Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Many Pronunciations of Elias

When we were looking for baby names, we specifically looked for something that could work in an international context. Elias does just that! It's very interesting to us to learn how each language pronounces the name. Here are a few examples we've come in contact with:

English: "ee-LYE-us"
Spanish: (the way we pronounce it) "eh-LEE-us"
Filipino: "EHL-ee-us"
Arabic: "ILL-yas"

And who knows how many more we'll run into!

Some of Benjamin's students call Ben "Abu Elias," or "Father of Elias," actually, so his name has been getting a workout.

Do you know how to pronounce Elias in a language I haven't mentioned?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

My Experience With Cloth Diapers

I use cloth diapers, and I love them. However, I'm not crafty or talented enough to make my own yet, and since several people have asked for my recommendations, here is my experience with a few brands.

The very first time I tried cloth diapers with Talia, it was because a friend knew I would love them if I tried them and loaned me three of her BumGenius brand diapers. She was right. The only thing I didn't like about the diapers she loaned me was the Velcro-like closures that got stuck to things in the wash if I forgot to close them or that wore out quickly. There was a remedy: snaps.  I started with the FuzziBunz brand because it had snaps. I got the small size diapers, and they lasted size-wise for the first year. Elias seems to be growing much quicker, so I have a feeling he will be out of these by the 6 month mark. I also have a few adjustable one-size diapers that grow with the baby of both FuzziBunz and BumGenius, and those are the ones I would recommend starting with, instead of with sizes. After they grow out of those, what I have done with Talia is use the Bummis Whisper Wrap diaper covers (also the ones with snaps) with a regular pre-fold cloth diaper wrapped around a soaker from the FuzziBunz and it worked great, even overnight while potty training with Talia.

I've learned several things along the way: Snaps last longer, vinegar in the wash takes out the smell and line drying allows the sun to bleach the diapers naturally.

-I love that I spent the money with Talia and now I have diapers practically for free
-I love that for me they work better at holding in overnight pee than disposables.
-I love how they come in bright colors.
-I actually enjoy line drying clothes... so I like hanging them out to dry... (I might be weird though.)
-I love how if the economy collapses or something crazy happens, (wherever we are) I don't have to worry about getting disposable items. There will be enough to worry about if that happens.
-It's environmentally friendly.

I also got a TON of baby washcloths for Talia so I put them in an old wipe container and use baby-friendly lotion and hot water to make my own cloth wipes. They go in the same wash as the diapers and they work great.

I don't like.... hmmmm. Well, the only thing I don't like is when the baby starts eating solids, the result gets gross, but still, you just dump it in the pot- or get a sprayer to attach to the toilet (these already exist almost everywhere in Abu Dhabi to be used instead of toilet paper) or use liners (I used some dried out disposable baby wipes for this.) Even with this, I find it's worth the trade off.

Something I haven't tried, but am interested in, is using lanolin-treated wool soakers. Anyone out there have experience with this?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Mental Snapshots: Flight DFW to Germany

Do you ever experience something and later have a part of the memory stuck looping through your head? I have a few memories like this from our flight from Dallas, Texas to Frankfort, Germany. (13 hours stuck on a plane might have something to do with this. ;))

When we were waiting to board the flight in Dallas, there were several mothers with small children. I noticed a blond, curly-headed toddler with his mom- I'll call him Matt- and another darker headed toddler with his obviously expectant and tired mother. Matt was very curious about Elias, like most young children are, and kept inching closer and closer to look at the baby. Finally, he came over and investigated for real. He was very sweet and gave Talia a spontaneous hug. Suddenly, the other toddler had had enough of sitting in his stroller and started wailing in anguish. His mom looked embarrassed and tried to console him, but she was too pregnant and he too big to pick up comfortably and he really wanted to run around but couldn't because we were boarding soon. Matt heard his crying and his face wrinkled up like he was trying to figure out the problem. Then, he went over to the crying toddler and hugged him. The crying toddler stopped crying and his face brightened at his new friend. The whole area watching him chuckled.

When we boarded the plane we had a middle row of three seats sandwiched between aisles dividing a set on either side of us with two seats. I was across from a middle-aged couple who were oblivious to the world. I never stared at them, but being in an enclosed space makes it hard not to notice some things. The man gave the woman a foot massage and then rubbed her back before they went to sleep. Their conversation seemed to fluidly move between German, English, Spanish and French... who knows what other languages I didn't notice. They had a bag full of fruit and ordered a vegetarian meal. They appeared to be very close, like people who were good friends as well as a couple. The woman seemed very sad, and broke into deep sobs twice and maybe that's why she's still in my mind. I prayed for her there on the plane and now, when I remember her.

