Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Karis Continues Aging

Karis turned 14 at the end of May, and that same night, she had ballet class from 7:30-10pm.  I sent a message to her class and asked if they would all write her notes and asked the teacher if she would let class out early so we could take Karis to dinner. 

Kylie and Karis' ballet class is made up of 7 ladies plus a fabulous teacher, and 5 of the ladies (everyone except my girls) are adult women who enjoy the class for exercise or they just decided to try ballet later in life.  They are sweet and they are good friends to my girls.

The teacher wrote back and said, “Why don’t we let out early and have a party at the dance studio?  I’ll bring all of the decorations and a cheesecake and hide them, and you can sneak in during class and set it all up for when we come out?”

Sounds great!

The night before her birthday, Karis’ good friend from school and her mother went out with Karis and me to one of Karis’ favorite restaurants.  We celebrated Karis, the end of school coming up, and mourned the fact that her friend will likely be moving away after this summer.  It was a lovely evening, but it also happened to be the same restaurant where Karis wanted us to take her the next night after dance (she didn’t know about the cheesecake).

On the morning of her birthday, I made cappuccino muffins, and Keira made her a crown.

After school, she studied some for finals, and then went to dance class.

When she came out of her dance class, she was very surprised. 

All the girls in the class were excited to get out early, eat their teacher’s famous pineapple cheesecake, and just hang out together.  One of the dancers who couldn’t make it to practice still came to celebrate Karis!  It was a good night, but after filling up on dessert, we still needed to go get dinner.


Doug and Caleb had gone ahead to the restaurant to order because we weren’t sure if we were going to be able to eat by the time the restaurant closed. 

Oddly enough, this one closed at 10 during Ramadan.

The girls and I taxied over, and we made it in time, but of course, the girls were too full to eat much, and I didn’t ask anyone to sing because there was no way we could have stomached a dessert.

Thankfully, her birthday was during review week, so she didn’t have any homework, and we could just go home and crash.

God is chasing after Karis, and she has grown through a lot this year.  It’s an amazing thing to see God working in your children, and I love knowing that no matter what I do as a parent, He’s got this!

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Thirty Days

Government schools finished May 8, but some private schools continued through June.  Thankfully, the school Karis and Caleb attended ended on May 31st. 

The 30 days of Ramadan started the night of May 16th,

and since kids were still going to school, things got a little tricky.  Some schools started going half-days because kids and teachers are too tired from being up all night.  Karis and Caleb’s school didn’t change anything, but the teenagers who were fasting made the cafeteria very empty.  Karis and Caleb felt bad eating in front of their friends, so they skipped lunch and were always hungry when they came home.

Some kids don’t fast.  And some adults don’t fast.  In fact, some restaurants are open during the day during Ramadan, but since it’s illegal to eat in public, the restaurants have to put up large curtains in front of their windows so the patrons can’t be seen.

There’s always a way around every rule ;)  As I've said before, there is a section of town where people of different religions live, and those restaurants remain open all through Ramadan, and they don’t put up curtains.
Food is always an interesting topic during Ramadan. 

One of our favorite restaurants stopped functioning completely during Ramadan. The owners gutted it and re-modeled.  Doug and I went to try a new restaurant one night, and there was a sign on the door that said they would be closed for the whole month of Ramadan. 

Other restaurants we tried that night were all buffet for about $25.  I think they know women get tired of cooking tons of food each night, so they offer a nice solution, and people take them up on the offer.

We can't decide if restaurants are losing money during these 30 days or keeping their income about the same because their patrons at night double.

Even a beauty shop that I have gone to twice gutted and re-modeled the interior during Ramadan.  I guess they figure if most people are sleeping during the day, why stay open for non-appointments.

Shopping at the mall at night during Ramadan should be an Olympic sport. 

We were trying to get some short-sleeved shirts to wear when we left the country for our conference, and it was crazy. 

Black Friday crazy.  

Here’s Doug standing in line, waiting to pay.


During Ramadan, I love the peacefulness of the city in the early mornings and from 7pm to about 8pm.  Everything is so quiet.  Everyone is home with their families, and it feels like a great time to just let out a sigh.

However, this occurred at 2am one mornging.


A soccer ball from a game on the street came over our wall and hit our kitchen window. 

