Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Rainy Season in the States

I feel like the consistent rain every day is a welcome back to the States from the desert. I still love the sound of it! And how it is helping our plants thrive! And bringing some creatures out to be discovered! 
Like this snapping turtle Talia found in the front yard (that after taking this picture we got a shovel and gently helped over the fence):
Or this frog my fearless girl caught at her uncle's house:

Or this one she found outside of the garden at my parent's:

(Have I mentioned she loves animals? She was careful with them and put them back. And washed her hands.)

The rain has taken what I've planted from this:

To this in just a few weeks!

I love growing things and the rain that nurtures them. I know that soon this rainy season will end and the leaves will lose their spring green and transition to a hardier dark green for deep summer. It's nice to see the seasons up close again!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Clearing Out Winter Vegetables

It's SO GREEN in the States right now! We've been working in the garden a lot. Last month we worked on clearing out these winter vegetables to get the garden ready for summer vegetables.

 Talia and Elias helped pull up the huge cabbage, onions and turnips that were finished or had gone to seed.
They had a blast!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Animal Hugs

Talia loves animals. Besides the myriad of mostly wild cats, couple of parrots and lizards in Ruwais, there weren't many animals around for her to have a close experience with. Since we've been in the States she has used every opportunity possible to hug every animal she finds:
Like this duck...

Or this cat...

or this chicken.

Her dream right now is to grow up and be a doctor who lives on a farm with a lot of animals. We sure love this girl and her tender heart towards other creatures.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Ezra Turns 1

Ezra playing with a birthday gift.
I can't believe this little guy is now 1.  I remember when he was born in the desert and the mental agony of  not knowing how his birth was going to go in a foreign hospital and absolutely hating being forced to go to a hospital at all instead of being with my midwife since homebirth was illegal. So, naturally, I decorated this desert baby's nursery in penguins. (How much farther from the desert can you get than Patagonia?) 

This baby is such a sweet heart! Ezra loves to be in the middle of his siblings every moment. He likes to meet new people and always makes eye contact to figure them out. He's notorious for making eyes and smiles at older ladies and toddling up and hugging you on the leg and laying his head against you before toddling off to play again. He gets a lot of loving and gives a lot back in return.

So far he can wave and say hi or bye-bye, Pawpaw, bubba, Ta-ta (for Talia) and love you (luh-ooo).

Many of his family members hadn't met him before coming to his first birthday party, and it was really special to get to spend time with them.

This was my first time using fondant to attempt a (blue) penguin cake.
Happy first birthday, Ezra! We love you!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Kale Chips

This is my (wanna be) picky eater chomping on some kale chips:
One thing being back in the land of green things and an amazing variety of grocery options has provided is the chance to create some of the nice recipes we've been seeing but have been unable to reproduce. Like kale chips! With pink Himalayan sea salt! Whaaaaaaat???

You can tell how uncultured and unexposed to options I've been just by how excited I was to use pink Himalayan sea salt...
Anyway, my mom had kale growing in her handy greenhouse, and we had never tried it before, so we washed, dried and tossed it with olive oil and salt...
And baked it... It reminded me of the smell of broccoli while it was cooking and it definitely had that earthy flavor of greens, but it had CRUNCH, and who doesn't like broccoli-smelling-green-flavored CRUNCH? Actually, we didn't care for it, but the kids did! (Probably because they rarely get chips and these were crunchy and had "chips" in the name...) Yay for kids eating greens!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Abu Dhabi to Qatar to Dallas: (Too Much Flying)

Our trip began by driving to Abu Dhabi to finish some paperwork before flying out. We picked nap time, apparently, because not long on the road, all three kids were like this:
On flying day we got up at 2 AM, well, Ben, Talia the baby and I got up, but poor Elias was in a daze. We had a one hour flight to Qatar and then a 16 hour flight to Dallas.

People ask how I can fly with two kids and a baby, and, let me tell you now, I'm no super mom. We took it one moment at a time. Talia was an amazing helper and the friendly airline staff were all incredible. Especially when tired Elias got scared of the escalator as I was going down with the baby and a bag and Talia with bags and he stood on the top and wailed. An airport guy picked him up and brought him down. I was thankful for so many blessings on flight day: The boys had gotten over the fevers that had popped up just two days before traveling, a friend had helped us figure out the luggage transportation issue (three kids, small car, 12 pieces of different kinds of luggage...), many of the people I wanted to say bye to were able to arrange a meeting, the flight went through Qatar (known for spacious and nice flying accommodations), everything was checked including the stroller smoothly and with not much of a wait, the kids behaved very well on the plane and even slept much of the time, we were surrounded with nice people who had children or didn't mind them... so many, many things went beautifully.

