Tuesday, September 30, 2014

My bicycle commute, with high heels

I ride Jeremy's bike to work. I much, much prefer biking in high heels to walking in high heels, though the former is slightly ridiculous. At first, I was wearing regular shoes to bike, and then changing into high heels, but it's a short enough ride that I decided I can't be bothered.

The ridiculousness factor is increased, though, by the fact that this is Jeremy's bike AND it has a rumble seat on the back of it. The bike is slightly too big for me, and it has the straight crossbar, so I really have to sling my leg up high to get on. But there's the rumble seat on the back, which blocks my leg. So I really have to maneuver to get on the bike and it is not always a pretty sight, especially since I'm wearing fancy clothes, not sporty ones. At home, the awkwardness doesn't matter, but when I'm arriving at/leaving work, I try to look more suave than I know is actually the case. There is nothing suave about cycling in heels.

Yesterday after work when I was walking out to the bike rack, I overheard a male student say to a female student, "is that a CHAIR??" (He was referring to the rumble seat.) I was close enough to say, "Yes! It's for my baby." Just doing my civic duty, educating people about alternative modes of child transportation.

Speaking of. Having a rumble seat on the bike is so liberating. When it's so hot outside during the day, it's difficult to get errands done on campus because it's too warm to walk around with the stroller. But since the bike is so much faster, I can just put Sterling in the rumble seat and go where I need to go. Bliss.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Happy/Oddly Emotional Birthday, Sterling!

Sterling is one year old! I found myself on the verge of tears for most of the day today. I don't know if they were happy or sad tears. They were just feelings. Feelings about being in labor, and the relief I felt when he was born, and those first precious/terrifying days with a newborn, and how our family has changed since Sterling joined us. Twelve months ago, I remember thinking that if I could just make it through the first year of raising him, we might both be all right. And here I am, at this particular finish line of life. It has been a difficult year - the first year of raising a baby always is for me. Sometimes I feel like I've been hibernating for the last twelve months, and am only now emerging back into real life and here's this toddler, and he's mine.

So yes, feelings. On a lighter note, here are some of Sterling's projects around the house these days, as a newly-minted one-year-old.

1. Tearing up toilet paper and putting the shreds in the toilet, the bidet, the trash can, and the bath tub. This is a continuous work in progress - I don't think he'll ever be done.

2. Taking off the drain covers and drain grates. It makes a loud metal-slidey noise and there's a gaping hole left uncovered with rushing water at the bottom.

3. Gathering assorted detritus and putting it in the drawer under the oven. He takes this one very seriously. I walk into the kitchen, he follows me, and it's like he metaphorically rolls up his shirtsleeves to his elbows and says, "let's get'r done." In that drawer, I have found bag-closing clips, silverware, cups, water bottles and their lids, straws, and toys - anything. If you are missing something, it is probably in that drawer.

4. GO OUTSIDE. He has a radar-like sense for when the front or back doors open. Once his internal alarm has been tripped, he makes a beeline for the exit point. The other day a neighbor kid came in the house and left the front door open. I was in the kitchen and by chance, I glanced out the window and saw my baby walking down the front patio, on his way to who knows where.

Happy birthday, Sterling!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Toddler church terror

(In case you also read BCC, I appear to be on a similar wavelength as Scott B. I wrote this yesterday after church, and then saw his post in the wee hours of this morning.)

Not church - the Mall of the Emirates. But the idea is the same.
We're entering the stage of babydom where I find myself really not looking forward to going to church each week. It is seriously THE WORST. It was so bad yesterday that I found Jeremy and barked at him that we needed to leave (30 minutes early) NOW.

Church starts at Sterling's naptime. STARTS. We arrive at church and he is fussy, clingy, and unhappy. All he wants to do is go to sleep. And there are still three hours to go, plus the drive home.

Sterling cannot resist the podium stairs. He makes a beeline for them approximately 47 times during sacrament meeting. I'm just glad we have a 9-year-old daughter who is the designated baby-retriever.

So Jeremy takes him out to the foyer, but guess what? There is a grand, curving, marble staircase there, which in Sterling's book, is even BETTER than the podium stairs.

