Sunday, May 29, 2011

There's A First Time for Everything

In life there are alot of "Firsts."

First smile,
First laugh,
First crawl,
First steps,
First solid food,

You get the picture, I'm sure.

The list can go on and on throughout your life, right up until you die.

Hopefully "first death," isn't followed by a second.

Because that is just weird.

Grace had a first today, one that most people don't have until they are well into their teenage years!

First Passport PhotoLet me just note that this is a very "Arab," picture. The photographer edited the picture after he took it, and added make up (to my two month old!) Lip gloss, pastier skin (because apparently we aren't white enough!) and, the cherry on top, he drew on eyebrows.

Oh yes, he did.

So, poor Gracie has her first passport photo and it isn't the most flattering (though it really isn't unflattering, since she's a baby and is cute as can be.)

Good thing I don't have MY first passport photo to share with you.

Talk about unflattering.

I'm pretty sure I got it taken right after a swim team practice, chlorine hair, red goggle eyes and all.

I. was. awesome.

But, alas, that passport was done away with when I was no longer a minor, and then passport #2 was done away with when I changed my name! So now I have the half decent picture of me in my passport.

AND, if you really wanted to see an unflattering passport picture, I wish I could show you Ian's first passport picture. He was about 65 pounds heavier! He still had that picture when he was living in Jordan and traveling alot. The customs and border agents would give him a hard time because the picture no longer looked like him at all! He's now on passport #2 and doesn't have a problem with the picture not matching his face.

And speaking of a picture not matching the face....what happens when Grace is 2, 3, or 4 and she no longer looks like a 2 month old infant? Hmmm.

Grace will go with us on Tuesday for her first embassy visit to apply for her passport, birth certificate, and social security.

The firsts keep rolling in!

So here's to a "first," and many more to come!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

5, 6, 7, 8

Today, Grace is eight weeks old.


It's crazy to see the difference four weeks has made.....

We love our little girl SO much and are enjoying every moment with her. Within the last week or so she's started sleeping better (for the most part. Currently, she is screaming her tiny little head off, in bed, when she should be sleeping,) and her wake time is much more alert and happy.

She's putting on weight and goes to school with me like a champ! She's had her first babysitter and is loving baths more and more- today she didn't cry until we went to take her out!

She still isn't "cooing," like the books say she should be, but we're not worried. She makes plenty of intentional sounds and loves smacking her lips before meal time, ha! More updates on Grace to come on Thursday, her two month birthday!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What I'm Loving Wednesday

With Jamie!

What I am loving this Wednesday in the Kitchen:

(image found here)

My parents sent us a care package, complete with a mega package of craisins, which I have been craving ever since we got here! Definitely on my "if you want to send a care package, here are a few ideas," along with pepperoni, sharpie pens, and Easy Mac. Plus, I had been saving a package of white chocolate chips that our friends had given us for Christmas to make oatmeal craisin w/ white chocolate chip cookies, and now I can make them!

*Major accomplishment for the week, frying food.

That's right, what most people try to avoid doing because of the nutritional black hole that is fried foods, I am all about! I fried my first chicken (besides bacon) this week and we loved it. I promise, I cook all of the time, but I just avoid frying food because I hate getting burnt by the oil splatter! I used Jessica's pretzel crusted chicken recipe and it was delicious! Then today I made up my own "fried chicken" recipe, complete with some peri-peri marinade and a crunchy bread crumb coating. Yum.

*I finally mixed up a container of Paula Deen's House Seasoning and we are using it on just about everything. Please, do yourself a favor and have some handy!

What I am loving this Wednesday in the House:

*My sweet husband, who scrubbed the tiles in the bathroom that I couldn't reach, washed the dinner dishes, and sat me down to tell me what he was planning for our 3rd wedding anniversary, which is next month. Did I mention he is sweet? Because he is!

*A clean shower, 3 loads of laundry complete, a dinner that was a hit, and a baby that is sleeping quietly in her crib. Need I say more?

