Sunday, November 30, 2008

November Tags

Bridget tagged me to do a photo post, which I've procrastinated in doing. This picture is actually from a folder on my desktop called "Pictures to sort through," but it is the 6th picture in the 6th folder so I guess I almost followed the rules. Truthfully I don't know why I have this folder on my desktop since I have a "My Pictures" folder on my hard drive just like everybody else in the world.

However I can't delete it because I haven't sorted through them yet and it's dangerous to delete anything labeled "to sort." My Grandma C. had tons of papers "to sort" when she died and my aunt thought about just throwing them away since there were so many (seriously dressers full of papers), but then she opened a drawer and sifted through some papers and found some stock certificates and figured she should probably go through everything. And that's why this folder is still cluttering up my desktop. I might find treasure in there.

Truthfully it's because I'm a pack rat just like my Grandma. I really shouldn't be. But I am.

Because sometimes you do find treasure! Sometimes the 6th picture in the 6th folder ends up being a portrait you took of your baby on their first birthday (or two days before, as the case may be) and you end up being really happy that you didn't just junk that file even though it's probably on your husband's computer anyway. Isn't she adorable?


Besides there was only one picture in My Pictures/6th folder and I already used it on my blog back in August, so it would have been boring to use it again.

And Layla tagged me to share my Seven Wonders, so here we go!

Seven things to do before I die:
1. Go on a couple's mission with Andrew. I wanted to go to Russia; but Russia's been closed to foreign missionaries so I guess I'll just have to go wherever. Besides Russia is cold. I hate cold.
2. Go back to school to get my master's degree. We'll see when and in what. It will probably be after Andrew is finished with his PhD and has a teaching position at a good university, and when the kids are mostly in school.
3. Continue traveling the world. There are so many places to see. In short I want to go basically everywhere and anywhere. Except maybe Iraq...or Sudan...you know, places like that.
4. Swim in the Atlantic Ocean. I've never done this and it's been on my list since grade 5. I actually think it would be cool to take a dip in each of the "oceans." Except the Arctic one. Because I hate the cold.
5. Learn how to sew and knit. I took knitting lessons when I was younger but I can't remember how. And I've never used a sewing machine to actually make anything. I guess what I really want to do is make a quilt. But that doesn't involve knitting. I still want to learn that, too.
6. Fluently converse in a foreign language. I'm not sure exactly what my definition of fluent is. Probably something like not having to ask the person I'm talking to to repeat themselves after each sentence they say.
7. Be published. I want to write a story or a book or something and have it published. I've written a lot, I just haven't published anything. Yet.

Seven things I cannot do:
1. Drive. I didn't put it on my list of things to do before I die because I really have no desire to learn how to drive. Driving scares me.
2. The splits or a handspring. After all those years of gymnastics I still can't.
3. Drink tap water--here. I am so used to drinking tap water that I'm still getting used to not drinking it. It's hard for me; it's one of the things I miss most about North America.
4. Carry the jogging stroller upstairs with Rachel in it. I can carry the jogging stroller up the stairs and I can carry Rachel up the stairs, I just can't do both at the same time.
5. Stand the smell of butcher shops. Once upon a time I considered dating an old friend from the Calgary Regional Dances. He was a butcher, though, so my mom told me it was probably a bad idea. So I stopped writing him. I can't stand the smell, though, so it really wouldn't have worked out. I don't know how my sister worked at Cargil. I have to hold my breath and divert my eyes when I walk past the butcher shops here. I don't know what I'm going to do during Eid al Adha.
6. Stay mad for very long. Usually. Especially not when I'm mad at Rachel because she's so cute. And not when I'm mad at Andrew, either, because he'd do anything for me and never makes me mad on purpose.
7. Cross Bur Said without almost hyperventilating.

Seven things that attracted me to my spouse:
1. He is smart. He speaks 3 different languages, gets a 4.0 almost every semester, plays the piano and clarinet, and knows the gospel well. He's entirely well-rounded.
2. He helps out around the house. I thank Karen for this. He's not afraid to clean the toilets and if he comes home and dinner isn't ready yet he'll pitch in and help.
3. He is very sincere. His compliments and pick-up lines are rarely eloquent, but they are truthful. And I think that's sweet. His smile is sincere, too. And he's a bad liar. So I can totally tell when he's bluffing anything: a compliment, a mood. He's completely transparent.
4. I always have a good time when I'm with him. He makes me laugh everyday, and promised to do so from when we first started going out. Even when we're doing boring things it's fun because he's just fun to be around.
5. He's always trying to help me become a better person. On the way home from our first date he asked me if I had a scripture marking system--I didn't, and still don't--and then explained his to me. He is always bringing me erudite books home to read and suggesting articles for me to read. I read the news because of him, actually, because he talks about current events all the time and I want to have something to contribute to the conversation. Oh, and he encourages me 100% in anything I try to do. Yoga, bellydancing, cake decorating, learning Arabic. If I want to try it, he will get me the equipment and encourage me all along the way. So he's supportive. That's a good summative sentence.
6. He's a good listener. I have a lot to say, obviously...and he always listens.
7. He couldn't go a day without seeing me. Sometimes I'd be busy until 10:00 at night and he'd be at my house when I got home so that he could see me, just once, that day. Now we're married so he gets to see me everyday, no problem!

Seven things I say most often:
1. "Do you have to go potty?"
2. "What does a(n) [insert animal] say?"
3. "I love you."
4. "When are you coming home?"
5. "Inshallah," "Ilhamdulilah," and "Shukran."
6. "Ask nicely."
7. "Rachel, Rachel, Rachel!"

Seven books or writers I love:
1. Ella Enchanted
2. The Book of Mormon
3. Harry Potter--didn't ever think I would, but I do.
4. Chronicles of Narnia--and other CS Lewis tales
5. Historical Fiction, particularly in the swing era
6. Love you Forever by Robert Munsch
7. Martine Leavitt. She was my YW leader and I try to read everything she writes. I haven't read Heck yet.

Seven movies I could watch over and over again:
1. Star Trek. Yup, it's true. I'm a geek. But I don't like Star Wars so I'm some kind of an apostate geek.
2. Hotel Rwanda. Scares me to death every time, but gives me a lot to think about.
3. Most Pixar or Disney movies.
4. Uhhh, Miss Potter was good.
5. Wait Until Dark, The Princess Bride, and other "Mormon Classics."
6. Elf. It's "our" movie, unintentionally.
7. Uhhh...I'm having a really hard time thinking of seven movies I like. But I like the TV show The Office. I could watch that over and over.

Seven people I am tagging:
1. Carolee
2. Abra
3. Kelli
4. Crystal
5. Krystal
6. Joy
7. Shaille

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The horse's neigh

Watching this video with Rachel is hilarious! Every time the video-me asks her a question, both the video-Rachel and the real-Rachel answer at almost the exact same time. It's like surround sound.



Oh, rats! Con't...

Somehow I thought it'd take longer than a half hour for Templeton to work out a scheme. Unfortunately it only look him about 28 minutes. It helped, I suppose, that he didn't work out every part of his plan. Instead he kind of winged it.

I think his plan can be summarized thusly: Get around the glue. Somehow.

And get around the glue he did!

First he tried climbing up our screen but soon realized that this was fruitless since once he was up the screen there was no where to go. But seeing him stretched out and dangling helplessly in midair made him seem tall and skinny and quite a bit smaller than he seemed before. Still, a rat is a rat and I was hoping that he'd fall to his death.


Alas, he didn't.

Instead he just walked around the board using the very edge of the windowsill and part of the wall.

Perhaps we'll be able to lure him into a sense of false security--we'll just leave the board out there for a while and see if he begins to think it's benign. Or maybe we'll put some peanut butter out to tempt him instead of the haram bacon grease. Our problem might just be that he is a Muslim rat and won't eat anything that's not halal.

If we don't trap him soon we might just get some rat poison. Our friend Abe also had a rat (who would frequent the interior of his apartment, so we're lucky because ours doesn't) and he poisoned him. I asked about the stench, but Abe said that this particular poison completely dehydrates the rat so there wasn't any smell postmortem. Of course, Abe is a bachelor so it's possible that he simply didn't notice the smell...

Oh, rats!

There's a saying that is used to express disappointment. I'm sure you're all familiar with it. It goes like this, "Oh, rats!"

And this morning we learned the etymology for that statement.

The Schillings gave us some rat glue at church last Friday. They'd tried using it for their "pet" mouse. The basic idea is that you put the glue on something, bait the rat (or mouse) with some yummy goodness, and then the rat (or mouse) walks on it and gets everlastingly stuck.

