We Four in Egypt

Now back in the US!

Entertaining success

Phew. We’ve been celebrating Giggle’s birthday for two days, and now we’re just about done.

Last night, on his actual birthday, we had over some friends for a delicious dinner and some playtime for the kids. These folks are also American expats with a child adopted from Ethiopia, and the boys love Maya. Dinner was a delicious Ethiopian feast of doro wat, doro alitcha, misr wat, kik alitcha, and potatoes (I don’t know the Ethiopian name), plus injera. Translated, this means, spicey chicken stew, buttery chicken stew, spicey lentils, split peas in butter, and potatoes, plus flat spongy bread. Sounds better in its original language, doesn’t it?

For dessert, we had brownies on a plate with candles. Another yum.

This afternoon, we had a party attended by five boys from school (quite the international crowd: at least five of the seven boys there, including Giggle and Bug, are citizens of at least two countries). We played Pin the Mask on the Superhero (photos to come), Musical Pillows, and Bowling. We also ate birthday cake, opened presents, and ran nutty around the apartment. And, the boys also sat down for a couple of books.

Bug and Giggle both had a lot of fun, and we had a lot of fun hanging out with their friends.

Now, at 5:30, Mr. Four is pretty much passed out on the bed, and I can barely keep my eyes open. I suspect we’ll all sleep well tonight.


30 November 2007 Posted by | bug, giggle | 4 Comments


The newest member of the Family Four:

Our kitty was a stray. She found her way to a friend’s apartment sometime in September, and she (the cat) was injured and very sick. Our friend nursed her back to health, but then her husband really objected to keeping the cat. She mentioned this to Mr. Four, who said no before he even told me about it.

A couple of weeks later, she called the house, and I answered. She was desperate. A friend was willing to take her in, but the friend was out of town, so could we take her for a few days? We have relied heavily on the kindess of strangers and friends to help out with our animals in the past, so of course I said yes. Knowing full well we might keep her.

We decided to keep her before we had a name. The boys, especially Bug, kept calling her “Iggy,” the name of our cat now dead. So we’d say, “That’s not Iggy,” and Bug would say, “Iggy’s dead.” So we came up with a name in a hurry. Here I’ll call her Kitty.


She was very much a vampire kitty at first, hiding during the day, venturing out only at night. Even now she prefers to avoid a lot of time with the boys, but she’s gaining weight, her coat is looking fluffy and pretty, and she’s settled right into the family.

29 November 2007 Posted by | family, iggy the cat | 1 Comment

And now back to our regularly scheduled blog.

Phew. I finished up NaNoWriMo: 50,000 words in (less than) one month. Man did it kick my behind. My poor kids barely recognize me, and Mr. Four was losing patience, too, even though he served as an excellent technical advisor and idea generator.

My novel (and I use that term lightly) is about a young woman who goes to work for an outdoor recreation company soon after college. It’s actually a lot less autobiographical than it might sound to folks who know me. For example, this young woman has red hair. (Har har.)

Right now I’m waiting for the little counting robots to count up my words and declare me a winner. I don’t feel like a winner. Mostly I feel tired. But, I am so glad I did this. I’ve had stories floating around in my head for years, and it’s great to write them, finally. And this is the kind of thing I’d usually start and then bale on, or think about and never do, so, wow, I guess I am proud of myself.

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Thanks to you Eleanor, and to my Scrabulous partners, who kept me awake late at night, I did what I thought I could not do.

And now I’m going to turn off the computer, go to bed, and sleep.

26 November 2007 Posted by | this blog | 7 Comments

Lovely and delicious

We had a lovely Thanksgiving. The food was delicious. Our hostess even made coleslaw when she heard it’s a Thanksgiving tradition in Mr. Four’s family. She also had an amazing array of desserts, including my favorite, chocolate pie. Yum.

Plus, the boys (and I) got to watch the Macy’s parade, as our hosts have Armed Forces Network TV. The best part was that the parade started at 3pm, so we caught the end of it after dinner.

And we had a nice day on Friday, Mr. Four’s birthday. He said it was the best he’d had in years (no reflection on me, right?). I spent the morning celebrating his birthday by… getting a facial! I’ve had some terrible skin problems here, and I was convinced it was the pollution until the charming Austrian facialist told me it was coming from “inside,” ie stress. Ah well. Anyway, Friday was the only time I could get an appointment, so Mr. Four played with the boys while this woman cleaned my skin and plucked my eyebrows (ouch!).

On Friday evening, we went to a charming restaurant on the banks of the Nile River, where we ate on the patio and watched feluccas, or sailboats, cruising the Nile. The restaurant, like some others in Cairo, had a kids’ play area (I remarked on that til Mr. Four reminded me it’s standard at McDonald’s). Anyway, the food was good to excellent (Mr. Four really enjoyed his steak), and the desserts were delicious. It was a lovely evening. And the restaurant? T.G.I. Friday’s. And it was filled with Egyptians smoking shisha, basically, big bongs.

