Rules of driving...purely suggestive

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If you have been keeping up with my blog, you would have seen me mention (quite a few times) about the horrible driving here.  This quick video was on a trip to Jeddah.  Watch closely as one of the cars from the oncoming left turn lane passes the car in front on the LEFT.  Then watch as cars turn left IN FRONT of cars going straight!!  The one car come from the MIDDLE lane and passes in front of TWO cars!  Psychos.  
(I'll try to get some more videos for you...this one is pretty short)


Christmas in Saudi

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Well, this is definitely one Christmas that will forever remain in our memories.  For starters, this is my first Christmas ever away from ALL my family.  In 34 years, I have always been with family for Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning.    
On top of that, I live in a country where you aren't even supposed to be celebrating Christmas.  There are no mall Santa's to take your kids to see, no fun neighborhoods overloaded with Christmas lights, no holiday wrapping paper, no crazy shopping days...it's kind of like the land that Christmas forgot.  (though it was never here in the first place, of course)
It's made for a very surreal holiday.  It didn't seem to bother Lily very much (my youngest), but Sara had a hard time understanding why we didn't have a bigger tree (we are now very happy to just have the little tree we managed to get into the country!) or lights decorating the house...she has a great memory of past Christmas.  
Gift buying was interesting as well.  Shipping anything to this country costs an arm and leg (or two).  So, there was no way we could ask family to send gifts.  Instead, we discussed amounts and I went and bought everything and they reimbursed me for the girl's gifts.  Not much fun for family, but there was really no other option.  As for gifts for our family in the states...well, all I can say is HELLO Amazon.  I really did miss window shopping for ideas at the mall though.

So, in doing our best to make this as wonderful as possible, we found ways to make it feel a little more like Christmas.  In a package from my mom we were able to get stockings and some Christmas lights.  I actually found garland at ToysRUs...go figure.  I found a xmas radio app for my iPad so I could listen to Christmas music.  We made sugar cookies and decorated them.  The girls cousin's in Texas sent a Hallmark talking book about the Night Before Christmas and we've listened to that every night before bed.  My gifts were wrapped...though not in the fun holiday paper I'm so used to.  One of the best parts we the two parties we attended in one of the compounds.  Santa was there (twice!) to greet the kids and he even handed out presents.  We greatly enjoyed that and are so thankful for those who put it all together.

Christmas Eve is a big deal in my family.  We get dressed up, have a huge meal, let the kids open one gift and then watch Christmas Vacation.  I really wanted to do my best to make it the way I've always known.  So, we invited some close friends over for dinner.  Since there is no pork here, I settled for making a roast in the oven.  I managed to pull off making my first batch of perogi's all by myself (a traditional dish we have every Christmas).  Our friends brought some of their holiday faves as well.  Dinner was wonderful and so was the company...and my sweet friends even indulged me and watched the movie!  We really did have a good time...even if it was still so very different from anything I've ever known.
Christmas morning arrived.  Matt had to work, (no day off for Christmas here) so he left early and came back when I called and told him the kids were up.  The girls waited in our bedroom while we got camera and video ready.  They were so excited to see all the gifts!  We were able to skype family back in the states (still celebrating Christmas Eve) and they watched the girls while they opened presents.  (once again, I want to thank the creators of skype...can't imagine life without it)  After the gifts were open, Matt headed back to work.  
So, there I was.  Christmas over.  Home alone with the kids.  No where else to go.  Usually we have to meet up with more family and we get decked out in new dudes and head out for more celebrations.  Instead, I spent 3 hours putting together toys for the girls.  Of course, they didn't realize anything was amiss...they had a ton of new toys!  (more than I realized)  It was such a weird feeling...to have so little to do and no one to see on Christmas Day.  
To try and make future Christmases a bit more special for our family, I decided that morning to instigate a new holiday tradition for our family.  Our Christmas Day evening ritual would consist of Chinese takeout and watching a Christmas Story on tv.  So, no matter where we are in the world, we will have this tradition to take with us..started in Saudi.  

I still can't believe Christmas has come and gone.  With none of the flare I'm so used to.  But, I will say one thing...my life is blessed.  So many are separated or have no family around.  So many weren't able to provide gifts for their loved ones.  I'm thankful that I was with my hubby and girls on Christmas.  I'm thankful for those that worked with us and provided the many gifts the girls were able to open on Christmas morning.  We are lucky to have such loving and understanding families.  So, I hope that all of you had a special Christmas with those you love.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year...from Saudi.  



Funny Money

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Thought I would share what the Saudi Riyals look like.  :)  I still have a hard time converting...but I'm getting there!  


Can You Guess The Brands??

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I have had so much fun finding brands I know and love here in Saudi and seeing Arabic all over them...so, I put together a few photos of some of my faves...see if you can guess the brand!  :)  


Money Matters...