 Still, a 16 hour flight is no picnic. I always break it up mentally into 6 hour increments... I'm not sure that it helps, because it usually goes like this:

First 6 hours: WE DID IT! We got through 6 hours without kids melting down or the plane crashing, or a million other scenarios that lurk in the back of my mind when flying.... but then I realize that we have TEN MORE HOURS TO GO!

Second 6 hours: The baby slept for THREE CONSECUTIVE HOURS! On a normal flight that would be almost the whole flight, or at least half! I can't believe we have 4 more hours: My shoulders hurt from holding little people, my backside feels glued to the aircraft seat and my eyes hurt from the screens everywhere and crazy hours and, "did we really get up at 2AM? Why is it impossible to sleep?"

Third 6 hours: So, it's not really 6 hours, right, I just do that to make me feel better when I remember that it's less than the first. Unless you count the time in the airport and the hour driving home? "ARE WE EVER GOING TO GET OUT OF HERE... I'm starting to feel like I'm suffocating."

Regardless, we made it alive. We are now enjoying the (sneeze) flowers and green things everywhere. Everything is greeeeen! We played in the rain! We harvested things from a garden! We went to an easily accessible church! We have family close! And, maybe best of all...


Thursday, April 2, 2015

Desert Storms

We had the two days of sprinkles and rain a week or so ago that are allotted as normal for a desert year... Which was wonderful and refreshing, but does mean that for two days we couldn't hang clothes outside. Elias likes to help put the clothes in our combined washer/dryer machine and, this time, put his dirty shoes in it as well. It made sense to him: they were dirty, they should be washed... Normally that wouldn't be an issue since we never use the dryer when it is not raining, but this day it was. We ended up with this:

Shoes with the decoration peeled off, shrunk to half their normal size and curled up. I was surprised (to find them in there, first) to see how different they were when they came out! 

Today there is a different kind of storm. We woke up to yellow light coming in the windows and when we went to see what it was, there was a hazy fog of sand sitting in the air everywhere. Ben couldn't drive to work it is so thick. We had to wipe sand off of the table before we could eat breakfast!

The kids and I are glad Ben is home, whatever the reason! They were playing "sandstorm travelers" and created this mask to "help them breathe in storms":

It's nice to have unexpected time together, even if it's sand storming.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

After Abu Dhabi: The Next Chapter

Our family is so excited about our next move!

Several of the goals we've had for where we live next have been reached in the new positions we have accepted:
-A place where our children could become bilingual in English/Spanish.
-A place where flights home weren't around $1,000 each like they are here.
-A place where the natural environment was more inviting than the desert so that we could all spend more time outside.
-A place that had some sort of balance between being super controlling and super dangerous.
-A place where if we both were to work, our children would be able to attend school in the same location.
-A church community.

We prayed about this transition, and then this position opened for us. There are so many ways that this is the perfect transition from Abu Dhabi: San Jose del Cabo in Baja California, Mexico. Let me just tell you some of the ways this place exceeds our expectations:

-We will be working in a bilingual private school where the subjects are taught in Spanish except science and English. Definitely a place for children to be bilingual!
-Flights home round trip are between $100-$300 and a one-way trip can be as low as $79. There is an airport nearby, too. (Also, a three hour flight sounds lovely right now as we are preparing for another 14 hour one.)
-This is a place known for its outdoor environment: beaches, horses, whale-watching and many other water sports.
-Since it isn't on the mainland of Mexico, but the peninsula, the drug traffic doesn't go through like many of the mainland and border Mexican towns. It has tourist police to protect the tourism industry and a special court for them as well. It has a good balance between control and danger. As far as natural disasters are concerned, there are occasional hurricanes.
-Ben and I will both be teaching (science and English, I love both!) and our children will all be attending school as well. There is a daycare, preschool and elementary up to 6th grade. It's perfect for the ages of our children and we love that the younger children will be learning Spanish.
-There are church options.

