Sunday, December 30, 2012

Christmas in Qatar

We had a wonderfully relaxing and quiet Christmas this year.  It was nice, but definitely prefer the hustle and bustle that comes with famly gatherings!  Ken used a day of vacation so that he could be home on Christmas, but has otherwise worked all last week and all this week.  The office doesn't close for Christmas or New Years, so it's very much business as usual for Ken, except that many of his colleagues used vacation, so he has to cover several other positions in addition to his own work load.  Poor guy!  But he never complains.

The boys got all dressed up for Christmas Eve service at church.  Part of the service included singing Silent Night in your native language.  It was neat to hear all the languages represented at our church.

Christmas Eve
Santa has landed!  Our children are ENTIRELY too spoiled!!! 
Too many presents!!

The boys had a great time opening presents and playing with their new toys on Christmas.  After things settled down, they put on their new body armor and we headed to the squash courts in the clubhouse.  Ken and I played squash while the boys battled it out in the other court.  Not a bad way to burn off the calories from all those Christmas treats!  :-)

Christmas breakfast ... snow man pancakes
with bacon scarf and marshmellow/candy cane hat.  Yum!!

Ready for nerf gun battle in full body power ranger armor!

But the best part of my Christmas came shortly after the boys came tearing downstairs, all excited to open their presents.  The first thing Jaden did was search under the tree until he found his present for me.  He couldn't wait to give me his gift!  He wanted me to open my presents first!  I was so touched!  We are so very blessed to have such loving and caring children!!  Ken had taken the boys shopping ... Jaden bought be a necklace and Nicholas bought me a bracelet.  They picked it out all by themselves and used their own money. 

The other exciting Christmas gift is that Jaden is FINALLY OUT OF DIAPERS (he was still in pullups at night)!!!  He turns 6 next week, so it's about time!!  Poor kid!!!  If he could have willed it to happen years ago, he would have.  Nicholas was able to stay clean and dry every night from a freakishly young age of just 21 months.  Jaden used to cry and cry because he still had to wear diapers when Nicholas didn't have to.  He would get so upset and sad because he just couldn't do it.  We tried all kinds of little tricks, but nothing ever helped.  His little body just wasn't ready ... until now!  :-)  He is now in underwear at night and we had a little party for him today to celebrate.  Yeah Jaden!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Jaden's Art Sale

My budding entrepreneur decided to have his first ever art sale this week...

It all started when he tried to sell me a picture of a flower for 500QAR!!  That's about $140!  I tried to explain that it was too much money, but he wouldn't listen.  He tried to sell his 500riyal picture to Ken, but got the same response.  Nicholas was willing to buy it, but he didn't have enough money.

So then Jaden draws another picture and drops his price to 112riyal.  At first I thought it was a very odd number to price his picture.  It's not exactly a round number, but then I find out Nicholas had exactly 112 riyal in his wallet.  Coincidence?  I think not!!!

Nicholas was gullible enough to agree, but I wouldn't allow Jaden to steal his brothers money!!  Instead we talked about an art sale and how he could sell his creations for 1 riyal each (that's about 30 cents).  To sweeten the deal, I included free chocolate chip cookies with every purchase.

Jaden was so excited!!  He drew 5 pictures, made a sign, set up a table on the front porch and was ready to go!  I provided the cookies and Nicholas ran up and down our street yelling, "Art for Sale!  Art for Sale!"  It was definitely a team effort!!  And thanks to the amazing teenagers at our compound, we sold all 5 pictures in 45 minutes!!  He was so proud of himself!! 

Christmas Parties

After returning from Austria, we enjoyed several Christmas/year end festivities ...

First up was the ExxonMobil Christmas Party.  It was a great way to return from vacation ... see friends, kids could decorate Christmas cookies and make ornaments, family pictures with Santa, huge buffet for brunch and an early Christmas gift from Santa!!  Santa's arrival on a camel was definitely the highlight!!