On the other aisle across from Talia and my sister was another lady who seemed distant and tired. As the flight wore on, Talia was overstimulated and uncomfortable and having a hard time going to sleep. My sister, to give her something to do before trying to settle down again, got up to take her to the restroom. Talia tripped on something and hurt her toe. She tried to be big and hold the tears in, but couldn't help the tears that still came out, but she didn't vocalize it. We had told her to be as quiet as she could since many people were sleeping, and she did a really good job at it. The lady across from them saw the whole thing and when Talia came back she gave her a TootsieRoll Pop and Talia told her "Thank you." At that moment, it was exactly what Talia needed.

I know in my head that people are not always what their appearance portrays to me, but as a human, as a survival instinct, I still can't help but notice and perceive things about them through the filter of my experience. I think most of the reason why these snapshots are stuck in my head, is that they each were examples of humans acting out love in daily life. That's the kind of snapshot I don't mind remembering.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Abu Dhabi in Fahrenheit

We arrived in Abu Dhabi almost the same day as the 100*+ temperatures... and it only gets hotter from here!

Here's my plan: Get a glass dish with a glass lid and set it on a black or reflective surface on the balcony and see if something will cook... Surely 100+ degrees for 5-6 hours is enough to cook something! In Texas it took 4 hours to cook cookies at 101 degrees on a car dash.

Any suggestions or websites you know of for sun-cooking?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Laundry: International Solutions to the Dirty Clothes Problem

So far, every country we've lived in (a whopping 3 countries, that is ;)) has had a different approach to the problem: How do I get my dirty clothes clean?

In the U.S., most people use a washer and a dryer. Some line dry in good weather, but be it in the laundry mat or in the home, most have a dryer anyhow.

In Guatemala, the majority of the people couldn't afford a washer or dryer and washed by hand at a "pila," or concrete scrubbing board with a basin on one side and the scrubbing board on the other. Line drying was, of course, the way to go, though it presented its challenges during rainy season. Many times it would get so humid in rainy season that the clothes would mold in the closets if you didn't put "Desecant" to absorb the water in the air... and clothes would hang on the line for days.

Here, in Abu Dhabi, I see a unique blend of both of these places. The only kind of washer/dryer we could even find available, is the combined version (pictured) As the laundry room is a hook up between the fridge and the sink in the kitchen, I'm glad for the space it saves, and actually use the top to dry dishes on. It does present some challenges:
-It holds very, very little compared to any washing machine I've ever used before,
-If you want it to both wash and dry, be prepared to wait a good 3 hours between loads and not actually get the clothes all the way dry.
-If you'd like to shave some time off of a load and try to just wash, it takes a good 2 + hours
-As we're on the gulf, the 100+ degrees makes for some super humid weather. This makes line drying a bit like the Guatemalan experience.

However, I'm very grateful to have a washing machine (not to mention clothes to wash!) Have you ever tried washing clothes, especially blue jeans, by hand? You'll build up some arm muscles very quickly! Then again, I might just need to do a more thorough investigation of the instruction manual....

Monday, May 14, 2012

Kids Unscripted: Chapter 2

Talia: "Did we see a coyote dragon at the zoo?"
Me: "A Komodo dragon?"
(After a long, tiring day when Talia was actually asking to go to bed)
Papi: "What's the funnest thing you've done today?"
Talia: "It will be fun when I go to bed..."
Talia: "Can you take me to play with the camels in the desert?"
(Eating pizza and picking off red parts)
Talia: "Peppers make my mouth hurt..."
Aunt Chel: "Those are tomatoes!"
(the red things disappear in less than one second. I'm glad Chel wasn't teasing!)
Talia: "If you leave the door open all of the butterflies will come in and I will chase them!"
Talia: "What is 'mosque?' Is it a type of poison bug?"
Talia: "Everything is possible in a song!"
Talia: "do you like all the kinds of cookies?"
Me: "noooo"
Talia: (sneaky grin) "Do you like green bean cookies?"
Talia: "I have a teddy bear and Elias has a teddy dog!"
Talia: (writing her name as small as she can) "I'm writing as small as crumbs."
Me: "Talia, would you like a pear?"
Talia: "I would like a parrot!"
Talia: "I have a really good Papi; he's the best Papi in the whole world."
Talia: (handing me her cup) "I drinked all of it, like a camel."
Talia: "I was sleeping and practicing how to be still and quiet at the SAME time!"
Talia: "Is there one big playground with a cage?"
Ben: "That's a fence."
Talia: "I love the baby: I be careful with him, and I snuggle with him and keep him warm."
Talia: "The baby's hands are so little and my hands are so... medium!"