There are beautiful things beyond what we even wanted, like liking the subjects we will be teaching, and having respect for the people who run the school already because of the way they have gone out of their way to research what we would need and been available to help us with questions.

We feel blessed and thankful!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Cat Shadows

Ruwais is a town with many feral cats. You hear them yowling all of the time, you see them tipping over trash cans and, I've suspected, one ripped a hole in our screen door. Don't get me wrong, I like cats better than dogs for the most part, but they're everywhere. 

Our villa came without the general maintenance usually done before a new family moves in. It's an old house, built sometime in the 80's, and has had many families before ours. Because of this we are used to issues with the water, paint peeling off of the walls and a very difficult to manage screen and door to the back patio.

When a gash appeared in the bottom corner of the screen we knew we'd have to be careful when it was in place or the cats would waltz right in the house in search of food. (Yes, they do.) Then, the difficult-to-manage door quit functioning: it would close almost all the way, but left a 3-4 inch gap. So we closed it and the screen as much as possible when getting the downstairs ready for the night.

This particular night, Ben went to bed early because he wasn't feeling well, and as soon as he and the kids were fast asleep I looked out the bedroom door and a shadow slinked from the stairs towards the rooms... A cat! I screamed at it and it zipped back downstairs and squeezed out the door before I could get down there. I put a cookie sheet between the screen and the door to block the hole, shut the downstairs doors and hoped that would block the crazy creatures.

Maintenance takes a while to get around to anything, so for now a baby gate between the screen and the door closes the hole and all the downstairs doors closed contains it.

In Guatemala the constant dogs and firecrackers were sleep hazards and here, it's the cats! Hopefully, now, they'll stay outside sleep hazards.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Seen in Abu Dhabi 33: Basboosa

When our Jordanian friends made us this dessert called "basboosa," it was the first time I had ever tried it and it puzzled me! It had a delicious flavor: slightly sweetened with a hint of citrus, but a texture I didn't recognize similar to grits. When I looked it up ( I found it is made with semolina, another thing I'm not familiar with. Regardless, it's delicious! I'm thankful for these generous people who like to introduce us to new things from their culture. I love trying new foods!

Friday, February 27, 2015

How do you get Water out of a 5 Gallon Jug?

When we moved to Abu Dhabi we knew we didn't want it to be a permanent position, so we didn't buy expensive things for the house as we knew we'd have to leave most of it behind. Sometimes this can backfire, but for us it has been a good strategy...

Except for this: water in Abu Dhabi is desalinated from the Gulf and stored in huge tanks at the apartments or water towers in Ruwais. Sometimes tests on these water sources come back contaminated so most people don't drink it but rather buy these 5 gallon or so jugs of water. (Because Benjamin and I first experienced these in Guatemala and because we don't know a handy word for them in English, we still call them "garrafones.")
Figuring out a proficient, reliable way to get the water out has been challenging! Because it needs to be something the children can get by themselves, lifting the whole thing and pouring it out, though fastest, wasn't feasible for everyday life. The inverted container mechanism given to us by the first water company (first picture on left) trickled out and took so long (20 minutes) to fill a gallon jug to put on the table for supper that we soon looked for a different option.

The second pump took two size D batteries... frequently! When it started costing more for batteries than for water we looked for something simpler.

The third pump was manual. You squeeze the blue part and it suctions the water out through a hose but it was difficult to control and flimsy and would only work for the top half of the jug and we'd end up pouring the rest out by hand again on the bottom portion.

The one we are using now is yet a different version: you pump the green button on top and it pulls the water out. Benefits to this one include an arm workout every time you use it and a clean table as it splatters every time. (It is a benefit! Really!)

You never know what seemingly insignificant part of life is just waiting to provide entertainment. I never would have expected it from the water pump. I'm thankful for accessible, clean water!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Seen in Abu Dhabi 32: Molokhia

I saw this in the frozen food section of the store here and wondered what it was. When I got home I found here ( that it was:

"the leaves of Corchorus species (Jute leaves) used as a vegetable. It is a popularMiddle Eastern and North Africancountries. Mulukhiyyah is rather bitter, and when boiled, the resulting liquid is a thick, highly mucilaginous broth; it is often described as "slimy," rather like cooked okraMulukhiyyah is generally eaten cooked, not raw, and is most frequently turned into a kind of soup orstew, typically bearing the same name as the vegetable in the local language."

