He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress and for his children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas!






Jeremy, Kimberly, Shelby, Darby, and Emma arrived on the 23rd and it's been non-stop fun for the cousins ever since. We spent the first day at the mall- McDonalds, Marble slab and lots of shopping. Came back home for a few hours and then hit Chili's for dinner. Christmas Eve day we were able to stay around the house most of the day and just enjoy being together. The girls made sugar cookies according to the Cox family tradition and just had fun getting re-acquainted. Even Mia joined in on the fun and has especially enjoyed playing with Emma. I think Mia think's Emma is a dog and Emma thinks Mia is a baby like her.




Naomi has been fascinated by baby Emma. Mostly in the sense that she is very upset when Emma cries or is getting fussy, and she is always wanting to go in and check on her when she is sleeping.








Christmas Eve we sang carols around the piano (we definitely needed Nana as I was probably getting 50% of the notes wrong!) and read the Christmas story together from Luke. We did presents from each other around the Christmas tree and the kids had a blast.



Some favorite presents...




Naomi loved her stuffed Max and Ruby dolls and Maddie was thrilled with her sewing basket. (Abbey, Shelby, Darby,Emma were excited about their gifts to but my camera battery ran out)





Christmas morning we all went into the living room together to check out our stocking and their was more excitement. The girls played hard all morning with all of their new treats.











After a big Christmas lunch we headed down to the corniche for a long walk. We got cut a little short by rain, but it was still great to get out and let the girls run around together. It's been a great day and we're just all so thankful to be together!


Cooking with Bridget







My friend Bridget who used to work for me at home came over last week to cook Lebanese with the girls and me. It was such a fun day and the girls had a blast. She made three kilos of kibbeh so I have a freezer full. Kibbeh (or at least the way she made it) is basically ground beef mixed with bulgar wheat and spices. You form it into balls and fill it with a mixture of beef, onions, spices and pine nuts.



Abbey wasn't too interested in helping but Maddie and Naomi "helped" Bridget most of the day.

Football in the hippodrome




We've been wanting to play American football with several of our American friends here ever since Thanksgiving. We finally got it together and all went down to Tyre to see if it would work out to play in the Hippodrome there. It was SUCH a great experience. The kids got to run and play all day- climbing on the ruins (yes, in Lebanon you can actually do that), running around in wide open spaces, picnicing together. It was a blast. Karen (one of the other moms) and I kept looking at each other and asking why in the world we hadn't done this before in the almost 5 years that we've lived here. Here are a couple of pictures from the day.


The caves that the kids are standing in front of are actually old grave sites and alot of them had decaying bones in them- yuck!
Thankfully, Naomi was thrilled just to be able to pick flowers and didn't try to climb too much. I was a little nervous about her climbing after her recent busted chin.

To the right is what is left of the stands from the hippodrome. In later pictures you can see we set up our picnic area right in front of the stands and played ultimate frisbee and football with the kids.



Scoping out the playing field and picnic area...











Ultimate frisbee in action...







THE CHEERLEADERS!!!!
















Here are some pics of the kids' football game...












Maddie and some of the other girls got bored with the games so Aunt Kellie helped them make flower wreaths. They were thrilled!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

"Fashionable"

So, my oldest two have a new favorite term- fashionable. Ex, "Madde, that's a very fashionable sweater." or "Mommy, that's such a fashionable purse." I haven't exactly pinpointed where the abundant use of this word is coming from but MOST of the time it makes me giggle when they use it. Except for last week. And let me just clarify that I have my mom to thank for this. Mom, Annie as the girls call her, has gotten in the habit of sending fancy Christmas party dresses each year. Not the traditional smocked dresses, I'm talking fancy. Nothing over the top of course- I think they come from Target. Last year for example, they both had black velvet dresses with various bows, ribbons etc. This year, Abbey's is a deep purple combo of velvet and satin and Maddie's is dark navy with black velvet. Both have some sort of diamond sparkly pins somewhere on them. So, with the dresses, Annie has immediately earned herself the reputation of being a very "fashionable" grandmother. Let me add here, that this is not be any means at the expense of Nana- Jason's mom. In other words, it doesn't seem that Annie is the fashionable grandmother while Nana is the unfashionable one. No, it seems, that I get to be the lucky one who fills the role of unfashionable...

