Saturday, December 29, 2007

Logic?

We never quite know what to expect next with Honor. At dinner the other night, as we were all chit-chatting about regular things, Honor suddenly asks: "If I were cheese, but could not turn into a cup, would people who knew I was cheese, think I could not turn into salt and pepper too?". The table got quiet. Then Honor started giggling, and we all started giggling - but, where did that come from?! I guess the answer is, the same place she gets all these things she comes up with - and maybe we aren't meant to know what happens next. Life would be too boring.

Still, as goofy as it was, and as non-mathmatical as I am, she gave me algebra flashbacks. If cheese is A, and cup is B, and salt and pepper are C and D; then if A is not equal to B, and A is not equal to C or D, then B does not equal C or D. Both kids have a scary, natural, affinity for math and logic... definitely got that from Brad! However, Brian's tendency is more orderly and neat; Honor is the one who brings in the cheese.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Sharing


Sometimes computer time can be a competitive sport. Brian and Honor generally play well together, but they have different tastes and abilities in computer games. Brian is reading very well, and developing some pretty good tactics and hand-eye coordination (still has a lot to learn, but he is doing well). Honor is more interested in music and 'learn to read'-type JumpStart games. They often switch back and forth on the computer well on their own - sometimes we have to set the timer - sometimes we have to impose time-out! Today I went out shopping for an hour or so and when I returned, the kids ran up to me excitedly - Brian had found a 2-player on-line game that they were both enjoying. It was cute to see them sharing the computer, the same chair, and the same game!

How can I say no?


"Mom, may I please clean the bathroom?" I better enjoy it while I can... sure! Go right ahead! ;-D

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas 1913



Thought I ought to add this clipping. Brad found this news article about his Great-Grandmother at NewspaperArchives.com - it has proven to be a very interesting resource for working on our family tree. I'll try to share others as we come across them.
Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2007

2-D Tree

So, what do you do with all those lovely crafts that the kids bring home from school during the holidays?




Since we've been in this apartment, each Christmas, I create an outline of a Christmas tree with yarn on one of the walls in the entry way. It makes a lovely place to display school crafts! We had been using the same paper star every year (I'd actually left it up on the wall year-round when we removed all of the other decorations because the kids liked it), but this year they wanted something new. Brian asked for an angel, so I got to play with construction paper. Brad says my angel looks more like a fairy, but you can tell she has the holiday spirit. Anyway, it makes the entry very festive, and the plain white walls very colorful, and as you know, we love our walls! (at least Honor does).



We're also thinking that next year, we'll skip the presents and just get the kids big boxes to play with.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Party Animals



Attending a December birthday party at the club. Our friends' daughter was turning 6 and they held a party for her at the Maadi House. Michael Jackson, the sweet-natured camel, not the freaky pop singer, was there to entertain the kids. Honor told us that she would not have anything to do with the camel... she's been afraid of them for about a year now (they really are BIG animals!). But Michael was dressed in wonderful color, had his make-up on, and is the most gentle camel ever. Honor melted as soon as she saw him. She even wanted to go for a ride by herself.



She really enjoyed riding the camel with her big brother. Brian was not as enthusiastic, in a 'been there, done that' kinda way. He said, yea, it was ok.. but a little bit stinky! Brian quickly disappeared off to the bouncey castle. Honor took another ride on the camel with the birthday girl. I'll try to get more photos posted on my website later on. Possibly some video too.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Cooking

The kids have really taken an interest in helping me in the kitchen. I feel that Brian is now tall enough to work with me at the stove some, but not Honor... she is getting good with the microwave though. I get Brian to read recipes and instructions now too. Both help me find ingredients, measure, stir, etc. I also enjoy their help in planning meals. It gives us a great opportunity to talk about basic nutrition and about different foods. We also find that we can do kitchen math when we double recipes or otherwise alter the called for ingredients. The kids also clean and polish the table, set it, and pour drinks.. a little tough for Honor to handle still, but she's getting there. The less favorite job is clean-up beyond the basic "scrape your plate and put it in the dishwasher", but they are getting more responsible for that too.






Our Family "Picture with Santa"

Happy Holidays!!!

So, instead of going to stand in line to sit in Santa's lap and get a traditional Christmas photo, we went to the Pyramids at Saqqara and Giza.

