Saturday, July 31, 2010

I love breastfeeding in real-life too!

You all know how I love breastfeeding in theory. I was crazy about the idea of breastfeeding prior to my actually having a baby. I craved it even. I loved spouting out my knowledge of breastfeeding: the health benefits, the emotional benefits, the environmental benefits. I boycotted Nestle for a good three years in high school and college. Tim wrote a song about breastfeeding for me (I can't remember all the words exactly, but I know it goes something like: "she thinks formula is evil/wouldn't feed it to a dog/if you want to see her breastfeed/you can see it on her blog...")

And before I had a baby, I had a slightly inescapable fear of breastfeeding failure. I was so nervous that something would not work. But on the other hand I actually had complete and utter faith in my abilities as a woman to produce milk and the faith extended to my baby's ability to latch on. In the hospital, a number of woman tried to coach me since Amir was in the NICU and could not eat for the first 24 hours; I shooed them away (because actually, they were just getting in the way) and latched him right on and he was awesome. Tim took ample video and pictures (hundreds) of our blossoming breastfeeding relationship. We have some great pictures of the very first time, my little ball of flesh and bones all nestled up close to my chest. It was the moment I had anticipated and imagined for years. And it was as momentous as expected.

And to be honest, I've loved 99% of the moments. There has been biting, there's been mastitis (many, many times) and sore nipples and clogged ducts and nights where I'm exhausted and cannot bear the thought of waking up every two hours to feed my ten-month-old when we could have just stopped months ago and it would have been fine. But I'm so glad we didn't, I know that he loves it just as much as I do and that idea makes me love it all the more.

Now, as Amir is creeping up on his first birthday, we're still on a 8-12 times a day nursing schedule. I would say almost all of his nutrition is still from breast milk, he has the occasional meal or snack, but not regularly and not nearly enough to stem his appetite for milk. I know that right now it's still the healthiest (and most environmentally-friendly!) way to nourish him, and quite frankly, it's the easiest for me as well. It's not always convenient in public, but somehow we've made it work.

I was prompted to write this post when my friend Bridget asked me at Church if I was still nursing Amir. For some reason, I had not even considered the idea I would NOT still be nursing him. But then I realized our breastfeeding relationship at this stage is a rare one for women and babies in our country (the U.S.) and our culture. The other mom sitting by had recently weaned her baby who is a few months younger than Amir and was praising the child-rearing gods for no longer having to nurse. I hesitated and remained silent on the matter, but inside I was comparing her attitude to my own. I do not want to wean my baby, not now and not really ever (though I realize I must, and we've set a flexible timeline of two years old). For me, breastfeeding is the most convenient and most fulfilling part of my mothering duties. I love being out and not having to worry about bottle/formula/clean water/baby food but instead just whipping up my shirt and guiding the ravenous little mouth. I've become so comfortable nursing in public discreetly that the other day I fed the kid and then realized I was sitting on a couch with two male BYU students with two others across from us and didn't even really think about it being awkward until after the fact (sorry if you were there, sorry if I offended you, but not really sorry because I was very discreet and my baby was hungry).

So, I think this is were I'm supposed to draw broad conclusions or pass judgments. I love breastfeeding, we're still going strong and probably will be for a while. But mostly I wrote this for Bridget because I wasn't open about my passion for breastfeeding and I wanted to clarify my position.

Farewell, dear Cairo...

... we shall not miss you. Too much.

Here we are. 4:07 pm. Saturday afternoon. Our LAST day in Cairo.

It's a moment that has come both incredibly slow but also fast at the same time. All in all, I'm glad we came here. In the midst of the summer, I might not have said that. It was hot. And it was loud. And it was lonely and isolating and I was so sick to death of taxis following me down the street trying to get me to ride with them. There were the mosquito bites and the ant bites and the mystery bug bites. There was the occasional case of Pharaoh's Revenge (but considering what we ate and drank, we were very, very fortunate).

We kind of decided to say goodbye to our Egyptian friends in an indirect manner - that is, not saying goodbye. This seems kind of rude, maybe. But Egyptians are very clingy and VERY generous and if we go and see all of them it would take hours, and only after much forced feeding would be allowed to leave. We might stop by and see Hamdi later, but mostly because Tim wants to buy a Koran near his kiosk.

So, there you have it: we are leaving Cairo, though not returning home just yet. First, we must climb Mt. Sinai, snorkel in the Red Sea, swim in the Dead Sea, tour the Old City in Jerusalem, enter the occupied territories, explore Petra, and see Amman (there will be many blog posts to follow, as long as our computer holds out and we get free WiFi in our hotel room).

GoodBYYYYYEEE Cairo. HelllLLLLOOOO adventure!