It woke me, and I didn’t want kids climbing over our walls to get their soccer ball, so I went out and threw it back so they could continue their game. 


Saturday, July 28, 2018

Graduation...sort of

Two days before Ramadan, Keira graduated from pre-K.  

 I had been given a long note (which turned out to be not accurate) in the local language, and I had spent about an hour translating what I could before I asked a couple of people for some help interpreting it. 

Crazy enough, both people I asked to help me interpret the letter said it was not written well, and they couldn’t quite understand what was being said most of the time either, so I felt better.

I finally understood (after asking the school) that I was supposed to bring her to the school at 3 o’clock dressed in black, and they would bus her to the graduation site (which is the campus where she will attend 1st grade in the fall).

I was a little nervous when I drove up to drop her off because there were girls in frilly yellow and pink dresses, and I could have sworn I heard her say that Keira should be dressed in black from head to toe.

I left and hoped it would all work out. 

The other thing I understood was that only parents could come because they didn’t have enough chairs for siblings and other relatives.  However, I had asked ahead of time if we could bring our language helper to help us understand what was going on, and they said that was fine.

Well...since rules (especially when driving) seem to be ignored in this country, no one really paid attention to the note.  There were kids running everywhere. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.  But my three kids sat at home and missed their little sister’s graduation.

Don’t read that wrong.  I’m not mad.  In fact, I’m pretty sure they were okay with missing it.

Graduation was on an outdoor recreation area of the school where Keira will attend school next year.  Rain sprinkled and stopped, sprinkled and stopped, but the show went on.

It was very orderly before it all began.

 Group A through Group E were all led in one by one.  Some performed.  Some didn’t.  They were all dressed differently, and I was actually shocked that so many kids went to Keira’s school. 

Still no Keira.

Parents and kids were told repeatedly to sit down, but no one did.  I couldn’t see anything that was going on.  Our language helper said, “This is very normal.  No one listens.  They do what they want.”

This picture was taken during one of the performances!

Finally Group F came in, and they were in red robes.  I was told Keira would be in a gold robe, so I wasn’t looking for her, but I started seeing kids in her class...

But, no Keira.

Oh!  Wait!  There she is.   

Her whole class was half-way down the aisle, and here she came running.  She had fallen coming down the steps out of the school, so she had fallen behind.  Literally.

Her class went to the front, apparently the only group graduating, and they performed a song for the parents.  It was the only thing that was done in English the whole night.  The song was a “thank you” song to parents, sung to a recording, and I’m pretty sure many of the parents didn’t understand that they were being thanked, but thankfully, I did.

I tried to video it, but there were too many people standing, so I really didn’t get anything.  I bought the DVD of the graduation from the school, but they only included the recorded version, not the kids’ voices, and the words weren’t dubbed in time with the kids’ mouths...

What we often say here is, “What can you do?”

The teachers quickly took off the kids’ robes after graduation so they wouldn’t get cake on them, but I went and asked one of the teachers if I could have one robe to photograph Keira in.

I took Keira to the back, away from the cake and punch crowd, but as Doug and I were taking pictures with her, 

 the principal of her future school said, “I want this one,” and pointed to Keira. 

All of a sudden, a professional photographer was posing Keira in front of the school’s logo, 


taking her inside the school in front of another logo, and then to the library books and taking more photos.

Yes, THAT is their library.

I have no doubt she will be on some pamphlet advertising for the school next year.

Keira wasn’t always thrilled, but she’s used to this sort of thing, so she endured until we could get her back to where the refreshments were.  

Cake and candy were in the front, but juice and baklava were in the back!

Keira's favorite teacher.

With a busy May half-way over, we were definitely feeling ready for summer.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Surprise! It's the Last Day of School

On May 9th, the city had a rare flooding.  It rained and hailed very hard for about an hour, and with nowhere for water to go (mainly because drains are covered in trash), it started coming into houses and rising under cars.

I was in language class in our neighborhood, and this was my view of things.

 My teacher got a call from a friend whose car had stalled and she needed help, and I’m sure she wasn’t the only one who didn’t know how to drive (or not to drive) in high water.

After one hour, the water was pretty much gone in most areas of the city, and Doug and I were able to go out for date night.



Keira’s school was flooded on the first floor, and they had to take all the carpet out. 


