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Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas pictures

What is there to say about Christmas?  Everyone enjoyed the presents, some enjoyed the dinner, and nobody wanted to see it end.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Happy Boxing Day, or what your American Embassy does for you

When Brandon and I lived in Cairo last, we were newly married and had no children.  After staying cooped up in our apartment all week, Saturday would come and I would suggest an adventure.  There are plenty of things to see in Cairo; people fly from all over the world to see them.

Brandon would grumble and reluctantly acquiesce, and I would expertly plan an outing to somewhere interesting.  Without fail, twenty minutes into our adventure, we would look at each other and exclaim, "Why did we think this would be a good idea?!?"  Brandon would then remind me that he didn't think it would be, and I would apologize.  And then the next week we'd do it again.

When we came back, we had two children, and now we have three.  Going out in public with three children under the age of five is difficult in the states.  Someone usually has to go to the bathroom, Edwin can't walk, Sophia doesn't want to, children want to wander off, and everyone gets bored.

Living in Egypt makes everything at least five times more difficult, and going out is no exception.  And so we just haven't bothered.

Yesterday was Christmas, and so today is a holiday.  Holidays are sacrosanct, and to be used for doing things that we don't normally do.  I've always enjoyed all of the movie-watching around Christmas, and decided we should have an outing to the movies.

The last time we took our children to a movie was in 2008, to Indiana Jones, at the dollar theater in Provo.  Brandon spent a quarter of the movie outside with screaming baby Sophia, and we haven't been back yet.  Now that both girls can talk and Edwin is capable of staying up past his bedtime, I figured that we'd be okay.

We decided to see Tangled, and found that the closest movie theatre it was playing in was City Stars, an enormous mall about 45 minutes away in Heliopolis.  I had been there five years ago, but we hadn't gone because of the trouble and expense.  Being the merry-maker I would like to be, however, I thought we could make an afternoon of it and eat dinner at the food court, stroll around, and pretend we were in the US.

I called Ayman, he met us promptly at 2, and we headed off on our big adventure.  We have had various holidays but this was by far the most adventurous.  The girls were excited, Edwin was mesmerized by the weaving traffic, and I was looking forward to spending some time amusing ourselves.

By the end of our 45-mintue ride, the girls were antsy and ready to be out and doing.  As we pulled up to the mall, Brandon's phone rang.  The sound of his phone ringing, especially on a holiday, is unusual.  Nobody call us much, and most holidays it's Samir, Brandon's Egyptian boyfriend.  Thankfully Brandon is not on duty this week, and so it wouldn't be anybody calling about their 'phony' drug charges.

Brandon talked as we got out and wrestled the children to the sidewalk.  He mentioned that it was a friend from the branch, and so I thought perhaps it was a situation with a branch member.  I felt sorry for the friend, because he was going to have to deal with the situation alone.  We were in Heliopolis, we were having a family holiday together, and we were going to see a first-run movie in a big, nice, new movie theatre.  And we were going to get popcorn.

As he put his phone away, Brandon looked at me, unhappy.  "There's a situation at the Embassy.  I've got to go to work."

And so the girls are playing out front, I'm writing this blog post, and Brandon's at work.  Happy Boxing Day.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

I have come to realize that I can't do it all.  I have three children, I have a husband, I have a large apartment, and I also have some things that I like to do.  Occasionally these interests conflict with each other and something has to give.

Interest #1: My children.  I like to dress my children attractively.  Whenever my mother would fly with five children, she dressed us as nicely as possible so as to give the appearance of responsibility.  I attempt to follow the same principle.  Even if I have three young children, at least they appear to be well cared-for.

Interest #2: Food.  Although this interest is often for the benefit of the previous one, #1 often gets in the way of #2.

Yesterday I started my holiday baking so that #1 would be able to enjoy Christmas better than Thanksgiving.  As with any cooking that involves baked goods, the children wanted to be involved.  Kathleen stayed around for some chocolate but then wandered off after awhile.  Sophia, however stayed until the bitter end and became thoroughly coated in my efforts.

We try and keep up appearances, but sometimes, that doesn't work out as well as I would like.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Marble Jar Report

For Kathleen's birthday this year, she received the wonderful gift of chores.  As with any new program that involves coercing children to do anything other than what they want to do, I was anxious to see if it would stick.

For those of you (all one of you) who were wondering how it's worked out, I would like to report that it has been a total and complete success.

While I running one morning, Kathleen came into my room to tell me that she had cleaned up the toy room and could she please have a marble?  She skipped happily out of the room and I was happy to have a mess in the house picked up without any help or coercion on my part.

It has proved so popular that Sophia also has a marble jar and she helps Kathleen pick up her room, unload the dishwasher, put away her clean clothes, and clean up the toy room.  Kathleen also folds and puts away the kitchen towels and washcloths, helps to set the table, and picks up everyone's clothes after bath.

The best part about all of these completed tasks is that they're accomplished with no yelling, no nagging, and children that are happy to get a marble at the end.

And so I would like to tell everyone today that with the help of a little bribery and a little threatening that you too can start your child young in a life of labor.  Maybe by the time she's ten I can have her trained to cook three-course meals....

Monday, December 20, 2010

Living in Cairo: Saturdays

When Brandon was a child, he always looked forward to Saturdays.  Until Saturday came, and then he would wonder amid the (reported) endless hours of labor in the hot sun without even a five-minute break why he was so excited.  My Saturdays weren't quite so bad, but I do remember a lot of cleaning house and parents involved with yard work and home improvement.

While Brandon worked at Stouffer's, he had a rotating four-day workweek, so we never had dedicated Saturdays, but the days he had off always involved me running errands with our one car while he watched the children at home.

In Arlington, we rented a house with a lovely yard that required a lot of upkeep so Saturdays were always busy.

In Cairo we have no yard, maintenance is done by the embassy, I have a housekeeper, and so Saturdays are chore-free.  Kathleen is too young to be in any organized activities, and I run errands during the week, and so Saturdays are endlessly empty, with nary a commitment in sight.

During the summer, Saturdays always without fail every single Saturday involved going to the pool.  We always swam in the morning, came home for a long, late nap, ate an early dinner and watched a movie together.  Everyone was happy, everyone had something to do, and crankiness was kept to a reasonable level.

It's (Cairo) winter now, and although the pool is heated, swimming in low seventies weather doesn't sound like much fun to me.  Maadi house has a playground, but somehow the pool provides so many more hours of a amusement.  We don't have a car, and so going anywhere is an immense amount of trouble.  We have three small children, and so going anywhere is an immense amount of trouble.  We have no yard to play in, and an apartment, no matter how big, still is an apartment with a limited amount of space to play in.

