Tuesday, March 31, 2009


My baby isn't a baby any more! Saturday was his second birthday, while we were in Bend with some college friends...

In the time we were traveling in Saudi he started speaking in complete sentences including using "I" to refer to himself! Just Thursday morning upon waking up he told Brian that he wanted to "eat macaroni and cheese tonight" so I think he's also starting to understand time. Wow!

When he really wants something, like chocolate, he will say "thank you, chocolate" before you've even given it to him. I guess that's his way of assuming he'll get it! And of course it's really cute!

Telling the candy lady what he wanted

Also, Friday morning, one day before turning two... he figured out how to climb out of his crib! I had seen him put his leg up earlier this week and I pushed it back down hoping that he would stay in a bit longer... no such luck! We were just waking up and could hear him calling and suddenly the voice got louder and there he was standing in the hallway!

I put him back in and asked him to show me how he got out so I could make sure he wasn't going to hurt himself between now and when we can get his bed put together. He just swings a leg over, rolls over the top and lets go with his legs while hanging onto the top rail. He's so tall that it's not much of a drop!

I guess I know what we'll be doing during spring break this week... putting together the big boy bed! He's been a bit behind in some of the more physical activities like climbing (for which I am quite grateful!) but is more than making up for it verbally!

The candy lady giving the birthday boy a chocolate pretzel!

On our trip we were working on the alphabet song since he was saying the "ABCD" part and also because you can sing easily while in the car a long time. He's gotten all the way up to I and then will skip J and go on to K. So I always stop and say, wait, J is for Uncle Joel. Now when I say "wait" he automatically says "J is for Uncle Joel". He also knows most of the rest of the letters, especially the WXY and Z, but doesn't quite have them in the right order.

He still weighs in at about 33 pounds and I haven't measured him either, but his head is up to counter height and we have tall counters! Oh, and his 2 year molars are coming in on the bottom, I'm sure the top will follow soon.

This is Addison and she is 6 months older than Cory... she is the daughter of one of the college friends. We were 4 couples and only 2 of us have kids so far. We had 2 condos there and it was a lot of fun just hanging out and playing games and eating. And no, I did not pose this picture, they wanted to sit in the chair together so of course I had to take a picture of the cuteness!

We went downtown on Saturday since Dave's favorite place to go is the candy stores! The one pictures above is called Goodies. Then we went to the toy store next door and Cory loved the train table so much he had a major meltdown when it was time to leave. I think it was a combination of tired and too much candy!

Otherwise we had a good weekend although it was a bit close on the heels of our big trip and still a 6+ hour drive. Ugh!

Birthday boy and his bunny!

Here are some pictures from when he was first born (including the bunny) and from one year old right before we went to Arizona last year.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Arabian Gulf Beach Day

Okay, I think we're up to Monday now in our pictoral history of the Saudi Arabia trip!

This day we got up and took the group tour up to Ras Tanura. It's one of the other "camps" that the company runs. There are 4 in total and we visited 3 while we were there. This one is the farthest north and also right on the water. Must be rough...

First we had to tour the camp itself and at the first stop (the Women's Group house) we got treats, morning snack for Cory! Here I am trying to get ahead of Cory enough to take his picture, but the kid never stops! Grandpa's trying to keep up!

This is the golf course there. It's oiled sand. The only golf course that is grass is in the main camp (where we were staying) Dhahran. But just out beyond the end of those palm trees at the end of this fairway is the gulf!

Gorgeous blue water and white sand! On our maps this would be called the Persian Gulf, but Persia really refers to Iran - which is just across the water! So since we are in Arabia it is called the Arabian Gulf there!

Next up was lunch under some shelters. It was quite warm there so sitting out of the sun was nice. It was also pretty humid due to being next to the water.

After lunch and plenty of sunscreen... swimming!

I think this just might be my favorite picture from the trip!

The water was a bit cool, but once you got used to it it was quite nice. There was quite a bit of seaweed and some nasty plastic trash floating in the water, but it was still very clear. I've swum in much dirtier water! Also Brian is holding a piece of tar basically. It collects shells and things in it and you can break it apart a bit like semi-dry clay.

