Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A new adventure begins!

After 7 wonderful years of staying home with my boys, I have decided to accept a job outside the home!!  I am really excited to see where God leads me in this new adventure and I feel confident that this is His plan for my life.

I always thought I would return to work at ExxonMobil after the boys were both in school full time.  Nicholas is in pre-K this year (half days) and will be full day kindergarten next year.  It's been on my heart for quite some time wondering if I'm really ready to return to work.  There were times I thought yes and times I thought no. 

Then maybe 3 or 4 weeks ago, I woke up one morning with a clear message from my dreams, "It's time to return to work."  I am not one who ever remembers my dreams and so it really stuck out.  I even told Ken and we kind of laughed and said, maybe it's my turn to work and Ken's turn to stay home.  Of course Ken asked if I really thought I was up for returning to all the demands and stress that come along with ExxonMobil.  I just assumed this message meant to find a job at ExxonMobil ... I thought that was the only skillset I had to offer.

The very next week, Vicky Stacy (Children's Ministry Leader at our church here in Doha) approached me and asked me if I would be willing to taking over the position as Friday School Coordinator.  The current (and might I add, amazing) Friday School Coordinator is rather un-expectantly moving back to the UK.  This is a common occurrence in Doha where people are always moving in and moving away.  Originally I thought Vicky was crazy, but the memory of that dream kept tugging on my heart.  So I talked to the Friday School Coordinator and learned all about the position ... roughly 20 hours per week, responsible for all of the children's programs on Friday mornings including curriculum, teachers, materials, staff, etc, etc, etc.

I prayed a lot.  I talked to the boys.  I talked to Ken.  I knew I needed to seek counsel from the scriptures, but didn't know where to turn.  God answered that for me.  I read the Bible with the boys every morning and don't you know that morning we read a section from Proverbs about not being lazy!  I'm not saying that staying home with the kids is a lazy life, it is anything but lazy!  But it seemed to reveal a message to me that I should not be afraid to take this on, to not be afraid of serving the Lord in this capacity. So I updated my (ancient) resume and applied for the job. 

The interview was far more formal than I expected, but apparently it went well.  Instead of offering me the Friday School Coordinator position that I applied for, they offered me the Children's Ministry Leader!!!  This is the Friday School Coordinator's boss.  I was shocked!!!  The current (and also amazing) Children's Ministry Leader is 8 months pregnant and when she returns from her leave of absence, she was planning to start looking for a replacement as her husband's assignment in Doha comes to an end this June.

So after learning more about the job and talking to Ken and the boys and spending more time in prayer and the scriptures, I have accepted the position of Children's Ministry Leader.  I'm really excited about the opportunity, but also a little bit scared.  It's been a long time since I've had such a large responsibility outside the home.  Plus I don't have a teaching background so children's ministry is NOT where I expected God to lead me.  Officially I begin in Feb and the hours vary from 20-30 hours a week.  I will be responsible for overseeing children's programming for Friday School (although most of the week to week work is handled by the coordinator), regular mid week activities (ladies Bible study meets weekly and a mom's group meets monthly), and any other ad hoc children's program requirements and concerns.  I'm certain that it will be both a challenge and a joy to be part of this growing ministry at our church.

I appreciate your prayers for our family, our church, and all the children at Grace Fellowship during this time of transition! 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Jaden turned 7 ... what?!!!

I really struggled with Jaden's birthday this year.  I don't know why 7 was so rough, but I'm still in shock that I have a 5 and 7 year old!!!  How did that happen?  Time goes so fast!!!  I tried to make Jaden and Nicholas promise me that they would stop growing up, but they just laughed at me.  Seven seems so "big" to me.  He's not an infant or toddler ... not a pre-schooler or even a kindergartener ... he's just a "big kid."  I'm a mom to a "big kid."  Wow!! 

But what a blessing he is!!  I can't say enough wonderful things about my children ... I adore everything about them!!  Even the parts that are hard to love, I love!  Jaden has the biggest heart ... so gentle and loving and sweet natured.  He is an amazing big brother always looking out for Nicholas and helping him.  He loves to try new things and he has the most amazing little dimples when he smiles! 

Ken's parents were here for Jaden's actual birthday and they brought tons of presents!!!  It was a combination of Christmas and birthday presents for both boys, but we waited and opened them all on Jaden's birthday.  It was a great treat for them both!!

New baseball bats for the boys to practice their swing ... look out mom!!!