We finally put it out last night on a small plank of wood, balanced on our window sill. But the rat just wouldn't come, and wouldn't come, and wouldn't come. We even baited it with absolutely tempting and rather unkosher bacon grease (yum! yum!). Templeton, however, was out partying it up last night and didn't come home until around 7:40 this morning.

I saw him start sneaking across the window sill and called over to Andrew so that we could watch him get trapped. Templeton walked up to the plank and sniffed it. Then he turned tail and ran away! Oh, rats!

This is the only picture I got of him. I don't know why, but I think half his body is hanging off the window sill--not sure what he's doing; probably he's debating the fate of his life. But here's a picture of his rear end and tail. I measured our window. It's 20 inches across. His tail is also just about that long, if you're looking for a size reference.


So there he sat debating the fate of his life, for nearly 5 minutes, until Andrew banged on the window. Then Templeton left.

I suppose it's a good thing that we didn't catch him because we really haven't worked out Part B of our plan, the part where we dispose of Templeton once he's stuck to the board. He'll still be alive when (and if) we catch him, so we're not exactly sure what to do with him when the time comes.

Maybe that time will never come. Maybe Templeton will never come back. But he's a rat so he'll probably be back with some way to out think our glue trap. Rats are like that.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Flashback Friday: Nativity Pageants Past

I thought that primary would go back to normal today. Things have been kind of crazy the past few weeks. We had our primary presentation on the 14th so were practicing for that in the weeks previous, throwing our sharing time and singing time off schedule. And then the day we actually did the primary presentation was a little hectic as well. We switched the meeting blocks around and practiced for the first two hours of church and did the presentation during sacrament meeting for the last hour of church. Last week was district conference so we didn't have primary at all, and yeah, things have been a little crazy.

And then today I found out that the primary was asked to do a nativity pageant for the branch Christmas party. We have two weeks to put that together and practice. So it seems that things are, once again, a little crazy. That's what I get for doing my own thinking.

While we were sitting in our presidency meeting trying to figure out who we could have play the roles of Mary and Joseph without causing too many tears (because everyone, of course, wants to be Mary). I began to reflect upon some of my own pageant memories, three of which stand out specifically.

My first memory was from when I was so little that I can't remember how old I was. But I was mortified that I was asked to be a cow. Or a sheep. I don't even remember what I was. All I know was that I wanted to be Mary, or an angel, or something. I just didn't want to be some stupid barn animal. But that's what I was.

My mom had a little hood for me and the other cow/sheeps to wear. She tried to convince me that I was the most beautiful cow/sheep of all but I'm quite positive I just sat on the stage and pouted, making me the grumpiest looking cow/sheep ever.

That's the first nativity I remember participating in, and it's really not a happy memory. I hated every minute of it. I was a vain child.

Now of course there were many pageants in between this first one and my last one in primary and I remember singing some songs with my friend Emily Loos and getting wise men costumes together. My parents had this beautifully carved wood box that we would use to represent one of the gifts. And my dad had an old, wood cane that we would use as a staff. I have a lot of good, fun memories of Christmas nativities, but they're all just snippets. The next good, solid memory I have is when I was eleven.

Eleven is a hard age to be in primary. All I wanted to be was out of there, but my birthday wasn't for 6 more months so I was still stuck in primary--a tall, gawky pre-teen in among snotty nosed children--when it was time for the Christmas nativity.

The presidency assigned parts by drawing names out of a jar.

They drew Mary and Joseph out first. I don't remember who Joseph was, but a girl named Heather got to play the part of Mary.

Heather was elated, but the rest of the girls were not. We all sat by gloomily waiting while the boys were assigned their parts: Joseph, the innkeepers, the wise men. On and on the boys parts went. Finally they decided that they probably needed some more girls taking part, so they drew a girl for the part of the angel.

Since all left over girls were already assigned to be angels, I was hoping to be the "head angel" so that I could at least have a speaking part. But it was not to be. Shauna's name was drawn. She would be the angel.

Abra knew I was upset so she lent me some of her white clothes and curled my hair to make me feel all pretty. She has a special talent for that.

I may have felt pretty, but that didn't mean that I didn't also feel awkward. I have a picture (somewhere in a box in my inlaw's basement in Utah) of me on stage with the rest of the angels. I'm at least a foot taller than everyone else on stage. I looked completely out of place, a giant of an angel.

My mom tried to make me feel better by telling me that I was the real head angel because I was the one leading all the other smaller angels on and off the stage. It didn't really make me feel better though and every time I see that picture of me towering, tall and skinny, above all these chubby, cherubic sunbeams I feel awkward all over again.

Several years later, past Young Women's and into Relief Society, the sisters were asked to sing a carol describing Mary's thoughts and feelings at the ward Christmas party. Once again I wasn't selected to be Mary. Instead they chose another young girl, slightly older than me who was married and expecting her first baby. I didn't mind not being chosen; I guess I had matured some since I was 4 or 11.

But the week before we preformed the girl decided to go on vacation and since there weren't many other girls in our Relief Society in Mary's age bracket I was chosen as the backup Mary.

Although I wasn't disappointed when I wasn't chosen to portray Mary, I sure was excited when I was. I got to wear a veil and carry a doll wrapped in a blanket and everything; and all the Relief Society sisters gathered around me to sing to the baby Jesus.

It wasn't a big deal, really, but it's something that I'd always wanted to do; it was on my "life list," so to speak, and it was interesting to play such an intimate role in the nativity. It gave me greater reason to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas and the truly humble circumstances the Savior was born into. I suppose I could have done that without playing the part of Mary in a nativity program, but having the opportunity to be Mary gave me more perspective somehow.

I'm sure we'll have several young girls in tears this coming Friday when we announce who Mary is and I'll know exactly how they feel as their poor, hopeful hearts break. I think it's sweet that little girls care about this so much. I don't think it's about being in the limelight as much as it is the desire to "be" there when the Savior is born. To hold him, to love him, to welcome him into the world as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

But we can't all be Mary all the time and there really were other important roles. In fact, one of my favorite Christmas songs, The Friendly Beasts, describes exactly how that grumpy looking cow/sheep I played so many years ago loved, served, and sacraficed for the little baby Jesus with as much devotion as his mother Mary. Every part in the Christmas story is important.

Now, how to explain that to a bunch of sobbing six-year-olds?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

We haven't been feeling the Christmas spirit yet. It's green here, and warm. And it doesn't feel like Christmas. I've been wanting to make it feel more like Christmas, but Andrew has been dead set against it.

He's a firm believer in the "No Christmas Anything Until After Thanksgiving" rule.

That's a hard rule for me to follow because I didn't grow up with that rule and Thanksgiving is in October, anyway, so I was used to listening to Christmas music all through November, and sometimes before...if I felt like it.

So Rachel and I have been sneaking Christmas in.

I checked out Spot's Magical Christmas from the library (not this time but last time) and Andrew just about died when he saw it. We had broken the second NCAUAT article--thou shalt not read Christmas stories until after the turkey is digested--which is probably next to either treason or murder in his law book. In case you are wondering the first article is, "Thou shalt not listen to, nor sing, nor whistle, nor hum, nor play, nor make any allusions to or parodies of Christmas music before the last morsel of pie is eaten." Andrew is a devout NCAUAT rule follower.

A hum-bug, though, he is not! He loves Christmas and really gets into it. We have a lot of special Christmastime memories, besides, you know, Christmas. We got married on December 16th and honeymooned in Italy over Christmas that year, so obviously that takes up a huge chunk of our Christmas memories. So Christmas is always wonderful.

I love to remember the birth of the Savior. I love the smell of cinnamon and pine trees and gingerbread. I don't love the snow. I love the lights and how cheerful everyone seems. I love peace on earth, goodwill to men. I love singing Christmas songs. And I love how Christmas reminds me and Andrew how much we love each other.

But we've been missing a lot of that here. There are few Santas. There are fewer nativities. And the only lights I've seen so far were flashing a "Happy New Year" to everyone from the top of the Nile Hilton, completely missing out on the whole Christmas thing altogether. I suppose that's what happens when you live in an Islamic part of the world. *Sigh.*

Because Andrew loves Christmas so much, though, he turned on Christmas music the minute we got home from Thanksgiving dinner and started setting up the Charlie Brown Christmas tree that we purchased today for only 12 LE.

We danced around our dining room to Winter Weather by Shapiro and trimmed our puny, sad-looking tree together. We also hung up our stockings and put up a little nativity set that we brought along with us. It was fun to watch Rachel's eyes light up. Children make Christmas seem so magical. I suppose it's because they're so much closer to Heavenly Father, and are so willing to believe in happy things. If only I could mimic that look of wondering awe that Rachel put on her face when she saw what we were doing. I hope I can impress upon her the reason for the season--Santa is MIA over here so it looks rather doable to me!