The future

I'm finally starting to think about the future. I'm sure Cait would have liked me to join her a little more in contemplating what the next step is after I graduate, but I have been letting her do most of the investigation and the planning. One of the reasons is that she simply seems to enjoy it more, especially now that she is done with school, and also because whatever she decides to do to further her education will come after I graduate. But the main reason is Arabic. It's been like a horrible disease, spreading slowly until it takes over my whole life. It actually hasn't been that bad.

Looking back now that I've reached a peak in Arabic (hopefully not the last, but the last for a while), I'm gratified to see how far I've come. Middle Eastern Studies and Arabic has given me all I expected from my college experience. I've been exposed to a wide variety of subjects, such as history, politics, religion and the humanities. One of my classmates called this degree a liberal arts degree, and at first I disagreed with him, but after thinking about it for a while, I tend to agree. And I'm fine with that. I have a strong enough base in a tangible skill, Arabic, that I could go on with it and be fairly successful. In that sense, this degree has opened a lot of doors for me, because it is a difficult skill in high demand, even if I would need more work to get up to the level most employers would want. But I'm not even worried about that. I studied something that was extremely intellectually taxing yet rewarding and then came here and used it in very practical ways to have meaningful experiences. I've grown intellectually and spiritually and emotionally as I have struggled daily with a subject that has never come easy to me. I've been saying lately when people ask me why I study Arabic that I'm studying Arabic to learn Arabic. I'm getting an education. What comes after that will come.

But now it is time to transition. I'm going to spend some time finishing up my education and bulking up my resume, and then Cait will have her turn and then I'll look at more school. Right now, though, I'm just enjoying the view from this peak.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


I have been thinking about this painting by Radoslav Zilinsky’s 2007 named "The World." Click on it to appreciate.

Three questions:
Are the middle age villagers there by choice or is it simply a result of the growing disparity between rich and poor?
If they are there by choice, which side would you choose? Be honest.
Is the water clean coming out from the cliffs? Seems weird, but it decides, at least in my mind if this is a true Utopia or not.

Let us know.

Or: how I came to wear Tim's underwear

Our apartment building doesn't have balconies like a lot of Cairo apartments, just a laundry line outside our kitchen windows. This summer I've enjoyed feeling old-school domestic hanging out my freshly-laundered clothing.

But, inevitably, your hands slip with clothespin and article of clothing in hand. Tim has the butter fingers in this family, and was known on more than one occasion to drop things. Mostly, my things. Mostly my.... personal things. Like my sports bra. And my geez.

But fortunately (or unfortunately), we have a neighbor below us with a laundry line that is so generous as to catch our dropped items. But considering the dropped items, it made for an awkward visit. Because, honestly, our neighbor was a lone, elderly Muslim man with a walker. And I'm pretty sure knocking on the door and asking for my unmentionables is haram.

Then one night, Tim dropped my swimsuit bottoms. My teeny little panty-mimicking swimsuit bottoms. We did not want to wake Mr. Elderly-Lives-Below-Neighbor so we waited until the next day to knock and ask for them back. We knocked, and we asked, and Mr. Elderly-Lives-Below-Neighbor confessed he had no idea where they went. We searched the ground below and they were nowhere to be found. Which means a) Mr. Elderly-Lives-Below-Neighbor has a fetish, or b) his maid stole them to wear for her husband (because no Egyptian women swim, especially in teeny swimsuit bottoms).

And since I did not want to spend the money to buy a new swimsuit in Egypt (do they even sell them??), I have settled for wearing Tim's tighty-whities underneath my board shorts. It feels slightly mischievous and more than a little odd.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Confession and justification

Hi, um, my name is Caitlin. And... I... watch R-rated movies! {collective gasp}

Ok. Got that one out.

In all seriousness, I do. In fact, most of my favorite movies are of that rating. Now, for those that are not LDS, you may be thinking "and....?" Our Church has this THING. This thing where once upon a time we were not supposed to watch R-rated movies. And it's kind of stuck. Kind of like the tea thing*. So, now it's ghastly to even think of watching an R-rated movie. But I do it. And I do not feel guilty about it.

Yesterday some of the students on the program watched Date Night together. Among some of this group of students were a few who have expressed adamantly they do NOT watch R-rated movies (when Sarah and I suggested a few at the last movie gathering). I must say, I was also excited to see this movie: I love the two main actors, and I thought it would be hilarious. For one, it was so. dumb. I hated the comedy in it, I thought Steve and Tina were at their worst (ok, maybe Baby Mama was Tina Fey's worst). And besides the movie dropping my IQ down a few points, I thought it was so crude. I won't go into too much detail, and I must say I did not watch the whole movie, but I heard the f-word once, I heard sex talk in just about every scene (and I do not actually mind sex in a movie, it just depends on the portrayal of it), and there was talk of swinging and anal and all sorts of just nasty stuff. In my opinion, a much worse PG-13 rated movie compared to some of the movies I know and love that are rated R.

