Friday, August 30, 2013

Back to school

The boys went back to school this week and what an awesome start to the school year for our family!!  Last year was so hard for all of us - we were still adjusting to our new house, new compound, new school, new teachers, new schedule, new friends, new city, new country ... a lot of change for one year!!! 

This year was much more familiar for everyone and made us far less nervous.  I also took a slightly different approach this year.  Last year we talked a lot about the start of school and getting ready.  We went to school to check out our class and tour the facilities and I thought it would help them be more comfortable.  In hind sight, I think I just built up their anxiety about school.  So this year, we didn't talk about it - AT ALL!  They knew when school was starting only because it was marked on their calendar and they always mark off their calendar so they knew it was coming. 

The morning of the first day of school, Jaden turned on the TV and I just said, "no time for TV this morning, we have to get ready for school."  Jaden asks, "school starts today?"  Me:  "yep, let's go get dressed and ready."  Jaden:  "Okay."  And off he went.  He was pretty anxious on the drive to school, but he relaxed as soon as he saw a familiar face.  I reminded him that he needs to say hi to everyone he recognizes and we proceeded through the hallways with Jaden shouting hi and waving at people left and right.  All those familiar faces put him right at ease.  We found the class lists posted on the wall, found his name on the list and went in search for Class 1-D ... Mrs. Pruitt.  His new teacher seems rather quiet, but Jaden seems happy.  He knew 5 of the kids in his class of 20.  Not bad!

When Jaden came home from his first day, he was so proud of himself!  He kept telling me that "I didn't cry one time!!"  My sensitive little guy is growing up and becoming more brave!!

The following morning we got ready for school and I walked down to the clubhouse / bus stop.  I wasn't sure if he would get on the bus so soon (took 3 weeks last year), but again, there was no discussions or warnings, I just walked to the bus stop and waited to see if he would follow without issue.  Sure enough, he climbed on the bus and waved good bye like it was no big deal.  Major success!!

Nicholas started school on Jaden's third day (pre-K and KG start 2 days after the rest of the school).  Nicholas was pretty nervous!  I took him to meet his teacher the day before, but it was a disaster.  I couldn't even get him to walk in the door to the classroom.  Definitely only created anxiety for him - poor decision on my part.  I should have stuck to the same approach I was taking with Jaden.  No discussions, no preparations, just go for it. 

I drove Nicholas to school on his first day and gave him a picture of our family to keep in his pocket.  He was trying SO HARD not to cry!!!  Poor kid!!!  But he managed to keep the well of tears from rolling down his face and he went in his class room (very reluctantly, but he went in).  He rode the bus home and came off the bus all smiles, so it must have been a good day! 

Nicholas' first day of school (Jaden's 3rd)
In front of the ASD Dragon (school mascot)

Sweet brothers!  (Jaden is in his PE uniform)

For his second day, I took the same approach to the school bus.  We just walked to the bus stop and they both climbed right on.  There was a minor issue with the bus monitor not allowing them to sit together, but I straightened that out!  There's no reason they can't sit together!!

And for the 2 days they were both in school, I was active and happy and alive again!!  I got a massage, finished a book, started boot camp, had lunch with a friend, hosted a mini pizza party at the pool for a few families, went to a ladies night, and booked our flights for our October vacation to Croatia!  It was awesome!!!

Next week, the boys start karate and swimming and I start my ladies Bible study and squash.  Praise God for the most amazing start to the school year!!!

Naked Nicholas

Nicholas is going through a bit of an exhibitionist phase.  The second we come inside, he rips off all his clothes and remains naked until we have to leave or someone comes over.  I'm totally okay with the phase, but Ken is having a hard time.  I find it both amusing and disturbing ... amusing that he likes being naked so much, disturbing that he is SO DARN SKINNY!!!!  How do I get this boy to eat more??!!!  Here are the future blackmail pictures ...

