Thursday, June 26, 2014

Summertime

More already?

Thomas was out of town last week, then the day after he returned we spent a night at the Dead Sea. We stayed at the Kempinski, which is super nice. We've been staying at the Marriott when we go, but now I think we may switch. They upgraded our room because we were with an embassy group, and it was pretty fancy. Benjamin had a little area to himself with his camp bed, and the bathroom was lovely, with a huge tub and great shower. I considered moving in permanently...


Dead Sea view.

Lovely breakfast.

Silly face.

It's hard to believe a year ago we were in South Carolina visiting family and friends. I was pregnant and tired, now I'm just mildly tired. It also seems strange to only have a year left here, we have so much left to see and do. It'll be okay if we don't do everything but Lord willing, if we don't get evacuated, we'll get most of it done.



The Swing

By Robert Louis Stevenson
 
How do you like to go up in a swing,
   Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
   Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
   Till I can see so wide,
Rivers and trees and cattle and all
   Over the countryside—

Till I look down on the garden green,
   Down on the roof so brown—
Up in the air I go flying again,
   Up in the air and down!







Had to document both pairs of camo shorts.

Sweet brothers.






All-time favorite look.

The boys are doing well, Daniel is crawling and starting to make more sounds. He's lots of fun and Benjamin is a super big brother. We're spending lots of time at the embassy playground and pool now that it's getting hot. Ramadan starts on Saturday so it'll be a little different, restaurants won't open until around sundown and people will be consistently cranky. Driving will be even hairier than usual in the late afternoon. Here's hoping it goes by quickly!

Rachel

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Israel for the Second Time

Hello again,

A couple weeks ago we drove to Israel and attended a wedding for two friends from our church. It was a fun little trip, only three nights away. We used airbnb for the first time, and had mixed feelings about it. But first, the drive. We had a smooth trip through the border and drove through the West Bank without incident. We stopped for lunch at McDonalds in a small town, Bet She'an. It was about $40 for the basic nuggets, happy meal, and burger. Yikes! We drove to our little town, Kfar Hittim, and all told it was only about a four hour trip, driving time.

Strange first sight in the town.

Benjamin is so excited to see a big truck!

We had some trouble finding the house, our host didn't give us any directions after telling us where the town is. So Thomas asked a neighbor. It was the upper apartment inside a house, not exactly what I'd pictured. It was perfectly adequate though, despite lacking substantial curtains. Thankfully the boys did fine in their own bedroom, except for waking up at 5:30am with the sun. Groan. We ate dinner at a little pizza place on the main tourist strip in downtown Tiberias. Surprisingly good, and nice to be in a different environment, even if it felt a bit seedy in spots.

Pizza dinner makes everyone happy.

The main reason for our trip was the wedding, which started in Tur'an at the bride's family home, then moved to Nazareth for the ceremony at the church. It was wonderful to see an Arab wedding, the first part at her family's house involved the women sitting in the house while the men hung out on a patio. The ladies danced together or sat and visited, caterers brought sweets and drinks, and it was a big party. Then the men of her family escorted her to the waiting car and she was whisked away to the church. The ceremony began two hours later, then after that the reception. We skipped the reception, knowing the boys would completely freak out. As it was, they were in bed at 9pm, much past their regular bedtime. But it was wonderful to celebrate Brennan and Abla, and have such a cool experience.

Waterfront in Tiberias

Tiberias

More Tiberias/Sea of Galilee

The next day we did some sightseeing around the Sea of Galilee. We visited the Church of the Loaves and Fishes, Benjamin's favorite part were the fish in the pond outside.

Loving the fish pond.


Church of the Loaves and Fishes

Hot as blazes.



We also saw Capernaum. We attempted to visit the Church of the Beatitudes, but sadly it was closed for a few hours and we needed to keep moving. The Sea of Galilee is pretty and it was great to be near a body of water. We'd like to go back and spend more time close to the water, but it was a fun jaunt. The trip home was equally smooth and made perfect by some delicious gas station coffee. It was the real deal, made with a Lavazza espresso machine. They even heated my chocolate croissant. A great end to a nice trip.





In Capernaum.


Thomas getting fancy with filters.

There you have it! Second time in Israel, a success. Now to plan to see Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jericho, Tel Aviv, Haifa....

Rachel

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Is This Thing On?

*taps mic*

Sibilance, sibilance, ...

It's been... a while. (Ahem.) Sorry about that. Life just keeps moving along, we're doing fine, plugging along.

