Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Pregnancy and the Mirage of Control

There are several ways this third pregnancy has been different from my first two. The biggest difference has been the constant contractions from early on, that have gradually intensified the further along I've gotten. Many of the other differences are mental things compounded by our location.

The hardest part of this pregnancy,  in addition to being away from friends and family and especially my midwife, is how the nature of pregnancy has so much of it out of my control: I can’t be sure I will go into labor when Ben is home, I can’t be sure that I can give birth without complications, my preferred method of birth (out of a hospital) is illegal here... Nothing that I feel responsible for is really within my control- which are reasons that were true with the first two, but being surrounded by a network of people I trusted made that easier. This time I can’t even take care of my own kids well when I go into labor, and this was the part that made me feel the most desperate.  I’m thankful that God has provided someone I feel I can trust  with my kids (which, trust is also hard to do) long enough to have this new one. With that major concern out of the way, there are only a dozen others to constantly give back to the one with ultimate control. I’m having to learn a lot about letting go and realizing that my "control" is really a mirage to begin with and that God really does order our steps if we let Him, even when everything feels so wrong and I would do it all a completely different way if I possibly could. I can’t have this baby at home, though (unless he just comes really fast, but still going for a completely natural birth, supposedly made easier in the British model approach to maternity care in this hospital...) I can’t change my location and I’m not in charge of the timing of the birth of this baby ultimately.

I've been pregnant the whole time we've been in Ruwais, since we first moved in here in October, so after the major hot months coming up (right after the baby is due,) I'm looking forward to getting back into running and other physical things. As with Elias, I haven't even reached my pre-pregnancy weight that I had with Talia though I'm in my 39th week now, and that's something that reminds me that though there may be many things I can't control, the things that I can, do make a difference.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Making Popsicles

As the temperature has started creeping up again, we've been enjoying making popsicles.

They're pretty simple: We started with two ripe bananas.
Added a cup of plain yogurt.
And some blueberries that we found for a decent price at the mall, YAY!
Poured it into some (sorta small) silicone molds and froze it.

Elias was apparently paying close attention because when those were gone he tried to make his own before I found him in the kitchen with the hot cocoa mix (left from introducing "winter" traditions)  trying to make chocolate popsicles:
We did make chocolate ones, with the same ingredients plus the addition of two tablespoons of this drinking chocolate mixture. It's probably better this way than as hot chocolate in this weather, after all.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Playing with Colors

Things for kids to do here include driving to the beach, going to the park, going to the Lady's Club which has an inside swing set and toys, going to the mall, going to a friend's house, mostly things that involve a car or walking a ways. We usually walk everywhere with no problem, but the further into the third trimester that I get, the more contractions this causes, so after homeschooling, at-home activities have included a lot of reading, making cards and letters to mail family, spraying the gardens, building with blocks, puzzles and a lot of art. Talia and Elias especially like playing with colors. So far we've been....

Finger painting:
Drawing: (Here, a girl running away from an apple tree because they apples were falling on her head.)
Making Papi and "I love you" card that's supposed to be a fox made out of hearts:

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Gardening in the Desert: Tomatoes

Living in a place with a small patch of dirt instead of an apartment means we have enough room to grow something, especially in the "winter," which is really the best growing season for many things, like tomatoes.
The kids like helping water the plants with their spray bottles (and it keeps them occupied for a long time and can be a cooler activity in hot weather because it usually doesn't stay aimed at the plants...)
The tomato plants have gotten really big!
Here is our first tomato:

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Seen in Abu Dhabi 24: Camels in the Western Region

Ben had a chance to visit one of his student's camel training sessions for races. The visit included a nice tea break in the tent and some good memories from the Western Region.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Sweet Potato Streusel Muffins

With the new mall in Ruwais, an option I finally have again is sweet potatoes! One of our favorite ways to use them besides regular mashed or baked potatoes is to make sweet potato streusel muffins.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Seen in Abu Dhabi: 23

Kithul treacle:

"Kitul treacle is made from sap extracted from the inflorescence of the kitul palm, Caryota urens, which grows in Sri Lanka. The treacle is made from pure sap boiled down to a sweet, dark brown syrup, thick and sweet in flavour, with a taste resembling dates with a slight hint of caramel. It is traditionally eaten with curd, a traditional Sri Lankan buffalo yogurt. When the sap is cooked, it also produces a crude sugar called jaggery."

