29 December 2016

27 December 2016

The Nutracker Ballet... Here?


The Nutcracker Ballet, in Cairo! This city has (nearly) everything... and my Mama is with me! ❣️

13 December 2016

12 December 2016

There’s More Than One Way

I’ve been blown away by kids kiddos lately. They’ve been in school for almost a year now on this side of the globe. They are the only two white kids out of about 1400. And they are thriving. They go to school happy and they come home happy. This alone does a Mama’s heart good.
AND they are learning.

Boy are they learning. Except they don’t even know it.

Have they learned academics? Well, kinda.

Have they learned hundreds of life and cultural life lessons. A RESOUNDING YES!!

I could talk your ear off for hours about why we have chosen to put our children in a local school (even if they call it ‘international’). The classes are taught in English, and it is curriculum straight from California, even if the books are 10 years old. Also, hello Common Core!! Aren’t you odd?!
This school has required  a lot of flexibility from the start. Including the super long delay getting them enrolled and then the false start date my kids got all ready for and then ended up back home half an hour later.

We have school holidays with two days warning, or days off school when no one says anything at all and we have to figure it out for ourselves.

We have lists of supplies sent home for projects that should be purchased before school the very next day (and I don’t always know where to find things here and my husband  travels and hello I have four kids).

This is just the start.

We are flexing. Bending. Adjusting some more.

I’m starting to notice the flexing more recently, because we are all definitely getting much better at it.
So what I’ve learned is this… there is more than one way to do something.

I could put my kids in this school and apply all my expectations about American schools (which is what it’s ‘supposed’ to be) and I would be frustrated to no end. But it turns out, the way I think school ‘should’ happen is not the only way school actually ‘can’ happen.

My kids have led the way in this flexing thing.

Did you know you can be at school all day and not have a proper lunch time? Like… there is no collecting lunchboxes from backpacks, forming a line, following the teacher to the properly cafeteria (disinfected daily), sitting at your seat on the bench at the appropriate table, obeying the rules, waiting for the time to finish, packing up and then filing outside for recess? I used to think kids had a ‘right’ to  eat lunch in this way! They are kids. They must have a proper meal time to succeed at school and stay healthy, right?

Actually, nope.

Turns out that another way is just to send kids to school with food and they’ll eat it when they are hungry. Like, maybe during math class, or maybe when they finish their Social Studies assignment early.  No big deal. Or if a  kid in the class forgets their lunchbox at home. Maybe no one actually needs to call the Mom to bring food… it is no emergency. Nah… the other kids will just share their food, or someone will buy them some chips from the snack shack or *gasp* they might be hungry for a few hours. Turns out there is more than one way to do that. And what I love here is that this is full of lessons… responsibility, not forgetting, sharing, empathy, and even what hunger is like. I really value these kinds of lessons, too.

Another example:

Bathrooms don’t have toilet paper or soap. In the U.S. if a bathroom is out of TP or soap, I feel my ‘right’ to those items has been ignored and *huff* WHY aren’t they paying attention and re-stocking necessary items?! A girl has got to use the loo people!! But it turns out there is more than one way to deal. My kids have just learned themselves to grab tissues from their backpack before they head to the bathroom. And when H wants to wash his hands after recess, he swings by his desk first and squirts liquid soap in his hands on the way to the sink. Done. They’ve flexed.

Also,

Those last minute supply lists that are sent home the day before the project? Well, everyone is flexible. So if I can’t find something or don’t have time? Whatevs. It’s actually okay. I just don’t send it. Someone will share with him or a teacher will have extra and it doesn't really matter. Or maybe he won’t get to do the project and he’ll have to watch his friend do it instead. It’s ACTUALLY OKAY.

More:

Here’s a great one… On birthdays kids like to take treats to their class.  Same in the U.S., right? But in the U.S. I’d want it to be special diet friendly and pinteresty cute and something really nice. My kids would actually expect something like that because that’s a lot of times what the other parents would bring for their child’s birthday. And also because I enjoy that kind of thing.  BUT here for H’s birthday, Mike stopped at a ‘snack shack’ (literally shacks on every corner selling drinks and hundreds of junky snacks), grabbed a dozen packages of Oreo cookies, threw them in a plastic bag, paid the equivalent of $2, threw the sack for him to take to school and DONE. Everyone was thrilled.

 Wow so easy!

Well I guess there is more than one way to do birthdays!