*An impromptu photo shoot with Grace this afternoon. I've yet to look at the images, but I'm sure there are some keepers. Speaking of camera is having problems focusing/it won't actually let me take the pictures. I have a Canon Rebel T1i DSLR and I use it on manual. Anyone know what could be wrong? Am I too close to my subject or is it possible the lens or camera body is broken?

What I am loving this Wednesday Out and About:

*Well, it's happened. We've hit 115 degrees a couple of times now. Summer has arrived in the Middle East and it's only really beginning. You'd think that I would hate it, but I'm "loving" it because our air conditioners are working, I have plenty to do in our home, and because of the heat, I don't feel the pressure to go out and about, I can stay home and get things done. Amazing!

*I'm finished with school for the week! It was a long, mind numbing, word losing kind of Arabic learning week, but I have a 3 day weekend followed by only a 2 day week next week! Yay!

*Grace has her 2 month check up next week. 2 months! And we are going to the city to get her social security/notice of live birth/passport from the embassy! Finally she'll be official!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Who I Am

Who I Am

I am... Brittney.

I want... a vacation somewhere where I can wear short sleeves, eat pork, and not hear Arabic.

I have... a scar on my leg from a surfboard fin from my "surfing," days and a scar on my foot from where a nail went through it, when I fell through the ceiling from our attic.

I wish... I knew how to play the violin and was a better photographer. I don't have a way to work on the violin thing but if I applied myself (and got my lens cleaned, ha!) I bet I could be a little more happy with my pictures.

I hate... telling people no. It's a big problem of mine and I should work on it.

I fear... financial instability, kidnapping, and confrontations.

I hear... Bach: Goldberg Variations by Glenn Gould (oh please check it out, it's amazing!), Grace squawking, and Ian shaving.

I search... For Turkey sausage and Tim Tams (an Australian cookie,) whenever we are in big grocery stores.

I wonder... what Grace will be like in 1 week, 1 month, and/or 1 year from now.

I regret... not saving more money during my high school and college years. I worked all the time, and although I paid for some major trips by myself, I really do not know what I did with the rest of that money! To think that we could probably be debt free now if I had saved some is frustrating.

I love... my husband, Ian, for all that he has accomplished, for all he is, and for all that is to come in his life.

I ache... for friendship. I grew up with the same group of girlfriends and I've now been away from them for a year and a half/3 years (depending on how you look at it.) They are my bosom friends, more like me than not like me, and I am so comfortable with them. I'm lonely alot out here.

I always... buckle up in a car.

I usually... eat oatmeal for breakfast. I like feeling full and warm as I start my day, plus, the low sugar varieties are healthier than alot of cereal options!

I am not... an extrovert. I think I sometimes wish I was, but I know the struggles extroverts have and I think I'm content with the struggles introverts have, ha!

I dance... in my living room. I love dancing with kids to fun music, and can't wait to have "dance parties," with Grace!

I sing... in groups. I can harmonize but make me sing solo and I freeze up!

I never... went to my high school prom and I only went to my Freshman homecoming dance. I think they are wastes of time and money and a place where many bad decisions are made by the youth of America. Sorry if that's a downer, ha, I've just seen too much! That being said, I wouldn't stop my children from going if they wanted to. It was my personal choice to go or not and I want to have raised my kids in a way that by the time they reach their high school years they can make smart decisions no matter where they are.

I sometimes... wonder what life would be like if we moved home. Where would we live, where would Ian work? It's fun to imagine, but I know, for now, we are where we are supposed to be.

I cry... during October Sky....every time. I'm not really sure why, but when he is going down into the coal mine and he looks up at the sky and the violin is playing, I lose it.

I am not always... a healthy eater. I have a really big sweet tooth and I LOVE to bake

I lose... things, all the time. And I get very frustrated when I can't find them!

I am confused... about American pop culture. And I'm American! For instance, what is up with "Whip My Hair?" Am I missing a key piece to the puzzle by being over here?

I need... a hair cut. I haven't gotten it cut since we moved to Canada then here. I've trimmed it a few times but it needs a real cut!

I should... be studying Arabic right now!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Conversation with Her Daddy

Hey, Daddy....

Hey, Grace!

Whatcha thinking about?

I'm thinking about how much I love you. Do you know how much I love you?