Who needs to eat more?  I DO!!! 
You can see why the doctors have diagnosed him as failure to thrive! 
Poor kid looks malnourished!  You can see every rib!!!  He's just skin and bones!!!  :-(

silly bunny ears

Naked or not, they sure are cute!!!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Day at the beach

We had an awesome day at Al-Thakira beach yesterday with Frank and Jana Bondurant, Bill Ford, and Hoe Seng, Eun Mi, Janice, and Joseph Oii!!  Frank brought his boat and all their water toys - Jana taught us all how to knee board, then we took turns on the chariot raft.  It was RIDICULOUSLY fun until our raft flipped over!!  Always an adventure!! 

The boys freaked out when we flipped, but they calmed down once we got back up in the boat.  They were in shock for a few minutes, but recovered just fine.  I can't wait to go again, but I wonder if they will ever do it again??  They kept saying "it's just like the bouncy castle at Sea Line!!"  (The bouncy castle at the Sea Line Resort wasn't tied down and the wind picked it up and turned it over, dumping the kids on the ground and trapping them underneath.  Nicholas had a sprained hamstring and Jaden had a mild concussion.)  The good thing about flipping over in the water - no injuries!!!  We lost sunglasses and goggles, but no one was hurt!! 

Jaden - looking cool on the kneeboard
He loved going knee boarding!
Jaden loved knee boarding, but we couldn't convince Nicholas to try - he's a great swimmer, but he doesn't like salt water.  He didn't want salt water to splash up in his face.  Maybe next time.
After water skiing for the first time this summer, knee boarding was a breeze!!!  I loved going back and forth over the wake even thought it took some effort the first few times!
Who says you can't teach old dogs new tricks? 
Janice (age 9), Joseph and Jaden (both age 6), and I all went knee boarding without any trouble.  Ken gets up and flies off the knee board!!  Glad he went after the kids or Jaden might have been too scared to try!!  In his defense, he was trying to catch air going over the wake. He caught air all right, but only him - not the board!!  :-)
After flying off the knee board, he got back up and kept on going... that's my baby!
We took a break after knee boarding to grill some lunch on the beach and then we took turns on the chariot raft...
Jaden and Nicholas with Janice and Joseph on the Chariot raft
Kids were loving the ride!
Oii family - Hoe Seng, Eun Mi, Janice, and Joseph
Next up - the Doans

We were flying!  Jumping over the wakes, flying up out of the raft and bouncing around like crazy! 
We were all having a blast!
This was taken right before we flipped over ...
Bill Ford trying to get up on the air chair - only for very advanced water skiers

Frank on the air chair!  Never seen anything quite like it! 
You strap yourself onto the seat and the thing can fly!!! 
The entire counterweight is up out of the water!! 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Doha Aqua Park

Took the boys to the Aqua Park in Doha after we recovered from jet lag.  I can't believe we never visited last year.  It was really great fun!!  Separate areas for big kids and little kids made it easy to stay in the area where they could go down all the water slides and enjoy the lazy river and wave pool.  We got there right when it opened and had the place to ourselves to start off.  With so many expats still away for summer vacations, there were very few women wearing bathing suits.  The Muslim women have to remain covered - so it was interesting to see women in the pools fully dressed and some even wearing their black abaya in the pool. 

Doha Aqua Park - little kid area

We had the wave pool all to ourselves!!  Those 3 heads are Ken and the boys!

Final week in Houston

After 3 wonderful weeks in St. Louis, we spent one last week in Houston before heading back to Doha.  We stayed with our friends the Carneys and had a great time catching up and enjoying all the craziness of 5 kids in one house! 

Jaden and Nicholas with best friend John
 I couldn't stop laughing at the wii dance off - who knew they would take it so seriously?! 