Church is during lunchtime, too, and it is an exercise in getting him, me, and couches/carpets/floors covered in food (don't worry, I clean it up). And he ends up only getting a few bites in him because there are all those staircases to escape to.

Since we have church in a villa, there are all kinds of nooks and crannies and bits and pieces for him to get into - outlets, fancy bead-trimmed window treatments, doors that open into the exact area where Sterling always wants to hang out for some reason, and the aforementioned fancy staircase. I'm not saying a purpose-built church building would be perfect, but they do tend to be more stripped down, with fewer trouble areas for little kids to get into (plus those repellent burlap walls).

Then we get home and Sterling takes a makeshift nap and is grouchy for the rest of the day. Happy Sabbath Day to us!

I just feel like yesterday was a total church FAIL, and it's not sustainable. I can't go to church every week like that - spending three hours in a place that has suddenly become completely hostile to me and my toddler. I see two solutions:

1. Leave early every week (say, after sacrament meeting), or stay home altogether. I don't see this as sustainable, either, for a few reasons. Jeremy and I both have callings throughout the three hours. Plus, church is church and I'm not going to just NOT go.

2. Hang out in the nursery room with him for the next six months, until he's old enough to go himself (at age 18 months). When I was Primary President, we sometimes had to put a stop to this because we ended up with all these adults just sitting around chatting while their too-young toddlers disrupted the lesson for the older children. But I think there's a right way to do it, and maybe I can pull it off. Maybe.

If it seems like I'm complaining, it's because I am. But I'm complaining because I care, and I want to find a workable solution. It makes me sad that church right now is not a happy place.

What are your best tips for weathering the 12- to 18-month stage? I know I've done this twice before, but due to a few factors (more sterile church buildings, better schedules, more flexible callings - sometimes in Primary where babies could just roam, etc.), I've never been in quite this deep of a pit of despair before.

Friday, September 26, 2014

September 26th, outsourced

18 awesome apple varieties. Including Nonnetit Bastard (!). [HT Susanne]

John Oliver - one of my favorite people these days - takes on the Miss America pageant. Chances are you've already watched this once this week. Watch it again.

Emma Watson gave an awesome speech this week, which you've also probably watched. Watch it again, too! It's that good.

What does the phrase "next weekend" mean to you? If you're not sure if I mean in 1 day, or 8 days, the word "oxt" may be able to help. [HT someone...]

Simple but hilarious. This guy left his iPad on a plane in Reykjavik. When he got it back 10 days later, it had some new photos on it.

Building a better breast pump!!!!!! Hallelujah!

In case you missed the comments from yesterday's post, a female fighter pilot from the UAE is part of the coalition carrying out strikes on IS. Wow! [HT Andrew]

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The UAE and IS

As you may have heard, the UAE is part of the coalition that is striking ISIS/ISIL/IS strongholds in Syria. I never thought I'd be living in a country that was bombing Syria, especially a non-US one, but here I am. I confess I'm also surprised that the UAE is getting so involved. From my casual observations in the past, it seems that support from the UAE generally takes the form of written statements + money. Fighter jets, not so much.

Saudi Arabia is part of the coalition as well. In fact, a Saudi prince was one of the air force pilots dispatched to carry out the mission. (To be fair, there are a lot of princes and princesses in Saudi Arabia. I had a Saudi princess in one of my classes last year, for example. But still.)

In my opinion, ISIS/ISIL/IS is pure evil and they deserve to be gotten rid of. But of course it's more complicated than that. I've read that anything that weakens IS will by default strengthen Bashar al-Assad, which is a bad thing. So there's the issue of which one, exactly, is the lesser of two really, seriously, awful evils. It's at least good that the US has some Arab friends along for the ride this time. Jordan, Qatar, Saudi, and the UAE see IS as a threat, too, apparently - enough that they are willing to back up statements and aid money with jets and bombs.

This has actually not been in the news that much around here, at least not in the English-language press. I've seen far more about Yemen and the crap that is currently hitting the fan there. It's also hard to get a sense of how "the UAE" feels about these strikes. It's not something I feel like I can talk about with my students, at least not yet (I only met them this week). And of course, there is no one "the UAE" to even ask - we are from as many different countries and religions and political persuasions as you please.

