We Four in Egypt

Now back in the US!

Helmet safety

Life is back to normal for the Four Family. The boys have been in school for about two weeks, and Mr. Four and I have both been back to work for a few weeks longer than that.

Giggle is now in first grade, which turns out to be very serious compared to kindergarten. There’s more homework and more responsibility. He was a bit overwhelmed at first, but now is settling in nicely. Today, after he finished his homework, he announced, “This homework was fun!” And then he added, “I hate homework.”

We Fours feel very strongly about helmet safety.

We Fours feel very strongly about helmet safety.

Bug is glad to be back with his best buddy, B, at school. B’s new nanny is friends with our nanny/housekeeper, so Bug has been spending a lot more time with his best buddy after school, which is great, because they have more fun and behave better when they’re together.

We bought skateboards for both boys recently. An expat acquaintance here commented he’d be too scared to let his kids get on skateboards. I speculated to Mr. Four that perhaps because in our world it’s normal to put your three year old in kayak, it’s not so strange to put your four year old on a skateboard–with helmet securely fastened, of course.

How about you? What outside toys do your kids have?

30 August 2009 Posted by | bug, fun, giggle, our life in egypt | 5 Comments

Not our home, but our country

On the flight from New York to Cairo, Giggle, age 6, explained things this way to Bug, age 4: “Egypt is not our home, but it’s our country.”

I would probably have described it in the opposite way (Egypt isn’t our country, but it’s our home), but I was interested to hear how Giggle was sorting out this notion of having multiple homes and countries. After this summer, my boys have come to think of “home” as our family house in the mountains in the US, a house Mr. Four spent many years building, and in which he and I lived full-time for several years after. When we moved from that house to College Town, Mr. Four and I rented it out. It’s not set up as a vacation rental, which isn’t particularly lucrative (sadly), but means we can use it whenever we want, for as long as we want, and it’s already furnished. The boys hadn’t spent much time there until last summer. I think it was good for them to have the continuity of going back this summer. Giggle had such glee in his voice when he’d say, “Hey, I remember this place!” Until we’re back in the US permanently, I’m glad to give them some consistency in their understanding of home. And it’s a nice home–though the outside is my favorite part.

the view from our deck

Giggle and Bug were pretty stunned to learn that Mr. Four built the house. More shocked, even, than when we arrived in the US and I get behind the wheel of a car (“You can drive, Mommy?”). A couple of times, in the middle of watching TV or hanging out, Bug called out, “Daddy, Daddy! Thank you building this house!”

This may well have been the best part of the summer for Mr. Four.

And what a great summer it was. We were away about six weeks, and we spent the first three visiting family and friends and driving around a lot. The boys (and Mister Puppy) did great with this, much to my surprise and delight.

In the mountains, we went tubing and rafting and fishing and in general spent a lot of time outside.

playing in the trees

Giggle also got a new casterboard called a RipStik. Think of a skateboard, but complicated. So we went a lot to the local skate park, where Bug rode his bike and Giggle cruised around on his RipStik.

skate park

In this photo, you can see all the fellas of the Four Family: that’s Giggle on the RipStik, then Mr. Puppy, then Mr. Four, and way ahead on the trail, Bug on his bike.
walking & riding the trail

So while it’s nice to be home, we do miss our country.

27 July 2009 Posted by | bug, expat scene, family, fun, giggle, holidays, home, pets | 4 Comments

A puppy, the beach, and home

My dad emailed the other day and speculated that because I hadn’t blogged in a while, I must be busy. This is only partly true. I’m not especially busier than usual, but I do Twitter a lot, which apparently satisfies many of my communication needs.

I also get impatient uploading photos to both Facebook and Flickr (where I host photos for this blog), with my slow internet, so sometimes I stop after Facebook. And I always feel I owe you all some photos, from Ethiopia and now from our recent beach trip, which means sometimes I don’t blog rather than blog without photos (silly I know).

