Zufelt Family Feb 2015

Zufelt Family Feb 2015

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Eye Doctors

Eye doctor appointments done. Another country. Another procedure. Yuck, no one likes learning the ropes when they are the newbie.

Today we took everyone down to Saad Hospital and had appointments for Ashlyn, Madison and Jacob. I'm happy with everything except that we have to go back another day. They require an appointment with someone else to dialate the eyes then another doc appointment to read the eyes after the drops. So Jacob and Ashlyn will go back down with me on the 12th.

The nurse was trying to schedule me on the phone for jan 1. I tried to tell her we were out of town and she forcefully waved me away with her hand. Fine. She finished what appeared to be complicated planning to get both Jacob and Ashlyn same day, close timing for all 4 appointments. She brought me the papers and I kindly told her we were not in town. Haha. 

It took three more iterations because the next secretary did the doc visit before the dilation. That wasn't going to work and I knew it but we had language problems communicating. Another doc saw my insistence and came to the rescue. He understood the problem. Still took a few more tries but we are all set. I am just dreading the one and a half hour drive to the city again. Having three hours on the road plus appointment time makes for a full day. Today we left at 7:45 am and didn't return until about 2 pm. Sometime we need to have Ben seen as well but his yuck of the day is a tooth extraction tonight at 7:30 pm. Poor kid.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Minecraft is for Big Girls

Ashlyn just said, "Mommy, I'm going to play Minecraft all by myself."

Madison heard the announcement and saw Ashlyn climbing up on the couch with a laptop so she rushed over to help. She started the game and left her to play. Ashlyn's happy to click the two buttons and she isn't really going anywhere in the game but is quite proud to be a big kid that can play alone.

Monday, December 15, 2014

More Kids?

We got a Christmas card from a friend today. She has six kids now. Brian commented that they have "sandwiched us." They have one kid above Ben and one kid below Ashlyn. When I asked what he proposed we do about it he replied, "Admit defeat."

Our friend here went into labor two nights ago so I have stayed at their house since then and Brian has managed here at our house alone in the morning rush plus nights. All day I manage the six kids. I concur. We admit defeat.

No Joke. I Think it's a Sign.

Brian and I talked today on the phone about ordering dinner to be delivered tonight because I'm feeling so down and claustrophobic in the compound right now. Brian mentioned a Chinese place he had heard of that might deliver and then I had to go pick up Ashlyn from school so we ended the call. I opened the door and this was hanging on the knob.

Saturday, December 13, 2014


My Kitchenaid burned out while I was mixing dinner rolls for Madison's second birthday. As in smoke coming out of the machine and everything. My heart sunk and I wanted to cry. It was my baby! 

Not wanting that to ever happen again I looked at power/wattage and chose to buy a large Bosch because they have more power - like nearly double the Kitchenaids. When using the Bosch though I found if the bowl is real full the dough gets caught in the gear thing at the top and I end up cleaning the darn thing with a toothpick every time. Too cumbersome for me. 

So we hauled the broken Kitchenaid back up out of the basement (I couldn't bear to throw it out so it sat there for two years). We finally found a motor for the Kitchenaid online to fix it for about $80. Didn't work. Then Brian figured out the fuse had just melted to protect the Kitchenaid. He ended up fixing it for a new thermocouple fuse thingy for $0.30 after I had and used the Bosch two years. It was a great powerful machine! 

Now I am the proud owner of a Kitchenaid, a spare motor AND a Bosch. When it came time to leave overseas I didn't actually want to haul two mixers across the globe. I chose the Kitchenaid to join our adventures for clean up reasons and put the Bosch in storage. Some days I wish I still had both with me. Especially now that we are away for 7-10 years instead of 2.5 years. The Kitchenaid is 15 years old now and it's been getting a serious workout this holiday season. One day this week I got real worried about it but so far so good. I'm keeping by fingers AND toes
crossed that it can make it another 3-5 years until we go home - unless we
get another amazing opportunity to explore a new corner of the world. Then it better lasts even longer still.

I also wonder at what point would the company allow us to go through the items we left in storage to get rid of the things we left behind? It costs them money every single month to pay the storage bill. I bet never. Oh well. My winter wardrobe that I didn't need in tropical Singapore is going to be completely outdated - and probably have black old spots on everything. Frankly I could have used it here in Saudi and wish I had my winter boots for our Geneva trip in three weeks to the snow. And the warm clothes I would love to snuggle into would bring back such great memories about now. But when we return they will be so terribly outdated I will have to give them to some creative teenagers for Halloween costumes.