That's all the insight I have from this side of the fence. How is it looking on yours?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Reviews: Potted Potter and Divergent

1. Potted Potter is a live comedy show featuring two actors who present all seven Harry Potter books in 70 minutes. Live theater is a real treat here, so we jumped at the chance to go. It helps that both girls are huge fans of the books and movies. And we had so much fun. If you like HP and have a chance to see this show, DO IT. The best thing about it is that it's smart enough and funny enough for true fans. I am sometimes disappointed when parodies of/riffs on something popular are too broad in order to appeal to the maximum number of people (aka the lowest common denominator). But Potted Potter was at just the right level. Brilliant. We loved it. Go see it. The end.

2. Jeremy and I watched Divergent a few weeks ago. I had heard it was kind of meh, so I wasn't expecting much, although I loved the book. (I did not like Insurgent or Allegiant, though.) But it was a blast to watch that movie with Jeremy. Some movies are just like that, have you noticed? Like GI Joe, or Van Helsing. Plus, I thought there were quite a few awesome feminist moments in the film, like when Tris' mom sees her for the first time in a few weeks and tells her she looks beautiful AND strong. Or how there is a fight between Tris and a major female character and although it's kind of ridiculous, it's treated seriously by the film and is not at all a traditional "girl fight." Not a great movie overall, but worth a watch.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Stuffie love

Here's another entry in the "it takes a village...of young Arab men" category of baby-raising experiences here.

The grocery store checkout line this afternoon was long, so I let Sterling out of the cart to walk around a little as we waited. He was instantly drawn to a large display of colorful beanie baby-type stuffed animals with huge, shiny eyes. Sterling can't say anything other than "uh-oh," but with lots of coos and goos and smiles, he let everyone in line know how enchanted he was with these stuffed animals. Then, using his new-found skill of "sharing," he chose a stuffed animal from the display and tried to give it to the two teenaged guys behind us in line.

Speaking of - it is common practice here to let someone behind you in line go ahead of you if you have a lot of things in your cart and they only have one or two. I think this is the norm in the US, too, except here, people will often just go in front of you without really asking. Since my cart is almost always full, I almost always end up letting someone go in front of me. The other day, I let FIVE people go in front of me.

The teenagers behind me were only buying a bottle of water, so I asked if they wanted to go ahead. They declined, which, since going in front of me would have been the norm, was really a nice thing to do.

Anyway, when it was our turn to check out, I had Sterling put back his precious stuffed animal.

But then! I was walking out to the parking lot and who came up to me but the two teenagers who had been behind me in line. One of them handed Sterling the stuffed animal he'd been playing with and said, "excuse me, but we just really wanted to give this to him since he liked it so much."

THEY BOUGHT THE STUFFED ANIMAL FOR HIM. Just like that. I'm pretty sure Sterling thinks this is the best thing to ever happen to him. And I can't get over how nice that was! Hooray for Arab teenaged boys!

Friday, September 19, 2014

September 19th, outsourced

Get ready to be anxious - Rush Hour. [HT Andrew, happy birthday!]

Have you ever wondered what goes into creating Google Doodles? I have - especially after seeing the gorgeous Leo Tolstoy ones a few weeks ago. Here is more about the process. [HT Jen]

I am not an evangelical Christian, and therefore I do not understand all the context surrounding this article - Mere Happiness Cannot Bear the Weight of the Gospel - but the thrust of it (and the final line) really struck me: "If our message cannot be preached with credibility in Mosul, it should not be preached in Houston." This is part of what I was trying to say when I posted at The Exponent a few weeks ago.

Finally Catalog Living for ridiculous parenting stock photos!!! [HT Kat]

This magazine cover featuring Roger Federer seriously is the best/worst thing to ever happen. I can't stop laughing!

Robbed at gunpoint, caught on GoPro. WOAH. [HT Steven]

More about The More You Know.

I have such mixed feelings about this class that teaches people how to lose their Boston accent. I guess if it improves your career prospects, go for it. [HT Jen]

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Job yo-yo

WHAT a week it has been for trying to go back to work (I've had a year off because newborn and thesis). Here is a rough timeline of what I've been going through.

May/June 2014: I get offered my old job back; start date is fall semester (September 2014). Hooray!