Uncle Joel spent the afternoon building a sand castle...

The water was very salty due to evaporation so we had to rinse off before going home. Cory is NOT a fan of shower water hitting him!

Back on the bus at 3:30 and Cory was out almost immediately. Swimming plus no nap made for one tired little boy!

This then is a typical view from the highway when driving through a populated area. The yellow and tan in the middle of the picture are houses and the other structures are more business type.

In the evening Paul and Jackie took Brian and I and Joel and Allison out to the "Hobby Farm" for dinner. Grandma and Grandpa kept the sleepy boy for us. The Hobby Farm is where people can have their horses if they have one. Jackie has had some over the time they've been there. And they have a small restaurant there where you can eat out on the porch and watch the horses. It's nice and the food is pretty decent even if it is mostly lunch style fare.

After this we went to the Rockin' Country dance. It's sort of a club where they do country dancing. It was fun, but there weren't a lot of people there. 40 of the annuitants (what they called us reunion attendees) had signed up and we were 4 of the 8 total who showed up. So they gave us boxed sets of polo shirt, mug, and ball cap with the company's 75th anniversary logo on them.

Mostly I enjoyed the evening out and a nice long dinner with adult conversation and no 2 year old interruptions! I didn't realize how much I'd missed that!

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Prayer Requests

I got an email yesterday, forwarded to me from my parents, about a family friend. He had just been up this weekend visiting and when he got home and went in for his annual physical on Monday they found a 10cm aneurysm in the aorta in his stomach. The doctors had never heard of one this big before, they usually rupture at just over 5cm. So they are very concerned and are pretty much scheduling him for surgery immediately.

If you think of it would you please pray for Danny and his family? They have had their share of medical issues in the last few years with other family members, but just pray for peace and rest as well as wisdom and skill for the doctors. There also found numerous other small aneurysms in his body, but they aren't even dealing with them until they fix this big one.

If you want an update on my Eyeball story... I got new prescriptions for my glasses on Monday and I'm having a heck of a time adjusting to them. I don't seem to have any depth perception and things that I know are round look elongated. It's really weird. They checked and the prescription is right so it's all in how my brain is perceiving things. Since I'm used to knowing that things are round when I couldn't really see them as round due to my astigmatism now they look funny with the prescription.

Anyway, it's giving me a headache (along with the normal head reacting to glasses headache) and seems to be worse outside. So if you could pray that I get used to them quickly that would be wonderful. This on top of jet lag has pretty much killed my week.


Finally, see that button on the left sidebar? It's for a little boy named Stellan who is in the hospital with a really rapid heartbeat. They're not entirely sure why, but it's something he had in utero, then was healed from, but now something has triggered it again.

So please pray that the meds would work to bring his heart rate back down and that his parents would be at peace. If you would like to join the prayer vigil for him please visit this site.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Girls Day All Day

Okay, seriously, the jet lag is killing me here. Basically we went on a 24 hour trip, switched to an opposite schedule (days for nights) and then "partied" for 2 weeks, returned on our 24 hour trip, and I somehow expected to be over it in a few days.

Yeah right!

What kept us going there was the fact that we were going and going. Pretty much something every day plus most evenings...

I think we were up to Sunday in my posts.

In the morning Andrea, Allison, and I went to an orphanage. It's supported heavily by a lady named Munira Al Ashgar and she is quite a lady! Everyone else toured her home/museum a few days prior to this, but I had wanted to go to the Desert Designs photo op and they overlapped so I didn't get to go. Too bad we didn't know ahead of time that everyone would be back in time and I could have gone. Her house was quite impressive or so I'm told!

Anyway, this is her at the entrance to the orphanage.
It's not what you typically think of, huh?

Most of the orphans are girls because after the age of 9 the boys are sent to another home for 3 years and then off to religious school. So only women were allowed to go on this tour.

It's quite an amazing facility complete with it's own secluded water park! I was thinking Cory would have loved this!

Notice the cover overhead, that's because it gets so dang hot there in the summer even their outdoor play areas have to be covered.

The children live in "family groups" in small apartments inside the buildings. They are quite nice and it makes them feel less like they live in an institution.

