Saturday, August 31, 2013

Russia, pseudo Russia, birthing, and hijacking

Belle EpoqueBelle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Really interesting premise with a straightforward execution. A good portrait of 1880s Paris.





Shadow and Bone (The Grisha, #1)Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I felt like an 8-year-old devouring The Dark is Rising all over again while reading this book. My favorite element may have been the pseudo-Russia in which the story takes place. The geography and language were easy for me to pick up - I'm not altogether sure it wouldn't be a deterrent to someone else, though. It's a lot to absorb in a relatively short book.

If you think you'd like to see Graceling set in revolutionary Russia, give this one a try.

I can't resist pointing out another favorite part (spoiler alert, sorry): I really appreciated the "twist" (not the best word, but it was unexpected) with The Darkling and Alina's relationship. For once, the Mysterious Loner Dude who is 120+ years old and never smiles and is kind of brooding and perhaps mildly possessive and stalker-y...turns out to be a really bad guy. So all those icky feelings you had when she seemed to be falling in love with him are totally validated. I think that's a first for a YA book like this. Huzzah! END SPOILER


Nicholas and AlexandraNicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Massie makes everything readable. This was almost as smooth as Catherine the Great, but without the whitewashing of sources. In this telling, Rasputin is a clear villain and the imperial family are semi-blameless victims. I suspect that a different writer could take the same facts and spin them the other way, at least a little bit.

But the version of history given in this book rings true to me. A very fascinating read for anyone interested in the fall of the Romanovs, and it's amazing to think that at the time it was first published (1967), many of the peripheral characters were still alive.


Death Comes to PemberleyDeath Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Blah.

Raise your hand if your favorite characters from Pride and Prejudice were Colonel Fitzwilliam, Denny, and Wickham. Anyone? Anyone?? Didn't think so. Well, here is a whole book about them. Enjoy!

Seriously, what is up with this book? It is tedious in multiple ways - it rehashes way too much from P&P. I could understand a little brushing up on the main points, but we don't need paraphrases of entire key scenes from that book, including dialogue. Also, the central crime that is committed is, at its heart, completely uninteresting, but doggone it if we don't get to read about it from 30 different perspectives, many different times!

And the resolution? Almost impossible to follow, and absolutely impossible to figure out on your own. No fun at all.

Plus, this woman (James) does not use punctuation like I do. Here is a passage plucked at random to show you what I mean:

"He walked to the witness stand as normally as if taking a morning stroll, gave a short bow to the judge, took the oath and stood waiting for Cartwright to begin the examination with, Darcy thought, the slightly impatient air of a professional soldier with a war to be won, who was prepared to show proper respect for the court while distancing himself from its presumptions."

Huh?

Great idea, poor execution. That is all.


The Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of HijackingThe Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking by Brendan I. Koerner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 stars.

I read this using an ePub reader app on my computer, and I'm glad I did. While this book mentions pretty much every instance in the hijacking epidemic of the 60s-70s, it does not give much detail on any of them except the one that forms the central drama (Holder and Kerkow, pictured on the cover). Since I was reading on my computer, I was able to look up any other incidents that sounded interesting from the brief treatment given them in the book.

I think the most enlightening part of this book is its illustration of how the modern airport security process came to be. There was a time when an actual attitude that existed was, "people will never stand to have their luggage searched before boarding a plane! Imagine the cost and time commitments! Also, what are we going to do, restrict entry to the boarding area to only those people who actually hold tickets?? Absurd!" Indeed.


Found in Translation: How Language Shapes Our Lives and Transforms the WorldFound in Translation: How Language Shapes Our Lives and Transforms the World by Nataly Kelly

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The underlying, constant refrain of this book is, "have you ever noticed how the world runs on translation?" If your answer to that question is, "well, actually, yes," then this book will be of only mild interest to you. This was the case for me since I used to work at a translation company and I have a degree in linguistics and we've lived overseas for a while. Almost nothing this book had to say was new to me, down to the particulars of some of the central anecdotes. And that's ok, because:

If you really have never given the above question much thought, then this book will be a treat. It is a very anecdotal, non-technical, unintimidating look at the world of translation and interpretation, and will probably change the way you look at the next bilingual road sign or instruction manual that you see, and perhaps the world in general.

I recommend it, but only for those who are interested in learning more about the role of translation in the world but don't know much about it.


The Gift of Giving Life: Rediscovering the Divine Nature of Pregnancy and BirthThe Gift of Giving Life: Rediscovering the Divine Nature of Pregnancy and Birth by Felice Austin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The beauty of this book is that there is something here for everyone. You can find beautiful essays about natural home births, beautiful essays about scheduled c-sections, and everything in between. It's all here. All are welcome and I think all will come away from this book edified.

Thanks to my MIL for letting me steal her copy!

Friday, August 30, 2013

August 30th, outsourced

The unexpected agony of recording your own audiobook.

Five ways we're making parenting harder. AMEN. [HT a lot of people]

How hard is it to learn English?

Mothers are not opting out. They are out of options.

I can't decide of these amazing photos of Mexico City's sprawl look like the past, or the future, or a movie set, or what. Just incredible. [HT Liz]

Movie quotes you're getting wrong. No really, you are. [HT Jen]

Watch a bull terrier nurse cute baby goats using special milk pants. This is a sentence that now exists, and it's true! [HT Jen]

You may have seen a few of these maps before, but some of them are worth a second look and others are freshly entertaining (FYI, in case you're looking at these with your kids, there are two maps that deal with the size of certain body parts). [HT Jen]

The Pope is AWESOME. But you already knew that. [HT Liz]

Now for three videos:

The poignant (I Forgot My Phone) [HT Liz]

The incredibly moving (two Syrian fathers are reunited with children they thought they'd lost in the checmical weapons attack). [HT Sadaf]

And the just plain hilarious (a dinosaur prank on a Japanese TV show). [HT Andrew]

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Damned if you do

Here are some links of interest re: the current situation in Syria. As you may know, chemical weapons appear to have been used; it appears to have been regime forces who used them (though this is not as clear as perhaps it ought to be); and the US and other nations appear to be moving toward a decision to launch punitive strikes on Damascus.

This is an awful situation for Syria to be in. It's an awful situation for concerned/interested nations to be in. Over the last two years, it seems like we've all been saying, "isn't there anything we can do?" Or even, "DO something!" But strikes launched by outside powers? Oh what a gray area that is.

So, links.

Syrians in the UAE are worried about their families back home.

