Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Land of Nod

Last year around this time we experienced the loss of a loved one.  It was difficult for us all but especially the children.  Weary little heads attempting to rest in cozy beds found the dark and quiet nights difficult.  Often in the evening a sadness would surround them and surrendering to sleep is almost impossible when thoughts of missing grandpa run through little minds.  Those restless nights and a prompting from the Lord, caused us to dream up an imaginary land filled with impossible stories.  Stories that would replace sadness with wildly wonderful adventures where Kyle and Riley are the main characters.  The introduction to the story always begins...

"Once upon a time far far away in the Land of Nod where anything can happen and almost always does, where children never get in trouble because they are always loving and kind, there lived two children, Kyle & Riley." 
 (We don't pay much attention to grammar and run on sentences when mommy has to make it up off the top of her head.) 

The story always proceeds into some unfathomable series of events.  Anything and everything they could imagine happens in Nod.  The only qualifier is that events and characters have to be good, lovely and right.  Everybody knows nothing bad ever enters into the Land of Nod.

(i will be the first to tell you that although Dubai will be an amazing experience for our family it is FAR from the Land of Nod.  There are things here that break my heart and are far from good, lovely and right.)

  But... i have overheard my children saying, "Are we in the Land of Nod or what?!"  And rightly so since there have been several times when they find themselves in the middle of their wild and wonderful stories they thought existed only in Nod.

Because in the Land of Nod Riley has a giant tree where lollipops of all flavors and colors grow.  Little girl climbs that tree and eats however many she wants and NEVER gets a tummy ache.   

(Next chapter i'm thinking she should be able to just pull off treats mommy's dress...)

Candy wardrobe

In the Land of Nod Kyle has every Lego piece ever created and he is capable of building absolutely ANYTHING.

Kyle also has a pet dragon that flies the kids around Nod high above the clouds.

Balcony view of the clouds not to be mistake with a Dragon view...

Although we haven't seen a real dragon, Kyle did love the dragon that lit up the Burj Al Arab one evening in celebration of the Chinese New Year ~ The Year of the Dragon.

In Nod you can slip into the water and swim with mermaids, sharks, and bat rays and always find your way back home.  In the Dubai Mall you can walk through an aquarium tunnel and watch as the fish swim all around you.

If we want sugary white sand perfect for sand castles we do actually have to go the beach and not the mall.

Although some parts of the Land of Nod seem to have come to life right before our very eyes the imagination is never ending and we are always discovering new stories to add to our tales.

You never know what sort of animals you might find in the most unexpected places.  Bunnies hippity hopping around hotel grounds for children to chase.

Falcons perched for you to pet while waiting for dinner.

Finding REAL camel rides in the play ground. 
(Mommies in the Land of Nod don't have to travel by taxi everywhere.  Therefore they ALWAYS have enough cash for camel rides.)  

Pink haired mannequins coming alive when you least expect it.

Play Station in the Doctor's office. 
 Only picture i was able to snag on our follow up appointment. (Read the whole story here.)  i just couldn't bring myself to whipping out the camera while people are feeling lousy in the waiting room.  

Confession... all self restraint almost flew out the window when a server walked by with a tray of cappuccinos!!  i knew they served them there just not that they will actually bring it to you.  Do you KNOW how badly i wanted a picture of that from the doctors office!?  You will just have to trust me.  

Back to the Land of Nod...
  As for children never getting in trouble, that part we have yet to discover.  BUT this handy dandy room key holder has certainly eliminated some parent/child strife.

You are hurrying everyone out the door, already late.  As the last kiddo rushes past you and is half way to the elevator you glance around the apartment (as small as it may be) and notice EVERY light and lamp was left on.  It would take forever to run through and turn off all the switches and dials.  Being the very Eco conscious person you are you know you can't leave all the lights and air on in each room.  What's a mama to you do?  Yell at the the Littles to come back and turn off all the lights?  Nope, around here you calmly take your little room key out of its cute little holder and CLICK!  all the power in the apartment is off!!  Magic i tell you, 

 Land of Nod magic! 

Friday, January 27, 2012

Our week in review

This week has been crammed full with BIG firsts for us.  Ok yes, the last 19 days have been filled with nothing but inaugural events.  Simply walking out the door can be an adventure for us; Ry encounters her first Arabic bathroom, i fumble around 10 minutes to dial a phone number, and STILL trying to learn what price tags really are charging me.  (The US dollar is equal to 3.67 dirhams and THAT is not an easy estimate to do in your  my head)

This week was big though because the Littles went from getting away with studying in pajamas to sporting new school uniforms.