Last one:

Because there are only a handful of Christian families at this school, there is an Islam class that most of the students attend. My children don’t attend this class and are occasionally sent to be with a lone Christian teacher who takes a few kids at a time to do Bible lessons with them while the others are in Islam class. Sweet N came home one day to tell us that she was sent to the library with another Christian friend to meet this Christian teacher. Here’s the thing. The teacher didn’t do any of the lesson in English! And N speaks little Arabic yet. But she politely sat through the whole lesson even though she didn’t understand a thing (First of all, wow). But anyway… N later told us “I wasn’t sure who she was praying to… But then she said ‘God in heaven’ in English, and so I knew she was praying to our God.” Ha! Talk about a kid being outside their comfort zone and just sticking with it and rolling with it.

So.

All those examples pertain to the kids’ school. Because it’s where my eyes have been opened to my children’s incredible resiliency and growth in this area. They are inspiring and I could NOT be more proud of them. But seeing them learn all the different ways that things can be done has me really reflecting on it in all areas of my life. I’ve been noticing all the ways we flex now. And all the other ways I need to learn to flex a whole lot more. And I see that for a lot of these things it just comes down to me giving up ‘the rights’ I thought I had that I actually never did. A ‘right’ to know when my child is going to have school or not, for example. I would LOVE to have a schedule so that I can make plans (I love plans!), but I’m never going to get a schedule a this school. What can I do? Nothing. Except FLEX.  Roll with it. Give up the right that never a right to begin with and find joy in the differences.

We’ve all got a long way to go here. We all struggle with our attitudes, for sure. But my kids are leading the way here with their flexibility and I’m so thankful.

06 December 2016

All the Photos…

So, I’ve been frustrated lately with how little time I have to post to my blog. It just doesn’t fit in much these days, no matter how much I’d like it to. And that’s okay. It’s the season I’m in.

But I did want to keep documenting my every-days with kids on the blog somehow. Facebook and Instagram are great for sharing, but my blog is where I want to collect and keep the majority of our family’s story.

I did a little research and learned about a thing called an applet. Then I created my own applet that automatically puts my Instagram posts on my blog. This fits the bill for me for now. And I felt very accomplished! Bonus!

I still want to write and do other more interesting posts. And that’ll happen occasionally. But for now I’m happy that at least there won’t be huge gaps of our lives missing from the blog in the meantime.

Thanks for understanding, and sorry to those who see these photos on Instagram and maybe on Facebook and then on the blog too! That’s overkill and I’m sorry about that.

Okay! Off to make sure my baby didn’t pull the Christmas tree on top of himself!

Love yas.

04 December 2016

01 December 2016

Paper Chain Countdown


Time for a paper chain! 15 more days until Grammi and Poppi come to see us!!! We are pretty darn excited.

Piggy Back


I've got a needy one today.

26 November 2016

Buckeye Boys


My Buckeye Boys... about to be up past their bedtime for the big game.

23 November 2016

Don't Let Him See Me


If my son sees me fold the cover back on a book, he scolds me. Funny boy. Currently borrowing his Harry Potter. He's read it about a dozen times so I thought I should give it a go...

22 November 2016

Baby Yoga

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Cutie butt.

Setting the Table

My boy H was happy and eager to help me set the table for some guests the other night.

He said some cute things in the process…

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“Since we’re having guests can we use the butter knife?!” (Which is actually a tool used for spreading icing… but whatever!)

“Does a spork go on the right or the left?”

“I put the glass on the right because it has the same amount of letters as knife and spoon.”

What a fun helper.

20 November 2016

Sand? No Thanks.


This guy. He refused to touch the sand. Funny baby. That grin though!

Shipwrecked


5 kids with big imaginations in a wrecked boat... pure childhood happiness. What a good day. Perks of living here? Day trips to the Red Sea with friends.

18 November 2016

Lil' Feeding Littler


She actually does really well feeding him! Her face is the best.

17 November 2016

Quote of the Day

A (age 3) after chewing gum for five hours looks at me wide-eyed and concerned…

“What did I just swallow?!”

Ha!

16 November 2016

Quote of the Day

We always ask a lot of questions about what happens at the big kids’ school. It’s pretty different from what we’re used to and we are so curious about how things work.

The other day we were asking H about his classmates.

He filled us in:

“I’m friends with all the boys in my class. But I don’t want to play with them at recess. I want to lead a quiet life. I like to do my own thing.”

Oh wow. That right there is a son after the heart of his father. He wants to lead a quiet life and do his own thing. Lord bless his heart. I love him something fierce.