Jaden and Nicholas making some serious muscles

John and Jaden flexing for Wii Dance

Wii Dance party video:

After a wonderful 6 weeks in the sates, it was time to head back to Doha.  We were sad to say goodbye, but ready to come home as well.  It was a hot day in Houston and I remember taking a quick shower before heading to the airport - what a waste of time!  I had 3 monster suitcases, a trunk, 2 card board boxes, 3 carry-ons, and 2 boys to navigate from our rental car to the check in counter.  I was a sweaty mess by the time we boarded our flight!! 

We dropped off the rental car and they had run out of carts to help with baggage, so the boys and I hauled each bag across the massive parking lot to the elevator - took multiple trips.  It took me so long to pile it all into the elevator, I was nearly crushed by the door trying to keep it open before the boys found the right button to keep it open for me.  Bless their hearts, they were trying to help.  We took the elevator down and praise God, there was a cart just inside!  I loaded everything onto the cart to catch the shuttle to the terminal.  I had to unload everything and haul it onto the shuttle, only to unload it all as soon as we arrived at the terminal. Another man got off at the same time and he ran inside to grab us each a cart while the boys and I waited outside with the mountains of luggage.  I loaded everything back onto a cart and wheeled inside to check in.  I was stopped before I could enter the line so they could pre-weigh each bag.  So everything had to come off the cart, get weighed, and piled back on the cart ... only to be rolled 30 feet so they could officially weigh each bag at the check in counter.  Really?  It was a work out for sure!  We got our boarding passes, walked to the gate, and sat down to await our flight.  Not exaggerating, they called for family boarding within 5 minutes of arriving at the gate!  Talk about perfect timing!!  We got settled on the plane and we off!  Boys did fantastic on the plane - I wasn't even nervous about the 16 hr flight by myself and the boys.

Our mountain of luggage that we had to load and unload a hundred times!!  Wore me out!! 
The flight from Houston to Doha is a night flight, so the boys slept for a while on the plane and when we arrived in Doha, it was dinner and bed time again.  Jet lag was miserable last year and I was prepared for the worst.  I was pleasantly surprised.  It only took them about 3 days to adjust!!  Yeah!!

Friday, August 16, 2013

St. Louis Summer

After a couple of weeks in Houston, Ken had to return to work in Doha, so the boys and I went to St. Louis to visit my family.  We stayed with my parents and the boys had a blast catching up with Dakota and checking out all the St. Louis attractions.  I was exhausted by all the plans my parents made for us - Magic House, Myseum, Science Center, Purina Farms, Grant's Farm, Zoo, Six Flags (4 times!), etc, etc, etc.  It was a very busy 3 weeks!!

On top of all of that, I got to leave the boys with my parents while I visited my girlfriend Kristina in Baltimore and spend an entire day with Maria - canoeing on the black river.  It was heavenly!!!

My dad found this little critter under the car our first day in St. Louis.  The boys thought it was so cool!  It reminded me of all the turtles my brother and I used to capture in our back yard as kids. 

The other thing I took for granted were fireflies...the boys had so much fun chasing the fireflies at night!  We never saw them in Texas or in Doha, so it was quite a thrill for them... the little things we take for granted ... turtles and fireflies!  :-)

First stop in St Louis was the Magic House - puts the Houston Children's Museum to shame!!!  I love it as much as the children! 

The Magic House is much bigger than when I was a kid, but the giant twisty slide still remains ... 

Fascinated by the bubble room ...
They made a good construction team

Nicholas had to get a picture with the American flag!

They played in this tiny little hockey area forever!


 Next day ... Purina Farms ... another one of my favorite places in St. Louis.  After wandering through the barn and petting the animals and milking the cow, I love to watch the daily dog shows!  Of course, no trip is complete without a wagon ride.  We've gone many many times over the years and we still love it.  Of course it doesn't hurt that it's super close to my parents house and it's completely free!  :-)
petting the bunny

petting the pigs

Still love to ride the tractors.  Jaden is officially too tall for this area, but it was a slow day and they were kind to let him in. 
Me and my boys at the coy pond at Purina Farms
My parents also live very close to Six Flags in St. Louis, so we bought season passes and went 4 or 5 times.  The boys love to ride roller coasters and play in the waterpark.  Jaden even rode on the Screamin' Eagle for the first time this year.  Sadly Nicholas is still too short for most rides, so he was a little frustrated.  I so clearly remember those years of wanting to ride, but not being tall enough ... I think I was in junior high before I could ride any of the "big" coasters.