I didn't take a whole lot of pictures because it just kind of looked like a home. And the aides didn't want their pictures taken, and they said we couldn't take pictures of the babies or anyone over about 12. But then on our way out these adorable kiddos came down the hall from school - maybe for lunch? - and were totally fascinated by us! The little girl in the middle really wanted to see the henna on my hand.

The only weird part of the whole place was the fake greenery everywhere. This was just a random alcove in the hallway to give you an example. Even their stands that had flowers on them would be "carpeted" in fake greens! Weird!

Oh, and we were treated quite royally on our way in and out with plenty of snacks and treats!

Home for the afternoon rest... Brian convinced Allison and Joel to play Race for the Galaxy with him. But there's someone I'd like you to meet...

Solomon assisting Allison

This is Paul and Jackie's African Gray Parrot. He is quite the talker, noise maker, and imitator. If I didn't know better I'd say we had a whole house full of doves and all kinds of other birds every morning! He imitates the phone and microwave perfectly and repeats lots of things that people have said to him. It's a lot of fun!

That night the boys had decreed they were having a "Boys Night Out" so the girls decided to do their own. Of course everything is complicated by prayer times when shops close so we had to go quickly to our first shops and get to the coffee house and order before prayer time so we could sit there and wait for everything to open again. It's a convoluted system!

Allison, Andrea, Cory, Me, and our friend Molly

Yes, we are all wearing abayas, but Molly's shirt is appropriate since it's more of a tunic. We had to hire a driver since women are not allowed to drive, but in some ways that was nice since a) we didn't know where we were going b) they drive like CRAZY over there and c) we didn't have to try and worry about parking! First we went to a ginormous craft store. Think Michael's or Craft Warehouse with 3 levels! I found some awesome Saudi traffic sign stickers that included a camel crossing!

Then we went for coffee/tea where we had to go up to the second floor of the restaurant to the "family section" so no one on the street could see us. I don't quite understand that since the waiters were still male and it's not like we were dressed any differently than the way men would see us on the street... but okay!

After prayer time we hit a large bookstore where I got an Arabic numbers book for Cory with English transliterations. It was the only book that had the Arabic written in English characters rather than Arabic script so I could at least try and pronounce it...

Finally we ended up back at Desert Designs because Allison and Molly hadn't been there yet.

I had no more shopping to do, but was trying to corral Cory when one of the employees showed me this little corner they had set up for kids. Perfect!

Even though it was past his bed time he was quite content to play with the crayons and a car they had there!

And that was only Sunday...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

We're Home and...

We found out when we went to church this morning that our senior pastor is leaving in a few months. Seriously it seems like we can't go on vacation without something major happening at home! This happened when we went to Atlanta in 2006 as well. The pastor that we were closest to was fired while we were gone. At least this time it's not nasty circumstances, just the pastor feeling like it's time to move on.

Anyway, we got home last night at 7:30 after almost 36 hours of traveling. I was "hallucinating" in the car on the way home. Basically trying to stay awake for Brian and failing miserably, but having conversations with him in my head while sleeping which led to me saying some pretty random and silly things out loud. I guess that was helping him stay awake since he was laughing at me!

We left Saudi Arabia on Friday night at 1:45am, having arrived at the airport around 10 and having no major issues this time with security or anything. Thankfully Cory slept most of the way to Amsterdam on the floor in front of our seats.

Then started the craziness...

Apparently since we had a lame ticket (mmm, love those frequent flier tickets) that sent us on a commuter flight to Paris before switching from KLM to Air France we were considered "domestic" while flying inside Europe. This meant that we had to go through a special security in Amsterdam and the rest of our family couldn't go with us to our gate. But it was also a good thing we landed early since we didn't have any extra time and hadn't planned on this security thing.

Then Paris... oh, how I despise the new Charles De Gaulle airport. It looks like what I imagine a lunar life module would look like on the outside. Rounded with tons of windows. On the inside it's a nightmare. No staff anywhere when you get off the plane and the signage is either non-existent or unintelligible. We were lacking boarding passes for this last leg of our journey so didn't even know what gate we were supposed to go to and had no one to ask.