When I went to pick up Keira from school two weeks after the flood on May 20th, people were stacking chairs outside and hanging more carpets over the balcony.

I went to the door and asked if there had been more problems from the flooding, and the teacher just looked at me and said, “Today was the last day of school.”

Oh!  Nice to know.  Congrats Keira!

I had never been informed, but that didn’t keep us from celebrating.  Milkshakes here we come.


Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Little Mermaid

Since the elections were held on the same Saturday that the girls’ dance studio had booked the theater, everything had to be re-scheduled for the Friday before. 

The studio owner had thought about doing it the following Saturday, but since Ramadan would have started by then, the performance would have been during the time of breaking fast. 

So...the day before the elections, we went to the girls’ end-of-year ballet performance in the large theater.  This hall was quite popular for election speeches and campaign rallies in the two weeks leading up to elections, so rehearsals that had been scheduled, got cancelled.  And even though rehearsals were re-scheduled, the dance studio was informed that they would get pushed aside at any moment if a government figure wanted to use the theater for his campaign.

So, what ended up happening is that we only had one practice two nights before the performance.  Even though it was a rough rehearsal, it all came together beautifully on Friday night. 

Kylie and Karis started out as jellyfish,

and then they were sea snakes that came out with Ursula,

 but since they changed into pearls before I ever saw them at the end of the night, Karis and her black lipstick was as close as I got to a picture of them as snakes.

 They were told by their teacher to look evil, and I thought they did a pretty good job (that's scary Karis in the front).

We also had a little chef who worked in the kitchen with her “French chef” teacher.   

Keira looked directly at my camera the entire song, and I asked her how she knew where we were in the audience, and she said that when she came out, she just looked row by row until she saw us.   

I have no idea how she did that with all of those lights, but I thought it was sweet.

The older girls were pearls for the second half of the show.

Here they are circling a short King Triton.  Kylie on right.  Karis on left.

Kylie and her co-teacher worked with the small 3- and 4-year olds for most of the year.  Her co-teacher was asked to help with drama in the spring, so about 2 months before the show, Karis became Kylie’s co-teacher.

 When the song “Kiss the Girl” came on, there was a lot going on on stage, but Kylie and Karis led their little cupids on stage, much to the delight of their parents.  With everything going on, they barely remembered their steps, but they were definitely a bright spot in the performance. 

The girls with their fan club.

Looking very tall en pointe.

 And finally...the performers.


Monday, July 23, 2018


In May, our country had elections for Parliament.   

There are approximately 18 different political parties here.  Talk about a split vote!   

There are obviously 2-3 major parties that generally rule the outcome; however, after many years of unhappiness with the system, a couple of young, new parties have emerged.  They didn’t make a big splash this year, but in the years to come, maybe they will grow.

The propaganda and ads for elections are similar to ours, but a little more “in your face.”  Literally.  Instead of just a last name, each poster (which is LARGE) has a photograph of the candidate, their party, what number they are on the ballot, and other information I couldn’t read.  I would start reading at stop lights, but reading in Arabic script is not my strong suit, and even after I had pronounced the words, I wasn’t sure what they meant.

These posters are pretty big.  It's just hard to tell in these pictures.

Flags of different colors were hung everywhere.  Different colors of flags stand for different parties, so you can see, my area of town is saturated with one party.

We had some unusual rainstorms shortly after everything was hung up, and so people had to go around the city and re-hang quite a few.   

You can see the storm coming in.

I think the funniest thing about the elections was that every airport in the country was shut down from the 11th to the 13th.  The elections were on the 12th, and the government didn’t want anyone leaving the country, so that everyone would vote.  

A friend of ours didn’t want to vote because he is sick of corrupt government, and apparently Parliament is a very high paying job with lots of perks, and they really only help themselves, in his opinion.  But in the end, he did decide to vote because he realized if he didn’t, his name might be used as an illegal “vote” anyway.   And since a semi-permanent ink remains on your finger for over a week, people would know if you voted or not.  Unfortunately, there was only about a 43% turnout, so I’m guessing not too many illegal votes were used.

So, sadly, just like America, a majority of the people still don't get out and vote.  

Maybe nobody trusts the system.


Saturday, July 21, 2018

Almost Graduation, but not Quite

Keira’s graduation was supposed to be May 5th, and I had been told to get her a black shirt and black pants.  I had been looking for a couple of weeks and had bought the best I could find.