Last Friday at our home-church, Daniel was baptized. It was a really great service and the Anglican baptism procedure is more detailed than what I'm used to in the PCA. Thomas and I talked with our pastor, Mal, beforehand and then set the date for the baptism. We hosted church and some friends from the embassy came, which was wonderful. It was a big crowd and everything went great, Daniel didn't even fuss when his head got wet.

Daniel and Pastor Mal
 
Benjamin is still a great big brother and shares his cars with Daniel, who just holds them and sits there. Daniel will push up on his knees and scoot backwards, which seems early but hopefully we've got a while before actual crawling commences. He's very round and sweet, not too fussy most of the time. We tried doing the "baby-led weaning", where you give them pieces of food instead of purees, but we've given that up and are now doing traditional baby food.

The double baths are a big hit!

Lots of friends from the embassy are leaving this summer, so it's bittersweet to be staying here another year. We're grateful for having a huge place to live and household help and I know we'll make new friends as the summer goes on, but still it's sad to see people go that came in the same time we did. Hopefully we can meet up with some friends back in DC next summer.

Most of our church friends are also going to be away this summer, and it'll be our first full summer here in Jordan. We need to take advantage and see some sites, but I'm sure many quality hours will be logged in the pool. I've also been thinking that when we're back in Arlington, we'll need to find a pool to join in the summer. Someone mentioned to me that Army Navy Country Club is good, but it's hard to imagine doing the "country club thing". It may be worthwhile, especially if we stay in our tiny house, but we'll have to see.

Daniel enjoying the grass.

I've been looking at real estate in Northern Virginia, thinking it would be nice to have more than 800 square feet with these two boys, but prices have really skyrocketed. A duplex much like ours went on the market a week ago for $425K and is already under contract. It's very tempting to think about selling, but then we wouldn't be able to buy in Arlington, so it's very possible we'll just try to move back in and adjust. We've really been spoiled by abundant space here in Amman.

So, nothing thrilling to report. Life is good, the boys are fun. God is gracious.

Rachel

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Back Home

We left Amman on Valentine's Day to visit family in SC for three weeks. We decided to use our second R&R after we learned that Thomas's dad wouldn't have surgery as scheduled in January, because his tumors hadn't shrunk. (He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer early Summer 2013.) We thought it would be good to visit them the same time as Thomas's sister Priscilla and her husband Trevor, and have the whole family together, which is a rarity since they also live abroad. After a long trip we finally made it to Columbia and were glad to see my brother-in-law Jason and my dad at the airport around midnight. They helped us load everything into my parents' car, which they kindly lent to us for the duration of our stay.

Snoozing at the hotel in Columbia.

Saturday and Sunday we hung out at Thomas's parents' house in between letting the kids nap at the hotel. Monday afternoon Thomas's dad went into the hospital, he'd been poorly for a couple weeks and we thought he'd just get some help and then start more cancer treatments down at MUSC. Monday night Priscilla and Trevor arrived, and Tuesday morning we saw them at the house. We left to have the kids nap at the hotel with plans to visit Thomas's dad in the hospital later in the afternoon. About 3:30 Thomas got a call that we needed to come down to the hospital. We got there too late, Thomas's dad had already passed away.

It was such a shock. We didn't think it would happen, not that soon. Time felt like it stood still for a few days. Thomas helped his mom and sister with some of the arrangements, then the funeral was on Saturday. Seeing all the family who came in was really nice, despite the circumstances. The service was really worshipful and encouraging, Dr. Larkin was a strong believer and a humble servant of the Lord. It was amazing to see the number of former students, colleagues and friends who came and spoke to the family afterward. We stood in the receiving line for two and a half hours hearing about how much he meant to so many people. What a testimony to a life dedicated to teaching others how to know God and study His word. Read more about him here and here.

We spent another day in Columbia to visit with the family who were still around, then went to Aiken and stayed with my parents for five days. It was nice to get into a slower routine, but everything still felt a little surreal. We went back to Columbia for a little less than a week, stayed with my sister and her family again and tried to get in some good family time. I got to catch up with some girlfriends, which was great, and we made a point to eat as much delicious American food as possible.

Snuggling with Mom at Aunt Sarah's house.

At Mimi and Papa's house in Aiken.

Koalas at the zoo in Columbia!

We left after three weeks, and it was hard to say goodbye. I wasn't looking forward to the trip back, and knowing we wouldn't be back in the States for over a year made it even sadder. Hopefully Thomas can make it back if it's necessary. So, yeah. It was totally unexpected, but we're grateful for God's timing in allowing us to be home when everything happened. It's tough to be far away from Thomas's mom though, so please pray for her. We hope she'll come out and visit us, it would be wonderful to have her stay. (Hint, hint, Mom!)

