baby so badly hurt, the complete loss of control, was a bit of a shock. (You can read the whole story here.)

10. Hope is a decision – so make it! Appreciate what you have, have faith in yourself and others, and expect good things to come.
I think I can, I think I can. I have so much to be thankful for. A.J. Jacobs works for Esquire and is the author of a couple of funny, witty and interesting books, all of which I have read (I just finished My Life As An Experiment). One of the books is The Year of Living Biblically. He said after his year of living according to the Torah and the Bible that one major impact it had on his life is that he is much more thankful; thankful for the great things in his life as well as little things. I think this ties in with the first chapter of Dr. Meeker’s book: we need to think about what is good, expect good to come, and if we do, we will be happier.

1 Corinthians 13:13: “So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers; Reclaiming our Passion, Purpose, and Sanity

Despite my limited exposure to all the brilliance out there in the web world, once in a while I run into some great inspiration. One of the blogs I read has been discussing a particular book for a while, and I got so inspired I ordered it (which may sound easy if you live in the US, but please remember I live in the Middle East and spend my summer in Sweden, making book orders either difficult and/or very expensive). The book The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers, Reclaiming our Passion, Purpose, and Sanity is written by Meg Meeker, M.D. and is not like other books that may come to your mind when you hear that kind of title. It’s inspiring. 

There are some ideas that are obvious – this is the main problem I have with books like these, that they often just state the obvious and nothing else – but the author goes a little further and makes the discussions interesting, by bringing in personal stories, experiences and accounts. I’ll get back to you after I’ve finished the book, but so far, I’m very excited to be reading it. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Summer fun

 Abraham  plays in the backyard. Sometimes I get a glimpse of the older boys as they ride by the house or come in for an occasional drink. Warm and sunny summer days are good.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The World Wide Amazing Web

It’s a stressful environment, the internet. I have many friends on Facebook who frequently post links to really interesting articles, blog posts, websites or studies, and mostly after having read whatever was posted, I think, “Gosh; how do these people find time to FIND this stuff?” How do they have time to read or even just browse every single New Yorker issue, all the New York times blogs, the Al Jazeera in-depth articles, every single Ebert review, hundreds of blogs and I don’t even know what else? And then to post what they liked best on Facebook, their blog, or Twitter? Am I missing something? Is there a magic collection engine that find everything you would like that has been published over the past 24 hours and delivers it to you with neat little abstracts?

I wish I could organize my time better online, but I feel like I’m stuck in a slow system. I check Facebook, my gmail, a couple of newspapers and I’ve selected out of the thousands or more interesting blogs just a few that give me thoughts and ideas or make me feel something – happy, sad, excited, inspired, or just content. Even though I would love to read about the latest research on women’s health, education, child development, or articles that relate to certain political or other issues I am interested in, I don’t scour the New York Times, the Chicago Sun Times, BBC or other media for reading material every day, or even every week or month. I just don’t have the time.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Enjoying our Sweden vacation

My mom’s house is situated in a small community in the farmlands of southern Sweden. Right behind her house is a small forest with a biking path that if you follow it past some houses leads to a small playground. There’s a store, a pizza place, a bank and a public tennis court next to a soccer field. It is the ideal place to spend a few summer weeks away from Beirut.

Our first morning in Sweden the boys and I went for a long walk along the old railroad tracks. The sun was shining from a blue sky, and the beauty of the lush, deep dark green trees and fields, along with the sounds and sweet smell of clean nature, was almost overwhelming. We picked wild raspberries and cherries and ate, admired the beautiful wild flowers, saw butterflies, snails, birds and other little creatures, and enjoyed just being. August and William said it was the best morning they had had in a very long time, and Abraham was bubbling with a strain of joyful comments.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Summer travels at last

After a lot of work, beach time and some illness, I finally found myself zipping up our bags, all packed up for our trip to Sweden. The only flight available to us was a 3 am departure from Beirut, with an early morning stopover in Prague. We left for the airport sometime after midnight, not having slept since the night before. All went well, and the boys fell asleep almost immediately as soon as we got on the plane to Prague – in fact, they slept the entire flight. I managed to sleep a little – I think. I used to be able to sleep sitting up like that, but now… Maybe I’m too big to get comfortable? It was unpleasant to say the least. When we got to Prague I couldn’t wake Abraham up and I had to carry him off the plane and through the airport. The older boys were sleepy but very good and great helpers. We only had about 40 minutes until our next flight, and because of all the passport and security checks at Prague airport, that’s barely enough time.