They did tell us a "wing" when we got off the plane so we headed in that direction, after standing in the wrong line for 15 minutes because everything funneled down to one small corridor. It turns out that due to our "domestic" flight we had to go to a different terminal entirely to catch our Paris to Seattle international flight. Except that the only way to get to that terminal was to leave the secured area.

So we had to check in again just as if we were coming in off the street. It's a really good thing I had Cory on my back as they passed us to the head of the ticketing line and the security line. And even with that they were already boarding our flight by the time we got the the gate. We never would have made it without those passes!

In the end we made it safe and sound.... except for my suitcase! They paged us in the Seattle baggage claim area to let us know that one of our suitcases was missing. We had to figure out which one by seeing which other two made it. Of course it was mine with a lot of the souvenirs in it. Sad!

This evening Brian called to see if he could find it since it hadn't been delivered today like they said it would be. It was supposed to be on a flight into our local airport this evening so I'm hoping it will be delivered tomorrow... but that also means I'm staying home until it gets here and I have other things I need to do as well. Drat!

I guess I can clean my house while I wait! And thank my parents for bringing down their camera cord this afternoon so I can get more pictures uploaded for you all!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Overseas Medical Adventures

Three guesses as to what I'm doing in this picture...




Okay, did you guess? I'm using a WWII era "neti-pot"!

I had a cold before we got here and the super dry air plus dust and sand have just really irritated my sinuses to the point that yesterday I developed a bad sinus headache on the left side of my face. It was only getting worse today so I came home early with Cory from visiting some friends (it's currently 9:30pm and the rest of them aren't back yet from "lunch").

Our lovely hostess Jackie used to be a nurse and when I told her how bad my face/head hurt and that it hurt when I even barely opened my mouth she thought it was becoming an infection and since we are flying home in just over 24 hours I would be miserable on the plane.

Enter Saudi Arabia... where you can buy just about any medication over the counter at the pharmacy! So, Paul picked me up a set of antibiotics and hopefully they will help enough by the time we leave that I'm not miserable.

The crazy part of getting meds is that you can't get any, even with a prescription, that are controlled substances (ie. narcotics). So when Jackie had her total knee replacement they basically gave her motrin for her pain! Lame! Don't have any major surgery over here!

Oh, and that picture above? I'm using Jackie's dad's "feeding cup". It has a little Red Cross on the top of it and looks pretty much like a miniature teapot. You're welcome for not showing you the other pictures Jackie took!

I doubt I'll get a chance to post anymore pictures before we leave, but hopefully I'll get the rest of them up in the next week or so!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Book: Michal

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing


Revell (March 1, 2009)


Jill Eileen Smith


Jill Eileen Smith is the author of several articles, poems, and stories, and her unpublished novels have placed in five writing contests in the past five years. A children’s story, which she wrote for her church led her youngest son to faith in Christ several years ago; much like a gospel tract led her to the Lord at a similar age.

That story, “Seeking Treasureland,” is now available. Jill is a member of several online writing groups and helps promote fellow authors’ works through monthly interviews on the "Spotlight" page of her website. She, along with her husband and children, are active members in their local church. A stay-at-home mom, she homeschooled the couple’s three sons for twelve years through high school, seeing them go on to higher education.

In her spare time, Jill teaches piano, reads, does picture scrap-booking, and enjoys trying out new recipes, especially those that include dark chocolate. Jill and her family make their home in Southeastern Lower Michigan.


Can their epic search for true love survive a father's fury?
The daughter of King Saul, Michal lives a life of privilege--but one that is haunted by her father's unpredictable moods and competition from her beautiful older sister.

As a girl, Michal quickly falls for the handsome young harpist David. But soon after their romance begins, David must flee for his life, leaving Michal at her father's mercy in the prison that is King Saul's palace.

Will Michal ever be reunited with David? Or is she doomed to remain separated from him forever?

Against the backdrop of opulent palace life, raging war, and daring desert escapes, Jill Eileen Smith takes you on an emotional journey as Michal deals with love, loss, and personal transformation as the first wife of King David. Jill Eileen Smith has more than twenty years of writing experience, and her writing has gathered acclaim in several contests. Her research into the lives of David's wives has taken her from the Bible to Israel, and she particularly enjoys learning how women lived in Old Testament times.