June 2014: I look into childcare and get Sterling waitlisted at the daycare on campus.

August 2014: I check up on Sterling's waitlist status, and the director says it doesn't look good and I should check into other options. I commence stressing out about it. After a lot of stress, I find another arrangement for childcare.

Last Thursday (11 Sept): I get an email from my boss saying that enrollment numbers are way down, and I may not have a job (sections to teach) after all.

Sunday (14 Sept): According to my email, I most likely do not have a job.

Monday (15 Sept), morning: Email says I definitely do not have a job. I cancel the childcare arrangements I had made.

Monday (15 Sept), afternoon: I get a call from the daycare saying that they DO have a spot for Sterling. They are so excited to tell me the great news, and I have to tell them thanks, but no thanks, because I no longer have a job.

Tuesday (16 Sept), afternoon: I get a call from a former colleague saying there is a job for me in a different department. I say I'll take it; she's going to call me back with more details. So I DO have a job.

Tuesday (16 Sept), evening: The timings of the classes are in the afternoon when kids are all home from school, which is a deal-breaker for me. I do NOT have a job.

Wednesday (17 Sept), afternoon: Yet another department, yet another possible job. Can we get the schedule worked out...? I MAYBE have a job.

Wednesday (17 Sept), evening: We got the schedule worked out! I have a job! I scramble to reinstate my childcare plans. Thank goodness they didn't get snatched up by someone else.

Thursday (18 Sept), morning: The times/days of my class get changed. I rearrange my childcare plans yet again. BUT I STILL HAVE A JOB.

I start on Monday. I hope the emotional roller coaster has come to a stop. At least I got a chance to find out how I really feel about going back to work. I was surprised by the depth of my disappointment when I found out there weren't any sections for me. Then I expended a lot of effort to make my peace with that, only to have it work out after all (and then fall through, and then work out again).

By the way, in case you are horrified by all this, don't be. It's par for the course when you're adjunct faculty at a university. Our jobs depend on enrollment. In fact, that's how I got my job in 2011 in the first place - enrollment was unexpectedly high, so I got picked up even though I hadn't finished my MA. Now that I am finished, I'm happy to be qualified for so many job possibilities at the university...and especially happy that one of them ultimately worked out!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Book club recommendations

I often get emails asking me to recommend books for book club selections. The idea of a book club is not that everyone has to love a certain book, but that everyone should be able to be engaged enough to finish the book, and have something to say about it when they're done. Here are a few good picks for some common book club parameters (links are to Goodreads for more information).

Fiction, YA. The book club I went to in Ithaca ended up doing a lot of YA fiction, not really by design, but because we were all busy women who might not get through a thick non-fiction tome, but who could toss off a slim YA novel within a month. YA fiction is also fairly non-threatening and often low on offensive content, which makes it even more attractive for book clubs.

Like No Other. Great discussion potential for Mormons.

Hattie Big Sky.

Keeping the Castle. This could be fun in conjunction with some Jane Austen books.

For Darkness Shows the Stars. My dream is to read Persuasion one month, and this one the next, and then discuss.

The Book Thief.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.

Between Shades of Gray.

Code Name Verity.

Fiction, Regular ol'. I feel like this is the most dangerous category because straight-up fiction can be weird, or offensive, or long, or too off-putting for a general book club pick. That said...

A Town Like Alice.

The Virginian.

Papa Married a Mormon. (This would be interesting to non-Mormons, too.)

These is My Words.

The Night Circus.

Non-fiction, Heavy Issues to Discuss. Some book clubs want this kind of book; others don't.

Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight. Dysfunctional African childhood!

Nothing to Envy. North Korea!

Desperate Passage. Donner Party!

One Day in September. Munich Olympics massacre!

Logavina Street. Siege of Sarajevo!

Non-fiction, Fun & Accessible.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

Consider the Fork.

The Princes in the Tower.

One Light Still Shines. Lovely lovely book.

Global Mom. Especially for expats, or Mormons. OR MORMON EXPATS.

Ghost Soldiers. OK, this is about a WW2 POW camp, so maybe not "fun," but I would recommend this instead of Unbroken for a book club book. It's shorter and punchier, with some of the same emotional impact.