When William passed through the security check it started beeping and a police officer came up to search him. When he was standing there with his arms out, the police officer padding him all over, William burst out with a smile on his face , “Oh nice. Free Czech massage!!” After only an hour or two of sleep at 6:30 am, he could still crack me up.

Our second flight was short and we got all our bags fairly quickly. Then we took a train to cross over to Sweden (a five minute train ride cost 20 Euro!), where my mom picked us up and took us home. I don’t usually nap, only under very special circumstances, but I guess this qualified because I had a little sleep in the early afternoon with Abraham. We spent this day in a jet-lagged haze eating the Swedish treats we had missed so, and catching up with family.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Can't stop thinking about Greece...

This article by Therese Larsson, SvD, is simply too great not to share with all you non-Swedish speakers out there. Since I can’t do my official translation work for the moment, and since it’s much easier for me to translate from Swedish into English anyways, I just have to do it.

"It is close to mind-numbing. Have you, like I, rolled your eyes when hearing that i.e. Greek radio talk show hosts or hairdressers have had such physically difficult careers that the HAVE TO retire at the age of 50? Were you’re surprised to hear that doctors, lawyers, and other executives in Greece in principle don’t pay taxes at all? In this case you should continue reading right about now, because there are much worse examples of behaviors contributing to the Greek crisis.
I thought I had heard everything, but the German newspaper Handelsblatt put together a list this week of Greek work regulations, some so generous you can barely believe it. Of course, in true German manner, the paper has valid references to all their claims. Here are a few of the highlights:
• The ride to and from work by bus drivers in Athens counts as work hours and whoever makes it to work in time gets a bonus of 310 Euros.
• Message boys at the various ministries gets a bonus of 290 Euros a month – for carrying files and folders.
• In several state-owned companies the employers receive and bonus for using the copy machine, and whoever can use a computer gets a bonus – here as well, whoever can make it to work in time gets an extra reward.
• Judges gets extra money if they treat an errand fast.
•At the ministry of culture, some employees get extra money for clothing.
And here are my two personal favorites:
• At the partially privatized phone company OTE you can recieve 25 Euros a month for ”warming up of service car.” According to Handelsblatt the union said Monday that the bonus has been renounced, however the employees now demand that the bonus is reinstated.
• The state-owned railroad company gives their drivers (who earn up to 7000 Euros a month) a bonus for each kilometer that they drive. They also receive over 5 000 Euros extra each year for washing their hands (25 percent of all train personnel receives this).
One can only hope that these bonuses disappear with the savings package that was delivered earlier this week."

Prof. Husband returns home from yet another philosophy conference

Professor Husband comes home tonight after a five-day conference in Istanbul. Since he’s rarely ever gone (only a couple of hour/day tops), it’s a big deal in our house. I think it’s a nice thing to be apart once in a while, but in the mind of the boys, there’s something very wrong in the universe while he’s gone and until he’s back.

It seems most disasters happen while Courtney is away as well. There’s always a computer or [enter your preference here] crisis or someone getting sick. This time, I couldn’t get my work program going, and Abraham spent 24 hours puking, meaning I got exactly 0 work done. I always make these grand plans for what I’m going to do while Courtney’s away (this time I was going to finish a big translation job, ha ha!), but then end up just muddling around, keeping the kids occupied, dressed and fed, and continuously wishing he’d come back to help me solve all the problems and keep me company.

I don’t wish he wouldn’t have gone though, because I’m desperate for some exciting stories about the conference, his friends, conversations, impressions and whatever else he’ll be telling me about.

I guess the ultimate thrill is the thought of him being here soon to solve all our problems, bring exciting conversation and thoughts into the house, and rejoining our everyday life. And then there’s nothing so wonderful as some physical affection after a few days apart, is there?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Death in the community

Last week we received some bad news. An acquaintance – a friend – of ours during our years in Cairo, was killed during a visit in Baghdad, leaving a wife and three children, the youngest not even eight, behind. He was in Iraq for work when his convoy was attacked and he was killed.

The foreign hired faculty of The American University in Cairo is a fairly large group but nonetheless quite close. The university is family-oriented and trips are frequently arranged for faculty members and their families. During our three years we basically got to see most major things that Egypt has to offer this way; from Siwa Oasis and Mount Sinai, to the Giza pyramids and the Red Sea Monasteries. The group we traveled with was usually the same, and the people were also the people we or our friends hung out with at the playground/pool/social club. The man that was killed was not one of our closest friends but part of our extended group. He and his family were part of our community and… you know; like us.