I wonder what else is in that storage unit that I can't remember. It will be a treasure trove of fun surprises for sure. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Bedtime Delay Tactics

Mom knows you have no legitimate reason to be out of bed, again, when the thing you urgently needed to do was tattle on your brother for saying, "Santa is fat." I said, "So. He is." She insists it's rude. I told her to hush up and go to sleep. Then Brian passes by her room and she tries the same trick on him. He said, "In some cultures you can call someone fat and it's perfectly acceptable. Now go to sleep." I think I hear her sniffling. What am I supposed to do about that?

Awesome Days Full of Blessings

We are on lock down again here. That means we can't go anywhere that isn't essential. Work, school and grocery shopping are all we have been able to do for a while and I've had some rough days at home. This bird doesn't appreciate her wings bring clipped.

The last two days though have been pretty awesome in so many ways. A gorgeous fog rolled in two days ago that blanketed the world in mysterious white. Traffic was a disaster getting to school and several traffic lights were out. That only added to the general insanity on the dangerous Saudi roads but we made it safely to school. I have to chaperone the kids every day with a company chosen driver because it's illegal for women to drive in the kingdom. But we were stuck in the jams with all the buses of children going the same way. The windows are covered with curtains so no one sees the western children riding. Because it took so long the kids couldn't resist a little peek and we saw several familiar faces pole out from those curtains.

Then I asked the driver to take me to the grocery store and rather than go all the way home and back in the messy weather we just stayed at the store nearby and I snuck to the office supply store next door with Ashlyn to do my Christmas shopping or at least check it my options. It's too late to ship anything now and expect it to arrive my December 25th and we aren't allowed to shop so I was desperate. I found some decent options in the two tiny aisles of toys.

Instead of baking for the preschool holiday party I let myself off the hook and bought biscuits.

Brian and I returned to the office supply store after the kids were in bed the same night and made our final purchases while a gracious friend stayed at the house.  And we found a glasses shop that had kid sizes glasses there too. From here on out we will go back to grocery store shopping only but the freedom was so nice for an hour.

Yesterday was equally great. Jacob had a fieldtrip. To our compound. Seriously. You know you live in a nice place when the school plans fieldtrips tips to your house. He got to sleep in and I was able to fit my two big kids into other cars and not drive to school for once. We gave Ashlyn her first shampoo in the sink before she went to her preschool party all dressed up fancy then played with her wild hair and laughed at her together.

Then we relaxed outside as we waited for her little bus to come and Jacob played around taking pictures.

Then an email came in from Ben's teacher that he had been to the library before school and found the LAST Willy Wonka golden ticket in his book. He was super excited about it!

Then it was off to welcome and host the kindergarten fieldtrip and beach picnic. The kids had a lovely day digging, swinging, sliding and making a friendship fruit salad. 

The timing couldn't have been better for many of those kids who are shut up in less amazing compounds across the area. It was a real chance to get out, run and breath crisp, clean, fresh air.

Then it was back home to bake for two events. I had some cute little helpers who rolled chocolate cookie balls in powdered sugar. When Madison and Ben got home Ashlyn got a little too silly and picked up a handful of powder and threw it at Madison. Not cool. But kind of funny. Doesn't everyone want to do that deep down? It was kind of hard to not smile and giggle as I put the little devil in timeout.

In the middle of the baking we sent Errand Boy, aka Ben, delivering several things on his bike to clear out my kitchen of extra stuff that needed to be returned or loaned out.

Next the kids and I walked and rode bikes to the rec center to bring an offering of cookies. Here we, the residents, presented the monies we earned at the annual Bazzar fund raiser to the men who work year round to make our lives amazing here. They come from countries all over the region and leave their families for years at a time sending money home to do amazing things so their children have a comfortable life. Some send their kids to private schools or university, build a home, buy a farm, pay for a family car or other worthy endeavors above food and clothing for their families. Working at the fund raiser, buying things there and baking cookies is the least I can do as a beneficiary of their goodness. Madison and Jacob got to hand out some of the envelopes to the men. 

These are the bikes lined up while the guys are inside at their party. They ride these around the compound to do their jobs as carpenters, electricians, painters, plumbers, gardeners, security guards, and even a cook who does restaurant delivery.

Then I made some cute handouts with a nice quote for the remainer cookies to go to more single guys doing the same thing for their families to brighten their spirits.

Finally we ended the night at a friends house for dinner. What a great two days even with the lock down. I have so much to be thankful for this season!