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Last night, around 1am, I begged my brain to take a break so I could fall asleep (not that it worked)...instead, I lay there thinking about what my family and friends might be up to in the States.  Then I thought...wow, it really is amazing just how much money we are saving living here in Saudi.  
And I'm not talking just about the fact that our home and utilities are paid for...no, its everything else.  You know, what you all call regular life...the kind of regular life that doesn't exist here.  

Let me break it down:  
~No movie theaters means no expensive movie dates.
~No bars...no tab.
~Won't be shelling out any cash for concert tickets.
~Can't catch a Broadway show here (or any other performance for that matter)
~Eating out is pretty mild...food is cheap and you can't blow your budget on fancy drinks or wine. (and we certainly don't have any Michelin star chefs working around here...so, no overpriced fancy meals)
~No such thing as Starbucks.
~We won't be attending any sporting events.  (and we won't have to spend any money on   expensive paraphernalia)
~No gambling. (that kinda speaks for itself)
~No worries about owning an expensive car...nobody here cares.  And you only need one per family.
~No such thing as valet parking or paid parking lots.
~Don't have to worry about paying for activities for our kids: no sports, no dance, no swim lessons... (though, we do have equestrian but that's just for kids and men...women aren't allowed to ride, naturally.)

So, just keep in mind, that though you may feel envious of some of the trips I get to go on...those are just a few weeks out of the year.  I still have to make it through my everyday "regular" life.  Those trips are a reward for keeping myself sane on a daily basis.  ;)

*Now, we do have some fun things here such as scuba and snorkeling and one of the most gorgeous sea's in which to do it in...plus the malls in Jeddah have quite a bit for kids to do in some of their huge play places, including a skating rink and roller coaster.  The downside is that Jeddah is a 6 hour round trip from my home...it would be like trying to drive to from Vegas to Cali, hit up Disneyland and head back to Vegas all in one day.
*side note: In this post, I am speaking primarily about my town of Yanbu... I am not speaking for Jeddah and Riyadh since I do not live there on a daily basis.


Prayer Times...

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Okay, so I have been hear for about a month and a half now.  Some things I have adjusted just fine to...others, not as much.  One of those is prayer times.  Now, don't get me wrong, I am more than used to hearing them 5 times a day...the hard part is timing your life around them.
The mall here opens at 10am...and you want to get there right when it opens if you plan to get anything done.  (One morning my friend and I had an issue with the crazy taxi's and didn't get to the mall till nearly quarter till 11)  Now, you may think...what's the big deal??  
Well, the big deal is prayer time.  Around noon everyday the call to prayer begins.  This isn't the actual prayer...it's just the announcement to tell everyone that prayer is going to start soon...so, head to the nearest mosque or get out your prayer blanket or do whatever you need to be ready to pray.  
When the call to prayer starts...everything else stops.  ALL the stores close..yes, Every.Single.One.  They kick you out of the store.  
Okay, so are you with me now?  I only have 2 hours to do any shopping before everything closes...for nearly an hour.  (it reopens for about another hour and then closes again till 4)  You can stay in the mall while prayer is going on...either park your butt on one of the fountains or in the food court.  But, you better make sure you get your food before prayer starts!

Yeah, almost missed out on feeding myself and my kids because of that:
My friend and I were casually shopping around the mall with four kids in tow.  We thought we would pop into the grocery store and pick up a few things before meeting another friend in the food court for lunch.  We kept checking the time to make sure we wouldn't be late and get stuck at prayer time.  
We finish up and start walking to the food court (at the other end of the mall)  My other friend calls to find out where we are...says everything is getting ready to close for prayer!  We panic...and literally start jogging (in abaya's) with the kids through the mall.  I had wanted to try a new place for lunch, but headed right for McDonald's cause I new we could order fast.
We get in the FEMALE line (RIGHT next to the men's line...seriously) and my friend orders first...the guy takes her order and moves on to the men.  So, I wait and watch the clock ticking towards 12.  The guy is totally ignoring me and more men keep rushing up to order food.  I realize that he thinks my friend has ordered for all of us...and just then, the lights shut off.  I panic!!  I have no order and two very hungry kids!  (and, well, I'm hungry too!)  The guys notices my panicked face and calmly says..."Did you want food?"  nah, I just freak out every day at prayer time...YES I want food!
Then the metal shutter starts to go down...my friends son starts crying because he thinks he's not getting any lunch!!!  
Never a dull moment around here.  Yes, we got our food (though my order was wrong) and we sat down (in the family section...which is partitioned off from the rest of the food court) to eat and wait for our husbands to pick us up.  (much safer to have the hubby take us than those nutball taxi drivers)
Yep, just another day in Saudi Arabia.  


Cruisin' Round Town...