This much Daddy?

No, MUCH more!
This much Daddy?

Try again! MUCH more!
Well, how about this much?

You're getting closer!
Okay then Daddy, do you love me THIS much?

Yes, Grace, I love you THAT much!
Wow, that's alot. I love you THAT much too, Daddy.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Good Intentions

I had good intentions to do a whole post on Grace's one month check up, that was 2 whole weeks ago, but it never got done. The long and short of it? Grace is healthy. She weighed 7 pounds 10 ounces, meaning she gained a pound from birth. Her height is 20.08 inches, meaning she grew almost an inch. Her height and weight is in the 25 percentile and her head circumference is in the 50th. That means that if 100 kids her age were lined up, shortest to tallest or lightest to heaviest, she would be #25th in line, with 24 kids lighter/shorter than her, and 75 heavier/taller.I had good intentions to take new pictures of Grace because she is now 6 weeks old (crazy!) but on the day I was going to do it, Grace had her first fever and was just a miserable little baby. She was also having some, um, stomach issues that led to her having, what we refer to as "Luck of the Irish," diapers, if you get my drift.

I had good intentions of cooking my husband all sorts of delicious meals, but wouldn't you know it, we forgot to buy meat on the other side of the border. Cereal, oatmeal, or take out, it is!

Speaking of the border, we had good intentions of getting Grace's birth certificate (finally,) and Ian went all the way across the border to the office, when he found out that he was supposed to bring my passport with him. And then he locked his keys in the car. Awesome.

I had good intentions of cleaning the house, doing laundry, getting rid of that funky smell that exists in our house (any tips on eliminating diaper odor?,) blogging, going grocery shopping, calling my momma, and writing some thank you notes, but, frankly, I never got around to it.

What to they say about good intentions?

Oh yes, they line the path to hell.

Good thing that isn't true!

Despite all that, this week has been pretty good. Plenty of snuggles with my baby and my husband, a little bit of language studying, and ALOT of coffee. A recipe for success, don't you think?

Monday, May 16, 2011


We were in the medium sized city this weekend, meeting up with some friends, doing some shopping, and indulging in Mexican food.

As we were about to leave, we stopped into a big grocery store that is part of the mall. Our mission was simple...frozen bagels, grape jelly, and grape soda. Three things that we had been craving for awhile but couldn't track down.

As we wandered the aisles, heading from one side of the store to the other, Ian and I noticed a small boy, probably 3 years old, crying in the middle of the main aisle. I knew right away that he was lost and my heart broke for him.

Streaming around him were dozens of adults who weren't even giving him a second glance. He was sobbing with tears rolling down his chubby little cheeks and he was slowly walking around, looking up at the faces of the grown up, trying to get help.

Breaks your heart, doesn't it?

Ian and I had walked past him, not realizing he was so lost, and we had gotten about 5 aisles away before turning back and going after him. There's always that risk, when helping a lost child, that his parent is right within ear shot and might be suspicious of you talking to or leading their child by hand, so it always makes me nervous. Also, as we approached the little boy, I realized I didn't know how we would communicate with him. The big city has dozens upon dozens of people groups and this little boy was not Western and he was not Arab.

We pushed our huge stroller right up to him and Ian asked him where his daddy was. The little boy, between sobs asked "Daddy?" He frantically looked around him and then back up at us. I knelt down next to him and asked him if he was looking for his daddy. "Daddy," he replied, slipping his chubby little hand in mine.

We set off down the main aisle, looking up and down the aisles to our right and left with me babbling about his dad and where he could be. I asked him what his name was and I'm not sure if he fully understood my question, but I could tell he recognized the word "Name," and he mumbled an answer. I asked again and he answered. Unfortunately, my knowledge of Eastern names falls short so even though he told it to me twice, my small little mind couldn't wrap around the strange syllables he was saying. I nodded as if I understood, patted his hand, and we all continued on.

I looked up from our aisle searching to see a boy walking towards us, probably 7 or 8 years old. He was holding one arm out and beckoning to the small boy. He looked up at me and I smiled, realizing this was probably his brother, and he ran off to join his brother, who led him just 10 feet away to his father, who was emerging from an aisle.

