We Four in Egypt

Now back in the US!

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

Good kids and green grass

My long-time readers may recall vague references to my flight from Cairo to JFK last summer, a flight so terrible I actually decided not to blog about so as not to think about it anymore.

Early on Friday morning (in the US; it was Friday afternoon in Cairo), after about 14 hours of traveling, I told the friendly, helpful flight attendant that I appreciated her friendliness and helpfulness (after last year, I always make a point of thanking good flight attendants). “It was my pleasure,” she said. “Your kids have been great. It’s always a pleasure to work with kids with good manners.”

That was nice, though I didn’t think much of it until we were leaving the plane (we were about the last out), when another filght attendant started gushing about Giggle. “He’s going to be famous someday,” he said. “He’s so smart and he is so well-mannered. American kids just don’t seem to have good manners, but he does.”

I looked around for Ashton Kutcher and the hidden cameras. Then I passed out from shock.

My kids were good on the plane, mostly because we left in the middle of the night and they slept much of the way, and because Mr. Four was with us this year, and because I prepared better plane activities for them.

Still, it’s nice to hear. I adore my kids, but they can be a little crazy at times. And after last year’s flight, which included perhaps the lowest moment of my life, when I cried while arguing with the flight attendant, while Bug cried and wept for me to read him a book, well, let me just say this: what a difference a year makes.

Mr. Puppy did surprisingly well too. He didn’t exactly enjoy the flight, but aside from a huge puddle of pee he left in JFK (which we cleaned up–and, really, where else was he supposed to go after flying for 13 hours?), he behaved perfectly. And he’s been his charming sweet since then as well.

We’re having a great visit with Mr. Four’s family. They are great with the kids, pretty low key but also interested in what they’re saying, and the kids have warmed up to them quickly. Because of a graduation party, we visited today with a bunch of Mr. Four’s old friends, and tomorrow we have a big family picnic at my brother-in-law’s house.

We also managed to squeeze in a visit to Old Navy and Target, to catch up on our big-box shopping.

Plus it’s been raining quite a bit lately, and we are surrounded by green: green grass, green hills, green trees. It’s gorgeous.

You might be able to tell from this post that my eyes are drooping. More later, when I can remember how to spell.

14 June 2009 Posted by | family, holidays, home, pets | 5 Comments

Leaving on a jet plane

Since last September, Bug has had a little play chant: “I’m going to the mountains, I’m going to the mountains.”

Tonight, we finally are. (Sorta.)

We leave in a few hours for the airport, and we’ll fly into Mr. Four’s hometown, where we’ll visit with his family. It will be Giggle’s first time meeting Grandpop, Uncle D, Aunt C, and some cousins. Bug has met them all but doesn’t remember everyone. They are excited for that, and also for the new sandals that are waiting at Grandpop’s house.

After a few days with Mr. Four’s family, we’ll head towards our most recent home state, which we’ll crisscross to visit my dad, College Town, and our house in the mountains.

Once again my internet access will be inconsistent, but I will have more time. Your guess is as good as mine as to how much I’ll be blogging.

In any case, tonight, think of us as we soar over the Mediterranean, Europe (hello R!), and the Atlantic Ocean.

11 June 2009 Posted by | bug, family, giggle, holidays, home, pets | 5 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.

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

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

Sick puppy

Mister Puppy and I rushed to the vet this evening after he (skip ahead if you don’t want details) vomited several times. I’m glad we went the other night for his vaccinations, as it meant tonight they recognized us right away. He should be fine–poor guy got three shots, including one that had him yelping–and we’re going back tomorrow to make sure.

The good news is that I like the new vet. The office is really clean and it’s set up just like an American vet’s office (plus some marbled tile for an Egyptian twist). The evening vet is friendly and great with Mister Puppy. He called him “Honey” and apologized for each shot. And he hasn’t said anything about any Africans — imagine that!

Now, for today’s quiz-contest:
How much does Mister Puppy weigh?