Friday, December 14, 2007

O Christmas Tree


Finally! We have our tree up. The kids wanted to set it up as soon as we cleared the turkey from the Thanksgiving dinner table. We managed to decorate this evening after a long day out touring the Giza sites. I'll try to get some pictures posted on my website soon. In the meantime, don't the kids look pleased?

webpage update:- craft fair

I finally managed to update my webpage a little. These are pictures from a craft fair that was hosted by the kids' school in celebration of an Cultural Cultural Fair.

Craft fair

I really enjoy having the kids overseas in a multicultural environment. It was good when they were in their small, Irish managed school the last few years.. the kids were from all over. But now that they are in the big school, the international flavor is really enhanced. The kids, the parents, the teachers.. everyone has influence.

There are Dutch children in Honor's pre-K class and their parents gave a little presentation, told stories, etc. about Sinterklaas last week. All the kids brought in a shoe last week to leave by their (homemade) fireplace for Sinterklaas to leave a treat. I guess all the kids in class had been pretty good.. they found oranges and a bag of ?Kroidnoten? (small ginger cookies) in their shoes the next day :-)

Wiki this

Brian's class rec'd Hannakah gifts from one child's family in his class. They also shared poems on Kwanzaa and stories about Eid al-Adha (next week), and of course, both of the Christmases celebrated locally... Dec 25th, and Coptic Christmas, which will be a little later... not sure of the date. A project that they just finished up was an International food fest. Brian had a project to create a map of his home country filled in with pictures, and we had to supply a recipe that was traditional to our culture. Brian did a great job on his USA...





It was a little more difficult to come up with a traditional recipe of our culture... what is that?? Tex-Mex? Egg Foo Yung? Pilau rice? I finally came up with Banana Nut Bread (because in Florida we had banana trees and tons of bananas), and a pizza dough recipe that we got off the internet because our family 'culture' is to move around all over the place, sometimes lacking our personal property for long periods of time, and we so we 'make do' with what we find wherever we are. The 2nd grade team then compiled the recipes... with illustrations by the kids.. and printed up cookbooks with all the recipes as Christmas gifts for the parents.

I remember touching on different holiday celebrations when I was in school, but not as personalized as my children are seeing it. Yes, they are in an international school and my perspective may be skewed, but I do think 'alternatives' to the mainstream celebrations are becoming more open and acceptable than they used to be... at least I hope so! And rose-tinted or not, I'm going to keep this perspective :-) - every little bit of positive energy helps.

Happy Holidays - all of them!!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Teach me to crochet






I was trying to get some actual work done on the computer - instead of the usual playing around - but Honor chose this moment to run up to me with a skein of yarn and ask me how to "make things with yarn with the stick". I took that to mean crochet.. yep, that was it. You know I immediately stopped what I was doing and started sharing!
I was able to convince her that she really needed to learn to finger-crochet before she could learn to use the hooks. She was, typical for a 4yo, and very typical for Honor, highly annoyed that she wasn't able to instantly master the whole of the craft in an instant. But she persevered and we enjoyed a good 20 minutes or so of making chains together and created a couple of bracelets. And, of course, we benefited greatly from the close supervision of Ramses (who is mostly asleep half on/half off the the arm of the couch next to me right now - I am wondering which way he will tip when he goes all the way asleep?)

Next on the kids' agenda is to get a hold of my sewing machine. I have been trying to organize my crafts and get working on things again, but it has been slow going. I know that my toys have been put away too long when Brian mentions that he has never heard of a sewing machine and didn't know what one should look like! Sigh... well, I dug mine out and showed them, and now they want to learn how to use it. I also showed them my hand spindle, wool, carding combs and some yarn I made long, long, ago. I even showed them how to spin - I was completely shocked that the motions still came very naturally!

I put my crafts away because full-time work and full-time motherhood left no real time for hobbies. I have been doing simple, little projects that require very little mental energy, but the 'good stuff' has been stored away for years. The kids are definitely big enough now that I think I can start pulling my toys out of hiding and teaching the kids some things. I remember using my Mom's sewing machine by the time I was 8yo. to make doll clothes. I still have the same sewing box from my 11th birthday. I was crocheting from about 6-8yo as well.

