Saturday, December 24, 2011

(Pre)Christmas Festivities

I have to say, an embassy community knows how to party.  We have never had so many holiday events to attend!  It surely helps when Christmas isn't happening all around you: no decorations in stores, no Christmas music on the radio, and definitely not Christmas-y weather.

(Although, we did go to a French restaurant for date night last Friday and were pleasantly surprised by their big Christmas tree and decorations.)  

Anyhow, we have been busy little bees (or elves?) and even decided to let J out of the house since after all, it is Christmas.

Last Saturday we kicked things off at the Ambassador's Embassy-wide Holiday Party.  
First off Joe had to introduce G to the Ambassador's new puppy: Sonny Boy.  No one should be surprised that G went straight for the lips.

This is G's first ever meeting with Santa.  

Santa gives each child a gift at the party (bought and pre-wrapped by Mom beforehand) You can tell this by the difference in the gift G is given and the beautifully wrapped gift the next child is getting.
Santa was not a success.
J is shown here flirting with my friend Pam.  Pam and I, both Texans, take French together, so there is a whole lot of Spanish/French vocab. and accent mix-ups.  It's quite comical.  Si?  Oui!

Mom was in town and able to join us.
Later this week G's preschool class had a short program and party for Christmas.  As a teacher that has put on many of these productions, I was pretty thrilled to be on the other side of things.  And of course, now I understand the cuteness of watching your child and the PRIDE.  Oh, the pride.  Even if he didn't actually do much singing or the movements, by golly, he kept his santa hat on and stayed in his chair for the most part where he was supposed to be (i.e. didn't get into any wrestling matches in the middle of the floor DURING THE PROGRAM, run over and jump off a couch, start digging through teacher materials...behavior expectations are a tad different between cultures).  

G and his friend, D, are the only Americans in the pre-school and they are the youngest as well.  I should also mention that G couldn't sing during most of the program because he had a huge cookie in his mouth that he surreptitiously got a hold of from the party table before the program could begin.  Of course.

My girlfriend snapped a pic of the actual cookie-sneaking.

His class.  They range in ages from 2-5.

G and his sweet friend, D, also sitting. (G is shoving the cookie in his mouth)

Then, on Saturday morning, the American club hosted a "Breakfast with Santa".  Thankfully, Santa didn't show up until most of the kids had eaten.  My friend Jamie and I, the only Southerners (and Aggies!) with young kids had ours dressed in matching outfits.  Because nothing says Christmas Spirit and the Savior's birth like overpriced holiday duds. It just blessed my little heart.  
G and Joe spent most of their time at the swings.
 Take 2 with Santa.

I think it went even worse this time between G and Santa.  J thought he was great!
Merry Christmas, Y'all!

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Fes is the largest preserved medina (walled city) in the world.  It is over 4 square miles of car-free winding alleyways that are instead filled with donkeys and carts.  When mom was in town earlier this month we took a day trip to check it out.  It is a 2 hour drive from Rabat, through mountains and lush valleys (who knew?).  

Honestly, I think Fes is the Venice of Africa.  Don't start thinking canals, but once you enter both cities you step back in time where many things are done as they were hundreds of years ago.  Goods still come in by donkey or man-pulled carts (or boats in the case of Venice) and the buildings are continually restored to maintain their original architecture. Instead of the sounds of cars, trucks, and horns, in both cities you simply hear the daily rhythms of life.  Women still walk to the markets every morning to buy their bread and produce, and craftsmen still work in cramped shops as they have for generations.  They are both made up of narrow streets and winding alleys, that if it weren't for our guides, I have no doubt we would still be wandering around lost inside.  And for a really cheesy side-note here, can I just say that I find it a bit magical?  

OK.  Back to business.  

We met up with a guide, a guy one of Joe's Moroccan colleagues knows.  (There is always a "guy" around here.  Looking for a gardner? "I know a guy" Want to get some things framed? "There is a guy" Need a tooth pulled?- "I have a guy") This "guy" actually turned out to be fabulous.  He showed up dressed in slacks and dress shoes, was very professional and knowledgeable, and charged less than $50 for the day. (I'm sure he got kickbacks throughout the day from all of the vendors he took us to.)