Friday, February 13, 2015

Ezra 9.5 Months

Ezra has been growing up so quickly! It's amazing to see how different each child is from each other, even at 9 (and 1/2) months!
The weather has been beautiful lately and only started heating up the last couple of days. Because of this they've been able to ride bikes outside a lot and Ezra loves joining them on the fenced front patio in his walker. He loves feeling the breeze, and watching his brother and sister play, but if we aren't careful, he also tries to sample leaves from the trees. 

He is in the beginning stages of walking and very curious about everything within reach. He's a very social child and is always very focused on a person's eyes, mouth and reading their body language. He is quick to smile and laugh at strangers, (if I'm holding him,) and overall a happy baby. It's so sweet to see him light up when he sees his brother or sister or father walk through the door! 

Something I haven't been able to find the words to write about is the friend and midwife I had with Elias passing away in June. I still don't have the words. Thalia's receptionist/accountant/friend/birth assistant got a box of fabric from her husband to give away. In it she found a quilt Thalia had started for me/Ezra and she finished it and sent it. I bawled when I got it from the post office. It's a Spanish themed quilt with words in Spanish and English and pictures of typical Spanish scenes. It is perfect and a treasure that seems fitting for where we would like a future placement.

We are so blessed to have Ezra in our lives. We all smile more with him here!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Kid's Unscripted: Chapter 30

Elias: "Can I hear a song on the computer?"
Me: "Which song?"
Elias: "Whack a pony!"
Me: "What in the world!???"
Elias: "...POLO!"
Me: "Ohhh... you don't whack a pony, you whack the ball!"

Elias: "You're so nice... I love you so much!"
Me: "I love you, too..."
Elias: "It's not my nap time!"
Me: "Oh really?"
Elias: "Yes, I'm on a nap time holiday" (a vacation from naps)
Natalia: "What makes volcanoes interrupt?"
Elias: "The moon was broken and I had to go fix it. Then I came back to this world."
Elias, squinting in the sun this morning: "Mommy, the sun is shouting at me."
Me: "Elias, what do you want for your birthday?"
Elias: "A rolling pin! And a spatula!"
Natalia: "I think China looks like an upside down goat with a hump on its back."
Natalia: "Do you know what 'off-o-sites' are?"
Me: "What?"
Natalia: "Offices on opposite sides of a building..."
Elias: (pointing at a picture of a bunny) "I want one of those! I want a blue one!"
Ben: "What do you think is one half of a fourth?"
Talia: "Is it one-twoth?"

Friday, January 30, 2015

The "Insh'allah" Way of Raising Children

Coming from a country where parents are arrested or turned in to Child Protective Services for letting their children walk to the park alone, and then living in a place where kidnapping and other real threats existed, there's quite a bit to get adjusted to in the Arab culture. Children here are allowed to play in the streets without an adult present, though they are usually just a few steps away in their patio area or behind their window (though that's not always the case. I've heard stories of children under 10 running a house while their parents were out of country.) I've seen them run errands at the store a block away across a street. I've seen them going to the park several blocks away on their bikes. There is something refreshing about it, though I don't trust the system enough to follow suit. It does make me wonder why there is such a huge difference... and some of it seems to always go back to the concept of "Insh'allah" or "if God wills it," a phrase used for everything. A beautiful part of this concept is the complete acceptance of physically or mentally impaired children, since they are seen as something "God willed to be this way and who are we to question that?" However, it applies to the broader theme of parenting as well as there seems to be an underlying acceptance of the thought that "nothing can happen to the child that God does not will to happen." (This concept can get challenging when trying to teach cause and effect.)

Perhaps it's also because there is a basic unity of religion. There are many things I do not know about Islam and what it has to say about raising children. I can only speak from what I've noticed in my interactions with the culture, but it makes sense that having the same core fundamental beliefs, though there are Muslims here from many different countries, would make parents more trusting of one another.
  Perhaps it's the widespread feeling of safety from a competent government and security force.  Maybe it's a combination of a lot of things, but the way of raising children in the Middle East is a stark contrast to the way of the United States. I have found it pushing me to question where the line should be drawn for a child's independence and the intricate balance between the free-range movement and cloistered children, set in the crazy reality of our world. That it causes me to question is good... but I'm still figuring out the answer.

