We Four in Egypt

Now back in the US!

Count your t-shirts

So, how many pairs of pants does a six year old need? How many pairs of socks will a four year old go through in a year? What sizes will my kids be wearing in 14 months?

In the US, I was always aware of Bug’s clothes: what fit, what was getting snug, what was dirty, what was clean. It was easy enough to pick up a couple pairs of shorts from Old Navy or Target when he grew out his old stuff.

Living overseas, without access to decent quality, affordable clothes for my growing boys, means shopping ahead when I’m in the US or in London. But I haven’t really figured out how to do this well.

Bug wears some hand-me-downs, but Giggle wears out many of his shoes and shirts and pants (with help from our heavily chlorinated water) before he outgrows them. So I can’t always count on having the next few sizes up.

Also, Giggle is still growing like a weed. He’s almost too tall for his size six pants (though the waist fits fine–I might be looking to buy Old Navy slim fit next time).

Add in the complexities of what these kids actually like to wear, and it’s tough.

Right now Bug has plenty of t-shirts but only one pair of swim trunks that fit–and the boys usually go through two or more swim trunks in a season. Last summer I made lists, but they weren’t specific enough. Instead of jeans, I need to specify sizes and quantity.

And part of this is figuring out how much I need in what sizes.

So, assuming we can get laundry done pretty regularly, what do you think? How many socks, shoes, pants, t-shirts, and underwear do kids need?


18 January 2009 Posted by | bug, expat scene, giggle, shopping | 4 Comments


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

My new swimsuit

I’m officially old and dowdy. I mean, I was before, but today I have my new skirted navy blue Lands End swimsuit. What could be dowdier than that? And I actually kinda like it (well, the part where it covers my upper thighs, that I like).

I’ve been feeling like a real blah suburban mom this summer. I don’t feel that way so much in Cairo — probably because I’m around other moms or older ladies most of the time — but being in the US, especially with my fit, outdoorsy friends and/or my single, fit friends, has me missing my formerly (more) fit self. I think I used to be more stylish too, at least in an outdoorsy way (this would be back when I worked at an outdoor recreation company, so no shocker there).

I’ll probably feel better about my suit when I get back to the land of American women in skirted suits, in Cairo. And when I have less free time.

29 July 2008 Posted by | our life in egypt, shopping | Comments Off on My new swimsuit

Adventures in shopping

Folks, I found a suit(ish outfit). My wonderful sister also sent me a few jackets and a pair of pants. All fit, and one combo in particular looks good and should work really well for my fall meeting in London.

But, let me share the story of my shopping trip. Last week, before Mr. Four arrived, I didn’t try to do any major shopping for me because my boys just wouldn’t have it. Which I understand. Though I will note they were perfectly happy to shop for themselves. Ahem.

Anyway, on Saturday, with Mr. Four at home to watch our little angels, I dashed off to the mall in the next town over. It’s a huge place, but I was focused: I wanted a suit. Almost first stop: Ann Taylor, which seemed pricey a few years ago when I first went suit shopping, but, with a great summer sale and 50% off many suit pieces, it was a great choice. I found one super jacket and one fantastic pair of pants. But of course they didn’t match each other, and I couldn’t find anything great that matched either one.

So, I went for a coordinating, rather than a matching, suit: a short-sleeved big-buttoned grey-black patterned jacket with a scoop neck (anyone who is seeing suit fashion in the US this summer would undoubtedly recognize this style) and basic fitted black suit pants. The saleswomen at Ann Taylor were at pains to tell me that I could always find a black jacket in the same materials as the pants, as they stock that suiting material year-round.

All was good, except that since Ann Taylor was my first stop, I put the clothes on hold and proceeded to try on just about every other suit in the entire mall. I was surprised to find that J. Crew suits, maybe because they were summer weight, unlined material, felt like much poorer quality. And so did everything else. (And when did this become a shopping blog? Hmm.)

My last stop, before paying for my suit at Ann Taylor, was the Gap, where I quickly found a cute pair of capris, a good-fitting pair of jeans, and a nice top.

So, the moral of my shopping day was this: go to Ann Taylor and the Gap and skip everything else.

I’ve also perhaps solved my shoe dilemma. With some help from some friends, I found online a cute pair of Mary Jane-style heels that are reputed to be as comfy as heels can be. I ordered them (on sale!) and will try on the entire outfit when they arrive. I am prepared to be dazzled! Okay, not really, but I am cautiously optimistic.

I’ve also fully updated other (ahem) undergarment essentials and bought a few nice tops. And almost all with the boys in tow. It’s good we’re heading to the mountains soon because I should probably take a break from my crazy week of shopping.

1 July 2008 Posted by | shopping | Comments Off on Adventures in shopping

No more JFK anxiety

My very smart mother informed me that the boys and I will be arriving into and departing from the very same terminal at JFK. How on earth did she discover this? She looked at my itinerary. Go figure.

Last night I gathered up most of the clothes for the boys for this summer. I know we’ll be buying things there, and I didn’t want to overpack, but I also don’t want to be stuck doing laundry every few days either. I’ve also heard from a few friends and colleagues that it’s easy to spend way too much money in a few short weeks on home leave. Expats often go on summer spending sprees, so expat kids get the sense that the US is all about shopping. While this is true for many Americans, I don’t want my boys to think this. Giggle already loves shopping too much. And me too.

Giggle kid is growing so fast though — last summer he was a perfect 4T, swimming in 5T. Now his 5T pants are almost too short, and I’m thinking I need to buy ahead in size 6 and (gulp) size 7 to get him through the next year. Bug is growing out of some of his 3T things, but at least he has some hand-me-downs from Giggle (which he likes, because he’s seen his brother wearing this stuff, which apparently makes it cooler).