Fes is a lot of walking with a lot of hills.  It's not handicap accessible and it doesn't smell great.  BUT it does have some of the most amazing handicrafts displayed around every corner with architecture that will take your breath away.  

The Blue Gate-main entrance to the medina

Mom and me in front of a public fountain
An entrance to one of many mosques inside the medina
One of the narrower alleys/streets

Market stalls.  This is one of those situations where if you don't want to see the beheading of a chicken, you need to keep your eyes straight ahead.  
Men working in the "Dyers' souk"

Dying agave thread with a natural saffron dye

More goods

A rare peek inside a Moroccan mosque.  This one is apart of the world's oldest continuously running university.
Fes is known for its leather.  This is a tannery just inside the medina walls.  The workers spend all day in vats of dye working with the hides.  Not a great aroma.
 Saffron-dyed hides drying atop a nearby building
Fes's answer to the Nordstrom shoe department
We went into a co-op and watched some old-school weaving.  Bought some scarves they had made.

Another gate.  These folks sure know how to make an entrance.

At lunch in a traditional (touristy) Moroccan restaurant
From the outside

Thanks, Fes!  It's been real.  

P.S.  Fes is a pretty cheap flight away from many European cities.  It would be a great glimpse into the Arab world at the beginning or end of any vacation.  

Saturday, December 17, 2011

10 Months and on the Move

Truly, I thought he would be motoring around a lot earlier and I am ever so grateful that he waited this long.

The Woo is roughly 21 lbs and 29 in.  It's a guess-timate because the embassy health unit doesn't give you one of those handy-dandy papers with all the stats and percentiles like the pediatrician's do.  All I know is that he is still big, way heavy, and wearing sizes anywhere from 12-24 months.

He is still eating like a champ and prefers big people food, has started noticing iPhones and remotes (and is DESPERATE for them), wants to get into everything his brother is doing, loves spending time with his 'Dija (our nanny/housekeeper), and sleeps pretty great.  Remember that screech I posted about a while back?  Well, that has gotten tons better since he started moving.  However, he definitely has (and uses) an entire register in his voice that his big brother has never discovered.

He hadn't been crawling for a day when he realized he could start pulling himself up.  We'll be shocked if he's not walking by his birthday.  Our house is totally safe for kids, especially ones learning to move: all marble and tile, lots of steps, drop-offs, and sharp corners.  There are many tears every day even with the help of gates and close supervision.
Pre-trim.  Always a cow-lick in the same spot.
Post-trim.  Good job, Gran!

You may have noticed the boy has a lot of hair.  G didn't need a haircut until he was 15 months, J was shaggy by 6 months.  Mom gave him a trim while she was here and he looks pretty grown up now.

Oh, and he may not know his real name.  "The Woo" has stuck, mainly because G can say it.  I'll be interested to see how long G especially calls him that.

Woo-woo: Your Mommy and Daddy love you so so much.  We can't get over how sweet and cute and loving and adventurous you are.  So glad we got you!

Sunday, December 11, 2011


There are several things I feel like I need to mention and don't want to forget, but that don't quite have enough material for their own post...


Thankfully, even though we live away from home, the embassy does a good job of providing traditional American celebrations for each holiday.  For Halloween they did a carnival and Trunk or Treat.  The funny thing is that when I read the invitation for the Trunk or Treat I thought it was the most clever idea I had ever heard!  (I have since realized that lots of organizations do this and have been doing this for awhile.)  I took lots of pictures that afternoon and then something went terribly wrong with our camera and I now have none of them.  I took one picture with my phone.

