Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Some random observations

Kids do NOT like Red Cabbage and Apple Slaw. Neither do they like Green Peas and cheese salad. They will eat cauliflower cooked with potatoes in Aloo Gobi .

We had rain. A few drops came down so hard that builders out behind us ran out to rescue bags of cement. We ran downstairs. By the time we got down, the rain was gone. The splatters on the sidewalk did not even cover the whole pavement - spaces were left between the drop marks. No puddles to splash in, so we played hide and seek. It rained a small amount more later in the evening, but that's all we got. Maybe this weekend?

60F is cold. I am a wimp.

"Obama is very good. Bush was not very good. Jimmy Carter was the best. Washington was also very good." This is the first Egyptian opinion about our Presidency that I've heard in awhile. I have to laugh about all the 'advice' given before we came over here. We are told to avoid discussing sensitive matters, like immediate family, religion, politics, etc. but that is NOT going to happen! Our hosts are very inquisitive and opinionated (in a friendly manner) and you will asked about and/or told about all of this and more by everyone you meet. When you come to Egypt, you are not a tourist, you are a guest. Be prepared to show pics of yours kids, state your religion, and discuss politics and current events.

Speaking of current events, and being a guest of Egypt, we have lived here for over four years now and consider Egypt our home, even though we will soon be leaving. We are guests, but I am also 'local'. I am feeling a very personal anger about the evil criminals who attacked the Khan. Anyone who has been to the Khan, even once, but especially someone who knows it well enough to have perpetrated this crime, knows that not only is the square in which the bombing occurred always be filled with tourists - it is- it is also filled with locals who work and shop there - always, day and night. It is filled with people - FAMILIES - having meals and tea at the cafes. It is filled with people visiting the mosque. It is filled with people who work there, including the police. And of all places through the whole Khan, it is a place where you ALWAYS see children, EGYPTIAN children, running and playing, day and night. The crime that was committed was evil enough, especially as it was children who were the victims, but the fact that it was committed - on purpose - in an area known to be filled with families and children... it was beyond a crime. There is a special place in hell waiting for those who committed this cowardly attack - and the sooner they go there, the better for us all.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Just like his dad...

Brad and I tease each other over our various obsessions. Mine tend to be artsy-craftsy, Brad's are more nerdy-geeky... it's all in good fun, of course, our way of appreciating each other. Our kids tend to have a bit of both of these traits, with Honor leaning more towards the creative, and Brian towards the scientific, proof of which Brian brought home in his homework the other day. He got an 'x' on one of his math problems. He'd answered it with a "?" and that, obviously, was not good enough. It was a word problem: (something along the lines of) "If a box with 3 crayons weighs 60gr, how much does each crayon weigh?" Brian wasn't sure how to answer it without knowing how much the box weighed.

Think he has a future in engineering? Law?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Go Girl Go

Why stress reading, when you have a big brother to tell you stories?

And yes, Brian took the task of reading to his little sister very seriously, from a young age!

Not sure what the exact difference in character is, but where Brian was driven to figure out how to read and was memorizing books before he turned two and starting to actually work out words soon after, Honor was not as interested. She's definitely a smart little cookie too, and has always showed her intelligence in other ways.. we haven't been worried! But they were so different in their approach to reading. Brian wanted to know the story. Word by word. Don't mess around with it. Honor preferred to look at the pictures and make up stories. It was also easier to read to Brian. A book at night would calm him down - a book at bedtime would just get Honor wound up.

Awhile back though, Honor put her mind towards reading... in her own cat-like unhurried way ... and started being more serious about it. We haven't thought it necessary to push her at this age. She has the vocabulary - spoken - and she loves to write. We are constantly being asked to spell things for her. Settling down to read on a regular basis was not on her agenda though... until now. In the last few weeks, Honor has decided that she is a reader. A reader of everything. Signs on the road, covers of magazines, subtitles of movies. She was home from school sick yesterday when I received a text message from a friend. Honor intercepted it, read it, replied to it, and proceeded to have a little chat session with my friend ... "How do you spell 'playdate'?" She once hit the "Send" button twice. How do I know? She read the error message to me and asked why it popped up: "There is no message text. You must enter a message before this can be sent." After I explained, she 'ok'ed the message and continued texting! She's reading instructions and other text in computer games and, oh yes, books. Book after book. She gets workbooks and coloring books and reads the text and instructions herself. She tackled 64 pages of "Go Dog Go" and went immediately on to "One Fish Two Fish."

