Please Pray

Hello everyone.  I would like to ask a favor of all reading my blog.  Please pray for the Syrian refugees and the Syrian people who are displaced and frozen.  Please do not stop reading because you are tired of hearing about problems in the Middle East or whatever…Please keep reading!…My heart goes out to them and they need our prayers.

They have been running away from war in their own country.  Running miles, hundreds of miles, with their children, their pregnant wives, their elderly parents, and only with their shirts on their back and whatever they can fit into a backpack.  They are facing the real possibility of death as they run from city to city, and as they cross the border into a forgeing country.  They do not know what the future brings, only know the current is too dangerous to stay alive.  Once they cross over as refugees, they are led to their new ‘home’ made of canvas tents and dirt grounds, being fed and given water at the terms of someone else.  Their life is not their own anymore.  They are scared, frightened, and now facing the begining of a long cold winter.

This week in Jordan, we have had rain.  It has been raining hard, nonstop, for days.  I am talking rain that has flooded most of our city streets.  As of yesterday, the rain had flooded 90% of all main streets in Amman, the capital city of Jordan.  We have been a city and country underwater.  This means the refugee camps are flooded as well.  The Syrian people have no means to keep themselves warm.  It is cold.  Deadly cold.  Their ‘home’ is flooded, their belongings wet, blustering cold winds whipping at their wet skin, they have no heaters – just small space heaters lit by fire.  And today, it got worse.  The temperatures dropped, some reports say the windchill is 5F (-15C), and the snow has been falling all day and expected to fall again tomorrow.

These are people.  People who lived normal lives up until about 2 years ago.  They worked, took care of their homes, had children who went to school, had friends, families, and neighbors.  They were rich and poor, and lived as we all do, until the uprising and now civil war that has killed around 60,000 Syrians and has displaced more than 600,000 Syrians to neighboring countries.

Reports are coming out, from the camps, of Syrian families going to sleep sharing one blanket.  Pictures show the devasted tents/homes, people wearing next to nothing to stay warm.  An aweful story has been told by a father, who woke up to find his daughter curled up near to him and frozen to death.

Trust me when I say, it is cold here.  I grew up in Northern Minnesota where the windchill temperatures that can be -30F (-34C).  Trust me, I know cold!  But the cold in Jordan is different.  I can say from my own Jordanian winter experience, inside my home (built for the Jordanian summer heat and not insulated to keep us warm in the winter) – Currently, I am bundled up in layers of clothing, with my wool socks and slippers on, I have had my radiators on all day (other than the 1 hour when our electric went out) and my fingers are stiff from the cold as I type….and Alhumdillah, I am protected from the elements outside!  I just keep asking myself, what does it feel like for the people living in the camps?!  Freezing to death, does not sound surprising to me, I would be surprised if she is the only one who has frozen to death (May God have mercy on her soul).  Aweful. Aweful cold. Aweful situation.

So, this is a snapshot of why I ask of you…..

Please pray.  Please pray for the warmth and safety of these people living in uncontrollable situations.  Please pray for more financial support to come in – the neighboring countries who are so generous to help save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people running from war, are poor countries and we need assistance.  Please pray for the sanity of the people who have endured more than most can’t even imagine. Please pray for an end to the civil war.  Please pray for better beginnings.  Please pray and thank God for all that you have.  Please pray.

Pictures from Jordan and Lebenan camps:

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What I have Had to Learn….

As promised, I am back to write about what I have learned since living in Amman.  I thought to take a serious approach about how much I have learned about myself and the similar.  However, as I thought more about it, I think most of what would have come on that list is more related to becoming a mother and not related to living here.  Therefore, I have chosen to write about the quirky, the strange, and the silly things I had to learn in order to live here…thankfully they are funny to me now, because some of them were really irritating, frustrating, and annoying at the time.  Enjoy!