We don't even have the luxury of a TV to sit them down in front of.

I never thought I would find myself complaining about a lack of household responsibilities, but I wouldn't mind at least a garden to weed and let Edwin eat the bugs from.  Maybe I'll start making up chores for the girls to do, just to keep them from fighting.

So tell me, what do you do on a Saturday?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Edwin's first birthday

Last week, Edwin turned one year old.  Unlike the progression in most families, the first celebrations for our children have gotten increasingly elaborate.  Kathleen's first was celebrated with cupcakes baked by my mother and a one present, also from my parents.  We were at the beach, and so a song was sung while everyone packed up to go home.

She was so disturbed by the candle, she refused to eat her cake.

Sophia's birthday was celebrated as an add-on to Memorial Day at my relatives' house.  I actually made her cake this time, and she got a present from both her parents and grandparents.

She didn't get cake either because she was bundled off to bed before it was served.

Edwin's birthday didn't start out very exciting for him - the girls and I went to play group and made fun Christmas crafts while Edwin was left home with Rere.

After his nap, however, the day got better.  The girls were in timeout for hitting a friend at play group, so Edwin and I spent the afternoon together.  He discovered the joy of climbing into cupboards.

And then the pleasure of licking beaters.

After the miscreants were released, we had Chinese food for dinner.

We sung to him (albeit without a real candle),

he opened his present,

and he even ate his cake.  Which is a first for birthdays around here.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

And this is why I taught her to read

Late Thursday night I remembered that Kathleen was assigned a talk on Friday.

Our primary is small and run somewhat casually because nobody's quite sure what the situation will be until primary starts.  Someone is always gone, and sometimes it's the students, sometimes it's the teachers, and sometimes it's the leaders.  A few weeks ago the secretary/pianist and I (the chorister) were running the show.  Thankfully all three of the substitutes showed up to teach their classes, but for singing and sharing time it was us and one other teacher.

So despite primary being run in a low-stress atmosphere, I knew I couldn't simply have Kathleen get up and start giving everyone a stream-of-consciousness interpretation of the gospel.  It rarely works in sacrament meeting, and who knows what a four year-old will think up under pressure.

So Friday morning, Brandon graciously took charge of crafting a talk with Kathleen in the five minutes between preparing agendas for his meetings and going to his meetings.  He's been a missionary, so he knows how to get things done.

When it was time for her talk, Kathleen stood up with her paper and read

Many prophets testified that Jesus would come to save His people.

Moses said that Jesus would come to earth.

When the Israelites were bitten by snakes, Moses held up the Brazen Serpent.

This was a symbol of Jesus. Everyone who looked at the Brazen Serpent
got better and was healed.

Everyone who did not died.

This symbol reminds us of Jesus. Those who look to Jesus for salvation
will be saved through His Atonement. Those who do not will die

Moses was a type or symbol of Jesus. His life was an example of the Savior.

I am thankful for prophets who teach us about Jesus Christ.
Then she sat down.  And I got to sit and watch.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Living in Cairo: Plumbing

Cairo is in a third-world country.  There are some aspects that might fool the casual observer - the Ritz Carlton is coming to downtown.  The airport is new.  Western-style malls have started to appear.  Apartments have electricity, air conditioning, and running water.  But the facade starts to break down when the details are examined, and it is those details that bely the underlying systems and attitudes that make Egypt a third-world country.

Plumbing, I am coming to believe, is a litmus test for any country's overall attitude and ability to keep things together over any length of time.

Our apartment is a 'wealthy' apartment.  It is paved entirely in stone, has four and a half bathrooms, central air conditioning, an enormous kitchen, and an old servant-bell pull system that no longer works.  However, I dream of the days when I can live in some tidy, snug little house that never has leaks.

There are five toilets in our house.  It is a physical law that at least one of the toilets must be running at all times.  It is also a law that when facilities comes to fix that leaking toilet, it has stopped leaking, and I can't find the new guilty party until after they leave.

Our air conditioning unit in the dining room leaked water into the floor, and bloomed out the wall beside it.  When facilities came to fix the wall, they asked if we had the matching paint.  Of course nobody had thought to give us the extra paint after they were done, and so I suppose the wall will be fixed for the next tenant.

There is an outlet in my hall that I never use because the wall is bulged and flaking around  it from another leaking air conditioning pipe.  And I noticed a suspicious bulge in another wall in the dining room just the other day.

So it was no surprise to me the other day when I noticed the girls' bathroom had a rather large, light brown pool of water that kept reappearing after it was mopped up.  It seemed to be coming from the bathtub pipes, and so I had Brandon put in a work order.

My friendly facilities workers came for their weekly visit, and started nosing around to uncover the problem.  I had visions of breaking up tiles to put in new pipes.  Either that or more layers of silicone.

And so I was surprised when they came in to the kitchen to talk to me.  It turns out that they leak isn't from our pipes, it's from our upstairs neighbor's pipes.  They were going to tell their boss who would tell our landlord who would tell the upstairs neighbors to tell their landlord that the leak needs fixed, insha'allah.

Thankfully we have another bathroom (four, remember?) that the children will be using until everybody plays telephone and everything gets fixed - for about a week.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Until next year

In our refrigerator sits a rubbermaid container of cranberry sauce, half full.  A week after Thanksgiving, that lonely cranberry sauce is all we have left of our 13-pound turkey, 9x13 pan of stuffing, 8x8 pan of sweet potatoes, 1 1/2 dozen rolls, quart of gravy, four pounds of mashed potatoes, and a pumpkin pie.

Tonight the last of the turkey and gravy was served up as a delicious pot pie, and we have turkey noodle soup leftovers waiting in the refrigerator for my lunch.  We ate Thanksgiving for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday dinners, much to Kathleen's despair.  The only food that went bad was the pie, left out of the refrigerator too long.  I'm amazed by how fertile pumpkin pie is for fuzzy mold.

Growing up, I never got very excited about Thanksgiving dinner, as my mother can (and probably will in the comments) attest.  Turkey was about as appetizing as sawdust, and even cranberry sauce was too wild for my tastes.  Many a dish of plain Jello was brought so that I had something to accompany my roll and mashed potatoes.

