Sunday, June 29, 2014

The true story behind Calico Captive

One of my favorite books from childhood (and ok, maybe even still!) is Calico Captive, by Elizabeth George Speare. She is better known for The Witch of Blackbird Pond and The Bronze Bow, but Calico Captive is her best book, in my opinion.

Sorry, there is no non-weird cover for this awesome book. This is actually the best of the four choices!
The story of Calico Captive follows the true story of Miriam Willard. In 1754, during the pre-French and Indian War tensions, she and her sister's family were kidnapped from an isolated fort/settlement on the Connecticut River. Miriam, her 9-months-pregnant sister Susanna, her sister's husband James, and their three children Sylvanus (6), Sue (4), and Polly (2), along with a neighbor, Labaree, were marched by their Indian kidnappers through the wilderness of Vermont into French Canada. The book tells Miriam's story, but Speare based it on a memoir written in 1810 by Susanna Willard Johnson herself, then 80 years old.

You can read the memoir here. I had read it a few years ago, but now that (my daughter) Miriam is reading Calico Captive, I decided to read it again so I could discuss it with her. It is an amazing story (and the book stays pretty true to it, at least as far as Miriam's experience goes). Here is more about the life of Susanna Johnson, as told in her memoir.

Friday, June 27, 2014

June 27th, outsourced

The new map of the Middle East.

This TED Talk about words and what makes them real is one of my favorites. Very word-nerdy. [HT Susanne and Lisa]

This list of all the ways the US could possibly advance in the World Cup is irrelevant now (we made it through!), but still hilarious. [HT Andrew]

This article presents two lists of words and says that women recognize nearly all of one list and almost none of the other; vice-versa for men. How about you? I knew all of the "women" list and some of the other. [HT Ashley]

This story about Chile trying to keep Brazil out of the 1994 World Cup is CRAAAAZY. Flares, razor blades hidden in gloves, a picture that may or may not be the only proof...WOW.

Two professional football players vs. a whole bunch of kids. Can they still score a goal?? [HT Blair]

National Geographic photo contest!!!

Why-fi or wiffy - how people pronounce common tech terms. I say gif with a hard g, by the way.

Eight awesome GoPro videos. My kids can't get enough of the guy who hugs lions. [HT Jen]

I can't believe I'm old enough to enjoy a list like this: toys from my childhood. Where is Lite Brite, though? Also (possibly), a Fisher-Price magic set. Oh, and I had the Tudor-style Little People house.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Reading the Book of Mormon again, for the first time


I've been a Mormon all my life, and I've read the Book of Mormon many times from cover to cover. However, until recently, I had never sat down and read the thing like an actual book. Back in April, a friend suggested that I join a group that had worked out a schedule to read the Book of Mormon in the same time frame in which it was translated by Joseph Smith. In a few days, I will finish this reading of the Book of Mormon, having read the whole thing in about three months.

It's amazing what a difference an accelerated reading of the Book of Mormon can make. This time around, I've gained a better appreciation for the overall scope and timeline of the book. It's been a study of the macro instead of the micro. I think too often, we (or I, at least) get caught up in the mini-lessons of the book, in a collection of verses here or there, in a story that begins in one chapter and ends in the next.

But there is so much to be gleaned from the overarching themes, movement, and patterns of the Book of Mormon. And you can only really get that when you read it all in one go over a relatively short period of time, rather than in-depth and piecemeal over many months.

It helps that I'm reading Grant Hardy's A Reader's Edition of the Book of Mormon, too. Hardy stripped away the sometimes disorienting verse/chapter layout of the book, returning it to its original 1830 paragraphs. The chapters and verses are still there for ease of citation, but the text is now allowed to flow more naturally. Hardy has also added subheadings to guide the reader through the text. Oh, and footnotes. Lots and lots of footnotes. Plus super-awesome bonus material in the appendices, like the translation chronology, maps, and glossaries.

