Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Christmas 2014

As she does almost every year, Sojo asked for the most random gifts from Santa. Only three things this time, but biggies: a diamond about the size of a half dollar, a gold bar, and a safe to keep them in. Oh, and she made sure Santa didn't think she was greedy!

He came through with the diamonds and the safe, but we think he had some sort of money limit on the gold bar. Thankfully, Sojo was not disappointed because he wound up giving her two diamonds. And, wow, was there was ever some serious love for the new safe! She is all about her treasures, and this will keep things safe and sound.

I made out like a bandit with some massage coupons from Sojo. Absolutely fantastic to see the advice of 'bare in mind, use wiseley' on them. 

Santa brought matching gifts for Dale and Sojo this year: tape measures for garage projects the two of them work on often. She loved that they were the same and proceeded to measure tons of stuff around the house, including her best friend, closet doors and her sweet baba. 

Monday, December 15, 2014


Each and every day, I am overwhelmed with gratitude and immense love for these two. I love our walks to school together, talking and laughing. Catch them both in the most perfect light and with those two small hands covering his, and it's the perfect start to my day. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Santa in the Jebels

It's that time of year again--the time for Santa to come and visit us here in our town. Each year, he arrives via a different mode of transport, and this year it was by a golf cart that was decked out like a train.

And each time I think that Sojo is about ready to stop believing, she surprises me with a flurry of joy and utter belief. When she saw Santa on his way, she ran ahead and was jumping up and down like crazy. It was beautiful to see her ponytails flying with such delight.

Last year, we had a bit of drama because the presents Santa gives on this day are almost all the same for the girls and for the boys. When Sojo received her present for girls, it was a kit of makeup and sparkly stickers. She was so disappointed and felt that there was no way Santa could be real because, if he sees everything, then why would he ever get her that kind of present that she hates? Um...good point. I explained that for these big gatherings, he has to give the same present, but we would fix it for next year. We made sure to let Santa know this year that Sojo would better enjoy a present he normally gives to boys.

The spy kit was a huge hit!

This is our third year of having our family photo taken against the stunning backdrop of jebels and blue sky. We do not have many traditions, but I do love this one so. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Digging for Roses

A very cool geological formation called Sand Roses exist here under a certain portion of the desert a few hours from our house. We have wanted to go and dig for the "roses" since we got here, and we finally went last weekend. It took us a while to find it, but once we found the rusted-out, upside-down car, we hit the jackpot. Literally. Holes everywhere in this one area with roses already taken out of the ground. Dale insisted on starting his own hole in a different area as he didn't want to cheat. Notice the rusted car in the background.

The trip was great for the kids as there was pretty instant gratification in finding the roses. Once you dug about waist deep, you could feel around with your fingers and wedge them out. They are pretty fabulous to see. 

And then, the camels came to play. They were completely enamored with our group and super friendly. I love them so very much, but I do have this fear they will spit on me. I'm starting to think that is just not true as we see them all the time, and they never spit. Their herder also loved hanging out with us for a while. 

We brought home about 15 of those beauties and cleaned the sand out of the grooves to display all their loveliness. I'm sure this will be a yearly trip for us. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Cold Hard Cash

Mom and dad made the difficult decision to head back to their home in Arizona after three months here in Saudi, and so we had to rearrange our plans of having Thanksgiving and Christmas together. Instead, we decided to throw them a Thankschristmagiving event at our house. Sean, Katherine and Augie came down, and we decorated the house, ate a whole turkey and had all the fixings. Not as good as the real thing, but it sure felt nice to have 2/3 of us together.

Mom and dad decided that, since they didn't have a Christmas present yet for Sojo, they would give her some of their Saudi money. The plan was that she could use it for Legos since that was what they were planning on giving her. If you could have seen her face when she saw the cash--it was priceless and quite possibly the coolest gift she has ever received. Totally gobsmacked. 

Not even how can we compete with that! 