Later that evening, our compound threw a holiday party with Shawarma, Christmas carolers, face painting, and more!  Not having to cook lunch or dinner was a special treat!

And the last party was a formal year end event for Ken's group at work (RasGas is a joint venture between ExxonMobil and Qatar Government).  It was held in a beautiful ball room at the Diplomatic Club.  Muslim women wore abayas, but expat women were in formal gowns.  First thing I notice upon arrival??  Bowls of DORITOS on the table?!!  A formal event is typically NOT where I would serve Doritos!!  Then for dinner, they served TACOS!!!  Again, is this formal or not?!  I was so confused!  I haven't been so dressed up since my wedding day, and I was eating bean tacos with Doritos.  It just didn't feel right.  Unfortunately I forgot to take any photos at the event, so you'll just have to take my word for it.  It's not like I could make this stuff up!!

Here comes Santa Claus, Here comes Santa Claus!

Merry Christmas from the Doans!!

Telling Santa what they want for Christmas...

Presents from Santa!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


We decided to go in search of winter weather, snow, and Christmas cheer ... none of which exist in Doha.  So we flew to Munich and took the train to Zell am See, Austria.  It's in the middle of the Austria Alps and it was glorious!!!  We were a bit nervous there wouldn't be enough snow to ski ... it is still early in the ski season for Austria, but it dumped several inches of fresh powder while we were there!! 

We went skiing, ice skating, sledding, and on a sleigh ride!  The boys did fantastic on skis and we look forward to many more ski trips in the future!!! 

Enjoy the pictures and videos!

Night or day, Zell am See was beautiful!
Twinkling lights at night and Christmas
decorations everywhere!
Our hotel was on the pedestrican part of town,
so we walked everywhere ... no car to hassle with!

Zell am See is a little town that sits on the edge of this lake
with mountains surrounding it in every direction!

By the lake ...

Ice skating fun!
Everywhere we went, Jaden and Nicholas wanted to make snow angels in the fresh snow...
Nicholas getting his ski gear ...

Riding the gondola up the mountain for ski school.
Breathtaking view from mountain top!
It was a beautiful day to be on the mountain!!
Same location the next day ... near blizzard conditions!
Terrible visability, but the powder was heaven sent!!

Nicholas ready for ski school
Jaden rocked ski school!!

Nicholas refused to smile! 
For ski school, the boys rode the snow mobile
 up the mountain and skiied down. 
They loved the snow mobile!!
Jaden did exceptionally well at ski school, but Nicholas can hold his own. 
I love this picture of their class ... every kid fell over except for Nicholas. 
Nicholas was the last one standing.
 Video action on skis:
Turn your volume off for this next video if you don't want to hear crazy
proud parents cheering for their little one on his first day skiing!!!
I just loved all the snow covered trees!  So pretty!!
Snow was too dry to make a snow man, but Ken and the boys tried. 
Can you even see the puny little snow man in the picture??
Time for some sledding!

Horse drawn sleigh ride through the snow covered mountains!

All snuggly and warm.
Our amazing view for almost the entire sleigh ride!

Train station sign.  Good bye Zell am See!!!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Beloved Radar

We've been in Doha for 6 months now and Nicholas still prays for Radar (our beloved family dog we had to leave behind) every single night.  Every night I hear, "...and please be with Radar that he likes his new family ..."  Breaks my heart we couldn't bring him with us, but Qatar doesn't allow his breed in the country. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012


For thanksgiving this year, I agreed to bring in a traditional American dessert to the boys' classrooms.  I made them each a pumpkin pie to share with their friends.  I hadn't realized that Nicholas only has a couple of American kids in his class and Jaden is the only American kid in his class.  Many of the children (and parents) had never had pumpkin pie before! 

Thanksgiving Day isn't a holiday here, so the boys went off to school and Ken went to work.  That evening, we joined many other ExxonMobil families in the clubhouse for a huge Thanksgiving feast.  It was potluck and everyone brought a dish to share.  There must have been 100+ people.  It was a huge spread and a lovely gathering.