Why, as members of the Church, are we so dogmatic about this rule? For one, do we really want an organization with obvious biases and vested interests to decide our morals? Personally, I use ratings now as a road map, but mostly I use my gut to decide on if I will continue watching a movie I have started (this is convenient since we never actually GO to movies... it'd be a more difficult decision at a movie theater). For the most part, I will not watch an R-rated comedy. And now I'm thinking about cutting out ones rated PG-13 too. I just do not feel uplifted by that garbage. I felt like sitting there was a complete waste of my time. I watch movies to feel inspired, to learn something, to embrace an artistic experience.

My second rule for myself is not to cut out all movies with sex, nudity, violence, etc. but just to take a step back and think about how those things are portrayed. Movies that treat sex as beautiful and artistic do not phase me (The Reader comes to mind, the most stirring movie I've seen in a long time, which has a lot of nudity and sex but I thought was absolutely stunningly portrayed**). But, for example, I refuse to watch any more James Bond movies which treats it as quick and dirty and casual. Violence is another thing I abhor in movies; and it is pretty much in everything, so I've started to really think more about how we feel about violence, murder, and death. I think even in children's movies we treat death too casually; I was cringing during Up when the bad guy fell to his death from the cliff. Everyone else laughed and cheered-- but isn't he a person too, even if he is sort of crazy? I think the same thing goes in most action movies... the protagonists and the bad guys kill innocent bystanders, smash cars, wreak general havoc and we cheer them on?? And that's OK? We do not even bat an eye. But, on the other hand, violent movies that are not ridiculously violent just for the sake of it (war movies, historical dramas, etc.) do not bother me AS much.

So, what do you think? I would definitely watch a movie like Amelie (rated R) to a movie like Date Night (PG-13). But some members of the Church are so dogmatic they would look at me as committing a grievous sin by watching something that is rated R. And this is yet another reason (among many I will someday blog about) why my Church culture drives me nuts, but unfortunately I love the doctrine so I keep going.

* I also drink green tea and do not feel the least bit guilty.
** If you overlook the age difference, that is.

Finishing up

We're going through an interesting time now as classes finish up and we have free time again. What we'd really like is to be going home in 4 days, but instead, we are going on the trips that sounded like so much fun 5 months ago. We are pretty sure that once we are actually on the trips, we will start enjoying them, but now they just seem like unnecessary business after a long and tedious summer. We've had a good time in Egypt but we've about had our fill of touring and bus riding. It would probably do us good to keep busy in these last few days to get us to the next stage, but I'm feeling pretty lazy and in need of a break. I have a couple more tests, but they shouldn't take too much time, so I'll try to get my energy up to go out and see some more stuff to fill time, if only it wasn't so hot. If any of our friends want to come visit us in Egypt this would be a great time.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Simplyifying our life: Step 1

Cait and I have both been focusing on simplifying our lives inspired by this site which we came to in a roundabout way from our friend Maren's site. Inspired by a post at zen habits about wet shaving, I decided to give it a try. (Sorry for anyone offended by chest hair or skinny men)

What wet shaving means is going back to a brush and a razor. I'm not bold enough to do a straight edge, so I use what is called a double edge, which consists of two bendy double-edged razor blades bent into a metal apparatus that bends the blades so that they are at an angle to my face.

So far it has turned out really nice. My shave is really smooth. I have a LOT less irritation. Other benefits include:
1. Cheaper: Especially buying all my stuff in Egypt, I spent 15 pounds, or 3 dollars for everything, including ten extra blades. I might stock up on blades here, but I'll have to buy cream in the states and maybe a good brush, because the one I got here isn't very nice. No matter what, it will be cheaper than those rip-off Mach 3 blades.
2. Environmentally friendly: Metal and cream that doesn't come from a spray can are the only by-products.
3. Cooler: I feel like I have more indie shaving cred using an actual razor.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Oh, Pie!

I have finished with my final class here in Egypt and it didn't come a moment too soon. Actually it has gone by really fast and time seems to just be speeding up.

I also just finished with my big general test, the OPI (Oral Proficiency Interview). It is like the ACT or SAT of Arabic, in that any job that has a need of an Arabic speaker will look to this test to get an objective measure of my Arabic skill. Unfortunately, but not devastatingly, it did not go so well. I was signed up to go on the 4th or 5th day, but someone who had signed up for the first day got "cold feet" as our instructor Dil stated in an email and so I changed places with him.

I came into the interview with a distinct plan of how I would handle the OPI, based, I thought, on the advice from our instructors concerning the OPI throughout the semester. Unfortunately, this plan "turns out to be a terrible idea" according to another e-mail sent from Dil, who used my OPI as a particular example of what not to do in order to score well. I was upset for a while, but I made my peace quickly. I did poorly on our practice OPI, for different reasons (mainly being really nervous for having to it in front of Dil) and was pretty upset then, but I made my peace then, which made it easier now.