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I've come to find that Yanbu is a pretty interesting little town.  First off Yanbu is an old city...I'm talking 2500 years old.  According to Wikipedia., "Yanbu served as a supply and operational base for Arab and British forces fighting the Ottoman Empire during the World War I. It remained a small port town until 1975, when the Saudi government designated it as one of the country's two new industrial centres (the other being Al Jubayl on the Persian Gulf)."
The "Old Yanbu" part of town houses the ancient ruins along with a wide variety of buildings.  Very few Westerners live there.
Our neighborhood has a wide variety of nationalities as well, and you'll find most of the Westerner's here.  There are two compounds (one nearer to Old Yanbu...Arabian Homes and the other The Cove.)  We live in a neighborhood known as the Royal Commission.  We are not a compound, but just a bunch of homes mixed with Westerner's and locals.  (both of our neighbors are Saudi)
It's very hard to find info about Yanbu, let alone any photos...so, I'm hoping to change that.  I know that I have to be careful what I take photos of, but I'll do my best to show you where we live.  Good and bad. 

Please forgive the quality of some of my pix....they were taken from the car and at times while we were moving.  :)
Also, by clicking to view the entire album, you can see comments about the photos.


Meet our extended family...

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My hubby has become slightly obsessed with our yard.  This started when he first got here...a severe lack of things to do (and no wife and kids to bug him) meant he had to find an outlet somewhere.  So, he attacked the yard.  I must admit...he has done a fine job!  Love the yard.
About a month before I was to arrive in Saudi, Matt brought up the idea of building a chicken coop.  I thought, sure, not a bad idea.  I figured we would work on it when I got there.  Um, no.  (did I mention that he had nothing to do??)  Less than a week later, the coop was up.
He did wait till we got here to buy the chickens.  We now own four lovely ladies.  Their names?  Well, when you leave it up to our daughter's, this is what you get:  Ariel, Jasmine, Snow White, and Belle.  Yes, we have princess chickens.  :) 

They are really quiet and not as messy as I thought.  Today was different though.  Around 7am, Snow White started pitching a fit.  I was in bed when I heard all this ruckus and went outside thinking something was trying to get in the coop.  Nope, just big mouth Snow White.  I emailed Matt saying that she was going to seriously piss off the neighbors!  He googled her actions and came up with the answer....she's getting ready to lay an egg!  
I thought, no way.  We figured it would be another month or so.  But, (and I don't say this lightly) I was wrong.  We were at a play date and Matt stopped home to check on things.  And...he found a lovely little white egg!  :)  So excited.  Since he was the creator of all this, he'll get to eat it for breakfast tomorrow.  :D

I'm just happy they actually lay eggs!  LOL  Here are some pix of our ladies and the first egg. 

our first egg.  :)

From the left:  Jasmine (black and brown), Snow White (light read head), 
Belle (darker red head), and Ariel (front)


Hangin' at the Red Sea

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Well, I've been living here in Saudi a whopping 2 and a half weeks.  (I swear I feel like I've been here for months)  And I've been lucky enough to hit up the Red Sea twice already.  
The Red Sea is just flat out gorgeous!  The water is such a beautiful color of blue, it's clear and in the summer it feels like bath water.   (click read more to read about where we went...)


Our first trip out took us to the Sharm.  There are quite a few "resorts" located here.  (I put the word in quotes because they are certainly not 5 star stateside resorts...but they are nice enough)  :)  
We went to Dolphin Bay.  We had a small beach and there was almost no one there.  (later in the day there wasn't anyone there!  we had our own private beach!)  The girls played in the water and the grownups chatted.  Matt took the girls, along with the other two dad's and boys, out for a boat ride...leaving the three moms...alone.  :)  Nice.  It was a lovely day and we had a great time. 

Our next trip found us at al-Hasi beach.  The day after Thanksgiving...yeah, can't say it's all bad here in Saudi!  Hitting the beach at the end of November...works for me!  :)  The beach is about an hour and a half drive from our house.  And along the way you get to see....sand.  :)  We did see some camels and a couple of herds of goats.  At one point, the road wasn't even lined to dictate where the lanes should be.  As we got close, we had to cut across the dirt median (dividing the highway) to make our way to the road we needed.  I'll say again...road rules are purely suggestive here!  Once we arrived, all the men had to go to a building and hand over everyone's passports or igama's (which is the residency permit...the girls and I are still waiting for ours).  This beach is monitored by the Saudi coast guard.  
After that was taken care of, we drove right onto the beach and parked. (hey Cali friends....jealous???  LOL)  We set up a huge tent and settled in.  A bunch of people went scuba diving and snorkeling...Matt snorkeled.  I didn't go this time...maybe next trip.  One of our friends said he hadn't seen so many different fish outside of an aquarium!  The girls found broken coral rolling around and some divers gave the girls some fantastic shells to keep.  (we are going to have quite the collection by the time we leave!)   
On a bad note...we all got burned.  Matt, me and the girls.  Yes...we used sunscreen.  So what happened??  Well, we guess that the Saudi brand sunscreen isn't as good as what we get in the states.  :(  Lesson learned.  Time to get a mass shipment of sunscreen!  :)
All in all, it was an absolute blast.  Can't wait for the next beach trip!  


