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

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!)


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...

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

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.

Terrible Two's

I'm not really sure how, but somehow my sweet, albeit somewhat temperamental, little Naomi who we have come to adore as the entertainer of the family, has turned into a full blown terrible two in a manner of a few weeks without me even realizing what was happening. All of a sudden every limit is being tested, every button is being pushed (over and over and over) and every line is being crossed (usually just with one big toe as she slyly watches to see who will notice and what will be the result). One of my good freinds asked the other day if my other girls were this strong willed and I honestly had to say that I couldn't remember if they were or not! How bad is that? I think it's more that Naomi has just taken me by surprise by the severity and quickness of her stubborness and willfullness. If I think about it, I think I remember that Abbey was pretty strong willed in her day (and still is for that matter), but the difference (or at least one of the differences) is that Naomi has an audience (two big sisters) who are usually more than willing to be entertained by her antics. And, maybe a little of what they say about getting more and more lenient as you have more kids is holding true as well. I am doing my best to be consistent with her especially lately, so why do I find myself tickled with her so much more often than I did with the other two? I confess to having a moment of victory today at the table though. Jason will tell you and I will quickly agree that I am usually the parent who gets tickled and has to turn away while he remains stern in order to discipline her. However at lunch today when she hurled a portion of her grilled cheese sandwich across the table in anger (accompanied by a little "hmphh" and arms crossed across her middle), Jason was the one who almost had to leave for laughing while I corrected. This is just one of an endless list of examples lately.

Last week at our house church, there was a table on the bowl in the center of the room with some candy corn on it. I let her have a few pieces along wiht all of the other kids, but then as we continued singing and worshipping, I told her no more candy. She looked at me and walked sideways over to the bowl of candy, eyes on me the whole time, reached out, grabbed a piece and popped it in her mouth. I picked her up, spanked her hand, said again, "no more candy" and set her down. This next time (a few minutes later) she tiptoed over to the candy bowl (again watching me the whole time) and reached in and grabbed a piece. This time however she didn't pop it in her mouth. Instead she held it up to me and pointed at it with the other hand as if to say, "ha ha- gotcha!". I told her to put it back and thankfully she did! A few minutes later, she came crawling in to the worship area (this was all taking place in some friends' living area where we were having church. Naomi is typically kind of in and out between the kids sunday school are and where the adults are worshipping, so each of these incidences was separated by a few minutes, and unfortunately most of the adults were highly entertained by her attempts and her facial expressions). So, the next time she is crawling towards the candy bowl and victory for Mom, she doesn't take any! Instead she crawls up to it, looks at me and points. I shake my head and she sighs but doesn't take any. I'll take minor victories these days! And I wonder why I have a hard time concentrating in worship these days....

Here's another one (also church related). A friend and I were helping lead the kids time at church which means doing a sunday school type lesson for about 8 kids ranging in age from two (Naomi) to 11- a challenge in and of itself. This particular Sunday, things had not gone very well from the start and I had honestly about had it and was praying for the adults to finish soon before things got even more out of hand. So we finally got the kids kind of quiet and we were teaching them to sing the old classic, "seek ye first" as a round. They were actually cooperating which was a good thing and I was thinking how sweet they sounded. About that time, Naomi stands up and makes her way to the center of our little circle and yells at the top of her voice (and quite emphatically), "SHUT UP!!". Oh my word, I was horrified and unfortunately every one present, though possibly a bit shocked, started cracking up. On the way home that night, I was talking to Abbey and Maddie, reminding them to "shut up" is most definitely something that we don't say and wondering where in the world Naomi could have picked that up. Abbey says, "Mom we know not to say that, but you say it to Mia all the time." Oops. Mental note to self, two year olds hear and will repeat everything- why am I forgetting all this important parenting stuff???

Last night when we were eating dinner, Naomi had gotten up from the table without asking and she had done somethign else but at this point it escapes me what it was. Anyway, Jason said something to her and could tell she wasn't to keen on doing whatever it was so he then said, "Naomi do you want a spanking?" (please note that it is not generally our parenting policy to offer this to the kids as an option :)), but anyway that's what he said, and her response was classic. She says, "OK Daddy" with all the pleasantness in the world and walked around to where he was sitting and leaned over with her little rear end pointing right up to him. He gives me this look like what in the world am I supposed to do now?

I can't talk about Naomi's antics as a terrible two without mentioning her ability to utterly and completely destroy Abbey and Maddie's creations. You probably cant' tell much from this picture, but before Naomi entered the picture, the big girls had quite an intricate house built for their polly pockets with all of the accessories neatly organized and arranged quite neatly. Enter Naomi. I found her in this position waving her arms and feet frantically saying, "look Mommy, I make a snow angelcake". Thankfully, Abbey and Maddie were finished playing with this particular polly pocket village so it ended with them cracking up laughing instead of being completely distressed, and everybody helped pitch in to clean up with the "snow angelcake" destroyed.

All in all, we are all very much enjoying the entertaining little person that Naomi is becoming, I just find myself more often than not, wishing that I hadn't forgotten everything about being a mother to a two year old. I feel like I"m having to learn all over again this time around! It's so precious to see Abbey and Maddie participating in the process of shaping Naomi's character and often without meaning to helping to teach her about making her way in the world. They aren't always as patient as they could or need to be, but they both related to her in such unique ways. I love seeing how God uses them all to shape each other. We try and remind them daily how thankful they should be for their sisters and how important it is for them to be examples for each other.