Here's the second book for this week, another fictionalized account of a Bible character. It looks really interesting, but again I miscalculated being on vacation and have not yet read it!

If you would like to read the first chapter of Michal, go HERE

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Busy Busy Arabia

Let's see, today is Sunday, but it's the second day of the work week here.

Back on Friday evening we went to a "Desert Dinner", but it was put in here in the camp where we are staying. It's a big bedouin style tent with many carpets laid on the sand. And it's not really sand here, but a very deep super fine dust. Hence the dust storm we had earlier in the week.

Anyway, they had a bunch of tables set up, but not enough room for all of us so we actually got to sit on the more traditional rugs and cushions!

There was a man there with some hooded falcons to show off. He did hunt with them and had a display set up.

They had many traditional dances, mostly men dancing. This was a wedding dance with the presentation of the bride and groom. The man on the right is singing, almost chanting and it was quite loud!

This was the bride and groom. They were brought in on camels for the presentation.

There were other dances, this being a sword dance. You can also see the big round drums the men are playing. And the lighting, long strings of bare 100 watt light bulbs!

There were booths set up around the edges sort of like at a fair so I got my hand painted with henna for about $2.50.

They called this black henna and it really did turn out black when it washed off rather than the brown I've always seen.

The next morning everyone except me and Cory went on a "musuem tour" which it turned out was a lady's private collection of Arabic artifacts and I was sad to miss it. But Jackie took Cory and me swimming in one of the two beautiful pools they have here and we had the whole place to ourselves. I'm sure that was way more fun for him!

Then Uncle Joel took him out in the backyard and he was helping Jackie water her flowers. I think he really just liked playing with the water...

Later Andrea and I went in to Khobar to the Desert Designs Shop. It's a high end shop that sells their own uniquely designed things and they are quite beautiful. I thought we were going to take pictures, but it turned out that it was more of a "photo op" where you could dress in traditional costume and have your picture taken, for a fee of course!

But after we were done shopping I was resting and waiting for the bus and a lady came down the stairs behind me and asked if she could take a picture of me since I looked like I was modeling. I said "well, isn't that not allowed" and she said, "well, it's my shop so it's allowed, just don't tell anyone!"

So here I am in her shop.

I then asked if I could take her picture as she had on a really beautiful abaya with colored sparkly embroidery and she let me, but I won't post it here as they really don't like their photographs published like that.

Later in the evening we went out to dinner in Khobar for Cory's birthday dinner since he'll be 2 in 2 weeks and we're all together here. Paul ordered for us and the table was loaded with food!

It was very good, but funny as we had to hurry up and order so we could get our food and then they could "close" the restaurant for prayer time. So we got our food and the waiter left, turning off all the lights in the empty parts of the restaurant and we ate and then he came back! It was rather odd to me!

Cory had a little chocolate chip muffin that Grandpa found and we helped him blow out his candles, but then he wanted them lit again and he managed to blow them out himself!

The poor little guy has been so good, but he was exhausted last night. We gave him a couple of presents and then he was sad that there weren't more and he was saying "more presents?" in a really sad voice!

He ate the fruit out of our drinks and then fell asleep on the way home.

This morning we went to an orphanage, but I'll leave those pictures for tomorrow since we're going shopping tonight and I hope to get some more!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Desert Tour

Okay, I think I've finally figured out how to upload more pictures... but it takes forever!

So, here is the red carpet from Wednesday night. And the guy in the thobe is Mohamed who Brian, Andrea, and Derald met during the university tour earlier in the day.

Thursday morning... wake up call at 4am to leave at 4:30. Cory was amazingly awake and cheerful for most of the day! Here's the lovely bathroom/mosque along the way where we left Paul's car.

We were trying for sunrise in the desert, but it was so hazy from the shamal and all the dust in the air that we couldn't even see the sun until it was well up in the sky.

Paul was our tour guide and we drove out to Scribner's Canyon where everyone camped growing up. We hadn't quite gotten Cory's car seat hooked in properly (we're borrowing one) and he and I were in the way back so we got quite the bouncing across the sand hills. He started saying "scared, scared, git out!" but it wasn't too long.