  • Trying clothes on in fitting rooms that are so small you cannot fit in anything more than yourself and your clothes.
  • Nescafe = coffee.
  • Eating out is a luxury.
  • Conserving water.  Running the water at half speed, turning off the water while brushing my teeth and while scrubbing the pots and pans, doing 6 + loads of laundry and doing all the ‘heavy’ cleaning (things that require lots of water) during the 24 hours the water is being filled from the city (as I use it it’s being replenished, so it doesn’t take from my weekly supply)…these are now normal and conserving water is always a better habit.
  •  I have learned which adapter is needed for which plug, in each and every outlet in my home. Seriously, how many different outlet plugs and styles are there and can’t we all just agree to get one kind!
  • Using electric converters for my US electronics…not so bad when it is a permanent appliance like the stove or refrigerator, but a big pain in the !@# when it is your vacuum cleaner, blender, hair dryer, electric mixer, etc, etc.
  • Counting Jordanian currency.  The paper bills are not bad because they are written in English and Arabic for those ‘dumb’ days when you are confused and need to make sure you are giving the right bills you can just flip it over to read the English (which are actually arabic) numbers. It was the coins that got me…I don’t know what my problem was, but I eventually figured it out.
  • TV programs didn’t seem to have set times or days…there was no 5:00 news or Sunday football!  This totally screwed me up, I had certain programs I liked to watch in the US at certain times of the day or week…they were gone and I couldn’t find them….until we got OSN, things are not normal, but they are better now 🙂
  • Where the hell do you buy…anything?!…until you figure out that everything has its place and that word of mouth is the best way to find anything…until then, you have no idea where to get some of your stuff!  For example…would you think that baby formula and infant cereal is ONLY sold at the pharmacy?!  Well, once you figure it out and quit saying “that’s stupid”, then it’s not so bad, because now you know where to get your formula.  Or crafting things…where to get fabric, yarn, buttons, felt, glitter, etc….we do not have JoAnn Fabrics or Micheal’s or Wal-Mart or anything remotely close to anything you are used to in the US.  So you have to ask around where to get these things…and you will probably have to go to 5 different stores to get each of them because no one store has a good selection of it all! ——Expat Note: If YOU know of a place that has it all, please let me know!
  • Family gatherings are not a social event for those who don’t speak much Arabic (unless you are lucky enough for the family to speak English).  It’s a great time to crochet 🙂
  • Smiling and small talk with men in the store, on the street, or other places where they are not your husbands relative or your work colleague is off-limits.
  • Guards with huge army guns (I won’t pretend I know what kind of gun they are).  It took a while, but I eventually got use to it.
  • Round-a-bouts in Amman are tricky, chaotic, and difficult to learn, but they are way more efficient than traffic lights.  Avoid ALL traffic lights if you can!
  • To keep the home cool in the summer (without air conditioner summers are hot in the desert) – open the windows at night to let in the cool night air and then close the window and the blinds early morning to keep the cool air in and the sunshine out.
  • To keep the home warm in the winter (cement homes in the rainy winter are very cold in the desert) – central heating is the only thing that works…it will cost 1/2 your monthly salary or more, but your home will be warm.
  • Formal Affairs….are you with me Expats!?!….what is with the formal affairs?  Every event is formal.  Work clothes are business suits.  Going to the large grocery store is a reason to dress up.  Going to someones home for a visit is a reason to dress up.  People wear business casual when going out for ice cream.  Weddings, Engagement parties, Graduation parties, other family parties are reason to wear a formal (prom-type) dress, get your hair done, and make-up professionally done.  I don’t know about this, it can be fun, but I still prefer my jeans and sweatshirts.
  • Driving in the chaotic traffic is difficult, but finding ways around the traffic can be even more tricky!  After 3 years, I have finally figured out how to maneuver around all the hills, curves, and one-ways to beat some of the outrageous traffic!
  • Shaking hands and kissing cheeks (if same gender as you), saying Hello, asking about their kids, their parents, their health, asking about their work and what is new, are all proper etiquette when seeing someone you know.
  • I have learned how to make new friend via social networking and I love it!  There is a large community of expats all around Amman with a variety of interests and reasons they live here.  I love meeting them, getting to know them, and making new friends!

