Welcome to the Wandering Drays!

Not all who wander are lost...

Welcome to my blog dedicated to my family and our crazy foreign service life. Never content with staying in one place, we are excited to share our journey. We've survived two unaccompanied tour (Baghdad 2010-2011 and Baghdad again in 2015-2016), multiple TDYs, and enjoyed a two-year family assignment in Cairo, Egypt. The fab hubby is currently learning Turkish for our next assignment...Istanbul, Turkey! We leave for Turkey sometime in summer 2017. I write about what I know. Which is mainly kids, tween drama, gross pets, dealing with lots of government info, our moving adventures, being a nurse, yoga, running, living on too-little sleep, and an addiction to coffee lattes. I hope you'll enjoy this glimpse into our lives.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

And So 2011 Ends

2011.  It'll be over here in Egypt in just 2 hours.  It's been a whirlwind.  This time last year, the fab hubby was in Baghdad, I had just returned to working in the ER (Kellen was 7-ish weeks old), and it was freezing cold in Ohio.

And now we're adjusting to life in Cairo, our sweet little baby is a walking/destructive force of nature, I have a new RN gig, and [thankfully] it's nowhere near freezing cold in our part of the world.  In fact, we're spending New Year's Day at the Red Sea.  In swim suits.  At the beach.  Alhamdulillah!

Big kids are snuggled on the couch having a marathon TV session.  They'll never make it to midnight, no matter how hard they try.  No big plans for us to go out tonight, just time together.

We're all enjoying the normalcy of being together as a family.  It's been not quite six months since Jason returned from Iraq and I'm still grateful for the time we have together again.

No matter where you are in the world tonight, I wish you a peaceful and prosperous New Year.

Goodbye, 2011.  You were pretty good year.  Can't wait to see what 2012 brings!

Even the baby enjoyed the Waadi!

Spent the day enjoying the Waadi Degla (dry river bed)
recreation area.  Don't worry - this is written in eco-friedly
charcoal that we found!

Sunset in Cairo on New Year's Eve. With BFF latte.  No better way to end the year!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Yes, Owen. There is a Santa Claus. Part Two.

Or this could have been titled: "The Year Owen Found Out About Santa Claus Two Days Before Christmas."

Wish list with "real sord"; made before
he discovered the Santa Secret.

He's eight years old.  Soon to be nine in February.  So I guess I shouldn't be surprised that he'd figured it out.  Considering so many of his friends already knew and they've been telling him. You know.  About Santa.

Owen: "Mom.  You and Dad are Santa, right?"

Mom:  "No."

Owen: "Mom.  Really.  How can one man fly all over the world and deliver presents to everyone? I mean really.  With reindeer?"

Mom: "That's right.  That's what Santa does."

Owen: "Promise?"

Mom: (*with fingers crossed behind back*) "Yup."

Or how about the time where he comes home and says that his Muslim friend at school told him Santa wasn't real?  This is a touchy one.  So we talked with Owen and explained that Santa only visits kids who believe in him.  And since the Muslim religion doesn't believe in Santa and they don't celebrate Christmas, he doesn't visit them.  It was a good opportunity to talk about cultural and religious differences, but I can't say I was really ready for the talk just yet.  I much prefer avoidance to any subject concerning the legitimacy of Santa.

And then there's the time two days before Christmas when he comes home and says some bigger kids at lunch actually TOLD him there is no such thing as Santa Claus.  And that parents really do all the work of Santa and put the presents out under the tree.

It was time to break out the big guns.  So, I of course turned the entire case over to the fab hubby.  And ran out of the room to console myself with a latte.

Abby's is a bit harder to read because she always uses
pencil and writes lightly.  But Hello Kitty is her fav, always.
And Jason, in his usual awesome dad-style, patiently talked with Owen about Saint Nicolas, and what it meant to give at Christmas.  About how we, as parents, continue on the legacy and spirit of giving that St. Nick gave so selflessly.  And now that Owen knew the Santa Claus Secret, it was his turn to help with Christmas giving.

But Owen wasn't quite ready to stop believing.  He wanted Santa to be real.  He really wanted there to be a Santa that wasn't his parents.  A North Pole with elves and reindeer and a sleigh.  He wanted NORAD's Santa sightings to be a real tracking device and not just a story that adults made up.

