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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Do you believe in Santa?

We were in the car driving to school this morning and Ryan was playing Christmas music.  There was singing and laughing as Bing Crosby brought out lyrics to songs we had either forgotten or never heard before.

And I don't know how it came up in the conversation, but at one point Ryan jokingly said "I don't think Santa visits Cairo."  And I was absolutely horrified.  My heart actually jumped into my throat a bit, a mixture of the audacity of such a statement mixed with, don't let Q hear that, and my inner child's desire to keep believing after all these years of knowing the truth.  (I'm the sap that still cries every time that bell shows up under the Christmas tree in The Polar Express.)

So I turned to him very seriously and said, "Of course he does, Santa goes anywhere that has people who believe in him."

And my poor husband, who knows me so well, took one look at my face and said "You're right, of course Santa comes to Cairo."

This led to a discussion in the car of when each of us found out the truth, ie, when the real magic of Christmas was lost.

Ryan was six (my serious, logical guy), Nick was eight (caught his dad leaving presents under the tree) and I don't remember exactly how old I was, but I do remember that Christmas perfectly.  I remember opening the gift marked "From Santa" only to find a present inside that I had snooped out in my mom's closet a few weeks beforehand.  Sorry Mom!  And I know that opening the present was just a clincher of doubts that had been gathering in my mind for the past year.  But what I remember the most about that moment was how the magic evaporated instantaneously.  The excitement writing out a Christmas list, the struggle to fall asleep on Christmas eve, the way I listened for the bells on Santa's sleigh whenever I woke up in the night.  And most of all that rush of pure joy on Christmas morning to race to the tree and see what he'd brought me.  It was all gone.

I went through the motions the next year, mainly for my family's sake.  Pretending I still believed, but with the magic lost, my heart wasn't really in it.

And as the years went by, my love of Christmas gently evolved into a desire to believe, instead of a child's innocent faith, I now had an adult's yearning to restore the magic that had been lost.  So I watch Christmas movies and tear up, I listen to carols and let them stir that part of the heart that can only be brought to life with cookies and hot cocoa, ornaments and stockings. And most of all, yes I will be telling my son about Santa Claus.  I will perpetuate the myth because I still want to believe.  There's nothing in the world that can replace the memories of all those years. They were a gift of magic, excitement, anticipation and pure innocent joy.

Do I want that for Q, even if it's only for a short time?  Absolutely.  So Santa, we're going to be in Japan this year for his first Christmas.  His penmanship is a little lacking at the moment, but he told me he'd like a new book and some big boy shoes.  We'll be listening for your sleigh bells, and the milk and cookies will be on the table.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Epic Parenting Fail

Soooo... Ryan and I realized this morning that we're dumb ass parents.

We changed up our usual routine for after school with the express purpose of going to this shopping center to buy a Christmas gift. This is our last chance to buy the gift before we leave for the break, so it was really important that we take the time to get there.

Ryan has been working late after school everyday this week getting things ready with the student council for their talent show next week.  I've been going home at the normal time with the baby and taking care of dinner, bath and bedtime.  It's not the best schedule, since Ryan doesn't get to see Q hardly at all, but it's what we've been having to do to get through this week.

Last night we changed it up a bit. Ryan still needed to stay late, but not quite so late as usual.  Q and I hung out in my office listening to Christina Perry and playing with his fingers. We left the school at 5'ish to head over to Chilis, which is in the same shopping complex as the store we wanted.

Now here's the thing, We aren't the sort of parents that have a hyper rigid schedule Q must follow during the day.  He eats when he's hungry, sleeps when he's tired and has us wrapped around his little finger for whatever part of the day is left.  But over the course of the last six months, his days have fallen into a pretty predictable pattern.  He wakes up and has a bottle (did I mention we're done with the boobies?) then we go to school, where he eats oatmeal and some kind of fruit.  He takes a long morning nap, usually at least 2 hours, he's up again wanting another bottle, some play time, then it's down for his afternoon nap, basically rinse repeat.  By the time we get home at our usual 4:30, 5ish time, he's already getting tired.  Sometimes we can get a bit of play/reading time out of him before he eats some dinner, but most of the time it's into the bath, one last bottle and then bedtime.

