Saturday, December 21, 2013

Life and Such

Taking a moment to catch our breath as we finished our first trimester of school. It's a Saudi Christmas for us this year, and Sojo has been the one to add all the festive touches to our house with her drawings and homemade wreaths. 

Here she is tending to her basil plants and green bean seed that just started growing. We've found a little window space for them inside since the sand outside makes for gritty basil eating! I really just took this photo to get a shot of her fabulous fox sweater that she got last winter. This winter, it's even cooler because of the "What Does the Fox Say?" song that is everywhere. Plus, she looks so pretty and grownup here.

The tree is ready to go, as well as Sojo's photos from her preschool years that we love to hang at this time of year. We have only a few presents under the tree, but Sojo still ran in the other day and exclaimed, "There are so many presents under here!!!" Definitely an overseas girl to have no clue as to how many presents usually sit under trees! 

4 more wake ups until Christmas! 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Winter Wishing

Oh, this girl who loves winter so much. The same girl who has never actually been in a winter to know how truly cold they are, but to her, she loves the idea of winter. We are working hard to find a way to get some snow into her life in the year 2014, but for now, she has her own winter wonderland going on in her bedroom.

One evening, she got it in her head to get every single stuffed animal ready for winter. That meant pulling out all the hats and gloves and such to cover each one. I can see Perry the Platypus with his earmuffs on! Since we don't have much winter stuff, a few of the smaller animals simply got a sock pulled over their heads. And the huge Angry Bird got a fake Christmas song on paper tucked under him just so to give him the festive spirit as well.

To top it off, there was a bit of ukelele playing for all the winter friends! 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Here Comes Santa Claus...

This is how Santa rolls in our neck of the woods. He arrived on a festooned camel, much to the delight of the kids in our community. Every year, he pops in for a family picture and a small gift. We had some explaining to do when Sojo received her gift, which was labeled Girl 7-9. Oops--we forgot to check the box for a boy gift instead. A big box of cool jewelry making items made Sojo doubt the magic of Santa for a minute--she could not understand why he didn't give her the same gift as all her guy friends who got Hot Wheel tracks and swords and such. With a bit of explaining about how busy he is right now, she understood, and we made a deal to always check the box that says boy in the future.

Here we are with the festooned camel and Santa!

And the simplicity of Sojo always makes me so in awe of her. This is her list to Santa. She did later add that she wants a Magic 8 ball, but I remember having a very long list each year. Fingers crossed that he brings her this Furby doll she has wanted forever. I also hear he has a major surprise for her that is something super fun for people living in the desert...

Friday, December 13, 2013


This girl has always been attracted to all things shiny, and adding a new medal to her collection was a great event. It was the baseball tournament the other night, with her baba as the coach, that brought her a medal AND a plaque. In true overseas ESL fashion, the plaque said "teaball" instead of "tee ball," but that makes it even cooler and funnier.

Favorite things about this photo:

Love how she is looking at her medal as she is walking away

Not such a fan of the "I can't take a minute of my time to take a photo for my mama." This is the forced smile look after a bunch of zombie-eyed goofball ones.

I am, however, a big fan of her excitement about medals. She has now separated them into two categories: ones she has earned and ones she was just given, or purchased at a random German flea market. She really did buy an old reproduction of an Olympic one there last year.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Cool Boots

Definitely the best book I've read all week...

Oh, the 29,000 dollar boot story. 

I was looking for a fabulous pair of boots for myself for our Paris trip, and Sojo spotted a pair in the store as well. Since she literally never wants anything related to fashion, I somewhat impulsively bought her the very cool black boots. But they were so expensive and so 'these-will-only-last-a-season' that I was totally horrified, but then I's Paris! Come on! Once in a lifetime with her grandparents! How cool that her mom bought her boots for Paris!! I made her promise to wear them at least 10 times to justify the cost, and I also mentioned that it wasn't really necessary to say that they were so expensive.

Of course,  she went ahead and told everyone they were expensive AND wrote a book about it! 

I do swear they did not cost 29,000 dollars. And she did look so darn cute in them walking down the streets of Paris. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Happy Best Friends Day

I've been wanting to write this post for so many years...