Sunday, December 7, 2014


Ben asked tonight, "Why are you having ANOTHER party tomorrow?"
I told him the truth, "Because I got the big house."
Brian explained further, "Having a big house in Saudi is like having a truck in the US. You get to help EVERYONE move. It's just part of the contract you sign when you move in."

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Ashlyn, Butter and Grandma Maleta Robinson

Sorting through pictures tonight I stumbled across this one that had me reminiscing during the flight from SLC to Saudi this summer. Ashlyn is two and she has a first class ticket on this trip. She is well taken care of to say the least but the food isn't always too familiar to her. At this meal she received bread and a small bowl with butter. Because I was flying solo this time with four kids, mealtimes were anything but relaxing. I would go from seat to seat cutting meat, opening silverware packets, telling them what the strange and fancy food was. I had to take a picture when I noticed Ash had eaten the chilled, molded butter patty like a piece of candy while I was distracted. Then she put her binkie in and was totally happy watching a Mickey Mouse movie before she fell asleep.

The situation is particularly hilarious to me because I have vivid memories of Grandma Robinson doing the same darn thing at about 90 years old. My cousin Rick and I both lived with her in her apartment for a while. Grandma was well known for her addiction to the buffet style restaurant Chuck-a-rama. It really was the perfect place. Always room to seat the entire family (I figure we frequently had 30+ at a standard cousin gathering by that time). Because Rick and I lived with her we went out with her every now and then just the three of us but it was always to Chuck-a-rama no matter the size.

She genuinely felt it was fair to take a doggie bag to the buffet and take a little home because she paid the same price as people that ate three times more than her so she always had a ziplock bag in her purse to stash away a little something for tomorrow. Rick would chastise her in the most hilariously serious voice telling her, "Grandma you ought to be ashamed of yourself. Stealing from a restaurant!" He is such a great, light hearted tease.

On this particular day we sat down and filled our plates at the salad bar first. Grandma always got a little of everything to try. We talked and ate and after a very long while Grandma finally asked Rick to taste her jello salad. She didn't particularly like it, but being raised not to waste a bit of food she had been trying to power through for quite a long time. Rick obliged by taking a little taste and promptly proclaimed, "Grandma!! THAT'S BUTTER!! You're eating a pile of butter!" She was greatly relieved and pushed the plate aside to be cleared by the bus boy because she no longer felt she had to finish the whole thing. Rick hassled her the rest of the meal in his natural good natured way and I'll never forget it. She was a wonderful woman and I really miss her some days.

So seeing Ashlyn had just polished off a big pile of butter made me smile and think of my sweet Grandma and all the good times we shared together.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

100% Natural

Jacob tonight at dinner exploring his new found confidence in reading any and everything he sees. He was reading the mustard label and asked, "Dad, do we ever buy anything that ISN'T 100% natural?"

Brian and I just Burst out laughing. Uh...yes. Yes, unfortunately we do that all the time.

Sunday, November 30, 2014


We just tried calling my brother Jason with the kids to play a joke on him. We got a busy signal. Just for kicks I asked the kids what that noise was. They didn't know. 
Ben guessed it meant the operator sound. 
Ashlyn says, "Dat's the one dat someone's tired. When they wake up they can talk to Maddie."
Crazy that they have never heard a busy signal.

Coming Home from Scout Camp

Ben had his first Boy Scout campout last weekend. He had a great time and received the "Most Prepared Considering Experience Level" award. Because of security concerns they actually camped inside our compound. Because I'm on the scout committee I dropped in once a day to see how things were going but they seemed to have everything covered so I stayed home most the time and gave him his space to be a boy.


On Saturday around lunch time it was time to go pick him and his gear up. Because we can't drive here, we obviously don't have cars. My options to get his stuff home were:

a)      lug it across the compound (it's pretty far)

b)      dial zero and call the golf cart from the office to come get us

c)       be an engineer and come up with a way to manage my own problem with class


I chose "c". I used our electric scooter for myself then tied a rope on the kids wagon and hooked it on my shoulder. I think it was genius!


Fingers crossed we can try desert camping some day.

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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Christmas Time Arrives

The tree is trimmed and the kids are all smiles tonight.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Flooding Funny

Heavy rains caused the house to flood tonight because the balconies couldn't drain water fast enough. 

This discovery made us laugh out loud. It's the Hooked on Phonics reading system. The story right on top of the wet box when I opened it to dry it out? "Rag Gets Wet." Ironic, don't you think?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Good Day

From Jacob at dinner:
"Mom I had a mostly good day. Only one not good part."
"That's great news. What was the bad part?"
"It was when Owen got really, really close and breathed in my face."
"Was he upset with you?"
"No. It's just that it was stinky. And you know...nobody actually likes stinky."