Despite the incredible river that runs through this city, it’s not so easy to find a place to enjoy the view, so it was a particular treat, especially since it was a delightfully cool evening.

And Saturday we enjoyed a low key day at home. I had a chance to work on my ($*#%!) novel, which should be done in another few days, and we otherwise putzed around the apartment and neighborhood.

Just tonight Mr. Four and I finished his homemade apple pie. It was also delicious.

And now we’re gearing up for Giggle’s birthday, this Thursday, and his party, this Friday. I’m still looking for ideas on entertaining a bunch of 3-6 year old boys for two hours, so please keep the suggestions coming.

25 November 2007 Posted by | giggle, holidays, home | Comments Off on Lovely and delicious

It’s the water.

When I was about seven years old, my family took a vacation to Acapulco. My parents were so eager to share their excitement about Mexico with us that they took us to see Bo Derek and Dudley Moore in the movie Ten, filmed in Acapulco but more notable for featuring Bo Derek’s large and naked breasts. Oops!

Anyway, as we traveled, my parents emphasized that I should not drink the water. A few days into the trip, my sister was sick. The only water she had had was during tooth brushing. So, my parents, concerned I might get sick too, said to me, “Little Four, have you been drinking any water?”

I said, “No.”

“Then how are you brushing your teeth?” they asked.

“I haven’t been!” I explained very sensibly. Because how on earth can you brush your teeth without water?

This story came to mind as we’ve been talking to Giggle about regular and effective tooth brushing. He went back to the dentist today for his third visit. Last week he had three cavities filled, making four total fillings until today, when she filled two more. And discovered another two in addition to the previous seven. I can hardly keep up, but that makes nine cavities total.

After the fillings, he’s getting a flouride treatment. Oh, and then little Bug goes to the dentist. Health care is cheaper here, but we’re paying 300 LE (about $50) for each filling. Ouch all around.

Now, back to the tap water: we drink it. Not as our regular drinking beverage, though we did do that at first, until the chlorine taste got to us. Much to our surprise and delight, the tap water here is safe, most of the time, because of the chlorine. How do I know there’s a lot of chlorine in the water? It smells like a public pool. Also, people told me.

But we use it for brushing our teeth and cooking. So, this has me wondering: are there long term effects of chlorine consumption? Chlorine is, in fact, a carcinogen. Then again, bad water can kill you pretty fast too. Or, rather slowly but painfully.

In any case, clean tap water is an absolute luxury that we really appreciate.

22 November 2007 Posted by | giggle, our life in egypt, sicknesses | 3 Comments

Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s a strange thing to celebrate a national holiday outside of your nation, and I’ll have a longer post on this over the weekend, but I’m very lucky to have Thursday off from work as well as lovely friends who have invited us to share their Thanksgiving feast. And I’m really lucky that this woman has been baking for days. Also, I’m quite pleased that Mr. Four made his favorite apple pie. Yum.

I’m looking forward to the long weekend (only one extra day, since we go back to work on Sunday, but I’ll take it), and, as is the tradition, I want to note that I have much for which to be thankful, especially my family. Living in Egypt has given me a keen appreciation for being an American woman, a luck of birth. It’s also given me an extra keen appreciation for the man I was smart enough to marry. (That’s Mr. Four, in case you were wondering.)

Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends and family.

21 November 2007 Posted by | family, food, holidays | 6 Comments

Yikes, we’re busy.

We have a lot going on over the next few weeks, including some major family events.

This Thursday, you may know, is Thanksgiving. My employer gives us the holiday, and we’re going to an American friend’s house for dinner, and I’m excited because she’s a fabulous cook and her family is great too. Plus she’s lived overseas for so long that she knows exactly how to do an American holiday when you’re not in America. Mr. Four is contributing his famous apple pie.

Speaking of Mr. Four, this Friday he turns some old age that I no longer track. The boys and I have our presents ready, but not much else. If you have brilliant suggestions for Mr. Four’s birthday, please let me know.

Then next Thursday, November 29, is Giggle’s 5th birthday. He’s been to a couple of birthday parties, and he is so excited. I think the combination of his birthday and then Christmas next month might just push him over the edge. Anyway, we’ve invited some friends over for dinner on Thursday, and we’ll have Giggle’s favorite Ethiopian food (similar to what we have, oh, just about every night).

Then on Friday afternoon, we’re having a party! We’ve invited seven boys, ages 3-6, all friends from school. I read a great guideline once that said to invite as many kids as years the child is turning, so he’d get five friends. But we hit against the troubling decision of which big boy from school to eliminate, so we’ve invited them all, and I’m (secretly) hoping some can’t make it. Of course, Bug will be there as well. And likely some parents.

All these people will be coming to our apartment for two hours. I was worried that seemed lame (this after we went to a huge 5th birthday party at a fancy club where the parents had rented giant inflatable bouncy things) until a colleague said it could be so retro it’d be cool. So I need to come up with some fun games for inside that a bunch of 3-5 year old boys can play. Any suggestions? They all seem to be really into superheroes.