Nerf guns to battle each other ... I remember when they were little and I was so "anti weapon."  Clearly that didn't last ... we have entirely too many swords, knives, and guns!!  But the boys always want more!!  I have to admit, even I enjoyed playing with these Nerf guns.  Next time we might have to get 4 so we can have a family battle!  :-)
We planned to have Jaden's birthday party at this giant park by our house, but it was gray and overcast and starting to drizzle so we made a last minute change and had everyone come over to our compound.  We used a large empty room that opened up to a small covered playground.  We had about 20 kids and they all seemed to have a lot of fun.  They went crazy with pool noodle swords (left over from Nicholas' ninja party) and Ken got pretty anxious ... afraid someone would get hurt.  But they all settled down after some pizza and cake and they enjoyed a game of soccer.  It was too bad we didn't have more space, but we had a great time!
Enjoying pizza and cupcakes with friends

Happy birthday dear Jaden! (we sang in English and then Nicholas led us in Arabic too!)
This was by far the most casual and relaxed party I've thrown.  Since it was supposed to be at the playground, I didn't prepare any kind of party game or entertainment.  And since it was supposed to be at the park, we didn't want flies all over the cake, so I didn't make an elaborate cake for the party either ... just cupcakes!  Easy peasy!!  Might have to be our new tradition!  :-)

Saying goodbye ... or until Vietnam?

We had to say good bye to Ken's parents weekend.  We were all very sad to see them leave.  They plan to head to Vietnam in February and stay for a year (or more) if they can.  We're hoping that maybe we can spend next winter break with them in Vietnam.  It would be my first trip and of course the first time for the boys, so we hope it works out!!

We had a wonderful time while Ken's parents were here visiting.  I think our favorite memories were listening to their stories of their childhood in Vietnam and all the circumstances leading up to their escape in 1978.  I really need to write down all their stories so we don't forget them.  They have had an amazing life and we are most grateful and proud of all the sacrifices they have made for their family over the years!! 

But before they left, we took them to Souk Waqif ... an outdoor market and my personal favorite place to visit in Doha.  They really enjoyed trying food from Syria and some local street food (similar to a crepe), but I didn't expect them to get into the shopping so much!!  They even convinced me to buy some handmade sandals that are really very unique... I never would have bought them if it weren't for Mrs. Doan, but I'm really glad I did.  I'll have to model them after it warms up a bit!  But the big hit of the market was the perfume!!!  I had never explored the perfume section of the market before ... I think I was a little intimidated, but not Mrs. Doan.  She went into several shops, smelled all the various oils and bought, bought, bought!!  She was so proud of her deals ... a vial of Coco Chanel for only 10 QR (about $2.75)!  I felt terrible when I explained it was fake ... just an imitation of the most popular fragrances!  She thought she got a great deal on the real thing!  We laughed, but she didn't care, she still went back the next day to buy more!!!  I found a local fragrance that I really liked and bought a vial for myself.  I wish I understood the name of it!!

We also took Ken's parents to have tea at the Ritz.  Mrs. Doan loved the decadent atmosphere and the tea and pastries were delicious too!  The scones were everyone's favorites!!

Tea at the Ritz (Nicholas was not interested in taking a picture)

I just love the fancy china and the 3 tiered trays of goodies at the Ritz!!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Sand Skiing

We had such a great time last weekend sand skiing with our friends the Bondurants.  I love this family!!  Every Saturday, nearly all year long, they invite people to join them as they play in the sand - either the beach during the hot months or the desert dunes in the cooler months.  This was our first adventure with them in the desert and it was a blast!  I think there were nearly 30 of us that gathered together, grilled up lunch, and played in the sun and sand.  They hooked up their knee boards to the truck and pulled peopled up and down the dunes.  Then we climbed the tallest dune with the kneeboards and slid down the dune like sledding only in the sand.  SO MUCH FUN!!! 

And don't you know Jaden and Mr. Doan were the first of our family to try it out!!! 
Setting up camp at the top of the dune.  Those 2 dots on the left are Mr. and Mrs. Doan who wasted no time climbing up the dune!
We finally caught up with them at the top! 

It was a lovely day, just a bit windy!

Jaden and Mr. Doan ready to go!
Looking good for 6 and 76!

Jaden calls stop!

Time for the ladies!  Me, Alicia, and Lisa.
I actually stood up on the knee board for a good 5 minutes (I'm sure I'm not exaggerating!) but no one captured a picture ... convenient!  Of course when Lisa, Alicia, and I all tried to stand together we wiped out and there were plenty of pictures of the crash!!  :-)  All in good fun, all in good fun.  What a blast!

Base camp preparing for lunch
Lunch break

Visiting with friends.  And that would be the potty tent in the background.  Quite literally a bucket inside a tent, but when you gotta go, you gotta go, and it was nice to have.
Round 2 - ready to do some sledding!