I also lost some steam last fall, when some important people in life got pretty angry with me over some stuff they had read on my blog (don’t bother looking for it; it won’t be obvious). Even though I plunged into NaBloPoMo, I felt a bit gun shy. I started a blog to keep folks up-to-date on our life in Egypt, but it also means that people don’t necessarily have to be in touch with me directly to know what’s going on. And this was bad last fall.

And, frankly, now that we’re pretty settled, both in Egypt and with our kids, there’s a lot less to say. Most of the time.

Explanations aside, here’s what’s going on.

Our puppy is growing and doing really well. We went back to visit his mother a few weeks ago, and I was surprised that he’s almost as big as she is. He now weighs in at a robust eight pounds (or so). Earlier this week, we met his father, and Mister Puppy looks just like his Jack Russell terrier dad except Mister Puppy’s coloring is a bit lighter. He’s sweet, healthy, fun, and pretty easy. Bug and Giggle adore him. Sometimes too much. For example, right now, Giggle is hugging Mister Puppy and “helping” him dance.

“Why does the puppy like you best, Mommy?” they ask. I wonder.
puppy

It’s beach weather in Egypt, and the boys and I spent Easter Sunday at Ain Soukhna with some good friends (Mr. Four had to work). Bug got stung by a jellyfish. He screamed for probably 20 minutes or more. He appears to have gained a lifelong hatred of jellyfish.

Over the long weekend of Coptic Easter (a week after the western Easter), we went with some other friends to a beach near Ras Sudr, Egypt. We brought Mister Puppy. Turns out that Mister Puppy loves playing in the sand as much as Bug and Giggle do.
puppy at the beach
sandy boy
puppy

In other news: we have now booked our plane tickets for our home leave to the US this summer. We’ll be visiting Mr. Four’s family in his hometown, plus dashing all over our home state, to College Town, the beach, and the mountains. Mister Puppy will be joining us.

Booking those tickets meant accepting we’ll be back in Egypt a third year. Which is good, mostly, but a bit disappointing given that this spring it looked like we might have the opportunity to move this summer either to southern Africa or the Caribbean–neither panned out. Which is all for the best, but, you know.

Coming up: Pigs! Swine flu! Windsurfing!

1 May 2009 Posted by | bug, family, fun, giggle, holidays, home, pets, this blog | 7 Comments

Cartwheels

Of late the evening entertainment for the Four family has been cartwheels. But not from Mr. Four and me, as you might have suspected.

Both Bug and Giggle love cartwheels. We moved the coffee table out from in between the couches, and so now they have a dedicated gym mat — our living room carpet.

Giggle’s cartwheel, after weeks of practice, is great, really almost perfect. His legs stay mostly straight, and he lands on his feet.

Bug can pull off a surprisingly good cartwheel. Sometimes it’s one-handed.

9 January 2009 Posted by | bug, family, fun, giggle | Comments Off on Cartwheels

Best of 2008

My friend Jenni just wrote a nice post about her favorite moments from the past year, and I’m inspired to do the same.

Bug is napping, but I’m going to guess his favorite moment (the one that would come to mind, anyway) was opening the Batman motorcycle he asked about all fall and got from Santa for Christmas.

Giggle’s favorite moment from 2008:

  • Seeing Santa when he woke up on Christmas morning (he’s been talking about this for a week, and we haven’t questioned him further on the matter)

Mr. Four’s favorites:

  • Boating with the boys in the mountains this summer
  • Snorkeling with the boys in Dahab

My favorites (in chronological order):

Spring, in Egypt (mostly)

  • When we first joined our club last January, sitting outside in the evening, drinking tea or a beer, while the boys played on the playground, and feeling like I had a backyard again
  • Discovering Fagnoon
  • Our spring trip to Dahab, an amazing vacation that managed to include both lots of fun for the boys and lots of relaxation for Mr. Four and me
  • in dahab
    Bug and Giggle splash around in the kiddie pool at our favorite hotel in Dahab

  • My trip to gorgeous Croatia: walking the streets of old Dubrovnik and visiting with old friends
  • on the island of mljet
    Mljet, Croatia

  • A great visit from my cousin K in June
  • Sweet little Puppy Four
  • puppy four
    Puppy Four