Friday, January 23, 2015

A New Chapter

It began with the only family we had a relationship with in Ruwais deciding they were going to leave after this school year for a position somewhere else. As Ruwais is a little isolated and insular in some ways, it takes time to develop relationships and between work, life and not much to do, we just hadn't been around a lot of other people at that point. This, combined with several other reasons:
-Our children are getting older, and we want them to learn another Romance language more naturally from immersion in the culture.
-The weight of the artificial feel of things created and placed in a desert environment and
-The difficulty we've noticed people having of staying healthy here (along with other things) all combined in a decision to find a new position at the end of this contract.

I love what we have learned from this culture. I respect the people and their amazing hospitality. I appreciate the ways they have created awe-inspiring things in the desert. I am blessed to have met Muslims who very firmly believe in peace and who are trying to show the world that the terrorists you read about are not the only Muslims. I will miss with a vengeance the beautiful expats who reached out to me when I was pregnant and without support in a new place. It has been so nice to get to learn about the cultures of people from countries we haven't been in contact with before: Philippines, South Africa, UK, Holland, Nigeria, Ireland, Jordan, Egypt, India...The people are the best part of the desert.

However, we will definitely come away with a new appreciation for living green things.

(The punchline: The family who originally inspired us to start looking for a new position, will probably stay here for next year after all.)

Friday, January 16, 2015

Tilapia; Nigerian Style

Our Nigerian friend has  been telling us that she would show us how to make Nigerian-style tilapia for a few weeks now, so we finally had a weekend without obligations to take her up on it. Ruwais has a good fish market (we are on the gulf) so that's where Ben took her first.
Right next to the fish market is a fish-cleaning center. It cost 4 dirhams for 5 fish, or about a dollar. They gutted and trimmed the fish.

They will fillet it for you if you want, but since she wanted to fry this fish and the meat is so tender it will disintegrate easily if filleted, she left it with bones and skin. 

When they brought them home they looked like this. I'm not used to working with fish at all, especially fish with eyes...

We washed and salted the fish and prepared a puree of garlic, ginger, chili powder and red onion.

She made two diagonal cuts on each side of the fish and rubbed the puree into them as well as in the inside of each of them.

After frying, they looked like this. We served it with "chips" and a salad. I made the dressing from yogurt, avocado, lime and cilantro and it went well with the fish.

It was delicious! Everybody enjoyed it and we really liked learning something new.

In addition to food, she has taught us the following words in Yoruba:

Eja- fish
Ediye- chicken
Bawoni- hello, how are you
Osheh-thank you
Coshelo- go away!
Eshegoma- thanks so much 
Kotope- you're welcome 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Winter Break and the Best Part of Ruwais

The best part of living in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi is the relationships you get to build with the people. There aren't a lot of things to do unless you create them: the park, the beach, the mall or recreation center are just places that serve for meeting people. There is a wide variety of nationalities represented in this place. So, for winter break, we had the opportunity to spend time with some of these people that make this place special.
Life in Abu Dhabi has consistently been made better by Filipino friends.
Taking a break at the beach with American friends.
Spending time with our friends as a complete family is challenging during the normal work week, so having a chance to visit during this more relaxed time has been really nice. We got together with our friends from the UK and Holland as well, but it was so much fun that I only have this picture, snapped by a friend as I was playing darts. (I won! It was luck. My method is simple: chunk the dart at the target and hope it hits!)
Ezra helping me play darts...

We've enjoyed having time to get to know our Nigerian neighbor better as well. She was a hairdresser in Nigeria and she asked if she could do Talia's hair one day. Talia had fun with it! She has taught us a few words in Yoruba and helped us learn more about her home countries food and custom

Our Nigerian friend fixed Talia's hair for Winter break.

As many of the people we began our desert journey with are ending their contracts and planning to move on, it is nice to touch base again with the friends we have together in this particular moment before everyone scatters again. This particular mix of people will probably never be together, even on the same continent, again. This is part of living the expat teacher life that is surprising sometimes, (like when you DO end up with someone you knew from a different continent together again on a completely new one) sad sometimes (It's always hard to leave/watch leave) and inspiring you to seize the moment every time.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Al Dhafra Festival 2014: Camels, Saluki and Sand

Camel crossing

If you want to see something unique to the Middle East, you can't miss the Al Dhafra Festival. There, in the middle of the desert near Liwa, a temporary town springs up each winter creating a place called "Million Street" because of the millions of dirhams that change hands at these annual events. Most of the money exchanged is for racing camels or camels in the camel beauty pageants, but many other things go on here:  a souk, Saluki (dog) racing, camel races and beauty contests, art contests, date (fruit) packing contests, classic car displays, horse races, car races of different types and more.