I felt sorrow when I heard about his death, sympathy for his family, and naturally, a little bit of fear. He was a great man, an inspiring scholar, a perfect father and husband, and a wonderful part of our community. I can’t imagine what his wife and children are going through - to be honest, I hope I never have to - but I sympathize and pray that the family can recover, return to their extended family soon, and get a lot of help from people around them. Naturally, thoughts such as “What would I do if this happened to me? How would I react?” appeared, because I identify with the family. This could happen to anyone in our community, really. I’ve always been aware of the risks of living in this part of the world, but never really scared or worried. Although I can’t say this event triggered any of these, I have to admit it made me think a little.

We're going to Sweden this summer!

Amidst all the chaos and budgetary trouble, we concluded that whatever has or will happen, we can’t live through another year in Lebanon without a break. We need to see some family and a western… anything. We need to be able to order school books and other necessities. Since the US is out of the question budget-wise, and since we always have a great time in Sweden, we purchased tickets to fly to Copenhagen. The boys and I leave right after mid-July, and Courtney will follow when his summer classes are done. We will stay just past Ramadan, missing the entire event this year. As soon as we get back, it will be time to move. Yes, I know; crazy!!

Work struggle

Although it’s always a bit of a struggle to find sufficient time and more important peace in this house to do the translation jobs I’ve been taking on, I’m enjoying the work. That is, I’m enjoying the translating itself. What has made the entire venture a struggle is the software scheme that surrounds the business of translating. It is based on extortion, really. Almost all jobs require translation in a specific program, SDL Trados, and it costs a fortune. There’s no competition, no way around it, no alternative programs or methods. If you want these jobs, you have to use Trados. The program costs $895!

I’m sure that using a translation memory speeds up the work significantly, and that using a termbase helps companies with consistency and improves the quality of their publications. But for someone like me, who has time but no money, this system is excluding.

So far I’ve managed to get by, by using the company’s so generously offered 30-day trial period. It has caused me a lot of trouble though, and I’ve spent significantly more time on trying to set things up, install, uninstall, download, transfer, etc. than I have spent translating. This week I was in the middle of a big job when a couple of days ago my trial version expired. So I had to download a new trial version to a different computer and transfer all the files. Turns out the new SDL Trados’ trial version doesn’t contain the old Trados version though, and that the files I’ve been working with are useless in my new trial version. The downloading part is very complicated because of our horrible, horrible internet situation (it requires me to stay up at night, for one, because that’s the only time I can even attempt such a download, and it takes time), and with this additional complication, along with some other problems, I’ve had to turn to my commissioner for help. Again.

Soon, after I’ve got paid for those first jobs I’ve done, I will be able to buy SDL Trados. As much as it hurts to have to spend such a huge chunk of money on a program that is so clearly over-prized, I don’t think I have a choice. And it’s kind of an investment, right? I just hope my contractor’s patience doesn’t run out before then.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Commencement address, 2011; a speech that practically wrote itself

This past weekend I went to my first real American-style commencement ever. It was pompous and very American, as expected, although they never played Pomp and Circumstance. I sang the Lebanese national anthem, Khallina Nimshi, and the AUB Alma Mater with the choir. Commencement was also very Lebanese and/or Middle Eastern. Along with the 1800+ graduating students, five of the six honorary doctorates accepted their degrees and held speeches. The President held a speech, as did a student representative. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the term “Arab Spring” mentioned quite so many times in such a short period of time. I understand that a speech at a commencement at a time and place like this can only go one way, but really; we heard pretty much the exact same speech given by seven different people with very little variation, and it got a little… tiresome. It’s as if someone had given them all a sheet of paper with the following key terms to be used in their speech:
  • Young graduates
  • Arab Spring
  • Human rights and dignity
  • Voice of the people
  • Middle East
  • Responsibility
  • Fingerprints and Future in any possible combination

In all fairness though, the speakers had no choice: this is the speech you have to give at commencement 2011. There’s a lot of potential among those graduating students, and the Arab Spring has opened up roads and possibilities in the Middle East that we are just starting to get a glance of. For the first time in our history, these young people can walk out into a world where human rights and dignity are real components, and the voice of the people rings out loud and clear: this is our time. The young graduates of the class of 2011 have an obligation, a responsibility to make the best of it, and to leave their fingerprints in a changing world for future generations to come. The speakers all expressed this, only much more eloquent than I do here.