The father looked nonchalant and relaxed, he leaned down to listen to his youngest son tell of his tale (I suppose that is what he was doing, since he motioned at Ian and I and then the father gave us a smile and a nod of thanks.) He took his youngest son's hand and began to walk away. He was calm and collected. I realized he was probably on the very aisle where his youngest son had probably wandered from in the first place.

Such a simple little moment in time made tears come to my eyes and made me choke up. Blame it on the postpartum hormones or the fact that this was the second lost child I had helped that day, but either way, I was touched.

How much like the young boy are we? I would wager to bet that all of us have had moments where we are going through life, happy and content in our little bubble.

And then, something catches our eye, distracts us from our purpose, and we wander away from our Father.

We forget what we were made for, what we should live for, who our Creator is, and all of a sudden we our on our own, heading for a prize of our own design.

Something shiny.

Something new.

Something our earthly flesh desires.

We look up one day and we realize the Father is no where near. We've lost site of Him. We are no longer walking with Him.

We have left His presence.

Panic overcomes us. We grasp at anything and everything that seems spiritual, that seems right. We throw ourselves in, head over heels into empty and worthless things.

Dead ends.

And then, someone comes along. They ask what we are looking for.

"Daddy," we reply.

"My Father, my Creator, the Sustainer of my life."

Led by the hand we see Him again.

We relearn how to stay in sight of Him.

We vow never to leave His side.

And the Father?

He was right where we left Him.

Waiting patiently, with open arms, for us to return.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Get To Know You

I'm joining up with Get To Know You today because my brain hurts too much to write a post by myself. I love this week's questions though!

1. have you ever gone to see a movie by yourself? Yes, I saw the "new" Superman back in 2006 all by myself. I was working as a summer camp counselor/lifeguard at a camp up in the Poconos for 9 weeks and this was my only chance to be completely by myself for that whole time. That and when I would go out to the parking lot, crawl in my car and just sit an

2. would you rather go through a tornado or a hurricane? I've gone through both of these and I'll have to say I'd rather go through a tornado. Tornadoes are more powerful and deadly, but they are sprung on you and are over within minutes, and the path of destruction is smaller and defined, while a hurricane has so much dread and anticipation with it. Having lived in Florida my whole life I've lived through alot of hurricanes, and the worst part about them is that they last SO long. I say that is the worst part, not because you get bored sitting in your house for days on end (which you do,) but it's the worst because if your house gets damaged, there is little you can do for hours and hours, days and days to repair it. The hurricane season of the fall of 2004 was just the worse. Orlando didn't get hit compared to other parts of the state, but we still had alot of damage. I had kids at my high school coming early to shower and get cleaned up at school for months after the hurricanes because it was taking that long to get things repaired!

3. have you made summer vacation plans? Kind of! Our school runs until the end of June, then we have to stick around in July for me to take private lessons to get all caught up, and then in August we hope to be taking a vacation to {maybe} France!

4. what's your favorite accessory? I usually like a long, dangly necklace or shoes that make me feel good about myself!

5. have you ever been thrown a surprise party? My friends threw me a going away/early 23rd birthday party in January of 2010. It was such a surprise and so much fun!

6. are you friends with your neighbors? No, our building has 5 units and for our first 5 months or so we were the only ones in the building. Then, the rest of the building filled up, but with all single men or with families that did not speak

7. what's the last movie you saw in the theater? It was Tron: Legacy, that we saw for Ian's birthday last fall. Our town doesn't have a movie theater and the big cities don't show all the same movies that the States do.

8 what's your favorite food network show? That would be Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives! I'm always amazed at the food on that show! We would love to go to a few of the restaurants the next time we are in the States!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Embrace the Camera

I'm joining in with the Anderson Crew this week to Embrace the Camera!

Ian snapped this picture of me this afternoon and it is noteworthy for two reasons:

1.) This is right before I took Grace out on our first solo drive! We went to the grocery store then drove around town before returning home.