And so it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, at least in our apartment.

Full of Thanks

Thanksgiving day is here and our Thankful Tree is full to over flowing. There are so many things we have to be thankful for; here are the things that made it on our tree this year:


  • Family
  • The Gift of the Holy Ghost
  • Love
  • School
  • Repentence
  • Skype
  • The gospel
  • Food
  • Soldiers
  • Wonderful wife
  • Mommy
  • Naps
  • Good books
  • Scriptures
  • Rachel hugs
  • Good health
  • Obama '08
  • Daddy
  • Flowers
  • Home
  • Freedom
  • Faith
  • Our Bodies
  • Jesus
  • Grandparents
  • Heavenly Father
  • Our branch
  • Music
  • Temples
  • That Templeton lives in our ceiling--not in our house
  • Agency
  • Forgiveness
  • Nature (trees, animals, etc.)
  • Sunshine
  • Our washing machine
  • Tutoring jobs/Harman
  • The power of prayer
  • Toys
  • Friends
  • Internet, IM, email, blogs, facebook, etc.
  • The Book of Mormon
  • President Monson
  • Clean running water
  • The atonement
  • Trials
  • Time off school
  • Scholarships, Fellowships, grants, and (to a lesser degree) loans
  • Rachel
  • White crayons
  • Swimming pools
  • The priesthood
  • Living prophets
  • That we have enough clothes to wear

There's also a little leaf on there that Rachel colored and then took the black crayon and wrote something on it. She then started to try to stick it to the wall, but it kept falling off because we hadn't put any sticky goop on it yet. I took it from her and suggested we write something on it, which upset her because she already wrote on it! So we just put some goop on it and stuck it to the wall. I don't know what it says, but Rachel's thankful for that, too!

The amazing thing is that, even with this long list of 50+ things, we still have so much to be grateful for! Heavenly Father has blessed us with so much! That's one of the reasons I like Thanksgiving so much--it's a wonderful thing to remember that you are blessed.

Thanksgiving Dip

This year Thanksgiving rocked. The Tuellers invited everyone in the branch who had no where to go for dinner. We were the first to arrive and the first thing we did was take a dip in their pool. It's outside. And we used it on Thanksgiving.

That might not sound remarkable to you, but for me it was a novelty.


We had the pool all to ourselves. It was a lot of fun! The water was a little too cool for me, but Andrew had a great time diving in and splashing all around. Rachel also had a great time; we put her in an inner tube and let her loose. She panicked at first, but soon she got the hang of it and was kicking herself all around the pool. Andrew flipped her out of the inner tube once (by accident, of course) and she just kept on kicking her legs and swimming around until he picked her back up (which was only a few moments). She's such a little fish!

By the time we'd dried off and changed (in our private changing rooms, complete with showers and toilets) some more guests had arrived and we spent the early part of the afternoon chatting with our hosts and other friends while munching on freshly roasted nuts (that were still warm) and vegetable trays while drinking freshly squeezed juices.

Rachel had a great time shoving as much food as she could into her mouth. At one point I made Andrew make her spit everything out so we could see what she had in there because she looked like a little chipmunk. She had two whole almonds, a chewed up cucumber, a pistachio shell, and a few peanuts. She had swallowed nothing. But she did manage to swallow an olive pit. We'll see how that turns out a little later.

The chef made a fabulous spread for dinner. There were two giant turkeys, complete with those little paper things on their legs. I've never actually seen those before in real life. I should have taken a picture but I was too busy getting food... There was cranberry sauce, gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potatoes, corn pudding, an onion sauce, a salad, buns...oh, and then the pies! Pumpkin, pecan, apple, and ice cream pies! They were all so good!

Sister Tueller said that the chef chose very traditional dishes and made everything from scratch. And by scratch I mean the ice cream was made from vanilla beans crushed by the chef himself.

It was so fun to be surrounded by such great friends (eating off of plates trimmed with 18 karat gold and drinking out of crystal glasses).

Before we dug into the feast, however, we went around the room and everyone had to say what they were thankful for. I think it would be fair to say that everyone mentioned being thankful for their families, the branch, and the gospel in some form or another. We were very grateful for the hospitality of the Tuellers. They opened their home up to everyone who didn't have anywhere to go for Thanksgiving, but more specifically to the young couples in the branch. The Tuellers were here in Cairo 27 years ago (1981-1982) as a young married couple and had been shown such generosity from the members of the branch then; they figured this would be a good way to return the deeds done to them when they were just starting out their family.

They are such an amazing family!

It struck me as incredible that we could one day--27 years from now?--be in their shoes, in such an opportune position to give. We never know what we will become, do we? I don't imagine that the Tuellers ever dreamed their life would play out the way it has. We, likewise, are always surprised with the twists our life has been taking. Hopefully one day we will be in a better position to give, but if not and until then we will continue to give all we can.

Since the young families of the branch were invited, there were, of course, several children for Rachel to play with. Rachel loved playing with Finn, Abby and Lydia, but I think she enjoyed following around Lu'ai and Robby even more. She even got brave enough to pet the Tueller's dog after watching Lu'ai and Robby play with him.

Robby just turned 3 and Lu'ai is 2 and a half, so they are somewhat older than her. She struggled keeping up, but she was not going to be left behind. Robby's family, the Cammocks, live in Zamalek so they go over to the Tueller's house a lot (to use their swimming pool and hang out) so he was giving Rachel and Lu'ai the full tour, showing them every little nook and cranny of the house, I'm sure.

My favorite part about today is that Lu'ai and Robby taught Rachel how to play fight. It was so hilarious to watch! Pretend punches and kicks were flying left and right, and all three of them were yelling and making punching noises, "Pow! Pow! Pow!"

Lu'ai actually clocked Rachel a couple of times and I could tell she wanted to cry but she just sucked it up, said "Pow!" and kept on chasing those boys around! She's a tough little cookie!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Today was long

3:00 AM I convince my sleeping husband that it is not time to turn off the alarm clock. Then I convince him that he shouldn't turn on the light either. Then I explain to him, again, that he's sleeping under mosquito netting. Then I say, "Andrew! What are you doing?" He says, "Sleeping." And then he does. But I don't.

6:15 AM I convince my sleeping husband that it is time to turn off the alarm clock.

6:25 AM I convince my sleeping husband that, once again, it is time to turn off the alarm clock. Somehow I manage to get him out of bed without hitting snooze again.

7:25 AM I wake up again to kiss Andrew goodbye and climb back in bed.

8:45 AM I wake up to the sounds of Rachel playing in her room. I go in to get her and we get back in my bed to nurse.

9:20 AM Rachel and I go out to get breakfast. I don't know why she thinks she needs breakfast after nursing, but she does.

10:00 AM We get dressed. I squish Rachel's finger in the drawer accidentally even though I checked to see if her hand was in the way before I closed it. She doesn't cry. I don't notice. I start walking away and she flips out and points to her hand like, "Duh, mom!"

10:30 AM I call Melissa to see if she's going to playgroup. I don't want to be the only one there. She's not going. I decide to go anyway.

11:00 AM We finally leave the house. I forgot the stroller at the CSA last night so I use the baby leash and make Rachel walk. She trips and falls multiple times because she never looks where she's going.

11:25 AM We finally make it to the CSA. I walk in carrying Rachel, who is all dusty and bloody from falling in the street, and put her on the couch of the library along with our swimbag. I take off my backpack. I pull out our library books and walk up to the librarian, who watched me come into the library. I hand the librarian the books and turn to leave. "What would you like to do with these?" she asks. "Return them," I say. We grab the stroller and head out.

11:35 AM We finally make it to the Maadi House. Lydia is there. I am happy because, even though I brought a book, it will be nice to talk to a grown up. Jacquie and Rachel throw sand at each other, but mostly just put it on their own heads.

11:45 AM Jacquie throws a fit about wanting to go swimming and starts to strip off her clothes.

11:46 AM We decide to go swimming.

12:00 PM We get changed, in the change rooms not at the playground, and get in the pool. Except Jacquie. She doesn't want to swim anymore. But Rachel does. She's a swimming machine. She spent most of her time at the wall, but also enjoyed climbing out of the pool and jumping back in over and over again. I'm not sure that counts as leaving the wall.

12:20 PM Lydia and I switch children. Jacquie stops whining and focuses on trying to decide whether or not I'm going to drown her. We play "The Wheels On the Bus" and "Motor Boat, Motor Boat." Rachel lies on her back with Lydia and kicks her legs.