In the US this summer

  • My first morning back in College Town in June, listening to NPR, reading the New York Times (in print!), and drinking tea while the boys played
  • Playing baseball with my dad, Bug, and Giggle in June
  • Swimming at the lake near College Town
  • The boys running hysterically into the house this summer to report “ghosts” outside, which were really fireflies
  • Later on, watching and catching fireflies with the boys, in College Town and the mountains
  • Eating my favorite cereal
  • Laughing hysterically while tubing with Mr. Four, Giggle, and Bug in July
  • My kids discovering the laundry chute at my mom’s house

Fall, back in Egypt (mostly)

  • The Africa Reading Challenge
  • Giggle’s school
  • A few hours at Hamley’s toy store in London
  • Spamalot (also in London)
  • Snorkeling with the boys in Dahab
  • Giggle deciding it was time to re-learn Amharic
  • Bug and Giggle talking to my dad and stepmom on Thanksgiving
  • Ethiopia: time with Bug, the rock hewn churches, hippos, and Bug learning how cool it is to be Ethiopian
  • A wonderful Christmas day, including a nice chat with my mom
  • Listening to my nephew play his new accordion via Skype

1 January 2009 Posted by | bug, ethiopia, expat scene, family, food, fun, giggle, holidays, home, pets, school | 5 Comments

You say it’s your birthday (11/17)

Giggle’s birthday is coming up. Like last year, we’ll be having his birthday party at home.

Unlike last year, we gave him a choice: a big party at our expat-y club with no presents or a small party with just six kids (one for each year) at home with presents (or at least no explicit “no present” policy).

It was an easy choice for him. I think the low key route will be more fun for him anyway.

Also unlike last year: we now have outside space at our building, so we’ll try to have as many of the festivities as possible outside, assuming it’s not raining. (Har har.)

Like last year, we’ll probably have musical pillows, which was a great success, and maybe another round of pin the mask on the superhero. It’s okay to repeat birthday games, right?

Unlike last year, Giggle now knows a lot of kids, from preschool, from kindergarten, from our club, and from around town. And because we’re having a small party, the six-kid-limit is causing me some angst. He’s fine with this, but I’m sad about the very nice kids he’s not inviting. Some of whose parents read this blog! But we let him make his own list of kids, and I want to stick with the six-kid-limit since that was part of the deal.

Now, to get out the invitations…

17 November 2008 Posted by | fun, giggle | 4 Comments

Goodbye Puppy Four

We’re back from Dahab. It was a wonderful vacation. Both boys figured out snorkeling, and Giggle in particular loved it. He screamed about every fish he saw. Literally screamed. Bug also delighted in narrating all his fish sightings through his snorkel. Both boys saw Nemo, along with many members of his extended family. Every other fish, at least to Bug, was Dori.

We got home tonight right when Puppy Four arrived home in the Pet Taxi from the kennel. He was so thrilled to be home and pranced around the house in excitement. But he starting seizing about an hour or two later. Last week, before we left for Dahab, the vet and I had a long chat about the pup’s long-term prognosis. He suggested waiting a bit to see how the latest anti-seizure medicine worked, after doubling the dosage.

So, even amidst the breezes of Dahab, I’ve been mulling Puppy Four’s health. Then tonight, when he had the worst and longest seizure I’ve ever seen–or perhaps it was a series of seizures–I realized it was time.

I called the vet, and asked if he could make a house call. So he’s coming over tonight when his clinic hours are done.

The pup has finally settled down, which is good. The boys said good night to him, though we didn’t tell them what was happening. Right now I’m sitting in the boys’ room, waiting for them to fall asleep, and waiting for the vet to arrive.

We’ve lost a lot of pets over the past year. This one is particularly tough. All the others had long, full lives. But I suppose when I rescued a pet from near-death on the streets, I knew death might come sooner rather than later.

This will be tough for the boys as well, and especially Bug, who is particularly fond of the Pup and all our other pets. Just today he was asking about Iggy, our cat who died last fall here in Egypt, and the other cat whose pseudonym I can’t remember, the cat who disappeared in the spring.

