A Day in the Life (World Down syndrome Day blog hop)

A Day in the Life

Our life is not typical.  Not even close.  Even before Jack Jack came into our lives with his extra chromosome, people would say, if they were being polite, “interesting” and if they were being honest would say, “Extreme and weird.”

And that is just fine with us.  Living in Afghanistan, with a young family, is our normal.  And this year, my two worlds, Afghanistan and Down syndrome come together in beautiful way.  March 21 is Naw Roz, or Persian New Year.  It is a glorious time of year right now, spring is in slow, full bloom and it feels right to celebrate the New Year now when things really are new and growing.  3/21 is also World Down Syndrome Day, chosen because the numbers of the date represent the third chromosome on the 21st – trisomy 21/Down syndrome.

Our location is different from most of you reading this.  You might find it hard to imagine how our days look when what you see is tanks, shrouded women and poppy fields.  I’d like to give you a different glimpse and show you what a day in our life is like.

Loving on his bunny, Chestnut

Loving on his bunny, Chestnut

Mr. Incredible and I are up at 6:30.  If we’ve had electricity in the night, there is hot water in the tank for a shower.  In the summer, doesn’t matter if there is electricity because the water tank on the roof heats up all on its own.  Mr. Incredible is in charge of breakfast.  This is because he wakes up verrrryyy sllowwly and it was decided years ago, that for the sake of our marriage he should spend some time alone in the kitchen mumbling at pots of boiling water, rather than trying to deal with kids who cannot find their socks.

I get the kids up at 7:00 and take Jack Jack to the potty.  He has been staying dry at night for a while now, so this is a great move forward in potty training.  A great thing about our schedule is we don’t have to hurry up to catch a bus or start school exactly on time, so I’ve been taking a longer time with him in the mornings so he can get himself dressed.  He struggles a lot with hand coordination, so getting a shirt on over his own head can be frustrating and he’d rather just let me do it.   Some days we preserver and he does most of it by himself.  The kids make their beds and pick up their rooms and we all eat breakfast together.

We start home school around 8:30ish… sometimes more like 9:00ish… If we start at 8:30 we do a version of “circle time” that Violet and Dash think they are too old for, but love it anyway.  We sing songs, do the calendar, Bible memory verse and then they can color or draw until Dad comes to do math.  While the big kids do math, Jack Jack and I have time together.  This is his focused school time, but it can range all over the place.  Sometimes I do shopping lists and he plays on the iPad.  Sometimes he follows our house helper, his beloved “Khala jan” around helping her vacuum and dust.  I try to make sure he does his sight word flash cards, some pre-writing work with the white board or crayons and paper and we do a few speech therapy drills.  His speech and reading skills are a whole other post for another day, but I will say that I’m pleased with what we’ve been doing, but I think we’ve got some pretty big holes that need addressed.

Looking through his favorite book -- The Beginners' Bible

Looking through his favorite book — The Beginners’ Bible

After an hour of math we all take a break outside.  They all have chores to do too and Jack Jack’s is to help feed the rabbits and make sure all the shoes are lined up neatly in the entry hall.  Throughout the day he is called on to help set or clear the table, hang up laundry and pick up any toy messes that he makes.

Jack Jack hangs out in the classroom for the rest of the morning.  Often he sits on my lap at my desk and we do handwriting or education apps Facebook and Pinterest on the iPad while Violet and Dash work on language arts assignments.  When one of them is done, they will play games, do flash cards or read stories with him.  At 11:00 he is allowed an Elmo or Curious George DVD.  He is only allowed them at this time of day, but that doesn’t stop him for asking for “Emmo George, Emmo George” all.day.long.  We have lunch together – often Mr. Incredible is home in the afternoons and then leaves for his teaching job in the evening.  We do Dari lessons, quiet reading and bits and pieces of school that didn’t get done in the morning and finish up the school day with a snack and a Read A Loud book at 3:00.