Nicholas wanted to get dressed up for Thanksgiving dinner!
Aren't they so cute?!!  He was so proud of himself, I didn't
have the heart to tell him that tie is ENTIRELY too small!!!  :-)
The following day, I volunteered to help cook a traditional Thanksgiving meal to serve to a large group of American troops stationed here.  I was honored to help and I ended up making 4 more pumpkin pies and enough stuffing to feed 50-60 people. 

All in all, I made 7 pumpkin pies, sweet potatoes for 20, and stuffing for about 70 people.  It took nearly all week to make the pie crusts and bread crumbs for my effort.  I learned that next year, I should shop BEFORE I decide what to prepare!  I didn't know I wouldn't be able to find pre-made pie shells and pepperidge farm stuffing mix!!  :-)  I drove all over Doha looking for ingredients and then ended up making it all from scratch!  Surprisingly, it didn't take as long as I expected.  And everything turned out just fine.

Unfortunately, Jaden woke up on Friday morning with a 103F fever!  So after all that cooking, we didn't even get to enjoy the feast!!!  Ken delivered the food to the party and we spent the weekend at home.  Jaden was bummed to miss the party and even more upset to miss school today. Praying for a quick recovery for him!! We want everyone healthy before we leave for vacation on Dec 6...

Since we were stuck home all weekend, I decided to get a jump on holiday planning ... I got this idea from pinterest - an activity advent calendar.  Each day, the boys pull a message out of the envelop with a Christmas activity we can do together ... things include decorate Christmas tree, make Christmas cookies, watch Christmas movie, drink hot cocoa, etc, etc, etc.  I hope the boys enjoy it!! 

Monday, November 19, 2012

ExxonMobil Family Fun Day

The boys and I had a blast last weekend at the ExxonMobil Family Fun Day!!!  Unfortunately Ken had to work and couldn't enjoy his annual company party, but I didn't let it stop us from attending!!  I'm glad we went - it was amazing!!

The party was held on the beach at the Intercontinental Hotel.  Upon entry, the boys got pictures taken with Mickey and Minnie Mouse, a bucket of beach toys, and ExxonMobil bracelets and baseball caps.  I was given a great beach bag with sunscreen, a beach hat and a towel.

Boys with Mickey and Minnie Mouse at
ExxonMobil Family Fun Day at the Beach!
Then we proceeded to the kid zone where they boys could play carnival games (every attempt wins a prize), play on bounce houses, and have caricatures drawn. For the girls and moms, they also had stations for hair braiding, nail painting, and henna tattoos.

Jaden at the carnival games

Nicholas' turn - yes he's wearing 2 hats.
He had so much fun at the Family Fun Day, he didn't take
the ExxonMobil hat off for 3 days! 
He even slept in the hat!!

Snakes and Ladders lawn game

Huge speakers were everywhere playing music from the DJ stand on the beach. There was a massive food tent serving breakfast from 10-11 and then lunch from noon-3. There was even an alcohol hut for adult beverages! :-)

On the water were floating volleyball nets, trampolines, and slides.

Down at the beach with Doha skyline behind

They also played games on the beach like musical chairs, potato sack races, and held a dance contest. Jaden was so excited about the dance contest and he danced his little behind off for over 30 minutes!!!  It was the LONGEST dance competition for kids ever!!!  We were all pooped by the time they selected 5 kids as winners to dance on stage.  But they chose Jaden and he was so excited to get on stage!!!  I included a very short clip so you can see some of his winning moves!!

Jaden getting down on stage during the dance competition

5 winners of the dance competition.  Go Jaden!!
It was insanely fun!!!  I'm so glad we went!!!  Just wish Ken could have come along... he missed a great party!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Winter clothes

It has officially started cooling down in Doha.  The weather was glorious while my mom was visiting, but it went right back to the mid-90s after they left.  This past week has been fantastic!!  Highs in the mid-80s and down to the 70s at night.  How crazy am I to start pulling out the winter clothes??  The breezes in the evenings feel downright chilly to me!  I want a long sleeve shirt and jeans and it's only the 70s!!!  I would NEVER survive in Wisconsin anymore!!!