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Funding Request

How do you ask your husband to stop at the ATM? Sometimes I say, "Hey, can you get me some cash today?" Other days I have a 20 minute drive to the school and 20 minutes back and a phone with email access in your hand. That's when you feel like livening up your compound living life and ask for cash like this:

Subject: Funding Request

Dear Sir,
I am writing to let you know about the balance issues I am currently experiencing in my wallet. I have therefore given it much thought and believe my only appropriate course of action is to solicit a donation from your personal account. As you consider my humble request and how it will impact your year end accounting please be aware that in addition to the daily expenses we incur on an on going basis my corporation will be taking all of our short staff to a charitable function wherein there will be multiple opportunities to unload any excess funds you may have accrued during this fiscal year.

Thank you kindly for your time and consideration in this matter. We look forward to facilitating the reduction of excesses this coming Saturday as you feel is appropriate.

Best Regards,
Your Wife

Sunday, November 9, 2014

First Chill of the Season

Thursday night I was up until 3:45 am working to be ready for the next day and our year end program. The wind blew fiercely all night long and I could hear the trees hitting the house and the waves in the ocean all the way in the closed living room! On Friday morning I woke up to Ben slamming the door downstairs after he had run back and forth to the beach and he exclaimed how COLD it was out there. When we got home that afternoon I decided I wanted to share one of my favorite things with the kids - the warmth of a penetrating sun in brisk, cold weather. I had to explain it to them what I wanted them to feel. It was a tad hilarious that they didn't know already, but where would they have ever learned it through life experience in Singapore? It never got cold in three and a half years. 

I proclaimed that the winter clothes could officially be brought down from the upper shelves and they could actually wear them. The announcement brought loud cheers, particularly from Madison, and the fastest pitter patter of feet I've ever heard as everyone ran upstairs to get something warm on. I got mats and blankets and we took the kids outside on one of the upper balconies and I proclaimed it to be a reading afternoon. Everyone brought books and jackets and I brought some candy corn and M&Ms. We had a glorious time and Brian ended up reading a Magic Tree House book to them amidst interruptions, mostly from

Yesterday was even more chilly. We are enjoying it and wearing long pants for the first time in years!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Skin Tone Queries of the Night

From Jacob tonight:
"Do you think that there are any people that drive construction trucks that have white skin like us?"

Madison explaining how people ended up with darker skin than our family in response to Jacob's question above:

"One person worked outside and got tan. Then she had a baby. That baby got big and got more tan in the sun then they had a baby and it was even darker. Then that baby got tan and grew up and got a baby. That's how people got so dark."

Monday, October 27, 2014

First Fitting

Ben is being fitted for his first magical robes. I've been busy sewing him the Hogwarts robe for his Harry Potter Halloween costume. He has read the entire series of seven huge books once and is two books short of finishing it all again. Even our driver commented the other day, "Ben is reading Harry Potter every day. Always a book in his hand but always it is Harry Potter." Yep. You got it, he's addicted.

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Equality Momsters

I admit that I have a problem with equality. I think if you work for something you should get an equal part. If we have M&Ms to eat at the house, everyone gets the same amount counted out so there is no reason to fight, etc. I saw this yesterday at the kitchen table and think I may have created little Angies. Here are my Equality Momsters dividing the rest of the Orange juice with exacting precision. They poured from the jug into the cups then from cup to cup until everyone was satisfied that the quantifies were perfectly even.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Belgium Waffles

I'm making some waffles to sell at a Bazzar to raise money for the workers in the compound. I planned a dry run test night yesterday for dinner. 

Then there were some hiccups and we had to have leftovers. I finished cooking them about 9:30 last night and we are having them for breakfast this morning but in all my mess yesterday I was told that this recipe is a dessert waffle not so much a breakfast or dinner waffle. 

We told the kids they were special waffles and didn't need syrup or sweets on top because it was baked into them. Jacob pondered only a few seconds before declaring, "That's okay. I want it to be a super, super, super, super, super, super, super, super, super, super, super, super sweet waffle so I'll still put syrup and nuttella on it."

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


I am undecided about the reason for the grocery store to have tons of brand new beach toys out on display today for purchase. Is it because the weather had finally cooled down enough to be pleasant to go hang out at the beach or is it because everything is slow here and the shipment was incredibly late? We may never know but ut made me smile as I loaded 4 big, bright shovels and four buckets into my cart with Ashlyn.

