Thursday, December 31, 2009

Farewell 2009... Welcome to the Future

Tonight we say goodbye to 2009 and greet 2010 with open arms. Each year God sends us blessings and joys mixed in with the challenges that help us appreciate them. Some of our notable 2009 moments:
  1. JujuBean lost her first tooth at just over 5 years of age... (yikes)
  2. We participated in our first ever Nutcracker
  3. JuniorBean found the joy of Tae Kwon Do, such a sport designed for him...
  4. ButterBean successfully completed first grade and has made strong inroads into second grade... in Arabic!
  5. Our company has made successful inroads and enjoyed visible progress this year
  6. El 3atal and MommaBean celebrated 13 years of marriage
  7. We welcomed a new baby Bean into 3ammo Bean's family
  8. We mourned the destruction in Gaza in the early parts of the year, and continue to mourn the on-going tragedy
  9. MommaBean actually gave away the very first items of used kids clothing (I admit I'm a hoarder since seeing the quality and cost of clothes in Amman) in support of Gaza. It moved me to share clothes with others in need too.
  10. We found an angel tree in Jordan giving the Bean family a very nice way to give directly to an impoverished family!

Things I look forward to in 2010:

  1. Blessings and joys that I can't yet imagine
  2. Junior and JujuBean's first day of first grade
  3. Summer with MemeBean in the heat and humidity
  4. More opportunities to love and serve God
  5. New friendships and renewing old friendships

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Amman Gets 911 Service...

So, I read in the Jordan Times today that Amman will be replacing 190 to 199 with a single call center service "to report crimes, road accidents, fires, medical emergencies", etc. In addition to the call center, 138 surveillance cameras have been installed to allow police to verify incidents, ensure response times are appropriate, and perform other high tech quality assurance functions.

For me, this is exciting. Although I knew the number to call in the past, I felt very odd about it, especially since everyone I know who's been in an accident says the police usually don't come and if they do it takes hours. I hope the new high-tech approach will help them streamline and manage their processes better. Perhaps I'm a cock-eyed optimist, but here's hoping!

Happy 911!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Twas the Night Before Christmas... Bean Style

Twas the Night Before Christmas (The Bean Version)
Twas the Night before Christmas and all through Bean House
not a Beanlet was stirring, not even little mouse
The stockings were hung on the radiator with care
in knowledge that no St. Nicholas would be there.
Preparations were made for the family to gather
And celebrate Christ's birth just as they'd rather
With msekhan and salata and foods rather rare
And all of the desserts that HelperBean had prepared
When what to MommaBean's wondering eyes should appear
but the beauty of Christ's birth without tiny reindeer
The Bean family wishes you Christmas joy and cheer
And the blessings of God for the entire New Year!
Although I am certainly not a poet of note, I wanted to give each of you my wishes for a blessed Christmas. Whatever your religious affiliation, I hope that this Christmas you and your family are blessed with the joy, spirit, and grace that God has prepared for each of you. I am feeling very blessed this year and thank each of the people who have wished me a Merry Christmas this year. You have made my life blessed and my Christmas joyful. We will celebrate the Lord of my life's birth tomorrow. I leave you scenes of Christmas around the world, this one, (#18) being our own School of Amman Ballet's Nutcracker performance. What a blessing that the Bean girls were able to be part of such a blessed performance that becomes MSN's "face of Christmas" in Jordan. Thank goodness this year we HAVE a face. Here's to the Peace of the season...

Happy Christmas!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Cigars in restaurants? Seriously?

Is there really ANYONE out there who thinks taking out a nasty, stinky, honking big cigar in an enclosed public space is acceptable? Now, it's one thing if you're in a Cigar Bar or Lounge (ala The Library at the Marriott), but in a normal restaurant? What is THAT about?

Last night I went out with Teta and JiddoBean for a nice meal. The food was lovely. The only problem was the rude fellow who came 30 minutes before his party apparently to enjoy a cigar. Seriously, it was nasty, stinky, and smoky. He filled the entire room with his cancer fumes. Come on now. Smoking restaurants are one thing, but cigars?!

Where I come from, people who smoke cigars and pipes confine it to their own homes, their gardens (imagine), or a cigar bar. it seems to me that restaurant owners in Jordan need to step up and draw a line. Really, if I had a restaurant, I assure you it would be non-smoking. Every restaurant in town should be non-smoking (wasn't there some law about that???), but regardless for the comfort of my customers, I would not allow cigars.

So, the the gentleman who ruined the atmosphere last night... you should be ashamed. To his kids who finally joined him, how can you not be embarrassed? Get some decency and regard from others. My achy throat and I will pray for some empathy for others for the whole lot of you.

Happy firehoses (lucky I didn't have one)!

Friday, December 18, 2009

What makes YOU happy?

Sunny fm has a set of ads where they ask various people here in Jordan this question. And, my, how depressing are the answers to this question. The answers range from shopping to finding money in the pocket of an unworn jacket. Anyone else wonder where helping others is?