UAE Syrians are divided on their opinions toward a strike conducted by outside nations.

Syria Syrians are also divided on their opinions toward a strike conducted by outside nations.

This article pretty much sums up how horribly divisive this issue is, even for non-Syrians.

As for the US, our diplomatic history with Syria is...interesting.

I also feel there is an element of




in all this.

Feel free to vent your thoughts, opinions, confusions, complete and utter disbelief that it is coming to this, etc. Or try to stop thinking about it. That's what I do. A lot.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The end of the nanny era

We've had a live-in nanny/housekeeper for a year now. However, in a few days, her contract will expire and we will not be renewing it. Nor will we be hiring another live-in nanny/housekeeper. Instead, we're going back to the days of teenaged neighborhood babysitters and young Indian men cleaning my house once a week.

When I mention to others that we are not renewing our nanny's contract, I get a lot of strange looks since I am about to have a baby and will ostensibly be needing more household help than ever. But that's not the point. The reason we are moving away from the live-in model of outsourced housekeeping is because in the end, as we suspected from the beginning, Jeremy and I don't like having someone else living in our house. We knew this would be the biggest challenge to overcome. And we did overcome it, when having a live-in nanny/housekeeper was a necessity. It would not have been possible for me to take three MA classes, teach two university classes, and operate as a wife/mother all at once without some kind of major outside help. I could do (and had done, for over a year) two MA classes with all of that, but not three.

So we put up with having someone live in our home and even accepted it, while we had to. But now that it is no longer necessary - I mean, I'm sure it would be nice to keep having live-in help, but not necessary - we are done.

I even suspect the nesting instinct has something to do with it. For a few months now, I have been itching to have this house all to ourselves. It was suddenly very important to me that it be just our family here, always, not just on Fridays. I can't really explain this urge. I only know that it has been getting stronger as my due date approaches (still almost a month away, thanks).

Of course, there are other practical considerations that have influenced our decision. Jeremy and I don't separate our salaries, either in bank accounts or in household accounting, but I always kind of felt like our housekeeper's salary came out of mine. Well, starting this fall semester, I won't be getting a salary. So it makes sense to cut out the expenditures that came from that source (at least in my mind).

Speaking of expenditures, that was another issue. Yes, it is "cheap" to have a live-in housekeeper in Sharjah. But it can still be really expensive, you know? There are all kinds of costs to bear aside from the monthly salary, at least if you do things legally, which we did. I am really looking forward to not being responsible for those fees (and the accompanying paperwork) anymore.

Do I have any regrets about hiring a live-in housekeeper/nanny for a year? Not really. It was a necessary experiment, even if it turned out to be just an experiment. There are some things I would do differently if given the chance, but on the whole I see it as something we needed to do, so we did it, and it fulfilled its purpose, and now it's done.

I wish I could have blogged more about having a live-in nanny/housekeeper, about the good and the bad, but I never felt like it was the right thing to do. If you ever talk to me in person, though, I'd be happy to share more about the experience. Especially now that it's almost over, woohoo!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Curtains

This house, which we've now lived in for three years, came furnished, including curtains. In every room with a window (besides the kitchen), there were these heavy, beige, floor-length curtains. We have since replaced them in a few rooms (the guest room and the majlis), because they were uglier than sin.

The curtains, as they looked in our living room when we moved in.
But we left them up in the living room and the other two bedrooms because while they may be ugly, they are so functional. They block out light really well and while beige isn't my favorite color, it doesn't really clash with anything, either. They were just kind of there, but in a mega, cathedral-like way. This was fine in the bedrooms (see light-blocking properties, above), but for a long time now, I have hated them mildly every time I walk into the living room. And yet, I could never muster the energy to do anything about it.

Until now. In a jet-lag/nesting-fueled fit of "doing something about it," Jeremy and I decided to get rid of those beige abominations once and for all. We were spurred along by the fact that the trees in our neighborhood have grown up enough to provide some privacy between homes, so we wouldn't be faced with the task of removing our beige cathedral curtains only to replace them with cathedral curtains of another hue.

Instead, we took a look at some of IKEA's lighter curtain options. One of my favorite things about our living room is the view it affords of our back garden. And since we didn't need to worry so much about privacy, we could consider some sheer or semi-sheer curtains.

Here is what we ended up with:

I am in love. Open, these curtains do not take up four feet of wall space on either side or detract from the lovely view of the garden. Closed, you can still kind of see the garden but there's enough coverage that our living room is not on display for the neighbors. Jeremy and I are just mad that we didn't do this earlier. The room feels bigger and airier and more connected to the outdoor space just beyond the sliding doors. WIN.

In peripheral news, being back in Sharjah after a month-long absence tends to remind me of the quirky things about this place. Yesterday in the course of running sundry errands around town (aka An Afternoon Grand Tour of Downtown Sharjah), I experienced the following:

1. I had to drive off-road on two separate occasions in two totally different parts of town. These "roads" are part of the grid; they're just made of sand and dirt and rocks, that's all.

2. I was quoted a price (to hem said curtains) in rupees. The fabric/tailor district of Sharjah is a wonder to behold. It is also pretty much India.

3. I communicated instructions to the tailor about hemming the curtains in broad gestures due to the language barrier (I do not speak Hindi). I honestly had no idea what I would be picking up later that afternoon. It could have been curtains cut in shreds. It could have been curtains hemmed down the vertical side. The suspense was intense...but everything turned out all right.

The total cost for hemming the four curtain panels was 40dhs, by the way (a little more than $10), for same-day service. Yes, it would be more convenient to do it on my own sewing machine, which does not currently exist, but the experience of taking things to the tailor district is always colorful and fun and as you can see, I may never need enough cuffs taken in or curtains hemmed to make up the cost of a decent sewing machine.

Anyway. The new curtains are awesome. Thanks to Jeremy, jet lag, and nesting!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Telling the boss

Jeremy and I are still deciding whether or not to publish the post I wrote about finding out Sasha 3.0's gender, way back in April when I was 15 weeks. For now, I'm giving you a post I wrote on 10 April 2013, when I was almost 16 weeks, about telling my boss the pregnancy news.

On Sunday, I finally told my boss that I'm pregnant, and due in September, which means I can't teach during the Fall 2013 semester. I am almost 16 weeks now, but I've put it off this long because I found the task terrifying. For starters, I'm part-time, which means that I'm under no obligation to tell them anything about my future availability for work, since they are under no obligation to re-hire me each semester. But there was a building expectation in the department - and a possibility in my own mind - that I would eventually move to a full-time position. Telling my boss I was pregnant felt a little bit like sending a message that work is not that important to me and that an application to a full-time position will not be happening anytime soon.