Last week in the car on the way home from school the girls and I were chatting. I don't really remember the context of our conversation, but I'm pretty sure it was related to Annie's fashionable taste concerning the new dresses. Before I know it, Abbey is telling me and Maddie is agreeing that "Well, Mommy, you're just not very fashionable. I mean you never wear fancy scarves or fancy jewelry or anything like that." (At this point I realized that not only do I have my mom to blame, but also all the single young girls that hang around with us who are always incredibly well put together- with nice scarves and fancy jewelry) I kind of laughed the whole thing off (after reminding them of course to be careful with their words because they ALMOST hurt my feelings.

The next night at dinner I was telling Jason about our conversation saying something like, "So, apparently the girls don't think I'm too fashionable." At this point I was getting exaggerated reactions from them, "MOMMY, you ARE fashionable. You DO dress nice" etc etc. I was kind of enjoying watching them squirm. UNTIL- Abbey looks at Jason and say, "It's nto that she's not fashionable. It's just that shes' kind of plain." Good grief! I give up! I just happened to be going to Bible study that night so I came out with my fancy (and only) scarf (that Annie made) and the snazziest earrings I could find (not very). The girls approved and we are all still laughing about mommies lack of fashion sense in the eyes of her 9 and 7 tear olds!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Lazy Sundays



Well, we sort of had plans to go for a mountain drive today, but realized when we got up this morning that that would not be possible. The Beirut International Marathon was today and it goes right by our place and on the streets all around us so we were pretty much trapped. Most of the out-going streets around us were completely blocked off. So we loaded up the stroller and headed down to the corniche to watch the show. It was amazing how many people were participating and just out enjoying the beautiful day. Thankfully, Naomi seems to have recovered from yesterday's injury (at least in the sense that she wasn't afraid to run around and play football with her big sisters). Watching the local fishermen is also a favorite pasttime.




Above is Naomi watching the fishermen while munching on a handful of corn nuts- a fave snack in our house. After walking and watching fishermen and the marathon runners (and walkers) for a while, the girls played their own game of football. (which lasted until Naomi almost busted her chin again in the same place...)












Such fun! And our American football did draw several curious stares as it's usually soccer that you see on this side of the world. But the girls didn't care and they had a blast. We came home, ate leftover turkey, had a sing a long with the piano and guitar and played an hours long monopoly game.

Naomi's Thanksgiving adventure


True to form, Naomi was ready for our guests and all the fun it would involve on Saturday. After a huge lunch, a bunch of us headed down to the corniche (the walkway by the sea) to let the kids run off energy, and to let the adults walk off lunch so we could get ready for dinner. We hadn't been there five minutes when Naomi took a face dive into the concrete (trying to keep up with the big kids playing football..) and came up with a bloody chin. Jason and I scrambled leaving Abbey and Maddie with the rest of the crew who played for another hour at least, and we headed to the ER with Naomi. Strangely it wasn't bleeding a whole lot but I could tell right away it was going to need stitches. So, with Naomi waling the whole time, "I don't want to see Dr. Mounla. I don't want to fall down! (too late...)" we took the five minute drive up to the hospital. All things considered, it could have been a lot more of an ordeal. We actually got in and out in just over an hour. Oh, and Papa- you will be glad to know that throughout the whole process, I came nowhere near fainting (although I did have one minor incident of giving myself a little mental pep talk when they were giving her lidocaine to numb her chin). But I'm getting ahead of myself! One of our biggest frustrations with the hospital here is that they absolutely will not give you any care until you have paid, period. You have to pay for each thing as it comes up. So, for example, I walk in holding my bloody child (while Jason is parking), they look at her, give me a slip of paper and send me to the cashier. I told them Jason was coming and could I please sit down in a room and let him pay. So that was acceptable, and Jason paid when he came in. So then we were clear for the real doctor to come in to examine her and he verifed that, yes, she would need stitches. Here's another bill sir. Please go pay this and we can proceed... Anyway, through this whole process, Naomi has about worn herself out screaming. She actually started falling asleep. I'm sitting there singing "Jesus Loves Me" to her, and this Lebanese man (probably in his 70s) sticks his head in our room, and says, "I love that song, I used to sing that when I was three years old and went to church in America in Oklahome". Unfortunately, I was only able to smile at him and not expound anymore on the conversation because Naomi woke up enough to realized someone else had come in the room and started waling again "I not see the Dr. Mommy, I not fall down. They not touch my chin." etc. etc. Well now for the fun part. In comes the doctor and his entourage (we are at American University Hospital which is a teaching hospital). One of the guys had a sheet folded longways which I quickly realized they were going to use to papoose Naomi. I laid her down on the bed and he quickly wrapped her up so that only her head was showing (and her little red crocks on her feet). Well, at this point the waling changed a little bit, "Mommy, where are my arms? ". Talk about traumatic! Not only did they tie her down with a sheet, they then wrapped tape around her fastening her little body even tighter to the bed. Then they put the drapes over her head and around her chin so that all that was showing was her little face (and her crocks). The worse part was the lidocaine shot to deaden her chin to get ready for the stitches. After that was done, she actually pretty much fell asleep for the rest of the procedure. She would occasionally open her eyes to make sure she could still see my face (they let me stay in thank goodness) and then she would drift back to la la land. THe whole thing took about 10 minutes once they got started- two stitches on the inside and three on the outside. Unfortunately after they finished (while she was still taped down to the bed) she started throwing up. Good grief. That was a mess but minor compared to everything else once we got her untaped and upright. Afterwards, she looked at me and said, "mommy, I spilled up". As we left she actually smiled and waved at the doctors. In the car on the way home, I asked her what happened and she said, "UMMMM, I broke my mouth"