It's fun to see the look of surprise on her face when she studies an old toy, or opens a book we've had forever, or watches a movie she's watched a hundred times... and she can suddenly READ words she finds there. Where'd THAT come from?!?

Watch out world... we have another reader :-)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Awesomely Cool

"Awesomely Cool" was how the kids described our first outing to Al-Sorat Farm... and who could blame them? It was a day of many firsts for them. Let me stop right here and give a heartfelt thanks to Maryanne, our hostess. The kids had a wonderful time, as did we, and we blame her entirely... well, ok, she had a lot of furry 4-legged accomplices... but because we accuse Maryanne of being responsible for their sweet and loving upbringing, she gets full blame for our having a very nice day on her farm. She gets much thanks also for answering all our questions, spending so much time explaining everything, and teaching the kids (and us) about her animals. It was a true pleasure, and we look forward to visiting again soon!

The kids had never been hands-on close to goats or donkeys before, definitely not baby goats, and even the opportunity to run, pet and play with the dogs was a new experience. They are used to cats - and indoor cats at that. Having a chance to cuddle the pups was fun! I have to say that I was surprised. I thought Brian would be more interested in the dogs, and Honor, the baby goats, but I got it backwards. Honor was a little overwhelmed by the dogs at first, but she reacted well. No squealing and running, or otherwise acting like bait. She stood still and listened. Soon enough she was talking to them like old friends. Not that I was worried, these dogs are well-trained and it shows, but I am happy that she behaved properly around them. Brian jumped right in - in his usual scientific manner - when it came to the horses too, asking questions and stating opinions. (Thanks for letting him ride Lily, his instant favorite!)

I like that when I asked them what their favorite part of the day was, they could not make up their mind and listed everything!

As I couldn't pick a favorite picture, I made a slide show. I was thinking of using a rock song as background music - because 'rockin'!' was another adjective the kids have used to describe their day - but I used an Enya song, "Anywhere Is", instead. That was the tune that kept going through my mind as I looked at the photos.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Movie, Dinner, and Dancing

Aren't these the ingredients of a wonderful Valentine's weekend?

Thursday, the kids' last school day of the week, both kids' classes had little celebrations for Valentine's Day. Nothing too big, but snacks were shared in Brian's class, and Honor's class had cookie decorating and some games. Both enjoyed receiving their little bag of Valentine cards from their friends.

That night we coordinated with friends, and after Brian returned home late from after school activities, the kids and I walked over to the club. We found a nice table on the lawn, and as they went off to play at the playground, I held our place. Soon, our friends and their kids arrived, and the movie began to play. Kids gathered on a rug in the lawn for a showing of Monster's Inc. on a big screen. We brought them blankets to snuggle in because it was chilly... didn't stop them from running around barefoot though, silly kids! Brad arrived shortly thereafter from work, just in time to order dinner. We had a pleasant evening under the sky chatting with our friends and watching the kids play.

Friday, we took the kids over to the school for a Valentine's Day Dance Clinic. It was a fund raiser run by the high school Dance team. Brian participated last year and really enjoyed it. When he saw the posters this year, he asked if he could go again. The age limit was for 1st through 5th grade, but I asked if Honor could participate too, as she'd have an older sibling there. That was acceptable, so they both got to attend. When we arrived, they met the Eagle mascot and had their pictures taken. Throughout the clinic there were a variety of Valentine crafts, snacks, face painting, etc. and, of course, dance lessons! The dance team taught the kids a little routine to "Dancing on sunshine", and when we arrived back in the afternoon to pick them up, they put on a show for us. They had a lot of fun and we enjoyed watching them dance.

Today, Valentine's day, we had a nice lazy day at home. I made some Swedish pancakes for breakfast... fresh strawberries, frozen blueberries, nutella, jelly, peanut butter, cool whip... mmmm! Then we proceeded to accomplish a whole lot of nothing in particular, just hanging out and having some relaxed family time.

Honor and I started feeling a little sleepy (actually, I was starting to feel like I was hit by an allergen or something... nose started running and my eyes were irritated), so we grabbed a pile of books, hopped into our big bed and snuggled into the covers with the cats. We read that pile of books until my eyes got so watery (from whatever was attacking me, not the books) that I could barely see. Honor continued to read another book to me, but then I told her that I needed to take some medicine and rest. She tucked me in, left me in the care of the cats, and went to go talk Daddy into giving her some chocolate Teddy Grahams. I slept.