Surviving the Angel of Death. Also not "fun," but it's a WW2 concentration camp memoir written for a juvenile audience, so it keeps things lighter than it might otherwise have done.

Classics. No specific title recommendations for this category. Pick a classic, any classic. Thomas Hardy will always give you something to discuss (just don't let it be Jude the Obscure, mmkay?). Our book club in Tucson always, always picked classics, and it was a great strategy. Best-case scenario, you read it and loved it. Worst-case scenario, you read it, maybe didn't like it, but now have another classic to cross off the to-read list.

I hope you can find some good general recommendations here. If you want something more specific, let me know and I'm happy to make a more tailored suggestion!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Do you like apples? Sure, we all do.

I read THE most interesting article about apples yesterday. Really: The Awful Reign of the Red Delicious.

Things I never knew. UNTIL NOW:

- Red Delicious apples are generally thought to be disgusting. All these years, I assumed I was the only one! How else to account for the fact that,

- through the 1980s, Red Delicious apples made up 75% of Washington's apple crop. Seventy-five percent!

- the Red Delicious started out as Hawkeye, and wasn't a deep red color at all. The name was changed to Stark Delicious, and finally Red Delicious (to pair with Golden Delicious) in 1914.

- it only became that crimson red color when a mutated branch of apples appeared in 1923.

- a wide variety of apples such as Fuji and Gala were not readily available to American consumers until the 1990s. All this time, I thought it was my growing awareness as I grew up that explained why I only started eating those superior kinds of apples more recently. But they just weren't available.

- there was an apple industry bailout (in the 1990s, under President Clinton). An apple. industry. bailout.

- since the 1990s, the Red Delicious harvest has decreased 40 percent. Furthermore, 60 to 65 percent of that reduced number will be shipped overseas for consumption, instead of bothering you guys in the US.

Read the article. Isn't this the truest/most beautiful thing you've ever read about Red Delicious apples?

[This is] the paradox of the Red Delicious: alluring yet undesirable, the most produced and arguably the least popular apple in the United States. It lurks in desolation. Bumped around the bottom of lunch bags as schoolchildren rummage for chips or shrink-wrapped Rice Krispies treats. Waiting by the last bruised banana in a roadside gas station, the only produce for miles. Left untouched on hospital trays, forlorn in the fruit bowl at hotel breakfast buffets, bereft in nests of gift-basket raffia.


As genes for beauty were favored over those for taste, the skins grew tough and bitter around mushy, sugar-soaked flesh.
In conclusion, here are my favorite apples, in order of preference, based on what is available to me here (we had lots more varieties in Ithaca that I've not seen elsewhere, since).

Jazz. Do you have these in the US?
Ambrosia. Same question as above.
Fuji. This used to be my very favorite, but sometimes they're overlarge and watery.
Pink Lady.
Braeburn. These are hit-and-miss, here, though.
Honeycrisp. But they're overpriced and sometimes not good all the way through.
Gala. But only if they're crisp, and they often are a little mealy for my taste. It's too bad because these are cheap and easily available here.
Granny Smith. Good for cooking or making apple salsa.

What are your favorite apples?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Power struggles

Last night as Jeremy and I were tucking in to bed to go to sleep, I got up one last time to check the thermostat - it felt a little warm. To my great dismay, the AC wasn't working. In some climates, that might be a deal-with-in-the-morning problem, but in this one, it's a deal-with-NOW problem.

Lucky us, though, "deal with" means "call a dude." So we did. Then we hunkered down downstairs, which has a separate AC system that was still working. (Also, the downstairs AC runs on Celsius, while the upstairs runs on Fahrenheit. Kind of weird, right?) We each took a couch and tried to stay awake while the AC guy did his thing. After an hour or two, I went up to doze in the girls' room so I could a) doze, and b) keep an eye on how the temperature was feeling up there. (It was warm and getting warmer.)

As I dozed, I recalled something I had almost completely forgotten about in the post-baby haze that has obscured much of the last year. One of the first nights that Sterling and I were home from the hospital, the power went out in the middle of the night for a few hours. The broken...whatever it is that breaks when the power goes out, was very near our house. It was 2am and I could see guys with flashlights in the alley outside my bedroom window. I was desperately tired, but it was too warm to sleep and I was worried about my precious tiny sleeping baby overheating. We pulled out our rechargeable fan and pointed it at Sterling, but the hours dragged on and the charge ran out and the power stayed off.