I've been working really hard on focusing on the positives of this trip, of which there are many: including, firstly, that we've made it through with very few major problems. Amir has been great and we've spent a lot of great time together as a family, but more centrally to the purpose of the trip, I've also really improved my Arabic. I have put a lot of time into it, and if I stop comparing myself to others, I'll see that I am a lot better now than when I started, and that's what it's all about.

Our creepy stalker

Ok, so maybe he's actually not creepy. Or really a stalker. But it feels like that. We have a friend, we call him Said for privacy... and by friend, I mean there is this guy who knocked on our door one day looking for a doctor. And by knocked I mean rang the doorbell multiple times.

He was looking for a doctor, then thought it'd be cool to be our friend. He came back... and came back... and came back. Every night, at approximately 10 or 11, he rings the doorbell, over and over and over again. Waking us up, forcing us to get out of bed to answer because he just. won't. go. away.

Finally, I had my last straw when I went to get the door one night when Tim was rocking a screaming baby. He came up closer to me and asked me my name all flirty-like and then blew me kisses when I told him my name was Fatma. Could he not HEAR my SCREAMING child in the background?! Sorry, buddy, NOT interested.

After this little incident, Tim and I felt like something was weird with this situation. He was coming by repeatedly, asking for our roommate Alex, who actually was never home (he is always out late), and it seemed like the one time Alex was home he just asked to do work on our apartment and Alex told him no thanks. You would think after that he would have left us alone... but no. I was worried he was trying to get me alone and then attack me. Probably not, but I watch too much Law and Order: SVU.

So finally, two nights ago (the night after the air-kissing incident) Tim told him firmly that we are busy and don't want to be his friend. And last night, voila! He didn't come by! Hopefully we've gotten rid of him for good. Tim also used his impressive Arabic skills to tape a note over the doorbell telling people not to use it because there are sleeping babies in the house. Because, forreal, Egyptian-man-who-is-lost-and-needs-to-find-the-apartment-of-a-friend.... do you REALLY need to ring my doorbell 18 more times after I haven't answered it after the first 12??

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Food budgeting

Now that we've lived in Egypt where all the food we have eaten is super cheap, it's going to take some adjustment going back to the States. I would say in Provo we probably spent about $200 a month on food, but here it's been about $50. And considering our money will be tight when we return, I really want to try to cut out convenience foods, and get our food expenses even lower than before we left without sacrificing health. I also want to see just how cheaply we could live if we had to; I don't want to live like we plan to have actual salaries in the future, just in case we both want to be stay-at-home parents in the future (I'll blog about our new Zen ideals later). I have lofty plans to buy oats in bulk and make granola; make homemade yogurt in the crockpot; join Bountiful Baskets; cook with staples like lentils, dried beans, rice, and pasta; give up canned goods completely and stick with cheaper dried stuff; stick with homemade desserts from real ingredients (flour, butter, sugar type stuff); make homemade bread for sandwiches and to eat with meals. Since we've been here and convenience stuff is pricey or unavailable, I've realized just how much you can make at home for so much cheaper - salad dressing and maple syrup to name a few things.

On the other hand, Tim and I have both lost a considerable amount of weight here. The food just isn't as good to us so we eat less; plus most of what we consume (fresh vegetables and fruits, lentils, rice) are healthy but not high-calorie, and with me breastfeeding and Tim just being Tim our bodies are slowly wasting away. It's not so much of a big deal for me (I feel great at this weight, it's less than I was when I graduated high school) but Tim is getting scarily thin. He acknowledges that he also isn't working out nearly as much as usual, which makes him lose weight. So, even though I could eat the above mentioned food all the livelong day and feel great and healthy, I feel like Tim will need to eat differently in order to get his weight up, especially since he will probably start running seriously again. So, I imagine we will need to be spending a lot on high-calorie, high-fat foods like cheese and nut butters in order for him to get enough calories and fat. And maybe he'll throw in some Ramen for good measure (that is Tim's weight-gaining regime usually... a thing of Ramen between meals... I'm not sure how I feel about Amir growing up thinking Ramen is an OK snack...)

Monday, July 19, 2010

These are a few of his favorite thiiiiiiings

Giant chessboards:



The little niche that he's created between our bed and suitcases:

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Egypt things

Thirteen days and counting...

1. There are these little rat-ferrets that rummage around the garbage. The first time I saw one in the market I freaked out! Now, one runs past me in the street and I'm all like "Amir! Look at the cute little animal! See it running!?" And speaking of animals, walking anywhere around here is kind of like a petting zoo of sorts: you have horse- and donkey-drawn carts, goat herds, stray cats and dogs (and puppies and kittens!), and little weasel-rat-ferrets.