Morning routine

One of the most challenging things for me to date as a parent as far as general organization and planning has been starting our days in an organized yet somewhat pleasant manner. It doesn't help that school here starts at 7:40 so we have to be out the door by 7:15- just so early! In years past morning have always left me feeling like I've just never quite caught up and I just have to pray that the girls don't feel half as frazzled heading off to school as I felt as I shoo them out the door stuffing snack boxes and water bottles into their back packs. This year one of my biggest prayer requests as we started back to school was that the Lord would help me organize our morning routine in a way that didn't leave us all feeling like we'd run a marathon. As I prayed through this, one of the first things I realized was that we would sacrifice some of their typical morning chores like making their beds since they are now sharing a room with Naomi who is ideally still asleep (in the bed that needs to be made) when they leave for school. We decided that the majority of their chores could wait until they got home from school so that we could help them focus on beginning their days with the Lord. Our guest bedroom has become their morning "get ready" room since Naomi is still snoozing when they get up and get going. We've arranged their quiet time area at the little table in the corner. They each have their Bibles, their prayer journals and there is a selection of some kid devotion books. I have a white board propped up on the table with some reminders for the girls of some things to think about while reading their Bibles and praying. We started off trying to keep a family journal (this was an idea from a Beth Moore bible study from several years ago), but I realized that it was taking Maddie a little too long to write things down. So we modified things a little to where Maddie simply reads each morning in her Bible and keeps up with her journal at night. Abbey typically reads in the morning and writes in her prayer journal. I"m trying to have them right things down like what passage they read, what they learned from it, what they didn't understand, what they want to pray about because of what they read etc. The amazing part of this whole process has been that literally EVERY morning since school started in September both girls have started their day reading their Bibles and praying without us having to remind them AT ALL. It has been such a blessing to Jason and I, and it has truly been amazing how much smoother our mornings have gone this year compared to last year.

Lost in Translation

Living in Beirut, there are many times that I catch myself wondering how a particular thought or concept could have gotten so mangled and mixed up in translation when so many of the people here speak English and French along with Arabic. Being students of the culture and the people, we do our best to try and communicate with them in their heart language (usually Arabic) when we can, but there are certain situations where I don't even try because I know that whoever I'm communicating with speaks English just as well (if not better) than I do. For example- when I take the girls to the pediatrician we commmunicate in English and occasionally French simply because I don't yet trust my Arabic to explain ailments or request medication. Then there are those times that I DO try and use Arabic and come away flabbergasted that I was not understood. For example in ordering a happy meal at McDonalds, I might say "Bidee Happy Meal", translation, "I want a happy meal". The other day after repeating this three times, the person behind me steps up and says "she wants a happy meal". Good grief. But hey, at least I'm trying. Needless to say I have learned that there are times when I don't even want to risk being misunderstood so I just stick with English (like at the pediatricians). Well, after this weekend, I have another perfect example of being somehow completely misunderstood (actually ignored may be more like it but I"m going to give them the benefit of the doubt...). Anyway, Jason and I were able to have a night away on Friday night because Leah and Jami came and spent the night with our girls. We decided that it would be perfect timing for Mia to spend the night at the vet, get her check-up and get a good bath and trim so that the girls would only have to take care of the kids and not the dog too. Before I go on, let me show you a picture of sweet little Mia and her best buddy Naomi on the day that we took her to the vet...

Naomi and Mia have really become big buddies especially now that AJ and Maddie are back in school. As you can see, Mia is ever patient with Naomi's hugs and "luvin"... Anyway, back to the story.

So, Friday we took Mia to the vet for the night, and I decided that this would be one of those conversations best had in English, because I really didn't want anythign to get lost in translation. Our vet has actually spent a lot of time in America and his receptionist also speaks VERY good English so I wasn't worried about being misunderstood. The reason I was a little nervous, was because last time we took Mia to get "groomed" she came home looking like a rat. A few minutes after I had taken her to the vet, I got a call from the receptionist who said, "Excuse me, Mrs. Cox, do you want us to leave any hair on Mia?" I said, "oh please" but apparently it was a little late as she was quite pink and hairless when we picked her up. Thus the reason I wanted to communicate very clearly that we are quite fond of Mia's fluffiness and simply wanted them to groom around her eyes and help brush out her hair where it tends to get tangled. So the following is the conversation I had with the vet lady when dropping Mia off...

ME: "Please just wash her and trim her hair A LITTLE where it's tangled and where it's hanging in her eyes."

VET GIRL: "So you don't want a lot of hair cut?"

ME: "NO- we didn't like it last time when you cut it VERY short. Just a little please and help get some of the tangles out."

VET GIRL (holding up her finger to demonstrate): "So you only want about this much cut off (shows about 1/2 inch)?"

ME: "Yes, that's fine, but please don't do more than that besides where you trim around her eyes"

VET GIRL: "No problem (something commonly said by Lebanese people about everything- problem or not). We'll wash her also."

ME: (turning to leave): "That's great, but please don't cut her hair alot"

VET GIRL: "I understand"

So, it may sound like I was being abnoxious about not cutting the hair but I've liver here long enough to know that alot of times it may not matter what you want, they may or may not listen. (this unfortunately also applies to human hairdressers).

Anyway, you be the judge. Here is our sweet little Mia puppy now- do you think they listened to me?

POOR MIA!! I've taken to calling her "rat dog" much to Abbey and Maddie's dismay. The bad part is, not only did they completely not listen to me, but they tried to charge us more because they had to cut so much hair! Good grief.