(All that said, I still got totally lost in the war chapters of Alma. I would need someone in a beret to push little soldier figures around a map with a riding crop to keep track of all the military maneuvers that are going on there. Even on this accelerated reading schedule, I basically had to summarize a few dozen chapters as "there were some wars.")

If you've never read the Book of Mormon in a short length of time, I recommend it. And I recommend you enrich your reading experience with Grant Hardy's The Book of Mormon: A Reader's Edition.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Having Magdalena's tonsils removed at age 5.5

Magdalena had her tonsils removed two weeks ago. We've known for the past year or two that this surgery was coming eventually; the fact that she had 5+ bouts of tonsillitis/strep in as many months sealed the deal.

One thing I love about doctors here is that their schedules are so much more accommodating than I've experienced in the US. We saw the ENT doctor on a Tuesday afternoon, asked if we could have the surgery scheduled soon, and he said, "how about next Thursday?" I was so glad we wouldn't have to wait long, especially since Magdalena had just come off a nasty bout of strep throat and a longer wait would have meant a greater possibility of her getting sick again before the surgery.

The process was much the same as my tonsillectomy in Tucson seven years ago. However, there were a few differences. For example, the doctors and nurses (at Belhoul European Hospital in Jumeirah) let Jeremy film throughout the process, including when they were putting Magdalena to sleep, when she was still asleep after the surgery, and her waking up. When Miriam had surgery to remove a dermoid cyst in 2009, they did not let me go with her beyond the intake room with the nurse. I didn't see her go under and they didn't let me back to see her until she had completely woken up. Jeremy got to be with Magdalena for the whole time except for the actual surgical procedure.

They also kept her at the hospital for the entire day. I remember being discharged from the hospital almost immediately after my tonsillectomy. That may be a difference in procedure, or just a matter of me being an adult and her being a child, so they needed to keep a closer eye on her.

In any case, everything went so well. And her recovery was so fast! When we went to the Cinderella ballet in Abu Dhabi, she'd had the surgery only two days before. But we'd bought the tickets way ahead of time, so I figured she could sit in a chair and watch Cinderella, or sit in a chair at home, and it would be all the same to her recovery. Just before we left, I handed her a dose of liquid Tylenol to drink, then I continued getting things ready. I noticed in the car and all evening at the ballet that she was a little quieter than she had been, even considering the fact that she was recovering from surgery. I thought maybe scabs were forming and irritating her throat more than usual. But after we got home about six hours later, I noticed that dose of Tylenol sitting on the table, untouched! She had been without pain meds all that time!

Here's a video of her right before the surgery, looking forward to the "ice cream vanilla" she's going to get to eat afterwards.


Oh, one more thing - they let us take home the tonsils. Really! Yes, I am going to post a picture of them below. The coin shown is about the size of a quarter. I am so glad these things are out of Magdalena and I'm so glad everything went well.


Monday, June 23, 2014

How I Write

Ashley of the illustrious Sherwood Family tagged me to blog about How I Write. Have you noticed that nobody tags people in blog posts anymore? I know, I know, it's because hardly anyone blogs anymore, right? I'm tempted to go all crotchety on you and extol the value of the written word, but I don't really feel that way. I'm glad there are different media people can choose from to express themselves according to their strengths. I blog because it's what I've always done, because it suits my lifestyle (living away from family in a foreign country that lends itself to stories), and because I like to write.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. There are actual questions I'm supposed to answer!

What am I working on?
Stuff. I'm in that stage of SAHMdom where I am busy all day and yet I could not for the life of me sit down and fill out a timesheet showing you what I have accomplished. It's summertime, so life is slow. I'm looking forward to next week when life will be slow in a much cooler climate (aka Europe).

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Tell me what my genre is so I can answer this question! If this is a mommy blog (because I am a mom and I have a blog? Not a fan of that term), then it's different because I live outside the US and actually I don't think I blog about my kids that much. If this is an expat blog, then maybe I blog about my kids a little too much. I like to think that maybe my blog has no genre, that if you like to read about books, life overseas, mom/kid stuff, Mormons, the English language, foreign languages, being a working mom, being a student mom, working in academia, traveling, traveling with kids, the Middle East, Russia, Japan, random stories from an American childhood, weekly updates on cool websites, and (lately/strangely) a lot of stuff about Ken Jennings and/or Jeopardy!, then this is an ok place for you to be.