My heart ached.  It's hard watching him grow up sometimes.  And maybe, just maybe, I'm not ready for him to know the truth either.

He was so close to finding out the truth last year (remember this Christmas close-call?).  Owen has been on the cusp of discovery of the Santa Secret for so long.

So maybe unfairly we told him too soon.  Part of me was really worried he was going to blab to Abby about it and part of me felt like he was so close to figuring it out on his own that I thought he should know the truth.

But after we told him the truth, his downtrodden little face told me otherwise.  He wasn't ready.

Christmas morning came, and the kids discovered all of the gifties Santa had left them.  Owen got two foam swords (obviously parent-approved) for fighting and a real bow with arrows.  He was delighted.  Abby found a backpack she'd asked for from Santa in her school letter [special thanks goes out to the kids' school for setting us up on that one - we only knew she'd asked for it because she mentioned they were writing letters to Santa in class. Try finding a princess backpack in Cairo three days before Christmas], along with a Hello Kitty lego set.  And her happiest moment was finding a Santa Hat with a sewn-on Hello Kitty bow that had broken off a headband she loved.  She was convinced that Santa had sewed it on his hat for her and left it so she wouldn't be sad.  And Kellen found a little push bike he could scoot around on.  All were happy.

And then Owen found something under the tree he didn't at all expect to get, despite the fact that he had put it on his Christmas wish list.  Since he knew the Santa Secret and he KNEW his parents would NEVER get him a real sword, he had figured he simply wouldn't get a real sword for Christmas.  If Santa wasn't real then there was no way he'd get the sword he so very much wanted.

But under the tree was a REAL SWORD!  And a real knife, too!

Nope, Mom and Dad would NEVER get him those kind of gifts.  I saw it in his eyes.  The questioning look.  The 'how did this get here?'

When Abby left the room, I said "I totally don't think you should have given Owen a sword" to the fab hubby.  And the fab hubby said, "well, I didn't get it for him!  Why did you?"

And Owen looked at both of us and said, "You didn't get this for me?! This means..."

And then both the fab hubby and I said (with a convincing sigh): "Santa."

One more year.  He needs it, he deserves it, I even think he wants it.  And maybe, so do I.

Because I'm not ready for my little guy to grow up just yet, either.

First time Mom ever let him near the tree!

Awesome siblings.  Kellen got a ton of Fisher Price
Little People from his grandparents.
And the big kids were happy to play with him!

Best sister. Ever.

I had Owen pose with his sword tonight.
He looks so serious.
I love it.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Surviving the Cairo Marketplace

Kids are on holiday beak for three full weeks.  I loooove my kids, but I can't say that I'm fully looking forward to all that time with them.  Sure, we're planning on baking cookies, and decorating a bit more for Christmas, and we'll be hitting the pool pretty heavy.  But, it's really a lot of time.  Especially considering the excitement surrounding Santa and all his impending goodies...
Nice view of some shops.

So the fab hubby and I got a sitter for the afternoon and snuck out for a date.  He took me to Khan al Khalili and we did some shopping.  We've been there once before and we were bombarded, and I do mean BOMBARDED with sales pitches.  It was horribly overwhelming, being asked by every single shop owner to come in! It's free to look! Hallo! Are you American?! Canadian!? French?! German?! Welcome! Only 5 pounds! Lots to see! Statutes, boxes, silver, gold, scarves, purses! Come see! Come in! Come in! COME IN!!!

The Khan is HUGE, crowded, busy. But it's also a treasure trove of, well, stuff.  All stuff.  Any of the cool Egyptian trinkets you could ever want.  Pashminas galore.  Galabyas beyond your wildest dreams.  Silver and gold jewelry and it's beautiful.  Of course, there's the bargaining (someone once told me to go 1/2 of what they initially ask for, but I'm never comfortable doing that).  And then there's the polite attempt on our part to say "dang, I just don't need another mini gold camel."  It's way harder than you'd think.  Way.

Today I wanted a new silver necklace and a new pashmina.  The fab hubby and I both wanted a nice little lunch.  And we thought the kids might dig some galabyas (traditional Egyptian garb).  

We knew where to get lunch and it was awesome.  Falafel, beef shawarma, hummus.  Hibiscus juice, which I can't get enough of.  And some tasty baladi bread and pita chips.  Then we shopped.

