Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Thanks Sarah for the tip on loading videos!  Loading to youtube first seemed like an unnecessary extra step, but it worked!!!  Now I can add pictures and videos!!!  Here are a few recent ones...

A typical day at the pool.  The boys can entertain themselves for hours going back and forth between the kiddie pool and the big pool.  Jumping, splashing, swimming, diving to the bottom, ...

Jaden and Nicholas are working on their handstands in this clip...

I'm not sure where these kids get their dance moves, but it's hilarious!!!  I love that Nicholas uses his sword as a guitar and Jaden's best moves occur about a minute in. 

Jaden videoed our little Nicholas "reading" his first book! 
He left out "EASY!" after every page for the camera. 
I was kind of hoping he would say it once ... so funny!! 

I love my boys!

I love that reading the Bible is an important part of our morning routine!  Even when I forget, the boys remind me when we miss "Bible time."  They were even willing to be late to their swimming lessons this morning to spend time in the Bible.  There's a lesson there for me.  How often do I put it off until later?  I too should be willing to be late in order to spend time with God.

While I'm still working on videos (thanks for the tip Sarah!), here are a few silly pictures of the boys this week ...

Who needs a pool when you can play with the pool toys in the living room?? 
 And Nicholas gets to wear his Spiderman costume to boot!

We went out for lunch after church last Friday and this was Jaden's immediate
reaction to the folded napkin sitting in front of him!  He was so excited to get a hat!! 
Who needs a happy meal when you can get a folded napkin?!

And of course, Nicholas has to do everything Jaden does ....

This was taken just 2 minutes after he insisted he wasn't tired and didn't need a nap! 
(I think his "lovey" is going to college with him some day.  Will he ever outgrow it?)

Poor kid's head is too big for shirt!  My little skinny mini!!  The only way our boys ever outgrow their shirts are when we can't get it over their big heads any more. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Still no driver's license ... or sea shipment

I thought I was going to get my driver's license this morning, but again, the process wasn't fully explained.  I merely went to the driving school to make an appointment to take the test later in the week.  Just gives me more time to study the signs for the test.  Most of the signs are similar to those in the states, or you can figure out their meaning, but you have to say the name of the sign with their exact wording.  If not exact wording, you fail.  So instead of "No passing", it's "no overtaking," "yield" is "give way", "slippery road" is "slippery carriageway" and my personal favorite ... for "No U-turn," I have to say "Turning backwards is prohibited."  Love it!!  And who uses the word carriageway??? 

So my appointment is scheduled for Thursday morning at 5:30am.  We'll see...

And I just got a phone call that our sea shipment, scheduled to be delivered tomorrow, has also been delayed.  No surprise there.  I knew Ramadan would slow things down a bit.  Now we wait day by day until they get to our container.  No one really knows when it will be, so we'll wait and see how long it takes.  I'm still hopeful it will be this week, but that might just be wishful thinking.  Glad I never told the boys it was coming.  I had a feeling it was going to be delayed and I didn't want to disappoint them.

It will all come together eventually...

At least we have our RPs and passports so we can leave for vacation on Friday.  We decided to book our first cruise.  We're going on a 7 day cruise of Greece ... leaving from Venice, Italy on Saturday, August 3.  Super excited!! 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Baby sitter bliss ... or not.

I decided to spoil myself today and get a babysitter so I could grocery shop alone.  Sad isn't it?  My idea of fun is to grocery shop alone!  But come on moms, you know it's a rare and wonderful treat (especially in the summer) to go shopping solo!!!

I forget how much faster you can shop without kids, so I was finished long before my pre-arranged driver was coming for me.  What to do?  I called the car service and told them to send the driver now, but I still waited for over 30 minutes ... I just kept thinking my ice cream was going to melt and my milk was going to spoil.  Plus I was starving!!  Here I am staring at a cart full of groceries, starving, and not able to open something for a snack!!  Remember, it's Ramadan - no eating in public!!  GRRRR!!!  (That was my tummy talking.)  My driver finally arrives and he graciously helps me load the groceries in the trunk.  He finishes first and promptly closes the lid to the trunk ... ON MY HEAD!!!!  Ouch!!!  So much for a peaceful, enjoyable shopping trip sans kids! 