Saturday feast








So after our Thursday evening feast, we spent the next 36 hours getting ready for our 25 guests on Saturday. We had a lot of fun decorating and trying to figure out how our new smaller apartment would accomodate everyone, but it ended up working out great. In addition to the dining room, we had a table in the hallway, and one on each balcony. The biggest challenge was getting all the food into the kitchen. Jason had the great idea of stacking the bench up on top of the table to provide more room. (A good idea that was quickly forgotten, when he followed it by suggesting to the three women standing in the kitchen that we would have more room if we moved the decorations off of the table!)



Maddie enjoyed the table on the back balcony, especially when she discovered that I had used little candy pumpkins to hold down the napkins since it was so windy...

Family Thanksgiving




We had the extra blessing this year of having two Thanksgiving celebrations. One with just our family on Thursday (a first for us) and one with 25 other Americans whom we live near and work with on Saturday. Since it's not a holiday here, the girls went to school on Thursday so I used the mornign and early afternoon to get our Thanksgiving feast ready. It was my first attempt at a turkey and I discovered that it's a pretty fool proof process (especially when you have one of those oven bags!).



When the girls came home from school we had pumpkin dip and cinnamon crisps and hot cocoa. We thought we were going to get the Macy's parade on TV because we have a channel that shows the Today show, but they ended up showing more news than anything else with just an occasional clip of the parade.


Here's Naomi and Jason getting ready to carve the turkey. I'm not sure where she found those two wooden sticks, but she came in and saw Jason sharpening the knife, and reappeared a few minutes later scraping the sticks together just like daddy.






The girls wanted to dress up for our meal, so they wore their new dresses that Annie sent in a package and we at by candlelight.




We used our African tablecloth (Abbey commented the the "pilgrims" on the tablecloth sure were funny looking). We had turkey, cornbread dressing, cranberries with horseradish (sounds weird but SOO yummy), spinach casserole, sweet potato hash ( I was the only one that liked this but I had found it in a Southern LIving and really wanted to try it), Memommy's roles with Nanny's muscadine jelly, and Memommy's pumpkin chiffon pie for dessert. Naomi, by the way, is now a huge fan of pumpkin pie! Anyway, it was a very special evening for us. We realized that we really dont' have that many holidays with just the five of us and it was really nice for a change.


I almost forgot, the girls were really excited about wishing on the wish-bone and true to her competitive nature, Abbey was quite upset when Maddie ended up with the (much) bigger piece. She was being somewhat pouty and when Jason chided her she said, "but daddy, my wish is that all the people would know Jesus. That's why I'm upset!" We reminded her that this was a prayer not a wish, and that God is still in the business of answerign prayers (even if she got the small piece of the wish bone!).

Who's side are you on???