Thanksgiving...Saudi Style

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This was my (I believe) my second time ever not being with my family on Thanksgiving.  (the first was when I was playing volleyball at Iowa State and we couldn't go home because of a tournament that same weekend.)  It certainly wasn't a traditional Thanksgiving for me, but I must admit...it was quite fun.  :)
Matt made his "famous" ;) turkey and the girls helped me make a Waldorf salad and garlic mashed potatoes.  
Our Thanksgiving meal was held at a local nursery (plants not kids).  We ate outdoors.  I thought the weather was perfect...nice cool breeze...others stated it was chilly.  Yeah, not going to go there.  There were probably around 75 people of all different nationalities.  We had a HUGE buffet of food that was provided by the families.  Everyone brought something to share.  We had some traditional American Thanksgiving foods...turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes.  But we also had some world flare: fried rice, pastas, curry, chicken, sauerkraut, a variety of dessert, and much more.  There was so much food!  And it was all really good.
It was a fun night and we got to meet a bunch of new people.  The girls only stopped moving long enough to eat a bit of food and off they went again.  All the kids were over near the grass area...running, playing, chasing.  They had an absolute blast.  :)  
I must admit that I missed my family like crazy, but I am thankful for all that we have in our lives right now.  It may not be what we are used to, but we are very lucky to have all that we do.  Hoping you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your loved ones. :)



My Abaya and Me...

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Well...it's been long overdue.  Everyone has been asking to see a pic of me wearing my abaya.  Honestly, I kept forgetting about it.  It's kinda weird, I've only been here a little over a week and yet wearing the abaya is really no big thing at all.
It's just one of those things where you know it has to be done and you just don't give it a second thought.  I must admit, it's not much different than wearing one of my long maxi dresses.  (aside from the long sleeves of course)  But, its comfortable and for now, the weather is cool enough that I'm not miserable.  The nice thing, too, is that since I'm not a Saudi woman, I get a little more freedom with what my abaya can look like.  It has to be predominately black, but it can have some color here and there.  (unlike Saudi women who wear ALL black)  So, that makes it a little more fun.  :)  I have two so far and I'm waiting on two more...gotta have choices right?  ;)  
All in all, it's just one of those things you just take with a grain of salt over here.  And...you know you're getting into the abaya thing when you start noticing and committing on other ladies pretty abaya's!  ;)  
My lovely daughter Sara took this photo of me this morning.  :)
(this is just inside our front gate)


Ladies in Black

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I think one of THE most fascinating aspects of Saudi are the Ladies in Black.  (as I will refer to them from now on)  As a westerner, seeing women dressed like this is a very rare occasion.  I think it is both a mixture of awe, fascination, and suspicion all rolled into one.  Your mind sees them and wonders "Wow.  How can they be comfortable?  Do they HAVE to dress that way?  What do they look like underneath?"
I realize that some people in non-Muslim countries don't really understand the reason behind this and think that it is perhaps disgraceful or wrong.  Personally, I think it's just one of those things that makes this culture unique.  Just as other cultures have their own styles as well.  There are African tribes who wear the Dashiki or they may wear no clothing at all...using just paint.  The German's have their Lederhosen.  The Scottish men have kilts.  Japanese have kimono's...and so on.  
So, my position was not to judge or question the Ladies in Black.  Just to accept that that is the lifestyle of this country and to be respectful of their choices.

My big question was...Where and how did this all start?  Is this regulated by the Kingdom or by the religion itself?  Time to do some research...and here is what I found out: (the following are quotes taken from various websites regarding the abaya)


Shopping in Saudi

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Shopping here is definitely an experience...and one that requires planning to say the least.  Prayer times reek havoc on a ladies shopping day!  There is no such thing as running out really quickly to the store.  You better know when each prayer time is before you head out.
My first trip to the store was with Matt (of course, since I can't drive).  We got there during one of the prayers.  One of our grocery stores is located in the mall.  Every single store was closed for prayer.  There were a bunch of people (mostly men) lined up outside the store with carts ready to go.  So we lined up with them and patiently waited...


Welcome to Saudi...A first impression

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What do you think of when you hear the words Saudi Arabia?  Camels?  Tents?  Sand?  Women covered head to toe? Third world living?

