Tuesday, August 28, 2007

How to tell you are not in America, part 2

Last week, after the New Student Orientation at Blaine's school, I took the kids out for lunch. We went to a local pizza place, and they have their own version of "happy meals" for the kids. It includes a drink, a kid-sized cheese pizza and, of course, a toy.

So, that brings us to part 2: The Toys. If your happy meal toys look like this - you might not be in America.

I call this one "Top of Death". It came with a long string, ostensibly to wrap around the top to make it spin on the extremely sharp nail that is sticking out of it. Just the toy for a 5 year old and his 19 month old sister.

I like to call this doll "Propecia Patty". As you can see, she has an unfortunate thinning hair situation going on. And the ironic part is that she came with a comb. Kyra just looked at the doll, then at me like "you have GOT to be kidding me." And the hair? It wasn't the worst part of this doll. Nope.

It's kind of hard to tell in this photo (because I have awesome photography skillz) but her arms? They are completely flat. Like Gilderoy Lockhart tried to mend a broken bone. Kyra, who is not the most discriminating of kids, doesn't even want to play with her. She's currently sitting on my desk next to the Top of Death. Soon they will both be sitting in the trash can. I guess it wasn't such a "happy" meal for Propecia Patty.

Monday, August 27, 2007

First day of Kindergarten!

Doesn't he look smart? Spiderman backpack, Hot Wheels shoes, motorcycle shirt and "tan"fastic Four water bottle.

Here he is by his locker. It's got his name on it and everything so I guess this whole school thing is official. (Note the "I'm humoring my mother with this fake smile" going on in this picture. He really just wanted to get into his classroom).

And here he is, signing in. He doesn't even need me to do that for him any more. Such a big kid. Such an awesome kid. And he's only been at school for 2 hours and I miss him. I'm not the only one missing him, either. His sister is walking around the house looking for him. She keeps going into his room and calling out "Ba?" I bet she's going to be as excited as I am to pick him up this afternoon.

Oh, and in case you are wondering, I didn't cry. Much. And I waited until I was back in the car. This mothering thing is hard.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Forecast: Tomorrow expect much sobbing (and pictures!)

Tomorrow is Blaine's first day of Kindergarten. Even though he attended a full-day pre-k program last year, I am wholly emotionally unprepared for him to be a Kindergartner. How do I know this? Last Wednesday, during "New Student Orientation" I almost started crying no less than 5 times. And what sort of activities were making me so emotional? Oh, things like buying his PE uniform, filling out paperwork and seeing his new classroom.


I am ok with that. I fully embrace it. I know that it's because Kindergarten is the official start of his school life. It's a big step. And he is my first child, so all of his firsts are my firsts as a parent. I've gotten choked up at other firsts that are far more stupid than this. (Example? First St. Patrick's Day Parade. When he was 9 months old. Yes. Seriously). I'm not sure I will get as emotional when it's Kyra's first day of Kindy, because it won't be my first time experiencing it. I will be much more prepared. Hard-hearted. I will be tough-love mommy.

Who am I kidding? I will probably be a basket case then as well. Because, you know, I don't plan on having any more children. So, taking her to Kindergarten (3.5 years in the future) will be my last time doing so. I will find any excuse for my emotional freak outs.

I just hope my husband (who is back from his week-long sojourn in Germany) remembers to bring tissues with him tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

How to tell you are not in America

If your bathroom signs look like the ones above, you might not be in the US. Just sayin'.
Also, while on the "not in America" subject, I would like to thank Amy of Mom's Daily Dose and Amalah for the mention on her expat blogroll. I appreciate it! If any of you reading are here from there (make sense?) welcome! Also, feel free to check out my adventures in Tbilisi, Georgia - my previous home away from home.

Adventures in Oman, Part 2

Oh, yes. I can see the joy on your faces now. I'm actually posting a Part 2. Shocking and thrilling all at the same time. Without further ado, I present Adventures in Oman, Part 2 - the Five Forts Tour! As always, you can find all the fun photos (look! a rock! cute kids! walls! more rocks! canons!) on flickr.