Why do I write what I do?
I write what I do because blogging is how I parse my life experiences. I enjoy finding the story arc of everyday occurrences; the spark of growth in awful days; the oddities in normal ones.

How does my writing process work?
I usually have one or two ideas for a post floating around in my head. Sometimes they sit there until something happens to bring them to the forefront. For example, for a few weeks, I had been wanting to blog about how I was finally getting back into shape, but I couldn't find the right entry point to that story. Then I saw my Filipina friend at the pool. When she told me I was sexy again, I knew I had my blog post.

Other times, something happens, like my car battery dies, and I write a post about it. I still sometimes wait for a hook, though. With the car battery story, I still think it's pretty mundane. But I found that thinking of it through the normal straw/crazy straw filter, or when I considered that of all people, at all times, it was an Iraqi man, right now, who ended up helping me, the post took a better shape. But there are still plenty of messy posts on this blog. Sometimes (ok, MOST times) I don't finesse them. I'd rather write than not write, even if the final product is not perfect. Perhaps you've noticed.

As for who I would like to tag to answer these questions, I choose Nancy of Heissatopia. And I didn't even warn her ahead of time.

Thanks, Ashley! And good luck, Nancy.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Eating Qamr al-Din

Ramadan is once again almost upon us. It will start around 29 June, give or take a day. This year and next year will be the hottest, longest days of Ramadan; after that, it will start shifting into cooler days and earlier sunsets.

Many businesses have already posted their Ramadan hours of operation, which means crazy things like banks staying open until midnight and 9-to-5-type jobs turning into 9-to-2 with no lunch break. Major roadways and overpasses are already decorated with lights (even if nobody is flipping the switches quite yet). And of course, the grocery stores have their fancy Ramadan pavilions set up.

Here is our local Carrefour's Ramadan ad insert.



"Ramadan Kareem" means "Happy Ramadan." As you can see, dates are a big part of Ramadan break-the-fast meals. Dates are usually the first thing you eat when you break your fast, along with some water. Only then can the true feasting begin.

Today at the store, the girls noticed a pile of Qamr al-Din apricot leather and asked if we could try some. Qamr al-Din ("moon of the faith" - I think?) is another Ramadan specialty. It's sheets of dried apricot with sugar and olive oil mixed in. Kind of like a fruit leather, but with more oomph (I think it's the olive oil - it gives it more heft and a slight savory edge). In Damascus, we saw this stuff everywhere. We bought some once and ate it as-is, like the clueless Americans we were (are). (Though I swear we ate some like that with our landlady, too.)


But the real purpose of Qamr al-Din is to make a syrupy apricot drink. You soak the sheets of apricot in hot water and then blend it up. But I don't think today's purchase of Qamr al-Din will make it that far. I broke it open for the girls tonight and they snacked on it happily. I know we're not consuming it the way it's meant to be consumed - it's like we're at Thanksgiving dinner and serving ourselves heaping portions of cranberry sauce to eat plain - but it's delicious, so oh well.

We'll only catch a day or two of Ramadan before we leave the country for our summer adventures, but I'm glad we've got the girls interested in this traditional food, even if we are eating it wrong!

Friday, June 20, 2014

June 20th, outsourced

There was a lot of genuine and heartfelt posting of articles about Kate Kelly on fb this week. There was also a lot of passive/aggressive "I told you so" posting of articles about Kate Kelly on fb this week. For the sake of my well-being, I didn't read many, but these two are gems, in my opinion: By Common Consent's template post, and Melyngoch's post about apostasy on Zelophehad's Daughters.