It was their first week in school in Dubai.  They were welcomed like celebrities.  The school staff insisted the student body will just swallow our kids up and make them feel at home and it was so true.  The first day of school before Kyle and Riley even made it into their designated classroom, kids were waving to them in the hall saying hi to them by name.  Kyle was working on scheduling a play date with his new friend from Denmark the afternoon i picked him up.  By Wednesday (which is really our Thursday) the kids were worn out from such long days at school.  8-3 school day is a big change from our home school routine.  A few tears were shed towards the end of the week by Miss Riley Roo but she pulled it together and did great.  Their schedule includes art, PE, Music and Arabic in addition to all the regular curriculum.  Kyle can already write his name in Arabic and has been teaching us some of the letters he has learned as he sees on the signs around town.

The biggest complaint about school is our ride home.  Taxi is our current mode of transportation most of the time.  After hanging out on the playground with new friends we have found that 3:45 can be a VERY bad time to catch a cab.  Cab drivers are just ending their 12 hours shift and many of them are trying to make prayer time.  Being "the glass is always half full" sort of mom, i decide to make a game of it.  "Let's count and see how many full cabs drive by before we catch an empty one."  After 2 phone calls to the cab company and 112 full cabs later the kids decide it's a stupid game.  Our best time is snagging the second cab that drives by.  WHOO HOO!  We all do a victory taxi dance when we keep it under 10. 

 Now my cell phone is filled men's first names i can't pronounce with last name "taxi."  When i ring one of those wonderful magic numbers, a man on the other end insists he knows who i am and makes every effort to come get me within the next 30 minutes.  

As you can see we needed something a little stronger than just Digestives and milk to celebrate our first full week of school.  (Digestives are a super yummy treat.  Especially the chocolate ones!!) 

We were greeted by our friends downstairs with a "Congratulations" and chocolate ice cream cones!

Kyle has suddenly become Mr. Social.  He now calls soccer football and will play with any child he find regardless of what language they speak.  Football is after all an international language all its own.   

Lest any of you feel sorry for this poor Mama who is left all alone at home while her kids are at school.  Don't worry, Mama knows how to venture out into new places!

i know, sort of like a where's Waldo?

The second day of school, i joined in with a group of moms from our school to travel an hour from Dubai to Abu Dhabi (the capital of UAE) to visit the Sheikh Zayed Mosque.  (See it here.)  It is the largest mosque in the UAE and one of the few open to tourists.

  In order to enter the mosque area all women are required to wear an abaya and a head scarf.  There is a separate room with freshly washed articles should you not have any with you.  (For those of you curious, this is the only time i am required to wear an abaya and head scarf in the UAE.)  Woman are not allowed within the mosque area without the appropriate dress.  You are also NOT allowed to have your photo taken in front of the mosque if you are without an abaya and head covering.  Should you be spotted doing so a security person will kindly assist you in locating the picture on your camera and helping you delete it. 

The tour is very informative regarding the ornate details of the mosque, Islam and the culture of the people of UAE.   It was a rare opportunity to ask any question you may have.

Women's foot washing area.

World's second largest chandelier.  Egypt just past this up 3 months ago.

Prayer times

 Only men are required to come to the mosque to pray while women are allowed to pray at home.  This mosque is ornately decorated with flowers running throughout. 

Can you find the line used to line up for prayer?

This really was an amazing opportunity to get a better understanding of the culture i am living in.

Plus, the bonus of meeting new friends. 
(Side note... it is REALLY hard to make new friends on the ride over and then try to find them again in the sea of black abayas.)

Some of you asked about this picture.  It was a really just a serendipitous shot.  It's a bunch of women in awe of their reflection in a glass elevator.  It's the first and only time we get to see ourselves in our newly donned abayas.  The flowers on the ceiling make it look surreal.  

End of the tour ~ abaya drop off.

Between lunches with other women new to Dubai, waiting for taxi cabs and mommy field trips we also got the keys to our VILLA a.k.a. our real home while here in Dubai.

The bonus was that our air shipment showed up too!  That means more clothes and toys for us but still no furniture.  For now we are working on getting the villa move in ready. 

Dude managed to score the best balcony!

Delicious dates, our first house warming gift.

Appliance shopping

The first golf ball in our pool. 
Contemplating making a counting game out of this...

First Hopscotch game at our house villa. 
 i'm thinking this may be the longest one EVER!