Ah, it was a cool day. Perfect for touring forts. That have no air conditioning. Because they were built a long time ago.

So, we put on our sweaters, scarves and extra socks (kidding!), loaded up the kids and the sunscreen, packed a cooler with some juice for the kids (but no water because we are so very smart) and hit the road. Now, the guide book claimed that this was an excursion that would take a whole day, but you would get to see 5 forts. Obviously the authors were not travelling with a 5 year old and a 19-month old. So, for us, it became the 2.5 forts tour. But I digress.

Look! Coffee pots! The guide book actually had this as a point of interest. So, being the tourist that I am, I made David stop so I could take a picture.

But where, you are asking, are the forts? It took a little bit of work to find our first fort, Sur ar Rumays. We turned off the main highway in to a small village and then had to follow our GPS to get to the fort. There were no more roads - more like dirt trails. You see, it really is an abandoned fort. Pretty much neglected. Unrestored. Crumbling apart. But really, really fascinating. I think this was my favorite fort of the 2.5 that we saw.

Blaine totally dug this fort as well. He explored every nook and cranny. So, it's a good thing he was wearing proper footwear. Wouldn't want any pesky nails, or, oh say, HUMONGOUS SPIKES IN OLD DOORS to accidentally pierce his tender flesh.

Hey, they are Spiderman sandals. Of course they kept his feet safe.

After touring the fort we hopped in the car and did a bit more off-roading to get back to the actual road. From there we stopped at another point of interest, the beach. The beach. Hot and not all that exciting, so we will skip the pictures from there. (Once again, if you want to see them, go to flickr.)

Our next fort was supposed to be the Barka fort. But here is where our expert planning skills (Dave: "wanna go look at some forts?" Jen "ok - hey kids get your shoes on!") throw a little monkey wrench into the fort touring. At this point it is 111 degrees outside. We've just gone for a walk on the beach. It's 1 PM. So now we have 2 hot kids. Not only hot, but also starving. But they are not thirsty because we brought them juice (see, good parenting!). We also have 2 hot and hungry parents - who are thirsty because we packed no water and didn't want to have to fight the kids for their juice boxes. We decide to skip actually getting out of the car and touring the fort - we didn't even take pictures, we just drove past the fort (look kids! big fort! wow!) and went in search of a place to eat. With air conditioning. This is how Barka fort became the .5 on our fort tour.

Here's where our expert planning skills, once again, come into play. It's Friday. Friday here, especially in a smaller, more conservative town like Barka, is like a Sunday in a tiny town in the bible belt. Everything is pretty much closed. The one "coffee" shop that was open had no women in it at all. We decided to skip stopping in and hanging out with the locals - we didn't want to offend anyone. Instead, we drove back toward the highway and along the way we spy a grocery store! We get out, shop - bread, peanut butter and jelly, oreos - you know the four food groups. Oh, yeah, we also got some water. Lots of water.

It was interesting shopping in this quiet town on a Friday - we were quite the spectacle. I'm taking a wild guess that they don't get too many Americans - Blaine and Kyra were ooh'd and ahh'd over. Everyone was so helpful, the manager kept coming over and asking us if he could help us find anything. After we checked out and were on our way to the car the manager came running out of the store yelling "BLAINE! BLAINE!" and waving something in his hands. He gave Blaine a set of crayons and colored pencils with a coloring book as a gift for shopping at his store. How cool is that?

After eating a roadside lunch in a shady spot (with the car running and the air conditioner at full blast), we were ready to continue on our way to the next fort, Nakhal fort.

Nakhal is a great fort - I would actually love to go back again in cooler weather and spend more time exploring. As it was so hot, we pretty much just hit the highlights of the fort. But there are many highlights as the fort is beautifully restored. Check out the entrance (and the cute kids!)

What troopers Kyra and Blaine were. They really seemed to enjoy themselves, except when we wanted to take Blaine's picture by one of the canons. For some reason he really thought that the canon was going to go off. We could not convince him otherwise.