This child is usually in bed and asleep by 6pm.  And he stays there without a peep of complaint till 6:30 in the morning.

So yeah, he's pretty much the best baby on the planet. Don't worry I knock on wood every time I even think about his sleep schedule, because I know there are people out there with 2 year olds that still don't sleep through the night, let alone put themselves to sleep without a fuss.

So I knew already that yesterday was going to be less than ideal for him.  We were leaving school at the time we're normally starting our bedtime routine.  But I figured he can nap in his car seat and we'll just put him straight to bed when we get home. It will be a one night thing that we just have to get through.  Go to the restaurant we don't even like anymore, just because it's close to the store, buy the Christmas gift, and get our baby to bed.  Khalas!

He was a trooper all through dinner, rubbing his eyes and doing the zombie "stare into nothing" face, but not really fussing. Until we got into the car where he wailed piteously.  Ryan claimed it was the hunger cry, but I knew he was just overly tired.  It was already 6:30, and he wanted to be sleeping. We cranked up his favorite lullaby cd by Nicolette Larson, who I just learned is dead... which makes me sad because I'd really like to thank her for this music.<insert tangent here>

Within minutes he was out, which led us to a predicament when we got home, our beautiful babe peacefully asleep in his car seat perched on the dining room table.  Do we let him sleep out this little nap or wake him up now?  The thing was, we both knew we couldn't put him straight to bed without another bottle.  There was no way he'd sleep through the night without a full belly.  So we woke hime up, which brought out the most heart wrenching, whimpery cry I'd ever heard... he was so tired. Once we got a bottle in him he calmed down though and by 7:30 he was in bed putting himself to sleep.

Haaaaaaaaaaa.... cue parents scurrying around the house much later than normal to clean bottles, organize laundry and diaper bag for the next day, then collapse into tired puddles onto the couch.

It was a long night, and we both hated hearing him so obviously upset about having his schedule messed up, but you know, you gotta do what you gotta do.

So, why are we dumb ass parents?

We forgot to buy the Christmas present after we left the restaurant... It was all for nothing....

Epic... Parenting... Fail

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The streets ran with blood

We're off this week for Eid, a Muslim holiday where:

Affluent Muslims who can afford, i.e Malik-e-Nisaab; sacrifice their best halal domestic animals (usually a cow, but can also be a camel, goat, sheep or ram depending on the region) as a symbol of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his only son.

(Direct copy and paste from Wikipedia)

It's a major holiday here in Cairo, but one that Ryan and I have never actually seen because we've always traveled abroad. This year, since we're trying to save a bit of money, we decided to relax at home with Q instead.

I knew that the 15th was Eid, so it wasn't going to be a good idea to go anywhere, things would either be closed or very busy.  But I had some errands to run, so I waited till the next day and headed over to the Souk in Al Rehab where we live.  It's a big open market with lots of shops in the center of town.  It's close enough to walk, so I put on my flip flops, kissed my boys goodbye and headed out to complete my errands.

I returned home about 30 minutes later with empty arms and Ryan wanted to know what happened, so I proceeded to explain my trip to the souk with the pictures I'd taken....

I wasn't sure that any of the shops would be open since we're still out of school on vacation and yesterday was the big feast day, but I thought I'd check.  As I walked up to the souk, I saw people sitting outside in chairs and there was smoke coming out of many of the chimney's so I was encouraged.  

The moment my feet hit the steps that take you down into the souk I was hit by a powerful smell, one of those smells that transports you immediately to a feeling, or a memory in your past.  It smelled like the zoo, like manure and hay and that earthy, tangy, slightly nauseating smell of many animals in close proximity.  I looked over the ledge of the staircase and there was a cow and a sheep chilling behind the ledge.  Hmmm, I thought... I assumed all the animals had already been slaughtered.

When I came around the corner there was a woman standing in the middle of the street by a huge trash truck.  She was holding this pile of stuff in her arms, long tubes and this huge bulbous sack, which I quickly realized were probably intestines.  This was the moment when it finally clicked in my brain that this might not have been a good day to come to the souk.  When I started walking down the street this is what I saw.