2.) My hair is straight! I borrowed my friend's hair straightener to see if my hunch was right, and it was. My hair texture has changed some in the last 2-3 years and it straightens a little easier now. Yay for some diversity besides my curly hair up in a pony tail!

I love Embrace the Camera because it means a picture of Grace and I, or Grace and Ian! Sometimes I get carried away with snapping pictures of her cuteness and forget to have Ian and I in with her. I want to make sure she knows how much we love her and were with her all the time!

Monday, May 9, 2011


We moved to the Middle East 9 months ago in one week.

9 months ago, when we arrived, our company assigned us a car to use while we live here and go to language school.

We learned about the car 20 hours after we arrived.

Well, we learned it was manual, and not automatic.

Good thing neither Ian nor I knew how to drive manual!

Ian learned how to drive manual about 4 hours later.

We picked it up 36 hours after we arrived and drove 2 hours away to our new home.

I was way to busy settling in and learning about our new life to worry about learning how to drive manual. After all, I had Ian and it's not like I really had anywhere to go!

9 months passed and I still hadn't fully learned how to drive manual. It's not that I didn't want to, I just figured with the pregnancy and everything else I was dealing with, I did not need to add to the stress.

It was also my focal point for culture shock. You see, when a person moves into a new culture (or, I suppose, visits for an extended period of time,) they go through culture shock. The experts say you usually hit your culture shock wall at about 6 months.

I'm not sure if that's totally true for me.

I'm guessing I hit my culture shock wall 48 hours into our arrival in our new country, when we first walked in the door to our new home. It was mid August, the AC's hadn't been on in months (meaning temperatures in the 120's,) and a good 1/4 inch of sand had blown in by all the doors and windows leaving a dusting of sand on everything. I set to work, furiously cleaning our new home, unpacking our 8 crates, and trying to make sense of things. My culture shock focused in on the two most different things in my new life.

1.) Our new home had a Majilis, a front living room that is for guests. Guests typically won't come into any other part of your home and will stay up in the Majilis, removed from everything else. There is an attached bathroom and ours was furnished with an ancient, dust, smelly couch and chair. The first week or so I would be in there, because that is where I put all of our trunks, and I unpacked from that room, but after that....nothing. I wouldn't even go in there. It was different, we didn't have those in the States, and it was smelly (true story.)

2.) Manual/Stick Shift on our little car. In the States, my little Mazda Protege (beautiful little car, how I miss you!) was automatic and it was my first and only car. I had it for almost 6 years and was oh so comfortable in it. Here, we had a dusty old car (though in great condition, truthfully,) that was manual. It was jerky and scary and I just did not want to go there.

So, I didn't! For months on end I avoided the Majilis. For awhile, it was our only family room and sitting area, and Ian would be in there watching TV or playing a video game, and I flat out refused to join him. I would have rather sit in our bedroom, at my desk, by myself then be in that room. AND, in keeping with my avoidance theme, I didn't even try to learn how to drive manual.

I knew I could learn, and I knew that it wouldn't take that long, I just couldn't handle the stress of the situation right then. I was (and still am,) okay with the fact that I handled my culture shock like this.

I was keenly aware that I was using this as a focal point for my culture shock and I knew that eventually I would have to get over it. I just wasn't in a rush to make myself get over it.

With time, the Majilis became "less yucky," and the smell eventually went away. Our new family room, became our real living space and the Majilis became a rarely used room. Starting in January, when we switched our 2nd bedroom into the nursery, I had to start using the Majilis as our space to hang our laundry to dry. Now, I go in there, no problem. It's still not an aesthetically pleasing room and I probably wouldn't choose to hang out there, but I don't avoid it.

And now, as of today, I can say I officially know how to drive a stick shift! My sweet husband, Ian, took me out for my final (of 3,) lessons. Once Grace arrived, I realized how much more normal our lives would be if I could run to the grocery store with my baby, if Ian was busy, or go hang out at a friends house in order to maintain my sanity (I'm coming over Alison!)

Ian gave me my first lesson 3 months ago, but then I lost interest and we got busy. Also, I was hugely pregnant. Two weeks ago, on the day before Easter, we went out to a vacant area of town and practiced and today I drove all over town and even braved all of the traffic circles (we don't have traffic lights, just these massive traffic circles that are fast paced and intimidating.)