Boys with Dakota, Zoey and Cassie on the train at Six Flags.

I loved getting away for a few days to visit Kristina in Baltimore.  We didn't do a whole lot, which was perfect - we had lots of time to visit and catch up.  Her expanding family and her new house were both amazing and beautiful! 

Most people assume we're sisters because we look so alike.  Happened again on this trip at one of the restaurants we visited.

Kristina's girls - Maggie and Sadie ... it was super hot and sweaty, but we still played in their amazing backyard for a bit.

Back to St. Louis ... we went to Grant's Farm for my cousin Melissa's son Spencer's birthday party.  I don't really remember going to Grant's Farm much as a kid and it was a first for the boys, but it's a great place to hang out and play on a beautiful day.  The weather was glorious!!

like being back in Doha - boys wanted to ride the camel
feeding the camels

bald eagles really are amazing creatures!
 We were pretty busy in St. Louis and always on the go, but we enjoyed some down time at my parents house too - searching for a neighbor's lost turtle (36" diameter and 100 pounds), chasing fireflies, playing on the slip n slide, making jet packs, and shooting off fireworks.  I forgot how much fun it is to set off fireworks!!!  Nicholas was too afraid, but Jaden loved to set them off.  And thanks to my Uncle Kenny, we had enough for 2 nights. 
Slip n Slide time!!!

Boys made jet packs out of materials from the recycling bin -
cereal boxes, milk jugs, and a whole lot of duct tape!!

Jaden started with bottle rockets before it got dark...
 My mom's work had a special event at the Cardinals game and we were able to partake in a parade around the ball field before the game started.  My first time to ever walk around the field at the Cardinals stadium ... pretty cool!

boys with Dakota parading around the field

take me out to the ball game

St. Louis Arch in the background

Me and Nicholas in our ball caps

Let's play ball!!
 Another adventure to the St. Louis Science Center this time ... we didn't stay for too long, but the boys enjoyed their candy sushi snack (fruit roll up wrapped around a rice crispy treat with bits of twizzlers in the middle).

Candy sushi

Me and Jaden

Me and Nicholas

ROAR!!!  With Uncle Tony and Dakota in front of the Science Center

You can barely see the boys in the shadow of the T-Rex
We checked out a new museum in St. Louis called Myseum.  It was considerably smaller than the Magic House or the Science Center, but we had the most relaxing day here.  Several great exhibits.  The boys loved the slide that times you - to see who goes the fastest. 

air cannon used to knock over the pyramid of cups

they built an arch!
 Jaden decided to dig out the dinosaur bones.  He is certainly persistent!!  Dakota had no interest and went to another area of the museum while Jaden spent over 45 minutes, yes over 45 minutes, sweeping away the mulch to uncover his find.  He was so excited when he was able to identify it as a T-Rex foot print (actual size).  I was beside myself that he never lost interest after so long.  And bless Nicholas' heart, he stayed beside his brother helping the whole time!

I have no idea who this girl is.  The boys worked forever to uncover the print all by themselves in the dinosaur dig area.  She showed up just in time to join the picture!  :-)
 We also spent a ton of time in the Pool Noodle Swamp.  It was so much fun!  I loved chasing the boys through the noodles and trying to scare them.  It was a riot!!!  Makes me want to rig this up in our spare bedroom ... just hang several hundred pool noodles from the ceiling and you're set!!  Hours of entertainment!!

Pool noodle swamp - SO MUCH FUN!!