The favorite time of day is 4:00 when our team mate kids are finished with their day and all seven kids can play together, running between our houses, which are connected by a wall and a gate between the yards.  Jack Jack is a full member of this little tribe.  He is included in the games with the bigger kids, but also sits and plays baby dolls with Joy, the youngest of the group.  Often Afghan neighbor kids are around too and have gotten good at understanding his sign language and will push him on the swing or chase him around.  If the big kids have run off and are too fast for him, he is very happy to find his “Koko”, which means uncle.  Koko works in our yard as a guard, gardener, handy man and gate keeper.  Jack Jack is happiest when he’s helping to sweep the dust or shovel the snow, polish the motorcycles or water the grass.

So glad to have this playground in our front yard

So glad to have this playground in our front yard

Violet and Dash have different days where they are assigned to help in the kitchen, and Jack Jack is usually included, unless I’m seeing the big kids needing some one on one time with me.  We do some baking in the afternoon and start dinner around 4:30 or 5:00.  Jack Jack loves to stir, measure and pour and of course, lick the spoon when we are done.

how to use a mixer when there is no electricity: plug into an inverter that runs off of car batteries

how to use a mixer when there is no electricity: plug into an inverter that runs off of car batteries

Again, showers for the kids depend on how much hot water we’ve ended up with by the end of the day.  I clear up from dinner and the kids get ready for bed.  Jack Jack gets a story or two that he picks out and a Bible story from his “Jesus Story Book”.  Then he snuggles with me and we listen as Daddy reads out loud from the Chronicles of Narnia.  Jack Jack falls asleep before the story is finished and we carry him to bed at 8:00, ready to do it all again tomorrow.

So, what do you think?  Is it like you pictured?  There are days I truly mourn the lack of speech therapists, special education teachers and great resources that I see other kids with Down syndrome in America getting.  I worry if I’m doing enough or good enough.  Every day I miss my family and our friends who helped and held us up those years when we didn’t know how we would ever have both Jack Jack and Afghanistan.  But, in the balance we have this amazing, untypical, extraordinary life that is on a day to day basis the most normal kind of day anyone could have.

1-IMG_7939Happy World Down Syndrome Day!  Salay –naw tabrik boshan (happy new year)!

Click here to read more great blogs on a “Day in the Life” of someone with Down syndrome

Weekend in the Suburbs

We live in the heart of Windy City.  As someone who will not drive here  because of the terrifyingness that is the traffic, not to mention the minor fact that somehow I managed to get to adulthood without learning to drive a stick shift, I like living in the city.  I can walk to where I need to go and there are plenty of taxis to take us further than Jack Jack’s legs can go.  Our corner store sells diapers, juice and tuna fish, and just a few more blocks away are larger stores with ketchup and frozen chicken breasts (the essentials, obviously), vegetable and fruit sellers, pirated DVD stores and if ever I’m so inclined, a butcher’s shop featuring that day’s selection of goat heats.

However, my world is pretty small these days.  We do home schooling and living in the couple of rooms we keep heated and the kids play in the yard with high walls all around.  Going out takes a ton of effort in getting all the layers of clothes on, figuring out how security is in the city that day and it’s usually a quick trip to the store, or a day at a friends house, with the same sorts of high walls.

So it felt very special to go outside our neighborhood to the outskirts of the city where friends of ours have set up their home.  They are from California and work with local farmers in food processing and agriculture business.  They are some of the coolest people I know.

1-IMG_9262They  live in an apartment, on the third floor with windows all around.  They can see the sunrise and sunset and the whole village lays out in front of them with farmland and lowlands behind.

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The only other people in the apartment building is the landlord and his family on the second floor.  The fourth floor is still under construction, with no windows, doorways and access to the roof.  We had a tour of the building and then sat down to eat lunch.  We were happily visiting away when I noticed that Jack Jack wasn’t with this brother and sister, playing iPad.  It took only a few seconds to realize that he had slipped out quietly and was no where to be found.  With my heart in my mouth I yelled for Mr. Incredible to run up to the fourth floor to see if he was exploring.  I could envision him running through open doorways and balconies with no guard rails.

I dashed downstairs and met the landlord on his way in.  Now, normally, I’m very indirect and reserved with Afghan men, but this time I stared right into his face and practically shouted at him in mixed up, frightened Dari, “have you seen a little foreigner boy?  A little boy with glasses?”  He said no and was immediately concerned and joined in the search.  I was just about to dash out and search the street when the door opened and the landlord’s son popped his head out.  “I have him, I have him” he called out and sure enough, there was Jack Jack, sitting in their living room.  The Afghan kids were bemused by this little blonde boy and were having a great time with him.  Obviously they knew he belonged to us and hadn’t seen any reason to bring him back upstairs.

Our hosts and Mr. Incredible thanked the neighbors while I held on to Jack Jack and had a little melt down.  Got over that and after a bit the boy and his sisters came upstairs and had a great (supervised!) time playing together with my three.

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“Hey, now that I’ve made myself at home and scared my mom to death, let’s be buddies.”

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Violet got an art lesson from the talented older sister

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late afternoon sun and friends to play with made for a great day

I really enjoyed the day out, walking in the quiet streets and seeing my kids interact so well with Afghan kids. This is something we’ve really been praying for.  But reliving those frightening moments when Jack Jack was missing makes me grateful for our high walls and closely guarded gate at home!

Violet (pink scarf) and new friend counted down the sunset

Violet (pink scarf) and new friend counted down the sunset

 

 

 

 

Winter Survive and Thrive

“Not just survive, but thrive” is a phrase we say a lot around here.  Culture shock, home sickness, spiritual heaviness all hit hard after the initial high of moving cross culturally and it’s easy to hunker down and just live for the next break out of Afghanistan.

 

We were definitely in survive mode only a few weeks ago.  Cold weather moved in to stay for a while and the logistics of life gets much more difficult.

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shop keepers and pedestrians getting a little warmth as they can

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Windy City in the snow

Windy City in the snow

sawdust heaters and shopkeeper

Our house is a lovely mud-brick home with thick walls but very high ceilings which make it hard to heat.  So, like our Afghan neighbors, we mainly live in two rooms that we heat with wood and sawdust.  The bedrooms and big hallway and bathroom all stay around 55 degrees so it takes some courage to get out of the warm living room to take a shower or go to bed.  Mr. Incredible spends a good deal of his time lighting and maintaining our stoves and threatening dire consequences to the next person who leaves a door open.

Our house and front yard through snowy pomegranate trees

Our house and front yard through snowy pomegranate trees

We get electricity every third night, so I start cooking dinner early, knowing that by 5:30 I’ll need a headlamp to see if the ground beef is browned enough.  Electricity is erratic during the day, but usually strong enough in the mornings that I can get a load of laundry done — if the pipes aren’t frozen.  The electricity we do get is often so weak that we can’t pump water to the roof, so rationing and conserving water becomes my main concern.  I’ve yet to be committed enough to washing dishes to go out and melt snow.

Mr Incredible thawing water lines with my tea kettle

Mr Incredible thawing water lines with my tea kettle

And my favorite quirk of living here?  With low or no electricity and an unheated kitchen, the refrigerator becomes the place to store things you don’t want to get TOO cold and items you want to stay chilled are left out on the marble counter top.

Dressing in lots of layers to go to bed, seeing your breath in the office or waiting two days for chicken to defrost — these are things you can plan for and get use to.

But, it wears us down.  And so, once a winter we try to get away, to warm up and gain perspective on life in Afghanistan.  It wasn’t easy.  I can’t yet write about our favorite restaurant in Capital City that was blown away while we were on a beach in Sri Lanka.  Still looking for those words.

But I will write about it and about the trip to Sri Lanka.  I’m trying to get into the habit of posting more.  I miss it and it’s one of the things that will help me thrive here I think.  Because that is what I want to do.  Thrive and enjoy life here and be a part of something bigger than myself, bigger than my comfort levels.  So, stay tuned.  Next post may feature monkeys.  And not just the kids.

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Celebrating Christmas in Afghanistan

Christmas in Windy City Afghanistan is a pretty quite affair.  In this conservative city in an entirely Islamic country, Christmas as a holiday, does not exists.

So we do what we can to carve a space for Christmas in our home.  It takes some work.  We packed and brought with us candy canes, cookie cutters and advent calendars and my mom sent stockings and scented candles with folks who were flying here months ago.

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We squirreled away presents and Mr Incredible proved his worth once again when going to Dubai for a conference went an entire day early so he could shop at Ikea and some grocery stores with not only my list, but lists from just about everyone in our expat community.

We baked and filled the house with the smells of caramel corn and sugar cookies and listened to Christmas music.  We prayed for strong electricity and good internet and when we had both, we downloaded “The Muppets Christmas Carol” in keeping with my family’s tradition of celebrating with ice skating penguins and Gonzo doing Charles Dickens.  And then we had to download it again when we saw that we’d gotten a copy that was in English and Russian.  At the same time.  With some sort of Scandinavian subtitles.

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We even took Violet and Dash Christmas gift shopping with money they had earned earlier in the year.  I’ll confess, this is where I missed America the most.  The third time the electricity went out in the shop and we were plunged into pitch dark until the generators came on made me long for Target and a Starbucks and the easy fun of shopping so strongly I cried.

And on Christmas morning when both the electricity and the internet went out, Mr. Incredible rigged up a back up battery run on solar panels and the kids got to open their presents with Grandma and Grandpa looking on through the computer.

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Christmas here really means community.  Our small team celebrated Advent together every Friday and spent Christmas Eve and Christmas day together.  We each did what we could to make it homey and special.  Our British team mate made a proper Christmas cake and shared her special stash of Earl Grey tea.  Our American team mates put together a scavenger hunt with fun clues for our kids to track down their gift.  We skyped with our Aussie friend and made her tell us all about the hot summer Christmas she was enjoying.

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Reading the clues to the scavenger hunt

Putting the enormous hallway to good use

Putting the enormous hallway to good use

It is hard to be so far away this time of year.  Your Facebook posts, emails and calls meant so much to me and helped me feel a part of things on that side of the world.

You all are good people.  But stop posting pictures of your peppermint lattes, mmmkay?

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Jack Jack got a trike from the used bicycle bazaar. He saw it, grabbed his coat and said, “Let’s ride!”

Sixteen Things

There is this trend going around Facebook where you get a random number and then tell that number of things about yourself.  Also, lots of “things I’m thankful for” for November.  Although those are getting a bit desperate.  I saw one today where someone was thankful for good schedules.  Dig a bit deeper, people.

And although I live in an unfashionable corner of the world, never let it be said that I let a perfectly good, blog-fodder fad go by.  Except No-Shave November.  Nobody needs to see that.

So here are ten things you may or may not have known about our life in Afghanistan:

1) Bread is sacred here.  You cannot throw it away or leave it upside down on the table.  It’s common to find bits of moldy bread in corners and desk drawers because you can’t dispose of it.

2) We give our stale bread to our house helper who feeds it to her chickens.  Win win for everybody.

3) We buy eggs from our house helper.  So in a way, the bread comes right back to us.

4) Any service you might need comes to your gate.  Need eggplants?  Here is the eggplant guy.  Propane?  Used shoes? Popcorn?  Sometime throughout the day one of those carts or trucks will come buy with a distinctive horn blast or mega-phone announcement.

5) Because of his Mediterranean good looks and very good Farsi, most Afghans think Mr. Incredible is an Afghan who lived in America and has now returned home.  He gets all sorts of congratulations for having married an American wife and talked her into coming with him.

6) I cross two open sewers when I walk to the market.

7) When I take Dash with me to the market, the vegetable seller always quizzes him on the names of produce.  The kid knows them all.  When I don’t bring Dash the guy tries to quiz me, but he’s always a bit disappointed.

8) Riding on a motorcycle with a bed sheet-sized covering wrapped around you from head to ankle is pretty much as hard as it sounds.  Also, see #6 for other examples of why it’s a hazard.

9) Our weekends are Thursday and Friday.  Which means that come Monday when Facebook is all full of groans and moans, I’m all “oh yeah, hump day!”

10) My language teacher and I once had a whole lesson on the movie “World War Z”.  I taught her the word zombie and we both agreed that the key to surviving a plane crash was to sit next to and/or be Brad Pitt.  Best.language class.ever.

And because Thanksgiving is six days away, here are six things I’m thankful for:

1) Steady electricity.  Infrastructure has improved so much in the four years we were in the States and I see it and appreciate it most based on how many things I can plug in (very American of me).

2) Our expat community.  We are small, tight group and I’m thankful every day for the family that lives next door with their kids, for my Aussie friend and our weekly girls-night, for British, Finnish, Korean and German perspective, language and food that makes our life here fascinating.