One of the best commencement speeches I’ve ever heard was one given by Garrison Keillor on a Prairie Home Companion. I found this somewhere on the web:

A graduation speech by Garrison Keillor
It's an honor to be with so many smart people and their parents, and congratulations to you on your good work. I had a child in this school years ago and I remember how she went to her room after supper and stayed there for hours doing homework, until I regretted sending her to such a good school, since it meant that I saw so little of her. I enjoyed my daughter's company, she is a bright and funny person. She is irreverent and I enjoy that. I discovered too late that giving her a good education was not in my best interest. Now she lives in London and we exchange e-mail but I miss her. I know people whose children did not get a good education and the children still are living at home into their early thirties and are a comfort and a help to their parents. That's an option I wish I had considered.
It's a cruel moment, graduation.
The relationship between children and parents is an animal relationship, unlike normal social relationships: you start out with absolute intimacy and you move toward becoming strangers and if necessary toward a state of hostility, and it's painful, but that's the way nature wants it. Nature is single-minded, it's cruel, it's only interested in the survival of the species, and nature wants to get you out of our clutches and out on your own so you can be independent, think for yourself, know who you are, and be able to raise your own children and continue the species. But it's painful for us parents to let go of you.
Being a parent is a messy business. You stumble into it by accident and you're ill prepared and you read books that aren't very helpful and you're filled with anxiety every day of your life. The life of a parent is a life of constant silent prayer. And then suddenly its over, and when we lose you, we have no further usefulness in nature's scheme of things. Nature isn't interested in our golden years --- we had you, and that's our contribution to the survival of the species --- and now nature would be glad if we got out of the way. Our longevity serves no natural purpose. We go on and on, but as far as nature is concerned, we're only taking up space. You were our main work, and now that it's done, we may as well take the long walk out across the frozen tundra. It's in our interest to cripple you in some way that will make you need us.
Today I need to speak either for the parents or for the children, I can't speak for both. And since the children invited me, I'll speak for them.
Nature wants you to get free, because it's important for survival that you have your own experience and that you learn from it. Experiences that are arranged and provided by us aren't as good. It's an age of information, and most of the information you will get is either untrue, irrelevant, or trivial. You need to have your own experience in order to be able to weigh what you hear. So you need to have the experience of being out of touch with us --- going someplace and not telling us where so that if we needed to reach you, we couldn't --- a good experience. You need to have secrets. You need to go off with your own friends and make fun of us. This is important. Any person your age who cannot do a good imitation of your father when he is angry or your mother when she gives you fashion advice --- if you can't satirize your parents by now, it's time to learn.
Nature does not want you to absorb too many of our mistakes. Your parents are part of the generation of boomers that frankly is not a shining example of idealism and purpose. Its mistakes are out there for the world to see: its greed, its narcissism, its utter absorption with itself and its own emotional life and its pitiful attempts to find its identity and express itself, this generation of aging children for whom the TV sitcom was a defining experience. These people have nothing to teach you. Ditch them. They fed you, encouraged you to walk and talk and to read and maybe they have shown you a few things to admire and emulate, and they have amused you. And nature doesn't want you to learn any more from them. You can be close to them and kind to them and love them, but you don't need to agree with them or even take them that seriously if you don't want to.
I imagine life will take you off to strange places, and lucky you, but I do think you were lucky to be from the Midwest. This is a culture that teaches you good basic things. To be competent and useful. Not to be an arrogant blowhard who's all gas and no flame. To be helpful. Don't pass by people in trouble and pretend you don't see them. To be mannerly. To be cheerful. To avoid self-pity. Winter is not a personal experience; everyone else is as cold as you are; so don't complain about it too much.
But the Midwest can't teach you everything, and it is not good about teaching you to be an individual. This culture that you grew up in prizes mediocrity and conformity. It is not happy about people who think independently and say so.
You need to get free of your parents, and become their equals, and if they are good and kind and understanding and loving parents who can't do enough for you, you need desperately to get free of them. Good parents can be the hardest to get rid of.
You have to be independent if you want to be somebody and have a real life. You've pleased your teachers and your parents, and now you have to do something harder, which is to please yourself and to do things that you in your heart know to be right and that you're proud of.
You have to be independent because it's your own opinion of yourself that matters now. Scores don't matter that much. Prizes don't matter. You're all above average, but so what? This is not a nation of great intellects. According to one survey, about half of the American people cannot tell you how long it takes the earth to make one revolution around the sun. Most Americans can't speak English very well. They, like, go, like, "Huh?" y'know, and you go, like, "You know," and they, like, go, "Oh." So if you can write a term paper, you're way above the average, but don't be too proud of it.
Be better than you need to be. If you're coasting along on your personal charm and your sweet smile, learn how to be honest. Learn to look people in the eye and tell them what you think. This will come in handy someday. If you're fearful, master your fear so that you don't have to think about it. Afraid of the water: jump in. Afraid of people, what they might think of you: go talk to them. Afraid of making mistakes, afraid of looking foolish: learn a foreign language and speak it with people for whom it ain't foreign. It's an education in itself.
To be your own person, you need good friends. Friends are the treasure of your life. They may turn out to be your real family. So learn to be a friend. You'll lose a lot of them in the course of things, but try to hang onto the people you've shared your secrets with and who've known you at your worst moments and who you never need to feel embarrassed in front of. Don't be careless with these people. Make friends. Extend yourself to people you care about. And be kind to your enemies: they might become the best friends you'll ever have. Friendship can cross every boundary: I truly believe that. No matter what lines you draw, dividing people into male and female, northern and southern, liberal and conservative, right or left wing, homosexual or heterosexual, Christian or agnostic, rich or poor, friendship can cross all of those lines. Don't be so glib or so smartass or so passive or so cruel or just so busy that you go along and don't make those intense sweet connections with people, and find that intimacy that we all need, to be known by another person. Don't forget to be a friend.
And when you have friends, then you have someone to tell your story to, and that is how you finally and absolutely get free of us. This is the ultimate power you have over us. It's your account that's going to last longer.
It's easy to have an opinion, it's hard to tell a story: to be able to look at things and describe them accurately; to describe action, chronologically, in a way that conveys the reality of experience to another person. You were there during your childhood. You saw us and the clumsy things we did and the terrible dumb things we said--- you saw what happened ---- and now it's your story to tell and we can't tell you what to say. But if you can tell that story truthfully and with humor and with a little forgiveness, then you're on your own.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Greece on my mind