 

I hope you had fun reading my shortlist of things I had to learn while living in Amman (it really is just a shortlist).  Anytime a person moves they have to learn new things.  New roads to learn, find a new physician, where is the post office, where is the park, etc.  However, when a person makes a move to a new country…they really have to learn everything new.  Nothing is as it was.  You can sit around and protest, which we all do for a while, but eventually one must figure it out.  They say the first year is the most difficult, the second year gets better, and by the third year you start seeing the benefits to living abroad.  I have lived through each of these three these steps and I have to agree with this analysis as truth.  Alhumdillah (thank God) for this experience and all experiences in life. After all it is our experiences that help us learn, that help us grow, and that mold us in to better people.

Living In Jordan: The Good and The Difficult

We have lived in Amman, Jordan for nearly 3 years now….3 years…wow, that seems like a long time, yet has gone so quickly.  During this time, I have made some really great friends here  This summer I will be losing 2 of those friends and possibly a 3rd as they move out of Amman and on with their lives elsewhere.  It seems to be a trend.  Each summer, we lose some of our friends who move out of Jordan and we gain new ones who move to Jordan.  As my friends and I get together to celebrate the time we have spent together and to wish our friends farewell, the conversation revolves around living in Jordan and moving out of Jordan.  It has me thinking of all the things that make Jordan a more difficult place to live, and also the things that I have grown to love about this place that we are currently calling home.

I thought it would be of interest to blog about “Living in Jordan: The Good and The Difficult”, from my personal perspective.  However, as I start writing, I realize this needs to be a two-part series.  So….I am feeling positive tonight.  I will start with those things that I love about living here….next time I will write about the things that make it difficult.

Living In Jordan: The Good

  • God is present.  I love living in a country where the call for prayer goes off 5 times a day.  That you can see people praying on the side of the road, at your place of work, where the store owner stops and takes time to pray near the register, people pray at the bus stop, in the park, you see people praying openly anywhere and everywhere on any day.  There are signs posted throughout Jordan, mostly at traffic lights, that say (in Arabic), “Remember God”, “Ask God for Forgiveness”, “God is Great”, and the like.  I also love that the people remind each other endless times a day to Thank God for your blessings and to also Thank God for your challenges…as everything comes from God and we should be thankful for everything that he has given us.

 

  • Strong family bonds.  Family is family no matter where you live.  People all over the world love their family and would do most anything for each other.  However, here in Jordan, the family is defined at a much larger level – at a tribal level…yes, Jordanians have tribes…which means that many, many, many family last names belong to a specific tribe and each of those hundreds/thousands of people with those last names then fall under that tribe, and they are all considered to be family and they all help each other.  I cannot describe the meaning of family bonds here, but I can give an example.  I delivered my son here in Amman via c-section. After my surgery, I was sent to the Recovery Room.  The Recovery Room Nurse, saw my (my husbands) last name and said to me that she is from the same tribe; therefore, we are sisters and she will take really good care of me.  She took excellent care of me…she went way above and beyond the usual duty of a nurse in Jordan.  She then told her colleagues that we are family and to be careful with me and to take good care of me.  I appreciated her hard work and help, but honestly, she is not even a cousin of a cousin, of a cousin, of a cousin, of a cousin, or anything near that to my husband – much less me who is an American married into the family.  This is common practice here, families not only take care of each other but they go above and beyond the usual call of duty.

 

  • Friendship.  The expat friends I have met here are W-O-N-D-E-R-F-U-L!  We just get each other in ways that people back home or in Jordan cannot.  We live separate, but parallel lives.  We have left our families, moved to Jordan from other countries, are converts to Islam, married to Jordanians, are raising by-racial and bi-cultural and bi-lingual children, speak limited Arabic, and face similar excitements and disappointments about it all.  Literally, there are an endless number of invitations for get togethers, playdates, and lady nights.  Each invite is an opportunity to meet a new friend, as there are so many expats moving in to our neighborhoods.  There is a special bond and sisterhood we share.