Not long after I snapped this picture, David and I decided it was time to leave. Standing on rooftops in the 110+ degree heat is not a whole lot of fun. We loaded the kids back in the car and headed home. We will be going out again to finish the 5 forts tour. But I think we will wait until it's a tad bit cooler before we do.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Adventures in Oman, Part 1

The title, of course, implies there will be a part 2. Implies. Does not promise. If you read The Other Georgia, you know that sometimes...ok, most of the time, I post sporadically. I also promise to post things and then, well, I forget. So, I'm hoping there will be a part 2. Even a part 3 or 4 or 5. But I'm not promising such updates. Just so we are clear before we start.

Thursday night* David and I left the kids with a babysitter and headed down through Ruwi, out to Mutrah Harbor and from there up to the Shangri-La resort. After driving around the Shangri-La and checking it out, we headed back down to Mutrah to the Souk to check it out. After wandering around the souk for a little while, we stopped and had dinner before heading home. So, here are some photo highlights of the trip. The whole set can be found on flickr.

This first shot is of the "gates" to the harbor city of Mutrah (or Muttrah - there are many different spellings). I have been told they are replicas, but I still think they are pretty cool.

This next shot is a man-made waterfall with mosaic that is in one of the cliffs between Mutrah and the Shangri-La resort.

In the distance you can see the Shangri-La resort. I think we were 10 minutes or so from actually arriving there because of the way the road twists and turns. The road, by the way, is completely deserted. There is a turn off along the way for the dive center, but other than that, there is nothing out there until you hit the resort.

This is a dhow in a traffic circle outside of Mutrah. This dhow has an interesting history - it sailed from Muscat to China in 1980, a journey of some 8 months, to try to replicate the story of Sinbad the Sailor, whom many claim came from Oman. You can find the whole story of the boat and the journey here. It's quite fascinating. The boat was made without a single nail.

I just thought this was a pretty shot of the water and the sunset. This was on the road between Mutrah and Shangri-La, as we were heading back to Mutrah and the souk.

And this is the most important picture of all. This is LuLu Hypermarket. This is the one in Ruwi, I usually shop at the one in Muscat. I will have to get a picture of the one in Muscat, as it has even more neon and flashing lights and is a bit larger. The picture doesn't give you a really good idea of how large the store is. Take your average Super Wal-Mart, and add a second story as well as a few thousand extra sq. feet. That's LuLu.

I don't have any pictures of the souk because it was dark by the time we got there and Omanis are also not keen on having their picture taken. The souk was nice, but we didn't really explore much as we were both starving and were looking forward to having dinner without having to corral 2 kids. I'm sure I will go back to the souk again, and I bet if I ask nicely, I will be able to take some pictures of the shops, if not the people. And maybe I will post them. You never know, it could happen.

*Thursday night is the same as a Saturday night in the US. Our weekend here is on Thursday and Friday. The work week starts on Saturday. It takes a little getting used to.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I bet you think I'm joking

But we played Candyland again today. Twice. Blaine has other games. But he is on some weird obsessive Candyland kick.

In other news, I now have transportation. Wheeeeeeeee. I drove out to Blaine's new school today, just so I could be sure I knew how to get there. We go on the 22nd for New Student Orientation. It sounds so official and it kind of makes my heart skip a beat. I'm going to have a Kindergartener this year. How did that happen? Funny conversation I had with Blaine yesterday, as he ate chicken nuggets for lunch - which is something he eats for lunch or dinner quite often:

Me: Dude, you really like chicken nuggets
Blaine: Yeah, chicken nuggets are good for me
Me: I don't know. I think if you eat too many you might turn into a chicken nugget
Blaine: But I don't want to turn into a chicken nugget. I just want to turn into a boy

He already has. Such a big, smart, funny boy.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

We played Candyland again

I still don't have no stinkin' car. The shop promises tomorrow at 10 it will be ready. I shall now commence holding my breath.

Today I took the kids to the pool. Which is not hard to do since the pool is across the street from my house. Blaine loves the slide, and is getting quite good at swimming, as long as he has his trusty Spiderman water wings on. Kyra likes to just jump in from the side, she has complete blind faith that I will always catch her.