Friday, November 07, 2014

Repurposing Yet Again

One thing I love about our family is how we can repurpose something and make it feel so special. Living in places where there aren't materials needed to make something or else no store to buy it at has made us pretty resourceful. I enjoy watching Sojo take pleasure out of something handmade and slightly wonky versus something purchased from a store.

Enter our latest project--the "new" basketball hoop outside our house. We noticed this awesome hoop set back in a little alcove down the street away from the houses, but we also noticed that no one has been using it. Well, except for one of our dear middle school boys who carries a basketball with him wherever he goes, and he takes a shot on the way back to school after lunch.

Dale and I decided to drag it back to our house and see if anyone said anything. We also asked a few neighbors to see if maybe it was theirs, but their kids had grown up and moved out or something. One neighbor laughed and said he and his friends had dragged it from another area on camp years ago, so we felt ok about repositioning it.

And what a hit it has been. From Sojo practicing her shots to tons of games of Horse with us to it now being the hangout place in the area for kids of all ages to come and have a good time, it's downright perfect. Just one more reason why this place reminds me of my own childhood. We played in the street all the time growing up. I distinctly remember moving out of the way when cars came up the road, only to start right back up again when they left.

And the diversity in this community is downright dreamy for me as a parent. In this photo alone, there are 5 nationalities represented with two more on the sidelines of the photo. So cool.

Friday, October 31, 2014


It's that time of year again when we can walk to school and enjoy a cup of coffee while doing so. The shift is so subtle here at first, but usually by November 1, it's like a switch is turned on for cooler weather.

No matter the weather, this one is almost always riding her bike to school. As always, I love to watch her fly away on the bike ahead of me, pumping those growing legs of hers.

So much here in our tiny town reminds me of my own neighborhood growing up. My childhood was absolutely idyllic and something I wasn't sure existed in this new world that seems much more fearful than when I was a child. Until we arrived here. Many days, I feel I am reliving my childhood and very grateful that my daughter gets a chance to live the carefree life I did years ago.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


When the weather is not unbearably hot here, we try to walk to and from school. Sojo tends to ride her bike, even if it is scorching, and she always beats us home, no matter what our mode of transportation is. Waiting for us is soooo boring for her. Poor thing--the whole 3 minutes behind her that we are...

So, for her 8th birthday, we decided to give her a key to the house so she can get right inside after school. My parents bought her a few cool key chains, and she was incredibly excited to get her very own key. Like I said, this birthday was a big one in the area of feeling grown up, and the key was proof of that. She carries it on her backpack now to and from school with such pride.

I swear she is like I remember being when I had the key to my first apartment. Giddy. She raced ahead of me the other day, opened the door by herself, and then stood there smiling so big. I had to have her reenact it for a photo as it was that precious. 

8 is pretty darn great. And the birthday seesaw has also proven to be a big hit, especially hanging out with a good friend and laughing away in perfect afternoon light. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Oman...again and again

Oman is called an 'oasis of tolerance' in the Middle East, and it is a very special country indeed. The Omani people pride themselves on being friendly and accepting of everyone. For me, it is a country I want to visit over and over again as it is stunningly beautiful. We spent this time around doing lots of lounging by the pool or on the lazy river at the hotel, as well as a trip to the souq and a dolphin cruise.

The most special part of the trip for all of us was visiting the Grand Mosque. All dappled light and shadows and curves, it is an architectural beauty.

Next on the Oman list is a trip into the mountains for some hiking. I have a feeling this will be our go-to country in the Middle East. 

Thursday, October 09, 2014


There is a chance I have said this on prior birthdays, but this one feels like a biggie to Sojo. She was incredibly excited while leading up to her special day, and she kept asking us if we had already bought a present. She was convinced we had not bought anything. Little did she know that the two of us were building her a see-saw that she had been asking about---extra green points for using all wood that had come on a recent shipment container to our school!

The see-saw making was happening in the garage, and my parents were on the lookout to make sure she didn't come in. All was well until later in the evening when she barged in looking for something, well after our lookout time had passed. Oops! She decided to help us finish the project, which made it even cooler that all three of us helped build it. However, I could tell she was hoping to be surprised this year for some reason.