 

  • Amman is open.  The capital and the people of Jordan, Amman, are -in many respects- more open than many American large cities I have lived in.  What I mean by that is the following:
  •      English is the second language spoken in Jordan.  You find nearly all road signs written in Arabic and English.  Most people here speak some if not fluent English.  All schools teach English from K-12 grade at some degree.  Many schools and Universities teach all subjects in English 100% of the time.  Many businesses and sectors are conducted strictly in English.
  •      Most people here L-O-V-E people from outside Jordan.  There is a certain respect the Jordanians give to expats, especially Americans.  Most Jordanians have been to the US or have a brother or sister who live in the US.  Jordanians are very welcoming and interested to talk with you, either out of curiosity, because they lived in the US, or to practice their English.
  •     Jordanians don’t care if you are Muslim or Christian.  There are churches scattered all over Amman.  Christmas is a National Holiday and Easter is given off to Christians, even though only 10% of the population is Christian.

 

  • Amman is where the Eastern and Western Culture collide.  I love that I can grab a falafel, humus, foul, with fresh bread and veggies for breakfast one day, have a shwarma sandwich for lunch, and the next day I can order Domino’s Pizza delivery or go out to TGIF/AppleBee’s/Chili’s.  I also love that there is very traditional bedouins would live in burlap tents and live completely off the land, and just down the road from their tent you find a mall with stores like Gap, H&M, Louis Vuitton, etc.  There are young farmers herding their sheep across a busy street in the heart of Amman where Mercedes and Hummers are stuck in traffic waiting for the sheep to cross the road.

 

  • I love my kids experience.  I love knowing that I am giving my children the chance to not only experience another culture, but to live amongst it – and to not only experience another culture, but a dying culture.  So many cultures today, Jordanian included, are looking towards to the west as a model.  They are leaving their roots, culture and heritage to live more western.  I am happy that my kids are experiencing a Middle Eastern culture, while is still exists.  I love that my children are not only learning another language in school, but are required to use the language in daily conversation.  I love that my kids can experience both cultures (my husbands and my own).  That they are learning and experiencing life differently and uniquely from many of their peers around the world.  I hope that they grow and learn deeply from these experiences.  I pray that they will be stronger and more wise from the time they spend here.  I know today, it is normal life for them, but someday, Inshallah (God Willing) they will benefit.

There are many things that I have always loved about Jordan, there are many things that I have learned to love over the years, and there are many things that I do not love about Jordan.  It is what it is.  Living here has made me stronger, has helped me learn about myself in ways that I would have never learned elsewhere, has given me character, and has helped me build a better bond with my husband.  It is not always easy living so far away, in a culture so different from your own, learning a new method of communication (Arabic).  However, it is what it is.  We must make the best of our lives and we must Thank God for the good, the great, and the not so great.  I am sure that one day, when I am not feeling so positive or simply as promised, I will write Part II to this blog….Living in Jordan: The Difficult.

Proud Mom!

I am back, as promised, to write about how great and wonderful my other two kids are 🙂  I am so proud of both kids!

My Little Lady

  • Was 1 of 5 kids chosen, in her class of 25, to participate in the Science Fair at school!  She recited her line to the judges and a handful of cameras perfectly with little hesitation!  Their team recieved 3rd place.
  • Has been chosen to represent her preschool class in the Spelling Bee at the end of the month (1 of 3 out of the class of 25).  She will compete with other kids representing their preschool classes in other area schools!  She has learned to spell 30 words in English for the big event!  Pretty good for a 4 year old 🙂
  • Has memorized 11 verses from the Quran, and continues to memorize more each week!  Mashallah (May God Bless her)!
  • Has learned to read and write the entire English alphabet and Arabic Alphabet, and she is starting to put letters together to form words in both languages.
  • Her Arabic has picked up and she is speaking Arabic well with her friends and family.
  • Loves to do her homework.
  • Is a wonderful helper around the home and sets a good example for the younger kids.
  • Loves her baby brother soooooo much, a true blessing to watch them interact!
  • Loves her middle brother, and plays with him well.