I took them into the school and showed the principal the black pants, and she smiled, but when I showed her what I had found for a black top, she laughed (and I don’t blame her).

This is a photo I found online, but in your imagination, add gold buttons down the front. 

Even though so many of the women here cover themselves completely in black year-round, it was very hard to find a black shirt for little girls (It’s summer, and black is hot!), so I had resorted to going to the bazaar and finding a black bolero jacket like this one, made for a petite woman. 

I told them (in my broken language) that I was going to cut the buttons off and sew up the front and hem the sleeves so it would fit my 5-year old better.  They just continued to laugh, but said it was okay.  They also suggested I go see a tailor.

I didn't go to a tailor.  I decided to keep looking.

On May 2nd, three days before graduation, I took a girls black shirt with a heart on it into the school office.  I was so proud of myself!  Doug had taken me to a new mall I had never been to before, and I had found it in the last store we went into.  

I asked the ladies if the heart on the shirt was okay, and they all said, “Yes.”

I double-checked that Keira should wear it on the 5th for graduation, and they said, “Oh!  We forgot to tell you.  Graduation is going to be on the 14th now, and class pictures will be on the 10th.”

I also asked when the last day of school would be and if the schedule would change during Ramadan.  They didn’t answer the Ramadan question, but they did say school would end on the 21st, 22nd, or 23rd of May.

This kind of stuff drives me crazy, but it’s so common here.

I will tell the story of graduation soon, but let me say that at graduation, they walked down the aisle, sang, and then their teachers removed their cap and gowns before any parent could get a picture.   What we did get was a large class photo glued to a large piece of wood and a large single picture of Keira glued to a 5x7 piece of wood.

When I went to pick it up, all the teachers were laughing, telling me she looks so angry, and I had to hold my tongue knowing that Keira had told me that they told all of the kids they couldn’t smile.

Keira’s only comment was, “Mom!  I was NOT standing in front of that!  I was standing in front of a door.  I don’t know what happened.  And look at that guy!  He looks like he's squatting to go to the bathroom!”

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Bully-free Schooling

One night in April, lying in bed for stories, Keira let me know she no longer wanted to go to school.  She was very upset, and for the first time, told me how she had been bullied at school by three girls.  She also wanted to let her dad know.  So we called him to her room, and she told her "Protector," too.

The next day, I drove Keira to the school (Doug was out of town), ready to talk to the principal about what Keira had told me, and the gates were locked.

Gotta love a school that communicates in a different language OR doesn't communicate at all.

I had never received a note or anything.

I texted one lady who knows a little English, and she said, "I'm sorry.  My mother is sick, and I forgot to tell you." 

It gave Doug and I another day to pray about what we were going to say.

The next day, I asked my friend to come with Doug and me in the morning to Keira's school.  It was good timing to wait another day so Doug could go with me.  We also decided it would be better to have a translator to make sure we were being understood and we were understanding.

It turned out to be a good, healthy experience.  They thought we were coming in to complain about not knowing school was closed, and the principal was immediately very apologetic, but after understanding why we were there, they were also very serious.

They ended up calling the three girls in individually throughout the day and talking to them, and even though I feared backlash for Keira, the opposite happened.  Those girls ended up going out of their way to love on Keira and treat her with kindness.

Now that school is over, I can say happily that Keira finished the school year bully-free. 

Funny enough, the first week we talked to the school, Keira would get in the car in the afternoons and say, "Day one.  No bullies."  Then, "Day two.  No bullies," etc.

I am SO glad Keira told us, and I'm so glad we could step in and help, and I'm thankful for an administration that took measures to watch out for the well-being of my child.

There are a lot of things about this school I don't understand and I never will (wait until I tell you about graduation), but I am thankful for this experience.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Spring Cleaning

Spring break also meant spring cleaning for us.  

Not that the dust storms are done blowing in, but we decided to be hopeful.

Doug bought a pressure washer, and it has turned out to be very useful.

We took advantage of a free, sunny day to clean the roof.

Pressure sprayer art.

Later that evening, we had my friend and her daughter over for hamburgers, and then we had coffee and hot chocolate around a fire pit on the roof.  It was so nice, and my friend really liked it.  Being relaxed like that, leads to interesting and unguarded conversations.