Here are some name suggestions that read like a bizarro Baby Name Wizard book. Higgs-Bosington is my favorite. [HT Sarah]

This screenshot of the wikipedia entry for US soccer player John Brooks is one reason why I love the fact that wikipedia can be edited by anyone. [HT Blair]

I was so touched and not at all surprised to learn that Japanese fans stayed after a recent World Cup game to pick up trash. Of course they did.

A very polite man asks fast-food workers to re-make his order so it matches the picture from the ad.

The woman who invented Iraq (Gertrude Bell).

Two people speaking six languages to each other. No biggie. [HT Jen]

First moon party. So funny, so well done, I could watch it a million times and never get tired of it.

At the (imagined) pitch meeting for Maleficent. So funny, so well done, I could watch it a million times and never get tired of it.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Normal straw or crazy straw?


It was 40C (104F) outside this afternoon. I had missed the turnoff for where I needed to go, and faced with a complicated 15-minute or more detour to correct my mistake (so common here in the Land Where Left Turns Are Forbidden), I had pulled to the shoulder of the road and crossed a median on foot. I made sure to be quick about the errand. Jeremy was at home with the kids for the few minutes I planned on being gone. But when I got back to the car, BOOM: dead battery.

Car batteries are like ticking time bombs here. The extreme heat and the month or two of disuse during the summers means that car batteries do not last long. This afternoon, time ran out on ours. I called Jeremy and as we decided what to do, I felt like Daniel Craig when Elaine Figgis asks him if he wants a normal straw (Jeremy come to my rescue) or a crazy straw (flag down a passerby to help).

Daniel Craig said, "crazy." AND SO DID I. Woohoo! Bring on the adventure.

It took about two seconds for someone to stop to help me. It was an extremely elderly Emirati man and his Pakistani driver. But they couldn't figure out how to get the cars nose-to-nose on the busy street in order to attach the jumper cables. Fortunately, someone else stopped by soon after: an Iraqi man who physically pushed my car down the road to a bus stop pull-out in the road where he could properly align the hood with that of his own car.

(Even as he was helping me, two or three other cars slowed down to see if they could help. And do you know, they were all Emiratis!)

I know the man was Iraqi because he made a point of telling me so after he asked where I was from and I told him I was American. I was instantly reminded of some of the awkward times from 2004-2005 when we were Americans in Syria during the height of American operations in Iraq. You never knew whether people were going to love you or hate you for that. It's been easier to be an American in the Middle East in many ways in recent years, but recent headlines in Iraq have brought some of the awkwardness back. And I felt just a twinge of it as my Iraqi hero got my car running in a jiffy.

Even though I chose the crazy straw, I really could not have asked for my appeal to passing strangers to go any better. I had more help than I needed, and I was on my way before Jeremy and the normal straw option would have even reached me. I can only hope for the same the next time we lose the car battery lottery. We'll see if I have the courage to choose the crazy straw again.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A night at the ballet

The UAE is not a major stop for world-class fine arts. There is always talk of building a proper opera house in Dubai, but it hasn't happened yet. On Saturday, we went to Abu Dhabi for a fairly rare ballet performance of Cinderella, featuring dancers from the Bolshoi and the Royal Moscow ballet.

It was a cultural experience in more than one way. Culture, because ballet, and culture, because the UAE. The venue was an exhibition center, and so the stage was set up in what was essentially a conference room, with the peon seats on bleachers and the VIPs up front in leather couches (really!). There was a live orchestra (yay!) but no pit, so they were off to the side of the stage. Unfortunately, probably for reasons of acoustics, the orchestra was hooked up to microphones and the sound was amplified through speakers on either side of the stage. So even though the music was live, you could be forgiven for thinking someone just pressed play on a boom box.

The dancing was very good. Again, the unorthodox venue took away from the magic of the performance, but the girls were riveted and I tried very hard not to remember that I have seen ballet performed at the Bolshoi theater itself, as well as the Kremlin Palace. (Russia has ruined me for events like this.) As I watched the show and occasionally explained the story to my girls, I tried to imagine what it was like 100+ years ago when the ballet was the most exciting thing going on, night after night, the very pinnacle of entertainment.