Yeah, a lot of those thoughts were my own.  Luckily, before I moved, I was able to talk to some people currently living here and see their photos.  It really put my mind at ease a little.  I think as American's we know so very little about this country and only what we've heard from the news.  So what was Saudi like for me? 
(here are a just a few photos I've taken of our town, the Red Sea, and home...many more to come)

I was so anxious about moving here...even after talking with families who live here,  I was still so worried that I would do or say something wrong and offend someone.  
My first time on Saudi soil was in the Riyadh airport.  And, of course, the first thing you focus on are the Ladies in Black.  They are just fascinating...to me at least. :)  
We had to go through a couple of security check points to get to our next gate.  Men and women are separated and within an enclosed room, I was checked over with the wand (the girls too).  It seemed weird, but every time the ladies were very friendly and had big smiles for my girls.  :)  Then I would meet Matt on the other side and off we'd go.
We had a very long layover in Riyadh and I had the chance to really observe the people.  (I couldn't sleep)  I found a lot of the stereotypes I was told about just didn't exist.  I saw men and women holding hands.  I saw Saudi women (Ladies in Black) wearing sandals and their wrists would show a little.  I began to relax.  Even more so when I realized no one was staring at ME.  I wasn't offending anyone by not covering my hair or face, I didn't get any dirty looks, and everyone adored my children.  (more about that in a later post)

When we arrived in Jeddah, Matt had a car waiting to drive us (he was worried about being too tired for the 3 hour trip home)  I walked outside and saw.....SAND.  Miles and miles and miles.  My heart sank.  I immediately missed Cali more than anything.  We piled into the car and headed off.  I tried to stay awake, but it wasn't going to happen.  Besides, there really wasn't much to see...the drive between the two cities is like the drive between Vegas and California...miles of open land.  (Matt said they went through a couple of nasty dust storms and the girls saw some camels...)
As we approached our town,though, I perked up a bit.  I saw green trees!!  Yay!  To be honest, as you drive around the neighborhoods, you won't be overly impressed with the outer upkeep.  It's nothing like in the states where people have sprawling lawns and gardens.  At least, not that you can see from the street.  Almost all the homes are surrounded by high walls.  This way, women can be outside in their yards without having to wear an abaya.  So they could have a virtual paradise back there...who knows.  Our home is the same way.  So, you're initial impression is...well, okay, not so bad.  

We got settled into our house and then Matt took us out for a drive around the town.  He showed me the stores, our friends homes, and the local McDonald's and Pizza Hut (yes, we have those!).  Then we headed to the Red Sea.  All I can say is...Wow.  It's so beautiful.  Parks and grass and playgrounds all along a lovely boardwalk.  Palm trees swaying.  Just gorgeous.  So yeah, there are bits that look rundown and others that make your jaw drop (huge mansions)...but all in all, I like it.  

One other thing to mention about my first impression of Saudi...the driving.  Good lord...these guys are just nuts!  Not necessarily speed...though that can be a factor at times.  It's the sheer lack of respect for the laws of driving a car!  Matt says he doesn't even blink and eye now at the craziness.  It's pretty amazing...and I'm very thankful I brought the girls' car seats with me!  (and that Matt got a nice sized SUV for our family car)  Gotta be on your toes around here!  :)

My first impression of Saudi....it's no where near what I thought it would be.  It's better.  I like my house, I like where we live, and I'll just deal with the groceries and shopping.  Even wearing the abaya isn't so bad...kinda nice to just throw it on and head out!  No worries about matching, fit, if it's in style...yeah, it's not so bad.  (course, ask me that again come summer time and you make get an earful about wearing it...)  
Welcome to Saudi...it's good to be here.   



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Wow...I think I'm in love.  Don't get me wrong...Italy is still my fave, but man, Germany is stunning!  We are here right in the middle of fall and the trees look amazing.  (and for someone who RARELY gets to see the leaves change, this is a real treat.)
It's not easy getting around here...hard to tell which roads are which...and the fact that I couldn't get my iPad data plan to international doesn't help. (I can only get WiFi in the apartment).  But, it's just added to the adventure.  Below are some photos from our trip...and then, just click Read More to find out about where we traveled.  :)


Together at last...

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Well.  If nothing else...this adventure has definitely started!  And what an adventure it was just getting to Germany!  
Getting to LA was easy.
Then..we arrive in LA and I need to get all 8 bags...NO porter to help!!!!  I panicked!  Thank god for good people in this world...an entire family helped me get my bags and kids all the way over to the next terminal.
Then...we get there and can't check in.  No one for Air New Zealand for another hour.  So, the kids sat on the ground and watched a movie...I watched them.
Once up to the ticket counter it took almost a half hour to get everything checked in.
Finally I am rid of all those damn bags....lady thought I was crazy checking THREE excess bags.  :P
The Air New Zealand plane was just awesome.  Great service and the girls were super comfy...they were perfect and slept for a good 6 hours.  Me...not so much.  I did watch 5 movies and some TV shows.  :)
Had a hell of a walk in the London airport and couldn't get my damn WiFi to work.  Girls were pretty pissy by now...and I was seriously lacking sleep and patience.  Got on board and off without a hitch though.  They enjoyed a short movie on the flight to Frankfurt.
Walked another mile to customs...No worries with customs and girls got their first stamps.
Matt came running to meet us at the baggage claim.  The girls were so happy to see daddy!