2. We love prickly pears. They are the fruit of a cactus, and a man on a cart will peel it for you and hand you the juicy, seedy fruit inside. And it costs a third of a pound. It's Amir's new favorite thing to eat.

3. Speaking of food, last month we had cooking classes with a Church friend's housekeeper Fatma. And oh my gossssshhhhh, she is amazing. The first time we made koshary, a street food that is everywhere around these parts but tastes so much better homemade. The second lesson we cooked casserole-type dishes, a delicious macaroni with bechamel sauce, a vegetable dish with a crumbled parmesan cheese-butter mixture on top, and an eggplant-tomato mesaka dish. And in all seriousness, perhaps some of the best food I've ever had. Finally, the last week we had a dessert class (we also made mashi, stuffed vegetables). For dessert we made konafa, a shredded-wheat, ridiculously sweet pastry, a creamy pudding called mahalabaya, and homemade baklava. Heaven. Absolute heaven. I LOVE traditional Egyptian food.

4. Egyptian men love to get into these intense "fake" kind of fights with each other over everything. For the final World Cup game, Tim and I were sitting in the clubhouse waiting for it to start when a man walked in creating a huge fuss and yelling at another man sitting on the couch next to us. They were getting so angry and yelling and people started rushing in to break it up, and at one point they started hitting each other a little. They apparently were fighting over the seat, the man who came in had been there before had been sitting there and left for a second and the man sitting next to us stole his seat when he left. For about five minutes they fought, then sat down next to each other and started laughing and joking together like they were best friends. This also happens on the street when someone feels cheated by a street vendor. They will scream at each other in very mean voices, but in reality they are just kidding around. It's weird.

5. Amir successfully sat in a car seat (and fell asleep for the last half of the trip). I was getting worried that he would protest when we got home because he hasn't sat in one all summer. But yesterday I went to my friend Shirlee's house to watch her two adorable children for a few hours, and Amir rode in her son's car seat on the way out there. He loved it and fell asleep for the last twenty minutes and slept soundly until we were at their house.

6. I will actually not miss the incessant parenting advice. I may miss the crowds of Egyptian men, women, and children who continually surround us and kiss Amir over and over again. It's kind of endearing. But the constant: "put a hat on his head"/"he's suffocating in there (the wrap)"/"do not let him play there" is getting very, very old. I will also not miss the arbitrary rules. I was almost kicked out of the club today for refusing to move because I apparently was not allowed to SIT by the swimming pool, even though we weren't swimming.

Dessert monasteries

Last Saturday we were supposed to see some "dessert monasteries". Preparing ourselves for creme brule with the monks, we were sorely disappointed when it actually was a group of three DESERT monasteries. Regardless, we enjoyed the day of walking through medieval Coptic monasteries and hanging out with Coptic pilgrims.

"If I see another relic... I might just fall asleep"

... and then he did.

We met this family at one of the monasteries who insisted we come to Alexandria and visit them in our last week here, we told them insha'allah, which will essentially get you out of any engagement. The father wanted us to look up his brother in New York. We repeatedly told him New York was not anywhere near where we lived, but that we would try after he insisted. I don't think we'll be finding Saber anytime soon though, as the phone number he gave us was (no lie): 12345678.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

I love my kids; I hate my life

Interesting little spiel from the Today show.

I definitely don't feel this way. I, in fact, love my life more than I've ever loved life. Motherhood, as I've mentioned before, is an incredible challenge for me, more so than I thought possible. But at the same time I feel more fulfilled and more complete than ever before too. I do understand the pressures that society is placing on moms today (placed on them mostly by other moms): to have their babies milestoning before all the other babies; the crazy sleeping-through-the-night phenomenon; babies needing the latest and hottest and more fashionable crib/carseat/swing/bouncer/stroller/bassinet/packnplay/highchair/etc.etc.

I'm totally guilty of both comparing Amir to other babies and myself to other mothers (and obsessing over sleeping-through-the-night but I actually am totally fine with him waking up to nurse and I rarely feel that tired so why even THINK about it!?), but after watching this and coming to the realization I myself am not perfect and neither is my child but we are both doing the best we can, I've made a firm resolution to get over it.

Science Sold Out: Does HIV Really Cause AIDS?

This book by Rebecca Culshaw is blowing my mind right now.