Mom & Pam's Visit - final posting

Last posting about my Mom and Aunt Pam's visit to Doha ... promise!

After the camel races, the tour driver took us to an "Oryx Farm."  The oryz is the national animal for Qatar.  I'm not big on animals, but I think it's in the antelop family.  It's a beautiful desert creature - like a big black and white deer with 2 straight horns a top it's head - that has pulled itself out of the endangered category, but just barely.

I thought we would see beautiful oryx's roaming in a natural habitat.  Boy was I wrong.  It was the saddest little zoo you could imagine.  Poorly fed, poorly cleaned, poorly cared for animals in tiny cages.  They were filthy, smelly, malnourished, diseased, and skittish animals.  They even had dogs in cages.  Oh those poor dogs!!!  I can't even post any pictures because it just breaks my heart.
Feeding the camel at the zoo
After the sad little zoo, we stopped by a museum that was just amazing!!!  Wish we had more time to spend going through this private collect of the Emir's uncle.  It was really fantastic!!  Armor, swords, guns, cars, boats, airplanes, jewelry, houses, furnishings, art work ... you name it, this guy collects it!!!  He even has a currency collection with nearly every currency in the entire world from the beginning of time until present.  Apparently he adds to his collection weekly!!  Can't even begin to guess the value!!  It was amazing!!!
Exterior of the museum
And finally, here are a few more random pictures from Mom's visit ...

Qatar flag

boys at soccer practice

Souq Waqif in the day time

The Pearl
 (high end shopping and apartments on the harbor full of yachts)

Boys at the Pearl

Mom & Pam's Visit - Camel races

So the camel races weren't exactly what we were expecting, but it was still incredible to see.

A tour driver picked us all up on a Saturday afternoon and headed out of town to the camel race track.  Along the way, we passed the Emir's house.  Maybe someday, we'll be invited for tea.  Okay, probably not, but it was neat to catch a glimpse of his massive compound.

We arrived at the tracks to see several small groups of camels being led to the tracks for the races.  Little packs of camels were everywhere!  I never dreamed there would be so many camels!!  Thousands and thousands of camels ... craziness!!  The camels are herded into the starting gates (nothing sophisticated, just some poles and canvas), then the canvas is manually raised and the camels are off.

Boys in front of camel prep area


Camels being led to races

On your marks ... Get Set ....


There are no stands to sit and watch the races. The owners (and the fans) drive in their cars along side the camel track. They used to have small children ride the camels as jockeys, but after several children fell off camels and were stampeded and killed, they no longer allow human jockeys on the course. So now, the owners/trainers have a walkie talkie to communicate sounds and clicks to the camels wearing some kind of device with a speaker. There is also a radio controlled paddle to nudge the camel in the direction of the finish line.

Owner communicating commands to camel through the walkie talkie while driving!!  Look out on the roads!!!

Camels racing with cars following beside them. 
(These Land Cruisers are in the VIP lane and the one in front was the Emir's son)

The ruling family hosts the games on the weekends, 3 weekends per month from October - March. I don't know how many races per day, maybe a dozen or more. Camels are brought in from all over the middle east to race - Oman, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, etc etc. The first 10 camels to finish in each race wins a brand new Toyota Landcruiser and 150,000 QAR (roughly $40,000). No wonder camels are brought in from all over to race! 10 camels per race times at least 12 races per day times 2 days per weekend times 3 weekends per month times a 6 month racing season ... that's A LOT of prizes!!!  All from the government.  No entry fee, no endorsements, no wagering, just gifts from the government to the top 10 camels in every race.

End of the race track ...

These camels have finished their races for the day.

Resting camels
Not a great picture, but can you tell this guy is talking on his cell phone while riding a camel?!