Saturday, April 23, 2011

Saturday parade - Abraham is greeted, honored and admired

Every Saturday morning, Abraham and I walk the boys to their Taekwondo practice. It’s a very slow walk, because, well, Abraham’s legs are short AND he loves to look at EVERYTHING on the way, so taking him with me rather that running the boys over, which would take ten minutes tops, means I commit to a one hour stroll. If you know me, you know I usually walk faster than most people do, and that I am not the strolling type. But; Abraham enjoys it so much, and he’s so cute engaging in everything, that I think of this hour as a treat for him.

Our walk starts out a little brisker, because we want to get the boys to their activities, but after we’ve waved good-bye to them, the adventures begin. There’s always something interesting to see. These past couple of weeks – springtime - there have always been at least one couple of campus cats along the road engaged in making new kittens. Very interesting. And totally OK, because since Abraham is so little, I don’t have to explain anything. “Yoook, Mama! Kitty payyying, mama!” "Yes, they’re playing, isn’t that cute?!" This morning we saw a cat with a bird in his mouth, parading in front of a group of hungry looking cats. I noticed the bird was still wiggling a bit. “Yoook, mama!! Kitty eat BIRDY, mama!!” Yup. That's it. "The kitty is hungry." Then Abraham picks up a deep humming sound, and points to the sky, “Where ayy-pane, mama?!” So we look for the airplane, which I’ve noticed is a Lufthansa flight coming in right after 10 am every Saturday morning. After that we smell the flowers, pick a handful of rosemary and pocket as many pine cones as we can. Always discussing everything in detail. Sometimes we enter the bookstore whose window Abraham will stare through forever, commenting on every single book he sees, and sometimes we stop for a treat at Dunkin Donuts. Always we run into students who want to take pictures with their phones of Abraham. (I wonder about this: Why would they want to carry around a picture of some strange child? But it’s so common and an almost instant reflex many students have when they see Abraham, “Ooohh, he’s SO CUTE!! Can I please take a picture?” Female and male students alike.) Some like to touch his hair, and at least one of the food stall men will hand some treat to him (Today he received a handful of doughnut holes). “What’s your name?” they ask, and Abraham replies, “Ay-mee-HAM!” They look at me and I clarify, “Abraham,” at which they always reply, “What a magnificent name!!” and add a reference to the Bible or the Qu’ran, depending on their religion. Then they take another picture. Sometimes when we near our home and only our Concierge is left to exchange greetings with, “Abraham, how are you today, cute boy?” I feel like we’ve just finished a parade. The display of Abraham, blond and cute, on his Saturday walk.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Birthday to me!

Do you remember all your birthdays? I don’t think I could, even if I tried hard. They are just getting to be too many. I do remember particular birthdays though, my fifth being the first one I have a clear memory of, then my 9th when I got my first badminton racket, my 13th, or my 18th when I got my driver’s license. I also remember my 20th birthday very well, because that was the day my dad had surgery to remove a big, bad brain tumor, and then I remember my 21st birthday, which makes me sad, because that’s when he was buried. I turned 22 in the US, somewhere between the slopes in Aspen. My 24th birthday was the first I spent with Courtney. I spent my 28th birthday on the beaches of Normandy, pregnant with August, and on my 30th birthday - Easter - I was nine months pregnant with William. It was around my 34th birthday that we found out we were moving to Egypt, and Abraham might have been conceived on my 35th birthday.

Last weekend, I spent - again! - my 35th birthday, a beautiful day, walking with my family along the Mediterranean Sea here in Beirut. I didn’t really turn 35 again of course, but I like to pretend I stopped counting. Getting old doesn’t scare me, but I feel the years are slipping through my fingers, and as not to stress, I prefer not to think about it too much. My favorite quote by one of my favorite authors sums it up eloquently: “[35] is a perfectly good age. I know plenty of women in the high London society who have remained [35] for years.” (Oscar Wilde, of course.)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Our non-exciting or different-exciting life in Beirut

Since we moved to Lebanon, we have had to learn how to live on a very small budget. We didn’t move here for the money and knew that we would have to make certain adjustments, however we had not foreseen that it would be this big of a difference. Living here is really expensive! While we had some room before during our life in Cairo, after only the most necessary bills (rent, insurance, electricity, and gas) and food have been paid for every month here, we have nothing left. There are no extras: no internet, no phone, no car, no trips, and if anything comes up, like Christmas, birthdays, holidays, or if the boys grow and need new clothes or shoes (which you can imagine happens all the time), we have to use our savings (which were not very large to begin with and will be gone soon). It is disquieting.