I can't wait to get my driver's license!!!!  Then I can go where I want, when I want, how ever fast (or slow) I want.  It's scheduled for Sunday morning ... pray I pass the first time around!  For those that know me, I'm not the greatest driver in the world, so I need all the prayers I can get!!  :-)  Thankfully, Ken has been a good influence the last several years, so I might stand a chance at passing.  I have NO idea how I passed when I was 16!  I got zero points for parallel parking and parking on a hill -- I even lost points leaving the parking lot!  It's no wonder I got in a car accident just 2 weeks later -- in a parking lot!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

I'm a Resident!!

It's official!  We have our resident's permit (RP)!!!  The boys and I are residents of Qatar!

I've put off posting the last few days because everything has been frustrating ... RP paperwork was held up, because the guy forgot the papers for the boys.  The sea shipment didn't arrive in 4-6 days as expected because the guy forgot to tell us there is a 5 day "discharge" process that has to occur before the 4-6 days custom clearance can begin.  I don't know, I've learned to just politely say, okay, supply the extra information and wait.  No need to get upset. 

I should receive our passports back this afternoon and I'm hoping to take the driving test on Sunday.  I just need to find out the hours.  I also have to have an eye exam first.  If not Sunday, then later in the week because ...

Our sea shipment is scheduled to arrive on Monday!!!  Yippee!!!  It's going to be like Christmas!!! 

On a side note, I've been trying to figure out how to upload mini videos into this blog and for the life of me I can't get it to work.  It says it's uploading, but it never finishes.  I've tried googling a solution, but still can't figure it out.  If anyone knows what I'm doing wrong, PLEASE fill me in!!!

Here we are, shopping for cars ... couldn't get Nicholas off the motorcycles on display at the Honda dealer.  Much to his chagrin, we're NOT buying a motorcycle!  And Jaden's not too bad of a photographer huh?  :-)

Boys are catching some air as they jump into the pool. 

Pool skills the boys have mastered in just the past couple of weeks include diving to and sitting on the bottom of the pool. Skills still in progress, but they love to work on, include handstands, breast stroke and butterfly stroke (for Jaden), and "big arms" in his freestyle (for Nicholas). 

Skills I've mastered at the pool this summer include being a human jungle gym as they climb all over me (they love to jump off my shoulders from a shoulder stand), flinging my children in all directions, and hiding my adult beverage in a thermos container that keeps it remarkably cool in 110+ heat.  Skills I'm still working on include swimming just 2 laps without being completely winded and getting my children to play by themselves!  :-)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Praise God! Fingerprint & Sea Shipment?!

What a glorious day!!!  Right before I was to be picked up for my fingerprinting, I got an email from Ken ... our sea shipment has arrived in Doha!!!!  It's early!!!  The email said to expect 4-6 days for customs clearance.  We'll see when we get the delivery ... boys can't wait for their Geo Tracks toys.  I can't wait for our mattress (the one here is REALLY firm)!  :-)

So an ExxonMobil driver and expeditor (a national Qatari man) picked me up today to take me for my fingerprint.  We arrive and the Qatari man takes me and another ExxonMobil employee in through the door clearly labeled "Gentlemen."  I asked if it was okay I come in and he assured me yes.  He took us to a counter to get a number and the man behind the counter said no, I had to go back to the ladies area.  Yes everything is segregated between male and female.  So I went to the ladies reception area and there was no one working.  A small gathering of women were waiting, but no one was behind the desks.  I think it was lunch break.  Thankfully it didn't take long before someone came along.  I've learned to always sit in the front row if you want things to be quick.  So I took a seat right up front when everyone else filled in from the back.  I was taken second.  And how many fingerprints do they need??  My goodness!!!  Every finger at least two times ... more if the computer screen didn't like the image.  I must have done my left thumb 7 or 8 times alone!  It was crazy!  But it was quick.  Now I just have to get Ken to sign some paper (he is officially my sponser here) and then submit everything tomorrow.  Hoping to get my RP in a week or so.  Then my driver's license.