This year, however, as I was eating leftover turkey for lunch, I realized why Thanksgiving is so anticipated - the food is good.  I considered getting a few turkeys from the commissary and stashing them for later.  Perhaps it can become a semi-annual event in our house.  After all, who says you have to be thankful only once a year?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


It's beginning to look a lot like... the rest of the year.

Last night we watched White Christmas with the girls.  When we got to the end and everyone was singing about how much they wanted their Christmas to be white while the snow was falling the background, Kathleen kept interrupting.

"Why is it snowing?!  Please explain to me."
"Why are they singing about their Christmases being white?"
"What does that mean?!  Please explain!"

This year is the first Christmas I have spent outside the US.  When we were here previously, we spent Thanksgiving in Cairo, but were able to return for most of the holiday season and enjoy all of the warm fuzziness of Christmastime.

Here, however, we live in a Muslim country and Christmas isn't celebrated much anyway.  We hardly ever get out, and haven't set foot in a mall the whole time we've been here and so wouldn't see even if there were a few stray Christmas decorations, somewhere.

But I think the biggest damper on the holiday mood is sunshine, 70+ degree days, and green trees.  Cairo has a wonderful climate in the winter time, never even approaching freezing with trees blooming all winter long.  In fact some tree or another is blooming all year long.  Along with the bougainvillea, and lantana, and jasmine.

A few days ago, I glanced out the window to see a scattering of yellow beneath a tree.  My unconscious mind saw yellow leaves for fall, until the yellow registered as golden blossoms, fallen from the tree above.

The problem with perpetual summer is... perpetual summer.  Nothing changes much except which trees are flowering; it's the only way I can remember what time of the year it is.

Maybe tomorrow I'll start playing Christmas songs and see if we can borrow a tree to decorate.  And then we can crank down the air conditioning, put on some sweaters, and drink hot chocolate.

Monday, November 29, 2010


The other day, Brandon and I took the children to Maadi House to play.  Before we could go, however, Kathleen got herself all gussied up for her public appearance.

None of these items, I would like to say, were purchased by me.  This is what happens when I let her make choices.

Friday, November 26, 2010


This year, for the first time, Brandon and I cooked an entire Thanksgiving dinner by ourselves and for ourselves.  A very generous branch member invited the entire branch to his home for Thanksgiving dinner yesterday.  We considered going, but he lives quite a while a way, the hour was around Edwin's bedtime, and any (any) public event that involves our children increases my personal stress by at least 33 percent and Brandon's a minimum of 500.

So instead I went to the Commissary and bought my very first Thanksgiving turkey.  Two years ago we were given a turkey and cooked it with Brandon's siblings, but this year was the first time I personally bought and paid for thirteen pounds of Butterball frozen young turkey.

My tentative plan was to invite another family with children of comparable age, but after having house guests for nearly three weeks, we thought we'd enjoy some family time together.  And by the time I thought about making invitations, all of their supplies were already bought.

Having now spent some time cooking involved dinners, I started cooking on Wednesday, getting the cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, rolls, and stuffing ingredients out of the way.  We slept in Thursday morning, and then finished up the pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, gravy, and of course turkey.  

While were cooking pies, Kathleen was being cooked herself by Sophia in their own oven.

Eventually the turkey was finished and carved.

And we all sat down in our elegant dining room (thank you, Drexel Heritage and State) to enjoy enough food for at least three times the people we had.  Probably more as the girls decided that Thanksgiving dinner wasn't worth all of the time we'd spent cooking it and they would have rather had crackers and soda.  Edwin enjoyed all of it, however.

Having now cooked an entire Thanksgiving dinner solely for my family, I have no great desire to do it again, at least until everyone is older.  The children didn't care about the food, we spent most of the day cooking and cleaning, and everyone was grumpy by the end.  I'm strongly considering Chinese takeout for Christmas.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


When I was pregnant with Sophia, only 21 months after delivering Kathleen, I usually got two responses when people understood how close they were.  Either they wondered/asked if Sophia was a surprise or told me how fast friends the girls would be.

Personally I hoped that the latter would come true and eagerly awaited the advent of
Kathleen's new best friend that wasn't me.  When Sophia joined our family, Kathleen was mildly interested, but didn't see much appeal to her new sister.  Sophia was entertaining sometimes, but nothing close to a playmate especially as I was much more interesting.

Once Kathleen learned to talk, I was vastly preferable as the answer to all of her questions and Sophia a mere annoyance.  After we moved to Cairo and Sophia learned to walk, the two were twin satellites in my orbit.  Upon our return following Edwin's birth, the relationship grew antipathetic and Kathleen started violently shoving Sophia upon little or no provocation.

Recently, with the consistent application of firm punishment to any physical violence, the girls have become friends.  Kathleen is old enough to be quite imaginative and direct play, and Sophia is old enough to understand Kathleen's directions and be a willing participant in whatever scheme Kathleen has recently thought up.

One day, after finding some ribbons to act as a leash, Sophia became Bow-Wow (or Puppy Surprise) the puppy and Kathleen The Owner.  Our prayers for several days included gratitude for The Owner's puppy and parents to teach The Owner how to take care of the puppy.  Once during a prayer I mistakenly referred to Sophia by her given name, and she indignantly shouted me down mid-prayer "I'm not Sophia!! I'm Bow-Wow!!"  I corrected myself and finished the prayer without profaning my petition with laughter.

When my Aunt Bonnie was recently in Cairo for a visit, Kathleen commandeered her into role-playing.  We had watched Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang a few weeks before, and so that afternoon we were all characters from the movie.  Sophia was Jemimah, Kathleen was The Father, I was Truly Scrumptious, Edwin was the Child Catcher and with nobody else left, Aunt Bonnie was Jeremy.  She had a difficult time remembering to call her great-niece Kathleen father and was chastised repeatedly for the offenses.

When the girls hover about me like flies, I can use their newfound cooperative creativity to find some other amusement other than my company.  Presently they are stinky bears who are valiantly trying to take baths to get the stink that just won't come off.  Every time they ask me, I seem to still smell the stink and send them back for another round of bathing.

So all of you mothers of young children close together, take heart.  One day your children will also become friends.  And then you can have some sanity, if only in three-minute snatches while the bears are bathing.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Traveling to Egypt on a Diplomatic (or Official) Passport

This week Brandon has been on duty.  He has gotten a very busy duty week, as we have four days of vacation this week and he will have to take anything that normally would be sent to the ACS section during working hours.  Duty week is always interesting (for me) and usually involves less sleep than a regular week.