We were able to surprise her after all with a few Lego sets. She has shown zero interest in the small Legos until just recently. Her daycare at school has some, and she and her friends are totally into it now. She couldn't believe when she got her very own to use at home. So glad she had the surprise she was craving. Even more glad that this special girl is growing into such a beautiful person.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Soccer Coach Love

Snapped this photo tonight at soccer practice. I know that having her baba as her coach will be a forever memory for her.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Beauty of Jordan

Since we know my parents are here until December, we wanted to make sure they were able to see other parts of the Middle East rather than just Saudi and our compounds. Although I do love living in Saudi, it is not set up for tourism at all.

Our first big trip was to Jordan last week, and it was beyond our expectations. From the roman ruins of Jerash to the super salty Dead Sea to our final destination of the ancient city of Petra, we were fascinated with the beauty of the country at each location. We hired a driver and van for the entire trip, which really relieved any stress of finding the right road or reading exit signs in Arabic.

Dead Sea mud is so fun! 

Jordan is a place that feels sacred in many ways, and the people were some of the kindest I have ever come across in my travels. We stocked up on lots of good memories together as a family. A highlight for me was hiking with my dad and Dale to the Monastery in Petra--a pretty decent climb in the heat, but the view was worth it.

The whole family in the Siq on the way to Petra

Dale won many hearts with his guitar in Petra

Favorite family picture ever!
This year, we have only 2 company holidays, and they line up almost back to back because of where Eid falls this year. We are taking advantage and heading off to Oman next week. After that, it will be all Saudi all the time for a while.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

2nd Grade Duds

Before time goes by too much, I wanted to post Sojo's first day of 2nd grade photo. We stocked up on our yearly supply of shirts and leggings this summer, and there were lots of choices for the first day. Wearing shorts is totally new for her, so wearing one of her funky new pairs was a must. She then chose her ancient Angry Bird t-shirt that she actually sleeps with each night (she gently rubs it on her lips, and it's adorable) as her blanket. I mentioned that maybe she should choose a shirt that fit better, but she insisted that this particular one made her feel "fuzzy" all day long, and she needed that on the first day.

I get that feeling. You gotta feel good on your first day, even if you are wearing what is basically your security blanket. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Ninja Warrior

Over the summer, Dale's sister told us about the show called "American Ninja Warrior." We wound up catching it on TV one night, and the little ones just loved it. Literally, Sojo was pacing around the room with nervous energy and excitement. Since the show is all about physical challenges and obstacle courses, it feels like a great role model show, and we are all basically addicted to watching it.

And then she realized that our house could become a practice place, since she wants to join the competition when she turns 21. Hence, the spider climb in the hallway.

And balance practice on the couch arms.

She and her best friend even do the spider climb together sometimes. Love the determination. Not as big a fan of the dirty walls. 

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Extended Grandparent Time

It's so wildly beautiful how life turns out sometimes. My brother and his family are now teaching in a compound about an hour from us, and my parents generously offered to help them settle their 2 year old son into life in Saudi as the adults adjusted to their new jobs as well. We are having a bit of adult joint custody as they take a bus down to spend the weekends with us. It's a true gift for all of us, especially since I have lived away from my family for over 20 years now. Having mom and dad walk in the door every Thursday afternoon is amazing to me, and we are celebrating the little things like going to the movies or playing Monopoly with Sojo or having American Ninja Warrior marathons.

Watching her fold the towels for their arrival was such a loving thing to see. 

Friday, September 05, 2014

Fun with Driftwood

Perfect light, perfect eyes closed, perfect windblown hair. And her discovery of the 'driftwood mustache' was just one of the awesome summer beach memories. 

Tuesday, September 02, 2014


As Sojo ages, I have an unspoken fear that she will lose her quirkiness. Of course, some of the quirks from the past, like meowing like a cat when she got nervous and someone spoke to her, might be okay to let go of as she ages, but I see her quirkiness and creativity so entwined that I guess I don't want her to lose either. The way she looks at the world around her is quite beautiful.