I don't usually write about news, but on my mind today is Greece. I've been to Greece many times, and love it. Now, I'm not an economist or a politician, but as a responsible citizen I can't help but wonder, with their million dollar tourism industry, wine production and other resources, how in the world could they get themselves into such a mess

A lot of Europeans, especially from the Nordic countries, consider Greece to be the messed up member of the European Union family: Greece is the brother who continuously gets into trouble, is too lazy to work, and uses public and private fund credit cards without being able to pay for them. Greece is the sister who goes on strike stays up partying all night when instead she should be out working and paying taxes looking for a job or studying. Greece is the brother you have to use your hard-earned money to bail out of bankruptcy jail. You want to not have to pick up the mess after your brother time and time again, but you also can’t just stand by and watch him go down, because, well, he’s a member of you union family, and not some African country stranger.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Questions a mother must be prepared to answer...

Some things I got asked today:

Mama, have you seen this guy’s head? (Uh... No.)
Mama, what exactly *is* a mental breakdown? (Which movie is he getting this from?)
Mama, what’s masturbate? (Oh, God.)
Mama, how do they determine how big steps should be? (asked while walking down the AUB steps)
Mama, do you have an old pillowcase I could use for a sewing project? (What?!)
Mama, how do I move the staircase? Do I have to put a spell on the painting? (some kind of computer game)
Mama, could you come here quickly? And bring a lot of towels and a band-aid? (Hmm…)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sidewalk manners: a person's a person, no matter how small!

We were walking to campus, when a man just ran straight into Abraham. Bam! If I had not been holding him, he would have flown backwards and hit his head, but instead now his cheek got slapped and he stumbled. The man slowed down a bit and mumbled some sort of apology, but then kept on walking, without so much as even having really looked at Abraham. "How rude," I thought, "a child is a person who deserves respect, just like anyone else."

When I looked down big tears were streaming down Abraham’s cheeks, and half his face was all flushed and red. I don’t think he had got terribly hurt but was obviously very scared and freaked out.

Abraham is not very tall, and so if somebody is walking down the street only looking absolutely straight in front of them they might not see him. They would still see me though, and along with that notice that I am holding on to something with my stretched out hand. If the person then lowers his/her gaze a little, they will notice a little person walking next to me. And you can’t walk down the street in Beirut just looking straight in front of you, anyways, because there are so many other people, potholes, objects and whatnots all over the place, and oh, children. Hello!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Another visit to the ER - cat attack

Our second ER run (read about our first ER visit in Beirut here) here in Beirut was prompted by Abraham’s introduction to the moods of an AUB campus cat.