When he woke up, I changed his diaper and fed him by the glow of my laptop screen. He slept again, but I could not. I drifted in and out of rest, listening to the men banging around with their flashlights and tools in the alley. I hoped and prayed with all the energy I could muster that they would get it fixed soon.

The power came back on after almost four hours and that was the end of it.

Those first nights that you're home with a new baby are so disorienting anyway; the lack of AC, light, and water (because when our power goes out, so does the water) took that up a notch. I'm glad it was just the AC last night (and in many ways, that Sterling is no longer a newborn).

The AC was fixed after a couple of hours last night, and we got a good block of sleep in before morning.

Friday, September 12, 2014

September 12th, outsourced

Jeremy and I competed at Guess the Accent, but we both got 12/12. So fun!

I have been watching this all week: Stuff YA readers say. "But wouldn't it be MORE romantic if...?"

I know you want to see Marvel Superheroes decked out in Hello Kitty. Not gonna lie, it's super cute. [HT Jeremy]

I am fascinated by this project to make a documentary about the sexual harassment women face in Egypt. They did a hidden-camera video of men looking at a woman walking down the street and it brought back sooo many awful memories. The guy at 1:04...shudder. [HT Anna]

Syria's generation in waiting.

What every introvert needs to know to be happy and successful. [HT Sarah]

Finally, a Simpsons database! Other than the one in my brain.

Here is a beautiful time-lapse video of Sharjah.

Bad lip-reading, NFL style. This may be my favorite one yet. [HT Jeremy]

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Reichstag, Berlin, 2002 and 2014

In 2002, Jeremy and I visited the Reichstag in Berlin. My parents took this candid photo of us that turned out really well. I've lost track of the exact provenance, but this is something like scan of a picture of a copy of a picture of the original, which we should really track down one of these days.

When we were in Berlin again this summer, twelve years later, we wanted to try to duplicate that exact photo. Unfortunately, we were only in Berlin for two days, and you have to make advance reservations now to visit the inside/roof of the Reichstag. So we settled for a snap in front of the building, taken near the end of our bike tour of the city.

This reminds me of when Jeremy took a picture of the same Bedouin girl in Petra, Jordan, in 2004 and then 2007. Except it's ourselves. Still, photos are a time capsule of sorts. It's fun to think about where we were in life in 2002 - married for eight months, living in Moscow - and now (three kids and a few degrees later, living in the UAE). We'll have to check in with the Reichstag in another 12 years!

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Hot Weather Protocol

It's still regularly above 100 degrees here. Over the years, we've developed our own Hot Weather Protocol for conducting everyday activities in a very hot environment. Most of these are just common sense, once you get used to living in extreme heat 4-5 months out of the year.

Hot Weather Protocol (HWP) includes the following:

- conducting as much errand preparation as possible inside the AC'd house/store/whatever. Gather everything you need, put on all your shoes/hats/sunglasses/whatever, and only THEN exit into the sun. The other day we went shopping. I grabbed the stroller out of the car, Jeremy grabbed Sterling, but we did not stop in the heat to buckle him in until we were inside the store's AC.

- teaching your kids a slightly different way to get help if they're lost. We have taught our kids that if they ever get lost (separated from us) outside, they need to get inside first, and then find someone to help them. It is amazing how fast you can get dangerously overheated and disoriented in high temperatures and direct sunlight.

- walking in the shade, if it's available. Always.

- possibly leaving the car running during quick errands, so the AC keeps things cool in preparation for your return. We actually don't do this one, but a lot of people around here do. Including students, while they're in class.

- if you haven't left the AC running, then that's the first thing that you do when you get back in. You start the car, and you blast the AC. This is the hardest for me when I'm grocery shopping with Sterling. I get back to the car and I have a cart full of groceries and my arms full of baby and the angle to get the keys in the ignition is juuuust out of my reach.

- playing outside at dusk/night. This seems so unwholesome in more temperate climates, but here, it is a necessity. Once the sun goes down, the kids come out.