15 November 2016

Lil' Companion


Had the best afternoon with this girlie. She's such a fun companion. 💖

11 November 2016

10 November 2016

Die, Self

I think I’ve entered the most physically and mentally demanding season of motherhood that I have yet experienced. My youngest just turned one. One year olds are pretty high on the cuteness chart and VERY high on the daily needs and attention-demanding chart. Productivity plummets big time for me when I have a one year old. Mental processes also decline (please see this post, which is very true for me again in this season, five years after I wrote it).

On top of the one year old, I have a high-energy and spunkified three year old. And two big kids who have many of their own needs. And an apartment and a husband and I don’t live in my home country and my husband travels a lot and blah blah blah. Basically everyone needs a piece of Mama and what else is new.

This is the case for so so many Mamas out there and I know I’m not special and I’m not complaining at all. This is the season I’m in and most of the time, I’m fine with it. I know that I have to make some mental adjustments when I have a one year old, so I’ve done that and we’re good.

However, sometimes I do find myself EXTREMELY challenged. I few years ago I made a conscious effort to strike the phrase “I’m so frazzled” (which seemed to accurately describe how I was/am often feeling)  from my vocabulary and replace it with “I’m challenged”. A challenge is a chance to persevere, an opportunity to grow. “Frazzled” makes me feel that I am a victim to my circumstances and that I do not have the ability to rise above. I am not a victim and I DO have the ability to rise above.

Aaaaanyway…

A few weeks ago Mike was traveling. I was solo parenting and it was the evening clean-up-dinner-get-four-kids-in-bed-one-by-one time. The house was a disaster zone, the baby was fussy, Lil’ A was slow to obey and the big kids needed help with various un-ending things. And by dinner time, this Mama is usually pretty wiped from the day. But I still had a couple hours of very hands-on time left with my kiddos before I could take a breather. I felt there was just not enough of me to go around.

At times like these I often have thoughts like this float through my head…

This is just too hard and I can’t do this!”

“Why does Mike leave me with four kids alone?” (BTW, I always send him off with my heart-felt blessing. Traveling in this way is part of who he is and what God has called him to do and I delight in seeing him do that! Oh the irony of my evil thoughts after he’s gone…)

“WHAT IN THE #@*% AM I DOING LIVING HERE?!”

You get the idea.

But this night, it was different.

You see, I’ve been reading a book called “The Switch on Our Brain” as well as Beth Moore’s “Living Beyond Yourself” (as you heard about recently) and also “Unoffendable”. And the main points are lining up for me (I hear you, God!!) Those points are that…

We have the power to overcome our negative thoughts through decision-making and THEREFORE the power to change our daily thought patterns.

We have this power…

1. If we are followers of Jesus who have the Holy Spirit

and

2. Because of the way our remarkable God created our brains in all their biological and chemical and other sciency things amazingness…

I don’t know if you’re tracking.  I don’t know if I’m tracking!?

What I’m saying is that we are NOT slaves to sin (in this case… a bad ‘tude, like we’re always yelling at our kids about. Hypocrite much? Ack.)

Not being a slave to sin is not new news to me (or maybe to you)… but for me, it’s application in this very particular part of my life IS new. I am not stuck forever in damaging thought patterns of resentment and pity parties. I am not chained to negative responses even when circumstances seem to  deem them appropriate. (According to the world and my sinful nature). I have a choice to make.

------

As humans, our ‘default’ setting is to have the negative response (“I should not have to work this hard!”), the sinful thought  (This is not fair, no one is helping me and the kids aren’t listening!!”), the selfish ambition (“I deserve a break right now because I’ve worked so hard today!”).

I very often find my thoughts pulled in this direction because the enemy is at work in the world and I’m a sinful human.

BUT

Greater is He that is in me than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)

Glory!

God has the power to overcome the pull toward sin and the pull toward self-serving thoughts. And God IS IN ME.

-----

So… that evening, when I felt frustrated with my children and my circumstances… a brand new phrase slipped through my lips…

Die, self”

… I whispered outloud to myself  as I picked up yet another dirty sock from the floor that somehow got covered with sand, AGAIN.

I said it because of this:

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  (Luke 9:23)

and

And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:34)

Sometimes those verses sound so fancy and spiritual and stuff. But in that moment God showed me how to actually do that in my circumstances.

 

“Die, self” to remind myself that as a follower of Jesus, that I myself am not my main concern. My needs can wait.