Friday, May 11, 2012

Yogurt in Abu Dhabi

 Yogurt is a big deal in middle eastern cuisine. This is only a portion of the yogurt section found at a local grocery store. As you can see, there are a range of sizes from a cup up to about a gallon.

Maybe we need to invest in some of this since we've all had some form of a stomach issue that seems to be the initial welcome of every country I've visited. ;)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Cupcakes in Abu Dhabi

Cupcakes are a big deal in Abu Dhabi.

Little cupcake shops are frequently spotted all around the city.

There's even one located in our apartment building with a frequent buyer program...

That shouldn't be a problem, should it?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Air to Abu Dhabi

Traveling is not my thing. Isn't that laughable, since I'm writing a blog about our family as it travels? Truthfully, I'm satisfied at home learning to make my own things and messing around in the garden, homeschooling and raising our kids. I'm pretty boring. Being married to Ben makes my life much more exciting, internationally speaking. I like being different places, it's just the traveling part that I don't look forward to.... So, when faced with a good 20 hours of traveling with an infant and a 4 year old, I wasn't exactly jumping up and down in excitement. I prayed. A lot. And packed. And was thankful that my sister decided to go with us!

Riding the camel in the Abu Dhabi airport

Our travels started at 10 AM when we started driving to DFW. A gentleman from the airport helped us with all of the luggage and we ended up not having to lift the 50 pound duffle bags, thankfully. We also didn't have to pay for any extra baggage, with my sister flying and graciously letting us use her luggage for our stuff, we ended up with 2 bags for each ticket and one for the baby. We ended up taking 7 carry on bags and checking 7 bags. 3 of the suitcases we checked were homeschooling stuff. We boarded our first plane, bound for Germany, at 3:30 and spent the next 13 (!) hours flying up over Canada, the Atlantic and then England surrounded by very nice, loud, German-speaking older ladies. About the 4th hour I was missing the short 3 hour flight it took to get to Guatemala. :) We chased the sun down the first time on this flight. Talia had issues falling asleep on the plane and then trying to wake up again, but both kids did very well. Elias slept almost the whole time. As we were landing we saw big yellow patches on the ground that turned out to be planted yellow flowers.

In Germany, we had a little time to let the baby kick on his play mat and Talia walk off some extra energy and then we were boarding another plane to Bahrain. This time Talia and my sister slept through the whole flight and Elias and I amused ourselves trying not to think about how long this 6 hour flight was. Several names on the flight screen to Bahrain were Damascus, Tel Aviv, Kuwait, but the screen kept showing different angles of the flight and I was too tired to figure out the order. (Care to join me for a Geography lesson of this part of the world in another blog post soon?) We landed in Bahrain and had a little wait before boarding the little plane to Abu Dhabi.

A view of Abu Dhabi from a balcony.
The plane to Abu Dhabi was little and went quicker than it anticipated, about an hour and a half instead of 2. I wasn't complaining about a shorter flight! When we landed, I had to go get our paperwork and a retina scan before we could enter the country. There were what looked to me like a million Indian people in line, but everyone was kind and we finally got through. Ben met us with a friend so that we would have two cars to transport all of the suitcases and people.

So we were in the air a good 20 hours, and traveling more than 24. It wasn't possible for me to sleep during the traveling, so I went to bed when we got home and slept a good 4 hours... and then my body thought it was time to get up again. So now we're figuring out the new schedules and getting adjusted, but so, so glad the trip went well and mainly, that it's over! Hopefully I'll get my land legs back soon!

Thank you very much to the people who prayed for us to have a smooth trip. We were very blessed!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Falafel Texas Style

Before going to Abu Dhabi where falafel is common, I wanted to learn how to make it from friends in Texas so I could compare versions. (Plus it's a great excuse to eat it!) They were kind enough to teach me how they do it, so here goes:

 It began the night before with soaking the chickpeas in water for the next days preparation.
 The next day, we blended them with about 2 onions a lot of garlic and cilantro. The cilantro is something some people omit, or switch for a different herb.
 Ground, it looked like this and was ready for the falafel maker. This cool little instrument has a spring in it that pushes the falafel mixture into the hot oil when you are done scooping it into the shaped end.
Then we fried them in hot oil. These cool little falafel balls flipped themselves over when needed and rose to the top  when they were ready. Pretty simple!
Finished, they looked like little hush puppies to me, but were healthier and definitely tasty.
There are literally a million combinations you could create for the toppings, but we sauteed eggplant, onion and red pepper, made tahini sauce, schoog (a homemade hotsauce that was delicious) and cut up tomato and cucumber to serve in our pita bread.