Boy, you should have seen the stares we got with all those bags!!  LOL  Took us a good hour and a half to get the hell out of the airport...
Got lost, of course, on the freeways, but actually found the area we needed.  (and we had no internet or ipad to use!)  Guess thats what happens after you stare at the maps of germany for two weeks straight!  :)
Anyway, we're here now...Matt is off getting food and WINE and the girls are WIDE AWAKE.  (it's nearly 10pm here)  Should make for an interesting day tomorrow.
The apartment is cute and just perfect for the next five days.  We can walk out the front door and right to the river.

Can't wait to go exploring together as a whole family once again!


The Day Before....

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Well, here we are.  Today is my last full day on American soil for at least two years.  Laying in bed this morning, I just kept thinking...am I really doing this?  Sure, it's all "sounded" great, but now I'm about to actually put theory into practice.  And, well, I'm scared.  
I think it's mostly because of how unknown Saudi is.  Everyone here (and I was the same way a few months back) has such limited knowledge of Saudi's and their lives.  Not to mention just how DIFFERENT life there is going to be.  I worry that I'm going to say or do something wrong and upset someone, or offend someone with bad Arabic.  I've been reassured by those lovely ladies living there right now, but, still...until I'm there, my stress level is going to stay pretty high.
Right now, I'm taking a quick break from packing.  I'm telling you...I may not want to travel again for months!  I'm so sick of looking at these suitcases and trying to strategically pack every little thing.  Making sure I have plenty to keep the kids busy on the plane, stuff for me, extra clothes, etc etc etc.  I want everything done by tonight though.  Tonight is MY night.  I'm cooking a wonderful dinner for family and I just want to sit back and enjoy their company.  Tomorrow is going to be a rough day...but not going to think about that just yet.
Guess I should quit procrastinating and get back to work...weird to think, the next time I update my blog I'll either be in Germany...or Home.  In Saudi.  whoa.  


Commence Phase Two

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So, here I am.  Back in Vegas.  What a roller coaster couple of months.  Now that the stress of the visa application is behind me I can relax.  Wait, relax?  No, that is definitely not what I am doing.  I think I am more amped up than ever.
I mean, I should be stoked right?  Visa done, plane tickets ready to go.  Well, of course I'm crazy excited to see my husband.  (and to actually have a house and be able to UNPACK my suitcases)  But, I have to admit, I'm as nervous as I am excited.  My mind doesn't have anything else to focus on now except the upcoming move.  And now I'm starting to feel the nerves kicking in.  I try not to think about how much I'm going to miss my family because as soon as I do, the tears begin to well.  I'm trying so hard not to show my anxiousness around the girls.  They have been through so much, but its hard to keep it all pent up.  I've asked family to try and curb their emotions as well...at least until a week from today.  I worry about life in Saudi...scared that I might do something wrong or say something wrong.  The uncertainties make it hard to feel as excited as I know I should be.  But, I just keep telling myself...I have ladies and families waiting for me over there and I won't be alone.  They will help me get a grip on my new life.  (still wish I could drag my mommy with me.)

Okay, enough gloom, I AM totally excited about where I'm heading next week.  The girls and I will be meeting Matt in Frankfurt.  We will get a wonderful 5 day mini vakay.  We rented a nice little apartment about 10 minutes from Heidelberg.  There are castles to see, the Rhine river, and wonderful little villages.  From there, we head back to Saudi.  I can't wait to get my hands on my house and give it a ladies touch!  :)  Matt has been doing an amazing job with our yard...planting grass, flowers, herbs and veggies.  He's even planning to build a chicken coop!  (that should make things interesting!  LOL)  

So, for now, I'm trying to focus on the fun things ahead of us. Focus on the adventure, on the amazing life experience we are giving our girls (as well as ourselves).  Focus on being with my hubby again.  Focus on the girls being with their daddy.  

I'm just not going to focus on one thing....all the family I am leaving behind.  Cause, yeah, that'll just break me.  (crap, what was I supposed to be focusing on???)  Oh yeah....bring on Phase Two...our adventure awaits.   

Texas Trip

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It's been almost a week since the girls and I left Texas.  We were sad to go...it was really great to get to spend so much time with family that we see so very little of each year.
My mother-in-law (aka Oma to the girls) was so helpful in finding fun things for the girls to do.  They got to attend a little preschool a couple days a week while they were there.  (giving mommy a much needed break and giving them a chance to play with other kiddos)  We went to a museum, the Riverwalk, out to dinners, to Randolph Air Force Base (where my father-in-law used to work...he's a retired colonel.)  to watch the jets land and take off and to see where their Daddy used to live for a few years.  And, I have to admit, seeing those jets up close was just flat out awesome, I could have watched them all day!  We also did all kinds of crafts, they swam in the pool, went to the pumpkin patch, went for walks, and to many parks.  It was a great time for all of us.
I had a great time cooking dinner for them during the week.  My cousin and her man drove down (4 hours) to visit with us and see the girls one more time.  And I also got to see some of my other cousins and spend the day with them too!  The girls really enjoyed seeing all their family (as did I).  