It was an odd experience for me because I'm normally very soft hearted when it comes to animals.  If an animal is crying or in distress it breaks my heart. So I've avoided scenes like this in Cairo, assuming I wouldn't be able to handle them. Today I felt oddly curious.  Not curious enough to stay and watch them continue butchering the animals, but I wasn't going to start crying or anything.

I started looking for the shops I needed and one after another they were all closed.  I guess it was only food type places that were open for people to buy their groceries.  But the main store I wanted to go to was on the other side of the souk, and I didn't want to come all this way and not at least check to see if it was open.  So I kept walking until I came to this...

A lake of blood running across the street. Hmmm, what to do, what to do?  this was the only way I was going to get to the store I needed, and I couldn't go to the sides of the street because that's where the animals were being butchered.  The ones creating this lake of blood.  And I was wearing flip flips, which made the prospect of stepping in blood even more unappealing. (By the way, when I got to this point in the story with Ryan he immediately looked at my feet in horror.)  :)

So I waited for the cars that kept driving through the lake of blood to stop so I wouldn't get splashed with it while also trying to hop across.  Which is what I did because I'm brave, and stubborn about meeting my goals, and also possibly a bit stupid.

In the end I made it to the shop, which was also closed, and then had to hop over the lake of blood again on my way back.

It was in interesting day, where I accomplished nothing, but will probably never forget what I saw. The day the streets literally ran with blood.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Craft time

The craft bug bit me hard over the summer. I had all these cute ideas for things I wanted to make,  and I was heading to the land of the craft stores, aka the USA.

All of the things I've made so far have been centered around Q, surprise surprise!  It's remarkable how much having a baby takes over every little aspect of your life.

The things I made turned out pretty well, so I thought I'd share in case anyone else wanted to make something similar.  Might even put it on Pinterest.

My first project was a framed photo set.  When Q was a few weeks old I was sitting with him in bed one day and he was fighting taking a nap, and the expressions on his face as he tried to settle into sleep were hilarious.  We noticed right away how expressive his face is, but on this day, I turned on my phone and just kept taking pictures.  For about 20 seconds I captured every little change that came across his face, and the results were hilarious.  The range of emotion and feelings were something I wanted to remember forever.

So I looked for a suitable frame when we were back in the states and at Michaels I found the perfect one.  I think it's made to house all of a child's school photos, there is one large 4x6 slot that had a kid in a graduation cap in the background picture.  And then there are 12 little slots that hold a wallet sized photo.  Kismet was working for me on this one, because that was pretty much exactly the number of pictures I had taken.  Don't you just love it when things work in your favor?

I uploaded the pictures online with the Walmart photo center and was able to pick them up later that day.  Then it was just a matter of getting some double sided tape and putting them all in place.  My grandma helped me with this, and it didn't take us very long at all. I kept the photos in the order that they were taken, because it felt like a story to me and I wanted you to be able to see it develop.  The end result turned out beautifully, I'm really happy with it.

My favorite part about the end result is how everyone that see's it instinctively wants to tell you which picture is their favorite.  Mine is the third from the right on the bottom.

Unfortunately, since we know we're moving this summer, it didn't make sense to bring the frame back with us to Cairo.  It was unnecessary weight that we would just end up having to move again in a few months, and the likelihood of the glass breaking with so many transatlantic voyages was too great. So we decided to leave it with my grandparents.  At least someone gets to enjoy it on their wall until we're more settled.

The other project I started just a few weeks ago.  I've been seeing all these awesome canvas projects on Pinterest that really sparked my interest because a canvas is so much lighter and durable than a traditional picture frame.

I decided I wanted to take Q's hand and feet prints (since they were never done at the hospital here) and put his name in between them.  Something light and easy to hang in his room and that we can take with us wherever we end up next year.

At first my plans were very detailed, with the goal of taking his handprints every month so you could see them get bigger throughout the year.  Like a memory of all the growth in his first year of life.

Ha Ha Ha! Wow I was really optimistic and a complete idiot.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to take a handprint of a 4 month old?  If you've never experienced this, I dare you to try.  No really, I double dog dare you.  And if you can actually pull it off then please come over to my house and teach me how to get my kid to open his fist.