The pool is part of the Oasis Club, which is a club for American expats here in Oman. Lucky us to have a house so close. The Club also has a kitchen/restaurant where you can order lunch or dinner every day except Saturday or Sunday. There is also a large, shaded playground with a bunch of kid's slides, toys and climbing thingys (technical term. Thingys.) After swimming today, the kids and I went inside and had a little lunch then spent all of 15 minutes on the playground. Because even though it's shaded, it's still hotter than hell.

How hot? Well, I don't have an exact temperature reading for you, but imagine this: you are at the playground. All around you are plastic toys and plastic tables and chairs on the patio. And what's that smell in the air? Why it's the smell of burning plastic. Yes. It's so hot that you can smell all the plastic lawn furniture cooking. It's why we have lunch before we go outside, because once you are outside, you lose your appetite.

Oh, and we played Candyland. Again.

Monday, August 13, 2007

A little of this, a little of that

I've added a "Blogs I Read" section. It's over there. On your right. Some of the blogs listed need to be updated (Hellooooo mab! I still want your recipe). Some are just blogs I find funny/amusing/relatable. Pioneer Woman is one of my new favorites. If you head over to her blog, click on her link to her cooking blog. I'm dying to try out her cinnamon rolls. Anyone want to split 7 pans of rolls?

Oh, and if you read here regularly - which unless you are related to me, know me in real life or are special (like Kristin and my brain twin over at Purple Duckie), you probably don't - but if you do, and you have a blog and you would like me to add it, put it in the comments and I shall.

Speaking of comments, I have turned on the whole moderation thing again. Way back when, on my previous blog, I had to turn moderation on - well actually, I disabled all comments for a while - I decided it worked better for me to see what people wanted to post before it got posted. You know, because my parents read here and don't need to see any trash talking internet freaks or spambots. So, sorry for the hoop jumping you will have to do to comment now, but I'm sure all 3 of you who comment on my blog will understand.

As for life in Oman, well, until I have transportation, the kids and I are pretty much stuck at home every day. So I don't think you need to read daily posts of "hey, we played Candyland. Again." Hopefully the transportation issue will be solved tomorrow evening (light a candle, do a dance around a fire, cross your fingers) and I can start exploring. Until then, I'm off to set up Blaine's train table for the 8 millionth time so that Kyra can do her Godzilla impression (she's quite good) and knock it all down for the 8 millionth time. Don't you envy me?

Monday, August 6, 2007

Toto, I don't think we are in Kansas anymore

Life in Muscat is so easy compared to life in Tbilisi. And by easy, I mean similar to the US. Less culture shock. So much here is reminiscent of the US, that it's hard to feel like you are in a foreign land with foreign customs. When there is a KFC, Starbucks, Papa Johns, Baskin-Robins, and a Pizza Hut all within walking distance from your house (well, walking distance if it weren't so damn hot outside) it's almost like being in a big American city.

Until you go to the mall, that is. Now the mall is just like many US malls, it's full of familiar shops (Sephora, Starbucks, MAC and, coming soon, Gap) and a food court with a McDonald's and other food court-y type eateries. Hell, there is even a Chili's in the mall. And a large kid's arcade - with indoor bumper cars that Blaine loves! So it's easy to forget that things work differently here. Sure, many of the men are in dishdashas and the women are in abayas with their heads (and some with their faces) covered. But you get so used to seeing that every day you forget. You forget that the culture is so very, very different.

You forget until your husband goes to the family bathroom at the mall to change your daughter's diaper. And he's the only man in there. And he gets stared at with rampant disbelief. And then the 3 women in there with their children all offer to change your daughter's diaper for him. They almost insist, because it's not a man's job to do this. And your husband walks out after changing the diaper and tells you "never, ever, ever again" will he go into the family bathroom at the mall because even though the sign says "family" it definitely does not include male members of the family unless they are under the age of 5 or so.

I wonder if the women who came out after him, who saw me sitting at Starbucks with Blaine having a frappachino, thought I was a lazy, horrible wife. Maybe they thought I was a lucky woman because my husband changes diapers. I'm probably a little bit of both.