Long ago, like when Sojo was probably two, she invented a game called "Happy Best Friends Day." It was a simple game with two objects (could be any object--2 cars, 2 small toys) and each person held an object and played. The game, in its early stages, went something like this:

Sojo: Ding Dong.

Me or Dale: Yes, who is it?

Sojo: It's me.

Me or Dale: Hello.

Sojo: Happy Best Friends Day!!

Me or Dale: Happy Best Friends Day!!

Sojo: Ding Dong...

And then it started again. Same words, over and over and over. And over.

Happy Best Friends Day rocked when we were travelling because she didn't care what 2 items we held as long as we could follow the script.

Cut to the present day--5 years later!--and Happy Best Friends is alive and well, albeit evolved over the years. Now, it is any sort of pretend play that we do together as a family (the rule in her mind is that only Dale and I can play this game, and Dale is better at it, according to her). We now use her extensive Hot Wheels collection and blocks to create much more elaborate scenarios with bad guys and night monsters and all sorts of crazy stuff, yet I adore that she still calls it Happy Best Friends Day. 

I also adore that last weekend she asked Dale and me to play because, in her words, "I've been playing a lot with my friends on the weekend and maybe we should spend some time together." 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Camel Market or Bust

For my 44th birthday, all I wanted was to go to the nearby camel market to get some shots of these beauties. However, we were too new to the country and could not find the market at all, so the trip was a big bust. This year, for my 45th, we found the correct directions and headed out with two of my girlfriends to take a gazillion closeups. 

There weren't as many camels as we had hoped (found out later that we had yet again gone to the wrong place, but at least this time there were some camels!), but we had the place to ourselves save for a few camel workers, and we had a blast taking photos. My favorites are the chocolate brown ones, mostly because the contrast of that color against the sand is gorgeous, especially when viewed from afar as they plod across the desert in a line. 

The whole thing took about 10 minutes, and we three ladies made it a full-on photo shoot. Noticeably absent were Sojo and Dale, as Sojo chose stay in the car and play the iPad (cringe...) instead of enjoying the beauty, and Dale stayed with her. My favorite was my friend Kate convincing me to go closer and closer to the camel to get a good shot---I've heard spitting camel stories and did not want to add that to my list of life experiences, but I love the nervous face on this one.

Already thinking of where to explore for my 46th...

Sunday, November 17, 2013


I turned 45 the other day. Technically, that is probably about the halfway point of my life. Wild.

Getting older fascinates me, and I often forget that I am indeed getting older. Many years ago, a dear friend--a woman who was as wise as I was not-- and I sat at our favorite cafe in Quito, Ecuador and made a list of all the things we loved about our bodies, from head to toe. This was her idea, and she was so darn refreshing and open and okay with herself. I had never met anyone like her before--or since. It was one of the most beautiful lists I've ever made, and her way of looking at herself is how I have tried to look at myself ever since.  I try really, really hard to live by those kinds of positive lists in my head instead of fixating on negative things (yes, I'm talking to you, hijacked metabolism!).

Focus on the beautiful, the little things like...

how my hair is so darn curly and flowy here, now that I have given up blowdrying it

how I love my ruddy, freckled skin even if it wrinkles faster than other types

how chambray and silver jewelry look so pretty against those freckles 

how I am so much stronger physically than I was 20 years ago

how the lines around my eyes are there all the time now, not just when I smile, and yet I still think that they look beautiful and wizened

Thank you, Sharon, for teaching me to honor myself and to focus on the beauty so many years ago. I carry that lesson with me every day. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

True Love

Our favorite lover of all things inanimate is at it again. I seriously can't wait to recount all these fixations when she is older. This time, it's her big plastic egg, Eggie. She was determined to have Eggie come and watch her play soccer one night when I was on my way out for a run around camp. She convinced me to babysit Eggie instead (yes, really...) and we carried him in the 'fish pocket' (I made this sling for her when she was little, and she still calls it the fish pocket). She carried him to practice, and I humbled myself enough (true love, baby) to carry said Eggie in the sling while I walked around the track for exercise with a friend.

