Sunday, August 24, 2014

Daniel is One!

Today is Daniel's first birthday. His entrance into the world was documented here, if you're interested.




We had a low-key day, hanging out at home. I picked up Thomas from work and got home to find the Domino's delivery guy at the door. We had a fun pizza dinner (Benjamin's favorite food) and cupcakes for dessert. Benjamin did want one, and then didn't, but at least Daniel enjoyed his.


After a short bath interlude it was present time. I had thought we'd toned down the gifts, but he had a lot to open. This is a good reminder that we need to streamline before Christmas and only have one gift from us (the parents). Daniel didn't seem overwhelmed but Benjamin got a little cranky, despite getting a present of his own from Grandma.


Benjamin "gave" Daniel the racetrack.

It's crack cocaine for babies and kids.

It's a book!


Thanks for the cool rocket and book, Aunt Priscilla and Uncle Trevor!


We gave him a book and some fun little blocks.

Naturally the best part is the wrapping.


Mimi and Papa sent the bug jug and Tobbles!


Benjamin also enjoys the rocket.


The toys are taking over.



It's been a full year with two kids, and even though it's tricky at times, I'm so thankful that God blessed us with Daniel. He's fully boy, loves cruising around and laughing. He's got four teeth on the top and two on the bottom, with two more top teeth almost through.

Someone wants to walk so badly.

As for what we've been up to the past couple months, I decided early in July that it was time to really buckle down and get Benjamin potty trained. We did a full week almost of having a timer go every 10 minutes, then every 15, 20 etc. He's done pretty well, since we'd been reading potty books and had the seat and everything since over a year ago it wasn't a new concept. But man, he still has consistently damp underwear. He'll sit on the potty to poop, and has had only one accident so far. But he'll get busy playing or watching a movie and just have a big spot. I have to tell him to go sit on the potty, which he does, but it's pretty annoying to run through every pair of underwear in a day. (I've ordered more, which should bring us up to about 30 pairs.)

I know it takes time and I'm trying not to let it bother me. I've started putting him in pullups when we leave the house because the stress of changing outfits ten times was wearing on me. Here's hoping when he starts preschool (this week!) he'll see that all his new friends are potty trained and it will click.

School really snuck up on me. I'm excited for him to go and make friends and have a little more structure to his mornings, but it'll be very strange. I'm hoping to take Daniel to some playgroups and I am looking forward to more one-on-one time with him. I think his language is slower to develop because Benjamin is constantly talking to me and I feel like any time it's quiet I just want to enjoy it and not create conversations with the baby. But I know I need to make the effort and it'll be easier when I'm not running to help Benjamin with the potty.

Eleven months to go! We need to get started on our Jordan experiences. And there's still time left for you to visit! We cleaned the guest room today, so book your tickets.

-Rachel

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