In reality, of course, it's a much more nuanced message and a more complicated decision, one that I haven't quite made yet and might not make for many months. The semester-based schedule of academia makes it hard to jump in and out of work for time-indefinite events like pregnancy, so at this point, I've just made a mental note to reconsider the decision to go back to work sometime in January 2014. Assuming of course, that there is an offer of work in place, because there may not be (see part-time status, above). I love my job and I'm afraid to let it go, even out of necessity. That's why it was so terrifying to tell my boss.

(So why did I tell, you might ask, if I was still able to physically hide my condition? Because I had to tell my spinning instructor a few weeks ago due to very real concerns about high-intensity exercise during pregnancy, and I knew it was only a matter of time before news got around. The only thing worse than having to tell my boss myself would be having her hear it from someone else.)

For now, though, my students still don't know. I might tell them tomorrow. I might put it off a little longer. It's funny to me that I stand in front of them for six hours a week and no one has noticed my growing midsection yet. (Well, they might have noticed, but they probably just think I'm getting fat.) The act of telling my students will be easier than telling my boss, and the ramifications are fewer because I say goodbye to them in a few months, but the time period between now and then will be the hardest. Once I tell them, I will no longer be just a person to them. I'll be a woman who is expecting a baby, along with all the cultural and experiential baggage that goes along with that. I'll also have to deal with my changing body shape in front of 30+ young adults.

Yeah, not really looking forward to that.

Friday, August 23, 2013

August 23rd, outsourced

Ten ways living with a toddler is like being in prison. [HT Crys]

Super cool (Mormon) church history maps! Including one where countries' sizes are distorted to show percentage of population that is Mormon.

More maps: every protest on the planet since 1979. Be sure to read the accompanying text for tips on interpreting what the map is showing.

I hesitate to throw this (the Beach Boys performing "I Get Around") out there, because I can't really explain why it's so funny. I just know that I laughed so hard I cried. The clapping!!! [HT Eric D. Snider]

Also in the "I can't explain its attraction" category: dudes with fancy prom updos. Haven't you always wondered how that would work? I have.

For your perusal, here is Wikipedia's list of the most common surnames in America. This is something my mom just happened across in her daily routine, as would only happen to my mom. [HT Suzanne]

If you had bipolar disorder (or another serious mental illness), would you tell your boss? This person won't.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

HOLY PREGNANT!!!!

The title of this post is a direct quote from a woman who walked past me on the beach at Cape Kiwanda, Oregon, a few weeks ago. At the time, I was all of 30 weeks pregnant (3/4 of the way through; about 7+ months pregnant). I felt like rocking her world a little more than I apparently already had, so I replied, "yeah, and I still have TWO MONTHS to go!"

Just doing my civic duty!

I try to let comments like "HOLY PREGNANT!" roll right off my back, but the truth is that stuff like that is why I want to stay inside for the duration of this pregnancy and not see anyone. Because if I don't see anyone, nobody can make comments about my size. See also: why I am really, really dreading going to church on Friday (it will be the first time since we've returned from the US). Church - at least the social side of it - has always been my least favorite place to be in the last month or two of pregnancy, to the point that my very last thought before my water broke early on a Sunday morning with Magdalena was literally "oh my gosh it's Sunday and I have to go to church and face everyone at 40 weeks pregnant and none of my maternity clothes fit me anymore waaaaaaaa."

It is so hard for me to get so big during pregnancy. And I feel like there are not many people who understand that feeling, aside from others who also get very big during pregnancy. Among people who are mothers, there is sometimes an attitude of, "well, I didn't get that big, so what's her problem?" Among people who haven't given birth, there is sometimes an attitude of, "well, the actresses who play pregnant women on TV don't get that big, so what's her problem?" It is a balm to my soul to talk with women whose bodies change as drastically as mine during pregnancy, and commiserate, and escape for a moment from the judgment and misunderstanding (usually not unkindly meant) of others. (And don't get me wrong, there are plenty of lovely women who are tiny during pregnancy themselves but are sensitive to those of us who aren't, and I love them for it.)

When I go to church on Friday, I will try very hard not to punch in the face the first person who makes a comment about how big I am. I will try to smile on the outside, again and again, as the comments roll in, even as I wish I could just walk into church wearing a sign that says:

"Why yes, I AM bigger than the last time you saw me. No, I have not had the baby yet, and in fact, my due date is not for another month! Yes, really! That far away! I know I look "ready to pop," and you cannot imagine how much I love having that phrase applied to me. If you sat down and talked with me about it, I would tell you how each of my three pregnancies have been lived in very different places, where I had different eating habits and foods available to me, different exercise regimens, different jobs and work schedules, etc., and yet the progression of my weight gain/shape change has remained almost exactly the same for each. This is my body, and this is what my body does during pregnancy. That is all."

And now for a picture, actually the only one I have on this computer since I started showing. This is how Bridget does 32 weeks in Rexburg, Idaho. The end.
Except! As long as I'm shocking everyone's sensibilities, I thought of an even more alarming picture to post. It's a picture of me at the hospital in Middlebury, in labor with Magdalena. I know I should be cradling my belly all cute-like, but check it out:
I know some of you are recoiling in horror about now...

...but some of you just gave a fist-bump to your computer screen and whispered, "solidarity." I hear you.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Ode to the hygiene hose

Dear America, re: toilet hygiene - you're doing it wrong.

Every time we visit the US, we go through a difficult transition period of trying to figure out how to, uh, get clean after using the bathroom. You see, in the UAE (as in much of the world), toilet paper is seen more as a means of drying off rather than cleaning up. If you catch my drift. Even the nastiest bathroom in the farthest outpost of semi-civilization is usually equipped with some sort of bidet hose (or hygiene hose or bidet shower or "sprayer," as our kids call it). In fact, you can't always count on toilet paper being on hand, but you can always count on at least being able to spray off your nether regions.

And you guys, the hygiene hose system is sooooo superior, I can't believe the lack of general outrage in the US that these hoses/sprayers are not widely available. I know Americans think stand-alone bidets are weird. I get it. They are kind of weird. We have one in our master bedroom and it's more of a novelty, kid-height sink than anything else.