Then, we have a day of recovery on Saturday, and I leave the next Sunday (we’re in early December now) for London. I have a conference there and I am SO excited. Plus my mom found a cheap ticket from her home in the northeast, so she’s going to meet me. It’ll be a tough week for Mr. Four, and probably too for the boys and especially Giggle (who sometimes gets mad if I come home late from work), but I am going to enjoy every minute of it! Especially the parts that involve beer and being inconspicuous and walking in the rain.

I’m also attempting to write and address all my holidays cards before I leave, so my mom can take them back to mail from the US. Oh, and I’m still writing for NaNoWriMo.

Phew. I’m tired just thinking about it all.

19 November 2007 Posted by | fun, giggle, holidays, our life in egypt | 4 Comments

Early morning sounds

I’m up way too early today (though at least it’s actually early morning rather than really late last night), so early I heard the 4:50 am call to prayer. There’s a mosque just around the corner from us, but usually the call is just one of many city sounds.

But it’s otherwise pretty quiet here at 5am (as I learned this morning). So I heard the call not just from the mosque next door, but also from several mosques throughout the neighborhood. Even though it was one voice, chanting the same lines, the sounds weren’t synchronous. It sounded like an orchestra warming up. It was quite lovely.

If you are interested, Wikipedia’s entry on the call, the Adhan, links to a few websites where you can hear the call online.

18 November 2007 Posted by | our life in egypt | Comments Off on Early morning sounds

How’d those jeans get so short?

Giggle loves to wear his jeans. He has two pairs, and they are on heavy rotation. This was true during the hottest months of summer in the US and Egypt, and he’s kept wearing them all fall.

I noticed the other day that they seemed shorter than usual. And we don’t have a clothes-shrinking dryer here, so I had him stand up against a wall and measured him.

He’s grown two inches since July. This is particularly surprising because he grew about two to three inches this past spring while in Addis. Doing some (not very) complicated calculations, I realized that this kid has grown about four to five inches in about eight or nine months.

(I could look up the precise measurements, but I’m not inclined to sort through the still-unpacked massive pile of my papers on my desk in our bedroom.)

Undoubtedly much of this growth spurt is because he’s eating more and better food. He didn’t have much when he was still in his village. I’ve heard of adopted kids having big growth spurts when they join their new family, but I hadn’t thought a boy as old as Giggle would grow so much so fast.

Tonight I dug out the 5T pants (bought in the US this past summer), which was quite the thrill for Giggle, who loves new clothes. They fit or are even a bit long. He’s very excited to be “getting tall like Daddy.”

But it’s heartbreaking to know how much potential he might have missed, and not just for height.

14 November 2007 Posted by | food, giggle | 3 Comments

Giggle and Bug speak…

My friend and Scrabulous partner Karen asked a question about the boys’ language. Because she suggested my children are brilliant, I wrote a long response that I realized deserved its own post.

Karen’s question was,

Which languages are G&B speaking? Do they use Arabic at school? Do they still speak any Amharic (guessing that was what they spoke in Ethiopia)? And do they differentiate between the languages? I’m always floored by how smart multilingual kids are.

And here’s my answer.

Giggle and Bug speak primarily English. Actually, that’s all Bug knows. He was just over a year old when we adopted him, and up til that point, he had heard one or two languages. He didn’t have any words that were recognized by the nannies at the care center. I read and read and read to him, and chattered up a storm, the first few months he was home in particular, and his English skills are great, totally on-track developmentally for a kid his age.

Bug does know a couple of songs in Arabic that he’s learning at school, but his school is an English-language school (attended by Egyptians, Americans, at least one Italian, and other unknown nationalitieis).

Giggle’s first language was Hadiya, which is a tribe and language in his native area of southwestern Ethiopia. He started hearing and learning Amharic, the primary language of Ethiopia, when he arrived at the care center in Addis Ababa. He went to school there and also learned some English.

His English has taken off since he’s been with us, of course. He’s probably lost his Hadiya. Some research I’ve read suggests that kids who don’t keep hearing a language, even their native language, can lose it within a few months, so maybe before we even met him. I’d love for him to know his native language, but I have found no resources for it; many Ethiopians have never even heard of it his tribe.

Giggle does recognize (and, I think, understand) Amharic, but he really does NOT want to hear it and especially not use it. He resists it. I have been meaning to write a post on this. It’s very sad, actually. Amharic is the language of loss for him. One of the big reasons we wanted an Ethiopian housekeeper was so he could maintain his language, but he screams and protests when she doesn’t use English. We’re stumped. I’d love to hear suggestions if anyone has them.

Giggle is also learning a little bit of Ararbic at school; they have a class in Arabic a few times a week. His teacher told me he’s doing really well in Arabic, which was great to hear. Also, I’d like for him to translate for me! (har har)

The boys know a few words in Arabic, like shokran, thank you, and the name of our street. I don’t know how they differentiate, but they seem to understand sometimes you say thank you, and sometimes you say shokran. And when we get in a taxi, they shout out the name of our street, in Arabic.

12 November 2007 Posted by | bug, giggle | 4 Comments