And finally, the biggest first of the week.... this mama drove!!  TWICE!  It may not have been very far but it is my greatest accomplishment this journey to date.  If my hands weren't white knuckling the steering wheel, i might have pictures for you.  But no such luck.  The only one allowed to talk in the car while either of us is behind the wheel is our British GPS chap.  He ever so kindly and calmly tells you when to enter and exit the roundabouts.  i guess his voice is suppose to soothe your nerves from the blaring horns around you.  Now, if only he could tell me where the exit is really heading before i take it.

Just to assure you i am not exaggerating here are random quotes from the kids.

 "Mom, i know why we couldn't bring our Tahoe to Dubai... the horn isn't loud enough."  ~ Riley

"Dad, let's just take a cab, i don't feel like hearing you yell at the roads tonight."  ~ Kyle  

Happy Weekend!   

Saturday, January 21, 2012


TODAY our family dined at one of Dubai's many famous Saturday Buffets. 

For. three. hours.

How is this possible you ask?

With video games, art tables filled with supplies, Tom & Jerry cartoons
and bouncy houses

time disappeared before our very eyes.

Completely carefree

and indulgent.

But now the frivolity has dissipated as my heart feels heavy and my eyes are brimming with tears.

Because TONIGHT i spoke with Fersa the young dark haired chef that greets us every morning with a smile.  In the morning while he checks on the buffet food, he always seems so cheerful and genuinely happy to see us as he inquires how we are.  Breakfast time is busy and there is little opportunity to get to know the man under the towering chef hat.  But tonight the restaurant is quiet and empty.   Two indulgent waiters slip my Littles hot chocolate and candy which busies them while i listen to Fersa.  He tells me about chef training in Syria, working with a famous American chef and his dream of opening his own restaurant someday.  i notice for the first time the silver ring on his left hand and i ask if he is married.  He has a wife in Syria and a daughter that will be one in 5 days.  When i ask for a picture he waists no time pulling out his phone to shows me Bana, a beautiful baby with large brown eyes and the most kissable chubby cheeks. "You must Skype them often?" i ask.
"Oh everyday, for i am scared for them.  All of Syria is very dangerous right now.  They have little electricity and they cannot leave the house at night it is too dangerous.  They stay with my parents."  It is the first time i see his face darken as his eyes become rimmed with red.  i ask him when he gets to see them again, as all staff are provided trips home.  He says he is afraid to go home for fear they will accuse him at the airport for being on the wrong of the political argument and become jailed.  


Political turmoil has been around since the beginning of time.  Daily news testifies to this.  i confess that while living in the states i glossed over the token half page that spoke of war in far away places.  Today i read the headlines intently and pray for real people who are striving to simply survive. 

A lesson in gratitude was granted to us today.
As citizens of the United States, can we truly appreciate our freedoms when we have never been robbed of them?   

I have no pictures to post of Fersa and his family but the cell phone screen of his daughter is the one picture from today that has etched itself in my mind.  Tonight as i tucked my kids in bed we prayed for the safety of little Bana & her mommy, for Fersa working to provide for his family from so far away and for the many reasons we have to be thankful. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Our 411

1.  Where are you staying?
We are waiting for our furniture to arrive sometime in February so we can move into our Villa (house).  Until then we are living in a 44 story apartment building that really functions more like a hotel.  We are perched upon the 35th floor in a fully furnished 2 bedroom apartment complete with kitchen and laundry room.  We love that it provides us with AMAZING views of the Burj Khalifa~ the World's tallest building as seen in the latest Mission Impossible movie 

and the Burj Al Arab~ World's tallest and only 7 star hotel. 

2.  Why aren't you going to home school while you are there?
We have prayed about this a lot.  We felt led to put both children into an American School here in Dubai for a couple reason.  The first being that by doing this they will be given an incredible opportunity to meet and interact with children from all over the world.  It was not by chance that when touring the various schools Chris and i found one school that we both were really impressed with and it happened to be the ONLY school that would have openings for both our kids.  (This is considered a miracle around here.)  i have always felt that our homeschooling adventure should be on a year by year basis based on the kids and where we feel the Lord is leading us.  

