Friday, August 27, 2010

staying for the summer

Most of our friends said we were crazy to stay in Kuwait for the summer. We may have been, just a bit. But honestly, it wasn't bad. Staying put was good for us this year. When most expats are hot (ha ha) to leave, staying seems ridiculous. There is a mass exodus of Westerners heading west when schools let out for break, and then at the beginning of Ramadan, more people (Westerners and Kuwaitis alike) board planes to escape. So at the beginning of summer, while Justin was busy teaching remedial math and I was learning how to stay home with Claire, I was lonely.

I felt left out. I felt a little stranded and unsure what to do in this sandy land. And I quickly realized I had to stop wondering what I was missing in the States and just figure out how to enjoy what was before me in Kuwait.

Through a friend, I met two other women who were staying for the summer. And you know how it works when you meet someone and they introduce you to another and soon enough I was busy taking Claire to morning play groups or enjoying an afternoon coffee with a new friend. I took a step and began going to a play group hosted at a nearby Montessori school and through that group I met two other moms and we make up a weekly play group with a fourth mom and her son and baby daughter.

And then I decided to do something about wanting to understand and deepen my faith and so joined a moms' Bible study. The moms' part just means that no one faults you for bringing your toddler to romp about while you share and listen to different perspectives about the text you're studying. Because their toddlers and kids are also romping about.

Soon enough, I wasn't feeling left out at all. Instead I was seeing the shape my year at home with Claire and the new little one will take. My days won't be empty or listless. I have new friends outside of the school community. We have a weekly play group. I have a Bible study to attend. It's been a busy summer, learning new routines and meeting so many new friends. And that has made staying put in Kuwait worthwhile. Nevermind the one hundred and twenty degree heat. Or humidity.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

food from where?

I just saw this NY Times article, "For Some Foods, You Just Had to Be There," and immediately thought about all the foods from different places I've visited - foods that are linked in my mind to a particular trip or time.

On our honeymoon, we drove through Pennsylvania and New York to get to Quebec before heading on to Ottawa. I think I ate a croissant with Nutella each morning while in Quebec. I might have eaten two croissants each morning. Right now I have dough for a dozen croissants waiting to be rolled and folded before baking tomorrow morning. Perhaps I'll go buy Nutella too.

Gather two or more Wisconsinites and we'll talk cheese. A couple of weeks ago I went shopping with a friend and bought about forty dollars worth of cheese at Dean & DeLuca. Later I joked that I'm not a shoe girl or a bag girl - I'm a cheese girl. I am already looking forward to a couple of trips to local dairies next summer for squeaky cheese curds and cave aged Marisa.

And sometimes I find myself standing in the middle of the kitchen wanting a food that was in my fridge in Colombia. Avena drink. Or I wouldn't mind a walk to Carulla for a guayaba pastry. I'd like a jar of uchuva jam for my toast. And just to snack on lime Choclitos again. Mmm.

Since our visit to India at Christmas, I've been asking around for Indian restaurant recommendations here. I want paneer and naan bread. A whole pile of naan to sop up a curry.

Makes me wonder what tastes I'll take from our time here in the Middle East. And what tastes I've yet to meet elsewhere. Actually makes me quite grateful to enjoy eating and taste, the privilege of eating a variety of foods.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

tantrums & toddler-ese

Whenever I imagined being a mom, I imagined having kids. Not babies or toddlers. Kids. I glossed over the ragged days spent keeping an infant alive after a night of no sleep. I skipped the potty-training age entirely. I jumped right into having four or five year olds, taking trips to the zoo and having mini-adult conversations. But babies, toddlers, kids: none of them are mini-adults.

I may sometimes be an adult-toddler though.

So I've been reading online about toddler discipline (I even cut and paste the best ideas and highlighted key phrases so I can quickly remind myself: When they test the limits they are asking you to show them how dependable you and your limits are. Okay. Gives an understanding to why Claire looks at me and then runs in the opposite direction when I say, "Come here, please.") Anyway. Then a friend loaned me "The Happiest Toddler on the Block" dvd, hosted by Harvey Karp, M.D., an energetic pediatrician who has great advice about handling todddlers. I am going to start playing it on a loop.

Karp offers a strategy for speaking with toddlers. Toddler-ese. Speak their language. Keep it short, use repitition. Make sure that your child knows you understand what he or she is communicating. For example, Claire wants hot cocoa and she needs to eat her oatmeal first. I say, "Claire wants cocoa. She wants cocoa. She wants, she wants, she wants cocoa. I know you want cocoa, Claire. But first, you need to eat your oatmeal." The other part of toddler-ese is about showing your toddler that you really do understand what they are feeling. So if they are angry, you don't dismiss that anger entirely by speaking in a quiet voice. Instead, I use my face and voice to show Claire, "Claire is angry. She is upset. She is upset," and from there, bring the emotion down to a calmer level, "I know Claire is upset. You are not happy. You can calm down now. We can calm down."

I'm typing this and realizing I sound like a nut. But sometimes this toddler-ese works. Claire stops and realizes: Oh, Mama gets it. I'll point out that while my success with toddler-ese remains "sometimes," it always works in Harvey Karp, M.D.'s dvd.

In my non-Harvey-Karp-M.D.-dvd-life, there are times when Claire is hysterical and struggling and we're both sweating and tired and my instinct tells me to just hold on to her tightly so she doesn't smash her head against the floor or tear my hair out. Keep her safe. And if we're out in public, it's just horrifying. In public, my instinct is to yell to passersby that EVERYTHING REALLY IS OKAY. KIND OF. CARRY ON. My instinct is not to toddler-ese my way through her hysteria.

Still, I'm going to stick with toddler-ese. See how it goes. I count it a blessing that Claire isn't given to frequent tantrums. But when she throws herself into a fit, it's a grand fit. And I guess it's my grand job to sort out how to be mama to her when she unglues.

Advice, ideas, suggestions, encouragement welcome.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

new due date

I am keeping track of weeks: currently thirty-three weeks, five days. Early on in the pregnancy, my doctor said I was due September 10. So that stuck in  my mind. I didn't sit down with the calendar and count my weeks. I just held September 10 as the due date.

Guess what?

By weeks, I'm actually due September 17. Had I figured this out, oh, I don't know, FIVE MONTHS AGO, it wouldn't seem like a big deal. Now, though. Hm. One week. One week. Just a change of date, not weeks. I know I've got six weeks (and two days) left, but that takes me to September 17, not the tenth as I'd kept in mind for months.

This baby has a chance at being born on his big sister's due date, the twenty-fifth of September. Or maybe he'll come a week early. Wouldn't that be sweet.