I'm not over culture shock, as they say it will come in waves for the rest of our time here, but I do believe that initial phase is over. Things that seemed overwhelming and daunting aren't so much any more. I'm content with how I handled everything, as I don't thing pushing myself to "just get over it," would have done anything but stress me out.

And now, to add a little "hardy-har-har," in your lives, I'll end by saying:

"I may not have automatically gotten through my culture shock, but with time I learned to shift gears and put the pedal to the metal."


I hope that made you laugh.

Or, at least chortle.

Or, at least raise an eyebrow.

*You should also know, that in just 6 weeks we'll be receiving a different car from our company.

And it's an automatic.*

Story of my life.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Happy One Month, Grace!

{The week by week updates are officially over and we are now entering the month by month phase!}

I can't believe it's been a month! Grace is such a joy and I truly look forward to every day with her.

This past week saw some significant change in Grace, mainly because we had to hit the giant RESET button on what we were doing with her. By about 3.5 weeks in we noticed we were doing everything we said we weren't going to do.

I was letting her fall asleep at the end of nursing, Ian was pacing with her for hours on end, her schedule was Eat-Sleep-Wake instead of Eat-Wake-Sleep, and we did everything possible not to let her cry. Nothing was an end of the world thing, but it was making her fussy, inconsolable, and was wearing us out.

So, Tuesday, when Ian came home from school, we hit the RESET button. We pow wowed, talked about what we wanted to do, what our goals were, and put them into action.

We saw IMMEDIATE results.

I don't mean to be dramatic, but wow, the change in her disposition, the quality and quantity of her sleep, and her ability to self sooth instantly made life better for us.

I'm so excited to see what this more rested little baby is going to learn in the weeks to come!

Clothes: Grace is still wearing newborn sized clothes and diapers. Most of her newborn outfits fit her better now, but I think she'll still be in newborn gear for another 2 weeks, at least.

Food: We're on a steady 3 hour feeding schedule, which is awesome. The only exception is at night, when she gets her last feeding at midnight and then sleeps until 5 am, feeds, and then sleeps until 8 or 9 am. Amazing. We also gave Grace her first bottle of breast milk last night and she did great with the bottle. We won't be using it very often, but it's nice to have the option when I am in need of a longer stretch of sleep or when she seems especially hungry.

Sleep: Like I said above, her night sleep is settling into a pattern of midnight to 5am and {about} 5:45am to 9 am. Her day sleep is much more sporadic and her late evening is when she is most likely to stay awake and fuss instead of nap, from about 7 pm until midnight.
Activity: Grace's mobile already ran out of batteries, but while it worked it was amazing! She mainly liked the light on it, and since it was sound activated, anytime Grace's wails reached a certain decibel level, it would turn on and distract her. Like I said, we're going to get more batteries.

Grace doesn't seem interested in objects hanging above her (in her bouncy seat or her play mat,) so I'm interested to see when that begins.

Now, since we are on the Eat-Wake-Sleep schedule, we spend the first 30 minutes feeding, then anywhere from 15-45 minutes burping, cuddling, changing her diaper, doing tummy time, giving her a bath, or in her bouncy seat. Occasionally we read to her but I find it's hard to hold a newborn and hold a book at the same time, ha!

Personality: I'm loving that we are recognizing her different cries. Most of the time when she cries in the middle of sleep it's because she's broken out of her swaddle and woken herself up- it's a very distinct cry. She loves bath times, nursing, car rides, and loves being held by her dad.

*Grace had her first projectile vomiting incident today and it was not pretty. No one said motherhood was totally glamorous, right? I think last week I said she had one, but I didn't know what I was talking about. That was just spit up, this was a true one, going 2-3 feet away from her in a constant stream. Gross.
*Grace also had her first day of school (at one month old!) She sat through my classical Arabic class with me, and though she fussed some, it went well overall. We're hoping she'll speak better Arabic than us!
*She is getting better at keeping her pacifier in her mouth and it soothes her so much when she's in between feedings.