We were at the playground when a pregnant cat came up and started walking around my legs, obviously looking for attention. Abraham got curious and started following the cat around. She didn’t seem to really care, so although I kept reminding him not to touch her, I didn’t remove him or make the cat leave. Next thing I know I hear the cat scream and hiss, and then Abraham scream. When he came towards me he had a bite mark on one arm, and his fingers were scratched up on his other hand. I treated his wounds immediately with iodine and Neosporin, however remembering that Abraham’s tetanus booster was way past overdue (between moves and paperwork and settling in and all that, taking Abraham for a check-up and shots was one of those things still on my list of things to do), I decided to take him to the ER on our way home, just in case.

We didn’t have to wait. A pediatrician looked at his injuries and a surgical student cleaned everything again. I was told tetanus was not really a concern, but that we should go to the clinic the next day with Abraham’s vaccination card to get everything up to date. The doctor proscribed antibiotics that I could give him if anything should get infected.

The next day we went to the AUB infirmary, and Abraham got his boosters. His cuts were already healing.

The lesson here? Don’t put things off? I would have saved myself a lot of worries if I had just kept up with the shots. Oh, and don’t bother pregnant cats!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Our day of no rest

We had no plans or obligations today, and on paper today looked like a lazy Sunday, however our day turned into one of those days where you decide to do all kinds of things because you don’t have any plans. So we watched a show this morning, had a big brunch with bacon and eggs, and I read lots of stories to the boys. Then we packed up and walked down to the AUB beach where we had a long swim. Or the boys did, while I followed Abraham around in the pool and burned my back, again. After showers and a brisk walk home I made spaghetti Bolognese for an early dinner, and then we did a big tidying of the house (which included going through some drawers and a closet) and a couple of loads of laundry, along with a few games. To celebrate Father’s Day I then proceeded to bake a blueberry pie and made fresh vanilla sauce from scratch to go with it, while the boys worked on their cards for their papa. After a nice family feast I sat down with my book - I’m reading Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum – but it wasn’t long before it was time to put Abraham to bed, get the older boys in bed, and help Courtney get some things ready for tomorrow.

Now that I’m finally sitting down to check my mail and catch up on news online, I’m exhausted. And I’m remembering why I had left this day empty: tomorrow Courtney starts teaching his summer courses, which means he’ll be going into work every day for the next seven weeks. For those of you with normal jobs this may not sound hard, but because we are not used to it, I know it will take some adjustment. Also, there are a lot of things going on over the next couple weeks; parties, commencement, conference, etc. and although mainly fun, it will be tiresome. So I had made today a lazy Sunday for us to be well rested when things take off.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Life with a two-year old...

William asked me the other day about my age preference when it comes to children. “What is your favorite age, mama?” I didn’t really feel qualified to answer the question, since my children are all still pretty young, and I haven’t seen the full spectrum yet. I told him though, that I could tell him what the most challenging age is, as far as my experience goes; from the time children start walking well, until about 3 ½ years, at which point they seem to gain some independence and most important, sense.

1 ½-3 ½ years is a great age because you really get to watch a little person form, but because the child has the physical ability to do many things, unmatched by little mental ability to control or understand all the exciting things around him/her, adult supervision is required at all times. It is therefore challenging mainly in the physical sense, as in they are extremely active, all the time, getting into things they shouldn’t exploring everything - you always have to be there, watching them, and every time you look away for a moment, they get into something or do something that takes a lot of time and effort to handle.

Take this morning for example.

Abraham is currently at the stage where he 1/ is able to take his clothes and diaper off (but can’t put them back on), 2/enjoys being naked, a lot, but 3/ is not yet potty-trained. This means that while we’re in the house, I constantly have to watch him to make sure he doesn’t take his diaper off, and if when he does, monitor him for signs of needing to go. It also means that if I look away at the wrong moment, I end up having to change the boys’ sheets or wipe pee off the floor in the playroom.

This morning, I left the living room to get some more tea in the kitchen. Abraham was playing naked, very nicely, on his slide. The older boys were around but not exactly paying attention to him, because he was having so much fun playing by himself. (Two-year olds can be deceptive like that too - they -act- like it would do no harm to leave them alone for a moment.) When I came back, tea in hand, Abraham held up his poop-covered hands to me, his body smeared, with a happy smile, gesturing to what used to be two turds on the carpet, but now looked like two turds that someone had stepped in and then tried to wipe off all over the carpet, and said “Aimie-ham went POOP! Mama!!” with a proud voice.

Sigh. I’m going to need more tea.