12:45 PM Lydia and Jacquie leave. Rachel and I go to play on the steps. Rachel is being very independent and doesn't want me to hold her in the pool, although she will let Lydia. The steps are a good place to be since they allow Rachel's head to be above the water and thus prevent drowning.

1:00 PM I teach Rachel how to move around the pool holding onto the wall. She thinks this is the best ever.

1:30 PM We get too cold and decide to get out and have lunch. I tell Rachel she has to use the potty first. She does. So we stay for lunch.

1:45 PM My hot dog comes out. Apparently they (meaning the restaurant personnel) don't think a hot dog and fries are enough to split between two people so they bring out unlimited cucumbers for Rachel. Maybe they just think she's cute.

2:00 PM Rachel leaves me to play in the park. By herself. With other kids. Without me forcing her to.

2:10 PM She is sharing toys with other kids. And playing with them. And looking too grown up.

2:15 PM She starts coming over to me to show me a toy. I ignore her and continue to read my book hoping she'll realize that it's alright to just play with her new friends. She biffs it and lands on her face. She screams really loudly so I put down my book and pick her up. She keeps squeezing her nose and yelling. It's not that bad.

2:20 PM Rachel goes to play again. I start reading again.

2:29 PM I look up to check on Rachel's location and panic. Some kids have moved the baby play set underneath a whirly swing-thing. A girl is standing on top ready to jump off and spin around on the whirly swing-thing. Rachel is just about to come out the door of the play set, which just happens to lead to right underneath the whirly swing-thing. I yell.

2:30 PM Too late. Rachel gets nailed by the jumping girl and flies across the playground and lands facedown in the sand. She screams louder than before.

2:40 PM She stops crying and we head back over to the CSA to choose some new library books.

2:45 PM I have found a travel book about Spain. I gave up trying to find one about Morocco. The library is organized, but not well. Things are alphabetical by author's last name under the following categories: General Fiction, Romance, Oprah's Booklist, Middle East Books. The travel books are alphabetial by place name--so Spain is with the esses but Madrid is with the ems. The children's books are categorized mostly by size, shape, and brand of book. All the Golden books are together, etc. It's enough to drive me mad.

2:55 PM Rachel and I pick out three children's books, all of which have animals in the pictures. Of course. We take them to be checked out. The librarian, who was watching us select our books and hemming and hawing everytime Rachel squwaked says, "What would you like to do with these?" I answer simply, "We'd like to check them out." "Do you mean take them home?" she asks. I grit my teeth and nod. My patience is wearing thin. It's nap time.

2:56 PM I decide that I should ask the librarian about a Morocco travel book. There is no available catalogue for patrons so asking the librarian is my only hope. "Do you happen to also have a travel book about Morocco?" I ask, "I wasn't able to find on one the shelf."

2:57 PM I wait while the librarian glares at me in silence. "Then it must be checked out," she finally answers in a curt way that I know means she thinks it was a stupid question. Just because a book isn't on the shelf doesn't mean it's checked out. It could just mean they don't have it. The library is only three or four times the size of my mom's office at the HBLL. I think my mom probably has as many books in her office as the library here has in total. I didn't see any travel books about Guinea-Bissau, Belize, Gabon, Burkina Faso, Nauru, or Tuvalu on the shelves, either, but I will assume that those also were checked out.

3:00 PM I wrestle Rachel, the books, and my backpack out of the library and we sit outside on a bench to read because I don't feel like being in the library anymore. Libraries are supposed to be welcoming, happy places. The CSA library could use some more cheer. Like storytime. Maybe I'll volunteer to do storytime. But only if the staring librarian who thinks I ask dumb questions leaves for the duration. No. Scratch that. She must stay. And she must enjoy herself. I don't think she has enough fun.

3:15 PM Rachel and I get home. She goes potty, I give her a drink. And then I put her down for a nap. She goes down willingly.

3:20 PM Rachel is still awake, talking to her dolls.

3:25 PM Rachel is still awake, talking to her dolls.

3:30 PM Rachel is still awake, talking to her dolls.

3:45 PM I hear a little knock on Rachel's bedroom door, accompanied by a timid, "Mama?" I open up her door. She has taken off her diaper so is almost nude. She shrugs her shoulders the same way she does when she just can't go potty. It's the "I just don't need to go" look, but this time it means "I just don't need to sleep."

4:07 PM Rachel plays nicely while I work. I occasionally get interrupted so that she can go potty, etc. But for the most part she's perfect.

5:23 PM I stop working and start thinking about dinner. Rachel and I share some yogurt and play and read stories instead.

6:03 PM Abra calls. Skype is having a hard time so it takes us several tries to get a good connection. Abra and I talk while Rachel and Malachi colour. They show each other their pictures. Rachel has a snack. Kai wants a snack, too. He suggests ice cream. Abra says he needs to come up with a better snack than that. So he suggests an ice cream sundae. I think that is hilarious. He should come to the library to help cheer up the librarian. Kai ends up with a pickle. He is happy.

6:29 PM Abra and I decide we need to tend to our wifely/motherly duties of housework and hang up. I boil some water in our nifty water boiler only to realize that we have no clean pots because I didn't do the dishes last night.

6:30 PM I give up making dinner and play with Rachel again.

6:45 PM I decide that I really ought to make dinner because Andrew will be home in a half hour. Before I can do that I have to do the dishes, so I start scrubbing a pot. There is rice stuck to the bottom and I can't get it off even though it was soaking all night long.

7:02 PM Andrew comes home and finds me scrubbing a pot and Rachel sitting on one doing her business. She's been so great about taking herself recently. It rocks.

7:30 PM We finally have dinner. Spaghetti. I couldn't think of anything more exciting. But Sara gave me yummy, real tomato sauce on Sunday so tonight's spaghetti actually tastes good. And Andrew made garlic bread. Well, kind of. He started the garlic bread and I finished it. I started the spaghetti and he finished it. So we ended up making dinner together.

8:00 PM We finish dinner. Rachel goes potty again. And then again. She's always surprising me with how much she can hold inside! We read Slowly, Slowly, Slowly said the Sloth and then get Rachel ready for bed, even though she didn't want to.

8:46 PM Because Rachel didn't want to get ready for bed it took quite a while to get her that way. We have scriptures and prayer and put her to bed. She doesn't cry.

9:13 PM I am happy because Rachel is in bed. Andrew and I talk for a bit and then I let him do homework and I start writing this.

9:15 PM Andrew IMs me to inform me that he hasn't started homework and instead wants to write a shopping list by saying "If you are a racist, I will attack you with the North. We need to make a shopping list." I have no idea what he is talking about so I say, "If you are a pie, I will eat you with anyone who wants a smaller piece. Yes, my guest, we do."*

9:17 PM We commence writing our shopping list.

9:23 PM We finish writing our shopping list and I go back to the computer. Andrew IMs me again, "asdfiul;kafdgsdf." And I write back, "That didn't make sense. And neither do you!"** Then I continued writing.

10:04 PM My cousin Mary IMs me and we chat for a bit.

10:23 PM I finish writing this blog post. It took a long time and I didn't even put in everything that we did today. I don't think I'll do it again. I'm tired. I hope that I can sleep tonight. I hope that Rachel naps tomorrow and that today's non-nap was just a fluke.

* He was quoting The Office. I didn't catch on so I made up the line about the pie and quoted one of the tour guides we had in Istanbul.
**reference to a poem by Ibn al-Rumi.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Courtesy of the Muslim Brotherhood


I accidentally locked Andrew out of the house last night. I left the key in the door on the inside, which meant that unlocking the door from the outside was next to impossible. So instead of just opening the door, Andrew rang the doorbell. When I opened it for him, he presented me with a cute bouquet, wrapped up nicely in cellophane and tied with a ribbon.

"For you," he declared, sweeping a chivalrous bow, "Courtesy of the Muslim Brotherhood."

It took me a minute to register what he was saying. Andrew so rarely brings me flowers--he knows that I prefer live plants to cut ones--so it was a bit of a shock. Why had he brought me flowers? Had he joined the Muslim Brotherhood? Had he purchased the flowers from a member of the Muslim Brotherhood? What exactly was the Muslim Brotherhood? It used to be illegal in Jordan, was it illegal in Egypt? Why had he even been in contact with the Muslim Brotherhood? And what did they have to do with flowers? Did I forget some important anniversary of ours?

I had so many questions floating around in my head that eloquence failed me.

"What?" I asked stupidly.

And then I corrected myself, "I mean, 'Thanks for the flowers....What?'"