At intermission, we grabbed a snack. No, not open-faced Бутерброд or swanky, overpriced beverages, but honest-to-goodness Indomie-chan ramen noodles from a package for 10dhs, and ice cream by the scoop.

Also at intermission, one of the ushers - who happens to be Slovakian - found out that I am part Slovakian (Carpatho-Rusyn, whatever) and insisted on upgrading us to the VIP seating. So we watched the rest of the ballet in great comfort, perched on leather sofas, just meters from the stage. For once, my Slovakian connections proved to be quite the advantage.

Since cultural events like these are not quite the norm here, the behavior of the attendees was a little out of the ordinary, too. Some of us were quite dressed up. Others were in leggings and hightop sneakers. Some of us paid respectful attention to the performance. Others (even in the VIP seating, where tickets cost more than 799dhs!) were playing games on smartphones and getting up and down during the performance.

So it was a little rough around the edges. But I'm glad we got a chance to see a ballet here, even if we had to go to Abu Dhabi to do it.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Kids these days, talking to authors on Twitter

Miriam has had exams at school for the past few days. One day last week, she finished early and decided to draw a map of the world from memory. I'm not saying this is the greatest map of the world ever drawn from memory by an 8-year-old. I am saying that Miriam has not ever been tremendously interested in geography, but reading the Junior Genius Guides Maps & Geography has inspired a few cartographic activities recently. So this map of the world was a new thing for her to try to do, and I was really impressed, even if it IS missing the entire Iberian Peninsula.

I told Miriam we could send it to Professor Ken Jennings (as he is called in the books) and he might see it. So we did.



So imagine how TOTALLY AWESOME it was the next morning to see that the Professor himself had RT'd it! Miriam smiled her special quiet smile that she saves for when she's really happy about something.


I replied to the tweet with some extra context for a few people who were wondering about the extra islands on the map.


There you have it: this is the way kids these days interact with their favorite authors. In my day, you had to maybe ask a librarian for a postal address and maybe a few months later you'd get a type-written reply. Maybe. I think Miriam will always remember this!

Friday, June 13, 2014

June 13th, outsourced

Here's an article about the Arabian version of a pioneer trek they did in our stake recently.

I remember watching Vanity Fair for the second or third time and finally noticing that Reese Witherspoon was totally pregnant. Here is an article about how actresses deal with this issue (and how pregnant actresses are dealt with).

Lessons on language-learning from the (Mormon) Missionary Training Center.

An office for introverts. Too bad cubicles aren't the only problem! [HT Jeremy]

I love this: if strangers talked to everybody like they talk to writers. "Ah, a middle school teacher? Have I met any of the students you've taught?"

Next time you start feeling sorry for yourself and your American passport, read more about what it's like for an Arab to go on vacation.

I meant to do a standalone blog post about this, and maybe I still will, except that I think it's all been said by now. Someone at Slate said adults should be embarrassed to be reading Young Adult books. The Atlantic said, you know, that is a really simplistic point of view and here are some things that are AWESOME about reading YA as an adult.

Also worth reading: No, The Fault in Our Stars is not YA fiction's savior. I loved so many things this article said.

I read this article about end-of-life care for the homeless and undocumented within minutes of reading this article about "anti-homeless spikes" in the UK. Interesting juxtaposition, though I do understand what the spikes are trying to accomplish. [HT Jen for the first article]

Oh my gosh this look at five minutes in a mom's head was like a checklist of thoughts I have EVERY DAY.

As the mother of two place-(middle)-named daughters, this article about country-name-inspired baby names was of great interest to me. Back in 2005, Jeremy and I considered using Syria for Miriam but went with the less political Damascus instead. [HT Eric D. Snider]

I enjoyed watching this guy's creative use of the fact that he was all alone in the Vegas airport in the middle of the night (though I'm not sure it surpasses this take on the same situation from a few years ago).

Thursday, June 12, 2014

I support Kate Kelly

Today I heard the news that Kate Kelly, founder of Ordain Women, is in danger of being excommunicated.

