August 30, 2010

Two years!

And once again I come in just under the deadline!   I thought my blogiversary was tomorrow.  But no, it's today!

Sharing our lives, and in return, gaining friends around the world is an amazing bargain--I definitely get the better end of the deal!  It has been quite a bit of fun getting to know you.  Some of you have been here for a long time, and others are new to the Shenanigans world.   I know many of you are lurkers or occasional visitors.  I'm grateful to each of you who takes time to read a little something here.

My goal for blogging is two-fold:

1. To share some things in my life that might be of use to someone else--whether that is tangible, concrete help, or just a vague shift in expectations.
2. To cover up the fact that I will never ever make a scrapbook.

Since I'm feeling a bit nostalgic, I'm re-posting a photo montage I posted almost two years ago.   I haven't written much about Hannah's early years.   How sick she was when she was born, how we had to wait years for her to be a surgical candidate due to pulmonary hypertension, waiting to find out if she ever would have her life-saving heart repair.   It was a worrisome time.   But at the same time, Hannah showed us that she could thrive while she was with us.  She brought us out of our worry--away from our what-ifs--and into the moment.  Her enthusiasm for living never faltered.

Tonight, at bedtime, a decade after that last picture was taken, Hannah was imagining all the things that she'd like to glow in the dark:  a necklace, a cup (on her bedside table), her pillow, a book, eyebrows (so she could read in the dark), her teddy bear, and a whole slew of silly things, getting more giggly as she came up with each idea.

She completed the list with the best idea yet:  a glow in the dark light bulb.   We both laughed so hard!

I love that she can play with words and ideas, that she has a sense of humor, that she is an interesting person.  And I'm really glad that I can share her with you.

August 27, 2010

Walk Like an Egyptian

I'm savoring the last few days of summer here.   The raspberries are getting their second wind.  Apparently it rained a lot while I was gone.   Last fall I picked the last berry of the season on November 1st!  Maybe threads of summer will hang on that long again this year.

Hannah had a GREAT time at camp!   It was a perfect first camp--they had one-on-one counselors and all the campers had Down syndrome.    When I asked her who was her best friend at camp she said "Stephanie!!" (counselor).  Stephanie is a Special Education major at UNC Charlotte.   It was a good experience for both of them!

Guess who had the bunk next to Hannah?

Silly Emma  from Emma's Gifts!

Hannah did ceramics, stained glass painting, swimming (and even was brave enough to do the huge water slide into the lake!).   She won the award for Best Comedian--she told some jokes at the Talent Show!  Her cabin also won the scavenger hunt (though she calls it The Avenger Hunt!).    There was a Hollywood themed dance one night, so the girls got gussied up with nail polish and lip gloss and plenty of glitter.  

Hollywood Walk of Fame Star!

She was glad to see me when it was time to go home, but she wasn't worn out and, best of all, she looked good--no typical camp filth, bug bites or sunburn! (Yes, Hannah is several inches taller than Stephanie!)

Somewhere in the middle of camp James helped Chris pack up and dropped him off for his second year at William and Mary.   He's got a science/math heavy load this semester with two upper level chemistry courses, advanced calculus, and two computer science courses.  And he's sitting in Freshman Biology as well since it's been almost 4 years since he took it.  He needs to review the coursework since he'll be taking the MCATs this coming spring.  To balance things out, he's also taking voice lessons!

Hannah has been asking to see him, so we'll probably go visit next week sometime.

Within a couple of hours of getting home from camp, my parents came to stay for a few days!   They had been traveling up the Eastern seaboard and were on their way home to South Carolina.  We all were a bit worn out, so we took it easy--no museums, no painting projects, no adventures.  Perfect. would be a good time to start posting about Egypt...that was my intent, obviously.  But now it's late and I think I'll do what I do best: procrastinate.

I will leave you a little appetizer:

Giddyup!  Yee haw!!!!

August 17, 2010

Jordan and Egypt

I've been home for nearly a week and am finally catching up with everything.  Thanks for your patience!

My trip was really interesting.  It was great having Kate be my tour guide and interpreter.  Arabic is one of the most difficult languages, usually taking seven years to master.    So she's 10 months in, and can easily get her way around the country, haggling with shopkeepers and cab drivers, and conversing with friends and students.  She is far from being fluent (she says), but I couldn't tell the difference ;-)

Our first few days were spent in Amman.  We visited with other Peace Corps volunteers, and went shopping (Jordan has a couple of malls--Starbucks is an exceptional treat for Kate!).

We headed out to her village where we spent time with local families who have connected with Kate.  It was very interesting to share meals with the families and spend time getting to know them.   It was extremely hot during my stay in Jordan, so it was always a treat to visit with families in the cooler evenings.   It is impolite to take pictures of people, so I only have pictures of places and things.

Jordan is the 4th driest country in the world.  There seems to be quite a surplus of rocks!

Kate lives in the small portion of Jordan that is slightly mountainous.  Many of the hills have been roughly terraced to hold on to as much soil as possible.   The native trees are primarily scrub evergreens, but nearly every house has olive, almond, pomegranate and fig trees.

Cactus is also planted--we were lucky that most of the fruit trees were ripening!  Cactus fruit was my favorite new food on the trip.