That morning Andrew's Arabic class had a guest speaker, a parliamentary member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Andrew said it was very interesting to hear from him and he brought everyone in the class a small bouquet.


So that's how I came to have a bouquet of roses from the Muslim Brotherhood sitting on my dining room table, just in case you wanted to know.

Monday, November 24, 2008

I love this girl.

Rachel's been rather headstrong her whole life. I started fighting with her when she was still in the womb. She'd kick me and I'd poke her back and then she'd kick a bit harder and then I'd poke and prod until whatever limb it was sticking out would go back into place. My own impertinence was always a mistake because whenever I started to think that I'd won the battle, Rachel would, I swear, lock her knee caps or something and there'd be no way for me to push her back to where I wanted her. So I'd just have to hold my breath (sometimes literally) until she decided to let me be comfortable again.

She's still just as headstrong and we still get in fights about it at least once a day. I've given up on making her wear normal clothes unless we are going out because it just isn't worth the headache. Sundays are always traumatic. If we're late for church and Rachel looks like she's been crying it's because she had to try on every dress in her closet before we could go.

Here she is in some of her self-proposed outfits: a 3T t-shirt with my Sunday shoes, and a bathing suit with froggy slippers.


She's cute in anything she wears and I'd rather have her be happy wearing what she wants to wear than miserable and wearing what I want her to wear. This will probably change when she starts school. I wouldn't want her to get teased for going to school with no pants on or anything like that.

And here she is goofing around in the bathroom. I think she likes the bathroom/kitchen area of the house simply because I don't. She's always running off to do something she's not supposed to, but she sure is cute while she does it.

Today I saw her run off with I Like It When and then I heard her potty scraping along the bathroom floor. I ran to see what she was doing. I think she had been planing on taking herself potty (for the third time today) but the light was off and it was too dark so she decided to relocate to the hallway.

She had picked up the potty by the horn in the front and was sloshing pee all over the floor! I am certainly planning on leaving the bathroom light on, so that she can take herself without having to move her potty, and will be checking her potty more often, so that I can empty her potty of the pees she's done without my knowledge.


That picture of her holding the shaving cream can up to her ear? That's her phone. One of my favorite things about Rachel is that you can say, "It's for you!" and she'll put whatever it is she's holding up to her ear to "talk on the phone." I think it's adorable.

She also loves to swing on the bathroom sink. Or the oven door. Or the kitchen table. Or the back of the chairs. She uses anything she can as monkey bars. She's always climbing, climbing, climbing. It's driving me nuts! She climbed on the table after dinner and grabbed a knife that I hadn't cleared yet. Eek! And I thought we were finished baby proofing. Perhaps baby proofing is just a constant battle.

Last night we proofed our baby against mosquitoes. The poor dear woke up yesterday morning with several mosquito bites on her arms, face, back, and legs. The mosquitoes here are awful--they hunt around and attack you all at once. You're fine one moment and than *bam* you have like 4 mosquito bites on one arm!

Rachel's bites swell up a lot, like Andrew's do, and she's always scratching at them. We decided that it was better to prepare and prevent so we finally rigged up a mosquito net for her. It took us quite a while to do it since nothing we tried worked. We even borrowed the Lewis' drill (and cement bit) but we couldn't get into our walls or our ceiling with that. We ended up putting screw in Rachel's headboard and attaching the other end of the net to a broom pole that we duct-taped to the side of her bed, and a thing that was sticking out of the wall.

It worked alright. She thought it was pretty cool to be sleeping in a fort and stayed in it the whole night long. She woke up without a bite.


Today we fixed it up a bit so it's a little more sturdy and a little less sloppy than it was before.

Soon we'll forget all about the mosquitoes here, just like how Andrew forgot about the mosquitoes in Jordan. Before we moved I was lamenting about those pesky mosquitoes.

"There weren't any mosquitoes in Jordan..." Andrew started, looking at me like I was crazy.

"Yes, there were," I asserted.

"No...there weren't," he countered.

"So you don't remember sleeping with our heads under the sheets to ward them off, or how you and Ezra would wake up looking like you had the chicken pox?"

"Oh, yeah..."

We bought a mosquito net to take with us. It was like $20 or something like that, which is kind of expensive for a bunch of holes. So when Patrick was in Ghana he picked us up a second one for like $4 or something like that, which was a much better price to pay for a bunch of holes. And we are so glad we brought them with us!

Now we're all safe from mosquitoes and Rachel loves sleeping in her little tent. I should have put it up sooner...she's been going to bed so nicely!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Will work for food

We are middle class citizens. When we lived in the States we made so much money that we didn't qualify for welfare*...by $2 a month. Now that we're living out here we'd definitely qualify for welfare since our net income is between zero and a hundred dollars per month. We work for food.

I'm not even kidding. We. Work. For. Food.

Andrew tutors people's children in exchange for milk, sour cream, cheese and tortillas. And a nominal amount of money, 100% of which is applied to rent.

But that's what's fun about being a young, married couple. We'll have stuff eventually. Maybe.

Sadly, we are so well off compared to so many people here. We have Andrew's fellowship and our savings (as a rapidly deflating cushion). Andrew's fellowship money alone is many times more than what 95% of the population in Egypt sees in a month.

The rich-poor gap here is rather wide. There are the filthy rich and there are the desperately poor; not a lot of inbetweeners exist at all.

95% of the population earns 15 LE or less per day. That's like $3! A value meal at McDonald's costs 15 LE. 95% of the population doesn't have the means to eat at McDonald's.**

Truthfully, we really wouldn't care if we never ate at McDonald's but we do enjoy going out to eat every once in a while. That's a luxury most Egyptians don't have. In fact, it's a luxury that less than 5% of the population can afford.

Andrew and I were talking about this last night.

I think that a strong middle class is very important key to having a healthy society. The middle class is what drives a country to progress. The upper class have basically everything money can buy and are therefore in need of nothing. Ideally they'd be showing altruistic tendencies, but from what I see of the wealthy here, they don't. Instead they are prone to snobbery.

The wealth here is "old money," so being rich is akin to being royal. Farida Mokhtar finds it "ironic that the elite people of AUC are standing in a food queue." She doesn't seem to care if other people stand in line but feels that she, a member of the 5% upper class, shouldn't have to.

On the other hand, a big chunk of the population is worried only about basic needs: food, clothing, shelter. They aren't getting enough to eat, they don't have enough to wear, and they live in unfinished houses. I don't think they are concerned about changing the government or saving the environment; they only want to have enough rice at the end of the day to feed their children.

And that is the dichotomy we see here. Maadi gives way from villas and grand guarded apartments to rural, farmland just that quick. There are cars driving along side donkey-drawn carts.

The middle class is almost completely non-existent, which is rather unfortunate for everyone since I think that most new ideas originate in the middle class--those aspiring to better themselves. Do you think little Miss "I Shouldn't Have To Wait In Line" is going to come up with a more fair economic policy or the solution to world hunger? Do you think the starving farmers have the time to worry about such things?

It's unfortunate for us, too, because we can't find anything middle-classy. When we went out to Nile Mall the other day everything was terribly expensive. The stores here either have posh brand-name apparel or cheap junk. It's almost impossible to find anything of decent quality for a decent price.

Instead of wasting their time and money on projects that only provide more benifits and variety to the wealthy, international aid groups need to see what they can do to decrease the rich-poor gap. AUC got a ton of money from USAID, which is just ridiculous. That only helped a handful of the needy who were lucky enough to get jobs as janitors and parking lot monitors. Mostly, though, it just helped the "elite" more. Most foreign aid projects seem to only help the elite more.

The task of solving the poverty issue here is too great for me. It breaks my heart to see houses sided with cardboard boxes.*** At the same time, though, I find it quite telling. One particular house that I am thinking of is no bigger than the smallest of our bedrooms. A whole family, with multiple generations, lives there. I've never seen any of them out begging. They all just work hard.

I appreciate that. They take what they're blessed with and make the most of it. I like to think that they would appreciate any extra help they get.

Unlike the beggar woman who berated me for offering her bread instead of money. Or the tissue vendors who con people into buying a packet of tissue for upwards of 1LE! Just think--they sell 10 packets of tissue a day and they are as well off as a school teacher!

Knowing how little so many people has makes me appreciate what I have so much more. It also makes me more willing to share with others. By American standards we don't have a lot but we still have plenty. Until we finish with grad school though, I have a feeling we'll continue to work for food.

*We once looked into doing WIC after I quit work to have Rachel but...it didn't work out since I was still working and we just never bothered to apply again after our income was cut in half.
**Mitchell, Timothy. Rule of Experts: Egypt, Techno-Politics, Modernity. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002): 285-286.