But the bidet in its hose form? Divine. Think about it: what if you accidentally got peanut butter smeared all over your hands? What would you reach for first to clean it up - a Kleenex, or a water faucet?

Yeah.

And it's more than just a great, clean feeling after using the bathroom. Hygiene hoses have so many other uses:

- spraying solid matter off soiled diapers before disposing of them
- vomit cleanup of clothing/bedding (sorry, but seriously, SO HANDY)
- sandy bum cleanup for the kids after the beach
- cleaning the toilet itself
- filling up large, awkwardly-sized buckets for mopping, etc.
- reducing the use of toilet paper

I apologize if any of you find this post disgusting, but the message of hygiene hoses is too good not to share. If you ever have a chance to use one, please do...

...and then demand that America get with the program!

Monday, August 19, 2013

The food we brought home

A day or two before we left the US, I made a trip to WinCo to stock up on a few easily packable favorites that are hard or impossible to get in the UAE (I did this last year, too). When I got to the checkout line, I had a cart full of a bizarre and seemingly random selection of food, in strange amounts: two bottles of peppermint extract, one jar of instant yeast and one jar of regular (I am going to test out my suspicion that UAE yeast is different), a whole bunch of Gushers - like, a WHOLE BUNCH, other kinds of fruit snacks, Goldfish crackers, a few boxes of breakfast cereal, mint Oreos, six little bags of that delicious Hormel turkey pepperoni, and some choice selections from the bulk candy section.

Midway through scanning this odd assortment of items, the cashier gave me a weird look and said, "you are buying a lot of snacks!" I laughed and told her what I was up to. Later, I laughed again because at WinCo, of all places - not exactly known for its organic food selection and highbrow clientele - I triggered a comment from a clerk about the amount of snacks I was buying. It was truly awesome.

In addition to super-snacky stuff, we brought home some great food from Costco. Such as:

Kids' Clif bars

Mountain House freeze-dried camping food, to double as food storage

Nut/trail mixes

Those lovely pre-cooked bacon bits

Tillamook cheese (and how!)

Parmesan cheese

In some ways, it feels like harvest time in our kitchen and pantry. It's a lovely feeling, especially since we are all laid low by jet lag. It won't last forever, but come October when we break out the meager stash of candy corn that I've put aside, it will have been worth the hassle and the "seriously, I am doing this?" doubts I had when I was scooping it into the bag at WinCo in August.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Advice for flying at 34 weeks pregnant (3rd trimester)

Here are a few tidbits of knowledge distilled from my experience trying to fly from Seattle to Dubai (home) at 34 weeks pregnant. This advice skews toward international flights, and I'm not talking about drinking lots of water on the plane and walking up the aisles to stretch your legs. I'm talking about getting on the plane, period.

1. My first piece of advice for flying at 34 weeks pregnant? Don't. It's really, really uncomfortable and it could be quite risky, depending on the length of the flight and your pregnancy health record.

That said, I'm sure most women out there who are considering flying at 34 weeks are not doing so for the sheer fun of it. So I'll continue.

2. Check the airline's policy. Then check it again. Most airlines seem to allow travel up to 36 weeks with an uncomplicated singleton pregnancy, but you should confirm that before purchasing your tickets.

3. Print out the airline's policy and carry it with you to the airport. I did this, and I still ended up having to take an airline employee back to her own computer and show her the policy on the airline's website. In other words, don't assume that all of the airline's employees are intricately familiar with their own policies for pregnant travelers.

4. Also? Don't assume that any of the airline employees are even remotely familiar with some of the basic facts of pregnancy. Such as:
- what exactly "34 weeks pregnant" means. It's out of 40 weeks and is a more exact way of stating things than using the traditional "# months pregnant" form.
- how some women carry bigger than others. If you carry big, as I do, then employees may assume that you are just about ready to go into labor, while a smaller belly may fly completely under the radar. This is not fair, but it's true.
- the normal progression of labor. If people have only ever seen TV-like representations of childbirth, then they will believe it is possible to have no indication of labor, and then have a baby 45 minutes later. OK, this probably IS possible for some people, but it is very, very unlikely for the vast majority.

5. If you want to be declared fit to fly, you should do your best to look the part. This one is tricky. Of course, only the doctor's note (see below) should matter. The truth is that due to #4 (above), you will be judged on a lot more than a medical professional's opinion of your condition. My advice is to present yourself as having more energy, enthusiasm, and put-together-ness than you actually possess. Sorry, no sweatpants and messy ponytails on this flight, even if that is what you feel like inside (don't we all?).

6. Be sure to obtain a doctor's note, even if it is not required. This may be much, much harder than you think, at least if you are a visitor to the US. Have the doctor use the airline's form as well as his/her own letterhead, and bring both to the airport. Make sure everything is legible and clear and check it over for mistakes (in due date or issue date, for example) before you show up at the airport.

7. Finally, consider the possibility that you will not be allowed on the flight, even if you have followed the airline's policy to the letter. This was an outcome that I did not give nearly enough consideration to, until it was staring me in the face. The truth is, a captain can reject someone from a flight for any reason - a shirt with a weird slogan, pants that ride too low, crying kids, breastfeeding without covering up, etc. I thought that since I had the airline's policy on my side, I had a right to get on the plane. I learned the hard way that this is not the case. If I had known how close I would come to being stranded in the US for the duration of my pregnancy, I probably would not have risked trying to fly at 34 weeks.

Good luck, my hugely pregnant fellow passengers!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

(Almost) Stranded in Seattle

This is the story of 34-weeks-pregnant me trying to fly from Seattle to Dubai (home).

I can't promise that the telling of this story will be entirely coherent. The experience of trying to board that plane was one of the most stressful of my life! I'll do my best to make this clear but also succinct. Actually, there's no way this will be succinct. It should probably be two or three parts but I don't have the emotional fortitude to live through it over several days, so here it is, all at once. I'm basically sorting through this experience even as I write it.

As you may recall, I ended up having my home doctor in Sharjah fill out the required Emirates Fit to Fly certificate (obtained on their website). After a phone conversation about my condition and how I was feeling, she completed the certificate, emailed it to me, and I printed it out. It looked exactly the same (except for the issue date) as the certificate I had on the way from DXB to SEA. I had had no problems presenting that same certificate format at the airport in Dubai in July. Emirates Airlines employees had asked to see it three times (at the check-in desk, at the gate, and as I boarded the plane itself), but at no time did it raise even a single eyebrow. It was business as usual in July in Dubai.