Monday, October 20, 2014

We Are Under 30 degrees Centigrade!

This morning for the first time since we arrived at the first of August I saw a temperature display under 30 C (86 F). It was 29 C first thing in the morning on the drive to school and during the fifteen minute drive it went up to 30 but I'm still pleasantly optimistic about the coming months. Last night Madison asked when she can wear all the cute winter clothes we bought her. I wanted to say soon but didn't dare. This girl was built for Anchorage, Alaska.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

No Screaming?

ISG Jubail is the first school in the history of the world that the children don't scream like banchees when the end of recess whistle is blown. I wonder why. It was a bit strange to me. And very, very nice!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Halawa Food Experiment of the Day

I've seen this on occasion around but never in force like here. Halawa seems to come in all varieties so of course I decided halawa with chocolate was a good way to test it out.

Not having a clue what it was puts one at a disadvantage for sure. (I once served mango sticky rice as a dinner rice dish to guests in Singapore. Later I learned it only shows up on menus at a restaurant in the dessert section. Oops. My kids should have been saying, "THANK YOU MOM!") the halawa packages show it spread on bread and also cut into slices and served like a cake with tea. The whole thing was under $5 USD and about the size of a hockey puck in cake form. Mine was the size of a 8 oz cream cheese block. 

I expected to spread it on bread so took a knife and a loaf of bread to the table. Nope. It is a big chunk and way too dry to spread. The taste is very nutty and consistency of those orange fluffy marshmallow like peanut candy. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Abaya Shopping

Vanessa and I decided to venture out again and try to upgrade our abayas. We had some trouble finding the Mustafa style dollar store shop the weekend before but eventually got and it was supposed to be across the street and two doors down. We found it just where it was supposed to be and started browsing the shop.

Obviously everything is all black, long sleeves, to the floor so really you are looking only at fabric choice, embroidery, zippers vs snaps and you can have them put in pockets. I was lucky to be short. There was a wide selection of size 54 but Vanessa is tall and needs a 58. I think we found two in the whole shop. Luckily the guy can make anything you want so we both ordered new ones made with pretty stitching down the front and at the sleeves. They should be ready in two weeks.

The listed price was 280 SAR for the one on the rack but when he rang us up with all the accessories and ad ons we had made the bill was 170 SAR. Lesson gleaned? This is a negotiating country! I didn't realize an abaya shop would do that. Next time I'll ask at other shops too. 

So how do you get a custom order? You have to give the guy your measurements. And how does a male shop owner get a woman's measurements in Saudi Arabia? I didn't know either but he sure as heck doesn't take them himself! Lucky for us while we were there four of our neighbors who are veteran Saudi dwellers happened into the same shop as us and showed us the ropes. One fun gal is Muslim and wears the full cover including hair cover all the time even when she's in our compound. She was a blessing for sure. She took everyone's measurements for us and told the guy what we wanted. He would try to add length or shorten sleeves as he saw fit for and she'd ask us how we actually wanted it to fit and then tell him to make it how we wanted. Things I hadn't even thought of. My abaya is wide and has four to five extra inches of fabric on either side of my body. I hadn't even noticed. He was going to take off three inches. I was so glad we ran into the friends and she was able to help us. I'm hopeful when we show up next week we will get what we thought we were getting.

After we had that all squared away then I asked where I could get a full body length zipper to put in my current abaya because it won't stay closed with the three buttons it has. It flaps open all the way to my waist which is a major problem. If I wear even capris then my legs show when the wind blows the abaya around and it makes me nervous to climb in and out of a car.

We walked down the road and went into a shop or two but they only had fancy fabric. They told us where to go and we walked the other direction and my girlfriend got her butt cheek grabbed as we passed a man. Pervert. Proof the abaya doesn't exactly solve the issue. In any case they had loads of super long zippers but not a single one in black. Tons of white ones though. The shop owner was real nice though and helped me find more buttons to match the ones I already have and some cord that isn't black to match but would coordinate with the deep red so I can create button hole loops.

Another successful adventure complete.

First Sick Doctor Visit

Ashlyn has had a fever since Sunday. Normally three to four days of fever wouldn't phase me and we would just wait it out. Only problem was she seemed to be feeling worse and worse each day. I could tell on day two that she was achy because she whimpered when she had to move her limbs or if I had to carry her somewhere. So today, Wednesday morning, I decided to brave the new experience of visiting the doctor. Buoyed up with confidence and advice from others I went on my own and tried it out.

