Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Just when I started thinking it was possible for me to do it all…

Things have been crazy busy since the holidays, but somehow, I’ve managed to keep things together. The house has not fallen apart. The kids have been on the receiving end of some really good education. I’ve worked and made some money. The husband got published. Things suddenly seemed to be going so well, in fact, that last week, towards the end of the school week, I paused for a moment and thought,

“Wow, I’m really doing it! All of it. I can do it! The kids’ schooling is going well, we’re actively potty-training Abraham [read: keeping up with Abraham’s insistence on peeing and pooping on the floor around the house], I’m managing work, which means we have enough money to not have to worry so much, and the house is under control, because we’ve got a good routine going for everything, chores, shopping, exercise – yes! I run around the track every afternoon, and things are running smoothly…”

Within moments, literally, of me thinking this, it all fell apart.

I accepted a monster-job where I might have bit off more than I can swallow (it’s long and difficult); we decided this would be a good time to get out of town for a few days so we booked a car; we also decided this week would be good for socializing and booked a couple of dinners; Abraham got a cold – again; we realized it’s Abraham’s birthday this week and that we need to throw a party; and I got some kind of flu. Fever, really sore throat, body- and headaches, that seems to only be getting worse.

Sigh. Back to… not even square one, but – back paddling.  That’s it. Watch me! I’m back paddling!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Coughing all night

The boys all got colds towards the end of this school week. With Abraham's pneumonia fresh in memory, I’m a little worried, but the colds seem to be fairly mild. Last night was a bad night though, because Abraham had a cough that kept waking him up and then keeping him from sleeping. He cried - that tired, tortured cry that says, "I just want to sleep!" - and I held him upright a bit, rocking him, until he slept. After I’d pass out though, he'd wake up coughing again. This went on all night. Needless to say, today we are tired.

Nobody in our family used to have this kind of cough. I wonder if it's the humidity here in Beirut, and especially here right next to the sea?

Friday, January 20, 2012

A weekend to breathe

Yesterday I finished a fairly long translation on injection fuel systems in cars – I know, I really hit the jackpot this time as far as interesting subjects go! - and when I looked around me (kids and house a mess) I decided to turn down any further jobs this week. Although I don’t like turning down the money, I need a breather. I need to restore or even improve the house and make some organizational rearrangements, I need to recharge my energy (physically and emotionally), focus on the boys’ education and general well-being, blow some life into my husband who seems to be stuck in a kind of vacuum, and potty-train Abraham (none of the other boys were wearing diapers at his age, and although I’m all for individual development, enough is enough!).

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Pinterest and material showcasing

Inevitable I’ve been pulled into yet another something to keep me from working: Pinterest. It started as innocently as anything else, with a mentioning here and there on all the social sites. Then the blogs I read (here's one of my favorites) started raveling about it, and eventually I was invited. Next thing I know, I’ve spent the better half of an hour one morning (which is precious time for me) ignoring housework, kids and most importantly my translation, going through this one lady’s amazingly creative photographs that show how beautifully she has transformed, organized anddecorated her house. Then, looking around my own house, I became depressed, and felt like an underachiever. First of all we don’t even own our house, and we don’t own most of the furniture in our apartment, and second of all, since we are not planning on staying here for very long and can’t really take anything with us when we move, we don’t buy anything unless it’s absolutely necessary. I would love to organize the boys’ toys with buckets and shelves, and install benches and desks with chairs in their room so that they could have a good place to do projects and play, but it would cost a lot of money, and in a year or two, we would have to give it up.

In the afternoon, I took the boys to the stationary shop because we needed more pencils, and when we were getting ready to leave, I spotted some cute little photo-frames in packages of three, on sale for $3. I threw them in with the rest of our stuff.

So here it is, my hasty, half-assed attempt to fit in and feel a little less like a person who has nothing material to show for anything. Not very warm, inviting or classy, I know, but I score some points for effort, right?

Let me know if you need an invitation to Pinterest!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Taking a post-work recovery day

I walked outside today and was almost blinded by the sun. I realized that I had not been outside for a couple of days and felt ashamed. I’ve been working – every moment that I was not doing urgent housework or teaching – on translations and editing jobs, and since we’ve had a sufficient amount of food and other necessities, leaving the house has not been absolutely necessary. 