Her basic premise is the HIV/AIDS connection (a firm causation, in society's minds) is actually bad science and practically a hoax. She presents strong evidence (both sociological/historical and microbiological) that the whole process of essentially figuring out why homosexual men were dying of an unexplained immunological disorder was botched. The scientific community that studies HIV and AIDS jumped to hasty conclusions, held press conferences where they declared without a doubt that HIV caused AIDS even though in the actual peer-reviewed study the retrovirus was only present in less than half of the AIDS cases, and continues to build upon research claims that have since been debunked. We've throw billions of dollars into drugs (AZT, Nevirapine) that perhaps are doing much more harm than good. What kills me the most is that the CDC recommends ALL individuals between 13 and 65 be routinely tested for HIV, regardless of risk factors, but the testing process they use was not even intended for humans, but rather for blood samples. Moreover, the test will yield a false positive 1 in 100 times (the test looks for antibodies to the virus, so if you were ever exposed to the virus and developed antibodies they will show up, even if you don't actually have the virus in your bloodstream), more so if the person is athletic or pregnant. I was routinely tested when I was pregnant in DC even after I did not want to be. I did not even realize how it could have been a false positive, and then I would have been started on toxic drugs for me and baby. Also, in some states it is illegal to breastfeed if you are HIV-positive, you can be denied health and life insurance, you can lose your job. And the test could have been wrong!

Another convincing argument she makes is that the medical community actually created a new syndrome to account for the AIDS cases they were seeing that were not linked to HIV. In other words, you can get something that exactly mimics AIDS but is not considered AIDS because of the absence of the HIV antibodies in your blood. Or, you could test HIV-positive and never develop AIDS (with or without taking ARVs). So, how can the scientific community be firm in their belief that HIV definitely causes AIDS?

After working at an AIDS Clinic in South Africa and doing loads of research on mother-to-child transmission, I am floored by this argument. I want to do more research and read up on different sources she references, but I highly recommend this to everyone out there. It provides a decent argument, if you can semi-understand the technical jargon she uses.

One of the first things Tim and I remarked about was that one of the only good things President Bush did was provide billions for AIDS relief in the world, through the PEPFAR program. But maybe he was actually going along with drug companies that have based their toxic treatments on bad science and are actually killing more people than they are helping. So maybe President Bush really did do nothing of value in office.

Thursday, July 15, 2010



I just typed that in Arabic.

It says McDonald's.

Did I mention I had a conversation yesterday in Arabic?

Because I did.

We talked about what I liked about Egypt, our families, when Amir goes to bed, where I'm from, and that I've read the Quran. I also directed him in Arabic to my apartment (don't worry, it wasn't a random person, it was my friend's driver).

For studying for a few months (and not very intensely), I'm pretty impressed with my Arabic skills. I know the whole alphabet and can read anything (and can understand it if it's an English word). My vocabulary is limited (about 20 words), but I can conjugate verbs. I love speaking it when we're out, and everyone always exclaims: "Araby kwyass owy" (your Arabic is very good). I love it.

My brother-in-law is Neil Patrick Harris

Except Devin is not famous or homosexual. I think.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

My tumultuous friendship with benefits

Dear United States of America,

It's been a crazy 22 years. I know our relationship has been on and off lately, but we've had a lot of good times together. I thought I would just write you a little note on your birthday, but I'm afraid it might be a little bit too honest to be considered a good birthday note.

First, the things I like about you

1) You are pretty. You are full of deserts and swamps and huge mountains and lovely beaches and all sorts of national parks that are the best that I've seen in the world (although I haven't seen many).
2) You have such an interesting personality. You are made up of so many different people and backgrounds. You have a fascinating history.
3) You've done a lot of good. You have given a lot of money to people in need all over the world. You even beat the Nazis.

Then the things I don't like

1) You're kind of arrogant. Most countries are, but with so much going for you, I think you could do without an overblown ego. Admit your faults.
2) Along with that, you think you do everything right. You could look around and try to learn from other places.
3) You worship the past. The founding fathers were good guys, but they weren't demigods. They did not make a stand against slavery, they didn't protect the natives. They were just hard working guys trying something new with a government who did a good job.

This is just a brief overview. I know writing a like/ don't like letter is lame, especially since it is so late. But your pretty busy and wont read it anyway. Just know that I think your great. I just think you have a lot of potential to be even better.



Sunday, July 11, 2010

Pregnant again

Nope, I'm not.

The test verified my IUD is still being an effective little baby-prevention machine.

The past few weeks I've been almost convinced it had failed me. I thought I was the 1 in 1,000 they warn you about on the labels.

I've been experiencing classic pregnancy symptoms, you know the nausea, the extreme fatigue, irritable and moody like no other, the feeling that something is not going right with your body. I brushed it off as Egypt-sickness for over a week, then a few days ago I started peeing way more frequently and I was almost certain I had to be pregnant. Tim and I had a long talk last night about bringing another baby into the world, just in case my pregnancy-feeling instincts were spot on, and all of a sudden I began getting used to the idea of having two kids (after my emotional breakdown a few nights before where I packed a suitcase, grabbed my passport, and almost had Tim convinced I was trotting off to a European coastal town to live out my fantasy of living in a hut and fishing for my livelihood**).