And, I must say, I'm so thankful that my mother-in-law was able to help me out with all the visa stuff.  She was the rock I needed to help me get everything done.  So, thank you, Valita, for all your help with the girls and myself!  Couldn't have done it all without you (well, maybe I could have, but it also would have guaranteed me having a nervous breakdown in the process). 
Thanks to my in-laws for letting us invade their lives and home for four weeks... :)  It was something we'll never forget.


Cleared for Visa!!!

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Well, to say the least....this process will be nothing if not unforgettable.  I cannot believe the work involved in getting a visa to go to another country to live.  Perhaps Saudi is stricter than most...not sure.  Let me give you a little run down of what it all took:


Matt's first trip to Jeddah

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So, Matt had to drive to Jeddah to get some paperwork done to sell our car in the States.  He told me the drive there and back is just awful.  Tons of traffic and not a damn thing to look at.  But, he was impressed with Jeddah.  He wasn't able to get too many shots (you know me, I'll have a thousand in one trip.  LOL) and he said that when he as in the mall (which doesn't open until 4pm on Friday's...that's their holy day) they were all looking at him funny for taking photos of a closed mall.  :)  My girls saw the pix of the kid play place and went nuts...too bad its not somewhere I can take them every day.  Wish Jeddah was closer to us.  :(  But, it'll give us something to look forward to.  So, enjoy the photos!  Many more to come!
(oh...on a side note...I'm just one piece of paper away from getting everything to send for the visa.  I'll have the visa's before we even leave Texas!  so excited!)


Let the Processing Begin!!!

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Great news today!!!  We can finally start processing our family visa!  I'm so stoked.  I have to get a whole medical workup done...(god help me...I hate needles!!!).  The blessing is that the girls don't, whew!!
So, I get a bunch of paperwork complied, send it over to the Parson's rep and she sends out for the visa.  The visa takes about a week.  If all goes well, I hope to be in Saudi by the end of October!!!

Now...if you'll all just say a little prayer that all my medical stuff goes through with flying colors.... once that's done, well, I'll be much more relaxed!  ;)  

Livin' with Gma

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I stayed at my grandma's for almost two weeks.  It was rocky at first...girls had trouble settling in (naps/bedtimes)...I was overtired and grumpy myself.  But, with the help and love of family, we got it all squared away.
My grandma (a young 87) is old school and therefore has no computer.  Thank god for my iPad, but the iPad doesn't let me update my blog! So,  I'm now here in Texas using my family's computer!  whoo hoo back to blogging!

Being with my grandmother was a special treat.  The girls got to spend some serious quality time with their great-grandma...something very few children get to do.  She's so easy going and they were able to build forts out of her couch cushions, redecorate her laundry room, and just have good 'ol kid fun.  She got a kick outta watching them spend 45 minutes sweeping her porch.  (the squirrels made a mess!)
I got to cook for her almost every night...so I was in my own little version of heaven.  She complained (in her own way) about ALL the ingredients I would use.  LOL...but, she sure did like the recipes!

We also spent some great quality time with my aunt and uncle and cousins and extended family.  It was so wonderful to spend so much time with family that I'm maybe lucky to see once a year.  The weather was great...lots of rain.  (grandma found it funny I was loving the rain so much...well, I did grow up in Vegas!  hello!)  :)  And I got to travel to THE Ohio State University where my cousin went to school.  That was a great day! 

It was a wonderful trip.  The last night was the hardest.  I'm going to be gone for nearly two years..if not more, and well...she's old.  I can't deny that fact...and in the back of my mind, I knew I may not get to see her again.  I may never get to hang out in her home again...(which my grandfather built and has been her home for 56 years.)  I know it sounds morbid, but it's also true.  We sat on the couch that last night, holding hands and drinking wine.  The next morning was a blur of packing and getting the kids ready.  My uncle came to pick us up and take us to the airport.
Leaving her standing in her driveway had to be one of hardest moments...it was just gut wrenching watching her cry.  I didn't want her to be so very sad.  Having a house full for two weeks and then going back to being all alone...well, I don't even want to imagine.  I'm going to miss being with her...and I'm so thankful that she took us into her home.  She's an incredible woman and I love her so much.      


We're movin' now!

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Let the games begin!  The movers are here as we speak, my house is total chaos.  My dear friend came this morning and whisked away my girls...they were headed to the zoo and then over to her house for the afternoon.  God bless her.  
I spent the first hour with one of the guys carefully weighing each box that is getting shipped to Saudi.  (remember, we only get 400lbs!)  Once that was done, I'm just kind of walking around clueless.  I parked myself at my desk to start filling out the daunting (and aggravating) inventory list.
And so, my part of the adventure finally begins.  We'll stay tonight with some friends...then head to Vegas in the morning.  (after a short stop at the beach...of course)  Thursday I have to get to Carmax and sell the Caddy.  Then Friday, me and the girls take off to Ohio!  
I'm so looking forward to doing NOTHING this coming weekend.  