***Picture forthcoming if I get brave enough to snap one.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

More Bad English

I don't know when I started reading cereal boxes, but I love to do it. Cereal boxes, chip bags, juice cans, shampoo bottles. You name it and I love to read it. I love to read the ingredient list. I love to read every little word on the package. Memorize it. Savor it.

I'm really not sure why I love reading packages so much. Maybe it was because I lived in Canada and everything was bilingual and so exciting to read. Maybe it was because I started reading packages when I first was learning to read and actually understanding something was exciting. Maybe it was just because David did it, too. And my mom, actually. And probably everyone else in my family. Maybe we're all just quirky.

Whatever the reason I still read packages and there is a lot of humorous stuff out there. Take our bag of flour, for example.

Extra Flour For All Used? I'm pretty sure they mean "All Purpose Flour" and I only find it slightly worrisome that they used "extra" and "used" to describe my flour. I'm hoping it didn't come from the floor of a bakery--which would definitely be both "extra" and "used."


Then there's the instruction manual for the Supper Cut clippers we bought. One of the "important safeguards" they list is that "close supervision is necessary when this appliance is used by, on, or near shildern of invalids." I'm not sure when the last time is I saw "invalid" in print in reference to a human being. I'm pretty sure it's not very politically correct. But I'll be sure to keep my clippers away from their shildern.

When the clippers give out, I'm going to sell them to these guys because they buy "every things!"


And to top off this post, here's an advertisement in Nile Mall. We went there on Thursday to look for a sweater for Andrew. This mall was much too posh for us, unfortunately, so we'll have to do some more snooping around town. But I couldn't resist this lovely Disney advertisement:


I'll transcribe in case you can't make out what they're saying.

Louie: We are going to Egypt...! Now Dixy Fried Chicken in Egypt

Donald: Wait , i want to see the pyramids

Mickey: DIXY he most popular franchise in london now in egypt enjoy the taste totaly different

I love reading things like this. It makes me feel happy as a language learner. I don't have to speak perfect Russian, Arabic, Chinese (or English for that matter) to become the graphic designer of an international restaurant chain; I can succeed in life being mediocre. But that is okay!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Sidewalks are for strolling

Bur Said probably has the best sidewalk in all of Cairo. There aren't any trees or lamp posts randomly sticking up in the middle of the sidewalk and it's never covered in trash heaps. Cars don't park on it, and it even has accessibility ramps, kind of. It's definitely a great sidewalk.

That said, I hate Bur Said. I find it a difficult road to cross and it's always busy no matter what time of day you go. Karen got hit on that road her first day in Cairo. Oops! It usually takes me a long time to cross it because I hate it so bad!

There are no traffic lights or stop signs; instead they use speed bumps, traffic circles, and train tracks to slow the traffic down.

When we take Rachel out on this road, Andrew likes to push her as hard as he can so that she flies over the ramps. We get a lot of looks, but she loves it!


Flashback Friday: Sip before you gulp

We think we're so funny! When the Schillings came over for dinner on Monday we made invisible kool-aid, put it in a clear pitcher, and didn't say anything. Since we're cheap and usually only drink water we thought that we'd be able to trick them since the kool-aid really is as clear as water.

Unfortunately Carolee sniffed her drink and realized something was up before she even tasted it.

I was really hoping for an "Ew! What was that?" shock reaction, but no. We hardly got any reaction at all.

But it kind of reminded me of a story about my grandpa. I'm not sure this is technically a flashback since I wasn't there, but I do have memories of being told this story, although it has probably been years since I heard it, so if I get any details wrong feel free to correct me.

My mom grew up on a farm and although their house had indoor plumbing they had to bring the water onto the farm in a water truck and store it in a tank. When the tank was nearing empty my mom would sometimes go inside and help my Grandpa clean it out so that it would be pristine for the next delivery of water.

They were conservative with their water usage, at least when they were getting to the bottom of the tank. I've had a water tank before and it's no fun when they dry up and you have to wait until you can get it filled. It's rather annoying, especially when you try so hard to use as little water as possible and still wind up with nothing at all.

One water-rationing day, my Grandpa came home rather late after working in the fields. So late, in fact that everyone had gone to bed, but my Grandma had left on a light in the kitchen for him and there was a tall, gleaming glass full of lemonade sitting on the counter.

I'm assuming that, since he was out working in the fields until so late at night, it was summer and my Grandpa was thirsty.

He picked up the glass and chugged it down...

Only to realize that it was actually that day's dishwater waiting to be reused the next day.

How unfortunate. How very unfortunate. I can't even imagine the look on his face when he realized that the floaties he saw in the glass weren't lemonade pulp afterall. I suppose that's why it's wise to sip before you gulp.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

16 months: Splish, Splash, Soaked!


Today is Rachel's 16 month birthday. I have no stats for her since we don't have a pediatrician here. Maybe I'll get around to finding one for her in the next two months so she can finish her HepA series. We'll see. Maybe I'll try to stick her on the scale at church tomorrow so we can see how much she weighs. Maybe I'll even measure her.

I think she's old enough now, though, that I'm not really concerned what percentile she's in or whether she's growing steadily. I'm pretty sure she's healthy. She's had one cold since we've been out here and other than that she seems to be the picture of health: energetic and happy.

Most of those blasted teeth she's been working on have come through. She's cutting the last 2 (of 7) as we speak and was such a grump today! But soon it will be all over, at least for a little while.

She is talking more. I would say that she's talking more and more everyday, but that's just not true. Some days she talks a lot and other days she hardly says anything at all. Some times she talks in full sentences. This morning she put a book on my lap and said,

"Ma! Me! Me! Read!" which meant, "Mom, read to me!"

Me was said twice because that's the most important part of the sentence, obviously.

She's also combining her signs into sentences and will stick please onto the end of almost anything. Potty, please. More, please. Etc, please.

She's starting to repeat parts of the prayers when we say them. Most often all she'll say is something that sounds like "Thank you" (or "thankful") and "Dada" (when we pray for Daddy to have a good day at school).

She's very obedient and loves to help out around the house. Her favorite chore to help with is laundry. She likes to load and unload the washing machine and hand me the clothes while I put them on the line to dry. She also likes to throw away garbage. Sometimes it's interesting to see what things she thinks are garbage. One day she saw me throw away an empty can while I was cooking dinner and the next thing I knew she had grabbed a can out of the cupboard and put it in the trash. We had to dig it out--it fell right to the bottom because it was so heavy.

And then I had to re-explain the rule of "We don't take things out of the trash" since she saw me pawing through it to rescue the can she had tossed.

She definitely learns by example.

She loves to color still and twirl and jump and climb and throw balls. She loves animals, except not real ones. She only likes pictures of animals. Andrew was reading her a story* the other day and got to the line of a poem that said, "The grison stands erect...What's a grison? Like any kid knows what a grison is!"

Rachel nodded her head and pointed right to the grison.

She won't approach cats or dogs or birds, though, and totally freaks out if they take even one step towards her. Her dog-radar works better than mine even, and she'll be walking along just fine and all of a sudden stop and point. I'll have to look all around until I see a dog like 5 blocks down the street. It's a little ridiculous...and it's not entirely my fault. The animals here are scary.

She learns by experience, also.

Another one of Rachel's favorite things to do is swim. Or bathe. Or shower.

She asks for a bath every time she goes potty. I think that might be part of the reason she insists on taking off at least half her cloths just to sit on the potty--so that she's a step closer to getting in the tub.

Andrew was jealous when I told him what a brave swimmer Rachel is getting to be, so tonight we put her in the tub to rinse her off after dinner and so that she's be ready for church in the morning (because Thursday is a special day, it's the day we get ready for Friday). She had a blast!

I had her lie down to get her hair wet and she was a little nervous at first because she still doesn't like to be flat on her back with water in her ears, but I told her that that's how I would wash my hair when I was little.

I told her that I would shake my head back and forth and my hair would swirl in the water and my mom would rinse my hair out and it felt really nice. I would always imagine I was a mermaid with my hair floating all around me.

So she tried it. And loved it! She stayed on her back for a long time, just kicking her legs and making mermaid hair. It was a lot easier than having her stand up--we didn't get any soap in her eyes.


Daddy stayed and splashed around with Rachel while I finished baking cookies for the linger longer tomorrow. They soaked the whole bathroom but they had a great time! Here's some more pictures of our big 16 month old girl!


I don't know who got the floor all wet. It wasn't me!

Splash, splash, splash!

Splashing with Daddy

I like bath time!

Such a joy!