And this trip - success!  Maybe it's because we were more comfortable than the first time we shopped.  Maybe it's because the market was busy and we were able to "blend in" a bit more (haha, sure...), or maybe it's because all the requests to look!shop!buy! don't faze us nearly as much as they used to.

I'm not gonna say we got super cheap bottom-price deals on everything - but we paid what we thought was fair and that's important to us in bargaining here.  I don't like bargaining down the merchants too far - they have families to feed and this is their livelihood.  We especially love the handmade items and are always willing to pay more for quality.


Found that pashmina to add to my growing collection.

Found a gorgeous silver necklace and handmade pendant with delicate color inlay.  I've wanted a sort of statement silver piece from Egypt and I'm so happy to have found it.

Found throw pillows for our very plain-yet-serviceable State Department couch.  

Found galabyas for all the kids.  Which they're now wearing as PJs.  Well, except for the baby.  His turned out to be a wee bit big.  Of course, he'll grow into it soon enough!  I was looking for something more traditional for Abby, but a two-piece set with embroidered camels really stood out, and that's what we ended up buying her.  She, of course, loves it!

Normal traffic.  It's nonstop here.

That's how we roll in Egypt.

Sometimes, you just see random stuff like this.  Dude on the roof.

In case you didn't believe your eyes when you saw the first pic.

New jammies.  I couldn't resist the camels.

Reading on her own!

Little dude loves his new galabya.

Cuz the kids need to realize I'm watching them.  All the time.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Grandma Got Run Over By a...Camel?

I guess my only real complaint here in Egypt this Christmastime is that, on the surface,  it just don't feeeeeeel like Christmastime.  At all.

It's not just that there's no snow or cold. (As far as I'm concerned, that's a blessing.  I loathe cold and dreary and snowy.)  I don't need that stuff to feel all Christmassy.  In fact, we had a nice Christmas in Los Angeles a few years ago, and it's felt fine and Christmassy there, despite the beach and sun and warm (beautiful, perfect) weather.

Nope.  It's something more, like...

No jingly music in the stores or restaurants. No crazy 1950's lights hanging on the lampposts.  No ringing bells on the street corners.  No eggnog milkshakes at McDonald's.  It's just not...home.  It's just not...what I'm used to.

Initially, I made the best of it.  Decorated up our sweet little pre-lit Christmas tree and stuck those reusable plastic window clings in the window.  Kids wore their Santa hats to pajama day at school last week.  I still threatened that Santa totally won't show up this year and give them any presents if they don't shut up and go to bed.  Like all good little children do.  But outside of the home and work it's just not Christmassy.  And I haven't been in a jolly good mood about it.


But.  Finally, finally!  We had an event this past weekend that really succeeded in getting me in the Christmas spirit.  Santa arrived here.  ON A CAMEL.

I can't make this stuff up!  It.Was.Awesome.

Arriving in style.  Cairo style.
At the local American Club, Jason and I took the kids to see Santa at breakfast.  (Dude. They serve bacon. REAL BACON.)  And lo and behold! Santa arrived to breakfast on a camel.  It was so crazy watching him swaying back and forth on that gigantic animal, while Rudolf the RedNosed Reindeer was playing in the background. Surreal even.  And I found myself laughing with the kids as they decorated cookies and make snowflakes and ate bacon.  They sat on the camel and then on Santa's lap, where Owen proclaimed he wanted cash for Christmas this year, in $USD and not Egyptian Pounds.  And then I gave Owen *THE LOOK* and he quickly changed his wish list to legos and a DS game. Abby shyly asked for a stuffed Santa toy and something Hello Kitty.  And baby elf Kellen?  He was screaming and clawing in terror to get away from Santa.  It was hysterical.

Ten seconds later, Kellen had a meltdown,
clawing his way off Santa's lap.
Because I realized that Christmassy isn't just a mood or a song or that particular feeling I get when I drive down any Mainstreet USA decked out in fake snowflakes and shimmery lights on poles.  Or walking through Target and buying tons of stocking stuffers.  Or when I finally get that season's eggnog milkshake.  (Although I admit that stuff is good, good stuff.  And I do indeed miss it all.)

