Thursday, February 28, 2013

Mantras and Comfort Zones

I finished my first duathlon this morning--a 3K run, then a 20K bike ride, and topped off with another 3K run (that would be when my legs were nothing but wobbly jello). But, I finished and that was my goal. And, although I finished last, I am as proud as can be because I showed up and finished it. To top if off, I looked pretty darn awesome in my stripey socks!

As I was struggling today (and man, was I ever struggling), I kept saying these words over and over to myself--Live the Life You've Imagined. I found this little plaque in a store one day and realized that those words are my life mantra. It sits on my bedside table as a reminder to keep pushing myself and to keep growing and taking myself out of my comfort zone. 

And so, at 44, I do imagine my life having running races and duathlons and maybe even a sprint triathlon in it. Interestingly, I am not striving to be the winner but instead willing to take the dose of humility to finish when I do. It scares me to death--so much so that I slept only about two hours last night because I was so nervous--but showing up and doing it is where I want to be right now at this point in my life.

I couldn't love these two any more than I do. Dale spray painted their shirts early this morning as a surprise. So cute. My heart is so full. And my legs are TIRED! 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Party Crasher

Sojo was a kid born for show-and-tell. Well, most kids are, but really and truly, she has collections of the most random things that are perfect for sharing. Since her class does not do show-and-tell, she has taken to crashing my class to do it. She gets out earlier than my afternoon K4 class, so this gives her time to pop in and share whatever she has brought that week. My students adore Sojo, and they don't mind one bit that she has a Saturday show-and-tell date with us (weird that we have school on Saturdays, but our weekends are Thursday and Friday here).  Many times, I think she believes she is too cool and big for the K4 Cuties, but we love her anyway.

A while back, she brought her super huge Angry Bird. When you finish sharing, you can answer a few questions (they are always, "Where do you keep it? High or low? Do you play with it all the time?--such is the 4 year old mind). She is hilarious with her answers and her impatience for anyone talking while she is presenting. A tough cookie, this one, but a show-and-tell junkie for sure. And I'll take any chance I can get to have her in my class. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

So Much Better

Oh, this kid makes us smile. This is her favorite tree on campus (mine, too!) and we stopped one afternoon for a little photo shoot. She looks so darn happy. 

Life in the desert has been so very good for her eczema, and with the removal of dairy, egg and soy (darn that soy that is in EVERYTHING!), she is keeping right on track and having little trouble at all. I think back to just a short 18 months ago when we thought we thought we could not even send her to school because her skin was so very bad. Those were some dark times for all of us, with little sleep and lots of heartache.  All that is becoming a distant memory now (the relief of even being able to write that sentence makes me want to weep copiously) and we are even at the point where she can have a slice or two of cheese pizza and still be ok. You wouldn't believe how much joy cheese pizza brings her. We should all approach life with the amount of joy she gets from cheese pizza. 

The only downside to the desert is that her asthma was a bit worse at the start. The dust particles are very fine here, and sand is everywhere. However, we have a great doctor here who has her on twice daily meds, and even the asthma is under control. 

So much to be grateful for in life. Always. Our world is brighter with Sojo feeling so healthy and itch-free. Up until the last month or so, she has worn socks on her hands each night so as to prevent her from scratching. We are now sock-free and skintastic! 

Minnie the Sponge

We have a beautiful memory trunk for Sojo's things, and this girl who is known for hanging on to a lot of things seems to know when something is truly special and needs to be put in the memory box forever. Which leads me to the story of Minnie the sponge. When Sojo was about 3 years old and very, very attached to holding things in her hand, plus suffering from lots and lots of itchy eczema, she used objects to distract her from scratching during school. The squishiness of a sponge was a perfect way to help her with both things, and so Minnie was "born." This is actually Minnie #2 since the first one was used so much it fell apart (she's leaning against the trunk). We added some button eyes, but let me tell you--this was one well-loved friend.

Even a year or so later, I would see her teachers from the Reggio school and they would ask about Minnie. She was that much a part of Sojo's life. I love that they remembered.

Now that we are out of the 'holding everything' stage (I really never thought that stage would end, and it's one more reminder to me to just let kids be who they are until they are ready), it's sweet to think of Minnie and the eternal quirkiness of Sojo that she would have so much love in her heart for a sponge. Minnie went into the memory box today with lots of other treasures to remember.

*And that hair right now--she is growing out her bangs and looks so cute and disheveled at the same time! 

** It just occurred to me that Sojo still has a thing for random sponges. She is forever begging us to buy her sponges and scrub brushes that she finds appealing. Hmmm...

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Where Happy Lives

I love everything about Etsy--giving artists a space to sell their work, buying something that feels authentic and love and overall artist support. This morning, I am home with Sojo as she is still sick. But not the kind of sick where she is miserable, just the kind that makes napping on the couch somewhat glorious while giving mama a chance to surf blogs and tidy up and buy a sweet print like this for our house here in Saudi. 

Hoping against hope that it makes it here. This is my first time trying to send something to our mail here, and it's not on the forbidden list of what you can't send, so I'm feeling optimisitic! I have the perfect place for it to go--right above our bird hooks in the entryway. Because I do think that happy lives here. And I'm so glad it does.

