Monday, April 21, 2014

The hardest holiday

Easter is the hardest holiday to celebrate around here. It faces the uphill battle of 1) being a Christian holiday in a Muslim country, that is 2) held on the Western Christian Sabbath (Sunday), which is a work day here. I forgot it even was Easter until about the day before. Yesterday - Easter itself - I made a last-minute trip to Spinney's in Mirdif to get something special for the girls for the holiday. The selection was very poor, though - hollow chocolate rabbits missing most of the foil covering; ├╝ber-expensive dark chocolate eggs; smashed-in boxes of truffles. From that miserable pile, I salvaged two Lindt chocolate hens wrapped in shiny, colored foil - one for each girl. I gave the hens to the girls after school. Because Easter is a school day here. I felt like Ma Ingalls in the wilderness, handing over a single stick of peppermint candy to Mary and Laura for Christmas.

Fortunately, a neighbor held an Easter activity afternoon with egg-and-spoon races and even an Easter Egg hunt. Later, as a family, we watched a few Easter videos on Sterling had a doctor appointment in the evening. To spend more time as a family (really), all five of us went, together. We received our most sincere Easter greetings of the day from the Muslim receptionist who wished us Happy Eid (holiday) and talked with me about how it can be hard to be apart from our extended families on such holidays.

It wasn't until we moved here that I realized how much I drew upon the public consciousness of certain holidays in my own celebrating of them. It's easy to remember that Easter is approaching when the dollar section of Target is overflowing with that plastic green grass, plastic eggs, and wicker baskets. Last year we were in Germany for Easter, and public awareness of the holiday was in overdrive - the whole country shut down for a few days of celebration, town squares were decorated with Easter eggs, etc. Furthermore, if you celebrate the religious aspect of Easter, you can count on Easter Sunday being a day off from work, a day to dress up in your finest and take pictures of the family. We did have an Easter program at church on Friday, which was nice. But it wasn't Easter itself, so I didn't think to take nice pictures or sit down with the kids to talk about the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

I think in future years, we should consider holding our own religious Easter observance on Good Friday, our Sabbath. Then I can not worry that we're missing Easter when Sunday itself comes around with all of its busy work/school-day distractions.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

From fear to love

For the first five months of his life, Sterling was somewhat terrified of Magdalena. She was loud and unpredictable and her idea of playing with a newborn was getting right in his face with a rough game of pat-a-cake. Looking through photos of the two of them from that time period, a certain trend emerges.

"not so sure about this i am nervous"

"uh oh, the nice calm sister was holding me and then SHE showed up i am nervous"

"which one is holding me i can't tell from this angle i am nervous"

"the calm one is here but so is the other one i am nervous"

Magdalena made him nervous. As you can see. Miriam was the preferred sister for quiet sitting. Magdalena was feared.

UNTIL. At about five months old, a switch flipped. It's the switch that flips in every baby, and all of sudden they love games of surprises and tickles and happy noises: peek-a-boo, creep mouse, this little piggy, and, yes, in-your-face pat-a-cake. In other words, that loud, unpredictable 5-year-old with uncontainable energy and enthusiasm just became the perfect playmate.

These days, Sterling only has to look at Magdalena and he bursts out into wiggly smiles and anticipatory giggles. He knows he can never be quite sure what kind of game she'll come up with to play with him. And that's just how he likes it.

"[at ease]"

Friday, April 18, 2014

April 18th, outsourced

I love the idea of these faux-old-fashioned maps, customized to a particular road trip or journey or community!

Wheel of Fortune FAIL. [HT Blair]

The CNN pregnancy test, for when you want to know that they don't know. [HT Andrew]

Babies cry at night as part of an elaborate plot to keep Mom tired so she doesn't want to procreate again anytime soon. Sounds about right. [HT Andrew]

Warning: you won't be able to unsee these examples from a Nicolas Cage-themed art exhibition that was held last weekend in San Francisco.

I posted a link to the prototype for this zip-up bed linens product a few months ago. It has a Kickstarter now! The price point is a little higher than I can personally manage (and also, we have freak Middle Eastern-sized mattresses), but I LOVE the idea!

Babies in Ridiculous Poses. The fact that many of these are composites was news to me! I am relieved to know that professional photographers, at least, are not shoving babies into jars of candy. [HT Missy]

I know this is technically a commercial, but it is charming: An & Ria's First Flight. You cannot convince me she doesn't say "Hot diggity!" at 2:22. [HT Josie]

Missing Child Found Safe Inside Claw Machine is Safe, Probably Bummed to be Rescued.

The private lives of public toilets. I read this article and then immediately wanted to anonymously send a copy to my department's cleaning lady re: The Bathroom Incident. [HT Andrew]

I think these are the same few photographs that make the rounds every year, but I, for one, was happy/FREAKED OUT to see them again: Vintage Easter Bunny Photos. [HT Jessie]

A map of all the places where nobody lives! Yes, it uses census data, but it does not rely on counties so it really is showing you were nobody lives. [HT Jen]

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The US, from the outside

Magdalena's Year 1 concert was yesterday. The theme was "Around the World," with dances and short presentations about seven different countries: India, China, South Africa, UAE, UK, USA, and Spain. It was so fascinating to see the school's/students'/teachers' interpretation of US culture - it's a British curriculum school with very few American students and only two or three American teachers.

The recitations by the children included such tidbits as:

- The US is the home of such restaurants as McDonald's, TGI Fridays, and Chili's. [They also named a few main items of American cuisine - you can see them on the far left drawing - but I didn't catch what they were.]

- George Washington was the first president of the United States.

- And this little boy recited the entire Pledge of Allegiance!

In addition, the costumes (as you can see) were bell-bottomed jumpsuits. The music for the dance was "Moves Like Jagger."

I loved getting an outsider's view of my own culture. And I suddenly feel shamed into wanting to teach my kids the Pledge of Allegiance! It was all I could do not to start reciting it along with the little boy.

(Magdalena's part was about Spain. She did a great job. Yes, that is a sandwich instead of a flamenco fan.)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The laundry room as a nursery

Since Miriam was born, our family has lived in ten houses/apartments and we've never once had a proper nursery. The baby (whoever it has been at the time) has always slept in whatever room worked best. Sometimes it was in the wooden IKEA crib/toddler bed that Jeremy's parents gave us. Sometimes it was in the cheapest-possible portacrib we bought in 2007 before we went to Jordan. Sometimes it was in our room; sometimes it was in another room. In our particular living situations, it just hasn't make sense to dedicate an entire room + furniture + decor to the smallest member of the household.

These days, Sterling sleeps in the portacrib we bought in 2007, which has been dragged around the US (coast to coast and in between), Jordan, Syria, and the UAE. And the "nursery" is the laundry room.

It's the perfect location. Nobody uses the laundry room at night, so it's an available space that was otherwise underutilized for 12+ hours of the day. It's the next door over from our own room, which makes my nighttime trips there convenient. It has a door that shuts. It does not have any windows that could allow light and outside noise to disturb baby during the night or in the early morning. And it is just his size.

During the day, I move the portacrib to a corner of our bedroom for naps, and the laundry room becomes the laundry room again.

So it's not a fancy nursery. But it works for us.


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