*The book was Gorilla/Chinchilla and Other Animal Rhymes by Bert Kitchen. Obviously it's a book about animal rhymes. It has very cute illustrations, with two animals that rhyme on each page. The poems leave something to be desired. Grison, in case you were wondering, was rhymed with bison.

As another funny side note about this story, there is a picture of a goose and moose on the title page (not the cover, though). I found it funny that there was no poem about it since goose and moose seem like they'd be easy to rhyme. At any rate, we can never read the story without at least talking about the moose and the goose. Rachel, though, always gets goose mixed up with ghost and points to the ghost she made for Halloween (that is still hanging up in her playroom).

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Swimming in November? Yes, please!

Playgroup is still going strong--we're out at the Maadi House nearly every Wednesday playing at the playground, swimming, and occasionally eating lunch at the fabulous American style diner that serves real bacon.

Rachel peed her pants today within the first five minutes at the playground. She often pees her pants when she gets too involved with playing. The rubber pants contained everything nicely and so I just switched her undies for some dry ones, put her pants on, and sent her back to play.

When it was time to go swimming she ran right to the pool and started trying to climb over the fence. She just loves swimming and was so excited to have friends with her this time! (The last few playgroups have been rather dull...and unoccupied). She was so brave and kept showing off for Finn and Abby. She was kicking her legs, splashing her arms, blowing bubbles, throwing her ball. She was a swimming machine--she even let go of me to flounder her way to the wall and back again a few times! She loves bobbing at the wall; she won't go all the way under, but she'll put her mouth and nose in and blow bubbles.


Finn and Rachel were so good at sharing the ball I brought for Rachel, although next time I think I'll have to bring two balls because sharing is so, so hard at this age! They were very nice about giving each other turns but pouted and whined until it was their turn with the ball again. When either Melissa or I would ask one of them to give the ball to the other, they'd both raise the ball up above their head as if to throw it, but would never let go. The sharing was a little forced, so two balls would be nice. Then they can practice "trading" toys instead of actually sharing.


Even though it was like 27°C (about 80°F) outside, which is plenty warm, and the pool is heated, there was a breeze blowing and we were getting pretty cold! We got out to cuddle in our towels that we left sitting out in the sun. This is one of Rachel's favorite parts of swimming!


She likes to snuggle up with her towel wrapped around her and then climb up into my lap and share my towel, too. I usually get her dressed out in the sunshine where it's nice and warm--she doesn't like staying still in the locker room, anyway.

When I had finished getting her dressed, Melissa asked if we'd watch Finn while she changed. I picked Finn up because he was about to take a dive off of the chair he was sitting on and Rachel stretched out her arms--not because she was jealous, but because she wanted to hold him. So I plopped Finn into her lap and she gave him a great, big hug. She loves babies!


When we were all warm and dry, we got a table for lunch. Rachel had to go potty, so we left to use the restroom. However, once we were there she threw a huge fit and refused to sit on the potty. So we left and went to sit down for lunch again. The minute I sat down Rachel looked at me and signed potty urgently. I took her up, groaning a little because we'd just gone, and headed back to the bathroom.

Unfortunately for Rachel, she couldn't hold it anymore. She peed on me. I was so mad!

We didn't have any clean underwear because of accident #1 and this time she soaked through her pants as well so I ended up putting her in a sun suit, commando style. I then told her that I had been planning on getting her a yummy lunch but instead we'd have to go home hungry and it was all her fault. It didn't really seem to register with her.

Sometimes it makes me madder that she doesn't get upset when I wish she'd just show some remorse. And then I have to remind myself that she's only 16 months old.

So even though we went home angry and covered in pee and had to eat a boring, old PB and J for lunch, we had a pretty fun day. I wonder how much longer we'll be able to swim outdoors...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Our house is a fun land of excitement

Sometimes I hate our apartment.

Yesterday when I went to have a shower I couldn't turn on the taps. It took me about 15 minutes, several grumblings about Andrew's freakishly strong hands, 2 raw hands on my part, and the plastic lining of Rachel's bib before I was able to get any water out.

And then when I went to turn the shower off, nothing happened. I tightened the taps as tight as I could but the water stayed on full blast. It took me about 15 minutes more to get the water to turn off, and several more grumblings about Andrew's freakishly strong hands.

My shower experience put a damper on my day. I missed breakfast before we left for the leper colony and was tired and grumpy and starving to death when we got back, which led to my not being a very good mom to Rachel and putting her in her room while I took a nap.

That's the first time I did that and she actually did a very good job. I told her not to cry because mommy was having a timeout and if she cried mommy would go crazy. So she just played nicely while I took a nap and it was awesome.

This morning's shower experience was a little better, aside from scalding Rachel. When I flipped the lever to make the water to come out of the shower head, though, only cold water would come out. All the hot water was still coming out of the tub faucet and I couldn't make it come out of the shower no matter how hard I tried.

And then I saw Templeton--our rat. We knew he was walking across our windowsill because, duh, we could see him through the glass, but we didn't know how he was getting up into the ceiling.

When I saw him I ran to the window and moved the curtains that were covering the last pane of glass. That's when I saw the wires--I hadn't noticed them before, this big braid of wires leading right into our ceiling through a huge gap in the outside of our apartment.

Templeton climbed right up them like a staircase.

I told Andrew. He asked if we could move them. I told him that I highly doubted that because it looks like those wires probably provide us with the meager electricity we have. Moving them would mean we had no electricity. I only do that willingly on special occasions, like camping. We aren't camping in Cairo. We're living here, so electricity is a must, in my opinion.

His reply?

"Our house is a fun land of excitement!"

No kidding. No kidding.

We've had cockroaches and ants; a rat lives in our ceiling; we used to have a pigeon living on our balcony but I think a rat or cat got it; it takes at least 5 or 10 minutes for the hot water to get to the bathroom; we have to turn the shower on and off a new way everyday; sometimes magical mangoes appear on our balcony--I suspect the tree in the yard is a mango tree although I have never seen a mango on it; we have sporadic power outages; we have sporadic water outages; we turned the water off in our second bathroom because the toilet leaks; our tub leaks; the lock on our front door won't lock sometimes unless we use force; at least 1 lightbulb per day pops and scares the living daylights out of me (haha! get it?); our balcony is scary and full of trash; we have electrical and phone wires strung about outside and our rat uses them to get into our ceiling...

I coud go on, but I sound like I'm complaining. Really I'm just trying to illustrate the fun land of excitement that our house is.

Sometimes I'm a bad mom

Andrew's cousin Bethany tagged me to do quirks again, but I just did that tag, so I thought I'd make a list of all the "bad mom" things I've done in the past 24 hours.
  • I put Rachel in her room to play by herself while I took a (much-needed) nap yesterday.
  • When I woke up we ate a package of cookies together.
  • Then I made her unload the washing machine for me while I did the dishes--she did a good job and actually ended up unloading it about three times before I finished the dishes because she kept putting the clothes back in and taking them out again.
  • I accidentally let her stay up until 10:30 PM last night because I read the clock wrong and thought it was an hour earlier than it was.
  • I let her sleep in until 10 o'clock this morning--I slept in, and Andrew slept in, too.
  • We had cake for breakfast.
  • I made her put the cans (that she'd scattered all around the kitchen floor) away while I did last night's dishes.
  • I wouldn't let her open the washing machine because it was full of the Schilling's clothes, not ours--she threw a fit.
  • I didn't comfort her because it was just a temper tantrum--I said she wasn't hurt so she hit her own head to try to make me feel sorry for her; I said that was a stupid thing to do and still didn't pick her up.
  • I took her outside on the balcony to hang up our wet clothes (that had been sitting in the laundry basket all night because I just couldn't make myself do it yesterday)--she was wearing nothing but sandals.
  • I put her sandals on the wrong feet.
  • When we came inside I let her jump on the bed with her sandals on.
  • Then we played steamroller, a game where I do log rolls on the bed and she has to get out of the way by climbing over me. If she's too slow I roll over her (gently, of course) but she knows that she "lost" the game and throws a tantrum. I didn't let her win every round (but I only rolled over her twice).
  • Then we had a shower--I put Rachel in the tub and told her to tell me when the water got hot (because it takes several minutes for the hot water to come through the pipes) only she forgot to tell me so it got too hot and she just started screaming. I felt bad because usually she says "Yeah," when it's starts getting warm but she didn't and it just kept getting hotter and hotter.
  • I didn't get her dressed until 2:00 today.
  • When we were coloring I told her that she couldn't have the crayon I was using. She cried. I gave her a different crayon to color with. She threw that one so I made her put all of the crayons away.