3.  Do you feel safe there?
i wondered the same thing before i visited in October.  And after being here for the short time we have i give you the same answer i received from all the other expats i questioned.  "We feel safer here than we do in most cities in the States."  i don't have to watch my kids like a hawk and clutch my purse close to me when i walk down the street.  In fact while staying in SF a few weeks ago, Kyle wanted to go up to the room by himself while we were in the lobby having dinner.  That didn't set quite right with me but here i would have no problem sending them down to breakfast or to the pool on their own.  i felt completely at ease the other day when i had to search out an entirely new and unfamiliar part of the city with just myself and the kiddos.  

3. How's Mama really doing?
i am pleased to say that i am doing great.  The hardest thing is missing family and friends and not being able to reach them anytime of the day.  My free time is when the rest of the USA is sound asleep in bed which obviously is not ideal for chatting.  i continue to feel a complete peace and God's hand upon us as we navigate through our new surroundings.  Life right now seems to be a strange concoction of mental exhaustion from trying to figure out life while feeling completely pampered and cared for by people around me.    Simple things like laundry, school admissions and making a local phone call is exhausting because it's not our typical protocol. 

(Welcome to my "laundry room."  This is my washer AND dryer. 
Two different cycles ~ one machine. 
Yes, i have used something similar in other countries, it isn't uncommon.  However, instinctively i still have a problem with it because isn't it theoretically the same thing as dropping a running hair dyer in a bathtub filled with water?  Then again i guess i should have no need to worry because even after 2 hours on dry cycle our clothes are still not dry.)

Even navigating around the mall is an exercise in patience and physical stamina.  Today it took us 35  minutes to walk from the food court to the cell phone station.  (That doesn't include the 3 stops @ the information booth.)  

When the mall directory is 22 pages long and there are 1200 stores it is best to ask directions.

Needless to say after a few hours of trying to figure things out with two sweet children in tow i am pretty tired.  But the yin to this exhaustion yang is the over the top service.  Everyone is so incredibly friendly and willing to go out of their way to help you.  (More to come on this later.)  

Perfect morning example;  After being warmly greeted, we are seated to a table of our choice.  Before we can fill our breakfast plates with morning treats,
two hot chocolates and a latte with the exact number of sugar i take is waiting for us at our table.  After our second day here, they knew our favorites and provide it without us asking. 

4. What is the food like?

Much like the country itself there is anything and everything and it has all been delicious.  We could choose to eat typical favorites from local food chains from the states.  Starbucks, Pizza Hut, Johnny Rockets, Papa Murphy's, PF Chang's and there are many European food chains available also.  Since i happen to be married to a Foodie, we tend to branch out and try all sorts of different cuisine.  Thankfully, the kids are up for sampling any plate from anywhere in the world with Kyle being the most adventurous.  Lebanese, Indian, Iranian, Japanese and everything in between.  Mexican food is the most difficult ethnic food to find while pork and alcohol can only be found in 5 star restaurants which are everywhere.   The other night we enjoyed a fabulous Moroccan dinner in a picturesque booth.

5. How are the kids adjusting?
They are on cloud nine right now as it truly is vacation for them.  They sleep in, see new sights, swim and play in the hotel.  Reality will hit them in a few days when they start school.  They are missing their friends and emotions run the highest right after Skyping with those we love.  However, when i ask them if they are ready to go home they both answer "no" because there is still so much to see here.  They have been to visit their school campus and the more they see it the more excited they are to start.  They have amazed me throughout this process.  They rarely complain and are up for anything.  Jet lag was fairly painless and we we think we are over the worst of it.

6.  How are you getting around? 
Once all of our paper work is finalized we will buy a car here.  We currently take taxi's everywhere which is a great way to learn the city.  i personally am hoping that my Visa will take a long time to process because i do not look forward to driving my little self around.  i have been told it is not the worst place in the world to drive but also not the best. 

7.  Do you really take your camera EVERYWHERE?!
Uh, yes.  i am shameless when it comes to taking pictures.  My family used to be so annoyed with me when i was taking a photography class this time last year and was constantly whipping out the camera for random shots.  That was the day where i would get nothing but eye rolls from my clan.  Now, if it isn't handy and ready to snap in a seconds notice i am busted by all three of them.

8.  Blogging thoughts?
i typically am more of a private person.  i originally started this blog as a virtual scrapbook for ourselves along with close family and friends.  However, i quickly learned that once i hit publish people from all over the world have access to our lives.  It is really intimidating and humbling to discover how many people are taking the time to read our blog.  Your comments have meant so much to us as it helps us feel connected to those we love and maybe meet new some friends along the way.  So, if we haven't already met i'd love to hear from you because your comments help drown out the crickets i often hear shortly after i hit the "publish post" button.