I felt better after a nap. Still stuffy, but my eyes were no longer swelling shut. I rejoined the living, and had a bit of computer game time with Brian... simple things, like decorating my Meez avatar for the holiday and looking for eggs on Facebook - silly, but a fun time to snuggle together, giggle and chat. Eventually, he went off to join Honor in watching Sponge Bob, and Brad prepared pizza - Papa John's style - so I wouldn't have to cook. We surprised the kids with little heart boxes of chocolates with teddy bears attached. aawww!

Who needs a fancy dinner out? I think we had a very sweet day, preceded by two other very happy days, as a family. I hope your Valentine's Day has been just as loving, and maybe even, just as cuddly too!

Oh! And Happy Valentine's Day marriage proposal anniversary - does Hallmark make such a card? - to my best friend Dorothy and her sweetheart, Jesse! The Date is getting closer guys! :-)


I really shouldn't complain about BLOGGER. It is a very nice tool, and it's free, so, why should I complain?? But I will anyway...

One complaint is about OpenID and other forms of ID verification. No, I am not talking about having to type in one of those annoying captcha's (word verification). Those are annoying, but I know how to make that turn off. I am talking about the different forms of identifying yourself required in order to comment. Lately, I have been having troubles with the ID requests that ask: Comment as: (pull down menu) "Select profile" The items on the pull down are Google account, LiveJournal, WordPress, Typepad, AIM, OpenID, as well as Name/url and Anonymous. Like the one that Braja has on her blog "Lost and Found in India".

I can't get this particular ID tool to work! After rummaging around in the useless cesspool that is laughingly labeled "Blogger Help Group", a group/forum that apparently has no actual contact with any Google employees who know anything or might actually be able to help, and instead, appears to be run solely by other frustrated users who sometimes have answers but most of the time do not, I managed to find postings (rants, cursing, pleas for help, etc.) by other bloggers with this same problem. Some have it worse - I seem to be one of the lucky ones - I can at least post to my own comments!

For the record, I have set up OpenID, my blogger dashboard tells me that I am set up with blogger, LiveJournal, etc. I have tried regular blogger, and blogger in draft. I have tried using the ID with different accounts. I've tried to "Preview" before posting (someone said it helps, but it just reset me as fast as hitting the "Post Comment" button does). If I go straight to the "Post Comment", it will act like it is going to work and post, but it will only reset to a blank. What a pain. I am still digging through my settings on Firefox, my antivirus, and other security tools. This is a recent change - must be a new and improved update. I am not impressed.

(and btw, I know comments are not mandatory, but neither is applause at a show... I like to show my appreciation to those who write by giving feedback. Sorry to have been lurking around folks, but it's not my fault. I'm working at it...)

Oh, and my blog has given up its pretensions of being French. The header at the top of my blog, the bit that should read "Search blog" and "Next blog".... or whatever it says in English because I haven't seen it in so long that I forget... no longer says "Rechercher Le Blog".... it now says "Bahath al-madunah al-alektroniyah". At least having my blog speak Arabic makes sense, given our location. What doesn't make sense is that all my settings are set to English. I've cleared caches, remembered me, unset and reset, you name it... everywhere I can think to reset and set, and no luck.

I will keep telling myself that Blogger is free... if it acts cheap, that's because it is. I shall focus on the positive, and wait patiently for the next upgrade... fingers crossed that it is actually an 'up'.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bird of Peace? Ha!

I heard this thumping sound against the balcony window and wondered what was up. I walked into the living room in time to see Misty run face first into the window, repeating the 'thump' noise I'd just heard, so it obviously was not an accident. Silly cat.

Usually he is the coordinated one. Misty plays soccer with toys, chases a laser pointer dot, etc. He's the sporty feline in the family... Ramses, well, he tends to be the one who leans over too far and falls off the edge of the couch. The only sport Ramses enjoys is riding in the laundry basket. Misty ... usually.... has all the grace and style. So, why was he repeatedly ramming his nose into the glass? The glass is dusty (yay sandstorms!) and covered in safety film, with a sheer curtain right in front, not exactly invisible!

It was a bird. We do not have anything on the balcony to attract birds... no seeds, no water (I'd like to have feeders, but do not want to attract rats).... the balcony itself is rather useless. Barely a foot and a half deep. Nothing for anybody to do out there. Definitely nothing for a bird to do... except bug the heck out of our cat...little instigator... and the way he was hopping around on the floor. Coming right up to the window. Jumping from floor to railing and back again.... this was definite purposeful harassment.

