Sunday, November 30, 2014

House Tour

I figured it was time to document out villa here on Rakkah.  I didn't clean up before I took pictures so judge if you must.  The units are called villas and every villa is exactly the same, or just the mirror image on the other side of the street.  They are 2 stories and quite spacious.  I don't think we'd have any trouble fitting our furniture from our house in here when it arrives.  I'm sure that we'll have to downsize a little bit when we eventually move to main camp because the houses there will definitely be smaller than these.  This is the view from the front door.
 Left leads to this little entryway where we store our shoes and the kids bikes and then there's a little half bathroom at the end of the hall.  Every bathroom has a bidet as well.  Some westerners on camp use them to wash their feet when they come in from outside. We just tell the boys that some people use them to wash off, but we do not.  Can you imagine the water works if the boys started playing in the bidets?
The biggest complaint we probably have is that it's really difficult to keep the floors clean.  There is a fine dark dirt/dust that we bring in on our shoes and it sort of spreads throughout the house as the week goes on.  Everything gets dirty really fast and sweeping and mopping the entire house every few days is just so much work.  So within the first few weeks we found a great house boy named Madu.  He's from Sri Lanka, he's incredibly nice, and comes two evenings a week to clean our floors and bathrooms.   It's fantastic to not have to feel so frustrated about every little trail of dirt because I have help keeping the floors clean.
Our family room is to the right when you first walk in.  There is a TON of furniture in this house.  We eventually moved some of it to the back little storage room, or upstairs to the guest room because, who needs 12 occasion tables on one floor?  We don't.  
 This room is huge.  We probably use just about half of it.  The back half we don't really spend any time in.  When we were getting ready to move someone told us that electronics don't travel very well so it would be better to buy a new TV in kingdom.  So that's what we did.  About 2 or 3 weeks after moving in we hit up the electronics store here called Extra, and bought a nice TV.  We really like it.  Eventually we will probably get a sound system of some sort too.  Glenn's really excited about that.
If you walk straight from the front door and then turn to the left, you'll get to our kitchen and little dining room.  It's a decent space.  Lot of cupboards.  Some that we don't even use yet, but granted we don't have most of our kitchen stuff yet.
 At the back of our kitchen is a little room with another bathroom.  Some people use this as the live-in maid's room.  We put storage stuff back there for now.
 Our little laundry room is to the right, off the back of the kitchen, and connects to the back end of our family room.
From the middle of the stairs looking up to the little loft room and down to the front door.
 This is our little loft.  We have the boys toys here now and our computer desk.  To the far right is the bathroom that the boys use.

To the near right is our master bedroom.  The master bath is at the far end of the room and then around the corner to the left is our little closet.  Every closet has one shelf but no other way to store anything. Luckily, we don't have a ton of clothes with us right now.  Each room also has two dressers though, so we have plenty of space for the clothes we do have with us.  Once our shipment comes, they will remove all the Aramco furniture and we'll just have our furniture so we may have to find another storage solution at that point.
The mattresses are rock hard.  Super uncomfortable.  We took the guest room comforter and put it on top of our mattress so I have a bit more cushion.  It's still not fun to sleep on and I truly can't wait to be sleeping on my own mattress again, but we're surviving.

From the top of the stairs if you turn to the left you come to a hallway with two bedrooms off of it.  To the right is the boys room.  Two twin beds, two dressers and a little closet.

To the left, is the guest room with it's own bathroom...and a bunch of occasion tables at the moment.  Eventually, once our shipment comes, the guest room will be the boys room with their bunk beds, and the room they're in will be the nursery.

Here's another view from the corner of the loft looking into the guest room and master.
It's a nice little place.  The craftsmanship is obviously not US standards, but it's got plenty of space, no bugs, and great A/C so all in all, we're pretty comfortable here.  I'm excited for our shipment to come so we can get even more settled with our own things.