Guess I need to start studying for the driver's test.  They only make expats from the US take a test.  Isn't that fun?  People from Europe, Australia, far East, even Africa just have to turn in their license and swap for a Qatari license.  Americans must take a test.  Legend has it that a high ranking Qatari once tried to get a US license and was required to take a test, so he made sure we were treated the same in Qatar.  No idea if there is any truth in it, but it wouldn't totally surprise me.

Riding in the car with a Qatari man was another first.  He was the first one I've ever (not) met.  He didn't talk to me or even acknowledge me, so I can't really say we "met," but I did make him laugh.  I was talking to another expat from the UK in the van and I didn't know he was listening to our conversation.  I was explaining how my boys were disappointed they haven't seen many camels.  They have asked me several times, "where are all the camels?"  It's like they expected people to ride camels to work here.  I had no idea the Qatari man was listening to me until he started laughing.  I hope it wasn't offensive to him!  (Mind you the Qatari people are RIDICULOUSLY wealthy - they drive Ferrari's, not camels!)

Monday, July 16, 2012

iPhone overheated

So today I learned that my iPhone can get overheated.  I took the boys to a pool at one of the hotels right along the beach.  We had a great time playing at the pool and met a few more moms from the Doha Mums club, but when I wandered down to the beach, my phone overheated.  I got an error message that said I couldn't use my phone until it cooled down.  Guess I'll have to start carrying a camera again.  I only wanted to take a few pictures! 

I just googled it and found out that the iPhone is not intended for continuous use over 35 degrees C (which I then had to convert ... 95 degrees F).  Guess that's why I was only able to take a couple of pictures.  It had been sitting poolside for almost 2 hrs in 110 degree weather. 

I did get a couple of pictures though....

Here's the pool at the Intercontinental Hotel with the beach beyond the palm trees.  Can you tell the palm trees are a little brown?  They all are here ... trees are endlessly watered, but there is so much dust in the air that everything takes on a rather dull brown color.

 Boys were being silly for the camera...

 Nicholas was ready for his close up ... love that I caught Jaden just over his shoulder!

I wandered out to the beach to take a few pictures.  This is when my phone overheated.  Off to one side is down town Doha. 

The water is a beautiful blue green and so calm!

Friday, July 13, 2012

First step toward my RP

I must confess that at the start of the week, I was rather blue.  It's hard adjusting to such isolation.  While everyone we meet is super nice, it takes time to build relationships and not being able to drive is a drag!  We don't get out much and Ken works ridiculously long hours!!  He's not a work-a-holic, so I know this is very difficult for him too.  It's just the start of a new job ... trying to get on top of everything when everything is new and challenging and slow here.  He gets up every morning around 5am, leaves for work by 6am and doesn't get home until 7pm most nights.  He plays with the kids a bit, helps put them to bed, and gets back on his laptop until midnight or later some nights.  He usually spends one day home on the weekend (although at least a few hours on the laptop) and then goes in to work one day on the weekend.  It's too much right now and we pray that it doesn't last too much longer.

But things are definitely turning up.  I took the boys to a "Doha Mums" activity and we officially joined this amazing mom's group.  There are over 1100 members -- mostly expat moms with young children.  They have about a dozen activities each week and that's only for the summer - it picks up quite a bit during the school year.  I'm finding that a lot of things kind of shut down for the summer months.  So much of the community here are expats that travel home during the summer months.  There just aren't enough people here in the summer to maintain the same level of activities.