- sitting outside and sweating like it's no big deal. Your kids are playing, you're out talking with the neighbors, and nobody feels like bringing up the fact that there are rivulets of sweat dripping down their back right this very moment.

- crayons and chocolate are not allowed in the car. Ever.

My favoritest, quirkiest HWP is that we put an ice pack in Sterling's carseat during the three hours the car is parked at church. It's the only regular long block of time that the car is parked outside in an uncovered space, and when you get back in - WOW. It is HOT. The buckles, straps, and cover of his carseat would burn him badly if we didn't cool everything down with one of those re-freezable blue ice packs. We do this every week for him, and every week I can't believe this is something that is normal for us.

This time of year is hot, but at least we're in cooling-down mode. Each day is a little less hot than the one before. Soon, we won't even have to follow Hot Weather Protocol.

Monday, September 08, 2014

American Mormon Abroad (The Exponent)

I have a guest post up at The Exponent: American Mormon Abroad. I could have written pages and pages about being a Mormon overseas, but I chose to focus on a few scattered "hmm, that's interesting" moments that offer a peek at what it's like to be American, Mormon, and living outside of the US.

Have a read, if you care to! If you're not Mormon, it's probably only of marginal interest, but you are welcome at The Exponent anyway. In fact, if you're not Mormon, maybe enlighten me as to how this phenomenon is at work in your religion. Does one particular culture influence the way you worship?

Many thanks to Liz for the invitation to guest-post at The Exponent!

Friday, September 05, 2014

September 5th, outsourced

Baywatch, Gaza style.

Could Mr. Darcy afford a stately home today? I've always wondered. [HT Dave]

This is so bizarre: a British man and his Saudi wife were attacked by members of the religious police. And there's video.

I'm sure most of you don't need a reason, but here is why you shouldn't click on any of those stolen nude photos. It's not a scandal, it's a crime. Also: "[I]t strikes me as deeply ironic that we will vehemently protest at a free Facebook messenger app because we're outraged at reports that it can access our phone's numbers, and yet turn around and excuse the serving up of women's bodies for our own pleasure. " [HT Ashi]

Americans tasting exotic Asian delicacies. Watch it and then watch it again. I've had natto before, by the way. It is pretty gross. [HT Jen]

17 British accents, illustrated by movie quotes. [HT Jeremy]

In this week's FLAMES. ON THE SIDE OF MY FACE category, we have "Only responsibility can stop rape." And that responsibility is the woman's, the author says.

In related news, this college student will carry around her dorm mattress until her alleged rapist is punished.

Moving on: all the comments on every recipe blog. "I didn’t have buttermilk, so I just poured baking soda into a container of raspberry yogurt. It tasted terrible." [HT Andrew]

This is almost too good to share. In 1971, the Mormon magazine The Ensign published an article about how to sew lingerie. Sadly, the illustrations do not accompany the online archived version, which does, however, include the word "peignoir." What a gem! [HT Anna]

Finally, what was the worst year in history? Discuss. [HT Anna]

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Cast removed, and a mystery

Magdalena had her cast removed last night, huzzah!

At a check-up appointment two weeks ago to see how her arm was healing, I took note of the unique relationship between the orthopedic doctor and his nurse. Most of the nurses at the hospital, whether male or female, are Filipino or Indian. This nurse (a man) was Arab (Yemeni - I asked him later).

In addition, the power dynamic between doctors and nurses is usually respectful, but very clear. The doctors give orders and the nurses follow them. It's very obvious who's in charge.

But with this doctor and this nurse, they seemed to treat each other as equals. The doctor consulted with the nurse about Magdalena's case. They looked over the x-rays together. The doctor asked the nurse's advice about the best course of action (they ended up putting on a new cast that left her elbow free, but encased more of her hand).

It was unusual enough that as I watched this all play out, I immediately started spinning theories in my head that could solve the mystery. And the one I came up with was that the Yemeni man was probably a doctor in Yemen, but his credentials didn't transfer straight across in the UAE, so he worked as a nurse. But the orthopedic doctor knew he was a doctor in Yemen, and afforded him the respect that station deserved, even though his official job title was now nurse.