I don't think they have enough pods...seriously.  :/


Bad News...Good News

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Bad news first...yesterday I had to put down my dog of 12 years.  I got Hagen when he was just 3 months old.  He was sort of an anti-dog...never played fetch, didn't like to chew bones.  Just a happy puppy.  He was so easy to train and in his later years, I never worried about him running off or jumping up on people.  His favorite thing to do these last few months was to lay out on the driveway and watch the world go by.  Oh, sure, he had his quirks...he sure didn't like kids..even my own.  No one but me was allowed to touch anywhere near his rear end and he loved to shred toilet paper.  :)  
He was with me through so many moments...we moved to and from Texas, in and out of my mom's house, in and out of three other homes, I got married, had kids...he was always there, always by my side.  He listened when I cried about crappy moments in my life, he laid in bed with me at night, and he loved going for rides in the car.  
He was mine, and I loved him so much.
As the move to Saudi drew closer, I knew I had to find another home for him.  I really didn't want him to go to a family I didn't know, and then lose all contact with him.  I posted on Facebook begging people to help me find him a home to live out the rest of his days.  I sent emails to all my family and my husband's family.  No luck.  I was getting panicked.  What was I going to do??
Then, one sleepless night, I understood there was only one option.  See, Hagen was blind.  Sure, he got along well in our home because he'd been familiar with it for the past 2 years.  But, there were times he would trip and fall over things on the floor, or walk into walls or doors.  A couple of times he fell down the stairs.  And I started thinking...what is he going to do in a totally unfamiliar home with totally unfamiliar people??  Hagen already had a habit of not eating when I would leave or go out of town.  What would happen when I left and never came back.  He would feel abandoned and probably die of a broken heart.
And so, I knew that it would be pure torture to do that to my dog...just because I wanted to selfishly keep him around.  I had always wanted to be there with him in the end...
This was the hardest decision I have ever had to make...I cried the whole day...wracking, gut wrenching, sick to your stomach.  
It happened so fast...one minute he was breathing, then next I was holding his body in my arms.  I stayed awhile.  Petting him, talking to him, kissing his nose...but I knew his spirit had left.  I knew my dog was now free...he could see again, his teeth no longer pained him, he had a ton of energy.  Not that any of this made me feel any better...my heart still aches.  I look for him around the house...listening for his collar to jingle...now, I'll just have to focus on the memories...they were really good ones.
I'm going to miss my buddy. 

Okay, so now, as I dry my eyes once more...I'd like to share GOOD news!  :)  Matt called today to say that he got his iqama!!!  That means that our family visa paperwork has been filed!  We're hoping it will be only about 6 more weeks till we can be together again.  So, I'm focusing on that now.  Trying to finish packing the house up and well, just moving on.  Everything happens for a reason, I truly believe that...and I feel in my heart (down to my soul) that everything that has happened so far...is good. 

Me and my buddy.  forever in my heart.


Red Sea Dive (#1)

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Matt recently went diving in the Red Sea.  He said it was just amazing.  The water temp was a glorious 85 degrees and crystal clear.  These are some photos his dive partner took.  He may be able to talk me into going after all...maybe.  ;)


Not Fun.

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Hello. My name is Staci. I am a Pack Rat.

Good god, I don't know how I manage to accumulate as much stuff as I do. This is just nuts. I mean, I'm no hoarder...not by a long shot, but still. I think this move was written in the cards. They say.."Staci, CLEAN OUT THE HOUSE!!!!!!!"

When we moved from Vegas to Cali...it was quick. I'm talkin' a turn around of about 2 weeks, from when Matt left to when the movers came to pack up. So, I didn't do much in the way of actually getting rid of anything...it was more..just stuff it in something and get it ready to go. See, I had to pack everything myself then. And let me tell you, by the end, I was just dumping stuff in boxes.

So, this time, it's different.
One: They are packing me. So thankful for that.
Two: I can only ship 400lbs. That really makes you rethink what's important. (I do get to stuff my luggage full to take on the plane with me, but still...that's not much either)
Three: They will pay for storage. But, you can't store certain items for 2 years. You end up with nasty stuff.

All that said, I'm definitely taking more time to make sure I'm left with as little as possible and only what's important. The girls have watched toy after toy be sold in garage sales. It's just got. to. go.

I'm miserable right now, I'm sick of my house, sick of my stuff, and sick of trying to figure out what to bring. I want to fast forward to September 7th when I'll be coasting along the freeway to Vegas. But, then again, I don't want to wish away my last days in Cali either. Course, I'd rather be OUT enjoying Cali then in this house. But, thank the lord for my mother and all her help. I think I would have had a nervous breakdown if she wasn't here right now.

Okay, enough computer time. Back to work. YUCK.
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