When I think about it, she kind of sounds like one of those kids I remember who ate paste at school. But somehow she manages to be really quirky and doesn't cross over to the eating paste side. She's confident and funky and it does seem like this stuff just makes her a bit cooler. Or, I'm kidding myself and she's a whackjob (our favorite family word of the moment). I vote for funky. 

Adding one photo of the green area next to our house as it looks out at the desert beyond. When I take out the garbage at night, the moon is often there, peeking between the palms. It is stunning. As the afternoon sun goes down, it also catches my eye. 

Saturday, November 09, 2013

And the Glorious Season Begins...

It's that time of year again in Saudi. The time when you realize that living with 120 degree temps is worth it for the next 5 months of glorious weather. It will soon be chilly enough to drink coffee while walking to school, and we're soaking it up. The quick 7 minute walk is one of my favorite times of the day, and I adore watching Sojo walk or scooter ahead of me. Yesterday she brought her Chinese dragon along for the walk. The light hit both of them perfectly.

Just noticed that "Cheeto Fish" puppet came along, too. This is what I love about Sojo--she is so incredibly random and creative. She made that tiny puppet at the end of art class one day when the teacher gave them a bit of time to create something. She then found a Cheetos sticker and put it on the fish. Hence, Cheeto Fish. She's had it for over a year now and loves it. 

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Learning Curve

Living in an Islamic country is completely new to us, and our learning curve is immense. One of our main reasons for choosing to live in Saudi was to gain a sense of understanding of the Arab world by living in it. Thus far, the hospitality we have heard of for years is very, very true. From coffee to sweets to double kisses, Saudis are sweet and always offering something.

I love this section of our bookshelf. Although I'm a sucker for any portion of a bookshelf, I love this section that shows all we are learning here. It's downright fascinating.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

What I Enjoy

Sojo showed me her silhouette art project in the hallway at school the other day, and I loved the list of things she enjoyed. Look closely at the middle part--as she told me, "I was the only one who put something in like that." We are seeing that she is really into being who she is and is very healthy in taking breaks from friends who are not treating her the way she wants to be treated. Pretty please keep that your whole life, sweetie--it takes many people years to get to that place.

*Naz is nood als is 'Naz's noodles.' We have this lovely friend who makes Sojo a Malaysian dish that meets her food requirements, and she loves it. Sometimes Naz even delivers a batch to our door for no reason. Such kindness and yumminess. 

And I can't resist one more Paris pic. There are times when I see a glimpse of what she will look like when she's older. This was one of those times, and it is oh so beautiful. 

Friday, November 01, 2013

Halloween 2013

Halloween has never really been Sojo's thing--she just isn't into it and tends to last a short while before quitting and passing out candy. This year, she and her friend Eamon went off on their own to visit a few streets close to us while Dale and I passed out candy. I truly love living in a small, super safe community where I didn't feel worried about her going off without a parent as we have the 'raised by a village' thing going on here. And I knew she'd have a blast with her friend. Sure enough, two streets later, she came back and said, "I'm fed up." Not in a snarky way, just done. She did wind up going out a bit later to a few more houses, and she was stoked that most of the candy she got was stuff she could eat. (I do think part of her antipathy of Halloween is due to her allergies and how she can't eat much candy). Perry the Platypus was happy indeed.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Desert Sunsets

My friend captured this photo of me the other day, and I love it. We were driving down the highway coming back from the beach, and we had to pull over because the sunset was unbelievable.  I love the details in this photo: the tire tracks parallel to the rippled sand, the vastness of the desert next to a busy road, and the way I am holding up my abaya when walking. The whole thing feels very Lawrence of Arabia.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Once in a Lifetime

Overall, the trip to Paris felt very, very special. Being with my parents is what made it more than just a regular trip to a gorgeous city. From riding the metro together to having down time in the apartment to taking in the sights, seeing it through grandparent's eyes and Sojo's eyes made my own eyes a bit teary. It was a trip filled with memories. Sojo drawing in the museum, stumbling upon an amazing restaurant where we all oohed and aahed over the food, walking in the freezing cold at night to the bridge with all the golden locks, and our daily (twice daily) trip to the bakery across from our apartment. I'll treasure all the memories.