Then on Thursday, I was able to get my medical clearance done for my Resident's Permit (RP) !!!!  So excited!!!!  It's the first of several steps toward driving and independence!!!  I have no idea what took so long, but I'm glad it has finally started!!!  We arrived on June 11th and the tourist visa is only valid for 30 days.  So do the math and yes, I believe we are officially illegal aliens in Qatar.  Maybe not though ... I think ExxonMobil may have extended my tourist visa for another 30 days.  I just don't have any proof in my passport.  Anyway, the first step in the process is to get my medical clearance -- which really means pay a fee, get a chest exray (to check for TB), and get blood work (to check for HIV).  It was all very easy thanks to Karen.  ExxonMobil pays for an "expeditor" to go with you and hold your hand every step of the way.  She showed me where to get my ticket, where to wait, where to sit, where to stand, when to pay, etc, etc, etc.  She was FABULOUS!!!  I should know if I "pass" the medical exam in 3-4 days (I better pass).  Then I go somewhere to be fingerprinted.  Then I wait for the paperwork to be processed.  Once I have my RP, then I can apply for my driver's license!!!  Yeah!!!  Typically I think it takes 2-3 weeks, but Ramadan starts is just 1 week, so we'll see.
I mentioned that things kind of shut down during summer months, but it's even more extreme during the holy month of Ramadan.  The Muslims fast from sun up to sun down for 30 days.  Apparently there are early morning (sun up is 5am) feasts and late night (sun down is 7pm) feasts.  Even though we aren't Muslims, we are required to honor the fast by not eating, drinking, or even chewing gum in public from sun up to sun down.  We can eat in our home, but not in restaurants or anywhere public - not even a water bottle in the car.  So many restaurants close or drastically reduce their hours for the month.  Grocery stores, shopping malls, government agencies ... everyone has drastically reduced hours.  I've heard that some local foods (particularly fresh milk and chicken) can have diminished supply in the stores as less is produced and less is shipped during Ramadan.  You also can't buy alcohol for the month.  We went to the QDC (one of two places in the entire country to purchase alcohol and pork) last weekend and it was packed with people stocking up.

So if I don't get my license before Ramadan, it is unlikely I'll get it until after Ramadan ends Aug 19th.  Still praying there is a chance to get it before the end of Ramadan -- it would be an ideal time to practice driving.  The roads are practically empty during Ramadan and I can figure out the best routes to school and how to get around town without all the crazy drivers on the road with me.  :-)

The other thing scheduled smack in the middle of Ramadan is the arrival of our household goods.  The ship is scheduled to arrive in Doha on July 28th.  I have a feeling nothing will clear customs until long after Ramadan ends.  If supplies of milk and chicken run low, how will our household goods have any kind of priority??  But we've managed just fine without all our stuff this long, we'll manage another month or so if we need too.  It's only stuff.  I think the only thing the boys have missed are their Geo Tracks.

Wow, this is a long post.  Sorry!!  I don't want it all to sound doom and gloom.  While there are many minor struggles and frustrations, God has been very good to us.  We are slowly making friends and learning our way around.  We're spending valuable time together each and every day.  My boys are so very sweet ... they are so content just staying home all the time.  As long as we have their precious Bible time, homework time, and arts and crafts time, they are happy.  So easy!  So sweet!

Have a blessed weekend everyone!!  Comment if you read this!!  :-)  We love to see who's following along...

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Picture time

Here are a few pictures from the last couple of weeks...

This is the entrance to the food court at one of the local malls.  See the food choices?  Cinnabun, McDonald's, KFC, Pizza Hut, Subway, Starbucks ... it's just like the US!  Except for the whole "Circus Land" - kiddie area.

 Boys had a ball driving the bumper cars in Circus Land!

Nicholas took driving very serious.  It was hard to get a picture of them smiling!

Airplane ride at Circus Land...
 (There was also a trampoline area, a bounce house area, and a huge arcade area.)

Not the greatest picture, but here's our new (2008) Land Rover.

A typical day at home includes a lot of puzzles, arts and crafts, reading, board games, and legos.  One of our neighbors gave us some puzzles their son has outgrown.  They were a bit easy for Jaden, but it was still a nice treat to have some new puzzles.

We also have "Bible Time" and "Homework Time" every morning.

Boys still play with their astronaut costumes all the time!!

Me and my little astronauts!