Seems I have nothing to worry about at this point. One of our Chinese decorations for the door broke the other day, and there was just a tassel left. Sojo quickly decided that if she wore said tassel, this would bring her good Chinese luck all day, and she set off in search of a hat to attach it to. Even her expression in this photo cracks me up. 

Quirkiness prevails...for now. 

Monday, September 01, 2014

2nd grade

This is what 2nd grade looks like in our house. I was a tiny bit worried about her because she was not in the same class as her favorite peeps, but she was open to the idea of making new friends. One new boy from India who is quiet and shy is in her class, and he joined our community right at the end of 1st grade last year. When I told her he was in her class, she said, "Oh, nice. I wanted to get to know him."

There were some nerves (oh, this kid worries so much sometimes!) about what to do when she is itchy and needs to get Benadryl from the office. She hates, hates, hates missing anything for fear of not knowing the directions, but we are trying to encourage her to speak up and just ask for the directions again. 

She rated the first day a 16 on a scale from 1-10. And then, in the backyard after school, a wild game of ball tag with friends from the other class made us all realize that in our close community, it doesn't really matter what class you are in. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Letting Her Hair Down

This was the summer Sojo wore her hair down for the first time in years. She has always been a bit of a stickler when it comes to her hair choices--for an entire year, it was only two braids every single day. And then it was one ponytail for months and months. After that came the two ponytail stage, but they had to be 'bunny ears,' which means they were coming out of her head right behind her ears.

Out of nowhere this summer, she started wearing her hair down, and it is so silky and gorgeous. When I asked her about what prompted the change (she always said no when I suggested it before), she said it was only going to be for the summer because she didn't want any of her friends to see her wearing it like that. As I probed a bit deeper, she informed me that she feared if she wore it down here in Saudi, all her guy friends would want to marry her.

I get it, kid. I mean, look at that hair.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


Another of our favorite summer activities was riding BMX bikes. Technically, it was probably just regular bike riding, but Sojo's cousin recently started racing BMX bikes, so he always brought his with him when he visited. And, let's be honest, it sounds cooler to say BMX riding. The area by the docks was perfect for weaving in and out of the poles, and we even headed to the local skate park to give that a whirl. It was a tad freaky with all the big kids doing tricks when the little ones were there, but they held their own and already have plans to do it more next summer.

This summer solidified for us that we want to one day live somewhere and look out at the sea every single day. We just couldn't get enough of collecting rocks and driftwood and simply taking it all in. And walking on the beach with this sweet girl holding my hand was icing on my summer cake. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Summer of the Bunker

Our area of the peninsula is dotted with forts from World War I, and the bunkers look out onto the ocean. The cousins and Sojo were nuts over exploring these, and they loved scrambling all around them and running amok through echoey rooms and tunnels. Our favorite of them all was right in our town, so a beach run was usually included.

Then, they got the idea to take photos of each of them squeezed into these. Super cute and perfect for photos.

Then, my brother, who is downright hilarious and 6 foot 3 inches tall, got into the fun. Sojo is their Chinese guard lion, because everyone needs a guard lion whilst at the bunkers.

Just to make it even more challenging, he then folded his body up to get totally into the hole. At this point, we were falling over laughing. The knucklehead was so jammed in there that we had to pull on his legs to get him out. 

We have a few more bunkers to explore next summer. Can't wait.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Window Into Summer

Sojo was playing by herself this afternoon, and I stopped for a moment to soak up all the clutter and goodness in our living space. From the sunflowers gifted by my niece to the sunlight coming in on my favorite yellow pillows to the brand new painting Sojo made for above our newly painted wall and fireplace, it felt soulful and wholesome and summery.

This is the time of our vacation when the end is imminent, and I wonder why we are not living here in this house I love with family nearby. I'll be fine once we get settled back in Saudi, but there is always a big dose of heartache leaving each year. 

A better closeup of the painting and the fireplace, which I adore!! Sojo let me help her with the orange part. It's called Chicken Pox Sky.