Die, self” to remind myself that it is my flesh that wants me to get frustrated with my children. I don’t want to follow that pull of the enemy.

“Die, self” because the Holy Spirit in me can bring me an extra dose of patience and joy if I just give Him a chance. Boy do I need that extra dose in those times.

AND IT WORKED.

So I kept doing it.

Most days, I tell myself to die at one point or another. Sound weird? Yeah, I suppose. But who am I, anyway? Do I have a right at 6pm sharp to lay on the couch and watch a movie or catch up on Facebook just because I’ve already been working all day? And more importantly… does that ‘right’ I have to rest after I’ve already been working so hard mean that my children deserve to have their Mama raise her voice at them when they haven’t done anything wrong and make them feel bad as they climb into bed at night? Yuck. I don’t want to do that.

*

Who am I anyway? That a half an hour standing in the grocery line is a such a waste of precious time to me and should so negatively affect my attitude?

It’s an opportunity for me to die. I want to grow, so I choose joy.

*

Who am I anyway? That someone cutting me off on the road should give me anger toward this country I call home?

It’s an opportunity for me to die. I want to grow, so I choose love.

*

Who am I anyway? That my child forgot to empty their lunchbox AGAIN and I’m going to be so offended by that?

It’s an opportunity for me to die. I want to grow, so I choose grace.

*

Who am I anyway, that one of my children wants to tell me a very long story when all I want to do is get up and finish all these day-end tasks that lie ahead of me and that’s so much more important than listening to my excited daughter?

It’s an opportunity for me to die. I want to grow (and not scar my daughter), so I choose patience.

*

The straight forward way to deal with all these things is this:

It is to forget myself.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am so terrible at this. This is actual fighting against the flesh. Many times I don’t want to forget myself. Many times I get angry and impatient and have no joy in my responses. But sometimes I do choose to die. (It is a choice). And that’s progress. And I honestly do feel a difference in my mothering. And the more I do it, the more it will become habit, because that’s how God created our brains to work.  That is so satisfying. Praise be to God who makes mental changes like this possible!

Also, it’s important to note, that if you know me, you know I am not a pushover (Ha! that makes me laugh just thinking about it!) You also know that I do know how to properly care for myself. I am not running myself into the ground taking care of everyone with no boundaries and letting everyone take advantage of me. Nope, that’s not me AT ALL. And that shouldn’t be you either.

But still, I want to forget myself. I want to die.

I want to put my hands to this cyclical and high-demand work of a mother that God has given me without having every task and word drip with resentment if things didn’t go just my way. I want God to grow me and use me to mold and shape my children into little humans who also are able to deny themselves and serve others patiently and with joy. I want to forget myself as Jesus forgot Himself. Jesus died so that I would have this VERY ability to deny myself and LIVE BY THE SPIRIT. Wow, what a remarkable gift.

Die, self. Because I want to truly live.

Googly Eyes


A (age 3) drew a boy, complete with googly eyes (she's REALLY into googly eyes and glues them on everything). He's the cutest thing I've ever seen in my life.

08 November 2016

Does a Calculator Work for That?


A is trying to turn off this mornings BBC coverage of the presidential race with her little calculator. Ha! She's a fun companion as I wait for the final outcome.

Market = Happy Place


Fabric shopping at the biggest market.

07 November 2016

Oh the Things We Say

“A. Tell me that’s not a grape between your toes”

and

“A. Stop eating popcorn with scissors.”

Who is this girl?! Never a dull moment.

Quote of the Day

H: “Mom, can I organize Daddy’s closet? I already folded all his tee-shirts and now I’m starting on his underwear”

Me: (After the shock wore off) “You’re a boy after my own heart, H… of course you can!”

…later…

H: “Mom, I really think we should reorganize the whole house once a year. Like, the first month of the year we organize everything… the closets and the bathrooms and…”

 

Wow do I love his ideas!! If only I could get him to clean and organize his own room…

Don’t look over there kids…

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(at the meat counter)

01 November 2016

Learning in the Kitchen

I’ve been inspired lately to teach my kids how to cook more and more things. I have a friend with older children and she taught them enough skills in the kitchen that now they take turns trying to out-do each other with the meals they prepare.

Um yes. Sign me up for children that do that please.

So where to start?

Chopping onions, in order to prepare meatballs, which my boy can now do entirely independently, glory!

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And they’re delicious.

AND he’s great for a giggle when he wears goggles to chop onions. Whatever works!

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