I'm just trying to set the stage for my expectations regarding presenting the certificate yesterday in Seattle. I knew there was plenty of flak that could be given, but I wasn't sure which direction it would come from, and I did not fully consider the possibility that I would be denied boarding altogether. After all, I was in full compliance with the guidelines stated on Emirates' own website.

The trouble started at the check-in desk. The head clerk (I'll call her Angie) took one look at me and gave a huge sigh. Seriously. I think she had already had a busy day and was not looking forward to the additional hassle (me) that had just showed up in her line. She took the certificate from me and said she'd be back in 10 minutes - apparently, she had to present it to someone else to have it approved. I wasn't worried at all at this point. In the meantime, we got our bags checked and our boarding passes printed out.

Angie came back and did two things that made my heart sink: she told the luggage clerk to mark our bags as standby and not put them on the conveyor, and then she pulled me aside, away from Jeremy and the girls, to talk to me (my mom and dad, thankfully, were also at the airport to make sure all went well). Angie told me she couldn't let me on the plane because my doctor's note was not printed on letterhead. (She also mentioned the smaller issue of the doctor's stamp/seal not showing up when she copied the note. I wasn't really concerned about that because you can always change the darkness/intensity settings on a copier.)

Already, at almost the first hurdle, I faced a choice. Instinctively, I sensed it was an important one. I knew I was right, meaning I knew that I was using Emirates' own form, according to their own policy, as stated and obtained on their own website, as I had done on the DXB-SEA flight. But I felt that I needed to be very careful in how I said this to Angie, because I realized I needed an advocate at this point, not an adversary (and hooboy, how this ended up to be true!). So as nonconfrontationally as possible, I offered to show Angie where I got the form. Thankfully, she was very welcoming of that suggestion. She walked me back to the Emirates office behind the check-in desk and, on an employee computer, I showed her the policy and the form.

Friday, August 16, 2013

August 16th, outsourced

I'm probably flying over the North Pole right about now. Enjoy a few links in the meantime!

Here's a Top 100 list of NPR reader favorites for YA lit. This list is all over the place, as it probably should be, since it involved audience voting. What do you disagree with? What is right on? [HT Jen]

"Generally speaking, shoppers tolerate Walmart’s empty shelves and subpar customer service because the prices are so good. The fact that another retailer — even a small regional one — is able to compete and sometimes beat Walmart on prices, while also operating well-organized stores staffed by workers who enjoy their jobs, like their employer and genuinely want the company to be successful? Well, that’s got to alarm the world’s biggest retailer, if not keep executives up at night." They're talking about WinCo.

PhD problems. [HT Andrew]

Columbine's principal kept his promise to the kindergarten class of 1999.

Before you freak out: correlation is not causation. OK? There may be a link between induced labor and autism. Interesting and definitely worth further study.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The holy grail of doctor's notes

As per the policy of Emirates Airlines, I obtained a "fit to fly" note from my OB in Sharjah before traveling from DXB to SEA back in July. The policy, by the way, is to present at the airport a mandatory Fit to Fly note from 29 to 36 weeks for a singleton pregnancy; after 36 weeks, clearance may be granted but the form to fill out is much more extensive. The basic Fit to Fly template is here. Basically, it lists your name, DOB, LMP, "estimated date of confinement" (so cute, what they mean is due date), and the credentials/signature of the doctor.

Well, this is a round-trip vacation, meaning I plan on heading back to the UAE in about 48 hours. Of course, I will have to obtain a new Fit to Fly note for this return journey since Emirates Airlines requires that it be dated within 5 days of the intended travel. Never did I imagine how difficult it would be to obtain this simple note.

Plan A was to schedule an appointment with either my mom's or my SIL's OB, both of whom work at the same practice. I spent probably 20 minutes on the phone with the main scheduling coordinator, explaining what I needed. She was very nice and as helpful as she could be, but you would have thought no one in all of history had ever dared step on a plane while pregnant until I came along. A nurse later called me back and said no doctor at that practice would be willing to sign such a paper since I wasn't an actual patient of theirs. "If you had been seeing one of our doctors all along," the nurse helpfully volunteered, "they would be happy to do it." I had to suppress an eye-roll because the whole point of me needing a note to fly is that the airplane is headed to where I live, which is not here, where your doctor's office is. QED.

Plan B was to call another nearby practice, to which I have no connections. I talked to their receptionist and then billing specialist for a while and they said they couldn't help me, either, but for an entirely different reason: insurance. She said they do not have a system set up for single appointments. They would only see me if I was a long-term patient who they could then bill insurance for at the end of the whole pregnancy/delivery process.

Plan C was to go to a ZoomCare clinic and have one of their doctors complete the note. I knew they would be set up to handle a one-time, cash-paying customer. A few weeks ago, I took in the Emirates Airlines form and a copy of the policy and asked if it was something they could help me with. They said yes, they could, and to just come in a few days before my flight. Except then I actually went in for my appointment today and they said no. Hmph. Basically, they don't touch pregnancy with a ten-foot pole. At least they didn't charge me for the visit.

At this point, I'm on Plan D, which is to stay up really late tonight and call my OB back in Sharjah to have her fill out the Fit to Fly form and fax it to me. The ridiculous thing is that while this woman is my primary care person for this pregnancy, she has not seen me in a month. I was trying to play by the rules by seeing a doctor in the US so that the note could be an honest, in-person assessment of my actual fitness to fly, but instead it looks like I'll have to try to get the signature of someone who is thousands of miles away.

I'm worried that upon checking my doctor's note at the airport on Thursday, as they are sure to do (it was checked three times when I flew here), Emirates Airlines will ask me how a doctor in Sharjah is able to declare my fitness to fly from the US. And I'll have to tell them that I am persona non grata among OBs in the US. Nobody is willing to see me.

Sometimes I get so tired of being the exception and always falling into these weird loopholes. There is no way that I am the only person who has ever had this happen, and yet, here I am, depending on Plan D but not at all sure that it will work out. Because of course, OF COURSE, we're on the tail end of Ramadan/Eid in the UAE, which means that people are only slowly trickling back into work, and if my doctor isn't in yet, then I am up the creek without a paddle.

Or trying to board an airplane without a Fit to Fly note, as it were.

Update: I was able to get in contact with my doctor in the UAE, hooray! She will email me the note tonight/today (time zone difference). I won't feel at ease until I'm safely on the plane headed home, but I am relieved that I will at least have a note. Now let this be a lesson to you: never, ever leave home while pregnant.