Clothes are going from Giggle to Bug so quickly that I’m the only one in the house who seems to know who fits into what. To his credit, Mr. Four did convince the boys that growing is fun, and so they are much better about letting go emotionally of favorite clothes that no longer fit. Bug likes to talk about how we’ll give their old clothes to other kids who need them (usually the neighborhood bowab’s kids or to our nanny for a refugee friend with a small boy).

The fact that we’re about to box up everything and move makes it easier to purge. For me too. I’ve passed to the housekeeper and her roommate some clothes of mine that just don’t (ahem) fit like they used to.

Today I’m also packing up my office at work, as it’ll be in a different place when I get back in August. So I best get to that.

18 June 2008 Posted by | bug, expat scene, giggle, holidays, shopping | 1 Comment

Clothing advice, please

You all are so fabulous with the advice. Here’s the current situation.

I have three professional events coming up this fall for which I need to dress, well, professionally. The first event is in Seattle in August; the second is in London in October. The third is in Egypt in November.

Do you see the problem already? I’d like one outfit, or some of the same pieces at least, to not be overwhelmingly hot in August (albeit in a coolish place), but also appropriate for London’s cool, rainy fall. And, I’d like also for this new outfit to work well enough that I could wear it to a job interview*, which, in my field, is usually a suit (for me, a black pantsuit). And I don’t really like skirts because I don’t like pantyhose or the shoes you have to wear when you wear pantyhose.

But I don’t want to buy a suit. I have one that, uh, doesn’t quit fit like it used to. I’m not really pretending it’ll fit me again by the fall… it’s just that I hate to spend a lot of money on something I won’t wear that often (I wore the other suit three times).

One solution would be fasting between now and August, in which case the current suit probably would fit, but, well, that’s problematic since I like eating a little too much (hence the original problem).

So, what should I do? Suck it up and go buy a new suit and a nice blouse and skip the jacket in August? If so, what kind of suit should I get? And from where? Ann Taylor is great, but expensive. I will have access to some nice outlets this summer (Ann Taylor and Banana Republic at least), but I don’t know if I can count on their stock.

The other problem is that I’ll probably need some new shoes to work with this outfit. I have some dressy-ish loafers (they’re nicer than they sound), but they don’t fit well. So I’ll want to get shoes dressy enough to be professional but comfortable enough for lots of walking. I’m open to shoe advice too, though shoes are an eternal problem that won’t necessarily be solved this time around.

Please, friends, share your deepest shopping thoughts.

*No job interviews are scheduled or even in the works. I’m just trying to be practical.

8 June 2008 Posted by | shopping | 15 Comments

A trip to the hypermarket

Yes, you read that correctly. The local superstore is called a hypermarket. And, really, could you think of a better name? It perfectly conveys the sense of urgency and anxiety and stress such stores engender.

So yesterday, I called up the trusty taxi driver and asked him to take me to the new mall that also holds the hypermarket (and that’s indeed where he took me, not to his friend the perfumer). I wanted to get some kitchen stuff plus a lunch box for Bug and it’s been quite a challenge to find this stuff closer to home. I know it’s here, somewhere, but where?

At the hypermarket, I went first to the back-to-school section. How did I know it was the back-to-school section? There were banners all over with white kids and English writing that said, “Back to School!”

The place was riddled with backpacks and pencils and crayons and pen holders and paper and other school supplies. And it seemed every backpack featured either Barbie or Spiderman. There was also the obligatory local version, with a pale girl wearing a head scarf. I suspect that the Egyptian princess may be more popular with the parents than with their daughters. It’s sad that she’s so fair. Not that every Egyptian is dark, not at all. But most are not what we’d think of as fair-complexioned. (But most of the men do not have beards, which is what someone asked, so perhaps you were wondering, too.)

I finally found the lunch boxes, which were plastic cases featuring, yes, Barbie or Spiderman. There was not one single plain box there. Honestly, it was worse than in the US. Folks, this is cultural imperialism at its worst. No wonder the whole world hates Americans but wears American crap–sometimes it’s the only stuff you can find!

Some things here are so cheap, while others are ridiculously expensive. I needed some skirt hangers, the kind with clips, but it was going to cost something like $8 for two. So clever me, I bought regular plastic hangers and some clothespins. I’m know I’m not the first person to figure this out, but I sure felt like a genius!

I gathered my things and spent my money while navigating the shopping cart with four rotating wheels, which makes it feel like it’s on ice. I then went to the very expensive children’s store and paid something like $9 for a plastic Pooh lunchbox, officially licensed and all that. I’m not sure why Pooh offends me less, but there you go. And Bug is thrilled with his lunchbox (if he even knows it will hold his lunch–that much is unclear).

You can find just about everything here. We bought and shipped tons of stuff that now seems unnecessary–lots of toiletries, for example–because it’s available locally, if priced a bit higher. Though I’m glad we sent diapers. Local diapers aren’t so great, and the American brands are priced very high. I haven’t yet located a file cabinet or manilla file folders. Hanging file folders, yes, but without a file cabinet, they’re not much good, are they? I finally (because this was starting to feel epic) chose some plastic file folders and a small plastic file box, which are fine, but how do people here organize their papers?

These exciting mysteries and more perhaps I’ll solve over the next few months. Or maybe tomorrow: I’m going on an employer-sponsored shopping trip around town. I can’t wait.

24 August 2007 Posted by | our life in egypt, shopping | 5 Comments