(When I have deadlines and big jobs, like this past week, ‘absolutely necessary’ or ‘urgent’ are the only criteria that will put an activity ahead of work.)

Today, having finished all my job assignments for the week (and turned down a number of jobs), I am going over the house doing things that are just necessary (and not ‘absolutely’ necessary – I bet you have no idea how many days your kids can wear the same pair of jeans!), slowly working my way through a long list of chores, to where I can do something I don’t have to.

Boy, do I have plans! (If I get there.)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Discovering new shops in Beirut

So, while wandering away from a disappointing TSCPlus in Jnah the other day, our family accidentally walked into the top floor Monoprix. I had some vague idea of Monoprix being some kind of French version of Piggly Wiggly, but I really had no idea what to expect, and we didn’t see anything that would indicate this was a regular grocery store. Entering Monoprix was certainly a wow-moment even though we only saw clothes, cosmetics and the beginning of a linen/household department. Courtney and I looked at each other when we realized the potential of our discovery, and as we walked through the store, we got more and more excited, “Look at this!” Several things we have spent a lot of time searching for during our first year and a half here in Beirut were suddenly all available in one spot at reasonable prices: lamps, curtain rods, furniture, blankets, toys, and other household goods we still miss. We were so overwhelmed, and Abraham was getting impatient after our first failed attempt to shop at TSCPlus, that we decided not to buy anything in a haste, but to come back another day, more prepared. After all, we still needed to get food for the week. 

Weighed down by our immediate task, we proceeded to try and find our way out and make our way to Spinneys, when we noticed people were coming from somewhere with shopping carts, much like the ones a grocery store would provide. We asked a guard if there was a downstairs and he showed us the way to a set of escalators, leading, at this point in our view, to the gates of salvation: a new, exciting, seemingly nice and well-stocked grocery store, right there in front of us.

Although Monoprix didn’t carry all the things we needed (the cereal section left a few things to desire, and there was no beer (no alcohol section) which I needed for one of our recipes, it had *the* most incredible cheese- and deli-department, with Italian and French cheeses we had not seen since our last visits to those countries. In general, the store had an excellent selection of meats, cheeses, yogurts, and such, and I quite liked the fresh produce department and the bakery as well. Most of the prices were normal, the produce perhaps a little higher than we are used to. We left quite satisfied, although wishing we could have bought a nice bottle of wine with all the wonderful cheeses we had picked out. The guy who helped us out in the deli assured us that they would have an alcohol section ready within a couple of weeks, and I did notice that their advertisement showed that they had special prices on wine. All in all, it was a good shopping experience, and we’ll probably go back there soon, if nothing else to finally get us some curtain rods and lamps.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Welcome back! It's a new year!

A bit of a lapse on the blogging there. First we went crazy with the holiday preparations, with more elaborate recipes, complex food preparation sessions, happier activities, bigger presents and other magnified celebratory undertakings than in the past few years. We also hosted house guests for close to a week, took care of a neighbor’s guinea pigs for over three weeks (never, never again!!) and survived a stomach flu from hell (which we so generously shared with our house guests of course).

And here we are. A little over a week into the new year and I am desperately trying to regain the money spent by taking on more jobs than I can handle. The boys are getting back into their routine with a new schedule (it usually takes us about a week to start following it exactly, and another couple of weeks to completely abandon it again ,but the boys like schedules and lists, so I indulge them), and Abraham is going along with it in his leisurely way. The professor is - as always - in work-mode, with the additional end-of-the-semester exertions disrupting his thought process.

While trying to get over the hump that is January, our post-holiday recovery – pre-spring 2012 interlude, which encompasses mainly dull things like work, diet, and cleaning, I’ve set out to make the best of our daily routine and spice up little moments here and there when possible. (The other day, for example, instead of going to Spinneys in Jnah for our usual weekly shopping excursion, on a whim, we asked the taxi driver to take us to TSCPlus instead as to try something new. The store was really quite horrible and we soon left, however, while trying to figure out how to get to our regular Spinneys and estimating if we could walk, we walked into a different store we had never seen before or even thought of visiting, Monoprix, and boy, oh boy, what a find! More on this in a blog post tomorrow.)

So, if you have any tips or ideas on how to spice up those less exciting parts of life, like grocery shopping, grading, exam proctoring, long hours of translation work, Tuesday night dinner, school-lunches, laundry marathons and hours on the treadmill or around the track, then please, do share!