Monday, August 12, 2013

How to be a snotty expat

I know how, because I've become one.

OK, not really, at least I hope not, BUT - I have noticed some attitudes and behaviors creeping into my way of being that alarm me. These are things that I know are wrong/annoying/indefensible...but I still kind of think/do them anyway.

Extreme, biased, cherry-picked comparisons. The weather here (in the US) is so nice! Because it's 120 at home. On the other hand, grr, fresh juice is so hard to find here and so expensive when you do! Because it's 5dhs/500mL at home. Get the idea?

Why can't everyone just come see us? Sometimes it's hard to realize that even after spending the greater part of 24 hours on planes to get to the US, we still have to drive around a whole bunch to see the people we care about. Sigh. Can we establish some kind of system where we hold court in some neutral location and everyone comes to us? No? Oh well. See also: we paid the most to be here and we came the farthest, so everyone else schedule their vacations around us, mmmkay? Ugh, I hate myself.

Who are these people? And by "these people," I mean "my countrymen." Look, there are annoying, public-space-taking-up, stupid-opinion-having people EVERYWHERE. It's just easier to bust out the righteous indignation when you're on vacation in the Motherland.

I'm not weird, OK? Oh no, of course not. I just pronounce words a little off and act like a tourist in the grocery store and drive too aggressively and am completely out of touch with the latest basic strategies of living in the US, such as how to shop around for the best gas price.

I will turn up my nose at you for turning up your nose at me, for eating low-brow American food and loving it. Look, these days I am positively enchanted by Oreos, hot dogs, Lucky Charms, and ham lunchmeat. DON'T JUDGE ME.

I will constantly talk about how cheap everything is. Food, clothes - it's like this country is just giving it all away!

In Dubai, blah blah blah. I know I probably say this a lot - sorry!

Did I get everything? Maybe I don't want to know if I missed anything. I feel especially bad about the second item on this list, because that is a super snotty attitude to have. And yet, it still creeps up on me if I don't consciously keep it in check. I know that summers of endless travel is something we signed up for when we moved overseas, but that doesn't make it any easier to live out of an increasingly disorganized suitcase for 4+ weeks and sleep in seven different locations over the same time period, all with kids in tow.

Of course, the stress is mitigated by the fact that between binge-packing sessions, our families show us a pretty good time. And that's what keeps us coming back.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Pregnancy sickness, part 2

I went to see my doctor again around 8 weeks because I was so sick. [Note: I wrote this post when I was barely out of the sickness-woods. I find it quaint now that I considered holding out until 8 weeks (meaning I had been experiencing pregnancy sickness for only about three weeks) to have been such a long time to wait to see the doctor about the sickness. But time passes slowly when you are pukey.] She prescribed a little drug called Zofran. Perhaps you've heard of it? If not: it's an anti-nausea medication that was originally developed for chemotherapy patients but which is now often prescribed to pregnant woman to help them combat "morning" (hahahahahahaha) sickness. Honestly, when I picked up the pills from the pharmacy, I was not very hopeful. I thought nothing could help me, that I was doomed to a half-life of sluggishness and pukiness forever...or at least for the next 32 weeks. The thought was so overwhelmingly demoralizing. I know it sounds like I'm being dramatic, but when you feel sick to the point of not being able to function - but still, somehow, you function, because you must - for a long period of time, well, you get a little dramatic.

Anyway, it was Thursday, 14 February. I remember the day well. At around 1 o'clock I took a Zofran and then resumed my pitiful bed/workstation in the majlis. About 30 minutes later, the most amazing thing happened: I didn't feel sick. The nausea was weirdly still there, and if I thought for too long about certain foods or if I smelled a certain smell then it was still really uncomfortable, but basically, I took up my bed and walked. It was that amazing. Majd and I walked to the store together. Miriam came home from school and I was not irritable and/or lying down on the couch trying to keep it together. Jeremy came home from work and found me happily preparing dinner. I stayed up past eight o'clock that night! It was like some bizarro world where I was, you know, my old self again. Zofran gave me my life back.

Unfortunately, Zofran also taketh away. I won't get into too much detail here except to say that one side effect of Zofran is that it, uh, completely stops the natural digestive process, specifically the elimination part. I took Zofran happily for a few days and then paid the price with a different kind of crippling stomach distress. I still think of those three nausea-free days as a kind of break in the clouds. From then on, though, it was a delicate balancing act between half-doses of Zofran - enough to get me through work and class, but not enough to actually make me feel better because I couldn't afford to spend entire mornings in the bathroom. As happy as I had been to start taking Zofran, I started looking forward to the time when I wouldn't need it anymore...

...which turned out to be around 16 weeks (mid-April). I knew I was coming out of the woods while we were in Germany because I was able to eat so much FOOD. A few weeks after we got home, my nausea and food obsessions (at least the pukey ones) were much reduced. Hallelujah. (Though I still can't look a package of Fritos chips in the eye. Ugh.)

So that is my tale of pregnancy sickness and the knight in shining armor, Zofran. Who turned out to have an evil side, but I'm still grateful I had it to get me through the hardest times.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Morning, noon, and night sickness

Here comes that required blog post about pregnancy where I talk about how sick I was, and how much better I feel now. I don't mind those posts now, on anyone's blog, but wow, did I hate them while I was sick (the feeling better part, anyway).

I knew I got off easy with my pregnancy with Miriam. I had some nausea but it wasn't that bad and I was able to go to work, no problem.

My pregnancy with Magdalena was a bit dodgier. I was sick a lot and threw up a few times but mostly I just felt sick sick sick. I was working from home at the time so even though I thought I was pretty dang sick, it didn't affect my productivity at all.

With this pregnancy, it has become clear that what I experienced the first two times was nothing. NOTHING. I have no idea why it was a million times worse this time around. It just was. I woke up every morning thinking, "I can't do this." And then I would get up and go to work anyway. The sickness got worse and worse as the day went on. I wished I could go to bed at 6.30, and actually did so only slightly less often.

My entire life revolved around food. As I got sicker and sicker (within each day and then from day to day), I would dream about the food that would make me feel better, and then fixate on it, extensively. At one time or another, I was convinced that baked potatoes, grapes, plain rice, pepper jack cheese, ramen noodles, strawberries, lemonade, and, oddly, Fritos chips, were the only things that could make me feel better. Oh how I pined for Fritos chips. One day I saw some at the store so I bought a big bag and ate some when I got home. They were everything I had imagined they would be...for about two hours. Then the very thought of Fritos chips made me want to vomit. UGH. So then I had this awkward partially empty bag of Fritos (shudder) sitting in the pantry for a few months that induced a fresh wave of nausea every time I even looked at it.