Most of me is unhappy to hear the phone ring at two in the morning, but the part of me that covertly reads tabloids in the check-out line is excited to hear what ridiculous thing American citizens abroad have been up to lately.  A whole website should be devoted to the calls that come in.  Brandon's mantra when the children are doing dangerous things is "never become a duty call in your own district."

Last night, after a busy day of touring with my aunt and uncle,  Brandon's phone rang.  On the line was a man who was in the airport with his wife and four children, aged eleven to five.  They were coming to Egypt for a week-long holiday from their overseas post and were being held up at passport control.

Brandon asked what the problem was, and the man said that he was unable to get the necessary visa to enter Egypt because he and his family are traveling on diplomatic passports.  To enter Egypt, travelers only have to purchase a visa in the airport right before going through passport control.  It's simple, it's easy, and it only costs fifteen dollars.  When we were having trouble with Edwin's passport last year, that's how he got in the country.

A tourist visa, however, only works for tourist passports.  Diplomatic passports require diplomatic visas, which can only be obtained from the Egyptian embassy in whatever country the traveler is coming from.  Most countries don't have this stipulation, and I know veterans of the FS who have never owned tourists passports.  I've never run into a problem, and neither has Brandon.

However, Egypt feels that their diplomats are treated unfairly in the US, and so our diplomats and official travelers are subject to the same rule.

So this poor man, his wife, and his children are in the airport awaiting a return flight after having spent a night in the airport and perhaps having to spend another night in the airport because of full flights due to Eid.  Last night as we laid down in our soft, comfortable bed and went to sleep, I thought of this poor family stuck in an uncomfortable, dirty airport with their holiday ruined and money wasted.  All because of a difference in passports.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


When I moved overseas, there were many things I knew I would miss about the US.  There's just no equivalent for Target, and parking lots are a particular speciality of the United States.  I don't have family within five thousand miles, and parks here are just as mythical as parking lots.

One thing I knew I wasn't going to miss, however, was Halloween.  Perhaps I inherited this dislike from my mother.  As a child we never had Halloween decorations aside from the obligatory pumpkins, and our most elaborate costumes were designed and constructed by my father.  For whatever reason, I don't care that much for Halloween.  And I was happy to live in a country where this holiday could just slide right by, unnoticed.

And then we went to play group a few weeks back.  One friend who is my polar opposite in crafts (she does them, she does them well, and she's creative) had a Halloween-themed morning at her house where we decorated pumpkins, made marshmallow ghosts, dressed up in costumes, danced to Halloween music, and were presented with ribbon-wrapped pumpkin playdough as we left.

I didn't make much of the morning, hoping I could deflect Kathleen's questions just like I did the ones about where babies come from.  Unfortunately, she was more interested in Halloween because it's a holiday.  And holiday always means fun.

A few days after the play group, she sidled up to me and attempted to ask with a nonchalant air, "Mom, is Halloween a holiday for kids?"

I didn't have the heart to lie, and told her that yes, Halloween is a holiday for kids.  Excited, she asked, "Can we go to Halloween?"  We had a friend who was hosting a party so I reluctantly told her that sure, we could go to Halloween.

Luckily another friend with a daughter Kathleen's age had a princess costume that Kathleen could borrow, and I figured that Sophia could go in Kathleen's her leotard, ballet skirt, and ballet slippers.  At least three hours every day leading up to Halloween was spent in costumes, and Kathleen counted down each day until we could go to Halloween.

At last Saturday dawned, and following their naps, we got everyone ready to go to Halloween.  The princess costume had been swapped back and forth all week, and Sophia was totally and utterly dismayed to find out that Kathleen was the one to wear the princess costume and she was stuck with a leotard, skirt and ballet slippers instead of light-up princess shoes.

I felt for her, also being a second child with unwanted costumes fobbed off on my while my older sister got to be the princess.

However, there was only one princess costume and it fit Kathleen.  Despite Brandon's threats of staying home, we all went with a dubious Sophia in tow.

As soon as the girls were introduced to the game of trick-or-treating through the hallway, Sophia didn't care what her costume was and all was right with the world.

Hopefully we can convince the girls that Halloween was a one-time deal, but I think that they get smarter as they get older and the genie has been let out of the bottle.  Thank heaven we already did away with Santa Claus.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Living in Cairo: Taxis

If I'm not going somewhere well known or somewhere I know the way to, I'll take the last option: a taxi.  Taxi drivers in Egypt spend their lives frequenting busy streets in search of a fare.  We live a few blocks from two different busy streets, and so finding a taxi is as simple as walking to Bur Said or Midan Nahda and waiting for the right taxi to go by.

Formerly, there was only one option for taxis: black-and-white.  I remember one taxi ride where the car was so old that it had no window handles, no seat belts, all of the interior paneling was gone, and it never broke twenty-five miles and hour the entire ride.  The driver was also driving barefoot.

Black-and-white taxis are amazing examples of Egyptian maintenance: just enough to keep the forty- or fifty-year old cars running, but not much more.  The drivers also take whatever opportunity they can to personalize their taxis; no rearview mirror is without some twenty baubles hanging off it, and my favorite dashboard decoration is what looks like synthetic sheep pelt dyed pink covering the entire dashboard of the car.  Just a few days ago I saw a minibus driver with at least twenty hanging ornaments dangling from my windshield.  I only regret not having a camera on my phone when I'm being driven through the streets of Cairo.

The black-and-white taxis, at one point forty years ago, had meters.  The meters ceased to mean anything about thirty-seven years ago.  Now there is a system that is know by everyone except tourists, and the drivers work hard to keep it that way.  

Before entering the taxi, one tells the driver where the destination is.  If he doesn't know where that is he 1. says okay, and then starts asking everyone else driving around him how to get there 2. declines the passenger 3. asks the passenger if they know how to get there.

After sorting out the destination, the passenger gets in the back seat, if they are female, or the front if they are male and feeling sociable.  Otherwise the male sits in the back also.  The driver goes to the destination.  The speed of this depends on step number one.  I remember riding with a driver once who didn't know where the Pyramids were and we spent a lot of time driving through garbage-heaped roads asking directions.  If he had just asked me, I could have told him myself.

After arriving at the destination, the passenger disembarks and hands money through the window to the driver.  Depending on what fare he received versus what he thought he should receive, the nationality of the passenger, the time of day, the condition of the apartment that was the destination, the number of passengers in the taxi, the conversation engaged in within the taxi, how busy the road is that the destination is in, and perhaps how close it is to prayer time, the driver will argue the fare.