Potty Training

I finally decided it was time to start potty training Finn on Sunday, November 23rd.  We had no doctor's appointments or anywhere we needed to go that week so we knew it was time.  I was really worried about how it was going to go considering Finn's little stubborn personality.  Some days he's the sweetest little guy.  So patient with me and rolls with whatever we have to get done that day.  Some days, however, he is a stubborn mule and it seems like he spends most of the day on time out for yelling at me or throwing a fit of just straight up refusing to obey.  And the trickiest part of this little phase he's in is that I have yet to figure out a motivation that works for him.  Stickers?  He couldn't care less.  Treats?  Not interested.  Prizes?  Nope.  He's fine with the toys he has, thanks.  So as long as he wants to do something that we want him to do, we're golden.  But if he doesn't, there's not much I can do to convince him that it's a good idea.
The major plusses of this situation going in were that all of our floors here are either tile or laminate so clean up is super easy, and all of the furniture is not mine.  So if there was an accident on a couch or something, I don't have to stress too much about it!  Ha!
Luckily, miraculously, potty training turned out to be a huge success and he took to it immediately.
We started on Sunday morning and he had a few accidents and a few successes within the first few hours.  The first time he had an accident, he looked at the floor and said, "Mom!  I peed on the floor!"  We ran to the bathroom and he started crying and said, "I'm so sad that I peed on the floor."  Within the first few hours he started saying, "Mom!  I stopped the pee!  I need to go potty!"  It was amazing.  This kid has always had pretty incredible control over his body, but I did not expect potty training to click the same way that shooting baskets or playing catch clicked with him.  But it did.  The entire afternoon he was dry and clean.  He had one accident that first night, but hasn't had once since.  Including bed time and nap time.  It's a miracle.  Seriously.
He had one morning of accidents and then just figured out how to hold it.  He seems to take such pride in stopping it and holding it until he runs to the potty.  I'm baffled and also incredibly grateful.  I feel like this is probably a tender mercy, just for me, that this process has gone so ridiculously smoothly.  I hope he continues to do well because thus far he's been a champ.  We've already ventured out on long outings and he's done great.  It's so great not to feel chained to the house for weeks because he can't last very long between potty breaks.  Amazing.

Plus, he looks SO stinkin' cute in big boy underpants.  

Monday, November 17, 2014

Bahrain, Take 1

This past weekend we took a quick trip to Bahrain.  Our first excursion outside the Kingdom since moving here.  It was bliss.  We aren't allowed to leave the country until several steps of paperwork and permitting are finished and we have our multiple entry/exit visas.  We got them all at the beginning of last week so the timing was perfect.  Our group was having a district conference on Friday in Bahrain so we were excited to be able to go and make a weekend out of it.
Glenn came home early from work on Thursday the 13th and our driver arrived to pick us up at 3.  Since we just have a rental car and most rental car companies won't allow you to take them out of the country, or require a lot of paperwork if they do allow it, we hired a driver to get us to and from our hotel for the weekend.  
Bahrain is a little island country off the coast of Saudi.  They seem very proud of the fact that, in contrast with Saudi, they are a "free country".  No muttawa.  No enforced wearing of the abaya or prayer times.  Women can drive.  Pork products aren't illegal.  Alcohol isn't illegal, which is a big reason why some expats love visiting.  Not a huge perk for us, of course.  But it was a very different feel being able to walk around abaya-less.   
King Faud Causeway connects Saudi to Bahrain.  Depending on the time of day it can take hours to get across and through customs.  We were lucky and didn't have much trouble.

The causeway is an amazingly long bridge and in the middle is a little man made island that has several windows where you go through customs and they stamp your passports.  On the way back into Saudi, they search your cars for contraband.  Some people try to sneak in pork products or the like.  Alcohol will get you in serious trouble.  You'll be fired and deported without a second thought.

There are a few fast food restaurants on the island as well.
This is from the causeway on the other side of customs looking at Bahrain.

We checked into the Intercontinental and got a taxi to City Centre Mall to find some dinner and try to catch a movie.  It was an immense mall.  Tons of very nice stores and so many that I was familiar with.  I often walk through the malls here in Saudi and think that there are just so many shops I don't need to go in.  The shops I'm familiar with or look enticing to me are few and far between.  Not so in City Centre.  I recognized many more stores and just wished that they weren't so expensive.  They have a lot of the same stores and then so much more, but everything is easily twice as much as it would be at home.  We had dinner and got to see Big Hero 6.  It was a fun movie but I honestly think the boys were more excited about the caramel popcorn.  It was so nice to go to a movie theatre again.  This movie theatre had little food places outside where you could order "concessions" to take in.  But here they had concessions like crepes, frozen yogurt, and gourmet popcorn.  Not too shabby.
The boys were bushed that night and slept pretty well.  I forget how fun it is for kids to sleep in a hotel.  Even a couple of days after we got home Finn keeps asking, "And after this night, we will go sleep in a hotel again?"
Friday morning we took a taxi to Ric's Kountry Kitchen.  We'd heard they have great American breakfasts so we had to give it a try.  I thought of my dad, looking at all the western decor.  The Duke was watching over us as we ate.
We ate too many pancakes and then let the boys play in the little bunny petting zoo at the front.