I've mentioned before how much weight I tend to gain during pregnancy, pretty much from day one. I knew this pregnancy's sickness was bad when I actually lost weight during the first trimester. That is completely atypical for me.

I was going to bed so early and then I was so miserable during the night that Jeremy actually set up a bed in the majlis for himself for a few weeks. He would sleep there at night. On the days I didn't teach, I would go lie down on the bed in there and try to get some work done for class or my thesis or whatever. It was so pitiful.

Then one day, everything changed. And yes, it starts with a Z, but there's a twist ending, so stay tuned!

Friday, August 09, 2013

August 9th, outsourced

Language wars in Quebec.

The winners of the National Geographic photo contest!

I LOVED this fascinating look at the history behind the best elementary school computer class game EVER (it beats Lemonade Stand and that fishing game by a landslide). I refer, of course, to The Oregon Trail.

These days, I am a #2 on this list of people who shop at Costco. My dad is sometimes a #5. [HT Liz]

Why do people confess to crimes they didn't commit?

Mormon missionaries, in the field, surprising people with their basketball skills. [HT Jeremy]

Indiana State Fair food. That post is alternately YUM and YUCK. [HT Liz]

I thought it was not possible to loathe mosquitoes any more than I already do. Unfortunately, I was wrong. [HT Andrew]

I love what this post says about Buzzfeed. I love what it says about Benedict Cumberbatch (aka Sherlock) fandom. I also kind of just love it, period. [HT Eric D. Snider]

Haven't you always wondered about that weird Britishy English that old-timey American movie stars acted in? I was so pleased to see this article explain it all.

I have a Noticer, too. Do I need to stop saying "Hurry up!"? More thought on this is needed. [HT Tyler]

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Library books

One thing I was really looking forward to on this trip to the US was having the girls gorge on library books. Unfortunately, we haven't had a lot of time to just sit and read. We only made one trip to the library, in Idaho Falls, and that was it. So I made sure it was worth it. Even if we didn't get to read everything we hoped, the girls and I at least got some ideas for books to track down (probably unsuccessfully, sigh) once we're back in the UAE.


Miriam chose more books from The Great Brain series (she's read 1, 2, and 3 already). She also got a few books from the American Girl series. For fun, she got a book about the UAE to read with any interested relatives, and a book about traditional songs and sayings in the US.

Magdalena was asking a lot of questions about the Civil War when we were in the car listening to MoTab's Battle Hymn of the Republic, so I found The Silent Witness, which is a true story for children about the Civil War. Once she saw the collection of Pinkalicious easy readers, though, the search was over. She checked out about 10 of those and we read every single one.

A public library with an excellent selection of children's books remains one of the things I miss the most about the US. I take comfort in knowing that we have access to their school libraries, but there is something to be said for turning a kid loose in a public library and letting them wander and explore. I'm glad we got to do that at least once this year.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Maternity care in the UAE

(To those of you who don't care to read much about the experience of being pregnant in the UAE, I apologize in advance. I have 7.5 months' worth of stuff to say and only a few weeks in which to post it.)

To set the stage for future posts about Sasha 3.0, I'll tell you a little bit about prenatal care and birth culture in the UAE. The joke is, it is almost impossible to define a single mainstream birth culture in the UAE, just as it is impossible to define a single culture, period. There are as many nationalities of OBs, and kinds of hospitals, and approaches toward pregnancy as you can imagine. What I'm going to write here is based on my own experience and my own research (from disparate and sometimes anecdotal sources, which is sometimes all you can find).

Midwives exist in the UAE, but as far as I understand, they operate more like glorified, maternity-specialist nurses rather than birth professionals. Midwives cannot attend a birth on their own. They may only assist an OB.

Home birth is illegal in the UAE. This is largely (if not entirely) because pregnancy/giving birth outside of wedlock is a crime in the UAE. If you have a baby at home, planned or unplanned, then there is no way for the authorities to know if it was a legitimate or illegitimate birth, because they can't be sure who the certified mom of the baby should be. For example, an unmarried, pregnant woman could try to pass off her baby as the legitimate child of her sister and her sister's husband. This leads to really dodgy things like a police investigation being launched within hours of an unplanned home birth and an actual examination of a woman's birth canal to see if it was recently used or not. Yeah.

I researched water birth in the UAE extensively in the early months of this pregnancy not because I am intent on having one, but because I knew that a facility/doctors who supported water birth would probably support my style of giving birth - fewer interventions, etc. - and also have a lovely tub for me to labor in. Unfortunately, water birth is not generally done in the UAE. There is one hospital in Al Ain that offers water births, but that's a stressful, 90-minute drive away from us. I have heard other stories of women purchasing their own birthing tubs and bringing them to hospitals in Dubai and setting them up there, but results were mixed - sometimes they weren't allowed to, etc., and I never read of anyone doing that in Sharjah.

All this is to say that I am seeing a female, Palestinian OB at the hospital nearest my house. It's a 7-minute drive from my front door to the hospital entrance. I am so pleased to have the chance to go somewhere close. In general, hospitals in Dubai/Sharjah tend to want to manage birth more than I like, but I think I've found a good balance at this hospital. They don't have a tub in the birthing rooms (sigh), but there is a shower. There is a chart on the wall with lots of suggestions for birthing positions and the nurse and supervisor there told me that they generally allow the woman to be in charge of her labor. However, they both told me that I would at least need to have a hep lock, which I am not happy about.

I hesitate to write this part, but here goes: I have heard three negative stories about the anesthesiologist(s) at this hospital. They are all from over a year ago, when the hospital was first opened, but I really need to look into this more and ask the hospital about it. One woman told me she could totally feel her C-section. Yikes. She made a formal complaint to the hospital. The other two women complained of poorly administered epidurals. I don't plan on needing an anesthesiologist, but dear goodness, I would like to have the comfort of knowing that if it comes to a C-section, I won't have to feel it!

Otherwise, it's business as usual being pregnant in the Middle East. Just like in Syria, I get a sonogram at every visit, administered by the doctor herself. We have insurance here, since I am a married female of childbearing age (you can't get maternity insurance if you are unmarried). Each visit to the doctor costs me 70dhs ($19).