As detailed in a post I wrote in April, I was never fully on board with Ordain Women, but I have admired Kate Kelly ever since I heard her speak on this podcast. Listen to that podcast and tell me that is NOT a believing woman who loves and values her faith, who wants to make things better from within, and who has tried to raise important issues using the framework already established by the church.

Today's news breaks my heart. I feel such sadness for Kate, my dear sister in the gospel. She has done so much good for the members of the church and I feel sad at the thought of her not being one of us anymore.

I wrote in April that "I am excited to be a member of the church at this time of small changes, and potential for greater changes." Today, I feel deflated and, frankly, quite a bit less excited. I am sometimes an optimist to a fault, and I want to believe that hanging pictures of female leaders in the Conference Center (etc.) was never meant to be an end in and of itself, but a beginning step along a long, hopeful path toward greater gender equality in the church. And dangit, the optimist in me says it still is a beginning step along such a path. This I must believe.

I'm just sad that Kate Kelly apparently won't be making the journey with us.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Jeopardy! Julia


A woman named Julia Collins just achieved the second-longest winning streak ever on Jeopardy! last week. She won 20 games (Ken Jennings remains in first with 74 wins). Jeremy and I (and sometimes the girls, too) have spent the last few days catching up on it all via this helpful YouTube playlist. And let me tell you, it was such a joy to watch this woman play.

Look, I know that it doesn't really matter that Julia is a woman. Gender aside, she is the second-winningest player ever to be on Jeopardy!, so she holds her own among the very best without any kind of "...for a woman" caveat.

But also look, since she IS a woman, let's talk about it. I loved seeing a woman play as brilliantly as she did, beating the crap out of her opponents with a ruthlessness that belied her conservative sweaters, sparkly necklaces, lovely smile (seriously! such a smile!), and weirdly mesmerizing way of stating her choice of clue. I love that her 20-game streak puts her way out of range of anyone who wants to diminish her victory by qualifying it with any conceivable attack on her gender.

I loved watching her episodes with my daughters so they could see that being super smart and competitive is not exclusively a man's game. I've watched Jeopardy! quite a few times over the years with Miriam, but this was the first time Miriam has ever come up with some of the answers to the clues all by herself, in real time (she got three clues right in a category about birds).

Unfortunately, as happy as Julia makes me, I think we still have a long way to go when it comes to smart women who aren't afraid to show how smart they are on TV. I was watching some of Arthur Chu's games a few weeks ago and came across some really awful comments on the YouTube videos (I KNOW, the first rule of the internet is to not read the comments, but Jeopardy! comments are usually super nerdy discussions of wagers and game theory and quibbles with the clues). These comments - from people who ostensibly looked up a Jeopardy! episode on YouTube and then watched it - were about the women contestants' breast size, or teeth, or hairstyle, or other horrible things that completely ignored the fact that the only relevant piece of information here is that the woman has a brain and is really good at using it. UGH.

I can't wait to see Julia play again on the next Tournament of Champions. I know I'm not the only one looking forward to seeing her take on Ken Jennings and other top players from the past.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Baby GoPro

We bought a GoPro video camera about a year ago. In case you don't know what a GoPro is, you probably do actually know. It's a small box that you can wear strapped to your head, or around your chest, or hold with a floaty handle if you're in the water (it has a waterproof case). I have also noticed GoPros being used to film parts of TV shows like The Amazing Race. You can see them strapped to canoes or sky-diving apparatus or other action-packed vantage points. It gives a different perspective and feel than a hand-held camera and while it is probably designed for adventure sports, we've found that it's fun to use with more mundane family activities, too.

Here's the first video we put together of a whole bunch of swimming last summer.


But yes, adventure sports is clearly the key market for GoPro. Here's a video Jeremy put together of a Wadi Adventure Race in Al Ain earlier this year.