At this point, the passenger will either 1. haggle 2. give the driver more money 3. walk away.  I favor the third option.  Brandon favors the second.  When we were in Cairo previously as students, I was tight with our money and paid the barest fare I thought I could get away with.  Now that a pound or two makes no difference to me, I'm happy to pay a generous fare, make the driver happy, and avoid haggling.

Now, however, there is another option: the checkered cab.  These cabs have been introduced within the last few years and are natural-gas vehicles.  They have seatbelts (although often the buckle has been cut out of the seat), power windows, the original upholstery, air conditioning, and most importantly, meters.

Not only do they have meters, but the drivers generally don't quibble over the fare.  And if you tip them a pound or two, they drive off with a smile.  

Which is why whenever humanly possible, I ride checkered cabs.  Most of the anxiety of riding in taxis is gone when you know that there will be no argument and you're paying the same fare as an Egyptian.

Now if only they could take that idea and apply it to shopping.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Living in Cairo: Transportation other than Taxis

When we were assigned Cairo, we had many decisions to make.  We had already made quite a few decisions when we packed out of Utah - freezer, sell or keep?  How about the Christmas tree stand, or outdoor shelving, or a painting degree's worth of work?  By the time we got to Arlington, most of our things had had their fate decided.

However, the last major possession we owned, our car, was still up for debate.  I had gotten our car, a 1996 Honda Civic, before my sophomore year of college and it had faithfully transported first me, and then Brandon and me, and then Kathleen, Brandon and me, and finally Sophia, Kathleen, Brandon and me wherever we needed to go.  I don't remember how many times it crossed the country before we took it out to Arlington with us.

Despite it's nobility, our car was old, and so we sold it to a family member for their son, who promptly crashed it.  So that was the end of Lester.

Like everyone with State, we had the ability to ship a car to Cairo with us.  Brandon and I had been to Cairo previously, however, and had spent seven months here without any transportation other than taxis and the metro.  We weren't up for buying a new car, and I wasn't too excited about driving in Cairo, so we decided to simply go without for the two years of our post.

Most days having no car presents no problems at all.  The Embassy has limited parking, and so runs a shuttle service for employees, most of whom ride the shuttle instead of battling traffic to and from work.  In addition to the shuttle, we live half a mile from a metro stop, which is in turn half a mile from the Embassy.  Most days Brandon takes the shuttle in, the metro home, and only smells like the locals for his troubles.

The children and I spend most days at home.  Now that the heat is abating, we may take a walk in the afternoon, and Kathleen's primary mode of transportation is her red tricycle, whom she recently named Cannonball (entirely on her own).  Sophia and I walk, and Edwin rides on my back.

To get to and from church on Fridays, Sophia and Edwin ride in our red double jogging stroller and Kathleen and I walk.  Once I had another American woman leaving the pool tell me that she had seen me and the children walking to church the previous day.  On another Friday, a LDS teacher with a tour group was in a taxi that couldn't find the church.  She saw us crossing the street, told the taxi to stop, and followed us to church.  We always make a scene.

On the days where our feet are not sufficient, I resort to cars.  Occasionally I will get a ride from a friend, but mostly I use Ayman.

He is driver who I use if I need to get somewhere not well known, or if the route is complicated.  I also use him to get to the commissary, which involves USG security.  If I need dependability, I call Ayman.  He is always on time, he never tries to talk to me, he never argues the fare, and with one exception, he or his drivers always know where they are going.  He is minor Cairene miracle.

Next time: taxis

Monday, October 25, 2010

At Last (hopefully to stay)

Today I did something that I haven't done in six months: I left my windows open all day long.  Rere always scolds me for doing this, but I do it anyway because the cool breeze wafting through the house is so delightful.

A few weeks ago, I thought that fall had finally come, but it was only a tease.  The temperature after a few days of cooler climbed back into the low hundreds and sat there for awhile.  It started drifting down again a few days ago, and right now the temperature is a blessed 79 degrees.

I feel like I used to when spring came in the US, like life had finally returned to the world and I could stop holding my breath.  As soon as the days grew warm enough, I would open all of the windows in the house, and let the warm breeze blow out the stale winter air that had spend the season in my house.

Now instead of a warm breeze, there is a cool one, but it still blows out the stale air, only this air has been air-conditioned instead of heated.  No matter that the breeze coats a very fine coating of grit over the entire house, I'm just glad it isn't from our mildewed vents.

I am looking forward to evening walks and a return to the park.  I can't wait to eat at all of the restaurants with outdoor seating that I couldn't go to in the summertime.  We can load up Kathleen's tricycle in the elevator for walks to the library again.

And I might even return those books.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A recent conversation

Me: (while trying to keep Edwin from smacking me in the face with both hands) Kathleen, why are Edwin's shorts wet?

Kathleen: Oh they're just wet from Sophia's little potty.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

My Life, as a Mother

A long time ago, before I lived in Egypt, before Brandon joined the Foreign Service, before I had children, and even before I was married, I went to college.

When I was in college at BYU, I had to choose a major.  Since I was a child, I had always drawn.  I was good at it, and I enjoyed being good at it.  In high school I always had art classes, and was known for being 'artistic.'

Everyone told me that I should major in art, and I told everyone that I had no desire to.  Nevertheless, during the second semester of my freshman year, I applied and was accepted to the art program.  My junior year I applied and was accepted to the BFA program.  My official college degree is in painting.

A week after graduating, I was married, and a week later, I was in Egypt.  Kathleen came about eight months after we left Egypt, Sophia followed less than two years on Kathleen's heels, and Edwin showed up a year and a half later.  I've been busy.

Every time I have a child, I tell myself that finally, now I can quit painting without feeling guilty.  I don't have to try and juggle the responsibility for three children while trying to create something completely unrelated to them.  The girls won't have to ask me when I'll be done painting so I can go play with them.  I won't have to try and find that perfect balance between the two and I can take the children to the pool every single day.

But still, I paint.  I have no grand visions of solo exhibitions in the Guggenheim, articles in ArtNews, or even a gallery or two carrying my work.  Instead I paint while the world almost falls apart around me.  But most days, I save it just in time.  Because that's what I do.  I'm a mother.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Get me to the church on time

I have heard a lot about the traffic in Cairo, but never thought too much of it.  The traffic in my neighborhood is fine, and I am only in a car once every two weeks.  Occasionally there is some traffic, but it was just mildly annoying and I attributed it to an accident, or school letting out, or something else unusual.