Christmassy this year is marked by being with the kids and the fab hubby and watching Santa arrive in style on a camel.  It's a good feeling, even though it's a different feeling.  The Christmas decorations with the palm trees in the background, the warm air, the sand, and changing lyrics to mesh with the local decor (I think "Grandma Got Run Over By A Camel" totally rocks.  Or how about "Up on the Pyramid" instead of "Up on the Rooftop"?  Don't groan.  You'd do it, too.).  All of it is Christmassy.

So no matter what holiday you celebrate, or how you celebrate or where you celebrate, enjoy.   Grab on to your Christmassy, whatever it is, and don't let go.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

29 for the 7th Time and Loving Me a Z-Pac

I think the black and white hides my laugh lines.
And just in case I missed a gray hair.
This week, I survived another birthday.  Looked in the mirror and didn't find any gray hairs.  Did see some new "laugh lines", but got over it.  I still fit in my regular-sized clothes and that makes me mostly happy.  If only I could fit into my 'skinny' jeans - then I'd be uber happy.

But...I spent the entire week SICK.  SICK.  SICK.  Began on Thanksgiving Day and just continued on into this past week.  Fever, pounding headaches, total head congestion, husky voice, and extreme exhaustion.  And then, just as I was feeling a wee bit better...it became a Massive Sinus Infection.  Thought I'd just get over it.

Slept 15 hours straight from Sunday night into Monday.  Had to take Monday off to help the kids with their "online virtual school day".  Wanted to jump off the balcony.  I give serious kudos to teachers and all homeschooling parents.  This day totally sucked.  Owen (3rd grade) had so much work to do, it took the whole day (despite the school's promise that it would "only" take 2-4 hours).  Plus he can't fully navigate the school's online program on his own.  Abby's class (1st grade) also had a ton of work and it took most of the day as well.  She totally can't navigate the online program on her own.  Kellen was an angry baby that day and spent most of it screaming like a raptor while I was screaming at the kids to finish their work.  Not my finest moment.  I was suddenly reminded why I chose a new major the first day of college so many years ago.  I was going to be an elementary education major, but after spending the summer babysitting full-time, I changed it to political science.

Wanted to spend Tuesday in bed.  Because I was sick as sick could be. Called off work since I was so icky sick.  Obviously, no one wants to see a sick nurse when they're sick themselves! Then saw that Kellen had an all-over body rash and was equally icky as I.  Took him to my friend, who's also an awesome pediatrician.  Who told me he had a viral rash. And then she looked over at me and said that I needed to take a Z-Pac for my obvious sinus infection. (insert my grumpy face *here*) Of course, I poo-pooed the idea of a Z-Pac.  I had already survived six days of sick.  The end had to be near, right?

Wednesday.  My Birthday.  Abby was sick, stuck home with a fever and cough. I had arranged to take the day off to celebrate, and awesomely, the fab hubby was also able to take the day off.  Our nanny was over, and Abby was snug on the couch watching TV and getting ready for a nap.  Kellen, gratefully, was feeling better, too.  And his rash was mostly gone.  So the fab hubby took me out to lunch!  And then on a felucca ride.  And even though I felt cruddy, I had a great day.  The Nile is beautiful and it's fun seeing Cairo from a different view point.  The ride itself is laid-back and enjoyable.  Plus, I had been wanting to go on a felucca ride for a long time.  No kids, just me and the hubby.  After our felucca ride, he took me out for a mocha and dessert at a little cafe we'd never tried before.  Then we walked to our kids' school and surprised Owen at the end of his day.  The school had their annual Egyptian Festival going on, and he wanted to show us what the local artists had made.

Thursday.  Last day of the week!  Managed to get through the day, but my head was still pounding and I was so congested.  I called and spoke with my pediatrician friend and told her I surrendered.  So I started the beginning of the 5-day dose Z-Pac.  And shockingly, felt so much better then next morning.  By the time I got to today, I felt 90% better.  Who knew a sinus infection could cause so much suffering???!!!

And so here I am.  Having survived another birthday.  I'm 29 (for the 7th consecutive year) and it's my first birthday outside of the U.S.  Which is pretty cool.  I will say I feel a little beat up, but that's mostly because of the sick.  Not because I'm older.  Ummm....I think.  

We'll see next year.

Just when he thinks I've put the camera away...

Felucca Captain.

I love the filter I used for this photo.

Fab hubby made sure I had a great birthday!