Whether my kids develop a love for my dearest crafts, or not, I want them to keep trying (what they want, I do not intend to force anything!). I want them to learn to make creating a part of their lives. I keep paints, clay, paper and other supplies out and for free access - always have - and they are quick to help themselves to that. I have also added foam shapes, sticks, glue and glitter. Again, they help themselves and create. I want to add to this. Yes, sometimes the mess can be quite spectacular, but learning how to clean up after themselves is part of the process.

I think it is good to have a hobby, not only for mental and physical relaxation, but it helps to develop some basic mechanical and physical manipulation skills. It helps to appreciate good workmanship, and to be picky about anything less - hey, sounds snobbish, but you should have a eye for that when house shopping, car buying, furniture buying, etc! It also helps you to appreciate what we have, why we are so lucky that there is much we can buy at the store ready-made, and the time and special investment made when someone gives you a hand-made gift.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Cultural confusion

We were off work today and wandering around town. Not downtown Cairo, but in Maadi, the suburb we live in. It's a small town, but there are enough little shops for what we need, and fortunately, many are located on a 'Main St.' for convenient shopping.

We bought some necessities and some little gift items requested by the kids' school at a local stationery store, then wandered down to the lightbulb store where we bought bulbs in bulk - the electricity fluctuates wildly and the lightbulbs die fast. We stopped at an Egyptian gifts shop to find a gift for one of Honor's friends. Her birthday party is coming up soon and we figured a pretty box with a selection of perfumes and pretty glass-blown bottles were better than a cheaper-than-you-can-believe, plastic, made-in-China, toy.

After the gift shop, we decided that it was lunchtime. We walked on down to the local Quiznos, and that's where we felt the really weird sense of cultural 'deja-where-are-we-anyway'? A couple of Americans, buying Italian sandwiches, in Egypt, and the music playing on the store's sterero? Latino, of course.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Shrek, Led Zepplin, and the computer generation

After our Thanksgiving dinner last night, we sat down to watch the Shrek 3 movie for the first time. I won't give any spoilers, but one character breaks out dramatically into the "Aa-aaa-aaaaah" part of the Immigrant song by Led Zepplin (very unexpectedly - I laughed until I choked). Brian and I both tried to ID the song. I guessed Led Zepplin but wasn't 100% sure - I'm not too good with naming title and artists. But Brian nailed it. Not in the traditional way, but he definitely knew what he was talking about. He said, "It's the song from the internet movie with the warrior kittens." Oh yea.. .queue the Viking Kittens!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Little H's



Christmas is coming and the kids are starting to get excited about Santa. We are starting to think that we need to get on the ball and order stuff because the APO mail can be iffy at this time of year!

Honor was sitting next to me yesterday morning, so I handed her the J.C. Penney catalog to look at. I asked her what she thought Santa might bring her. Oh, her eyes lit up! She wanted to make a list, but as she is only 4 and not reading/writing very clearly yet, I handed her a pen, and told her to just write her name in the catalog next to the things she liked. I pointed out some things that were too big for our living space (like a huge kitchen/laundry play center), or some other things that we just cannot use (like a bicycle :-( - we have no safe place to ride!).. and she listened very well, and asked questions about items she was not sure about.

I also went through the catalog with Brian and we discussed some of his wants, but he was not as interested in writing things down. We had a good long talk though.

After the kids went to bed last night, I went back and looked through the catalog... all those little 'Honor's, 'H's, and wobbley circles were soooo adorable!! I'm going to have to keep a few pages of this catalog for a keepsake!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

There's a rat in mi kitchen...

We had to deal with something yesterday I have never faced before - a rat! I have never even had a small mouse in a home, but this rat got in somehow. We're not even sure how and we've looked all over. We think it may have pushed through a window. It wasn't here long because we found no chew marks, and droppings were confined to 2 small areas.

Brian saw 'something' on Saturday. He thought it was big enough to be a mouse - but was not sure. We fight ants when they decide to march on us from ?? some other place, but we usually do not even see roaches in this building. Not to pick on Cairo, but this is a big polluted city, lots of garbage, etc. I am actually surprised that we do NOT see roaches... but we are cleaning fanatics. There are a lot of rats too, and it is very common to see them scurrying about. I have even seen a mother mongoose (weasel?? ferret?? - not sure which it was, but definitely one of the predators) carrying her babies from nest to nest. Enough rats to support a family of rat eaters!