3) My house helper.  She is a jewel.  She allows me to do a good job home schooling and she is so patient with my tortured Farsi, my lack of sewing skills and Jack Jack’s “help” in the kitchen.

4) My husband. He works very hard to make sure we are safe, warm and well cared for in addition to his work and language learning.  He really is Mr. Incredible.

5) Turkeys from the military base for sale in our local bazaar.  Your tax dollars at work.  Thank you.

6)  All of you.  Your prayers, your interest in our family and your comments and emails that keep me encouraged and connected.

Eid-e Shakur etan Tabrik Boshan.  Have a Happy Feast of Thanks.

Need a balloon?  Here is a balloon guy.

Need a balloon? Here is a balloon guy.

Down syndrome Awareness in Afghanistan (an expat point of view)

October is Down syndrome Awareness month and I have participated by doing absolutely nothing.  It all seems so far away and irrelevant here in Windy City Afghanistan where Jack Jack is a valued member of our small expat community, one in a small tribe of American kids that goes back and forth between our houses and experiences the same sort of curious stares that all the kids get as weird foreigners.  The extra chromosome does not even warrant as many comments as Dash’s exuberant (read: loud!) English and Violet’s curly hair.

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Family field trip to an ancient fort

The two times I’ve been asked specifically about Jack Jack’s Down syndrome went much different than I’d expected.

I was with all three kids at the airport, waiting to fly to Capital City.  In a small space like that we definitely attract attention and Mr Incredible and I were fielding questions left and right.

One gentleman leaned over to me and pointed to Jack Jack and in halting English said, “this baby…he..is…normal?”  Now if you know me at all you know that word “normal” makes me crazy.

But I understood what he was trying to say, so I bit back my usual sarcastic response and said, “He has what is called Down syndrome.”

I was about to explain in a bit more, when the man interrupted me and said, “what I want to know…will the baby…will he grow up? Will he live?” And the man looked so sad and sincere when he said it that it broke my heart.

“Yes, he will grow up.  He will live a good, healthy life.”  The man smiled at me and nodded happily and then turned his attention back to the other people in his group.

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Family field trip to an ancient mosque

On our way back to Windy City, in the airport in Capital City (what is it about airports?) it happened again.  We were struggling with getting ourselves through the multiple, exasperating body and luggage checks so we could sit in the domestic terminal.  By about the fifth time I’d been searched and the contents of my purse had been commented on, I was out of patience and the romance of travel was long gone.

I was trying to corral the three kids while Mr. Incredible took care of the bags when a security guard leaned down into my face and pointed his finger at me.  I was just about ready to have a heart attack when he gestured at Jack Jack and said in a low voice, “In my brothers house, we have a boy — like this.  He is very special.  You take good care of your gift from God.”  And then he shepherded us into the terminal.

From his view behind us, Mr. Incredible thought for sure we were in trouble for something, and knowing how thin my patience was, he was certain I was telling this guy off in no uncertain terms and that he was going to have intervene.  Really, the man does know me well, but I was glad to tell him that in this case, we were being complimented on having God’s blessing in the form of Jack Jack.

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I’m still hoping to connect with Afghan families who have little ones with Down syndrome and hear more of their stories.  For now, we are content with how accepted Jack Jack is in the community and as for awareness — well Dash is doing a good job with his especially loud voice and everyone is more than aware of our presence in the neighborhood.

 

 

Homeschooling So Far

It’s no secret that one of the things I’ve been worried about the most in our move to Afghanistan, was not the security problems, the language learning or the lack of a good cup of coffee — it was the inevitable start to our first year of homeschooling.

Turns out I should have worried more about the coffee situation. Instant coffee sucks, ya’all.

We are at the end of our first six weeks and I’m pretty much in shock over how well it’s going, especially with Violet and Dash.

Mr. Incredible made the back of the TV cabinet much more educational by tacking up a world map

Mr. Incredible made the back of the TV cabinet much more educational by tacking up a world map

Over the summer we shopped for some school desks and had two bookshelves custom made to hold our thick binders and loads of books.  We are temporarily living in a small apartment so we are a bit crowded, but we’re making the space work.