This is the church we have been visiting - Grace Fellowship.  There is no official church building, but we gather at this compound.  I think there are about 100 per service and there are 3 services every Friday morning.  And tons of kids!!!

Boys picked out a puppy to paint...

Finished puppies!   

Silly boys!!  They loved painting little "Radars."

American School of Doha

Today is by far the windiest day since I've been here. You step outside and it's like walking into a sand fight. Super fine dust is flying through the air and visibility is terrible!  It gets in your eyes, nose and mouth and makes you super thirsty!  But we braved the weather and went for a wonderful tour of Jaden's future school today. We saw the library, music rooms, art rooms, classrooms, cafeteria, gym, playgrounds, outdoor basketball, tennis and swimming pool.  All for the elementary school!  The junior high and highschool is completely separate.  It looks fantastic!!

The way getting there, though, was not so fantastic.  But these are the things that make for better stories.  I think we had our worst driver yet.  First he arrived at our compound and drove right past our place.  I tried to wave him down, but he turned the corner and disappeared for 15 minutes!  Where did he go??  Our compound isn't that big!  He is finally back on our street and I jumped outside to catch him before he disappears again.  Then I'm carrying the car seats outside and he opens the trunk!  I had to laugh.  He clearly doesn't have kids or see many car seats if he thinks they go in the trunk!!  LOL!  We're finally all settled and off we go.  Now I've never been to the American School of Doha (ASD) before, but I knew where it was on the map.  He was heading in the exact opposite direction.  I asked him why we're going this way when the school is the other way.  He assured me he knew where he was going.  "I've been here 6 months, I know the city," he says.  Okay, I don't want to offend him, but I'm following along on my map and we're going farther and farther away from the school.  He finally gets himself turned around and heading in the right direction.  We get near the school and he pulls over and says here we are.  Me:  no this is a residential compound not the American School.  He keeps driving.  We drive right past the school and I say, that was it.  He turns around to go behind the school and tries to drop me off at some sports complex.  Me:  no, this isn't it.  We keep going.  He nearly drives past the school again and I say "here, here, pull in here."  Surprisingly, he listened to me this time and pulled in.  We were at the right gate.  We were 15 minutes late for the tour, but we managed to catch them just in time.  Silly driver!!  I can't wait to get my license!!!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Doha Tour

Happy Independance Day!  Not that there is any celebration here, but we haven't forgotten what day it is!  :-)  Hope everyone has a safe and fabulous holiday!

So we took our first offical Doha tour on Saturday.  ExxonMobil provides a one-on-one tour guide to drive you around town and show you things when you first arrive.  Ken had to work, so it was just me and the boys.  I figured we would go as long as the boys would hold out - maybe just after lunch.  Started out great ... drove to the beach (way prettier than Galveston with calm, warm water).  Then around to various shopping districts and tourist spots.  I must say, there is more to Doha than expected.  We just need to wait a few months for it to cool down enough to enjoy them.  Crazy to drive by empty beaches because it's too hot for anyone to go.  I know it's been hot in the US lately, so you can all relate.  I think it's about 110 most days and cools to a refreshing 90 at night.  I hear it only gets worse before it gets better.  Since I can't drive yet, it really doesn't matter too much how hot it is - we don't go out a whole lot and it's a short walk to the pool.  But I digress ... back to the tour.  So we enjoyed seeing a number of new things when the driver decided to whip around on a side street to avoid traffic.  Jaden informs us his tummy hurts.  We go over a speed bump and just that quick, Jaden threw up all over himself!  Tour over!!  He was fine after we got home, out of the car, and into AC.  I really think it was a combination of the heat and a bit of car sickness.  Poor kid!

The last few days have been spent at home ... we signed the boys up for swim lessons.  Mr. Raffi comes to the pool on our compound every Tuesday to give them lessons.  Love that he comes to us!!  The boys seemed to take to him right away ... looking forward to seeing progress this summer.  Jaden was really starting to do well in his swimming lessons in Houston.  Nicholas won't be far behind!