Overall I think it was pretty smooth. I did have trouble finding the Paediatric spot and how to check in but found someone to ask. Can I just say for the millionth time that speaking English is such a blessing. Even if everyone doesn't speak English someone always does in hospitals, airports and markets. So I found the female registration desk and paid 100 SAR ($26) up front for a paediatric consult and asked where to sit and wait.

I took a seat on the chairs. I thought it interesting that the women's waiting rikm was empty at first but then I noticed almost every single woman was accompanied by a man. Hmmm. I waited in the general area - which was just the hallway lined with chairs between the doctor office doors.

We sat for about 45 minutes or so waiting. My receipt said a doctor name and the door was open with no doctor. After about 30 minutes the lady doctor returned to her office and had a patient come in. While we waited our turn on the chairs a Saudi woman in full face cover abaya sent her teenaged son who was in an arm cast off and he returned with two snack sized bags of chips. He gave one to his little sister who was in a stroller and about the same age as Ashlyn. I wasn't paying close attention until she told him to go give one to Ashlyn. She took it hesitantly and I smiled at the woman and told her thank you. She nodded in return and I could see a smile in her eye even if her face was covered. Ashlyn enjoyed the puffy BBQ chips well enough but the taste and texture were a little foreign to her and eventually she wanted the pretzels I had brought. We got those out and she decided in her own to share with "my new friend" sitting in the stroller. The little girl looked at the pretzel and twisted it left and right. It was obviously not something she had before and she looked skeptical. Finally she ate it but her end reaction was akin to Ashlyn and the Saudi chips.

We were called into the doctors office and found out the doctor was a tall woman in a white abaya and beautiful head scarf with a bright yellow floral pattern (all medical women seem to have this dress). Her name was Dr Maha at Mousawat Hospital. She spoke great English and was quite personable. She wasn't overly concerned about what was going on and that made me happy since I did think it was time for a doctor to see Ashlyn but really it was sort of a dry run test of "How To" do the medical thing in Saudi. She noted her weight was low and asked about vitamin testing and I confirmed she'd need fully cleared in Singapore for all those concerns. She pointed out I was small so my kids might be too so I told her of my 4 kids I've got 3 little ones.

The end diagnosis was an upper respiratory infection. We walked out with 4 medications of course, just like Singapore. The pharmacy (the female line anyway) was ten steps down the hall so I got everything there for 45 SAR ($12 USD). The pharmacy gal put the sticker labels covering the English instruction and information side so I could read the Arabic. So helpful. Note to self - ask for sticker on other side next time.

Some good news is we have done the mix your own augmentin dozens of times the exact same bottle and the Panadol variety fever reducer is familiar also but next time I'll skip it because it's really just a Tylenol match and I like what I've got at the house. Glad to have a cough syrup for under 6 yr old again so that one made me smile. And nose drops. That's kiddie torture.

One thing that made me laugh was that I was advised, sweetly and gently, by the doctor to potty train. Yep. After we settle here in our routine it's on the agenda. Too much transition for August or September to add potty training to the list. She already lived without daddy since April, lost Gina in June, lived out of suitcases for 8-10 weeks moving houses every week, moved counties and houses, got her dad back in her life again and started her own school. As bad as I want it done it's enough to do for a little girl right now. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Culture Perspective

Cleaning out my email inbox I found this Facebook exchange/discussion from July 2013. Seeing it again today made me ponder how our new location plays into the equation because I’m still in a cheap labor, caste system economy but living in a expat compound that counters that economy. Cultures are fascinating to me.

I think it may put me in the bad wife category that MY MAID reminded me that my wedding anniversary is in two days. I completely forgot. The good news? Brian appeared to be just as surprised as me when he saw it coming up on the calendar next week. We are pitiful. But still happily in love.

This is the reply from Angela Clayton that really puts life in perspective. Angela wrote: "I was reading in The Rational Optimist about this phenomenon. Asian cultures were built on the assumption of cheap labor but western cultures (specifically an offshoot of England) were built on using innovation and technology to eliminate the reliance on cheap labor. In the US or Australia, everything is built to be easier to do because you do it all yourself. In Asia it is the opposite. Low cost labor is cheaper than automation. Now that we are back in the states with no maid after two years of a live in, it is incredibly easy here. Costco is a far more efficient cook. Walmart is my domestic helper. And I have carpet that doesn't require daily mopping to look good. My washing machine is much bigger here and I can dry things in the dryer without having to empty the water out. I can put my dry cleaning on the porch in a bag and it will be picked up and returned to me. I have cold water and ice built right into the refrigerator door, and I have a second fridge to store even more things. Foods here in the US last a lot longer so I can shop less often. These conveniences make life far easier than having maid did."