Therein lies the problem with trying to do this with a 4 month old.  A newborn is a limp noodle most of the time, while messy, it could totally be done.  An older child could at least understand the idea of opening their hand.  A 4 month old clenches their fist around the paint you've carefully applied and either tries to stuff that paint covered fist in their mouth, or starts to cry when you wrestle their fingers open.

We had already successfully done his feet prints, and I carefully painted his name.  The canvas was a beautiful work of art that I proceeded to mess up 3 times.  Yep, that's right we tried to get his paint covered hand onto the canvas 3 times, and all were utter failures.  And yes, I even tried it while he was sleeping, which was an even worse disaster because it didn't work and I ended up waking a sleeping baby.  Yeah I know, I'm a dumb ass.

So eventually I gave up, repainted the canvas white for the 37th time (yeah because it took like 12 coats to cover each failed attempt)  And this time I just painted his birthday at the top.

Sorry Q, you do have handprints.  Lets wait about 5 years to try again.

The canvas turned out pretty well despite my stupidity, and I painted the sides blue as well, which adds a nice layer of depth when you look at it from an angle.  Is it what I really wanted, no, but oh well, you can't cry over messed up handprints.  :)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Spinning Ninjas

If you've never lived in a Muslim country, you might not be familiar with the many different levels of veiling that can occur.  The most extreme being where the woman is completely covered in black (we're talking eyes, gloves, everything).  

As an expat and non Muslim living in Egypt, this is a bit shocking at first, I mean how do they see, drive, talk, eat, live their lives?  But like everything else in life, you get used to it over time, and we've affectionately dubbed these women as "ninjas".  The term is not meant to give offense, it's simply referring to the fact that you can see absolutely nothing of their bodies, like a ninja.

While taking a short weekend break at the Red Sea last week, there were two women who came to the pool everyday in a swim version of the ninja suit, complete with sunglasses and baseball hats that matched.  And I couldn't help but giggle as this happened right in front of me one day.  Spinning Ninja!

We had a great time at the Red Sea.  Quincy got to swim in the ocean for the first time, which he seemed to enjoy, just like all other forms of water.  This kid is definitely a water baby.  The fresh breeze and sounds of the water lulled him to sleep easily, making for very happy parents.

School started two weeks late due to the curfew that's been in effect for the last month.  An odd reason to start school late, but at the same time, we've gotten so used to zany things happening here that it hasn't really affected us much.  Except when we head out on Fridays after 6pm and are left scratching our heads because all the restaurants are already closed.  Oh yeah, it's early curfew tonight, better head home and make some macaroni and cheese!  It's a weird combination of feeling like a teenager with a 6 year old's curfew time.

Knowing that this is our last year in Cairo has made things a bit easier.  There's been a growing stress from living in this city for the last 3 years.  Part of it is the craziness that is Cairo, part of it is the fact that we chose a rather difficult time in Egypt's history to be visitors.  And another equally large part is just the fact that Ryan and I are not big city people.  We like mountains, and water and for things to be a bit more quiet and calm.  Unfortunately there's not a lot of that to be found in this bustling place.

So with the decision to look for jobs somewhere else next year has come a feeling of peace.  I'd compare it to the first year here, with less excitement about all the stuff going on around us, but more appreciation for all the quirks Cairo has to offer.  Like our last trip to one of the major supermarkets in City Stars a few weeks ago, where half the shelves were empty and yellow signs hung everywhere, which we finally took the time to read.  Interesting... 

Or the random things you see driving down the road on any given day.

In other news, Q is thriving.  He's three 1/2 months old and has achieved a triumvirate of accomplishments.  Sleeping through the night, rolling over and blowing spit bubbles.  I'm pretty sure the spit bubbles are his favorite part so far.

We call this his Wilt Chamberlain look.  Bringing back the 60's!

Yeah mom, I like ice cream, that's for me right!

We enjoyed a visit from our friend Joseph, and Q got some snuggle time as well as a nice gift from Mariska, a stuffed giraffe that plays lullabies.

He's a pretty happy little guy, but especially when he's in daddy's arms.

It's been interesting having him at school with us, but overall I think it's a real blessing.  I'm able to continue nursing him throughout the day and we both get a chance to see him every once and awhile, which not everyone is lucky enough to be able to do with their baby.  He's very popular, and I'm frequently relieved of mommy duties and told to go away so other people can steal my baby.  It's a pretty sweet arrangement for all of us, even Nick enjoys playing with the kids toys after school.