Leave your guess in a comment.

11 March 2009 Posted by | pets | 4 Comments

Race and the vet

Mister Puppy needs to go to the vet, for his second round of shots (the woman who owns his mom took him for his first round). We used a good local vet for Iggy the cat (deceased), our other cat (missing/presumed dead), and Puppy Four (deceased), but I’m not sure I want to go back to him. Is it because all my animals are dead? No!

The more I spent with this guy (and it was quite a bit towards the end with Puppy Four), the more stories I heard. Including the one about the attractive white woman in England who married a dark-skinned African man. The vet couldn’t possibly understand what any fair-skinned woman would see in a black man.

My impression is that this is a fairly typical, or at least not uncommon, view amongst educated Egyptians. And the kind of thing I tend not to hear from people who have actually met my kids.

I didn’t correct this guy, or tell him I disagreed. Lame, I know, but I was also in the throes of Puppy Four’s dying days.

Now, however, I’m disinclined to go back. This guy may be a good vet–he came to our house to euthanize the pup–but I prefer to bring my business elsewhere, to someone who, at least for a while, isn’t an espoused racist.

So Mister Puppy and I are going to visit a new vet tonight. One who is reputed to be good but perhaps pricier. I’m crossing my fingers.

8 March 2009 Posted by | our life in egypt, pets, race | 5 Comments

Mister Puppy

Meet our new love.

mister puppy

Mister Puppy (name by Bug) is a terrier mix, a healthy, happy, socialized, playful little puppy.

And we are totally smitten.

24 February 2009 Posted by | pets | 9 Comments

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

Your opinion is very important to us

We at We Four in Egypt are always interested in you, the reader. Also, we are interested in experimenting with polls in the blog. So, please vote now on two important issues.

First, more of a pool than a poll. Your predictions, please:

Next, your input on this very blog:

25 November 2008 Posted by | pets, this blog | 3 Comments

Salt in the wound

I wrote this blog entry about two weeks ago, in the wee hours as I awaited the first presidential debate, and never published it (I’m not sure why, but probably because I had already published something that day). I just noticed it and didn’t want to delete it, so here it is. It’s a bit melodramatic to publish this now, but, eh, it’s my blog, and I’ll cry if I want to.

Written around September 26
Sometimes blogging about my kids feels too personal. And sometimes I blog so I can stay up late to watch the presidential debates. So I dog blog. Just what you came here for, right? Good.

A few weeks ago I mentioned that a car hit Puppy Four, who ended up with some ugly abrasions on a paw. I later mentioned that he was having seizures again.

Well, the seizures were awful to witness. The poor pup would stiffen up, drool, shake, poop, paw for air, and more awfulness. He had been doing so well, too, up til the incident with the car. We were out walking that night for Giggle’s first soccer practice, and I wouldn’t have taken the Pup unless I thought he was up for it.

So what followed was a huge regression. The seizures completely wore him out. They seemed to happen more often at night, and he was lethargic and sensitive during the day–a huge change from his usually more energetic self.

We went yet again to the vet, of course. The doctor prescribed a new round of anti-seizure medication, which worked, but he was still really lethargic. He also developed an ulcer on his lip and nose, and he wasn’t eating very much. I took him back to the vet this week, and Puppy Four is now on a new medicine that’s working great.

But, at the vet that night, I finally asked, “Do you think he’ll be okay?” The answer is probably not. The vet suspects Puppy Four has permanent damage to his central nervous system and will never be “normal.” I was tearing up and didn’t walk to talk more about it, so the pup and I left to head back home, me sure he was near the end.

And so then, that night, the pup began a major personality recovery. He started following me around the house again and chewing on my arm whenever it was available to him. This morning, for the very first time, he play-growled with a pillow.

And tonight he found his voice: he barked (a first!) and worked his way up to a howl. Probably not so nice for the folks sleeping in the house, but it was fun to hear.

9 October 2008 Posted by | pets, sicknesses | Comments Off on Salt in the wound