We climbed up on top of the jebbls, which are kind of a sandstone that's been eroded by the wind. This is Paul looking out across the desert.

Brian and Joel throwing rocks and trying to hit the rounded top of one of the jebbls.

The view looking down on the Suburban with Andrea and Cory walking back. The sun is just off the top right of this picture and I think it's about 6am at this point!

Next we're driving further south and trying to find the camel market just outside of Hofuf. Apparently it's moved in the last few years so we had to stop and ask for directions! But then we saw a mama and baby camel just along side the road. We stopped to take pictures and it's owner came out and milked it for us. That's the worth of a camel, the quality of it's milk, or something like that!

All I know is the camel was making a LOT of noise - they sound just a bit like a drawn out donkey bray, but only one tone instead of 2. As we were leaving they started walking and I got this cool picture!

We finally made it to the camel market and we really were leary of taking pictures. Pictures are not common here and you may NOT take someone's picture randomly without asking their permission. I don't know that there were any "police" here at the camel market, but especially in a town you could get your camera taken away.

I saw a guy that had a camel with a saddle on it so Paul asked the guy what the price would be for a ride. First it was 15SR (about $4), but after he found out it was me with Cory and we wanted to take pictures the price went up to 20SR (plus 5 for a tip). And our ride turned out to be me getting on, Brian handing Cory to me, and the guy only letting the camel walk (3 steps) when Cory was asking for it to "walk around". Apparently they were really freaked out about a "baby" being on the camel.

But it was an experience! Let me tell you, if you ever get a chance to ride a camel you better hold on when they get up or down! See the above picture and how the camel has 2 knee joints in it's back leg? Well, they bend one, then bend the front leg, then bend the second joint on the back leg. So you get lurched back and forth and back again when getting up or down!

You can also sort of see my abaya in this picture. It's a good thing I didn't wear my capri pants since I wouldn't have been allowed on the camel due to needing to hike the abaya up to my knees to get on. It would have been a major taboo to show my legs, especially as the camel market is strictly male.

There were literally thousands of camels at this market so we drove around and looked at them all, taking pictures from the car surreptitiously! We even saw a guy "assisting" a camel mating! I did NOT take a picture.

After visiting with the camels we drove into Hofuf. There used to be a really nice Souq here, but it burned down just a couple years ago. The King has given money to rebuild it, but it's not open yet. I'm bummed because I don't really think we'll get to go to a souq while being here now. We saw some really funny signs (many are in English and Arabic) like "Hatem Fast Food".

Hofuf is kind of the "date capital" of KSA. It's an oasis, but the water table has dropped significantly in the last decade or so and many of the orchards or farms are being squeezed out by the city's growth. Kind of like where we live with the apple/pear orchards. Date palms have longer palm fronds with skinnier leaves on them.

After the driving tour we dropped Paul off at his car (he had meetings) and headed back north to Abqaiq (Ab-keg) where Brian and Allison grew up. We saw the houses they grew up in, one of them has no one in it and has broken windows and such. Kind of sad. This community doesn't have nearly as many people living in it now so some neighborhoods are vacant. We also got to walk around in their old school although many things have been changed.

We ate lunch here in the old snack shop and were pretty much done with our tour! On the way home I managed to take a picture of the desert. The horizon is so flat it just goes on forever.

This is the extent of desert we'll see while we are here. I was imagining dunes of just sand for miles and that does exist here, but apparently it's many hours from here and we won't get to go see it. Very sad!

Oh, and the roads are crazy! In a constant state of construction it seems and with random speed bumps along the way. And the drivers will pass you on the shoulder if you're in their way. You have to drive very aggressively, but I was surprised we only saw 2 accidents and not bad ones all day.

Now it's Friday (their Sunday) so we went to church this morning, which they call "fellowship" since any religion other than Islam is pretty much frowned upon. But the ex-pats are allowed some freedoms while in camp.

I think it's about time for me to go have a nap before our desert dinner tonight - except that it's within in the boundaries of the camp so we'll see how authentic it is!

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek