Thursday, December 24, 2009

Arabic Christmas Carol

Just viewed this Arabic Christmas Carol.  We sing a lot of translated Carols here, but there are some amazing traditional Carols as well.  Jingle Bells has been translated into too many languages!  I've been learning a little about 'mowashahaat' in choir, or traditional, folkloric songs. 

I like this because it reminds me that the melodies I often hear playing around are not necessarily Islamic.  The depth of Arabic music is incredible.  To the Western listener, one might think this melody is a recitation of the Quran, while it's actually proclaiming the miracle of the virgin birth.   It's Byzantine, and the pictures are from the Holy Land.  The end of the video lists where the pictures are from, so it's worth listening to the end. 

I plan on writing a few more posts about our trip, as well as share some thoughts based on a book I'm reading, "From the Holy Mountain".  For now, I'm enjoying the break with the boys.  They spent most of the morning playing pirates, and coloring Christmas cards.   Most of the presents are wrapped, and we're ready for Christmas Eve service tonight.

Praying you enjoy this evening, and are able to spend some time pondering the miracle of the incarnation.

~ Um Tulip

Thursday, December 17, 2009

ABC question

Was looking at license plates the other day, and I've got a question maybe a reader can help me with.  I'm wondering if there is a set correspondence between the English and Arabic alphabets.  Our local plates only use numbers, so it's not an issue.  However, we often see Saudi plates and those are number/letter combos.  They are also dual language.  So the "waw" و stands for U, etc, etc.  Arabic has more letters than Arabic, and as there are two types of "s", two types of "t" etc., you can't do a phonemic correspondence.  Impossible.

So do all Arabic countires use a set system for their license plates?  If so, which letters got the axe?  Additionally, Vitamin C in English is called Vitamin ج "jeem" in Arabic.  Are the vitamins and the licences plates using the same system? 

Just curious. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Jerusalem Trip: Part 2

This past week has been busy with 7 nights of rehearsals and performances for the annual YWCA Christmas Concert.  Abu and Um Tulip were both in this choir, which means we've had little time for anything besides work, kids, and singing.  We are looking forward to the next few weeks as work winds down for a bit and we have time to celebrate Christmas as a family and with our friends.  Might even think about doing some Christmas shopping. 

Next stop on our trip was lunch by the Sea of Galilee.  We had "St. Peter's Fish", which was a bit boney but tasty.  My good friend who happens to live in Nazareth joined us for lunch, then took my boys back to her house for the afternoon.  The choir then headed to a few beautiful churches around the Sea.  We were able to do a little singing at the church at the Mt. of Beatitudes, and visit where Christ multiplied the fish and loaves.  Hearing the Palestinian choir sing for the first time brought tears to my eyes.  Their passion for music overflowed in their expressions and the sound was beautiful. 

The Sea of Galilee

Mosaic of the Fish and Loaves of Bread

Church of the Beatitudes

Church of the Annunciation

The whole first day I think we all just kept pinching ourselves to see if this was really happening.  It really was a dream come true.  As night fell, we all loaded on the bus for the drive to El-Quds, the Holy City.  Our friend dropped the boys off while we stopped in Nazareth- I'm sure they had a lot more fun playing with her kids and drinking hot cocoa than they would have listening to us sing. 

We arrived at our hotel and had dinner there.  Our room was nice, and had a fold out sofa for the boys to sleep on.  However, there were no baby cots left at the hotel.  Obviously, I was a bit upset.  We hadn't brought our pack-n-play and Baby Bulb can't exactly sleep on a bed yet.  Our bed was really two pushed together so there was no way to have him sleep in between as the beds were on wheels and slid apart. 

We worried about what to do as we talked to the hotel staff in the lobby.  One of the Palestinian choir members saw us talking and came over.  We explained the problem, and she outdid herself with that famous Arab hospitality.  She went back to her house and found a portable cot that belonged to her nieces and nephews, and brought it back to the hotel within the hour. 

The kids fell fast asleep, and we were out soon after.  It had been a wonderful day. 

Friday, December 4, 2009

Jerusalem Trip: Part One

Many of you are itching for details about our trip with Dozan wa Awtar.  That's the name of the choir I'm part of.  The name means "Tuning and Strings".  The choir is made up of local singers and foreigners.  For us choir-types, there is nothing more magical than getting together with a group of sopranos, altos, tenors, and basses and creating a blend of sound, rhythm, and harmony together.  Creating music with my Arab brothers and sisters really does feed my soul.  This time we had the opportunity to join the lovely Hania and her Magnificat Choir, from St. Saviour's Monastery, also made up of Palestinian and and a few foreign singers.  Rehearsals included Arabic and English, with a little Italian and French thrown in.

We decided to bring the whole family, and reflecting on it now I wonder how many families with three young boys would even considering traipsing around the city of Jerusalem with a touring choir.  As Abu Tulip commented, "maybe it was crazy, but I want to live."  Staying at home just because traveling with our boys is a challenge is simply not an option.  The opportunity to see Jerusalem, and spend time with locals who love this land was absolutely worth it. 

The trip started with a 5 am wake up call.  We finished packing out bags at 11 the night before, after a long day.  Teddy Bear got his stitches out just in time for the trip, we shared a thanksgiving meal (chicken, sweet potato casserole) with local friends, and took Oliver over to visit a former classmate.  I finally called family at 11 pm to wish them a Happy Thanksgiving (seven hour time difference)  and went to bed.  We had the boys sleep in their clothes to make the next morning a bit easier.

We were the second group to arrive at our meeting place.  We piled our luggage on the bus and got moving around 6:15.  Being up so early meant we really got to take in the full effect of the adan, or call to prayer on a holy day.  It was the start of eid al-adha, or feast of the sacrifice.  Our drive to the north border took us through several small towns.  We saw the crowds at a mosque, a shrine of an important Muslim historical figure, and numerous sheep being slaughtered.


We arrived at the border.  This was an anxiety filled time for all of us.  Our local friends had visas in hand, but this trip was actually a postponement of a previously planned trip.  The first time we attempted to travel the visas did not come through.  This was extremely disappointing, and at that time we did not know if the trip would happen at all.  For some choir members, this was the first time for them to visit the land where their parents and grandparents, and many generations before them, grew up.  They were traveling to their homeland, a place they knew only from stories told while sitting on grandpa's knee as a child.  For us foreigners, we can enter easily on a tourist visa but are often questioned randomly before allowed entrance.  Abu Tulip was one of the "lucky" ones questioned at length.  I had to tell them my father and grandfather's name, and with the wiggly baby in my hand I think the border control officer decided I was telling the truth.  After about an hour of processing, we made it to the other side of the Jordan River.  We were immediately greeted by the Magnificat choir members.  It's hard to describe the joy-filled welcome we received.  We were quickly loaded on to the tour bus, handed maps, a refreshing bottle of water, and we filled the bus with songs and laughter.  Our first stop would be lunch by the Sea of Galilee.

It's getting late.  Part Two will have to wait for another day.   ~ Um Tulip

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Hummus wars? Happy Eid and Happy Thanksgiving.

We have a busy day ahead of us, and much to be thankful for.  Today we'll get Teddy Bear's stitches out, listen to Baby Bulb grind (chatter) his new front teeth, visit friends, talk to family on the phone, and get our suitcases ready for the choir trip to Jerusalem.  It happens this year that American Thanksgiving and Eid Al-Adha are the same weekend.  Bonus for us!  Not sure if we'll end up eating regular thanksgiving fare, but we will have a great time with local friends. 

Still haven't had the energy to post anything deep, but this link about hummus made me smile.  A new favorite for us is "msabbiha" which is hummus with whole chick peas in it.  It's a little thinner, and a bit of variety from the standard fare.  I've decided the name comes from the root verb sabah which means to swim, and that the little chick peas are swimming in the hummus.  My own etymology, we'll say. 

So, whatever you eat today, be it turkey, a lamb, or hummus, sahtayn and may it be a treasured time with family or friends and may God be praised for all his good gifts! 

~ Um Tulip

Sunday, November 22, 2009

My adopted hometown makes the New York Times

Follw this to learn a little about my stomping grounds.  Grappa is a favorite.  The owner actually went to my Alma Mater in the states and once treated us to dinner.  Too bad The Good Book Shop wasn't mentioned, as it's my favorite place on Rainbow Street.  Their coffee/ espresso bar should up and running any day now.   Next time, Inshallah.                 ~ Um Tulip

Friday, November 20, 2009

and the mom of the year award goes to...

NOT ME.  The past few weeks have been hectic, at best.  The Mom Crowd's latest post is titled "7 tips on running a marathon."  For those of you for run, well, good for you.  I've never understood the motivation to run, only to end up back where you started.  For me, being a mom of three active boys is running a marathon in and of itself.  I feel like every day I'm just racing to get to the finish line, which happens to be my bed to fall into, only to be woken up a few hours later by a teething baby.

The past two Fridays have been very bad mommy days for me.  Last Friday, while doing my hair, I gave baby bulb something to play with.  It was the bottle of my vitamins.  He likes shaking the bottle like a rattle.  Bad choice.  Yes, it had a child safety lid.  Apparently, it was either not closed properly or my curious nine month old figured out how to get it open.  What I do know is I looked down a few seconds later to find him attempting to get one of those pills in his mouth.  I still can't be sure if he actually got one or two down his throat, but I caught him in time to know it wasn't more than that.  I immediately called the Poison Control number (thank you, internet and Vonage) and was able to learn that based on his weight and the mg of iron in my vitamins, he would be fine.  However, ten pills could have been fatal!  I shed several tears that day, held my baby close, and all was well. 

This Friday, it was Teddy Bear's turn for near disaster.  We were at a small playground where I was participating in a garage sale.  Managing three kids and trying to sell some zero to nine month baby clothes while Abu Tulip was working was a bad idea.  I left my table briefly to run my oldest next door to his soccer game.  I asked another mom to look after him, but there was just too much going on.  A bunch of  little boys on a merry-go-round and my three year old fell and split his forehead open.  I didn't even see him fall.  A parent brought him to me, and I knew immediately he needed stitches.  So off to the hospital we did go, and three stitches later Teddy Bear is a happy boy.  He even wanted to get back on the merry-go-round when we returned.  Friends helped look after my boys and table, and we were back in under an hour.   As Friday is a day off, the roads were clear and the ER was almost deserted.  Arab Medical Center staff were kind and efficient, and I was so thankful my first experience in the ER with my own son went so smoothly. 

I know I have too much on my plate right now, and am struggling with what to do.  I am teaching English part time to rowdy fourth, fifth, and sixth graders, and am starting to see so much progress in their learning.  I sing in a choir which I love, and next weekend we will be traveling as a family with the choir to perform in The Holy City.  Along with playing piano for church, and teaching Sunday School in Arabic, I'm wiped.  The boys need their momma, and I need a break. 

My friends with older kids all smile with that knowing look - those treasured, hectic days of raising young children.  "It's all a blur," they say, "but I wouldn't change it for the world."  I'm trying to enjoy those special moments with my boys.  Their laughter, especially Teddy Bear's knock knock jokes and Oliver's Down by the Bay rhymes are getting me through the days. 

What about you?  When the laundry is piling up, your son needs help with his homework, and you still haven't cooked dinner, what helps you to get through the day?

~ Um Tulip

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Who does what

Don't normally post silly forwards but this one caught my eye. I'm grateful for a husband who makes me coffee each morning. I'm not a morning person, by any stretch of the imagination. Abu Tulip is heading to a work conference next week and I'll be alone with the kiddos for five days. Along with figuring out how to manage them on my own, a big worry is getting my coffee fix each morning in the midst of feeding and clothing three little boys in time for school.

A man and his wife were having an argument about who should brew the coffee each morning. The wife said, "You should do it, because you get up first, and then we don't have to wait as long to get our coffee."

The husband said, " You are in charge of cooking around here and you should do it, because that is your job, and I can just wait for my coffee."

Wife replies, "No, you should do it, and besides, it is in the Bible that the man should do the coffee."

Husband replies, "I can't believe that, show me."

So she fetched the B ible, and opened the New Testament and showed him at the top of several pages, that it indeed says........ ..."HEBREWS"

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cincinnati Chili

For those of you from Ohio, the idea of putting Chili on spaghetti noodles is, well, normal.  I didn't know about ordinary chili until I was in high school, as Cincinnati style chili was a staple growing up.  Leftovers the next day were always coney dogs.  When we travel, I always bring Skyline Chili spice packets back with me to make at home.  However, here in Amman, there are two chains, Chili House and Chili Ways, that are much like Goldstar Chili and Skyline in Ohio.  Except I don't think they have oyster crackers. 

This Wikipedia article gives some info, the most important bit is that four Jordanian brothers started Goldstar in Cinci in 1965.  Chili House was started in Amman in 1985.  Obviously, it's all in the family.

I actually prefer Skyline to Goldstar, started by Greek immigrants in Cinci in 1949.  I even had a cook-off with a friend here in Amman a couple years ago.  He was from Cinci and preferred Goldstar.  Needless to say, his favorite place to eat in Amman was Chili House.

So, Mommabean, you are invited to our home for chili.  Ahlen wa sahlen. 

~ Um Tulip

Oliver gets called a duck in class

Oliver is my oldest.  He's in an Arabic school, and doing his best to keep up in Arabic.  He has a lovely first grade teacher.  I'm also working at the school, part-time, in the English department.  Yesterday his teacher told me about a situation in class.  I just have to share it.

She was going around the room writing "batal" بطل on each child's hand.  This word can be translated as "hero" or "brave".  He often has this word written on his worksheets when he does a good job - and for my perfectionist son, it is often.  The teachers go on and on about his neat Arabic handwriting.  For those of you who know my handwriting, his is better than mine.  I'm not worried about his handwriting, but I do want him to speak!  But I digress. 

So the teacher was putting this on the kids' hands to show them they were great students.  As she was writing this on his hand, Oliver turned to the teacher and asked, "Why are you writing 'duck' on my hand?"  I'm sure the wheels in his brain were turning, "is duck a good thing or a bad thing?". 

The word for duck is "bata"  بطة and as the 'l' sound in Arabic is just a little different than the English 'l' he did not recognize the difference in the two words.  I'm glad he learned his teacher thinks he is a "hero" and not a "duck" !
                                                  ~ Um Tulip

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Our city turns 100

A friend just wrote about the centennial celebration that took place on Friday.  He did such a wonderful job that you all must take a look here

As usual, life is keeping me crazy busy which means no interesting posts.  Unless you want to hear me rant and rave about a classroom of 20 fourth grade boys.  Advice on discipline?  How to implement cooperative learning in the classroom?  How to get them to speak only in English for an hour straight? 

Until later, Um Tulip

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Beauties of Technology: Khutbeh across the ocean

We just got back from a fascinating trip to Jerusalem, but that's not what I'm going to write about.  Still collecting my thoughts on that one.  However, the night before we left we attended a Khutbeh (engagement party) of the sister of some good friends.  The engagement ceremony is formal and includes dancing, cake, and fancy dresses.  It is much like a wedding, just not quite so ostentatious.  It involves the parents agreeing to the marriage, jewelry, and lots of pictures.  After this ceremony the couple is now allowed to date, be seen in public as a couple, and start preparing for the wedding.

The family of the bride-to-be includes seven sisters, one of whom lives in America.  I'll call her R.  As her baby sister is going to be married, she wanted to be part of the Khutbeh.   Another sister brought her laptop with a USB internet connection and set up Skype for the duration of the ceremony. 

As sister S was dancing with her fiance, sister R was also dancing in a fancy dress, in her dining room in California, right along with her.  It was a beautiful site.  The seven sisters were all in tears, so happy to share this moment as a family, even though R was so far away.  The family moved the laptop around the room, swaying to the music, offering her cake, and did everything they could to have her participate. 

As one who lives far away from family, I was really touched by the family unity I saw and grateful for the way technology has helped us all feel a little closer.

~ Um Tulip

Monday, September 28, 2009

Health care two-cents-worth

 I've been observing a lot of the health-care debate and thought I'd post a few principles for Americans to consider.  I hope these point/principles will guide us as we sort all of this out.  Some of you may have more personal experience than me, whether you are a health provider or someone who has navigated the system through a major problem of your own or a loved one.  I appreciate feedback from anyone.

1.  Whatever Americans are mandated to do, absolutely must be mandated for members of Congress.  The best way to ensure that they will work to fix any future problems that arise (see Social Security) is to make them have a personal interest.  There can't be an exemption or gold-trimmed version of health care available for Congress.  I'm not optimistic about this happening.

2.  High quality medical care costs money, a lot of it.  The kind of medical treatment that is available to those who can afford it is hundreds of times better than what has been available to people throughout history.  The difference is mind-boggling.  In fact, until about 1910, an ill person was, statistically speaking, better off staying home than seeking the primitive medical treatment available at the time.  (This according to Lawrence J. Henderson, physician and medical educator of the early twentieth century).
But let there be no doubt, with all the sophisticated equipment and highly educated people who work hard and receive (deservedly) a high compensation for their work in research and treatment of disease, it costs money to receive sophisticated medical treatment.
It will always be hard for a group to consent to pay for one person's treatment.  We humans are sinners and selfish by nature.  We don't like to pay for something for someone else, especially if we are not sure if the group will step up and help us out if we need it (we may not need it either).  And we know that other people are sinners and will try to "beat the system."  The ill person will always want everything covered, and the rest of the group will usually look for a way not to pay for it.  Removing the decision from the shareholders by a proxy group, be it an insurance company or a "non-partisan government panel" does not take away this problem entirely, but if the group is not able to take a profit, it could help. 

3.  Mandating health insurance is not like mandating auto insurance.  "Many drivers can go without collision insurance if they like. If a hood is dented on the car of someone without the coverage, that person can drive around with a dented hood. But the only kind of health insurance Obama is talking about is collision insurance. If someone's body is a jalopy, he or she still has to get covered."  from Fox News.

Auto insurance is mandatory in many states because it covers "the other guy."  Here in Jordan, they actually call it ضد الغير "against the other."  If the accident is your fault, your insurance company covers the other person's damages.  Health insurance by nature doesn't work that way.

4. You may not like whatever government solutions are finally offered.  Not everyone in UK, Canada, Europe is happy with their nationalized health care.  Wherever you go, you can find people who have had major problems.  Can we do better?  Probably.  Do some countries have a better system?  Maybe.  But the chances of us coming up with a system now which, twenty years down the line, shows its faults, leaves people sick, dying and penniless, and raises up a new generation of Kennedys and Pelosis to rail against the injustices and inefficiencies, are pretty high.

5.  Nationalized health coverage programs in Europe and Canada may be more successful and affordable than an American one would be because they are subsidized by US military commitments to defend them.  European states, since World War II, have been able to spend less on defense and more on social programs, even though they have been at most risk (being on the doorstep of the Soviet bloc), because they know that the US will come to their defense.  Germany has hosted tens of thousands of American troops for over six decades now.  Maybe it's time to let Europe defend itself while we take care of our own problems.  (Of course, it's not only Europe; Japan and Korea have also hosted large numbers of American troops while building their economies).

6.  Government intervention often makes a problem worse.  If the government were so great at providing health care and coverage, then our veterans should be receiving treatment that is the envy of the world.  Alas, they are not.  The best thing the government could do may be to become less involved.  Government is already up to its elbows intervening in health care in our country.  By enabling employers to make contributions toward health coverage before taxes, they have intervened in the system in a big way and greatly disadvantaged alternative, free-market coverage options.  The law of unforeseen consequences.
Another solution may be for each state to develop its own plan, thus creating more competition as people may look out of state to find a better option.

7.  Any government "solution" will likely benefit the powerful and well-connected much more than the average citizen.  That's how things go in our nation today.  Those who have the ear of law-makers get what they want.  Contrary to much popular thinking, regulation does not hurt or even disadvantage big business.  They are very happy with regulation because they are large enough to send lobbyists to fight for regulation which disadvantages their competitors and large enough to hire lawyers to make sense of it all.  Insurance companies, medical providers, pharmaceutical companies are NOT going to lose their shirts in this matter, and are NOT going to lose business.  You can be sure of that.  But the average citizens may find themselves worse off.  And my generation?  Which mostly doesn't even bother to vote?  Why should we expect anything good to come out of this?

8.  More government intervention may take away many treatment options that people are currently taking advantage of now.   Herbal medications, home births, refusing immunizations for children, chiropractors, acupuncture.  We ourselves are pretty "traditional" as far as the medical treatment we pursue, but we have friends who pursue all of those various options.  Normal, intelligent people who decide to go against the ideas of the majority/establishment.  I'm concerned that the ideas being thrown around would restrict their freedoms.

9.  Many people are calling for quick action.  We must do something now!  President Obama has attempted to scare everyone into action/acquiescence by saying "more people will die" if we don't act now.  The truth is people will always get sick and die.  Rushing a solution may very well make things worse.
Have you ever heard of a government agency that was canceled because it was no longer needed?  Didn't think so.  Government programs never go away.  Never.  If there is one thing that bureaucrats know how to do, it is keep their jobs.  If we rush something now, we will be stuck with it, and in fact, the urgency of the problem will be gone and the motivation to seek a better solution will disappear.

10.  Due to our country's insatiable appetites and shameful impatience, we have dug ourselves into a chasm of debt out of which it will take generations to climb.  We need to save money somewhere.  I suggest pulling troops from a large number of our foreign bases.  See the following article:
 America's Unwelcome Advances
According to the Pentagon's 2008 "Base Structure Report," its annual unclassified inventory of the real estate it owns or leases around the world, the United States maintains 761 active military "sites" in foreign countries. (That's the Defense Department's preferred term, rather than "bases," although bases are what they are.)
Or this article from the Campaign for Liberty which claims there are at least 1000 US military bases overseas.

Many people speak of the need to bring troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan where they are in harm's way. Those are good arguments.  We also need to bring troops home from  places where there is little compelling need, and where our presence may be counterproductive.

11.  We need to search our hearts as a nation.  As humans, we will always struggle against the curse of death, until the return of the Lord.  God cursed humanity with death in order that they might turn to Him and live, not turn to a government which seems more and more eager to take the place of God.
Many people are hoping to reform health care to make it more just, affordable, and accessible.  I applaud those efforts.  However, others seem to want to get something for nothing, or at least something on someone else's tab.  I believe in some cases this is a sign of rebellion against God.  To whom are we looking for deliverance from sin and death?

Finally, for an expert's (expert on policy-making and medical treatment) view on the subject, see Ron Paul's statement before the US House of Representatives

Abu Tulip

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Painting with the boys or how we spent our holiday

Yes, we actually taught our 3 year old and 6 year old how to paint walls.  This week was the end of Ramadan, and the schools closed for a week.  We spent the week painting our house, one room at a time, along with visiting friends, going out, and having some great family time.  It had been four years since we moved to our apartment, and the walls were very marked up and ready for a fresh coat.  The whole house had been done in 'natural calico' which is a light beige.  We went for 'wild rice' in the hallway, 'buttermilk' in the living room, 'blueberry white' in our bedroom, and Oliver picked out the boys' room.  Aqua and yellow stripes.  They had a blast painting with us.  We had a few friends come over to help in exchange for food, and I am so pleased with the results.  Today we were able to enjoy the home, and also made shish kabobs outside during the day.  Yes, we could finally cook outside before sunset without having angry neighbors.  Our good friends joined us for their first taste of grilled pineapple.  Arabs are experts when it comes to mashawi, but pineapple was a new thing for them.  Yum.

We had brought some blue painter's tape with us from the states this summer.

Even baby bulb got in on the action.

 Teddy Bear made letters.

The last pic is of a new lego house we made but you can see the 'buttermilk' color in the background.

Now, do we really need to go back to work on Monday?           ~ Um Tulip

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Dotting the 'I'

So, my sis posted this on her Facebook page and I have to add it to my blog.  The Ohio State Marching Band has always been my favorite thing about football season.  What is frustrating is that when games are aired over here (which is rare) they don't show the marching band.  My high school band teacher got to do the 'I' in Script Ohio and we band-nerds were in awe.  My parents were at this game.  The Buckeyes lost but the band still is TBDBITL.          ~ Um Tulip

Friday, September 11, 2009

Dozan wa Awtar

I'm part of an amazing local choir called Dozan wa Awtar.  A fellow singer posted about our concert this week.  If you'd like to read about our Quiz night follow this link.  If you'd like to see a video from our Easter Performance, follow this.  Or, a favorite of mine from AOSFYC days, Siyahamba.  Singing with Dozan has been such an incredible joy for me as I love choral music and the members of this choir are phenomenal people to work with.     ~ Um Tulip


The Black Iris is a great blog about what's going on in Jordan.  The writer has put forth a challenge to all it's readers.  Get people to read his 'Open letter to Orange' and get on the top 10 of a Google search about Orange.  For my friends in the States, Orange is the local telephone/internet/mobile company that causes headaches for all who want to communicate with others using any type of technology.

We have had our share of horror stories.  Recently we needed service and after being promised 5 to 10 days, an employee came to fix our service 21 days later.  I was actually impressed they came at all.  Another friend told me, "when we requested internet service it took them 9 weeks to come and set it up, after a promise of 5 to 10 days - 3 weeks is amazing for Orange".  The most difficult time was last year when our speed was down.   We had a techy friend take a look at things and could tell we were getting the wrong speed.  We weren't able to Skype or Vonage as the connection was painfully slow.  After several weeks of infuriating phone calls to 'customer service'  I took matters into my own hands.  I wore a nice outfit and heels, and headed to the main office.  With the security guards yelling at me not to enter the restricted area and telling me I had to go to the customer service area downstairs, I demanded in loud, clear, English that I needed to speak with somebody about my internet service.  I refused to leave, and eventually a big shot heard the commotion and invited me into his office.  Nice, big leather couches and I was served Turkish coffee.  Within minutes we were talking with tech support.  By the end of the day, I had a call from tech support telling me that indeed, they were giving us the wrong speed and the problem had fixed.  No, I was not reimbursed for the months I received the wrong connection speed, but at least the problem was fixed.  Now, some days the connection is fast enough to Skype.  Of course, even as I write this post (now for the second time as I forgot to save it earlier and the connection was dropped) the internet is spotty and I'm not sure when I'll actually be able to post.

Please read the following excerpt:

Since writing that open letter to Orange Telecom Jordan on their terrible service I’ve noticed the link really flying around the twittersphere. It’s gotten around 1,700 views in the past 48 hours, which, along with the comments and emails people left me, is a real indication that many are simply not happy with the Kingdom’s telecom giant and it’s level of service.
As I warned in the letter, blogs and social media can have an impact, and the people who read them, use them and support them are at the helm of that impact. Google’s Top 10 search results for ‘Orange Jordan’ already places the open letter in the 8th position.
So I have a request for my fellow bloggers and my dear readers (for anyone who’s interested that is), let’s build on this letter - maybe (just maybe) it can have the desired impact we’re looking for.
Consider it an experiment in Jordanian social media. People are constantly asking me whether Jordanian bloggers have an impact on politics in Jordan - and I always say probably not. But let’s see if we, as customers and as citizens, can use blogs and social media to impact the private sector.
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of just writing…
Let’s do a bit of cyber activism and see what happens.
So, who’s in?

Please do your bit to promote cyber activism.  Thanks!   ~ Um Tulip

"Trust us"

I thought after the last election it would be no more "politics as usual," right?

Once again, Representative Ron Paul hits the nail on the head.  I'm glad people are paying more attention to this guy.  It's about time.

"There is much confusion and debate over what is and is not in the reform plan being considered. Are there or are there not so-called death panels? What are the end-of-life consultations really for? How will private insurance be affected? Can you keep your current plan or will you eventually be forced into a government plan? Will it pay for elective abortions or not? What are the implications for medical privacy? The truth is no one knows what will be in the final bill until it is on the House floor, and provisions could be added in and taken out in the wee hours of the morning before.

In February, the House was forced to vote on an over 1,000 page "stimulus" bill that had first been posted on the internet just after midnight the morning of the vote. It passed. Then in June, House leaders rushed a vote on the cap-and-trade bill, even though an over 300 page "manager’s amendment" making substantive changes to the bill, was introduced shortly after 3:00 a.m. the morning of the vote."

So, Washington, you expect us to trust you when you pull shenanigans like this?  Are you really surprised to see people get riled up at "town hall" meetings?  You're approving broad-sweeping legislation without even reading it.  You wouldn't even have time to read it if you tried!  Why should we put up with this?

He continues:
"Washington thrives on crisis. If enough people can be convinced that we are in an emergency, they will more likely tolerate rushing legislation to the floor like this. Last minute changes will be slipped in, benefitting who knows what special interests and at what expense to the taxpayer. But the mantra is repeated over and over: We are in a crisis. We must act immediately.

"It should be unconscionable for legislators to vote in favor of legislation they have not had the opportunity to read. This is why I have re-introduced the Sunlight Rule, H.Res 216. The Sunlight Rule prohibits any piece of legislation from being brought before the House of Representatives unless it has been available to read for at least 10 days.

"Justice Louis Brandeis famously said, "Sunlight is the best disinfectant." The Sunlight Rule would do much towards negating the cycle of pseudo-crises and cleaning up the legislative process here in Washington. I sincerely hope this is the year Congress remembers its deliberative duties and passes it."

Well put.  "It's a crisis."  "More people will die" (that comes from Obama's speech yesterday).  Yup.  People will die.  They do every day.  But how are you sure the change you want to rush through is actually going to make things better and not worse?

If we are in a "crisis" right now, it is a governmental one, one in which congressional leaders can rush a bill through with huge changes and no time to consider them, listen to the voice of constituents or even read them.

Cleaning up that process is truly "the change we need."

-Abu Tulip

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

How Should We Then Live? (Part Three)

And furthermore:
In Chapter Twelve Schaeffer discusses "Manipulation and the New Elite."  He describes various techniques which authorities could use to manipulate the public.  He discusses the problems of exalting determinism over free will and the idea that what is is what should be.  He explores the possibility of an elite creating a set of arbitrary absolutes and imposing them upon others, who being left with no objective foundation for morality, are unable to object.

He closes the chapter with:

"The central message of biblical Christianity is the possibility of men and women approaching God through the work of Christ.  But the message also has secondary results, among them the unusual and wide freedoms which biblical Christianity gave to countries where it supplied the consensusWhen these freedoms are separated from the Christian base, however, they become a force of destruction leading to chaos.  When this happens, as it has today, then, to quote Eric Hoffer (1902--), 'When freedom destroys order, the yearning for order will destroy freedom.'
"At that point the words left or right will make no difference.  They are only two roads to the same end.  There is no difference between an authoritarian government from the right or the left: the results are the same.  An elite, an authoritarianism as such, will gradually force form on society so that it will not go on to chaos.  And most people will accept it--from the desire for personal peace and affluence, from apathy, and from the yearning for order to assure the functioning of some political system, business, and the affairs of daily life.  That is just what Rome did with Caesar Augustus." 

-Abu Tulip

Monday, August 31, 2009

How Should We Then Live? (Part Two)

Schaeffer goes on in Chapter 11 to describe our society.  Remember, he was writing in 1976, but he had a very keen understanding of the trajectory of change in the society, in that so much of what he says seems even more true today.

    "We see two effects of our loss of meaning and values.  The first is degeneracy...
     "But we must notice that there is a second result of modern man's loss of meaning and values which is more ominous, and which many people do not see.  This second result is that the elite will exist.  Society cannot stand chaos.  Some group or some person will fill the vacuum.  An elite will offer us arbitrary absolutes, and who will stand in its way?
    "Will the silent majority (which at one time we heard so much about) help?  The so-called silent majority was, and is, divided into a minority and a majority.  The minority are either Christians who have a real basis for values or those who at least have a memory of the days when the values were real.  The majority are left with only their two poor values of personal peace and affluence.
    "With such values, will men stand for their liberties?  Will they not give up their liberties step by step, inch by inch, as long as their own personal peace and prosperity is sustained and not challenged, and as long as the goods are delivered? ... Much of the church is no help here either, because for so long a large section of the church has only been teaching a relativistic humanism using religious terminology.
    "I believe the majority of the silent majority, young and old, will sustain the loss of liberties without raising their voices as long as their own life-styles are not threatened.  And since personal peace and affluence are so often the only values that count with the majority, politicians know that to be elected they must promise these things.  Politics has largely become not a matter of ideals--increasingly men and women are not stirred by the values of liberty and truth--but of supplying a constituency with a frosting of personal peace and affluence.  They know that voices will not be raised as long as people have these things, or at least an illusion of them." 

Abu Tulip

Friday, August 28, 2009

How Should We Then Live? (Part One)

I just finished a book written the year in which I was born,  How Should We Then Live?:The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture by Francis A. Schaeffer, he of the goatee before it was trendy.  He's up there as one of my personal heroes for his thoughtful way of expression the evangelical truth in contemporary culture.  I often wonder how he would respond to some of the phenomena we see today if he were still around.
This book is worthy of more than one post.  He pretty much marches through history using philosophy and the arts to show how humanity has at times embraced the living God who has spoken and at other times rejected Him, declaring humanity autonomous and reaping disastrous results.
Near the end of Chapter Nine, he speaks of the failure of contemporary liberal and neo-orthodox theology, which attempts to preserve religious language but denies much of the content behind that language:
"One is left with the connotation of religious words without content, and the emotion which certain religious words still bring forth--and that is all.
The next step is that these highly motivating religious words out of our religious past, but separated from their original content and context in the Bible, are then used for manipulation.  The words become a banner for men to grab and run with in any arbitrary direction--either shifting sexual morality from its historic Christian position based on the Bible's and Christ's teaching, or in legal and political manipulation." 
He says we are left where Nietzsche found himself:  God for all intents and purposes is dead.
"Neitzsche knew the tension and despair of modern man.  With no personal God, all is dead.  Yet man, being truly man (no matter what he says he is), cries out for a meaning that can only be found in the existence of the infinite-personal God, who has not been silent but has spoken, and in the existence of a personal life continuing into eternity.  Thus Nietzsche's words are profound: 'But all pleasure seeks eternity--a deep and profound eternity.'
     Without the infinite-personal God, all a person can do, as Nietzsche points out, is to make 'systems.'  In today's speech we would call them 'game plans.'  A person can erect some sort of structure, some type of limited frame, in which he lives, shutting himself up in that frame and not looking beyond it.  This game plan can be one of a number of things.  It can sound high and noble, such as talking in an idealistic way about the greatest good for the greatest number.  Or it can be a scientist concentrating on some small point of science so that he does not have to think of any of the big questions, such as why things exist at all.  It can be a skier concentrating for years on knocking one-tenth of a second from a downhill run.  Or it can as easily be a theological word game within the structure of the existential methodology.  That is where modern people, building only on themselves, have come, and that is where they are now."
Well-put.  We distract ourselves with our jobs, hobbies, or do-goodism so we don't need to think about a deeper meaning to it all.  Perfecting the golf swing.  Finding the perfect place to shoot the big buck.  Pouring ourselves into environmental volunteerism, political action, working with the youth group, home-schooling the kids, etc.  So many things can provide this distraction for us.  Are we really willing to acknowledge the "infinite-personal God, who has not been silent but has spoken" and build our lives upon the foundation of those words from the mouth of God?
-Abu Tulip 

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Baby Food and Imported Items

On purchasing imported products in town: I’m kicking myself for not bringing back more baby food from our recent trip to the states. It’s not that I mind making my own. I just pureed a whole batch of peas and carrots. They’re in ice cube trays now, waiting to freeze. I’ll then remove them and have perfect serving size baby food for my growing 6 month old baby bulb. However, we do have a pretty active lifestyle. It’s a bit tricky to try and thaw a cube of baby food on the go. Baby food is extremely difficult to find, with the exception of honey flavored cereal. The nice little Gerber packs, if around, are insanely expensive. In a culture that values babies, why is baby food not more readily available. Hmmm, maybe because the moms are not valued. Is my time important?

This got me thinking about the ridiculous mark-up on imported items in general. Case in point: a friend of mine saw a pair of overalls she loved at Forever 21 in the mall. They were priced 45 JD. That’s 64 dollars. What did we do about it? We went online and found the exact item on the Forever 21 website. Identical piece for $19.99. Even with the cost of shipping, it was 35 dollars cheaper to buy the item and have it shipped from the states. Somebody is getting rich off this scheme, and I suspect it’s those guys in the black SUVs driving down Gardens Street like maniacs.

My last random thought. Can you tell I'm in a ranting mood these days? Maybe it's the heat, after freezing in Michigan I'm still adjusting. Maybe it's the cockroaches hanging out in our bathroom. Abu Tulip killed five in one night. I was reading about smoothies on Kabobfest. Why can't I find fresh limes (not green lemons) here for cheap? Not that I'd trade the conveniences here for the suffering in Gaza, but I did find it ironic.

Well, I better go and enjoy the rest of the hour I have to myself before the day starts. A quiet house is amazing! ~ Um Tulip

Saturday, August 22, 2009

walnuts and harassment

I’ve been following Kinzi’s talk about sexual harassment, and the JO article that makes a big deal of a small sex tourism market and glosses over the gross treatment of women.
I was talking with a friend today. She said weekly, if not daily, she has a man say to her under his breath, but loud enough for her to hear, “ma ahla ilbzaaz” which roughly translates to “how attractive are your breasts” although it's actually more crude than that. Mind you this is an Arab woman who is pregnant, dressed moderately, and in West Amman. She has considered breast reduction surgery simply to avoid the harassment of Jordanian men.
I was at Safeway the other day and treated very poorly by several employees. I asked in clear Arabic where I could find walnuts. No, they were not in the aisle with the almonds, peanuts, and pistachios. The man I asked kept telling me I was looking for coconut juice. The word for coconut ‘jawz ilhind’ has the same first word as walnut ‘jawz’. Then he joked with the other employee next to him and refused to help me find any walnuts. As my Arabic is quite good, I could tell they were trying to confuse me and tease me because the Arabic word for husband is ‘zawj’. I was certainly not looking for a husband, and any Western woman I know who seriously considers dating an Arab man gets quite a talk from me!
I’m quite fed up with having to arrange so many errands and tasks of daily life around times when my husband can be around to protect me from the stares, leers, and harassment. Enough is enough. I hope these men, while they go about their fasting and prayers, take some time to consider the treatment of women in this society. Please, let Ramadan be Kareem (generous) to the women as well.

~ Um Tulip

Monday, August 17, 2009

What Are They Teaching Kids These Days?

So today the kids were watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, which by the way, is a wonderful show which they love--much better than most of what we receive on "SpaceToon". Anyway, in this episode they were finding objects that were the colors of the rainbow--Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple. So apparently the official pronouncement that indigo is really the same as blue has found its way into the mass media.
But, I wonder, how will kids remember these colors and their order without Roy G. Biv?
And since Pluto is no longer considered a planet, I want to know what my very earnest mother just sat upon? Nine what? I want to know!
Scientific inquiry is great, but you really can't beat clever mnemonic devices.

--Abu Tulip

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

An Illustration of What Driving is Like Here

Tonight I got out of the car with the engine running to check the turn signals. I was pretty sure one of the rear turn signals wasn't working. Wrong. They work just fine. Gotta get used to driving in Amman again!

--Abu Tulip

Thursday, August 6, 2009

New Teeth

It was an eventful week in the Tulip household. Oliver lost his first tooth, and Baby Bulb got his first tooth. Amazing to see my boys grow.

I've composed many a blog in my head this week, mostly while up in the middle of the night with one of our three jetlagged boys, who of course could never wake up at the same time of night, ready to play.

Most of my imaginary blogs have been nasty letters to Delta, as our flight was delayed and we spent 19 hours in the JFK terminal in New York, without a couch, bed, or rest. This was from about 5 pm until noon the next day. The kids were troopers, but I landed home with approximately 6 hours of sleep over a 48 hour time period. I was not a happy camper. I have never appreciated a mattress more!

Fortunately I never actually posted as I've been often incoherent this past week. Now that we are regaining some normalcy I'll try and post often.

Well, off to dinner to celebrate Abu Tulip's Birthday. Limon ma3 na3na3 and mashaawi here I come.

~ Um Tulip

Friday, July 31, 2009

Why we didn't stay up for the 4th of July fireworks

The night before last, as I was hanging up laundry (yeah, water day, and boy did we have a lot of laundry after our 19 hours in the JFK airport) I was enjoying the fireworks display. At first I thought it was just the normal wedding revelry, but soon realized it was tawjihi results. For those not familiar, these are the high school examinations that in many ways determine a teenager's options for college and career. Read this article to learn why we don't go out and drive during this time.
So why did we not attend the 4th of July fireworks in America a few weeks back?

1) Arabs love fireworks and we get to enjoy them nearly all year for free.
2) In Michigan it doesn't even get dark until after 10 and the kids were too tired to stay up for them after parading all day.

My favorite thing about the display? I called for Oliver to come out and take a look. He glanced up, said "wow" and ran back in the house calling for his younger brother to come see. Over the summer I have been astounded by my 6 year old's love and compassion for his 3 year old brother (and his baby brother as well). He just couldn't imagine not enjoying the beautiful display from our balcony without Teddy Bear with him. I am so thankful he is such an encourager, and despite the normal sibling fights, my boys are great friends. I pray it continues.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Fun in America

Is this our new home? One of the boys asked us as we pulled up the drive to visit some friends for dinner. We've been traveling a lot, seeing family and friends, and having a wonderful, but busy, time. This morning we're taking it easy, and Oliver is already asking where we're going today. Luckily, today we have plans to visit some friends who also have three kids about the same ages as ours, so it will be fun. It's amazing to see how what used to be a visit between college friends and maybe a baby has turned into mass chaos with between four and ten kids including play sets, sprinklers, train tracks, and the like. I love it!