Somehow all those asked seem to think that material goods make them happy. What a sad, fleeting happiness that is. I find myself wondering if, at a more sacred time of year, they would get different answers. I wonder if just before Ramadan people would have more focus on others and less on themselves? So, I ask you, my faithful 2 readers, what makes you happy? Here's my list at this wonderful time of year...
  1. The wonder and new experience of children
  2. The joy that comes from giving to others
  3. The love of family and friends
  4. Finding the perfect way to say I love you
  5. Spending time on things that make the world a better place

I'm waiting to hear your additions...

Happy... Happiness!

It's Beginning To Feel Alot Like Christmas....

I have to say that this year has felt the most like Christmas since we've lived in Jordan. The past few Christmases, it seemed like everyone was trying to down play the fact that it was Christmas. Somehow, Ramadan was a big huge thing and Christmas was some sort of sad little secret. This year, Christmas is back! Yeah! Now, I will admit this is partially due to outlook. For me, this year, it just feels more like Christmas. But, it's not all in my mind...

It started with the Nutcracker organized by the School of Amman Ballet! Go Miss Melissa, we LOVE you! It was a great first effort and was such a beautiful way to start the season. The girl Beans enjoyed being in the performance and all of the rushing and overwhelmedness was well worth it. This really set the right tone for the year.

This year, as in all the years we've been in Jordan, the Bean's school has had a craft-making event for parents to make crafts with their kids for sale at the annual Christmas bazaar. This year, El 3atal was home for a change and I didn't have to run back and forth like a whirling dervish making crafts with both of the TwinBean's in some sort of insane looking relay race. It was a great day where each TwinBean got separate and unique focus on them and their event. Felt great.

Today was crazy-busy as we went to the bazaar to buy said craft items (I must say that JujuBean's Christmas stocking (or sock as they call it here, how cute) turned out awesomely and JuniorBean's Rudolph looks awesome as well). Then the TwinBean's (with an unexpected invitation to join for ButterBean) sang Christmas carols with their compatriots. There was also a magic show, pictures with Santa, and face painting. Take THAT nasty fog and rainy day!

We proceeded directly from the bazaar (an Arabic word in origin by the way) to Teta and Jiddo Bean's for some walking chicken (jaaj mahshi, teehee). It was lovely, of course. And followed this up by a trip to our favorite bookstore that was having a Christmas party. They offered Christmas cookies, free hot chocolate (sorry I forgot to send the invite Konouz), carols, balloons, and face painting. They also had Santas who are offering to come around and deliver gifts to kids anywhere on any day with appointments. What a fun idea! We got a few books, had some cookies and hot chocolate and then... bought our angel tree gifts!

To be more accurate, we bought their toys in the morning at the bazaar from a booth that helps orphans and then their clothes after the bookstore party. We bought an entire outfit (yikes, don't tell El 3atal, okay, it's our secret right?) right down to the socks and undies. Because, after all, if you're buying clothes for those in need, don't you imagine they need everything? I do. I generally bought large so if it doesn't fit this year, it'll be good next. I was particularly pleased to find nice heavy winter coats for under 20JDs. Very happy-making. Great Christmas spirit thing. Although, I could tell the salesman was quite befuddled when I kept explaining that none of the clothes that the kids were picking out are for our family. He really looked gobsmacked when I explained that I don't know if they live in Amman (so they can exchange things that don't fit) and have never met them. This is my angel tree tradition, though... one toy, one outfit. Given the level of need here in Jordan, I went ahead and went beyond what I would do in the US. There, everyone would most likely have shoes, socks, and undies. Here, I find myself not quite so sure. So, I just went ahead and did it all. The Beans really got into the spirit of the day. The girlBeans picked the gifts for our girl angel and JuniorBean picked the gifts for the boy. He even picked a jacket that was NOT his favorite color, explaining that if it were for him, he'd want red, but he thought the angel would prefer the orange one (the orange one was cuter, by the by). I LOVED having this experience with the Beans. If definitely needs to be an annual one.

I've also received notice of 3 or 4 other Christmas events being put on (you know, Children's Museum, Jingo Jungle, Funtastic (one of our favorites)). How great is that?! Last year, we had to rely on the school bazaar because Santa was invisible. This year, he's offering to come to the house! And, I just saw on Kinzi's blog that she noticed the same thing. She talks about all of the Christmas lights out on trees which didn't register until I saw it in her post. We've been seeing lots of lights. The Beans are loving looking out for them and finding the prettiest colors.

It's almost like the past few Christmases all of the folks in Jordan have been in a dreamy spell and somehow this year everyone woke up. I, for one, am so grateful. It is a truly a blessing this year to be really feeling the Christmas spirit. It makes me want to do more. And, it continued with our bed-time stories this evening. We began reading the series of Bible stories that lead up to Jesus' birth. Today we read about Zechariah and his wife (our family name-sake). How fun. Now, the sugarplums are nestled in their beds and I'm getting ready to follow suit.

Here's wishing each of you the blessedness and holiness of the spirit of Christmas. I'm not wishing you Santa or Rudolph, mind you. I'm wishing you the wonder and joy of the days coming. The beauty and holiness of the next week anticipating the birth of a savior. Because, when all the commercialism and self-indulgence is set aside, this is what it's all about. The birth of a savior, the birth of the King of Heaven, the birth of a baby...