Well, we did our best to help to him. He’s been a nice boy.

6 October 2008 Posted by | bug, fun, giggle, holidays, pets, sicknesses | 12 Comments

Ramadahab

Folks, I don’t get out much. I know, I know: I usually seem so cosmopolitan!

Truth is, I go to work, sometimes take the boys to school, go to the pool on the weekends… but that’s pretty much it. I don’t even get to the further-flung supermarkets, accessible only via taxi and planning, instead preferring the convenience of the place around the corner. And we certainly don’t spend every weekend at the Pyramids.

If you live anywhere long enough, life becomes normal. Even in Egypt.

But I was reminded of my own special dullness tonight when, unlike most evenings, I was actually out at night. I took Puppy Four back to the vet. This dog now freaks out when he gets out of the taxi at the vet’s office. Makes for a fun evening. Anyway, his brain is definitely scrambled, even though he’s sweet most of the time at home. I had a good cry over the whole thing last week, but tonight the vet suggested we wait a few more weeks before we make any decisions. The vet says he’ll never really be normal, but that doesn’t mean he can’t have a happy, seizure-free life. So we’ll see.

Anyway, I had to go pick up more meds (this time, a steroid) for the pup, as well as a few things we need for our vacation. So I found myself at the local shopping center. It’s not the giant western mall, but one serving pretty much just my corner of Cairo.

And it was bustling. At 9:30pm. When usually I am home and, if not asleep, pretty close. And not thinking at all about going out.

Ramadan ends tomorrow night, and the holiday Eid el Fitr begins. Egyptians usually celebrate Eid el Fitr as a family, and they buy new clothes for their kids. So there were tons of families out tonight, choosing their Eid outfits.

It was great fun to wander around the shopping center spying on people. I was one of the few westerners there, so maybe they thought they were spying on me. The mood was festive, and it inspired me to do some of my own shopping. I got some very cute red shoes, locally made and pretty cheap, so we’ll have to see if they last. Plus I bought some sand toys and a jump rope for the boys.

Tonight made me wish I was out and about in the evenings more often. Maybe it’s the weather, but even when it’s not Ramadan, Egyptians really are night people.

I am also a night person. Which is why I’m awake and blogging at 11:30 when we’re leaving tomorrow on vacation and I have tons of things to do.

So, yeah, that vacation. We’re going to Dahab again. I blogged quite a bit about our April trip there. We had an amazing time, enough fun to make us want to go back. Mr. Four will dive a couple of days, and we’ll all snorkel in the sea, swim in the pool, and walk the Corniche. It’s super relaxing.

The shopping spirit was with me earlier today, when I indulged in new paperbacks, which I rarely do. So David Sedaris and Sarah Watters will be joining me in Dahab.

Plus we have a whole week! Eid last a few days, and early next week there’s an Egyptian national holiday… the timing is perfect.

It’s been a quiet month for me on the blog, and this week will be doubly so. Eid Mubarak!

29 September 2008 Posted by | books, family, fun, holidays, shopping, tourism | 5 Comments

Happy Enkutatash!

Today is New Year’s Day in Ethiopia. According to the Ethiopian calendar, we’re now in 2001.

We celebrated with some good friends and some great food, courtesy of our wonderful housekeeper and nanny. She has the day off today and will spend much of it at her church.

Bug and Giggle had a great time dancing around the living room with Maya to our favorite Ethiopian-hip hop-fusion music.

Happy New Year!

11 September 2008 Posted by | bug, ethiopia, food, fun, giggle, holidays | 2 Comments

Introducing Star Wing

Lately the boys have been into super heroes. Today I found Hero Machine 2.5, an online program that lets you make them yourself. With me at the computer, Giggle pretty much ended up with the Incredible Hulk, and Bug made Star Wing (okay, I named the guy):

Star Wing

Star Wing

He’s pretty cool, eh?

16 August 2008 Posted by | bug, fun, giggle | Comments Off on Introducing Star Wing