Our appetite for books cannot be contained

Our appetite for books cannot be contained

We start the day with Bible, memory verses and some preschool songs with Jack Jack.  Then Mr. Incredible takes over for an hour to do math with the big kids (and here is where my college roommates all sigh a breath of relief on behalf of my children — that I am not the one in charge of their acquisition of math facts) and I take an hour of one on one time with Jack Jack.

Circle and Calendar time

Circle and Calendar time

Math time!

Math time!

Jack Jack has been the least happy with the start of school.  He happily sang songs and participated in “circle time” but when it was time to get down to the hard work of color recognition, pre-writing or counting games instead of playing iPad or siting next to Violet and coloring he did all he could to get out of it.  He cried, pouted, did the famous “flop and drop” and even ran away from me a couple times to the kitchen where our Afghan house helper was working and hid behind her skirts.  She patted his head affectionately and assured me he wasn’t in her way and he definitely had a look of triumph in his eyes when she offered him snacks and toys.  I put a stop to his running away and getting Auntie on his side, but I have realized that he needs shorter times of learning with breaks throughout the day rather than an intense hour together.

Writing the letter "A" in dried coffee grounds -- great suggestion Grandma!

Writing the letter “A” in dried coffee grounds — great suggestion Grandma!

I still feel out of my depth when it comes to schooling Jack Jack and feel moments of panic that we aren’t doing sight word flash cards yet and he doesn’t know his letters.  But then he will totally impress me by greeting Auntie with a clear “salaam Khala” (hello Auntie) and he’s working very hard on potty training.  So, we’ll get there with the letters soon enough.

Working hard with OT skills and color sorting

Working hard with OT skills and color sorting

After math and time with Jack Jack I take over for language arts, science and history.  Twice a week the kids have a half hour of Dari lessons and then I have a half hour lesson and we try to do review throughout the week.  Our favorite part of the day is our Read Aloud at the kitchen table while we eat afternoon snack.  We just finished “Charlotte’s Web” and I gotta say, I don’t like that pig any better than the first time I read it.  Violet and I agreed, better to squish the spider and have bacon then to save the pig and have hundreds of baby spiders floating about.  It’s okay to say that out loud, right?

Violet loves nothing more than a cave of cushions and a good book.

Violet loves nothing more than a cave of cushions and a good book.

There are days, especially when my Facebook feed is full of friends’ back to school pictures and field trips to the pumpkin patch that I felt sad and homesick for what we are missing.  And then there was the day my friend Grace sent me a message saying, “E told me today that she and all the first graders spent their recess yelling as loud as they could so maybe Dash could here them in Afghanistan.”  I lost it then and even now am crying when I think of the friendships that are too far away.

Dash hard at work recording findings on a science experiment

Dash hard at work recording findings on a science experiment

So there are still things that are hard, but it’s mostly me at this point.  Prayers, grace and instant coffee are getting me through the hard days and making the good days possible.  And we will see how the next six weeks will go.

On a moterbike built for??

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A guest post from none other than Mr. Incredible, himself.

Jack Jack loves motorcycles.  But somehow he missed out on his turn up and down our little street a few days ago.  Today he about popped out of his skin when I gave him his first ride on our 110cc wonder.

two on a bike

A bit jealous, Dash ran down the street after them.  Well played little man.

three on a bike

Now Violet is turning green.  Only one way to fix that.

four on a bikeStill plenty of room for Mom!  [Next post, I guess]  Here in Afghanistan the act of getting from here to there can be a lot more fun- and really cheap.  I think the gas tank holds about two quarts.  We see families of 5, 12 foot sticks of pipe and even drums of fuel on/beside/over/behind motorcycles.

And while shopping, no pesky windows to leave up while Jr naps.

This is actually a beautiful testament to how community works here.  While his dad was in a shop, everyone kept half an eye on the sleeping kiddo.

asleep on the bikeNext post- 172 water melons in a taxi.

We are the Champions!

September 11th in Afghanistan is usually a non-event.  Afghans, for their part, have a remembrance day on September 9th for Ahmed Shah Massod, the “Lion of the Panshir”.  Two days before 9/11 Masood a military commander, cornered in the north of the country, but successfully defending it against the vicious wave of the Taliban was assassinated .  For Afghanistan, that was the beginning of the end, but nobody knew that then.