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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Cross Eyed Madison

Crazy day here at our house as you can see. This is a pic of Madison with her party favor after her bowling birthday bash today. She is a fun girl to have around!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Ashlyn's Fun

Today Ashlyn has me giggling over and over. The best few things after preschool pick up were:

Walking into the house and it smelling like something was burning. Just as I left I preheated the oven and hadn't used it in two days. The birthday cheesecake for Madison had apparently leaked juiciness out the bottom. I opened the oven and smoke poured out. She wouldn't stop asking questions. "What dat coming out?" "Why do you open da window mommy?" "You make the smoke mommy?" "Why you doing that?" (As I fan the fire alarm to ensure it doesn't go off.

Then the storage space on my phone is getting tight so I tried to empty it by deleting some apps. I have a Muslim prayer app I never used because I downloaded three and the send in one worked pretty well for my needs. When I opened the app for the first time it started doing the prayer call chant. She perked up, "The guy in OUR HOUSE! Time for prayers!" Then proceeded to chant her jibber jabber rhythmic chant right along with the app call to prayer.

And here she is waiting for me to scrub the oily cheesecake residue off the bottom of the drip pan and walking around the kitchen with slippers on her feet and oven mits on her feet.

Madison Mae is Eight!

The birthday was a good one. She chose cheesecake and I found awesome firecracker style candles. Her dinner request was French toast, hash browns, orange juice and scrambled eggs. I brought pumpkin chocolate chip cookies to her class along with Ashlyn (who has her own curb appeal in every elementary school classroom). Last night we took her to Chili's for a celebration dinner.

She got the board game Clue (English - Arabic version), Barbie doll and a hair highlighting kit that uses chalk. She's very excited over everything and we played Clue together this afternoon. She's very happy to be eight years old!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

An Old Friend Came to Dinner on Saturday Noght

We are finding that we eat out more here than ever in our lives. For us that means once a week. And I've gained some weight. Life here is funky and hard and sometimes depressing and nearly always stressful. There isn't much to do as far as entertainment and going out at all is cumbersome. We have to schedule a driver and be mindful of they shift changes and when we should be home so they can go home or else for hire out how to get dispatch to change the driver and have a new one pick us up. Going out to eat to a place that feels familiar helps take the edge off and we officially deemed it worth the expense of food to maintain our mental health. 

When we moved to Singapore one of our big adjustment mechanisms also revolved around food. Everything was crazy expensive and there was one particular food the kids were heart broken to have to give up. They loved a Pasta-roni boxed noodle meal called Shells and White Cheddar. I told them chances were soon to bone that we would get them so we packed four precious boxes into our luggage. Then we lived in a high rise furnished/serviced apartment that was connected to Great World Mall with a grocery store inside. They had shells and white cheddar! But I was used to paying $1.15/box USD and these were $8/box USD. That made my two dollar dinner a crazy expensive meal and it still had no actual nutritional value. After about 3 weeks of shopping and standing in my kitchen with barely any food to feed my poor children I made a mental commitment to myself. I would buy whatever I needed to fees my family. Whatever the cost. And in six months we would reassess the situation. My family had truely been hungry AFTER nearly every meal because I was trying to scrimp and save and keep expenses down. I didn't buy enough food. I didn't make enough food. That mental release was just what I needed and helped our transition.

Here I sit. Four or five weeks into the Saudi adjustment. And I declare, WE WILL GO OUT TO EAT!! Maybe even a lot for a while. It will help us all. 

There are many western food chains here and we love it after the lack of anything nearby in Singapore. The Woodlands was very isolated. So far in Saudi we have dined from Little Caesar's Pizza, Dairy Queen, Chili's and Applebee's. I have seen McDonald's, Subway, Dunkin Donuts and now I will keep my eyes out for more options because I know they are everywhere. And we will try new and local stuff too.

Last thought? God put shells and white cheddar boxes noodles there for us for a reason. My children genuinely needed them. They were only there for three months and I never saw them again in over three years. It's what I call a tender mercy.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Quote of the Day

Phone call:
"Hello Ma'am. This is So-And-So from Such-And-Such. I am calling regarding a note from Mr. Brian. I have tried to contact him and I think that he is too busy to pick up my call. This leaves me no choice but to talk to you. Is that okay?"

Seriously? I'm American. Yeah. You can talk to me about the size of the microwave in the house.