Since we had ourselves all convinced, I decided the logical next step would be the oh-so-sacred pregnancy test. I picked up one for a dollar and a half from our local pharmacy (one day I'll blog about pharmacies here, they are great) and took it this morning. If I was indeed pregnant, I didn't want to waste too much time waiting around since I would need the IUD out. And getting the IUD out was worrying me too since there is a high risk of miscarriage and I wasn't confident in Egyptian OB/GYNs.

For some reason I still can't figure out, I was sure the test would be positive. But alas, negativo. The odds were right.

And you know what? Today I feel completely normal again after two weeks of bleh. Was it some weird psychological need to have another baby? Because HELLLLLOOOOO, I can barely take care of the one. Am I insane? Do I honestly want to be pregnant again? Not really. Nor do I really want another baby for a while. We like the idea of spacing out our kids quite a bit (and I read it's better for a woman's body to have at least three years to recover, though I feel I recovered in a week after the last birth). Tim actually has expressed his desire to just stop with the one. Not push our luck.

So why are we thinking baby thoughts?

** Tim, per the usual, looked at me like I was crazy and calmly played with Amir until I returned ten minutes later.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Busy Fridays

Between Church, lunch invitations, and game night, it usually makes for a 12-hour day. I really like our branch here, even with all the ex-pats gone. It's fun to be in a semi-single's ward again, with a few married couples smattered here and there. There aren't as many fun ward activities like in a single's ward, but we like it nonetheless. Since all of the regular branch members are gone, there are a lot of callings that don't get filled during the church day. I laughed when at the end of the meeting, the bishop rushed down from the pulpit and did a quick count of the people in attendance since there was no clerk to do it. I didn't laugh at this (because who could laugh at poor 3rd counselor Chelsi?) but it was pretty odd when she stood up after the opening hymn and asked if anyone had prepared the lesson for that day (she did a great job of winging it, though).

Lunch invitations, how we love thee. I don't think we've cooked a Sabbath day dinner/lunch all summer. Between Hamdi's family and their delicious Egyptian food, random branch members, our home teachers, and the humanitarian missionary couple, we've been set on dinners for quite a while. It's so nice to leave Church to go straight to a meal, rather than having to prepare it yourself. So far, we've been fed everything from barbecue pork sandwiches to mashi. There has been Breyer's ice cream and cantaloupe smoothies and baladi bread and salads with ranch dressing. Mmmmmm.

Game nights are probably one of our favorite types of nights. We go around 6, Amir goes to sleep in the back bedroom around 7 or 8, and we play Bang! and Crazy Six and Sorry! until Jason and Sarah kick us out. Sarah makes brownies, Chelsi makes popcorn. The combination makes for a delightful evening.

The best part about Friday: Saturday is the next day. And when we have nothing to do... Saturdays are the greatest days. There is swimming at the pool and long afternoon naps and fruit smoothies.

The worst part about Saturdays: the next day is Sunday. And that means back to Arabic. And Arabic is running** our lives right now.

** I almost put "ruining", which might also be true.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Planning ahead

I've found here that I'm constantly planning ahead (I'm a planner anyways, but not so much as I've been here). A lot of it comes from Tim's realizations and sudden revelations as to what he wants to do in the future. Part of it is my need for mental stimulation. We're thinking and re-thinking future plans, which leads us usually back to square one: we have NO idea what the future holds as far as future schooling, future careers, future hometown, future number of children, anything. So far in the last week, Tim has gone back and forth between graduating in April and extending his BYU experience to the next year in order to raise his GPA and get a little more competitive for grad school, possibly double-majoring in something he can actually excel at easily (English, Comparative Lit, for example). Tim has talked about grad school, PhDs, MPAs, law school, foreign service, being a small-town librarian.

As for my future path, there are plans in the works at the moment. We'll see how they pan out...

Of course all plans contingent on factors that limit our choices, including if BYU will let Tim double-major this late... what schools accept us where... what opportunities arise in the meanwhile... if our IUD truly will prevent pregnancy (aka I'm not going to school full-time with a baby). Until all these factors work themselves out, I will continue to research, re-research, and plan, plan, plan. Luck favors the prepared, after all.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

10 Months

Atticus is 10 months. And he's turning into an absolutely nuts-o baby. He has the funniest and weirdest little quirks. He loves being out and about, is starting to love the attention he gets from all the Egyptian men, loves swimming still but doesn't really like his baby float, and loves being with his dad.

He talks a lot nowadays, mainly "dadada" whenever Tim comes in the room, or whenever he leaves for that matter. In the mornings when he wakes up, he crawls to the edge of the bed and calls out "dadadadada" until Tim comes to get him. He loves to read books, it almost always calms him down when he is upset or overly tired. We've started giving him nightly "baths" in our... basin... he has some toys that we threw in there and he's in heaven.