The bird was inches away (through the glass) and Misty couldn't resist jumping at him... I do not have too much sympathy for his bruised nose though. He knows better.
Sitting up there on the railing, looking all innocent. Oh yea... we know what you are up to.
Now, Misty will be plotting and scheming and checking the windows for the rest of the day. He does not give up easily. Every once in awhile he searches around our freezer, and you can tell he is remembering his rat... he sniffs around, looks up to the top, meows some questions, and that was over a year ago. He has also been known to hunt earthquakes... he's been through a few good-sized ones and after each, he'd spend the rest of the day patrolling every inch of the house... sniffing and searching... trying to hunt down the invisible house-shaking monster. Good thing I watered the plants yesterday - I don't think I want to open the balcony now. A distracted cat on the edge of a 3-story balcony? Not a good idea.

Oh, and here's a question for those with cats. Does your cat have radar? I can always tell Misty is hunting something when I hear this particular clicking noise.... (and no, he usually does NOT signal his hunts with window thumps! He was just being a goofer today).... The noise is an open-mouth, kinda vibrating/rattling, "tch tch tch" sound. He's done this, instinctively, since he was a kitten. Funny thing is, when Ramses was younger and willing to join Misty on 'hunts', he learned how to use this click noise, that we call "radar", too. He doesn't do it anymore though. I have no idea what this noise is called or if it is common. I'm curious if others have seen this behavior?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Celebrate Egypt - 2009

The kids' school had a celebration of Egypt culture this past week. They both go to Egyptian culture classes, and Brian is in Arabic foreign language class as well. This is elementary school level, of course, but I think the kids are blessed to have such exposure to our host country's rich past, and present, culture. The kids have studied history, day to day life, art, and music - in classes, school events, and field trips. I was very impressed with how much they are learning when I accompanied Brian's 3rd grade class to the Egyptian Museum in downtown Cairo recently. Each student had an artifact to give a short presentation about - and they did well too, despite the crowding and noise. But what I really liked was how well they answered the teacher's on the spot questions about different items throughout the museum. You can tell they'd been studying, had heard the stories and histories, and had retained the knowledge.

Last week's event was a concert and dance presentation. This year's theme was "Names". Ancient Egyptians had strong beliefs surrounding the significance of names and the meaning of names given are interesting to study. Here's a good link about why the country itself is known by different names! The elementary classes learned Egyptian songs, and the Folk Dance Group (made up of elementary students) presented a number of dances. They did a wonderful job. As one of the presenters said, what better way to say thank you, than with a celebration.

The first dance was "Nur", or "Noor" as Jordan's Queen Noor which means light, and is a common girl's name:

Doesn't this look like a fun dance activity? All we ever got to do in school was some rather clumsy square dance junk...It was mandatory, and I hated it at the time. I guess it all depends on the teachers. You could tell that this group had put a lot of time and effort into this show - it looked like they were having fun.

After the first dance, the 3rd grader's sang their song. Actually, they sang three songs. One was the same that the kindergartners sang (below), the second one (in the video here next) I did not catch the name of, but I thought they sounded very good, and the 3rd was "Ya Mustafa" which Brian told us was about a man separated from his loved ones who missed him and sung to him - they sounded good in that one too, but the photographer wasn't as steady. Fortunately Brian was standing on the end of the group where I could see him well - parents were seated waaaaaaay up in the back of the theatre. Thank goodness for the zoom on the camera! He wore his blue-striped galebeya - made even trendier with a Batman logo on the back - over the red shirt of his PE uniform. A lot of kids did the same.
And they sang very nicely too:

Then there was another dance. From the pipes, I assume it was a Sa'idi traditional dance. Unfortunately I did not get a program and do not remember all that the narrators said of each performance! I have to say, the pipes can destroy your ears when indoors, but when you hear them in an outdoor performance, you don't have the pain and can actually enjoy the music!

The last dance number was a very catchy tune that spoke of various regions in Egypt, and the dancers wore different galebyas and performed a bit of dancing traditional to each area. I wish they'd provided a program with the translation at the show, but later on I was able to find the lyrics and translation here.
" the moon with brown eyes wearing necklaces of jasmine
and the Nil is laughing and singing, remembering me and asking about me, I go to it and I find it waiting for me with nicest people next to it..."
This was a scene for Suhaj...
and I believe this was Isma'iliyah...