Here are a few pics we've taken. Abu Tulip's mom made superhero capes, we've seen lots of tractors, enjoyed a 4th or July parade, been swimming in a lake, eaten corn dogs and funnel cake, watched a few good movies (Juno, Slumdog Millionaire) and in general taken in a lot of American culture.

We really miss our friends in the Middle East, but so far it has been a great summer.

~ Um Tulip

Monday, June 15, 2009

How does it feel to be home?

This is the question we are asked most frequently. Honestly, it is an impossible question to answer. Where is home? I guess you could say we have lots of homes right now. Doing the math, we've actually lived in the Middle East as a married couple longer than we lived in America. Two of our boys were born there, and our careers are there as well. Still, coming back to the towns where we grew up along with the city we lived in before moving overseas is in many ways coming home. So amidst my home confusion, here are a few thoughts.

We spent our first week with Um Tulip’s family in Ohio, and treasured the time with her family. We went to the Columbus Zoo and saw a baby elephant, a local swimming pool, and an air force museum in Dayton. The boys are loving the attention, but are also tired and a little overwhelmed with so much transition. I love watching them being 'loved on' by their grandparents. One morning in Ohio the power was out. I mentioned to dad I needed coffee (can we say jetlag?) and he jumped in the car to get the family coffee and donuts. He brought back a box of assorted donuts. Oliver and Teddy Bear proceeded to argue over the glazed maple donut. I cut it in half. Teddy Bear started whining, and I let him have his fit. However, I looked at my father's disappointed face and listened to him say, "if only I had gotten more donuts" with complete sincerity. My amazing dad had gone to the donut shop early in the morning out of love, and if I hadn't stopped him, probably would have gone back for more donuts. Wow, how these grandkids are loved!

Here are a few of the funny things that I've noticed since we've been in the States.

- I've rediscovered humidity. It rains in the summer. We went to a park and it started sprinkling. I relished walking in the warm, summer rain.

- The boys love drinking fountains. We don't have these in the Middle East, and they are fascinated.
- Oliver calls bagels donuts.
- As we drove on the highway from Ohio towards Michigan, Oliver asked me how long it would be before we got to the desert. He's used to long road trips including several hours in the desert.
- The house we're staying in now has a dishwasher. My mom-in-law was visiting and was loading the dishwasher. I was caught off-guard when she asked me, "which way do you like your silverware to go, down or up?" I had no idea how to answer the question. We haven't had a dishwasher for over seven years.
- Air conditioning is way too cold for me. I should have packed my sweaters. Also, I'm so used to the way Arabs dress that I mostly packed nicer clothes. I only packed one t-shirt (a jobedu one from Jara Market, BTW). I've forgotten how casual Americans are.
- There are more types of cola/pop/soda in the supermarket than I can fathom. This week's purchase? Diet Coke with Lime.

It's time to take a walk outside with the boys. The weather is warm and there are trees everywhere. Better enjoy the green while I can!
~ Um Tulip

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Oliver turns six

I know, I know, I'm leaving for the airport in 9 hours and the suitcases are not packed, and I'm writing a blog post. Laundry is in the washer, and I'm making progress, but it's just so hard to pack. I'm anxious about the flight, super-excited about seeing family, and totally avoiding the work that needs to get done.

Oliver turned 6 this past weekend and I made a spiderman cake for him. We kept the party smaller this time, and stayed mostly on the patio which was perfect. Water balloons and an obstacle course designed by Oliver and Abu Tulip. For Teddy Bear's party my mom-in-law was here to help and we did a Monkey Cake. I still had some black decorating icing left from her trip and the monkey cake, so spiderman even had webbing.

Enjoy the pics. Really need to get back to packing. ~ Um Tulip

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Challenge to Bedu Shepherds

Abu and Um Tulip are crazy busy right now getting ready to leave for a summer holiday in America. We are thrilled to see family and friends, especially for the grandmas and grandpas to get to know their newest grandson and have some quality time with Oliver and Teddy Bear. We're a bit nervous about the flight, but as it's been two years since we've been back, it's going to be great to see everyone.

Oliver turned six today and also graduated from Kindergarten yesterday. The best part of the ceremony was the hula hoop dancing and routines that looked like they were taken from 'Little Miss Sunshine'.

My sister recommended I look up LED sheep on You Tube. I guess some shepherds in Wales had a blast with their sheep, LED lights, and some filming techniques. I wonder if our local Bedu shepherds can top that. Enjoy!

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Legend

It's not often in one's life that he has the chance to meet a legend. I've never met a really famous person. Someone asked me this just a few days ago. I can think of three close encounters with marginally famous people in my life.

I met Alan Trammell at a baseball clinic when I was in high school. I think the words he said to me were something like "You gotta hold the baseball [such-and-such a way] for me to sign it." Wow. Awesome.

When I was entering eighth grade Chris Webber was entering Michigan as a freshman. He and Jalen Rose came to a summer basketball camp I was attending. Each of the kids got to go one-on-one against one of them. I went against Webber and tried a fade-away jumper. He blocked it. Of course, he was too nice to block everyone's shot, so I like to think he looked at me and thought I had a chance to hit a 18-footer, so he'd better block it. Or so I like to think.

My other brush with "fame" was when Fernando Ortega visited Hope College and was about to play at an event. I was closest to the piano, and he said, "Can you help me move this over a little bit?" I did a great job too.

So none of those people are really all that famous. If you're not a sports fan or follower of great Christian music you may not know who any of these people are. But in the last few weeks I got to spend time with a legend.

"Abu Billy" is the founder of the institution which I now lead (although he never imagined it becoming what it is today). His picture is displayed in my office. Several times recently I've been asked if he's still alive. "You bet!" I say, "He's probably in better shape than I am." Recently I've been able to tell them that he's coming to visit.

Almost three weeks ago Abu Billy did come to visit our country, the place he called home for over forty years. We met him once before, but meeting him here was even more special. We got to see him with people who look to him as a spiritual father, people who worked closely with him for decades, people who grew up under his caring eye.

He is going on eighty years old and I was sad to observe a sign of decline in that his hearing is getting bad... until I learned that he's been deaf in one ear since contracting scarlet fever in childhood. So much for decline!

It's hard to express how it feels to now be leading the institution he founded. Humbling... certainly. But it's a blessing too, knowing the concern and prayer he put into his work. And it's an encouragement to see all that can be accomplished for the Lord by a life fully surrendered to Him.