He is more mobile than ever and can get into everything as soon as I turn around. The other day I walked in to the room and he had crawled to the end of the bed, hopped off, and proceeded to crawl into the bottom shelf of our wardrobe after he pulled everything out. I was in awe.

He doesn't seem to me to be getting any bigger, though I feel my back is starting to hurt more when I carry him all day in a wrap. I weighed him a few weeks back on a friend's scale and he topped out at a whopping 18 pounds. He loves eating still, though the past few days he's been doing this chew it up and spit it out thing and hasn't eaten much of anything. He loves fresh mango juice and grapes recently.

He occasionally watches Dora the Explorer and the Wonderpets (in Arabic of course) in the mornings while Tim is studying and I'm cleaning up or making breakfast (or sleeping sometimes). Every time we go over to play games or hang out at Jason and Sarah's, we put in The Incredibles in Arabic and he's totally enthralled for at least half an hour. I feel slightly guilty to let him watch TV, but it's not very often or very much and he is so crazy I can't get anything done when he's awake.

Speaking of being awake, we're down to one nap a day, for about an hour and a half. I'm dying. But I still like him and don't plan on giving him to our landlord (who asks every time he comes over).

Saturday, July 3, 2010

As a shepherd putteth on his garment

I have found my trip here in Egypt to be strenuous, although as I've said before, not overly so. I have found that I have really had to rely on the Spirit to get me through. I have felt, for whatever reason, a drive to take scriptural references to Egypt and apply them to my trip.

At first two different possibilities for defining my trip: the children of Israel enduring captivity in Egypt before being delivered to the promised land and Christ and his earthly parents fleeing into Egypt to escape the persecution of the Romans. The first in my mind represented Egypt as something to be survived and the second as a "realworld" location to escape the bubble of Provo. I've seen both of these attitudes by others in the program, but neither of them really fit what I wanted out of this trip.

Then I found this scripture in Jeremiah 43:12: "...and he shall array himself with the land of Egypt, as a shepherd putteth on his garment; and he shall go from thence in peace."

That's what I want. I don't want to lose myself, but I want to immerse myself enough that I can put on Egypt as a garment. I want to take what I learn here and make myself a better, more complete person. And most of all, I want to go from here in peace.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

If you tell one lie...

it leads to another.

Then you tell two lies... you're really in trouble.

You should ask my sister Lauren to sing that for you one day. It's incredibly adorable.

Lying to a spouse is the topic of this blog post. There's been a situation on hand, with accompanying discussion around these parts lately. FYI, it does not involve us. We are brutally honest with each other actually.

And for us, lying to a spouse is potentially worse than what you're actually lying about. Trust is fundamental to a healthy relationship. It must be maintained. Lying in order to keep the spouse happy or unworried or thinking you are better than you are, even then, not healthy.

But the real discussion around here involves intervening when you know someone else is lying to their spouse. Would you tattle on someone?

According to us, yes. I would want to know if Tim was lying to me. So, naturally, I assume that a person feels the same. But, according to quite a few of our real-live friends, it's absolutely inappropriate to intervene in marital issues. We turn to our blog friends for their opinions:

Would you want to know if your spouse was lying to you? Would you want to hear it from a third party? And would you intervene and tell someone their spouse was lying? Or is it all none of our business?

Motherhood: An Eternal Partnership with God

Lately I've been feeling kind of blah with stay-at-home mommyhood. I love my baby, but I'm not sure I like being a mom. And it's frustrating, because I thought I would love it. It is so much harder than I ever expected, especially now that we are here and have no sort of set schedule and are constantly participating in activities that are not exactly baby-friendly. We have no friends with babies, and although the other wives and students love Amir, it's not the same as going over to a house where there is someone who a) understands you, and b) has toys and a baby-proof apartment. I miss being in a ward with dozens of friends with babies, with regularly scheduled playgroups. I miss hanging out at the park and chatting with other BYU moms and seeing friends from the ward. We miss Camille and Benson, Melissa and AB, Elisse and Reid, Cecilia and Eliza, Lina and Esteia. I'm going to appreciate having mommy friends around SO MUCH when we get back!

Ok ok ok, enough reminiscing about Provo. What brought me to writing this post was watching this video by an apostle in the LDS Church, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland:

I know I'm a new mother and only have one child, and I know it's only going to get so much harder, but I needed to watch this right now in my life. I needed to know and remember what I'm doing raising Amir is important and valued. All the middle of the nights and the frustrating break-downs and the exhaustion and the destruction of friends' personal property -- all totally worth it.

And speaking of missing home, this video is so quintessentially Provo I could cry yet again.