That's the business of being pregnant in the UAE so far, from a medical care perspective (more perspectives to come). If you have questions, please ask.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Road Trip, Part We Will Never Be Done Driving

I love me a good road trip, but I'm getting tired of long hours of driving through the beautiful landscapes of western America. And I consider us lucky that our parents are split between Oregon and Idaho, and not, say, Oregon and Maine.

Still, it means a lot of driving. At the end of the day yesterday, we got to our stopping point for the night (en route from IF to central Oregon). I was very much looking forward to showering off the hours in the car and changing into some clean undies and comfy pajamas. It was going to be a fresh end for the day.

Well, then I fumbled my clean undies and pajamas on the way into the bathroom and - wait for it - dropped them in the toilet. And the toilet had some unflushed kid pee in it (grr). How does that even happen? I may have let out a wail that was completely disproportional to what had happened, but I had been looking forward to those pajamas SO MUCH. Jeremy kept asking me how I managed to drop them exactly in the toilet. I don't really know. It just happened.

This leg of the road trip comes to an end later today. Hooray!

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Pregnancy FAQs

Here are some questions that everyone is frequently asking. Let's get 'em done in one fell swoop. The more interesting ones will get posts of their own eventually. Lucky you!

Is it a boy or a girl? A boy. There. Now you know. Usually we drive our families crazy with complex riddles to figure out the gender, but this time around, we figured the pregnancy reveal itself was surprise enough for everyone.

When are you due? Toward the end of September.

Will they let you on the plane to go back to the UAE? Emirates requires a doctor or midwife note starting at 29 weeks, so I had to get one to come to the US and I'll have to get another to fly back at 34 weeks. The cutoff date for flying with Emirates with a single pregnancy is 36 weeks.

What about your job? I am taking fall semester off. I'm hoping to go back for spring semester, but we'll see.

What about your MA? I will defend my thesis sporting an awesomely awkward, very recent post-partum body, complete with leaky boobs and ill-fitting maternity-or-maybe-just-fat clothes. Sigh.

Do you have a good doctor/hospital in Sharjah? Yes. Home births, water births (except for one place in Al Ain), and midwife-assisted births are illegal in the UAE, but I have a nice OB at a nice hospital that opened up in our area about 18 months ago. I am so thankful that I won't have to risk traffic and drive to Dubai to have a baby.

Were you sick? Yes.

So is this why you decided to go to the US this year after all? Not at all. In fact, my being hugely pregnant this summer was a strong disincentive to spending 15+ hours on a plane, etc. I did that three times while I was pregnant with Miriam and my body never really recovered.

OK, why the elaborate surprise thing? This requires a multi-part answer.
1. I don't like being pregnant so I tend not to tell people, including family, in the early weeks anyway, so
2. by the time we knew we were going to the US, our families (and everyone else) still didn't know I was pregnant.
3. Kind of as a joke one day, I said to Jeremy, "hey, what if I just walked off the plane 7 months pregnant and it was a total surprise to our families in the US???"
4. We laughed, and then looked at each other and were like, "no, SERIOUSLY!!!"
So that's what we did. It was just something fun and not many people get the chance to do it since they, you know, tend to see their families in person from time to time.

What were the rules of this surprise? Once we were committed to this little game, I asked my friend Yvonne for advice (she once kept a pregnancy secret for 8 months). After talking to her, we realized how important it was for no one to know, or for everyone to know. There's really no in-between. Otherwise you're dealing with hurt feelings and misunderstandings and the surprise getting spoiled. The rule was, if you hadn't seen me and my huge belly in person, you didn't know I was pregnant. In the entire United States, only two people knew: Jeremy's brother Scott, because he visited us in Sharjah after I was already showing (thus adhering to The Rule), and his wife, Katie (because we weren't about to ask him to keep a secret from his wife).

Did anyone ever come close to spoiling the surprise? Yes. Magdalena came really close to mentioning it during videochat sessions with my family, bless her eager little 4-year-old heart. When I complained on fb about McDonald's not having "protocol" for serving me a diet Coke float, a lady from my ward posted a comment saying something about regular Coke being better for the baby (I was able to delete the comment before anyone saw). Most miraculously, my family, who were in the habit of tuning in to the online broadcast of our church meetings, did not do so for those few crucial months where they would have been able to see my condition.

That said, someone did have the surprise ruined, and that was my sister Teresa. I went to church two weeks ago in Oregon, and then we left for Idaho Falls. Teresa went to church in Oregon the next week and basically had a long conversation/argument with a lady in my parents' congregation about whether I was or was not pregnant. This lady was convinced that I was, rightly so, because she had seen me one week before. Teresa kept trying to tell her that no, I wasn't. So awkward...but also so hilarious. I wish I could have been there.

Did I miss anything?

Friday, August 02, 2013

August 2nd, outsourced

The most trendy names in US history (and fyi, they mean "trendy" in its statistical sense). Deneen!!! Also: GQ rules for naming your baby. [HT Andrew]

Portraits of the survivors of the 2011 Norway massacre. [HT Ashi]

Interesting thoughts on the Christian "my body is a temple" metaphor. [HT Jen]

If you speak German - or even if you don't - this is pretty funny: How German sounds to other languages. [HT my aunt Teresa]

Wal-mart turned library. Awesome. [HT Liz]

I loved this! 27 amazing things about living in the Middle East. It's Gulf-skewed, but at this time in my life, that works for me. [HT Lisa]

If you want to read about the time Jeremy almost had to drink his own pee on the highest mountain in Oman, click here.

I'm sure you've seen this: The Camp Gyno. I love that girl. [HT Liz and a few other people]

Thursday, August 01, 2013

The biggest surprise

Here's a picture of my mom and niece/nephews as they met us at the airport two weeks ago in Seattle.

Do you see my mom's smile? Why is she so much more than normally excited to see me?

Because I am 7.5 months pregnant and she had no idea. Mwahahahahahahahaha.

I have a video of her first reaction, too. What I wish I had a video of is my MIL's reaction when we pulled up in Idaho Falls on Sunday afternoon. That was a double surprise, or a reverse surprise, or something, because we suspected she had already found out. So I just stepped out of the car, all nonchalant-like, and then I myself was surprised when she was surprised.

I'll post an FAQ post later, because during this whole surprising-everyone process, there have been plenty of FA'd Qs. I'm just glad the news is out and I can stop worrying that our master plan would be foiled.

The biggest surprise SUCCESS!

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