After a taxi ride back to our hotel we had a couple hours before lunch so we decided to explore the Manama Souk which was just a couple of blocks away.  It was a great idea.
The boys were hot and we were all pretty tired and sweaty by the time we finished wandering, but it was an incredible cultural experience.  There were all sorts of interesting things to see.
Anyone want a traditionally dressed muslim man and woman salt and pepper shaker set for Christmas?
Or how about one of these?

Yeah, me too.  Lucky for me, I get these cute boys for every Christmas! I am one lucky lady.
The most amazing experience of the weekend was witnessing Friday prayer time while out shopping in the market.  Right before prayer time we heard the call to prayer and everyone started closing their shops, gathering their prayer rugs and finding a place to pray facing Mecca.  People lined the alleys in rows facing their building and we happened upon one street that was facing the right direction and it was full of rows of people who removed their shoes, and prayed together.  It was an incredible sight.  That level of dedication to their faith and God was awe inspiring.  Our boys asked what was happening and we explained that they were saying a prayer.  We asked them to fold their arms and be reverent while they prayed and they both, for the first time in who knows how long...maybe ever, were absolutely silent.  Watching in reverence as the crowd of men prayed together for a few minutes.  Standing, bowing, and repeating words in unison.  It was beautiful.

At one point, after passing several little toy booths and listening to the begging and whining, Glenn told them they could each pick a small toy if they would be good for the rest of our shopping trip.  It worked fairly well.  And while not our best parenting, the cheap bribe was totally worth it in my book.  Tate ended up with a rubber chicken that makes the most delightful squawking noise when he squeezes it.  Finn decided he needed a blaster that also made noises.  Oh well.  They were thrilled.
We found a few treasures, including some really fun fabric for future dream sewing projects for me, and a few Christmas gifts, and then went back to the hotel for some quiet time before we had to get ready for conference.  Conference was in a conference room in the hotel and it was a pretty cool experience too.  Our little district was made a stake which means our branch was made a ward.  It was pretty powerful to be a part of such a momentous day.
After conference we changed our clothes and headed to the mall again to find somewhere to eat dinner.  Then we wandered around a bit until we found this huge kids entertainment section.  They had rides and games and a huge padded playground.  We paid a few dollars and let the boys run around in there for about an hour.  It was a MUCH needed physical outlet for the poor kids.  They'd been told to be quiet and hold still for much of the day and it made my heart smile and my face smile until it hurt watching them chase each other around and have so much fun being the physical little beings that they are.
I hope we can find someplace like this to take the boys once in a while in the summer in Saudi.  They need to really move once in a while and it will be impossible to do outside for months during the summer.

They both came out soaked in sweat but so happy and exhausted.  It was a great night.
After a little research we decided to spend our last morning at the Bahrain fort.  We thought it would be a fun place for the boys to be able to explore and climb around.  It was a beautiful day but got really hot really fast.

The boys had fun looking for fish and crabs in the water but it was pretty gross and we didn't let them get in.  Next time we'll be hitting up a beach for sure.
Finny loved the little fountain in the entrance to the museum.
And the boys insisted that I take their picture in front of these giant bee statues out front.
The myriad of old city/new city views were so breathtaking.  This part of the fort had sections that were constructed hundreds of years BC.

Touring the fort was free and included audio tours.  The boys both loved searching for the next number to type into their little audio tours.  Then they'd hold them to their ears and repeat occasional words that the funny British voice said, allowing us to catch bits and pieces of information along the way.  Tate would type in a number and he'd mutter, "Three distinct building periods?  One hundred soldiers, but it soon held hundreds more!" It was so darling and kept them very happy.  Like their own little treasure hunt all over the fort.

This archway might have been my favorite section.  So beautiful.  The shade was nice too.

Finn especially liked the "tunnels".  Basically any time he could go inside or underneath something made him very happy.
After the fort, we stopped back at the cafe next to the museum and got some cold drinks.  We were all so hot and sweaty but had a great time exploring together.
The taxi picked us up and we went back and wandered around the market a little more.  Glenn discovered some exotic food to try.  The boys and I were a little wary, not being able to understand what was in them made us more nervous than it did Glenn.  So after a little wandering we hit up a fast food place on our way back to the hotel where we met our driver to take us home.
It was a fantastic weekend.  The boys did surprisingly well being on the go so much and thrown into completely new situations.  Glenn and I came home so happy that it had gone so well and excited to do it again soon.  Once these little ladies come and we figure out life with them around, we're excited to figure out how to travel as a family of 6.  Holy smokes, we're going to be a family of 6!