Grocery shopping is always an adventure overseas. Fortunately, we've been here long enough, and the stores are enough like American stores that it's not TOO difficult. (usually). I remembered (unfortunately a little too late) that grocery shopping on Saturday is not at all a good idea even in this culture, but I pressed on because my list was long and our cabinets were empty. The whole shop around the edges of the store concept (you know, so that you get mostly fresh things and avoid all the preservatives and pre-packaged things) is actually very do-able here, but because of the way the system is set up it just takes that much longer. You have to wait your turn at the red meat counter, at the chicken counter, at the deli meat counter, at the cheese counter, AND at the vegetable scales where they weigh all your fruits and veggies BEFORE you proceede to the check out counter. Keep in mind that when I say "wait your turn" in Arab culture that doesn't exactly mean the same thing as in American culture. You basically join the throng of people fighting for a place at the counter and hope that you get noticed in a somewhat reasonable time frame. So, add the masses of people who are at the store on Saturday morning and it doesn't exactly make for a stress free experience. Anyway, on this particular day, I had already gotten all of our produce, meats and cheeses and I was finishing up my shopping. One of the last things on my list was these little bleach tablets that we use to wash all fruits and veggies before eating them. I couldn't find them ANYWHERE. I looked in the produce section (where they used to be), then I headed over to the cleaners section and looked with the bleach and dish detergent- not there either. I finally tracked someone down to help me (somewhat of a miracle in itself) and asked him where the precept tablets were. He looked at me as if I were a complete doofus for not knowing, shrugged his shoulders and says, "they're with the band-aids.". Well, duh! Of course, they would keep the veggie bleach tablets with the bandaids- how could I have been so dense? Anyway, I got them, finished up shopping and headed home ready to share my latest cultural frustration while shopping with Jason. I was laughing and telling him about how absolutely absurd it was to me that they would put these crazy things with the band-aids and what does he say? He looks at me and says, "well they're the same brand. It makes sense to me.". I thought, good grief- whose side are you on?!?! Agree with me as I rant about this!! I told him it had to have been a male who set up that store because that was male logic, NOT female logic! (the tablets are Johnson and Johnson by the way but I still say it makes no sense to put them with the band-aids!)

Sing-a-long

The girls love it when Jason pulls out the guitar. More and more with our piano, we're able to do guitar and piano together. This particular night though I was filming. Unfortunately the singing got pretty silly when they realized they were on camera, but it was still sweet...



video



The one above they were acting pretty silly. The one below is a little more "normal" before they realized they were on camera





video

Krispy Kreme!


We've been watching this Krispy Kreme going up since August and it's finally open and ready for business. THis is actually a good thirty minute drive from our house (without traffic), but we just discovered that another one is going in about five minutes from our house. Anyway, a few Saturdays ago we got the kids up and loaded in the car for a Krispy Kreme breakfast run. It was a treat for everyone, and they have great seating with a terrific view of the city if you are able to go on a day with low pollution.







The girls all loved their donuts!









And Jason and I loved the view and the wide open space for them to run around- a rarety in this city!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sunday traditions

Sundays look a little different for us on this side of the world, but as a family we are trying to create traditions and do things that help us appreciate and observe our day of rest even though it may be a bit different than what those in the states are used to. We don't go to an established church, we worship with other believers in a house church which alternates between peoples homes. We don't typically meet until mid afternoon and we then all share a meal together. This is a huge help in preventing the whole Sunday morning, "we're never on time and always frazzled by the time we arrive at church" fight. At least if we have this fight (because I am unfortunately still notorious for not being able to be on time despite my best efforts), it's not until later in the day after we've been able to enjoy a relaxing morning together. Here's a glimpse at what is becoming a somewhat typical Sunday for us.



Crepes are a must on the weekend in our house (if Jason is in town) and this usually happens on Sunday. We crank up the praise music and everybody pitches in. Maddie and Naomi are my big kitchen helpers. Abbey likes to be in close proximity to everyone, but it's usually with a book in hand. She'll help out if asked, but it's not typically her thing (unless there is a beater to be licked). Jason is the crepe-maker after the girls and I get them mixed up. I have honestly never been able to really master the right wrist motion to get the crepe to be the right shape and thickness in the pan so we leave that part up to daddy. We love to eat Sunday breakfast out on the back balcony but it was actually finally a little too chilly this morning to sit and eat out there. It's about time considering it's mid November! After crepes, we have our Bible reading time and lately we've also been gathering around the piano to sing hymns. If we don't all sing, I at least get a good 30 minutes of piano playing in. I am SOOO thankful for our piano- we are loving it so much.

A lot of times we'll play a game as a family on Sunday like Mexican train dominos, Clue, Monopoly, Risk (if Jason is around), but today it was gorgeous outside so we headed down to the sea to enjoy a walk with tons of other Lebanese. We walked along watching the fishermen, and besides one minor incident where Abbey tried to lasso Maddie (who was on the scooter) with a jumprope it was an uneventful walk.

We don't get to enjoy Sunday afternoon football as we would in American ( I say we, I really should say Jason...), but he makes the most of it by listening on the internet on Sunday night when we get home from house church. He has the broadcast going and all his stats and fantasy league stuff pulled up so he can keep up with everything. Occasionally we might get lucky enough to actually get a game on one of our sports satellite channels but this has happened so rarely that Jason knows not to get his hopes up. Listening to the sports broadcasters, you almost get the feel of sitting in the living room watching it on TV- but not quite.

We love our Sundays and pray that our girls will learn the value of resting as a family and will look forward to our breaks together as a family from the very fast paced life that we otherwise live here.