Here is an Egyptian cell phone provider company's commercial, if you want to listen to the whole song:

And then Honor's class, along with all the other kindergartners, prepared for their song. There was actually two performances - one with the older children, one with the younger. Brian and Honor were in separate shows this year and did not get to watch each other. Unfortunately, they had to be split up because the theatre could only hold so many people! Honor is on the middle-right of the group, at the end. They sang a song about a famous Egyptian queen called Hatshepsut.
Tell me this isn't darned cute, I dare ya!

After singing, the kindergartners take their seat in the audience. Honor imitates an Impressionist painting.
(ok, I know it is just a blurry photo, but I love the colors!) Here's a clear one of her outside after the performance wearing her musical galebeya. No, I couldn't get a photo of Brian... he's too fast and got away from mom and the camera.
Thank you Egypt, for sharing so much with our family.

Happiness is....

Happiness is... getting birthday in a box from Grandma and Grandpa!
and sharing with his little sister, without a thought or prompt from mom or dad...
Thank you!!
and Happiness is... snuggles (and smiles) with a cat after school...
aw, I missed you too!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Jedi mind tricks

I have been, apparently, experimenting with food too much for even my kids. What is weird with my kids? Well, nothing really, but they like broccoli. They also despise ranch dressing and other kid-food staples, like white bread, or pickles. Today Honor asked me to make her lunch for tomorrow, although they generally like the hot lunch from school. She said, "Mom, you know that yellowish spread you can put in sandwiches?" Took me a bit of questioning to find out she meant peanut butter... "Yes, that, and the chocolate spread?" Ok, I had a theme now... I knew she meant nutella. She wanted a peanut butter and nutella sandwich "NO other ingredients, like the purple stuff, not that!"... I was surprised. Must be peer pressure. She's always refused sandwiches! Especially anything to do with that 'yellowish' stuff. She actually wanted something vaguely resembling kid food for lunch... we shall have to see if she eats it...

Fortunately, we have raised the kids to try new foods and they are pretty good about doing so. They have no choice really. I can't stand to follow recipes - as in, "follow the rules", how restrictive? - and so I am always playing with new ideas. They are gracious about it - sometimes even flattering and appreciative. I think I am pushing their limits these past couple of weeks though. What with onion-y cheese bread, meaty mushrooms, and math lasagna, well, they are hanging in there, but I better serve up some corn dogs and mac and cheese from a box, some of the kid foods that they do like, in order to appease them... and soon...

I had some nice fresh spinach leaves. I know of only three ways to get spinach into my kids. They like baked spinach ball hors d'oeuvres. I don't usually make them, but the kids grab them up whenever they can at parties. Also, I can mix spinach and feta cheese into meatloaf and they'll enjoy that too. The way we - "we", meaning my husband and I - like spinach, is in a ground beef mixture with apples and nuts. Ground beef, browned with a bit of onion and garlic in olive oil. Some herbs, like parsley, mint, basil. Tomatoes can be added to the pan. Throw in some dry cranberries, perhaps raisins, add some nuts... like cashews or pinenuts. A bit of wine to moisten the fruit. Last in is spinach leaves and diced apples. Serve over white rice with feta cheese. The kids will eat it... but not always as enthusiastically as other dishes.

We had that dish the other day. Kids were hungry and they ate it - but no rave reviews. I'll admit, it wasn't the best incarnation of this recipe. The tomatoes were not sweet and the mint was bland. The next day I served a roast with a pineapple-soy sauce seasoning. They were iffy about that too. I got some looks of disappointment, but they ate. I felt sorry for them and promised that the next night I would serve the leftover roast with a simple sloppy joe sauce to eat over rice or bread. Both kids immediately voted for rice... and then Brian looked at me, summoned the power of the Force, and stated in a deep and serious manner "And the vegetable WILL be corn."

Unfortunately, the next day, when I looked in the cupboard for plain ol' canned corn. There was none. Brian looked too. He said that beets would be ok... so I started chasing him around the kitchen pretending to punch him.

Yep.. definitely owe them mac and cheese, or hamburger helper.... but they didn't get it tonight. Tonight was leftovers, clean out the fridge night. For dessert there was zucchini bread... hmm? Maybe I'm going to need to order something like McD's delivery for proper atonement???