So sometimes I'm a bad mom. But I think it's ok. Because some of the things on the list are things that are fun, like eating a whole package of cookies together. I suppose that's technically a bad mom thing from the perspective of an adult, but it's a great mom thing from the perspective of the child.

I even let her open the cookies, lick the frosting, stick them back together and put them back in the package.

That's definitely a bad mom thing; but also a good mom thing.

Making her do chores is probably a good mom thing from the perspective of an adult, but from the perspective of a child it's a bad mom thing. Rachel loves to load and unload the washing machine and I think that's fine. She likes taking the cans out of the cupboard but she doesn't like putting them back. I made her do it, anyway. So I was a bad mom in Rachel's eye, but probably a good mom in yours.


It's hard to be a good mom all the time because someone will end up thinking you're a bad mom, anyway. I think it's important to balance being a good and a bad mom. If I was a "good mom" from a grown-up's view all the time, Rachel and I would miss out on a lot of fun. But if I was a "good mom" from a baby's view all the time, Rachel would miss out on a lot of discipline and work. So I think I'll just be a bad mom.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Leprosarium

About one month ago the sisters met to learn how to use knifty knitters so that we could teach some more needy people how to use them. In theory, they would sell the things they make and use the money to buy more yarn, in addition to necessities, so that they could have a self-sustaining source of additional income.

At first there was some discussion about teaching the lepers at the Abu Zaabal Leprosarium how to knit, but then we figured that it would be too difficult for them, given the parasthesia and the fact that their skin is sloughing off. I was wondering about that because I know when I use yarn for too long my fingers start chaffing and I do crazy things like poke Rachel in the eye with my needles.

Further more, although I've never actually had leprosy I have periodically had my skin slough off. Usually it's just the palms of my hands that suffer. I start getting little air bubbles, as far as I can tell, and then those pop and peel off and I have young skin exposed underneath and everything cracks and bleeds and it's terribly painful, making both dish doing and viola playing very difficult.

It's happened every time I've made a major move, from BC to Alberta, from Alberta to Utah, from Utah to Russia, and then from Russia to Utah, and from Utah to Jordan. And once just randomly when we lived in BC. I think it might be stress-induced or something. It hasn't happened here, which is really too bad because when we lived in Jordan Andrew had to do the dishes for like 2 months, which rocked.

So I was glad when we decided not to have the lepers learn and instead have some women at the sewing school in the village learn.

There's a village by the Leprosarium where the families of the lepers live and work so that they can support their families members going through treatment. Most people who contract leprosy are rather poor, so although the Leprosarium wasn't much to look at, it's actually probably better living conditions than they had when they contracted the disease.

Leprosy isn't actually very contagious and most leprosariums have been shut down. Most experts believe that the "leprosy" talked about in the bible was probably syphillus because syphillus is way more contagious and the social stigma associated with syphillus would make sense since it's an STD. Leprosy isn't.

The reason the Abu Zaabal Leprosarium is still accepting new patients is because most people who contract the disease are a) rather poor and can't afford to get treatment or b) wait until the disease has progressed too far and amputation and other extensive procedures are necessary. It has about 850 lepers.

We toured the leprosarium and taught some girls in the village sewing school how to use the knifty knitters. I taught about 6 or 7 ladies and was particularly impressed by Samia. She caught on so quickly and was so patient with the whole language barrier thing. Sadly, I can only remember her name because the other ladies weren't willing to repeat everything they said 20 times for me.


I liked seeing the Christians and Muslims working so closely together. There was absolutely no prejudices among them; they sat together and helped each other figure things out. I suppose they all have victims of leprosy as a family so they have something in common. That, and they all spoke Arabic and very little English so they had to band together to understand what we were trying to say, I guess.


They were so excited for us to come--there were the Lindsays (the missionary couple here), 3 other ladies from the branch (besides me), and Elder Lindsay's niece and two of her friends. The sewing room was packed full! It was fun to hear all the chatter going on in broken English and Arabic.

I learned a new word: scissors, or مقص. In Egyptian Arabic they say m'ass because they don't pronounce the 'q.' Over the chatter we'd hear people calling out for the scissors. We all started using the Arabic word because we were outnumbered by Arabic speakers at least 3 to 1.

"M'ass! M'ass!" we'd hear shouted over and over again. We only had two pairs of scissors for everyone to share.

I think that is the only new word I learned today.


When we'd been there for a number of hours and felt that at least some of the women had gotten the hang of it, we left to tour the leprosarium.

The leprosarium is divided into three different areas, I think. There are two men's dormitories and one women's dormitory. There are 10 kitchens, five of which were provided by LDS Charities. There is a bakery, which was rather interesting.

Sister Linsay said that there was a man mixing dough in a bathtub. I thought she meant to say that he was mixing dough in a vat as big as a bathtub, but no--he's actually mixing the dough in the bathtub. And he's smoking. And barefoot.


Obviously they don't have a health code here.

We got to go in the bakery and see them make the baladi bread--which is, essentially, pita bread. They just don't call it that.

Once the smoking bathtub guy has plunked balls of dough on these big boards, a young man carries them to the oven, which is equipped with a conveyor belt. Then this man kind of flatten outs the dough and sends it through the oven where it's fired up.


It comes out the other end nice and puffy and steaming hot.


Then they are laid outside to cool off. The man in the picture below is a leper. The bacteria isn't active because when they first come to the leprosarium they are quarantined for 2 weeks while they receive the inoculations, then for another 2 months while they undergo a series of tests to see if the inoculations worked. They have to have three negative tests before they are allowed out into the colony. This man lost most of his fingers.


We didn't see many people with horrible deformities. There were no doctors on site today and we didn't want to go into the dorms to visit unannounced. But apparently there is this one man who has been at the colony for about 50 years. He lost both of his legs and is blind, due to leprosy, but is the nicest mot positive man. One day I hope to go back and meet him.

At the very end of our tour Elder Lindsay took us to see the water purification system that LDS Charities helped revamp. The watershed used to only have sand filters, and those hadn't been changed since the start of WWII, so only like seventy years! Elder Lindsay said that that type of filter probably needs to be changed at least every decade, so a change was well overdue. In addition to changing the sand in the filters a chlorination system was installed.


A plaque was put up in honor of latter-Day Saint charit, how sweet!


There were also signs all over the place promoting good hygine, something that is really lacking in Egypt. This sign is reminding patients to dispose of their used bandages in the incinerator bins instead of regular rubbish heaps.


There were other signs as well, reminding patients to bathe and wash their hands and their food. One gal that went with us is a dental hygienist and she was just going crazy looking at everyone's teeth.

"That man has advanced periodontal disease!" she'd declare, "If he'd just floss and brush..."

I have a feeling she's going to single handedly try to supply every Egyptian with a toothbrush.

It's so hard to know what to do, though. As my friend Shallee so aptly pointed out, if not given properly, aid can do more harm than good. When she got home from going to Ghana the first time, Shallee started taking classes in African studies and devoted all her spare time to NGO's (and Danny, a little), so she knows much more what she's talking about.

I've experienced some similar things here, with Egyptians trying to rip me off just because I'm American (and therefore am loaded with money that I just am dying to give away for nothing). Andrew is reading a book about USAID right now and a lot of the information in there is rather startling, specifically how Africa has become such a pawn in foreign hands because of all the aid given them.

Some aid is good and necessary--like providing clean drinking water. But some aid just is not. It's hard to know how far to go and how much to give, without enabling people or creating too much debt on a country's government.

The Relief Society has helped the Lindsays assemble hygiene kits (including toothbrushes) and school kits to give out, but I think it will take a lot of education before the majority of the population understands hygiene and knows how to achieve good hygiene.

Education can do so much for people.

I was talking to Sister Lindsay about the Young Women in our branch who are looking for service projects to do. Sister Bestor (yes, Kurt Bestor's sister-in-law) brought her serger to Egypt so I mentioned to her that Sister Lindsay mentioned wanting cloth diapers. She mentioned that she thought that making cloth diapers would be a perfect project for the Young Women. So I mentioned that to Sister Lindsay.

I then mentioned to Sister Lindsay that if we gave out cloth diapers, which hypothetically would be more useful than disposable diapers, we'd probably have to teach the women how to use them. Trust me, there is a generation gap. My generation does not know how to fold cloth diapers. I had to have my mom teach me, and then I tutored a few girls in my old ward. Everyone just uses disposables, but cloth is much more practical.

Perhaps that will be the next project we'll do. Skills are such a better thing to give as aid than material things. Teaching the women to knit will enable them to be independent. They will be able to make their own socks and hats, sell their own socks and hats. It's a marketable skill. I doubt they'll get rich, but at least they'll be able to help themselves.