Last night at our appointment to have the cast removed, I worked up the courage to ask the Yemeni nurse about it. And it turns out that I was right! He used to be an orthopedic doctor in Yemen, but his qualifications aren't worth the same in the UAE. So he works as a nurse. And the doctor knows this.

I also found out that he has two wives, one here in the UAE and one back in Yemen, and six children (one girl and five boys) between them.

The moral of the story is that sometimes it pays to ask people questions. Where are you from? What did you do there? Tell me about your family. Tell me about your life. You almost always find out the most interesting things, and solve mysteries in the process.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Fossils and chicken necks

Here are two stories from Germany.

1. We heard about this place in a village called Pottenstein where you could break apart rocks to look for fossils. Unfortunately, aside from some vague word of mouth, we could find out almost nothing else about it. But how big can a German village really be? We figured we'd go to Pottenstein and ask around. Surely an attraction as awesome as a Fossilklopfplatz would be well known to the village's inhabitants.

What ended up happening was that we asked around in town and got sent to the local mini golf course not once, but TWICE, by well-meaning townies. This is due to the fact that when we were trying to describe, in German, the concept of hunting for fossils, we used the word "dinosaur" (because fossils - do YOU know how to say trilobite in German??). Aaaaaand the local mini golf course has a big statue of a dinosaur in it. Fossilklopfplatz FAIL, but we went to the village Rodelbahn instead and had a blast.

(A few days later, I took the kids to look for the fossil place again and found it entirely by accident. It was run by a semi-crazy mad fossil-scientist named Julian who had a pet raven who ate out of his hand and drank out of a water bottle. Fun was had by ALL.)

2. One time at church, a German woman stood up to give a talk and an American missionary stood next to her to interpret. To help the missionary interpreter along, she used lots of hand gestures as she spoke. Also, this was the missionary's first time interpreting and he had a hard time at a few key moments.

As a result, instead of hearing the real story (she went out to her garden one morning and found something wrong with the watering system - a vent was malfunctioning, and she had a hard time twisting the faucet open and closed), we were almost told a story about her finding a small animal in her watering system (some confusion about "ventilation" in German, which includes the word Tier, which means "animal"), and it was a chicken (same word as faucet in German), and she had to WRING its neck [expressive hand gesture] to get the water flowing again. It was a pretty exciting talk, even if the missionary eventually had to correct himself.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Reluctant mom taxi

The girls started Year 2 and Year 4 yesterday, at a different school than the previous three years. Another change for this year is that, for now at least, I am driving them instead of having them take the bus.

This is the part where I am a bad mom (maybe) because I am not a fan of driving my kids to and from school every day. I think it's borderline ridiculous, at least when other options exist, like walking/biking (as I did in elementary school) or taking the bus (as I did for middle and high school until I could drive). My mom never drove me to school. If I recall correctly, nobody else's mom drove them to school, either.

But the bus service at the new school costs more than the old one did, and it doesn't even come with a lovely female bus attendant to keep things in order. There's a chance we'll switch to the bus in a few weeks, but it's a slim one.

In the perpetual meantime, I'm trying to look on the bright side. Driving my kids to school means I get some time with them at the beginning of their day, and some time with them in the afternoon to debrief. I will see their teachers on a more regular basis. They can stay after for activities without missing the bus. And, of course, we'll be saving a bunch of money. (Just don't bring up the cost of my time.)

Since I'm a novice, I'm still trying to figure out the best way to do things. I've known for years now that Sharjah has some seriously weird road patterns, but now I've discovered that one of the traffic black holes is located right outside the gate of the primary school. It's literally a can't-get-there-from here spot, unless I go a further 20 minutes out of my 10-minute way. So I have to park outside the gate of the secondary school and trek across campus on foot to get to the girls' classrooms. This could be a lovely walk in December, but for now it is a dash through the fires of hell - hotter, though, since I'm clutching a sweaty baby in my arms.

I'm keeping my eyes open to see what norms emerge after this first week or two of school is over. Maybe it will eventually be acceptable to give a cheery goodbye to the girls at the gate (even the secondary one), instead of walking them all the way over to the morning line-up area.

Do you drive your kids to school? What is my problem, anyway?


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