G was Curious George and J was his banana.  
All of the kids looked great in their costumes and they walked a parade route from the carnival at the club to the car trunks inside the embassy compound.  I had volunteered a trunk, not knowing until the day before that I was expected to DECORATE it.  Oh dear.  I am not very crafty and don't keep those sorts of things around the house.  And some of these people went ALL OUT with blackout material, lights, cobwebs and music.  I ended up making a black, orange, and white paper chain (you know like a countdown to Christmas chain) and hanging it from the trunk.  Oh, and by the by, I had to call my crafty friend here to even come up with that.

I don't know if any of you have seen Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, but once those kids started the Trunk or Treating it was like chum in the water for a school of angry sharks.  Seriously I just threw candy in baskets for about 4 intense minutes and then it was over.  (Some of you probably know what I'm talking about.) I think it was all a little too much for the G man.  He pretty much bowed out of the candy part.

Later that night Joe and I went to the adult Halloween party.  It didn't even start until 9 pm!!!!!  Oh dear me, don't they know we are usually in bed by 8:30????  I was very impressed that Joe even agreed to go- it is a big deal for us to leave the house after the sun goes down.  We got there at what we thought was a fashionable 9:30....and no one was there yet.  Nerd alert!  Coming up with costumes caused me no end of concern.  We had not yet received our shipment so the pickins were pretty slim.  After much debate we decided on being Coach and Tami Taylor from our favorite TV show "Friday Night Lights." (Which, once again, if you have never watched it before, you need to head on over to Netflix for $8 a month and stream it)  And yes, we know we look nothing like the Taylors, and of course no one could tell who we were, but I think we pieced together pretty good outfits:

Coach and Tami Taylor

There were also many discussions on whether we should go Dillon Panthers or East Dillon Lions.  We stuck with the Panthers. And just for the record, we stayed at the party until 11:40.


We had all but given up the idea of Thanksgiving for this year because of the Moroccan national elections that took place the Friday after (that I may have mentioned once or seventeen times).  On Thursday at 4 pm, Joe left to travel down to Western Sahara to monitor several polling places on the behalf of the U.S.  (He is working on his own post about his adventure)  So, we certainly didn't want to make a big feast while packing him and getting the kids and me ready for 3.5 days solo...for the first time in Morocco.

We were, however, invited to partake in some friends' already-planned feast.  Our contribution to the affair ended up being our house- it is the biggest of the 3 families and we actually have a great playroom and backyard for all the little people.

First annual family Thanksgiving picture (Jenny- we finally have a great front porch to take pics on!)

Our friend Matt, carving, made the hands-down best turkey I've ever eaten.

We seem to get really lucky in the "having friends that are photographers" department.  Geoff took some great shots that day.

Ready for take-off

Baby boys

G checking out newborn Baby A

When Joe came home we put up our Christmas decorations which really helped warm up the house.

I think I know how to do this...

Black Friday

I may have already mentioned that it is pretty nice to be away from all of the crazy holiday shopping in the States.  It becomes so stressful, not to mention crowded, and all about more and more THINGS.  And after seeing some of the news footage from this year's Black Friday, I was actually a little ill.  Of course being away from the States....and in a Muslim country, you also lose out on the Christmas decorations and holiday "spirit" in the air.  Most of you know I do love shopping, and to start off the Christmas season a girlfriend and I decided to have our own Black Friday.  The shopping turned out quite nice- we went to the Medina and bought lots of gifts and of course it wasn't crowded!  For lunch we decided to try out the T.G.I.Fridays in town to celebrate our American "holiday".  Of course I tried to order chicken fajitas..."Sorry Madame, we do not have that today." OK, beef fajitas..."No, that will take over an hour to make"...I ended up with some questionable pasta.  My friend Whitney thought the club sandwich looked promising- it came out as a couple of pieces of white bread with one slice of ham on it. Yuck.  Oh, and the trip to the restaurant took about 2 hours from start to finish.  Nice.  

I'm sure this is what your Black Friday looked like too.  (Sorry for the terrible picture.  I don't  like to take my iPhone out and advertise it.)
I'm playing catch-up, so hopefully more posts will follow this week!