Happy Christmas-Spirit!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Blah-ging... Winter Blues?

So, it's been awhile, hunh? Somehow with everything else going on, I've just plain been blah about blogging. Plenty of things have caught my eye and I've wanted to blog about them, but the posts just haven't made it from my head to the computer. I've got one waiting about a conference I went to last week, there's another about the Nutcracker, which two of the three beans were in, in short there's lots going on up there, but nothing coming out. So, today, I'm celebrating being blah about blogging. Anyone with me? (Oh, and I'm actually not blue at all, but it seemed appropriate. Things have finally calmed down a bit and I'm actually getting into the Christmas spirit :)).

Happy Blahs!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Twinkle Toes, Angel Trees, and Teaching Generosity

Some of you (my three long-time readers) may recall that last year I was lamenting the lack of an angel tree type program here in Jordan. For those who are not familiar, Angel Tree started in my home state as a way for children whose parents are in prison and are unable to afford gifts to receive clothes and toys for Christmas. These days, it has expanded and the Salvation Army administers an Angel Tree program. For me, living in comfort in a land of serious and dire need, I wanted a way to help teach my children about giving back.

One of my family Christmas traditions was going to the angel tree, finding a child my age, and then going shopping for them. It always meant alot to go and find John or Katie on the tree who was my age and focus on picking clothes they would like or a gift I knew they'd enjoy. It helped me refocus on the meaning of the season. After all, Christmas isn't about presents... really it isn't... honest. I've been trying to figure out ways to carry on this tradition and this year considered doing on-line shopping through the Salvation Army program. And then, we went to our church's service in honor of the Day Against Violence Against Children. We have a relatively new pastor and he's brought in some new ideas. Can you guess what they had? Yes, ladies and gentlemen, they had an Angel Tree!

I immediately headed over and picked angels for the Beans (one girl and one boy the same ages as the Beans). The program is different in a couple of ways. First, it doesn't relate to prison, but rather to those who are needy. Second, it only gives gender and age, not first name. I think this is a good idea in such a small community. So, I was really jazzed about this. Next weekend, the Beans and I will be making a shopping trip to find clothes and toys for our angels. Thank you, Lord, for answered prayer.

Another awesome thing happening during this most Blessed season is Twinkle Toes. The School of Amman Ballet (which is also holding the Nutcracker) is holding a shoe and sock drive for kids whose families are unable to afford shoes. After all, no child should be without adequate footwear in Jordan's cold winters. They have identified two specific communities with significant poverty to meet the needs for. JujuBean heard about this from her ballet teacher in class. That same afternoon, she mentioned the program to me (I had already heard but was pleased to hear it from her). An hour or so later, I was walking to the back of the house and noticed the Bean bedroom light on. Poking my head in, I saw JujuBean sitting on the floor trying on shoes. She took the program so seriously that she was making a pile of all of her shoes that don't fit, dress shoes and casual shoes alike (well, and one really cute pair of Dora slippers). She was so excited to give some of her very gently used shoes (several pairs have been worn 2 or 3 times) to children whose parents can't afford to buy any.

So this year, I am particularly thrilled. The organizations in my life have made my job easier. They are providing outlets for giving and sharing lessons on life and thanking God for our blessings. And, as they do so, they are helping me pass along Christmas traditions to the Beans. I am so blessed and am thankful to those great people who are helping me pass some of those blessings along!

Cheerful Giving!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

A Class Full of Amazon Women?! What is average?

Now, in the US, parents are all about measuring. I'm not sure if it's the same here, but I get the sense not so much from a physical perspective. At the kids' pediatrician in the US, the first thing they always did was weigh and measure them. Everything was considered based on the average growth charts for the US. It wasn't a matter of where your child was on the growth chart, but did they continue to track in the same place. In other words, if they're 80th percentile today and 20th next month, that's a worry.

The Beans have pretty much tracked the same every month until we moved. ButterBean is 10th percent, JuniorBean about 15th % and JujuBean about 90th %. So, recently I began to wonder where they are falling now. I checked our recent measurements and looked at the US growth charts. They're still tracking just the same. Golden. Then I started to think.

In the US, we would expect 90% of the kids ButterBean's age to be taller than her. However, looking at her class in Jordan, she's average. Nowhere near the smallest. Really, she's right in the middle, probably 50th percentile for her class. How interesting. JujuBean is really rather an Amazon in her class. Mind you, she's one of three of very tall stature, but they're head and shoulders above the rest, quite literally. In fact, you won't find even 1% of the kids taller than her, much less 10%. JuniorBean is on the smaller side, but I'm not convinced he's very small relatively speaking either. There are at least a couple of other boys smaller than he is.

I found myself thinking, I need the Jordan growth charts, because clearly they are smaller than the US ones. It makes you wonder, what is average anyway? And, it also makes me smile thinking about JujuBean's class of Amazon women. Fierce and fearless indeed, teehee.

Happy Averages!