Does anyone else have a GoPro? I would recommend getting one if you're considering it, even if you don't plan on using it for adventure purposes. It's a great camera to just strap on when you're out and about with the kids. And since it's virtually indestructible, we let the kids have turns filming, too. The only problem is that you end up with tons of footage - awesome footage, but tons of it - that you then have to sift through when it's time to compile watchable videos. Still, it sure is lots of fun!

And you can even let your baby eat it. This is 4-month-old Sterling having a go.



Friday, June 06, 2014

June 6th, outsourced

Famous actresses who are also bilingual! I already knew about many of these, but Sandra Bullock and German caught me off guard.

I was obsessed with the 1964 Good Friday earthquake in Alaska when I was a kid, but there was only one photo of it in our set of children's encyclopedias. Therefore, I enjoyed this photo collection (the one in my old encyclopedia was similar to #18).

These moms and dads are so funny.

The Washington Ballet's hardest dance moves (in slow motion!).

Female-named hurricanes kill more than male-named hurricanes because people don't respect them. This is one of those "are you sure this isn't The Onion?" headlines.

I believe this was later exposed as a fake story, but suspend your disbelief for a moment and enjoy the possibility that a toddler defaced his dad's passport so badly that he was not allowed to leave a foreign country to travel back home.

Jeremy and I have been giggling at this all week: a garage owner in Scotland played a joke on Google Street View. He saw the Google Street View car coming and knew he "had one minute to rush back inside the garage and set up the murder scene." A year later, someone noticed the pictures on Street View and called the cops.

If we were Syrian, we'd expect better.

These photos of iconic D-Day places, then and now - amazing. [HT Jeremy]

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Baby food bliss


One of my favorite things I've done differently with kid #3 is feeding him store-bought baby food. BLISS. I only ever fed the girls homemade baby food and that worked well enough at the time. I started out doing the same with Sterling, but I got tired of him spitting out my painstakingly prepared concoctions. Let him spit out the store-bought stuff, I thought. And he did. For a while, at least.

Now that he has gotten the hang of this solid food thing, though, I'm not inclined to give up the store-bought stuff. It is so dang handy. I can't get over how much I love just opening up a jar/pouch and feeding it to him. Plus, I am just never going to make the kid pot au feu or chicken and couscous or any of the other ethnic concoctions they have here, so thank you, random Moroccan/French/British/Turkish/English baby food brands.

As he gets used to it all, I am bringing him more into our regular family meal foods, which I then smoosh or blend to a manageable texture. He's had refried black beans, chili, hummus, and borscht that way. The store-bought baby food stage is relatively short, but I am so glad I chose that path this time around.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Frozen in Arabic


Jeremy and I can't stop talking about this post at The New Yorker: Translating Frozen into Arabic.

You may recall from previous posts on this blog (like this one) that Arabic has a standard spoken/written form called Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), and then lots of dialects depending on the country or region. So the Khaliji dialect they speak here in the UAE, is quite different from the Shami Arabic they speak in Syria, is quite different from the Masri they speak in Egypt, is quite different from the Maghrebi they speak in Morocco/Tunisia. But it's all Arabic, and to some degree, it's all mutually intelligible.

In general, the language of entertainment media has been Egyptian Arabic. I don't know why. But if you were to buy an Arabic version of Finding Nemo, it would be dubbed over in Egyptian Arabic. However: the article I linked to earlier points out that Frozen has been dubbed over in MSA. This is comparable to sitting your kids down in front of Frozen, turning it on, and having all the dialogue be in the style of the King James Bible. Huh? For some reason, Disney broke with tradition and put Frozen in MSA instead of the Egyptian dialect.

Which brings the author (and me) to the same conclusion: huh? French and Spanish and probably other languages get their own regional versions of Frozen, but the entire Arabic-speaking world gets stuck with Ye Olde Formal-like Talk?

I really wish they would dub the movies in different dialects. It would be so helpful in encouraging the girls to learn the spoken language in addition to the book MSA they learn at school.

And, you know, there is the small matter of the millions of Arab children who could hear the beauty of such lines as "don't know if I'm elated or gassy/but I'm somewhere in that zone!" in their own dialect.