My Little Man

  • Anything he wants to learn, he learns quickly, and does exceptionally well.  Mashallah (May God Bless him).
  • Continues to be very athletic.  He is currently working on his golf swing…watch out Tiger!
  • Has a sense for numbers.  The other day he told me that there are 3 people in the room (Mom, O, and A) but there were 5 people in the room (and he named all 5), he continued to explain that 2 of them left so now there are 3 people….this is just one example of how he thinks (this Mom is impressed).
  • Has a sense of space.  His new favorite activity is putting together puzzles, especially ‘tricky puzzles’ which are 25 peice puzzles without borders.  He does so with little need for help and doesn’t get frustrated.
  • Has learned how to write his name, in English.
  • Has learned to be a good listener and how to respect those around him.
  • Has a great sense of humor!  How quickly he can come up with jokes or understand a joke always impresses me.
  • Helps Mom and Dad around the house, and it so proud when he picks up his trucks and cleans his room!
  • Loves his baby brother and takes good care of him.
  • Loves his sister and plays well with her.

Alhumdillah, God has blessed our family with 3 wonderful children.  As a parent, it is so much fun to watch them grow and develop their own strengths and to help them work on their lesser strengths.  I cannot be happier with my decision to stay home to watch them grow, and help them transition from wonderful babies, into little people, and eventually into wonderful adults – inshallah (God Willing)!

How My Little Boy Has Grown!

My baby, if I can still call him that ;-), has grown so much in the last month – Mashallah!  Currently at 5 months and 3 weeks,  I am simply taking this time to blog for my family, who unfortunately live a great distance away, and for me as a reminder to myself of how my little boy has grown!

In the past 3 weeks, Abdallah has learned the following:

  • How to roll over from tummy to back (better late than never!)
  • That rice cereal, bananas, applesauce, pearsauce, avocado, sweet potatoes, yogurt, and cheesecake are a great compliment to Momma’s milk!
  • How to laugh, and laugh, and laugh, and giggle, and laugh.
  • That his sister and brother are the best people on earth, and they are here simply to make him laugh.
  • That his eyes widen, arms and legs reach out, fingers and toes extend, and his hands shake uncontrollably while watching others intensely.
  • His feet are the coolest new things to be found and they don’t taste too bad either.
  • He can squeal REALLY loud and it gets him lots of attention, especially from his brother and sister 🙂
  • Who needs the swing, or rocker, or pack-n-play, or even Momma’s arms…when you have an excersaucer and a johnny jumper!
  • His pacifier is really the best thing on earth and he needs it more than Momma’s milk in the middle of the night (Momma currently thinks the pacifier is the best thing on earth too!)
  • Toys, especially ones that sing songs and have lights or ones that he can chew on endlessly, are definitely the next best things after his pacifier!
  • That snow is not as cool when you are a baby as it will be when you are 3 or 4 years old.
  • Grabbing the face of Momma, pulling her in, and smooshing his wet mouth onto Momma’s cheek gets him lots of positive attention from Momma!
  • Popping two teeth out is very painful, but incredibly adorable when all said and done.
  • Saying BABABABABABABABABABA is getting him lots of positive attention from Baba (Dad).
  • That he is the cutest, sweetest, most lovable, and most patient baby that has ever been born (the family says “Yes!” to no more colicky evenings!)

I love this baby!  I also love Aisha and Omar, maybe I will tell you more about them next time!  Alhumdillah!

Spend More Time With Your Kids – 10 Day Challenge!