 Having to always be careful about money can be energy draining, because it influences the way you are able to live your everyday life. I’ve read hundreds of articles on how it shouldn’t, and how there are so many things you can do with little to no money – all it takes is a little finesse – and we have adjusted to our situation pretty well. We use the university facilities a lot, and do fun things that don’t really cost anything, like reading, sports, playing, walking, etc. However sometimes I am painfully reminded of our meager situation. Like during Easter, which seems to be the time to get out of town. To be able to hop in a car (I don’t think I know anyone here who doesn’t have a car) and explore the country for a few days; see the sites, go hiking or skiing, visit Tripoli or Tyre or even Syria – how amazing that would be! But we can’t. It is also around this time of the year that I start making a list of next year’s schoolbooks and supplies – even wishing I could send out a quick order to add to this year’s material – but the way things stand for the moment, I can’t order anything. I’m printing out worksheets that I find on (our almost non-existent) internet, or make them myself, but it would be so nice to be able to get the actual math tests that go with the curriculum we’ve been using, or get the next grammar book in the series for August before he forgets everything.

Now this is turning into a rant, which I didn’t intend. What I wanted to say was something positive. No, we haven’t been able to travel like we’re used to - we are pretty much confined to walking distance of our apartment. The silver lining is that since we’re fairly immobile, I and everyone else in the family have been able to do things we didn’t have time for in Cairo, like very time-consuming art projects, a lot of reading, sewing, creative writing, and in spending so much time together, we’ve been able to develop our intellectual and emotional relationships more than ever before. Despite our lack of funds we’ve managed to keep ourselves busy – just not the same kind of busy as we are used to. As a consequence, I haven’t been very confident in my blogging and my account of our life here in Beirut: I just don’t know how to recount our current life – it’s not exciting travels and encounters any more, but something else.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Taekwondo belt tests

In Egypt, the boys started Taekwondo, learning from Captain Moyasser, a fantastic coach and inspiring sportsman. After three and two years respectively, practice twice every week, they managed to reach blue and green belts.
When we moved to Lebanon, we were happy to discover that there's a Taekwondo class for youth every Saturday at AUB, and although the practice is not as rigorous, strict or concentrated as it was in Egypt, the boys enjoy going. This past week their hard work so far resulted in belt tests, and they were rewarded the next degree: half red belt for August, and half blue for William.

(For those of you who don't know the system: you start out with a white belt, and then you move on to half yellow, yellow, half green, green, half blue, blue, half red, red, and then black belt, which you can have several degrees of - I think up to eight, although I'm not sure.)

For their tests, they had to do a certain number or push- and situps, then kicks, punches, blocks, one pumsae (or Taegeuk, which is a series of moves, usually around 30, done in sequence), and break two boards by a certain kick or punch. They both did brilliantly, and were so proud when they received their belts!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Life with a two-year old...

We are currently at the stage where a lot of Abewahaaaam-doooo-iiit!!!’s are unmatched by the actual ability. This entails a lot of melt-downs, fits, and frustrations – for everyone. This is not my favorite part of parenting, and I’m sure not anyone’s favorite part of childhood, but it’s something that has to be gone through. My – the entire family’s - task is to make it as painless as possible.

A few examples:

Today Abraham accidentally pushed down his straw all the way into his juice box = instant melt-down and inability to eat his dinner.

This evening Abraham wanted to put his diaper on by himself. He totally cannot do it. Major screaming, fit and melt-down ensued.

Yesterday morning Abraham threw a fit because he couldn't button his own shirt buttons. Me trying to tell him no two-year old is really able to do this didn't help his frustration at all.

God give us strength to get through this.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Houseguests add diversity of thought

We have houseguests this week; friends - a couple - visiting us from Egypt. I love having them around for many reasons, but one of the greatest benefits is the presence of different perspectives, opinions, and even methods of conveying viewpoints in any discussion. Not only are there two more individuals added with their own points of view, but we are a very diverse group. We were all born in different countries and even environments, and we’ve lived in different places, our ages differ, we have very different interests, and although we all studies within the humanities, we all wrote our thesis on very different subjects. All this makes for a lot of talking, and many interesting ideas and arguments; our house is a - more than usual, I should say - stimulating environment for the moment.

Seeing the boys interact with our friends makes me happy, because I know it broadens their minds and interests, and my smart, educated friends inspire them in new ways.

Friday, April 1, 2011

History of China and Japan, and The last Samurai

Today, while I was going through a final review with the boys of the history of China and Japan, where they tell me the story and as many details as they can remember, using our map and self-created illustrated time-line, Courtney came over to the kitchen table, which is where most of our school-work is done, to check his mail, and ended up listening in. Towards the end of the story – our last class on the history of China and Japan – he commented, “Now the boys know more about Chinese and Japanese history than I ever did throughout my entire life.” Coming from a professor of humanities, I think that’s a compliment: to the boys for learning so well, and to me for creating such a great history curriculum. Pride on a Friday during Lent. Forgive me!

As a reward for their hard work, I gave in and let the boys watch the way too violent movie “The Last Samurai” with Tom Cruise, provided to them by their well-meaning uncle before he had children of his own (proving that although I have my good moments, in the end, I’m sometimes just a tired homeschooling mom who might give in to things she shouldn’t for a moment’s peace).