We were living in central Phoenix, working with refugees in the city, when we heard the news about Masood.  To us it was just a name, but a good friend of ours who had spent the 90′s in Afghanistan doing photo journalism and aide work, put his head down on our kitchen table and cried.  “It’s all over,” he said.  “The Taliban have won and there isn’t anyone else who can stop them.”  Never did we think that by the end of the year American tanks would be rolling down the streets of Kabul.

Thirteen years later, so much has changed in Afghanistan.  There were solemn ceremonies at mosques for Masood Day, but most people simply enjoyed the day off, much like most Americans enjoy a day off in February, but don’t do a lot to remember Martin Luther King Jr.  But the whole country was ramped up for Sept. 11.

Thirteen years ago there were very few televisions and even less electricity to run them.  Afghans knew the war planes from the west were coming, but had no way to find out reliable information and the fear and tension were palpable.

Tensions were running high this September 11th as well.  There is plenty of electricity and nearly every home has a television or a radio and families and friends were gathering around them buzzing with excitement.  For the first time the Afghan football team was playing in an international championship game — against four time championship winners, India.  A few weeks before Kabul hosted a game for the first time in a decade — in a stadium mostly famous for stoneings and be-headings during Taliban times (for a vivid description of the stadium in it’s darkest moments, I recommend “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hossseini).  We were happy to get a security update to avoid the stadium area — because of rabid soccer fans instead of mad men with guns.

photo from Skynews.com Afghans react as they watch on television the South Asian Football Federation Championship match

photo from Skynews.com
Afghans react as they watch on television the South Asian Football Federation Championship match

The night of the 11th I went to my friends house for our weekly girls night out of good food and Gilmore Girls (how did I miss this show when it aired?  Makes me nostalgic for that brief period in time when I was hip and fashionable).  As the sun went down we started to hear a dull roar of noise from beyond the compound walls.  Afghanistan had won the championship!  Everyone with access to a car horn was making good use of it.  Apparently, so were people with access to AK-47s as we heard gun fire throughout the night.  My friend is an intrepid Aussie and against all common sense, she loves driving here.  She was totally up for driving me home in the midst of all the celebrations, but caution won out and I stayed the night with her, enjoying my first slumber party with a friend since the 7th grade.

photo from Aljazeera.com  Kabul (and the rest of the country) goes crazy with celebrations

photo from Aljazeera.com
Kabul (and the rest of the country) goes crazy with celebrations

What a joy it was to see everyone celebrating a national victory.  Afghans needed this win on this day more than anything.  What a privilege to be here to witness the remarkable changes 13 years have brought.

photo from skynews.com Afghanistan's players celebrate with the trophy

photo from skynews.com
Afghanistan’s players celebrate with the trophy

Zero to Five

How in the world did we go from this:

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To this?

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We are in the words of Mr. Incredible “gobsmacked” that our sweet baby is a big ole five year old.

Wasn’t it just yesterday that he was rolling around our floor?  Didn’t we just moments ago, wonder if he would say more then a few baby words?  Milestones that seemed to come so slowly are now a blur.

Who is this big kid who asks for help to make his bed after seeing Violet and Dash do it every day?  When did he learn to set the table without being asked, to get the iPad down and call Grandpa and Grandma with no help (or permission) from mom?

Five is a big kid number and we had a great day celebrating with our small expat (foreigner) community here in Windy City.

My not-quite Pintrest level Elmo cake

My not-quite Pintrest level Elmo cake

Didn't matter.  Birthday boy was thrilled with his "Me-mo" cake

Didn’t matter. Birthday boy was thrilled with his “Me-mo” cake. And ate it up in the manner of Cookie Monster.

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There was face-painting (thanks Auntie Maz in Australia. We saved the face paint just for this special occasion and in your honor were as silly as we could be.  xoxo)

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He wanted to be a snake.

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Presents

Presents from all his aunties and uncles here as well as special packages from family that I’ve been hiding for weeks.

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We even got the “big” pool out and that really made it a party

Happy Birthday Jack Jack.  You are our ray of sunshine and we are so blessed to have you in our lives.

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