The trip back was long, we had a short flight to Atlanta and then it was about 8 hours to Paris. We hung out there for about 6 hours, and took turns napping on the available benches. Benjamin passed out for a good while. He got a little sick on the plane to Amman, and that leg was definitely the worst. Everyone was overtired at that point. Thankfully we had an embassy driver who met us at baggage claim and helped us get through customs and out to the car. It was weird to be back "home", where our stuff lives, but also good to be back in the rhythm of everyday life. I'll try to be more proactive about posting stuff, especially pictures. The boys are getting bigger all the time!


Poor, tired buddy.

-Rachel




Saturday, February 8, 2014

Back Again

Hey folks,

Yeah, it's been a couple months. Quickly, here's the rundown. Thanksgiving was great, friends had us over and I only had to make a couple things. Christmas was good, but Benjamin got so completely overwhelmed by toys that he freaked out every five minutes the entire day. Actually the past few months have involved lots of tantrums, which isn't my favorite. I need to do a better job of disciplining and praising positive behavior instead of just getting angry about disobedience and backtalk. I'm enjoying Daniel and his sweet baby-ness even more now that I know what happens when our sin nature comes out more as they get bigger.



Handsome little men

On January 1st we drove down to the Dead Sea for a little break from the norm. We stayed at the Marriott, we like it the best so far, it's laid out like a normal hotel all in one building instead of lots of little buildings all spread out, ala the Movenpick. I got a facial that afternoon while Thomas watched the boys, and the next morning he got a massage before we checked out. Having everyone sleep in the same room was a disaster, first Daniel woke up around 1am, then Benjamin. Not the most relaxing "vacation." I am plotting a girls weekend for sometime this spring.

Sunset
 
Today is Benjamin's third birthday. I can't believe it's been three years since I woke up that Tuesday morning, three weeks before my due date, and told Thomas we needed to head to the hospital. He's been a pill recently, but we love him so much. Not that long ago we weren't sure that fertility treatments would work, and prayed every day that God would give us a baby. How undeserving we are, and how gracious is He.

Showing three fingers. Ignore the chapped face, we're all sick.
Thanks for my tools, Aunt Priscilla and Uncle Trevor!

I'll try to do a better job of posting more regularly. Here's hoping!
Rachel

Love them


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Three Months

It's been a while since I've had any energy to write up what we've been doing, because it's mostly just been gross over here.  The two boys are (seemingly) constantly sick with a cold, my throat is always killing me, and I just have zero patience with Benjamin.  It's been a rough time full of failing, which combined with lack of social interaction due to the kids being sick, means I'm in a funk.  Tired and grouchy, and quick to complain.  I need prayers, so please think of us and ask for grace and mercy.  And healing from this interminable sickness.

Daniel is three months old today, which is crazy.  He's been doing really well sleeping, his pattern is about midnight to 9am, but we're trying to move it earlier so we can have some of the evening to ourselves.  We pass him back and forth, I'll nurse and then Thomas will snuggle and that gives me a break while we watch something on TV.  It's nice to get a full night's sleep, and I'm so grateful that Benjamin goes down about 7:30 or 8pm and doesn't need anything else, so evenings are pretty relaxing.  Nursing plus bottles does make the time go by slowly, but I'm very grateful for being able to breastfeed for the time being.  I think sometime soon Daniel may start rejecting me in favor of just bottles, but I'll try not to focus on it until it happens. 


Closest we got to a smile.


Getting chubbier!  Yay for formula!

It's hard feeling like I need to be always holding Daniel, or feeding him, and not spending lots of one-on-one time with Benjamin.  He always looks forward to Emy coming, he knows she'll play with him.  And he's been pushing my buttons recently with not putting away toys when I ask him to, and just generally being disobedient.  Poor guy, I know life is very different for him now than even three months ago.  Hopefully in God's grace we can move forward and figure out an effective way to discipline, rather than constantly asking him, do you want a spanking.  Sigh.

Today was mostly good, I think Emy coming in the afternoon helps a lot because I can focus on dinner and getting stuff ready for Thomas to come home, and she'll play with Benjamin and wash dishes.  She really is indispensable.  I'm glad we've got a long time before I have to contemplate life without her.  Benjamin was also more obedient and sweet than the past few days, hopefully a result of feeling better from his never-ending cold.

Benjamin picks out his clothes a lot now, and this is the cutest outfit EVER.