What was a hilarious memory was our timed family photo in front of the Eiffel Tower. When my dad checked to see if it was a good one, he was bummed to have found a smudge on the lens. A closer look revealed that a bird had flown across just at the moment the photo snapped. It was so perfectly funny, and something that we could never plan.

For sure, the saying "We'll always have Paris" has even more meaning now. Thanks for the memories, mom and dad. xo

Friday, October 18, 2013

Musee D'Orsay

Many people told us that this is their favorite museum in all of Paris, and it was especially nice for children. Not only is it visually stunning, but it felt accessible to me as an adult and not too overwhelming for a kid. My mom had purchased a book for Sojo this summer called My Little Orsay, and it was a great introduction to some of the famous pieces of art in the museum. It's all about finding those works when you get there, so that made it extra fun. We didn't find them all, but that leaves us something to do next time. 

Sojo loves art and was so inspired a few times that she simply sat down a few times and started to sketch. She was sweet in that she wanted me to stand next to her and not leave when she was doing this. I did manage to take a step back to watch her, and this was about the time I started to tear up. So very beautiful. 

Here is what she was drawing...all of us at the Eiffel Tower. Love how close together we all are. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Fabulous Fedora

Sojo has been on the lookout for a brown fedora while we are in Paris. She is wanting to be just like her friend Perry the Platypus from the Phineas and Ferb show. We found one today en route to Notre Dame and the Shakespeare and Company bookstore.

Shortly thereafter, I found the most gorgeous blue doorway and somewhat forced/coerced her to do a photoshoot. Halfway through, I noticed the number 7 on the doorway for her recent new age. This is my favorite shot of the trip--the hat, the smile, the leaning against the doorway, the Padawan Star Wars braid she has asked for lately as a hairdo. Every bit of it is perfect.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Art and the Artist

Paris is so filled with exciting things to do that I'll have to break it up into many posts. We are actually on day 3, and we are loving every day here in this beautiful city. Today we headed to the Musee D'Orsay to find all the pictures in the book my parents gave Sojo this summer called My Little Orsay. It made the museum even more enjoyable, and it was so exciting when we found one of the paintings. 

Sojo loved the museum, as did we all. So many friends told us it is their favorite in all of Paris, and we were not disappointed. Sojo was so inspired that she found various places to sit and sketch in the museum. This photo brought tears to my eyes. She is such an interesting person. 

Wednesday, October 09, 2013


At age 7, you...

still love scrub brushes and sponges and continue adding to your collection*

are in love with anything Star Wars and consider yourself a Jedi warrior

jump out of the car after school to go and run to Eamon's house for a play

finally wear shorts--but only if they are sporty and silky and usually are pants cut off

love when mama and baba stay until you fall asleep (we've made an agreement to do this until she doesn't want it anymore in life--it's time consuming but oh so beautiful)

have mad skills on the scooter but have zero interest in riding a bike

are very, very loved

* works out well for me and my bike that Sojo loves to wash things with her vast collection

Friday, October 04, 2013

The Beauty of Oman

Our recent trip to Oman had me so awestruck that I am having trouble putting into words how much beauty this country holds. From the jagged mountains set in layers that made me want to stop the car and watercolor to the bluest of blue water set against the sand-colored rocks, there was beauty at every turn. And tradition at every turn. Oman's law is that all buildings must be built in the Arabic style in contrast to the steel skylines of many other Middle East cities. There was a palpable balance between tradition and liberalism, which was lovely to see.

We will be back, for sure. With all the outdoor adventures available, we only scratched the surface. Our hike to Wadi Shab with old friends was incredible, and the kids rocked what was a fairly difficult hike in scorching temps. Our reward was a water cave at the end where we had to swim/squeeze through a 'keyhole' to get to the cave.

Next time, we hope to go and see the sea turtles hatch and make their way into the ocean--an Oman speciality. That and about a bazillion more things. Our friends suggested flying to Oman, renting a car and picking up their camping gear next time to get out and do some beach camping. Yes, please!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Rockin' With Baba

Looking back, this was the summer that Sojo picked up Dale's guitar and spent the summer strumming away. It was adorable to see her chilling with her cousin playing the guitar, and even now in Saudi, she hangs out on her bed with friends and they play guitar together. I captured them on video one night jamming together.