 Kate's landlord also has a small grape arbor, growing green grapes similar to what we can get at the grocery store.   The grapes have to be covered with bags to prevent the bees from eating them.

The main town near Kate's village is Ajloun.   It has its own castle, which was built in 1184 to defend against the Crusaders.   It was pretty cool--literally and figuratively!


Later in the week we took 4 buses (or maybe it was 5) to get to the area where Kate lived during her language training last year.   The family with whom she stayed is Bedouin.   They are warm and welcoming.   It was the highlight of my trip to have spent the night in their home.   When we arrived, there were three women working on pulling leaves off of some kind of plant stalk.  I never did find out what it was called, but Kate and I sat down and started pulling leaves along with them.   Apparently they dry the leaves and use them throughout the year to make a special soup (which is not all that tasty according to some people).

This is a large table cloth that is covered with the leaves.   The seating cushions or farshas are against the wall to make room for the drying leaves.

This is an example of a typical living room.   The cushions are used for sitting.  Women must sit with their legs underneath them, or out to the side.  The pillows are used as arm rests, especially if the legs are out to the side.   If a woman would like to stretch her legs out in front, she must have a blanket to cover her legs. (BTW, it is really hot to have a blanket over half of your body when you're already wearing long sleeves and long pants and it's 120 degrees.  Just sayin'.)

What was most unusual about this home was that only women lived there.  The elderly father had passed away a few years ago, leaving the house to his widow and his two youngest unmarried daughters.   The women were very at ease and not preoccupied with formalities--since there were no men present, the seating/blanket protocol was relaxed.

These same cushions became our beds for the evening, with home-sewn patchwork quilts to keep the night's chill at bay.

We re-traced our journey back to Kate's house, where her principal's family invited us to go down to the "valley".   This is the area very close to Israel and near the Jordan River.   Unfortunately, the sun set before we were able to set off in their (very) minivan.  So we drove around in the dark for a while, slightly off-roading where the gravel road was worn out.   We looked for a falafel restaurant, but, not finding one, our hosts provided snacks from one of the many small shops along the way.

Yep, those are NICE natural potato chips.   Chicken flavored!   Mmmm good.

They really weren't quite as scary as I anticipated--what's a little bit of bouillon powder and MSG sprinkled on a salty potato chip?

I later learned, in Egypt, that there are far worse potato chips in existence!

It will likely be another week before you get to hear about that half of my adventures with Kate...I am off to North Carolina to bring Hannah to camp.  This is her first overnight camp and she is very excited about it!  I will be staying in NC because while I am a stoic mom, I'm really not all that comfortable being 5+ hours away from her in case she isn't as brave as she thought she was.  She's packed (and I'm not), and we leave in the morning!

August 14, 2010

Nan Talk

We interrupt this week's jet lag exhaustion with two short tales.

1. While driving around doing errands this afternoon, Hannah spied a convertible.  She said, "Hey Mom!  Look at that car!  It's just like the one I drove when I played The Game of Life!"

2. Post dinner, talking about what game to play this evening:

H: I don't want to play cards, I want to play a board game.
Me:  Do you know which one you want to play?

H:    I want to play a climbing game.
Me:  A climbing game?  I thought you wanted to play a board game.
H:  Yes.  I want to play a board game that I can climb.........and slide. Do you know what it's called?  It's Chutes and Ladders!!!!

August 8, 2010

We interrupt this adventure in Egypt to bring good Lois news!

Lois is done with her chemo!  Yay Lois!  Yay Catherine, Jay and Mac!!  May your lives thread back to normalcy and confidence (and, maybe, just maybe, some blogging?)!  You are the champions, my friends....

Can't wait to get home and celebrate with you!

August 3, 2010

In Jordan

Visiting Kate has been wonderful so far!  Well, except for the heat.  We've had a heat wave here.  Usually it's in the upper 90s or low 100s, but we've had several days ranging from 112-122.  That. is. HOT.

Adventures so far include:

Being served seeds, chocolate, coffee, 2 apples, 4 plums, 2 large figs, some cactus fruit (yum!) immediately after lunch.  And being expected to eat it. all. Immediately followed by dinner. Which was followed by 3 cups of pomegranate kernels and 2 pounds of grapes.

Teaching a 9 year old girl how to pat her head and rub her tummy simultaneously.

Seeing a Bedouin goat herder (with tent) in a low field adjacent to a Western-style mall.

Navigating luggage via a crowded bus and then finding a way to get to Kate's village (ride did not show up, and no bus that day)

Visiting Ajloun Castle--gorgeous

Shopping in the market for fruit and vegetables. (yes, that was an adventure)

Tomorrow we head to Mafrac to visit with the family that hosted Kate when she was in language school.  They are Bedouin and are Kate's absolute favorite.  We'll be back to her village in a couple days, and then off to Amman and Cairo!

I do have pictures, but Kate has a slow modem so I'll need to post them when I'm home!

p.s. I've heard that Hannah is having a great time spending this week with Wendy over at The Saunders Gang!

p.p.s.  If you have heard about the rockets fired into Aqaba, Jordan, we are nowhere near there.  Kate heard of the rocket attack via phone call from the Peace Corps, and I was informed soon after via email from the State Department. They continue to keep us informed so we can stay safe.