Yesterday Brandon had a coworker's wedding to attend.  The one wedding I had the opportunity to attend, we missed because of a confusion about times.  So I offered to come with him so that I can say I've attended one (Coptic) wedding in Egypt.   And I thought that he would like the company.

The wedding started at seven in Heliopolis, so I arranged for a car to pick me up in Maadi, swing by the embassy and drive us up to the church.  The car was going to cost 120 pounds, and a regular taxi would have been cheaper, but I knew there was no way I would ever know where I was going.  And that means the taxi driver wouldn't either.

So at 5:30 I left the children with Rere, met the driver at the door, and we headed to downtown to pick up Brandon.  Brandon called at 6:10 while we were stuck in traffic, halfway up to the Embassy.  Thankfully the traffic cleared in time to pick him up at 6:30, giving us a good thirty minutes to make it to the church.

Traffic was stop-and-go, but by 6:50 we were in Heliopolis, near a church.  Which we passed.  We saw another church, and passed that one too.  And then the driver started asking for directions.

Sometimes he would stop and ask a passer-by, and sometimes he would simply shout out the window to a taxi driving nearby, and every single time the man (because everyone knows not to ask a woman for directions) would say something that completely contradicted the directions we had gotten from the previous man.

And that's how, at 7:20, we were still taking the scenic route through Heliopolis and asking everyone where St. Mark church on Cleopatra street was.  Somebody eventually got the directions right, however, as we passed the Embassy shuttle parked near the church and I knew that we would at least see half a wedding.

I'm not sure why I was excited to go, after listening to half an hour of loud chanting, cymbal crashing, and ululating cries of joy.  After that, we said congratulations and caught a ride with the Embassy shuttle back to the metro downtown.  Following a (relatively) short ride on the metro, we took the final of four modes of transportation for the day, a taxi.

I walked in the door at 9:45, four hours and fifteen minutes after leaving that evening.  Thirty minutes of which was spent at the wedding, thirty minutes waiting around, and three hours and fifteen minutes taking some form of transportation.

One day I'm going to live very, very far away from everyone and walk everywhere I go.

Monday, October 18, 2010


When Brandon joined the Foreign Service, I was excited about many things.  I looked forward to living somewhere with mangoes.  I planned to stay only in countries with easily available domestic help.  I was happy that Brandon didn't have to freeze Stouffer's products anymore for a living.  I knew there were many good things to look forward to.

One pleasure I didn't anticipate, however, was the pleasure of making new friends.  After marrying, I never felt a keen need for extra friends; Brandon is my best friend and who needs more than that?  I had friends in my wards, but everyone also had their own lives that I was a visitor in.  And that didn't bother me.

I have heard that two people only need two points of similarity to become friends.  When I joined the Foreign Service community, there was suddenly a wealth of people that I shared two points of similarity with: we were women, and we were living overseas.  And at church we immediately had three: we were women, we were living overseas, and we were LDS.

Suddenly I had a social life where one had never existed.  I went to play groups, I had play dates, I went out to lunch, I had a baby shower thrown, I was invited to henna parties, cocktail parties and grand going-away parties.

And this social life is not based on any personal worth of my own; it's just because I'm here.  Almost nobody lives overseas permanently, and so everyone is always just moving in or getting ready to leave.  There is no fixed 'in' group, and everyone is always happy to make another friend.  Because of this flux, friendships spring up quickly and grow firm in almost no time at all.  We all have some trauma associated with Egypt that we can share and everyone needs a listening ear to complain in.

The only downside to the caring group of women I have found myself in is the cause of such fast friendships: we all move.

We become strongly attached to another, and then somebody leaves and you honestly never know if you will ever see each other again.  I have the number of a friend who was only here for the summer in my phone, and every time I scroll past her name, I feel a stab of sorrow for another friend gone, and no more time left here for the friendship.

But that is one of the many pitfalls of the Foreign Service.

A childhood song comes to mind whenever I think of friends made and friends lost.
"Make new friends and keep the old,
One is silver and the other gold."

Friday, October 15, 2010

Living in Cairo: Daylight Saving Time

The end of Daylight Saving Time in the fall has always been at sad time of the year for me.  One of my favorite times is in the long summer evenings when the crickets sing in the bushes as the sun slowly sets before the cooling dews set in the grass.  All of the days after June 21 are sad days because they are growing shorter.  All of the days after December 21 are happy days because they are growing longer.

This enjoyment has been stymied as I have become a mother of children with early bedtimes.  Evening walks really aren't possible when all of the children are in bed before the sun sets, and now that I'm in Cairo there's not even a backyard to sit in and enjoy the twilight.

Still, however, my dislike of the end of daylight saving time has persisted.  Having my children wake up with the sun at 5:45 on Saturdays doesn't help my irritation.

So last year when the Egyptian government announced several days before Ramadan that DST would end early that year - the 16th of August - I was annoyed.  To lose even more time of precious summertime evening for a holiday I don't celebrate was obnoxious.  Not that I was going to stage a protest - that's what I get for being a Christian in a Muslim country.

This year Ramadan started ten days earlier because of the discrepancy in lunar and solar calendars.  And so DST ended ten days earlier also - the 6th of August.  Thankfully I was in the US for most of Ramadan and so didn't have to be awoken by my children with the sun at 4:30.  When we came back everyone was so jet-lagged that an hour either way didn't make a difference.

However, a week after we returned, Ramadan ended.  And since Ramadan was over, there was no need to have the sun set earlier (the fast is from sunrise to sunset), and everyone's clocks got set back to DST.

And then three weeks after that, DST ended.  Again.

My children's sleep schedules are still in protest and my Saturday mornings are not nearly so pleasant as they were before R&R-DST ending-DST starting-DST ending happened.  But I suppose that's what happens when one moves to a third-world Muslim country, right?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Recently, Brandon and I were talking about our children, which happens often.  In our year here in Cairo, we have yet to take them to the pyramids, the Egyptian museum, the Khan, the Citadel, or anything but Ibn Touloun.

One day when they are old enough to look at pictures and realize that we lived in Egypt, I imagine that at least one of them will be incredibly put out that we lived in Egypt and never took them anywhere.

Then I will patiently explain that they had no desire whatsoever to go somewhere like the pyramids and certainly not the Egyptian Museum.  They much preferred the Maadi House pool.

If they are really upset, they can use their own money as adults and go see all of those wonderful, historical things that we, as deadbeat parents, never bothered to take them to.