-Abu Tulip

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

If you build it they will come

Well, the past month has flown by. It's May already and we're preparing for a trip to America this summer. The weather has gotten warmer which means we get to do one of my favorite things - take the boys to the park so they can run off some steam! This is often difficult in our city, as nice public parks are few and far between. Fortunately a brand new park just opened up not far from our home. We went on Friday morning, just a day after their grand opening (the park is sponsored by HSBC). I counted somewhere between 50 and 60 children at the park. This is a small park, with a merry-go-round, 2 monkey bars, 3 swings, 2 slides, and a see-saw. It was CROWDED.
However, much to my surprise and elation, the kids were wonderful. We sometimes go to the big park on Medical City Road and often have problems with the children hitting or throwing sand, and parents are sometimes unfriendly. Abu Tulip and I came up with a theory. That big park is, well, huge, and people come from all over. They do not know each other and therefore do not care if their children are kind, if they throw trash everywhere, and do not mingle with others. This park is local, on duwar hawuuz. That means, traffic circle with the water tower. I mention this because there is no longer a water tower, and it's not really a traffic circle, but for those that know the city it is also an area of some great QIZ shops, similar to the one Kinzi mentioned out by duwar Waha.

But this park, at duwar hawuuz, is local. The kids know each other, as they all live in the neighborhood. A young girl took to my boys and made sure they each got a turn on the merry-go-round and swing, telling the older boys that the ajnabi (foreigner) kids deserved a turn, too. A lovely lady invited me over for tea, and was happy to chat with me. At this local park, people understand that how you treat others will affect your day. Arabs care about community, and certainly don't want their cousin, uncle, neighbor, etc, to hear anything bad about their family. These kids seemed to know that any bad behaviour would have consequences.

The funniest question I was asked that day was from some middle-school aged boys. They asked, 'fi 3indik dog?' or, 'do you have a dog?'. They didn't know much about America, but they did know that Americans often have pet dogs, and were curious if we had one as well. I told them no, but that my sister in America does. What is interesting about their question is while they asked me in Arabic, they used dog, not kelb, for dog. My theory about this one is that 'kelb' refers to the mangy, street dogs that no one wants as a pet, and 'dog' refers to the cute ones Americans keep in their homes.

These are some of the boys. Tuckered out from playing, I guess. Sort of captures how I feel at the end of the day as well! Life with my 3 little boys is rewarding, but busy and exhausting, too.

~ Um Tulip

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Concert

Last week I was part of a concert with Dozan wa Awtar. I mentioned in the last post that I would write about it soon. However, heiseheise did such a good job you can read his post and I'll add just a few notes. Heiseheise is just one of the many wonderful people I've gotten to know in the choir. It is an incredibly diverse group; from many countries and languages, and religions. About half are Jordanians, and during the concert I sang in between two awesome singers, one Filipino-American and one Iranian.

Oliver and Teddy Bear enjoyed our last concert, which was geared for children, and as Baby Bulb slept through the whole thing, Abu Tulip even got to enjoy the music as well.

You may wonder why in the world I would join a choir in the midst of having our third child. Well, as I mentioned last post, try to sing and be irritated at the same time. Yes, it is possible to convey anger in song, which we certainly did during portions of Zahret Almada'en. However, no matter how difficult a day I've had, singing instantaneously reduces my stress level. Baby Bulb joined us for rehearsals from the time he was 2 weeks old, and my fellow choir members adore him. Singing with Dozan wa Awtar has been such a joy for me and has certainly helped me get through the last month of pregnancy and first months with a newborn.

I'll finish with a few quotes I found online:

The only thing better than singing is more singing. ~ Ella Fitzgerald

And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares that infest the day
Shall fold their tents like the Arabs
And as silently steal away.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Day Is Done

I don't' sing because I'm happy; I'm happy because I sing. ~William James

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent. ~Victor Hugo

The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17

There is nothing in the world so much like prayer as music is. ~William P. Merrill

~ Um Tulip

Friday, April 10, 2009

The 5 S's plus 2

Baby Bulb is almost 2 months old now, so it's time for a baby update. He is growing like a weed, and is already in the 3 to 6 month size clothes. He's sleeping at night, usually up once or twice to feed, but has learned to get back to sleep rather quickly. His older brothers adore him, and Teddy Bear doesn't stop giving him kisses.

For those of you with little ones, here is something I found helpful. It's called the 5 S's, or 5 things that start with the letter S that help calm a newborn baby. Somebody named Dr. Harvey Karp wrote a book about it. I'll summarize.

Swaddle: this is wrapping a baby up tightly so he can't move his arms or wiggle much at all. I use an extra large receiving blanket, and literally wrap him up like he's 'waraq dawaali' or 'rolled grape leaves'. The idea is that babies are all scrunched up in the womb and they like to be wrapped up tight. This technique really helps him fall asleep.

Suck: personally, I'm an advocate for pacifiers. It's a lot easier to throw away a pacifier when he gets to be about two than it is to get rid of the thumb-sucking habit. You can't exactly throw away a thumb! Around 6 weeks is when my boys have started enjoying sucking on a pacifier. The calming effect works wonders. We use the nuk brand. Oliver called his pacifier a 'this-y' because I used to ask him, 'do you want this?' Teddy Bear called his pacifier a 'fire' as in the last syllable of the word. When we relegated the pacifier to the bed, he used to call for his 'fire, fire, fire' and it was quite comical. I wonder what Baby Bulb will call his.

Side: while babies should sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of SIDS, sometimes babies like to be on their sides or tummies. Often a change in position makes a big difference if a baby is fussy. Mine really enjoys tummy time, especially after a feeding. It helps him release some gas, and he's much more content after a few minutes on his tummy.

Shh: in almost any language saying 'shh' seems to mean 'be quiet'. By saying 'shhh' really loudly into your baby's ear, your baby will often calm down immediately. The theory is that a baby in the womb hears a sound similar to this. Variations of this technique include blowing a hair dryer or vacuuming nearby. I've heard stories of desperate parents tape-recording a vacuum and playing the tape near their baby to help him/her get to sleep. Playing the radio on static has a similar effect. We have a ocean sounds baby aquarium that plays music, waves, or basically white noise. Again, it works wonders!

Swing: the theory behind this one is that a swing simulates the motion of being in the womb. An electric swing is great, but often our little one likes being swung by mommy or daddy. Rocking, bouncing, and pacing all have a similar effect.

I've got two more to add, and I even came up with more S's. Singing! Baby Bulb has been attending choir rehearsals with me throughout the pregnancy and after being born. We just finished our marathon week of rehearsals and concerts and I hope to post about that later. In any event, babies love it when you sing to them. I think part of the reason it works is that if you are holding a fussy baby - especially one who just won't calm down - you are likely to be tense and irritated yourself. Try singing while you're irritated - it doesn't work. By singing, you relax yourself, and babies can sense tension.

The second one to add is this: Solo time. Leave your baby alone! A few nights ago Baby Bulb would not calm down. We'd tried all of the above, along with changing him, feeding him, etc., etc. My mother-in-law and I couldn't think of anything else to do, and were both tired and tense. Finally we put him in his bed, and left. He immediately calmed down and was content. Sometimes babies just get overstimulated. If you're a stressed out mom and feel overwhelmed, sometimes the best thing to do is just to set your baby down safely in his bed and take a break.

Also, congrats to the family of Babycue and Hondorp family on their new little ones. Happy parenting!

~ Um Tulip