Ben holds Ezra on a camel display in the souk

Our adventure started when we left around 9. I had packed everything except some books for the trip, so we stopped by the post office to see if some books we were expecting from family had arrived. They had! The kids were very excited about them and that helped the 2 hour drive go much smoother, until Elias puked all over himself halfway there. We took him into the bathroom at a gas station and scrubbed him off and changed his clothes. He was fine after he puked, so we continued, just with an interesting smelling trunk.

The first place we visited upon arrival had a sign advertising "Children's Village" but they apparently don't open until the evenings, so we went to the nearby souk. There, a student from Ben's previous school in Abu Dhabi gave Ben a map and told him where the camel beauty contest and Saluki races were. While we were there, a sheik came through with an entourage and cameraman. We later saw his helipad with a helicopter and service men.
Camels in the viewing pens for their beauty contest
At the camel beauty pageant, one enters through a security scanner making sure you are not carrying anything harmful to the camels like weapons or lighters... and then you enter a giant tent with very nice padded chairs set up on risers like one of the most comfortable stadium equivalents you have ever seen. One of the young men passed out free bottles of water and soon, they let everyone go down and view the camels. Some young men were very excited and yelling in Arabic in the background, supposedly at the camels, the whole time. Talia and Elias were very excited to see the camels. In person they seem very big! One camel did a funny jumping thing where he would rock back and forth jumping from his front to his back feet as if he were excited... Talia told me he was dancing. She also said they sounded like big cows lowing, which I would agree with. The camels were all decorated with fancy beaded and tasseled straps on their backs and around their humps. The judges looked at the hair softness and quality, color, shape of the mouth and body to judge the most beautiful camel. The black camels were especially prized.

After the camel beauty contest, we went to the race track. (Betting is not permitted in Islam.) There, we saw camels racing with mechanical jockeys on their backs that are connected by remote control to the camel owner, who rides alongside the track on a specially prepared road and is able to remotely spur his camel on with the camel crop. (I suppose it is called a crop? It is some sort of stick used to prod camels along...)

Camel herders move camels via the racetrack between races
After the camels, we had a wait for the Saluki race. The weather was beautiful and there was green grass everywhere for the children to run around on and another comfortable stadium area, so the kids played until Elias had to go to the restroom... and the guy before him had (because there is no toilet paper, but sprayers or the bidet option) soaked the entire floor. Elias slipped in the water and got completely soaked. Fortunately, the nice breeze and sun had him dry pretty quickly, because he was out of a change of clothes by now. Every 5 minutes, an official would come through and tell us that "in 5 minutes" the race will start. This happened about three times, as is customary, and we just knew that when the screens showing the up-close version of the race came one, then it would be for real. When that happened, Talia and I took Ezra and went closer to the race track. The wind was very strong! With so many people stepping close to the track, we had to be careful to not get sand in our eyes.
A Saluki races for the prize
Before the Saluki raced, a herd of camels moving to a different location came through. A lady from the UK was also close to the track and was wondering what they used for the dogs to chase, a mechanical rabbit like the greyhounds, perhaps? No. It was the head half of a real deer carcass on the back of a truck. The owner of the fastest Saluki would be the winner of a fancy 4x4 truck, and they were very excited about the race. Just like the camel race, the owners raced alongside the track in their vehicles honking and yelling for their dog to win. After the race Talia was excited to see the dogs up close. They were sleek and shiny with pretty markings.

After this, it was around 2 p.m. (Elias' nap time and the baby was also falling asleep) and we hadn't had much for lunch besides fruit and nuts, so we left. The boys slept most of the way home and Natalia read one and a half of her new Anna Hibiscus (not an affiliate link, we just like them a lot) books that she loves. I'm excited that she loves to read and that her speed has really accelerated this year! Ben was hilarious the whole way home creating comedies in different languages and playing two different people in each language. (In one of them he was a Spanish-speaking car salesman trying to convince another Spanish-speaking customer that his vehicle was better than the other burro option.) We laughed a lot.