Life at home has fallen into a pretty predictable pattern of story, bath, boob and then bed.  

We've even created a little play area for Q in the living room.  He doesn't do much with it yet, but we think it will get a lot more use in the next few months.

He's also got his own room now.  Big boy sleeps on his own, which was a little weird for us at first, but also a godsend.  It's so nice not to have to tiptoe to the bathroom in the middle of the night anymore.

All in all, life is pretty fantastic at the moment.  We're happy, healthy, looking forward to our next adventure and have this amazing baby in our lives, who brightens every day with his smiles, squeals and constantly changing personality.  We're busier than ever, and sometimes I feel like a bit of a spinning ninja myself, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

This is what happens when babies are left with daddies for too long unattended.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Best in Show

We recently arrived back in Cairo after a few weeks vacation in the states.  And as you may have seen on the news, things are getting down right scary.  There is a lot up in the air right now about our future in Egypt, so I hope you'll forgive me if I ignore the topic altogether and talk about something else.

Every since I found out I was pregnant, I was on the lookout for info on essential baby items.  We face a certain dilemma living abroad in that we don't have access to all the "stuff" like in the states. So if I suddenly realized I needed something when he was 2 weeks old, I wouldn't have a lot of choices.  We'd either have to do without or pay a ridiculous amount of money for something you could get for $10 at Walmart.  Which bugs me....alot.

Now, lets be completely honest there aren't many essential items when it comes to babies besides boobs/bottles, diapers and wipes (no seriously, buy as many wipes as you can carry).  But there are an awful lot of products out there that make having a baby a helluva lot easier.  And when you're focusing on the care of a tiny bundle of pooping/peeing/crying/spitting up/communication impaired joy, you're gonna want some things that make your life easier.  Trust me.

So I scoured the web/books/friends brains etc for the things my little man could possibly need.  And I got a lot of really good ideas, some definite duds and some suggestions that I never even tried because they just sounded dumb.  Seriously, special wipes for your kids boogers?  (If you love those, sorry, but I think they're dumb).  Since I have so many friends who just had babies, are about to have babies or who are trying for babies, I thought I'd share our top ten finds.  Let's call this the Best in Show of baby items from the Cushman family to you.  :)

For the record I am not being paid by any of these companies to advertise their products, but I love them all so much I would gladly help!  (Hint hint product companies, pay me to talk about your stuff)

Here we go, in no particular order....

1.  Aden and Anais Muslin Swaddle Blankets

These blankets are amazing.  You get a four pack from $30-$40 depending on the style you pick.  And they are worth every penny.  So versatile and they hold up really well.  For the week he let us swaddle him, that's what we used to swaddle Quincy.  They are also awesome for tossing over cold toes, laying on the ground for play time, covering car windows when it's too sunny and tossing over a sleeping baby in the rain.  (Yes we have used them for all these things) They're super thin, which is great if you just want a light blanket for a summer baby, or one that gets hot easily.  But they're also really large, so you can fold them into layers if baby needs something warmer. And they've held up marvelously in the washing machine.  I've heard Target sells a version of them, but that they're not the same quality.  Amazon is the way to go for the best price on the good quality ones. Buy some immediately.

2.  Mommy's Bliss Gripe Water

This is a miracle elixir if your baby has gas, and I'm pretty sure all babies go through a bout of gassiness at some point.  For Q it's been the last month and he gets this stuff and gas drops throughout the day, huge difference!  Apparently it helps with teething too, though we haven't reached that milestone yet.  It's cheaper if you buy it on Amazon, but you can get it at Walmart or Target for a bit more if you just want to try.  For Q he'll only take it before he eats, once his belly is full he just spits it all out, and it's not like gas drops where they just take a teeny bit, the regular dose for his age is a full teaspoon, which is a lot of liquid for a 2 month old.  But it's a wonderful natural aid for belly upset.  Seriously, we bought like 8 bottles of it while we were home.