Side Note: We asked for a bigger one because it's so small a dinner plate fits but the splatter cover on top doesn't. We're feeding a family of 6. It's a bit undersized for this crowd. When the guy arrived he said, "Oh my God! That is ridiculous. And you have a big family. No, no, no. I brought the biggest one I can buy for you." We're all set with a nice microwave now.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Silent Expat Secret

It's just a part of the deal. You will be new and scared. You will be helped. You will learn the ropes and grow stronger and more confident. Eventually you become an all wise and experienced resident expert (usually within a year or less). Then you must pay it back. No one ever commits to the deal out loud it's just how it works. It can be fun to share the new tricks you have figured out with someone new who is grateful. All in all it's fulfilling to be helpful and focused on serving other families like you were blessed when you arrived. I believe we come preprogrammed to want to connect with people, lighten anothers burden and serve each other.

I was in a very happy, stable place in Singapore. I knew the ropes. I was a "helper" after more than three years there. As I contemplated the move to Saudi there were two things I thought of a lot. One was that panic feeling of "what if" and "where do I go if I need" stuff. The other was "they will help me" because I had a knowledge as firm as a mountain that the women in my new community would see me, grab me, love me and help me. They would reach out and make sure I had been to a grocery store. They would know where to go to get an abaya altered. They would tell me where to go to buy turtle food and who can cut a white girls hair. And even call me when cottage cheese was at the store for the first time in 6 weeks so I could call a driver and go over before it sold out.

I still wish I was the know it all. But I'm accepting my place as the newbie right now and feeling grateful for the women that stop when they see me on the sidewalk around the compound and remember my name. Next year I can join their ranks and help someone new to Saudi Arabia.

Sunday, September 7, 2014


It is 7am and the temp is already 34 deg C or 94 deg F. Funny thing is even though it's hot I am dealing with it okay now. Forcast for the day is 106 F and we will be fine. I think it's because the humidity aeems to have dropped a lot from three weeks ago when the heat index was up to 144 F with actual temps in the low 120s. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Mom Dieting?

When I came to dinner tonight someone had switched out the regular sized plate for a small bowl. Brian thinks someone is trying to put me on a diet.

Heeley Tennis Fun

While Ben had his actual lesson tonight the kids and Brian used the next court over to tossed balls to Jacob and Madison. 

They both wore Heeley shoes with wheels on the bottom like roller skates and Madison seems a bit distracted with kicking her racket. It was funny to watch but they had a blast.

 Ben is making progress in his lessons and seems fairly good with his swing. 

And Ashlyn happily shagged balls.

Friday, September 5, 2014


Ben read from a Spanish book tonight and slaughtered the pronunciation. Jacob realizing it wasn't what he was used to asked, "Is that a Kindle?"

Brian said, "No. This is from before electrons were invented."

Earlier when Jacob was in my room relaxing I asked if he was tired. "Yeah. I am sooo tired from today. I watched the guys unload ALL the boxes from the Wooters shipment and it was tiring."Just imagine how tired the guys who actually lifted all those boxes and a 500 pound piano must feel if Jacob was that tired from just watching.

Worst Printer Ever

We got our igamas this week. That is the resident pass that allows us to live here in Saudi Arabia. I am not sure I have ever had such a awful picture as this. In second place is definatly my Singapore American School pass.  My head was squashed like a pancake. This Saudi one though has me with the worst case of acne I have ever had.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Broccoli Ban

Broccoli may have to be banned from the house while we are here in Saudi Arabia. This lovely thing cost me $6.19 USD. This cheesy potato chowder recipe better be amazing because it just got very expensive to make!

Violin Lessons Via Skype

Madison had her first violin lesson via Skype today. It was awesome! The teacher is dynamic and fun. She had games to improve her form and sent me links for tips and lyrics for the Suzuki method to help her get the tunes stuck in her head.

There wasn't anything technically wrong with Ms. Helen in Singapore but I just had no idea what was going on because I was not allowed in the room with them during lessons and she wasn't responsive when I asked questions. I think this new plan is going to work out fantastically!

Here is how we I originally set up the iPad  wedged into the camera tripod to support it because Brian said the webcam wasn't working and I needed something I could point and aim down to let the teacher see her fingering and position.

It was awesome. But after seeing my sweet set up Brian decided to save the iPad from imminent death after a fall and figured out how to fix the webcam before the lesson began so we were legit with the teacher on the big screen. I think the only bummer is the timing puts her lesson at 5:30-6:30 pm on Thursday night which is our end of the week "Friday night" here in Saudi. So I guess we're giving up date night for violin.