I was busy cleaning the house the other day and I hear in the other room, “Mom! Come play with me.”  It was my little lady, asking me to play with her once again.  She asks all day for me to play with her.  Literally, she asks ALL DAY for me to play with her.  I have had many conversations that start with, “Honey, I would LOVE to play with you, but right now I have to….”  It is heartbreaking to tell her that, yet it is the reality.  Mommies can’t just play all day.

Then the other day, I got to thinking.  What would it hurt for me to just drop the dish towel for 10-20 minutes and chase her around the house, make her/make them laugh as I tickle her and her brother for a few minutes.  A few minutes.  Really, I had to think about it?!  Heartbreaking.

Next, I went on Facebook and asked my trusted girlfriends how much time they spend playing with their kids during the day.  Honestly, I figured the amount of time I spent with my kids was normal, about an hour each day, but I wanted to hear from them.  Sure enough, about an hour is the norm in my circle of friends.  It didn’t matter if they worked full-time or stayed home with the kids, the amount we spent playing with the kids was around an hour on an average day.  (Time spent with the kids such as bathing them, cooking for them, cleaning up after them, meeting their daily needs, and tasking all their never-ending requests was not included in the time spent playing, because playing means playing and that was the question).  This reality got me thinking further.  Drop that damn dish towel and play more with my kids!  After all I stay home with them to do just that…to be their Mommy and to play with them!

I came up with a personal challenge and posted it on my Facebook wall asking my friends to join me.  A 10 Day Challenge to Spend More Time With Your Kids!  I promised to update my FB status daily with my success or non-success story for the day.  Currently, I have completed Day 2 of my Challenge and both days have been successful!  It is interesting for me to see how easy it is for me to find the extra time, yet how driven I am to say “Just a minute, I just have to…”  During these first two days, I have not said, just a minute, unless I have one kid on the toilet and while the other hanging off my breast as I feed him (not an uncommon sight in my home)!  These two days I have spent an average of 3 hours playing with the kids, which is up from the usual 1 hour of playing a day!  I am having so much fun with them and they with me.  They are only young once.  I need to do this for them.  For me.

We have spent the hours coloring together; painting pictures; cooking breakfast, lunch, and dinner together; baking cookies; squeezing fresh orange juice; talking about school; chasing and tickling the kids; teaching the 2 month old how to smile, laugh and play with his rattle; acting silly and playing the silly games that kids love.  It is the same things we always did, just more of it.  We are happier together.  Less fighting.  More smiles!

I was concerned (still am a bit curious to see how the rest of the days will go) about how I will keep the home clean.  With three little ones (ages 4.5 years, nearly 3 years, and 2 months) who are home all day, who all day make their needs known only to me; who need at minimum 3 meals a day, which requires at minimum 3 complete wash downs of the kitchen a day; who make trails of messes everywhere they go; who are always losing toys and think I know where they last put them; two of whom are arguing half the day and require me to be the referee; on average I do 1-2 loads of laundry every day; two kids who need help to go to the toilet, wash their hands, and blow their noses; and a 2 month old who is feeding every 2 hours and demands to take his naps in my arm most days – how will I ever keep the home clean if I stop to play?!  Well, well, well, Miss Worry, I am so glad to announce that so far the house hasn’t fallen apart – in fact it is just as clean as it was before I started the challenge, the kids are happier, I am happier, and we are all going to bed a little earlier!  Who knew?!

Who knew that doing what you do all day, everyday, doing things the same way each day the same way, and doing so because you think that what you are doing is best, can actually be worse.  One day I heard my daughters usual request to play with her, reflected on it, questioned about it, and decided to try a new routine and found out that my four and a half year old has a lot to teach me about what is important not only to her, but to us! Alhumdillah!

Here’s to my Spend More Time With Your Kids – 10 Day Challenge! ……Are you in?!

Kids as Babies…

Aisha 5 months.   Omar 3 months.   Abdallah 2 months.