Monday, June 02, 2014

"You're sexy again!"

The other evening, I took the kids to the pool. A Filipina friend of mine was there. I hadn't seen her for a few months, and the first thing she said when she saw me was, "You're sexy again!"

I'm considering making "you're sexy again!" my new go-to phrase for telling someone they look great/have lost weight/etc. Honestly, it was great to hear that sentiment in such enthusiastic terms. I've been working really hard on exercise for the last 3.5 months, and eating + exercise for the last two months. The results are sometimes slow in coming, but now, thanks to my friend and her honesty, I know they ARE coming.

It has been harder this time around to get back to my normal, pre-baby self. I attribute this mostly to the fact that I had to focus on my thesis first thing after giving birth, rather than exercising. It was as if I woke up one day after graduating and realized that my baby was four months old and I was still lots of pounds away from what I consider to be my true self. I know that post-baby body changes are normal, but I no longer felt at home in my own skin. I looked at myself in pictures or in the mirror and thought, "that is not me."

I'm much, much closer to my true weight now, and I'm feeling so much more at ease with my body as a result. I'm still hanging on to some extra poundage, but hey, at least I'm sexy again.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

May 2014 books

Greek Mythology (Junior Genius Guides, #1)Greek Mythology by Ken Jennings

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I bought this for my kids, and then ended up stealing it from them so I could read it myself. Miriam (age 8) and I finally called a truce and shared the book by flipping the pages to read our favorite parts to each other as Magdalena listened in. The drawings are awesome. The text is great. The tone is engaging. I officially love this series. Youth non-fiction is tricky to get right, but Ken Jennings succeeded. So well, in fact, that Miriam actually ran back from the morning bus the other day yelling "MYTHOLOGY!!!" and grabbed this book to bring to school. This will be good for many re-reads to come, and different bits of the book will catch her (and Magdalena's and eventually Sterling's) interest at different ages.

Because the thing is, we live overseas and don't have access to an extensive library of children's books. If I'm going to buy a book, it can't be for just a one-off read. It has to be WORTH it, for years to come, for all the kids. I took a risk on this (and Maps and Geography, the only other JGG available from The Book Depository) and it paid off, big time. Hooray!



A Sliver of Light: Three Americans Imprisoned in IranA Sliver of Light: Three Americans Imprisoned in Iran by Shane Bauer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Audiobook.

3.5 stars. Always interesting, but I've read better captivity-narrative books, even ones that take place in Iran, specifically. Plus, I couldn't get over how insufferable these three people were. They certainly did not deserve to be put in Evin prison in Tehran, and bless them for holding fast to their sometimes odious convictions throughout the ordeal, and I'm glad they're free, but. BUT. There is a massive BUT somewhere in all this that I cannot or will not put into words.

(I concede that some of the attitude I picked up from this book may have come from the narrators' voices rather than the prose itself.)


PanicPanic by Lauren Oliver

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm tempted to give a big ol' MEH to this book. I mean, I read the whole thing and enjoyed it, but I will probably never think about it again. Its major strengths are that Heather is one dang interesting human being, and that sometimes it is nicely spooky.



Lost on Planet China: The Strange and True Story of One Man's Attempt to Understand the World's Most Mystifying Nation, or How He Became Comfortable Eating Live SquidLost on Planet China: The Strange and True Story of One Man's Attempt to Understand the World's Most Mystifying Nation, or How He Became Comfortable Eating Live Squid by J. Maarten Troost

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


It is unfortunate for every travel writer ever that I will always compare their work to Robert D. Kaplan's. I can't help it. It's what I do. So when I read books like Lost on Planet China, that are meant to be high on anecdotes and observations and very light on politics and context, I end up disoriented. This book was fun, but ever so slightly slipshod. I am reminded of The Wilder Life, where ten pages in, I knew I did NOT want to spend a whole book with this person. Troost is a fun companion - even a laugh-out-loud one - for a lot of the time, but sometimes I just needed a break.

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