Thursday, September 26, 2013


For so many years, Sojo was fine with having allergies and eating something different than everyone else ate didn't bother her a bit. No longer. We are in the developmental stage where friends are key and being different is no fun. Since Sojo's skin has been so fabulous in Saudi, we've been able to make some new food choices with little trouble. She is the one making the choices more and more, and she is willing to deal with some discomfort if it means having a piece of birthday cake.

This summer, at her cousin's birthday party, she begged me to try a Cheeto. Needless to say, it was nothing short of amazing for her, and she ate fistfuls of them with no reaction. 

Then, she told us that she really, really wanted to try real ice cream instead of the dairy free stuff. Love at first sight for that one. Last weekend, when we were in Oman, she had ice cream three nights in a row with no problem. There was some serious ice cream joy, and we discovered that vanilla is her favorite flavor. I was sure she'd be a chocolate girl. 

Here's to growing up and making choices. Sigh--I fear they will not all be healthy food choices once we open the allergy floodgates, but it does bring her such joy. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Morning Walks and Talks

You know you're living in Saudi Arabia when a 'lower' predicted temperature of 109 degrees is met with a smile. It's so hot this time of year, but at least we are lucky that it's a dry heat. I'll take that any day over the sticky humidity heat, yet somehow that was what we were met with this morning. Ugh.

Sojo and I were up super early this morning, so I suggest we go and drop off my library books and magazines before it got too hot. She decided to wear her roller blades, and she's not too slick on those babies, so it was a lot of work to get to the library. What she lacked in roller blade skill she made up for in super cute stripy leggings and overall cuteness.

All that effort added to the very humid morning had us both covered in sweat before we even made it halfway there. It was close to miserable, and it's only a ten minute walk. Thankfully, our camp has air-conditioned bus stops. Crazy, eh? We simply had to stop and cool off for a minute or two. Or five.

We finally made it and cooled off in the library reading some great new books they had on display. Both of us were loathing the trip home, so we packed up the roller blades and went home in socks instead. Much, much easier for everyone, and some popsicles cooled us off when we got home. 

I love mornings like this (minus the humidity). Walking, talking, all that authentic time together. It's always been my favorite time with her. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Summertime Flashbacks

Not much photo taking of late here, so I perused the summer photos and found this one. It has so much in it that I love:

1. The kitchen counter that looks onto the rest of the house. Cooking is much more fun this way, plus the kids can hang out there.

2. Parents in the background relaxing. People often are surprised that we bought a house with rooms specifically for our parents to stay. Dale's mom moves in with us the minute we arrive since she is from there, and my parents came up for a while this summer, which we loved. We love a house full of family in the summers!

3. Red door wide open for beautiful weather

Kinda missing the lazy days of summer today as we are in full swing of work mode. I'm home with a sick kid today, so it kinda feels like a lazy summer day. Movies, magazines and resting with a side of popsicles. 

Friday, September 06, 2013

Early Mornings

Sojo and I are the early birds in the family, and we are kind enough to give Dale as many sleep-ins as possible. However, his new resolution is to get up early and either swim or soak up the morning goodness. We've taken to driving all of a minute and a half (I guess we could just walk, but it's more comfy to sit in the car) to a place right near our house where it's perfect to watch the sun rise.

We bring Mary Oliver's poetry with us as she is undoubtedly our favorite poet that embraces nature and is so beautiful with her words. Her newest book of poetry is called Why I Wake Early, which seems appropriate. 

Watching the sunrise with a side of poetry makes me feel utterly present in the moment. Although the temps during the day are still quite high, the early mornings are already getting cooler. Since I head to see the sunrise in my pj's and bare feet, the ground is nice and cool on my blue toes.

Sojo comes with us, of course, but completely against her will. In her words, "it's soooo boring!" Perhaps if they had a sunrise app on the iPad, she'd be more interested. Part of me wants to force her to watch it with us, but that feels weird. 

One more for good measure. She picked out this headscarf the other day and loved how she looked in it.