He really loves "Big Dino", AKA Littlefoot from Land Before Time.  I remember getting him, in the 2nd grade.

We got some Christmas candy in the mail, I hope the chocolate didn't melt on the trip.  And we have a few presents for Benjamin stocked up and ready for wrapping.  I'm going to let him open a Playmobil nativity on December first.  It's for older kids, but he's very good with the dad and kids we got to introduce the idea of a baby brother, so I think it'll be okay. 

I don't have any good ideas for presents for Daniel, would it be terrible to wrap up some baby toys we already have?  I'm counting on grandparents to send a few things for him, and I don't know we need that much since we've got a decent selection of baby stuff.   I keep adding stuff to Benjamin's wish list, it's getting out of control.  But I rationalize that anything Benjamin gets, Daniel will play with later.  I'm not sure if I should start asking Benjamin what he wants, and I don't know how to approach the Santa stuff.  Any suggestions for how to do it without it taking precedence over Jesus' birth?

-Rachel

Monday, November 4, 2013

Musings

My mom is sending us a stocking for Daniel, she has supplied all of ours and is rounding out the bunch.  Last year I bought two sets of stocking holders, they came in packs of two.  We'd never needed them before, our place in Arlington doesn't have a fireplace.  I was pretty sad thinking about the baby we lost and wondering if we would ever need that fourth holder.  I'm so excited that we get to use it this year.

I must still have some pregnancy hormones rolling around, I started listening to Christmas music and when "I'll Be Home for Christmas" came on, I was close to crying.  It's hard this year, we don't have the excitement of traveling to Paris this time and knowing that both Thanksgiving and Christmas will be just us makes me sad.  I'm sure it'll turn out to be good, and we're always happy to be low-key, but it's tough being far away from family.  Hopefully we can take a trip to the Dead Sea or something to get a change of scenery.  We'd thought about maybe going to Germany for a long weekend in December to check out the Christmas markets, but airfare is super expensive, especially now we have to buy Benjamin a seat.

Daniel had done a couple nights in a row sleeping from midnight to 7am, but then last night he woke up at 5am.  It was rough.  Today I got to escape and eat lunch at the embassy with Thomas, which was sorely needed.  Last week I'd planned to do it on Wednesday, but Emy was sick a couple days and it didn't happen.  Sadly Benjamin and Daniel have colds, but I think they're slowly getting better.  Daniel's is very slight but Benjamin has a gross nose and the saddest little hoarse voice.  Thomas and I are mainlining orange juice to hopefully avoid getting sick. 

Last Thursday for Halloween we'd planned to hang out at the embassy and let Benjamin trick or treat, but with his cold flaring up that day we decided to skip it.  People really go all out, and the kids are adorable.  It was sad to miss, but next year maybe I'll plan ahead a little and coordinate the boys' costumes.  This year would have just been Benjamin in his Carhartt overalls with his Ikea toolbelt.  Not original.

I can't wait to decorate for Christmas.  I already mentioned that the Xmas tunes are in full force, but I want to put the tree up!  Thomas says we can do it on Thanksgiving, so I'm counting down.  I need to organize/tidy things up, though.  Our living room where we hang out is pretty clean, thanks to Emy, but I need to get a system for toys.  And also start to rotate, so everything isn't everywhere at once.  Once things are more stripped down I can hang stockings and feel festive.  I've been adding stuff to the boys' Amazon wish lists, but now that Benjamin is more aware I want to downplay the materialistic aspect as much as possible.  I think I just want us to get him one thing, and with grandparents I figure he'll have a few things to unwrap.  It doesn't need to be an orgy of unwrapping and throwing one thing aside the second the next is opened.  But maybe that's just inevitable and I should get over trying to manage it.  Thoughts?

Over the weekend we had a crazy rain and hailstorm.  It looked like it had snowed, but then everything melted pretty quickly.  I heard somewhere that this winter is projected to be the coldest in a long time for the region, which isn't good news for refugees.

The white stuff is the hail.

So crazy!

I got my new glasses on Sunday, and I wasn't sure I liked them at first.  I'm still not 100% sure, but it's nice to have something a little different.  My prescription is the same, so it's purely just to have a change of pace.  We have a lot of money in the HSA that we need to use up or we lose it.  I may order another pair of glasses, just for fun.  I got sunglasses too, but no pictures of those yet.

I trimmed my bangs, which is always iffy.

That's it for now!  I can't believe it's November already.  Time is just flying by and Thanksgiving will be here before I know it.  Time to plan the menu...

-Rachel