And that is why all of these pictures are in our house.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Dear Mr. Columbus,

Thank you for sailing the ocean blue in 1492.  If you hadn't ventured intrepidly into the unknown, you would not have discovered the Americas (to contemporary Europeans anyway).  And if you hadn't discovered the Americas, Brandon wouldn't have had Sunday off from work.

I honor your achievement.  I also am grateful to have the time to go the beach with Brandon.  I feel that spending your holiday relaxing on the sandy shores of the Red Sea with my husband is a fitting celebration of your voyage upon the sea.

The children at home with Rere will also remember you as they are separated from their loving parents, in memory of your separation from family.

Most of all, I am happy for the opportunity to spend 24 hours feeding only myself, dressing nobody but me, reading a book without interruptions, and waking up at whatever hour I choose.

Once again, thank you.

Ashley Sherwood

Friday, October 8, 2010

At Last

It has finally happened.  I have been waiting for this day for the last four, maybe five months.  This morning, I went to the kitchen to cook breakfast.  As I filled my pot with water for our daily oatmeal, I noticed something different about my surroundings.  It wasn't as it had been for the last eternity.  Intrigued, I opened the window.

And through it came a cool breeze.

I have opened the window before, vainly hoping that the outside air at 6 am would be cooler than the 80+ degrees in my kitchen.  Every time I was disappointed to find humid, hot, thick air pouring into my kitchen to make it even more uncomfortable than it was before the window opened.  Some mornings the miasma would be accompanied by a delightful smell labeled by Brandon's coworker as 'burning battery acid.'

Summer in Cairo is similar to winter in other places - one spends as little time outside as possible (even to the point where I have library books as least three months overdue because the walk has been too hot) and we spend the days holed up in our air-conditioned apartment.  Our last holiday we had a 'picnic' in the living room because it was too hot to enjoy one outside.

But fall has finally come.  I know that I have lived in Cairo too long, however, when the forecast reads "91, 89, 89, 89, 89, 91" and "boy, I'm glad it's finally fall," goes through my head.  Now we begin the time of year where I look at the forecast in North Carolina and chuckle to myself when they have snow and I have seventy degrees.

I missed the most delightful time last year because of Edwin's birth and I intend to make best usage of it this year.  I'll try to keep the gloating to a minimum.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Living in Egypt: Roads

Cairo is not known for its good roads.  Like all third-world countries, orderliness and maintenance are not at the top of the government's priorities (which is, I suspect, one of the reason they stay in the third-world tier).

I remember one hair-raising trip home when my parents were visiting during our first stay in Cairo.  We had taken a taxi home from Al-Azhar park in the evening, and hadn't yet realized that taxi drivers don't know where they're going.  The trip home from Al-Azhar is fairly straightforward (enough so that I could drive it myself), but the driver had decided that evening to go through all of the strangest and out-of-the-way corners of Maadi to get us home.  

At one point he headed down a street that was literally flooded.  Rain falls here sufficiently strong enough to flood roads once every few years and that wasn't one of the years, so I'm not sure how the road was flooded, but it could only have been from dubious sources.  I remember creeping along the side of the road at maybe three miles an hour listening to the murky water sloshing up the doors and watching abandoned tires, concrete blocks and other large detritus pass us as we drove through.  After that, I always gave the driver directions.

The roads (excepting those in Maadi which were built by the British) make absolutely no sense and have no street signs (except in Maadi, and those were made for an Eagle project). One major road, the Autostrade, runs north-south through the valley.  The first time I hired a taxi to take me home from the Khan, I thought I was being taken for a ride when he started diving through the City of the Dead, a cemetery near downtown.  After some tense minutes, he popped right out onto the Autostrade and took me home. 

 I didn't realize then that the only south-bound access to the Autostrade in that area was to drive through the City of the Dead.  When the road was built, almost no thought was given to access.  I have seen drivers drive onto major highways and then pull U-turns in the middle to go the other direction because there aren't any on-ramps going their way.

I was surprised when we returned to find stripes painted on the roads, a feature that had been added while we were gone.  The stripes, however, are only for decoration.  Last time I went to the airport at 3 in the morning, I was amused to watch the driver languidly drift over the wide-open highway with no apparent reason.  Perhaps he was simply enjoying the room.

The roads in Maadi are laid out on the grid system, but just as shoddily maintained as in the rest of the city.  Potholes are filled with rocks, plastic bags, and broken-up tiles.  I dislike walking anywhere in the morning because all of the cars have been washed and dirty puddles lie in the road waiting to swallow the stroller whole.  When Kathleen rides her tricycle, she gets quite a workout from all of the ups and downs.

Until recently.  Somebody somewhere decided that 20+ years was long enough between pavings and has started paving all of the roads.  So three or four blocks will be paved and then a week or two will go by while the equipment sits on the side of the road and then another few blocks will be paved.  The roads look really nice for about two days before the garbage piles back up on them and the pools form again.  

One thing somebody neglected to do, however, was raise all of the manhole covers.  Perhaps they thought that nobody would need to access them.  While I was walking to the pool I saw one that had been excavated with a pile of rubble sitting a few feet away on the side of the road.  And it's still there.  And it will probably be for the next 20 years, until they pave again.  

Saturday, October 2, 2010

And the Winner is...

Bridget, with her guess of Azerbaijan.  Congratulations, you can now come visit us in two years as long as you pay for your own plane ticket.  We're looking forward to your visit.

We will be posted to Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan in June of 2012.  In preparation for Brandon's Pol/Econ job, we'll be spending ten months back in DC so that Brandon can learn Azeri, a very useful language that we'll have the opportunity to utilize for many more posts to come.  

When we put together our bid list, it was rearranged several times due to positions closing and timing constraints and somehow Baku ended up as our third choice, preceded by Tashkent and Tallin.  Brandon and I were both excited about Tashkent and Tallin looked interesting (although cold), but neither of us invested much in Baku.  My main associations with Baku were the BTC pipeline, James Bond, and major industrial pollution.  

So when we were assigned to Baku, I was very surprised but somehow I suspected we would end up being sent to the one place neither of us cared that much about.  After some researching and blog-stalking, however, I've gotten if not excited, at least anticipatory about the change.  We have a fairly good chance to have a house, and Brandon is especially looking forward to snow and mountains.  

Regardless of our feelings, that's where we will be living for two years because that's what the Foreign Service requires.  And I suppose one reason is as good as another.

Friday, October 1, 2010

20 Questions, Round Two

Here are today's answers:

Will Brandon's language training be in a Turkic language?

Does the country's name end in -stan?

Is it a part of the former USSR?