Anyway, our building and apartment facilities are kept clean and the trees/litter is picked up etc. but it should still not be surprising to see a rat - but we were ;-D Anyway, on Sunday, our big cat was after the freezer. We assumed he had found Brian's 'mouse' - which we were still assuming was probably a large roach. Misty is too old to jump that high anymore though so he had to just growl on the floor (he's a dramatic hunter - even with flies). Well, yesterday afternoon, I walked by the freezer, and back between 2 boxes I had up there, was the rat.. sitting there washing his whiskers. Creepy, but cute.

Well, I've caught and released birds in the house (they say to leave doors open and the bird will fly out, but with cats, mirrors, etc, I find it is safer to catch the poor thing), I've caught and released big spiders, I've caught and released lizards (I actually like lizards in the house, but as I have cats, I usually end up with half-lizards that I find at night with barefeet - ew! - so out they go, when I can get to them first!), and I have even caught and released snakes from my (Florida - of course) home. I didn't know how to handle a rat! Definitely didn't want to chase it out - it might have gone elsewhere in the house, and I didn't want it getting to my neighbors' homes. I didn't want to leave a trap or poison - because of the cats and my kids. So I called our facilities guys. They managed to move the freezer and trap it in a corner, but couldn't get to it. So we called our bawwab - the building 'jack-of-all-trades'.

Ahmad first tried a baited trap, and came back in an hour to check. No luck. He went in the kitchen - with all the doors closed and blocked - and we heard all sorts of moving and banging! Finally he called me in. I saw that he had moved all of the major appliances and he told me he thought the rat must have gotten out somehow - we banged some more on things, and I was about to agree with him (we thought there must have been some hole somewhere) - then the rat popped out from under the freezer - I had to lift my foot or it would have scurried right over my bare toes! Ahmad was swinging a stick, I had a mop (what i just happened to be holding when the rat jumped out), we were blocking and jumping (as the rat ran under us ;-) !). BOTH of our cell-phones picked this time to go off - so we had a 'soundtrack' of 'The Mexican Hat dance' and some Middle Eastern tune, combined. Brad was outside one kitchen door asking if we were all right. Honor (our biggest cat) was at the other door, demanding to know if we'd got the rat yet, she wanted to see it! It was insane - but it ended quickly. Alhamdullah - for us, but not the rat. Ahmad struck the rat once and killed it. Probably suffered less than if our cat had got it or had we had to poison it.

Ahmad helped us straighten the kitchen again - how often do you get to clean under/around ALL of your big heavy major appliances anyway?? - and even insisted on mopping. You know I tipped him well, although he tried to insist that catching the rat was his job, I made him take it for all the cleaning! (which was not his job!) He even humored the kids and showed them the dead rat.

Anyway - checkmark beside another Cairo adventure/learning experience. Now, if I can only stop singing UB40's "There's a rat in my kitchen, what am I gonna do? I'm gonna fix that rat, that's what I'm a gonna do.."

Friday, November 9, 2007

Cheap Web Enterainment

Ok - can't really take the kids to a dance club, but Heineken provided this fun little webtoy and we thoroughly enjoyed (still enjoy) this little personalized video (ok, ad).

The original webtoy is here: LINK

It's worth watching, and you can make your own, but it can be very slow to load (at least it is with our slow/flakey ADSL). Here are some pics of us:

video

In the beginning...

Honor, four, was playing a game on the computer, I was in the kitchen cooking lunch, and listened to the kids talk. For some reason, Honor asked her big brother Brian, six, if whales have ears. Brian confidently stated, no, but then asked Dad if that was correct. Nope. They do not have big ears that stick out, but they do have ear holes. This new knowledge encouraged a flurry of questions about which animal had ears or not. It was funny that Honor kept asking Brian, and Brian would relay the question to Brad, and then Brian would send the answer back to his sister - although they were all sitting in the same room.

This got me thinking of all the things I've ended up looking up on the web, or in books, etc. I do enough wandering and wondering of my own, but now find that I have to look up details of things, for different reasons. You never stop learning, and as a parent and one of the two primary teachers of our children, I am learning to study things from alternative angles!

We also move around a lot and I like to reflect on what we see and do, and how the kids interpret the world around them.