Ok, this one sounds really gross... and if you think about the mechanics of it too much you probably will talk yourself out of it.  But it works really well.  Basically instead of using a traditional bulb syringe to suck snot from the baby's nose, you suck it out with your mouth.  There's no way the snot is getting anywhere near your mouth, there's a long tube and a filter for hygiene.  It works like magic!  Especially when they're itty bitty and their noses are so small.  Q would sound like an old man trying to breathe underwater, one round with this thing and he's breathing easy again.  He doesn't really enjoy it, and as my grandmother said when she saw us do it "It looks like you're sucking his brains out!" but the relief as a parent to know he can breathe again is priceless.  Make sure you get saline drops to put in their nose first!

Do you have a baby? About to have a baby?  Want to have a baby? Think you'll ever be in the same room with a baby who is crying inconsolably?  Buy this cd, buy it now.  Buy the album on iTunes or wherever you currently buy music, put it on your phone, tablet, or go the old fashioned route and keep the disc in your car.  This album has real magical powers.  No really, it does.  It doesn't sound like anything with supernatural properties, but for babies it does something.... Definitely a must have, especially in the car when you're stuck in traffic with a screaming baby who you can't feed/console/hold.  Nicolette, if you ever stumble upon my blog, all I can say is thank you, thank you very much.

If you plan on nursing, and think you'll ever need to do it in public, this is a wonderful thing to have, unless you're one of those "I whip my boobs out in public no matter whose around" kinda girls.  In which case, good for you.  I on the other hand want a bit of privacy when my tatas are hanging out, and this nursing cover is wonderful.  I've tried several and this one is the best, because it actually stands open by itself.  And if you've never nursed a new born before, the thing everyone fails to mention is that you need both hands to get the baby latched on.  If the cover doesn't stand open by itself you're in this horrible struggle to wrestle a screaming baby onto your boob while keeping the fabric out of the way so you can see.  All the while drawing attention to yourself, which is the whole purpose of the cover in the first place.  Love this thing, take it everywhere.  Definitely cheaper online.  And don't let the pictures scare you, it looks ridiculously big, like a weird apron, but it's the perfect amount of fabric to cover your chest and your tummy.  The corners are made of terry cloth too, which is really nice for cleaning up milky chins.  :)

There are huge debates out there about baby carriers.  Many people love the Ergo, and I was tempted, but after doing some research we went with the Beco and I'm so glad we did.  The main reason being that the baby can face forward when you're carrying them on your chest.  I've also felt the Ergo and the material is much harder.  The Beco is super soft and so easy to use.  Ryan and I can pass the baby back and forth easily with very little adjusting, and we can put him on and take him off by ourselves if the other person isn't there.  The only issue we've had so far was with Q getting too hot in the carrier, but we're toking that up to July, in a heat wave, with a baby who is naturally warm already.  I think in normal temps it will be fine, and it's already held up to a machine washing very well.  

This is another one for the breastfeeding mamas.  Pretty straightforward, put em on your nipples when they hurt.  Feels wonderful.  Pop em in the refrigerator for even more soothing power.  I would recommend every new momma buy at least 2 sets so you can always have one in the fridge ready to go.  

We really like this stroller.  It's very easy to maneuver.  Folds down with one hand, which is super convenient for traveling, and is easy to carry with one hand because it's so light.  We also have the B-Safe car seat which lets us click right into the stroller.  Love, love, love!  

For some reason this mobile keeps Quincy completely mesmerized.  From the time he was just a few days old he would stare at it for an hour.  And now that he's older it's even better because he's talking to the little characters, following them with his eyes and moving his whole body in time to the music.  Best of all for us, the music isn't terribly loud or annoying, very easy to block out.  It's a lot larger than I pictured, and the colors are quite garishly bright, but the baby likes it, so who cares.  And when he gets too big for the mobile, the base stays put for a musical crib toy.  Love that it has multiple functions :)

This App gets turned on every night around 9pm.  It plays white noise which helps Quincy sleep more soundly, blocking out the noises of Ryan and I getting ready for bed (since we're still sharing a room) and it helps me sleep better because it masks all of Quincy's gurgling and grunting throughout the night.  It's a free app you can download on your phone and you can actually build your own sleep melody with the type of white noise you like.  We do River+WhiteNoise+Fan.  :)

Alright, that's it.  The Cushman Best in Show of baby products.  Hope you found it helpful, and if you have something you absolutely love, let me know!