Is it in western Asia?

Will your kids be able to purchase weapons-grade fissile material for a reasonable price? From the nanny?

Was it one of the top five places you and brandon had picked for your next assignment?

Does the country have new lakefront property?

Is there a US military base there?

The next rounds ends today at midnight, so keep asking questions.  You are free to ask specific place names this time, but only one specific place name per person per round.  And if you've already found out, no spoiling!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

20 Questions, Round One

Without further ado,

Will Brandon be able to use his Russian there?

Will more language training be necessary?

Is the primary language spoken in this area Arabic?

Is it in the Eastern Hemisphere?

Is It considered a third world country?

Is it in Asia?

Is the food delicious?

Is it a nuclear country?

Will you have a villa with a pool?

Did the apple originate in it, or a contiguous country?

Do you get to have a maid?

Is it in the Mango Belt?

Or the Nanny Belt?

Does it snow in the winter there?

Have I been there?

The next round ends October first, 12 AM EST, so keep guessing!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Where are we going?

This evening, while Brandon was getting the girls ready for bed, I checked our email.  Waiting for me was an email from Brandon's CDO, labeled "Congratulations!"  In it contained a few lines, and our future for June 2012-June 2014.

But what was in it?

That's for me to know and for you to guess.

In a shameless bid for comments, I am now hosting 20 Questions on my blog.  The first session is open from now until 12 AM EST on the 30th of September.  Here are the rules:

1.  Only yes or no questions
2.  I will answer all questions from one round before proceeding to the next
3.  No specific city or country names for the first two rounds
4.  The game continues, with 24-hour rounds, until someone guesses where we're going
5.  The winner gets an all-expenses paid trip (excluding airfare and personal expenses) to our next post!  Valid 6/2012 - 6/2014

I will enable anonymous posting for those of you who prefer to remain... anonymous.  Have fun with questions!

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Lesser of Two Weevils

I wish I had known about the oatmeal canisters when I bought them at the Commissary.  If I had not trusted in the right of anything bought from a USG facility, I would have looked more closely at the seals on my Quaker Old-Fashioned oats before putting them in my pantry cupboard.

Perhaps if I had investigated even more thoroughly than I already did, I would have found where all of those weevils mysteriously wandering through my cupboards so nonchalantly had come from.  I thought that I had caught them in the pasta and they were dead in the freezer.  The crackers didn't seem too suspect, but you can never be too sure when dealing with the weevils.  Hopefully they won't be too soggy from their time frozen.

Unfortunately, I didn't check and didn't look, and so this morning when I went to my cupboard to find more oatmeal for breakfast, I found more than oatmeal.  Brandon suggested I make oatmeal cookies - with raisins.  For now, the oatmeal has joined the pasta and crackers.  I'll think of what to with it after I've dealt with the laundry, the dishes, Edwin's diapers, and of course the children.

I'm hoping the rest of my week will be better.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Bribery is such a harsh word

Last month Kathleen turned four.  One of her birthday presents was a bank.  And with the bank came the promise of allowance attached to the responsibility of chores.

Chores were never popular in my house growing up, and I remember (and now regret) innumerable occasions where my mother would ask me to sweep the floor/set the table/feed the cat/vacuum the floor and I would respond with a (I imagine to be maddening) whine, "Mo-om, I know," and then try and hide to read twenty more pages of my book before the scenario was repeated half an hour later.

And so, with the arrogant resolve of a young parent, I have set out to Do it Differently With My Children.

On the kitchen counter sits three jars.  One is full of marbles, and two aren't.  Every time Kathleen does a chore (and Sophia thinks that she has done one because Kathleen did one), she (and Sophia) get a marble.  If she declines to do the chore, she has one marble removed every five minutes until she decided that the chore wasn't such a bad idea in the first place.

At the end of the week, each marble gets exchanged for 25 piasters, ten percent goes to tithing, and the rest goes to her bank where she will save up buy wonderful things like clothes for her mother (her idea, not mine), toys, and a microwave if she breaks ours.

So yes, I am bribing, ahem, paying my child to do chores.  The list as of yet is fairly nebulous, but usually involves cleaning up her room, putting the clothes in the laundry after bath, helping to unload the dishwasher, cleaning up the toys, and whatever else I need help with.

Which is where allowance starts to look a little sketchy because at this point, she can be paid to do all sorts of things, and if I'm busy it's worth 25 piasters to have Kathleen feed Sophia the rest of Sophia's oatmeal that she has decided she's tired of feeding to herself.

I suppose of all of us, Brandon should be the most concerned as it's his salary that I'm using to have my work done for me.  I wonder if she'll take checks?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Saturday night

Back in the bygone-days Saturday night was a time anticipated all week.  As a youth there were stake dances, dates, movies, and parties.  When I was in college there was more of the same, but at later hours and lasting into the wee hours of the morning.  I have nodded/slept my way through many a sacrament meeting after a night of whatever my Saturday nights used to consist of.

Now that I have children and the workweek has changed to Sun-Thursday, Saturday night has calmed down considerably.  However, I still like to enjoy my Saturday night, and so last Saturday after the children had been put to bed after a long afternoon of swimming, and were asleep (or at least quietly reading), Brandon and I set to enjoying our evening.

It was my turn to choose the activity, so I chose one of my personal favorites: Scrabble.  The game started out well for Brandon, aided by the soothing songs of Nate King Cole, Kathleen's favorite singer.  His first word garnered him twenty points, and mine a mighty four.  This trend continued until, after the first several turns, Brandon had made it past one hundred and I was up to an impressive twenty.

The tide turned, however, when I engaged in an unapologetically amazing act of cheating that involved tile-switching (completely legal by house rules), creating a new word, and using a foreign word.  After garnering a house-record 104 points for Squeezeur (noun: a French male who squeezes), I owned the game thereafter.

My lead was only further cemented by continued cheating (tile-switching, removing a letter present on the board [questionably legal], and making two words into one) to create pinecone (with the 50-point bonus for using all tiles: 72 points).  By the end of the game I ran out of scoring capability on our counters which means that my score was over 400 points, also a house record.  My cheating was of such a degree that Brandon didn't even try to protest my score on grounds that I had cheated.

His wounds, however, were soothed with the McFlurries that were delivered to our door (after ordering them online), even if they were half the size, not mixed, and twice the price of something comparable in the States.  The game wrapped up at 9, and we were in bed by 9:30.

I've heard that Cairo some nice cultural offerings, but who needs the ballet when you can have a Saturday night like ours?