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Kids Unscripted: Chapter 23

Elias: (dropping toys in the bucket and mostly missing and making a mess) "Mama, mess!"
Me: "Did you make a mess?"
Elias: *nods*
Me: "Go pick it up..."
Elias: "Mommy's turn!"
Me: "I don't think so!"
Talia: "The thing about this paper airplane is that I know it doesn't have any feelings, but it sure is acting tired."
Talia: "If I draw 'x's side by side and make them hold hands at the top and the bottom they make beautiful diamond shapes!"
 Talia: (with a measuring tape) "Is this a cillimeter?"
Talia: "I'm going to make frog dressing, like flies grinded up: the kind of dressing frogs eat... so that when I get a pet frog he can eat it! I bet frogs would like fly pies, too."
Talia: "Understanding means just not dis-understanding..."
Talia: "How do you know if it's a fig tree or a maple tree, because both have 5 points on their leaves?"
Talia: "Mommy, do you want me to tell you a kindful story?"
Me: "Elias, what did you do with the blueberries?"
Elias: "Round and round!" [blender]
Me: "What are you going to make with them?"
Elias: "Pockles!" [popsicles]
Talia: "If, when I grow up someone asks me to be queen, I will be a queen of discipline instead of violence."
Ben: (to me) "Mama, don't tell Talia, but I love her a LOT!"
Talia: "Why would you tell Mama not to tell me?! That's a lovely thing to say!"
Elias: "Lias, monkey!"
Me: "Elias is a monkey?"
Elias: "Yeah! Mommy, bear!"
Me: "Mommy is a bear? What's Talia?"
Elias: "Cracker!"
Me: "What's Papi?"
Elias: "Banana!"
Me: (to Talia) "Thank you for eating your supper even though you didn't like it."
Talia: "Yeah... I think the only way to fix that one is to just not make it."
Me: "Elias, did you poot?"
Elias: (shaking his head no) "Cat poot!"
(We don't have a cat...)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Ruwais Mall

When you move to a new place, I've found that it's usually best to try to live within what the culture has available rather than constantly trying to recreate things from home without the right ingredients. This is what we do most of the time, with the occasional special treat of making things like flour tortillas or other things we miss from Texas and Guatemala. What we've been able to experience this way, as a bonus, is one of the best parts of travel abroad: the local cuisine. In a multicultural place like Abu Dhabi, this has meant  a combination of Filipino, Indian, and a variety of Middle Eastern foods.

In Ruwais, especially, this has been the experience since the variety found in the many-malled area of Abu Dhabi is not available in this desert town a good 2.5 hours away, so finding something we missed from home even for special occasions was either a "see if someone feels like mailing it" or "just do without" thing. Part of this has changed with the new Ruwais Mall.

Some of the main things found at the mall that were difficult to get otherwise are flour tortillas, sour cream and salsa, some of our most missed and not-easy-to-make items. We still will only get them for special occasions, but it's nice to have the option!  Some other ways this will add variety to Ruwais, (soon, since all of the shops are not open yet) will include restaurants beyond the Indian/Arabic food option available, a wider variety of clothes and office/school supplies, baby supply shop and even a nutrition shop that might have more natural options for things like toothpaste, deodorant and coconut oil. That's what is important  to me... I know many of the other ladies are excited about a beauty salon and cinema.

I don't even know half of the new options this is going to provide, there's not too much I miss besides people and certain foods (I'm sure there's a connection there...) and I generally don't like malls, but just adding another air conditioned option for walking around during the the 100-125 degree months is a welcome diversion here.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Learning to make flour tortillas: I miss TexMex food!

One type of food that's really hard to get in Abu Dhabi and especially the Western Region, is any sort of Latin American food. Corn flour, (actual corn flour, because what is labeled "corn flour" here is really just corn starch) which could be used to make masa for corn tortillas and many other things is almost impossible to find except every once in a while in the capital. I never could find it there either. So finding a good flour tortilla recipe was nice! This recipe was easy and they turned out soft and pliable just like they're supposed to. Previous attempts had suffered in this area. ;)

We made beef and bean burritos with chopped tomatoes, cilantro, mozzarella (hard to find cheddar) and a little yogurt to substitute for hard-to-find sour cream. They were yummy.

It's also hard to find good tomatoes or tomato products in this part of the desert also, so salsa is another thing I'm trying to figure out, if you have any good recipes for when we DO have good tomatoes.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Seen in Abu Dhabi: 22

A grape the size of a small plum. I couldn't find a label to tell where it was grown...

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

"Winter" Crafts and Traditions

Since this is one of the first winter breaks spent with just immediate family instead visiting relatives in the States, we've had the chance to think about  traditions we'd like to have of our own. I have to admit, it was really nice to be completely separated from the consumerism of December in the States. It was like any other day in the U.A.E. except temperatures have been in the 60-70 degree range instead of 100's.

While it may not get super cold, it does get chilly enough at night to make and enjoy hot cocoa occasionally. Both kids were a fan of that!
They were also a fan of roasted marshmallows. My favorite are the black ones...
Talia made the characters act out the story Papi read.
It may not snow here, but we made cut out snowflakes... but a colorful version. A penguin family made from footprints also migrated to our wall to visit. Talia mentioned that we had left out the baby, so we added a little penguin egg later.
Cinnamon-raisin bread: it tastes like a cinnamon roll, but you slice it as you go. It was delicious.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Kids Unscripted: Chapter 22

Elias: (putting a car on Ben's head) "Hat!"
(putting a car to Ben's eye) "Car kiss!"