What is making Sojo happy right now is Star Wars. We are slowly making our way through the movies (very hard to move away from super duper innocent movies for us) and she said to us the other night,

"When I have a son, I'm going to name him Luke Skywalker...or Zoinks." Of course you will. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Plans Foiled

Poor Sojo woke up in the middle of the night with a bad fever that has stuck with her all day. We had grand plans of checking out the Toys R Us in the big city and having lunch with friends up there, and then coming back here for a big spaghetti dinner with other friends. That will have to wait. For now, it's making a nest on the couch with all our Angry Bird friends and having a washcloth on her head (just like in the olden days).

Hmmm...after almost 12 hours of a fever and no relief from medicine, we headed to our emergency room on camp. I do love a life where the emergency care is 5 minutes away and friendly to boot. We came home with antibiotics and some ear drops and nose drops. In moments of lucidity, she expressed how worried she was about losing her perfect attendance award for being sick. We had to reassure her that it's truly hers to keep.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

100 Days

Today was the 100th day of school here in Saudi, and the kindergarteners celebrated in style with a parade and the homework of collecting 100 items. Sojo's art friend, Ms. Lorraine, also made her these styling sunglasses for the day. If she could have worn them all day long, she would have!

After school, she ran up to tell us the awesome news that she received an award for having perfect attendance for the first 100 days of school. Just like her cousin, Josiah! Look at that excitement! 

Friday, February 15, 2013

New Again Table

Before we left Thailand, we scored a teak table and chairs for just over 100 bucks. It was an awesome price and in good shape, except that the owner had tried to power wash it and so it didn't look so great. But the table itself was gorgeous and had a great story of having been purchased in Indonesia and then brought to Australia, Finland and Thailand.

These last few weeks, it has been slowly sanded and prepared for staining. Dale spent the morning staining it all with a coffee in hand, and the finished product is so stunning. I found myself looking at it all day long, and Dale sat there and soaked up the sun while playing guitar. We finished off the weekend by having dinner outside in the perfect Saudi weather (going on 4 months of perfect weather!) and admired the table and the evening stars.

Something about this new country and new place is making us both feel more settled than we have been in years. I think that is part of the reason we are having such a case of table love. It's also cool that it's the 5th country it's been in. 

We can't even wait until the morning to go outside and drink coffee at the table! 

Thursday, February 14, 2013


It seems that we went through a phase of only listening to Magic Tree House chapter books in this house, but there has recently been a renewed interested in picture books. Just last night, we had the hugest pile on the table and read them all snuggled up on the couch. And we are so very lucky to get Scholastic book orders here (somehow they arrive in just one week, which I cannot for the life of me figure out). Last week, Sojo's order came, and it included 2 Star Wars books and 1 Hot Wheels manual. She and Dale poured through the Hot Wheels manual the second we got home. 

My proud mama moment was when she decided to actually forgo the grand reopening of our local Youth Center with games, a magician and food to instead go home and read our new books. Awesome choice!

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

En Route to the Mall

As we got ready to head to the mall last weekend, I grabbed the camera to document our journey. The city of Hofuf is about 40 minutes away, and while it's not a fancy city, it has plenty of stores in the mall (even a new Bath and Body Works, which I could not believe!).

One of the upsides to wearing an abbaya is that you can basically wear whatever you want underneath. I love the way the material swishes around my legs, so I almost always wear shorts even in our 'winter' now. So, an outfit that might look ridiculous without an abbaya looks just fine underneath, but truth be told, I'd probably wear this outfit in public anyway.

After 40 minutes of sand dotted with camels and Bedouin tents and oil rigs, we arrive in Hofuf. And, as is everywhere in the world, McDonald's greets us. I have seen they have a sandwich called the McArabia, which makes me curious to try it. 

When we first arrived and went to this town, I remember being slightly shocked at how every single house and building was the color of sand. Now that I am more accustomed, I can actually see that these houses are pretty fancy. Most houses in Saudi have separate wings for men and women and separate entrances. 

And then there is the mall. With tons of great stores and a fairly well-stocked grocery, we feel like we can find most everything. Sojo has discovered Herfy burgers and they seem to not cause a reaction, so they are a treat when we go. Funny thing is that she refers to them as "beef burgers," which technically all burgers are, but it sounds kind of strange saying that instead of hamburger. Makes her sound like a kid who is growing up outside of the U.S. Then, it occurred to me that because Muslims don't eat pork, of course they would not call it a hamburger. Either way, she loves her beef burgers. 

Two things of note in this photo--first is that I promise our kid has manners and does not always let beef burgers just hang out of her mouth, although it appears otherwise. Secondly is that it is 10:00 and the mall has been open for about 30 minutes. There is virtually no one there! Saudis tend to do their shopping at night after the last of the daily prayers and for this reason, the malls stay open until midnight or so. I hear they are hopping! 

Camel truck on the way home. I have yet to be able to snap a photo of these full of camels, but I love how whimsically they are painted. 

And the ubiquitous abandoned tires of the Saudi desert. Someone told me the other day that they are referred to as the dolphins of the desert since you see their rounded backs jumping out of the desert ocean. Kind of a stretch, but still...

Sunday, February 03, 2013


After our trip to the butterfly garden in Tucson this past December, Sojo drew a beautifully detailed picture. She somewhat willingly gave it to Popo before we left (letting go of artwork is even harder for her than letting go of most things), but Popo was kind enough to take a photo and send it to us. I am so grateful to have this memory of the day with the family and of Sojo's creativity.

All that is going on in that mind of hers is downright amazing.