Group at the top of the dune ready to come down.  From the left, it's Ken, Nicholas, me, and Jaden.

Ken and Jaden zoom down
For some reason Nicholas is timid to try a lot of these activities.  We couldn't get him to be pulled by the truck and he DID NOT want to slide down the hill either.  I had to kind of trick him down keeping him distracted by watching everyone else.  We were definitely the slowest descent, but I got him down.
My turn with Jaden.  Although he preferred going with Ken - apparently I went too slow!

Ken got Nicholas down a second time.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Mom and Dad Doan visit - Ritz, Katara, and Soccer

So Jaden really wanted to check out the life sized gingerbread house that was part of the Christmas decorations at the Ritz, but we forgot to go before Christmas.  I wasn't sure they would still be up, but he really wanted to check and see.  So we drove out to the Ritz, only to find out they took the gingerbread house down early that morning!!  We just missed it!  But the chef was so amazing!!!  He took the boys by the hand and gave them a tour of the kitchen.  They really liked the walk in freezer!  They came out of the kitchen wearing paper chef hats and loaded up with sweets - cinnamon buns, gingerbread cookies, and candies galore!!!  They loved it!!!  We love the Ritz!
Waiting for the boys to finish their tour of the kitchen at the Ritz

Ken and his parents at the Ritz
Happy chefs after the kitchen tour!
Ritz lobby (I love the crystal chandelier!)
Such a beautiful couple!  More than 50 years of marriage!!  What a wonderful example for us!!
After the short excursion to the Ritz, we took Ken's parents to Katara for lunch...their first time trying Egyptian food and they loved it!!! 

Ken's parents at Katara with the Arabian Sea and dhow boats behind them

Add in the kiddos...

Golden Mosque at Katara

On Thursday night, we had tickets to see a soccer match in Doha.  It was a huge game and sold out to a crowd of nearly 50,000 people!  Paris Saint Germain vs. Madrid.  I was looking forward to my first soccer game, but it didn't quite go as planned.  We got a bit of a late start and parking proved to be a nightmare!!!  We finally parked in a residential area a block away from the stadium.  The game had already started and just as we walked through the gate of the arena, it started to thunder and lightning and RAIN!!!  In Doha??!!!  What??!!!  Our tickets were in a covered part of the arena, but as there were no one checking tickets once inside the stadium, it was a bit of a free for all with seating and of course the covered area was filled straight away!!!  We wandered around the stadium a bit and found some seats hoping the rain would blow over quickly.  It didn't.  We got soaked!!!  Ken was worried about him mom and me (I had come down with a terrible sore throat) and he didn't want us to sit in the cold rain.  So we only watched a few minutes before we hiked back to our car in the rain.  A bit disappointing, but what can you do??

Madrid vs. Paris Saint Germain game - in Doha - in the rain!

It's raining, it's pouring!!

Trying to stay dry!!


Mom and Dad Doan visit - tennis

We've had a busy week with Ken's parents in town.  Ken has been able to take several days off work and we have thoroughly enjoyed all the extra family time!!!  The main attraction for the week was the Qatar ExxonMobil Open.  It's an annual professional tennis tournament here in Doha and since it is sponsored by ExxonMobil, Ken was able to get several sets of tickets. 

But before the tennis tournament started, Ken took his dad to an ExxonMobil dinner with the tennis players.  Ken was disappointed that there weren't more opportunities to get autographs and pictures with the players, but they got a few...

Dad with Nikolay Davydenko (from Russia, ranked #53 in the world)

Dad with Tomas Berdych (from the Czech Republic, ranked #7 in the world)

Dad with Andy Murray (from Great Britain, ranked #4 in the world)
That's Rafael Nadal sitting at the table (Nadal is from Spain and is ranked #1 in the world)

Unfortunately, this was as close as he could get to Rafael Nadal
 For New Year's Eve, Ken had VIP tickets to the matches.  Ken and his dad really enjoyed being so close to the court!! 

Dad in VIP box, watching Rafael Nadal in the first round of the tournament

Ken and his Dad in the VIP box
Nadal serves

The next night, we had tickets for everyone (but not VIP).  Even Ken's mom enjoyed being at a professional tennis match!  I was SHOCKED at how long it kept the boys attention!!!  We watched for nearly 7 hours and they never left their seats (except for one bathroom break)!!  They loved it and they especially loved Nadal ... quirks and all!  Jaden counted 43 wedgie picks in the first game and then estimated 129 wedgie picks in the set!  Nadal must have a serious case of OCD with all of his very particular game habits, but who can argue with a man ranked #1 in the world?!

Ready for some tennis!

Nadal serves

Do we make a handsome family or what?!  :-)