Talia: “Some things are odd.”

Me: “Like what?”

Talia: “Numbers…” (sneaky grin)
Natalia: "Papi, is a guess room in your house just called that because you have to guess who's coming?"
Ben: "Ummm......."
Talia: "Did you cook all of the radishes?"
Me: "Yes, they're in the refrigerator now."
Talia: "Good, because I'd like one fourth of one!"
Elias: (looking at a book of opposites) "Straight!"
Me: "That slide is straight."
Elias: "Crooked!"
Me: "That slide is crooked."
Elias: (pointing at the straight slide) "Crooked NOT!"
Talia: "Mommy, would you like a sunflower seed?"
Me: "No, thank you."
Talia: "Take some, the baby will want it..."
Elias: "Ice-cream, Elias need..." (pointing to his tummy) "TUMMY!"
 Talia: "Elias, you can't hide your sin... I will tell Mama!"
 Talia's version of color theory:
"Sometimes when you mix colors you get yucky colors... my favorite yucky color is greenish-gray, but just to study, not to touch. If you add white it's a little bit prettier, but then if you add reddish-brown you need to throw it in the trash can and take it out so you don't have to smell it."

Elias has been paying attention as I have been teaching Talia to tell time on an analog clock. Now, when he sees the numbers on the dial of the washing machine setting, he points at it and says "O'clock!"
Elias: (pointing at his mouth) "Loud! Teeth!"
Me: ???
Talia: (Making up a story about a frog and a dragonfly) "... and all the frog could say was 'hello, lunch!'"

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Seen in Abu Dhabi: 21; Small Striped Melon

I couldn't figure out what this "melon" was. When I bought it, I was looking for gourd-like vegetables to create a vegetable pot pie, but cutting this open made it apparent that it was some type of melon. This website called it a small striped melon. One of my friends from the Philippines said "It is a melon in the Philippines we use to remove the seeds scoop the flesh and put condense milk and ice."
It wasn't sweet, and tasted more like a cucumber to us.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Buildings With the Shades on the Outside

 With the hot desert sun always a consideration in Abu Dhabi, combined with the unique architectural competition seen throughout all of the newer buildings and structures, a plausible and creative solution would be a building that could shade itself against the sun when needed and open to the landscape when the sun were not so strong.
I don't know what these buildings are called, but that's exactly what they do! In the top photo you can see that it is evening, and if you look closely, that the shades are opened. In the bottom photo it is morning and the shades are closed.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Burj Khalifa Downtown Dubai New Year's Celebrations 2014

Fireworks start at 1:39 and water show at 8:30. Except that one seems to have been removed by YouTube. Perhaps this one will work (including scenes from the Palm Jumeira): or this one: Happy 2014 to you!

Friday, December 27, 2013

10 Favorite Things About Winter in the Desert:

1) It's 70* degrees instead of 120*. 

2) You can open the door without your glasses fogging up and feeling like you're trying to breathe under water. 

3) Ben gets a good December break. 

4) The irony of watching people native to the desert put on thick coats for 60-70 degree weather is humorous. 

5) Kids can play outside for more than an hour without the risk of heat stroke. 

6) It's easier to stay hydrated while pregnant. 

7) Butter doesn't melt between the store and home a block away.  

8)The air conditioner actually goes off sometimes and we can open the windows! 

9) It's the growing season for tomatoes! 

10) They take the umbrellas off of the baby palm trees because they don't need as much protection now and they're prettier that way.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Dancing Fountains, Burj Khalifa and Friends in Dubai

Dubai Mall has some really cool things, including the dancing fountains in the videos below. video
Of course, none of the things were as nice as spending time with my friend. This was the first time to get to see the fountains from the balcony of a restaurant instead of in a crowd of many people by the gate down below... which was relaxing. We arrived right before sunset and were able to see everything well before it merged into a light-studded silhouette of buildings and shop windows. It was nice that we were right across from the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world currently, since our guest was interested in seeing that also.

Good food, good company and good entertainment makes this one of my favorite memories from this part of the world.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Elias Turns 2

Elias turned 2 this December, man that is hard to believe! Right now he is really interested in tools, trucks, airplanes, trains, babies and giraffes. Talia thought we should make him a giraffe themed cake, so we looked to see what we had in the pantry after Thanksgiving.

We decided to go with pineapple chunks for the "spots" and chocolate cake for the "skin" to make a giraffe print look... well, sort of.

I used Laura Vitale's chocolate cake recipe for the cake, but did a pineapple upside down thing first, to make a "2" with pineapple pieces. We had leftover cherry pie filling and whipping cream from Thanksgiving, so we decided to make a chocolate whipped cream filling and layer it with cherry and the rest of the fresh pineapple. This way, more of the sweetness came from the fruit than icing. The flavors balanced perfectly. Talia picked out a giraffe to print and tape on a skewer to help decorate and she made him a really nice birthday card.

For his birthday we found a jungle-themed lego set with a giraffe... that was his favorite piece to play with!