Potty Training!

When Abigail was 18 months old, she started asking to use the potty and consistently using it when I would set her on the potty chair. Well, instead of rolling with it, I kept her in diapers. Why, you ask? A few reasons: 1) people kept telling me Abigail was too young to potty train and 2) I had no idea how to potty train and couldn’t wrap my head around paying any money on literature that would tell me how to do it. First of all, I should have trusted my gut- I know my kid better than all those other people, and second of all, spending the money would have been worth it…

Turns out, girls typically show interest in potty training between 18 and 24 months. AND it is much easier to potty train during a toddler’s “I want to copy and please you” stage and much more difficult to potty train during their “I’m my own person and want to control everything” stage, which typically hits around age 2.

Anyway, a month or so ago I went to MommyCon in Atlanta, a convention designed around parenting (specifically natural parenting), and was fortunate enough to attend a potty training seminar, put on by Laura Wojciechowski of Super Undies! I followed Laura’s advice by holding a Potty Training Boot Camp Weekend. Abigail made so much progress, that by the end of one weekend, she was in panties full time, only wearing a diaper for nap time and night time.

For quite a while prior to our intensive training, Abigail and I talked about the potty, and pee pee and poo poo. She came with me to the bathroom every time I had to go so she could “witness” me using the potty (she particularly loves flushing the toilet for me). We read potty books, we sang potty songs, we talked about the contents of her diaper at every change. The experts call this “potty culture immersion.” Yes, seriously. And it really does matter. Then, I made a potty training sticker chart. Don’t judge my lack of artistic ability.

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I also bought a bunch of cheap “treasures” ($1 or less per toy) and a treasure chest. Some people use candy as their reward, but I chose toys. Candy is certainly more affordable. You choose what works for YOUR family!

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I bought and installed this ingenious toilet seat from my local hardware store, potty seat.jpg

and bought a plain, white plastic potty chair. I got lots of panties, a cheap kitchen timer, salty snacks, lots of juice, and of course, flushable wipes. We were ready!

The weekend arrived. The boot camp method requires you to do one of two things: pay really close attention to your child, or to lock yourself within feet of the potty… Well since I’m too easily distracted we chose the lock-in method. Abby’s bedroom has an ensuite bathroom, so we locked ourselves in her room for the morning. I set the timer for 10 minutes, and when the timer went off, Abby sat on the potty. She would sit there until she peed or for 30 minutes, whichever came first. It a long day. There were temper tantrums. There were tears. There was a power struggle between me and my strong willed daughter. The most important thing about these battles of will, was that I NEVER got upset with Abigail. I maintained my patience, kept calm, holding her on the potty, explaining in a soft voice that everybody uses the potty and she needed to start pee peeing in the potty just like mama and dada, and that as soon as she pee peed, she could get up. Most times she would pee while she was throwing her fit, and I would redirect her immediately by throwing a huge party with every success. Once she washed her hands, I let Abigail pick a treasure from the treasure chest, and put a sticker on the chart. Each pee pee in the potty was a step closer to being diaper free.

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We also had a LOT of accidents. Each accident resulted in “no big deal, don’t worry, just try and tell me before you pee pee next time.” Each accident was an opportunity for me to set Abigail up for success. I’ll say it again, it was a long day.  By the time nap rolled around, we were both exhausted, cranky, and sick of Abigail’s small room. The break was welcomed with open arms.

I took a shower and slept for two hours, while Abby slept for three. We both woke up as new women, and I made an executive decision: we were taking the party outside. The plastic potty chair, the wipes, the rewards, the timer, snacks, juice, spare pants and panties- EVERYTHING- traveled to the backyard. The change of scenery was a Godsend. In the beautiful weather, under the oak trees in our yard, Abigail had a breakthrough. It just clicked. She would pee in the potty within five minutes of sitting down. I didn’t have to hold her on the potty; she sat willingly. It was amazing.

Each day, we would add five minutes to her timer so she would hold her pee longer between potty breaks. Gradual progress. We had decided to keep the rest of the weekend low key, but with the help of the timer, we ventured out into the world. The timer was very valuable to us. Abigail did not like having Mama or Dada remind her to use the potty since it felt, to her, like taking orders. Using the timer eliminated that fight. If the timer said it was time to potty, it was time to potty, no argument.

Since our exhausting “boot camp” weekend, Abby has been doing incredibly well. She still has accidents on occasion, but they are becoming less and less frequent. She is in panties full time, and has been waking up from naps dry, so hopefully we will be out of diapers at nap time soon! Abigail has been a rock star through the whole process. I’m so proud of her.

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Rollin’ Wit’ Ma Homies

It has been a while since I’ve posted, I know… I’m sure you have all been waiting with bated breath… (LOL) But anyway, I’m back. And I’m going to try and post at least semi-regularly (now THAT’S commitment for you haha).

Let’s talk about strollers… We own four. Yes, four. When I originally chose my stroller, I had planned on owning ONE. So much for that plan…

When your baby is an infant, you will likely want a stroller that their infant car seat clicks into.  Many brands offer stroller and carseat combos that are marketed specifically as “travel systems” but the strollers, while sufficient, were not what I was looking for, so I opted to find the best infant carseat for our family, and then find a stroller it was compatible with, instead of looking for a package deal, just because it was marketed as such.

We chose the Maxi Cosi Mico as our infant carseat. It is compatible with many strollers with an adaptor you buy separately. The first stroller I decided upon was the Quinny Buzz (link is to the newest version).

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Quinny Buzz

There are a lot of things that I love about this stroller. It is SO easy to push, has awesome suspension, it is easy to fold and unfold (it has hydraulics in it so it unfolds on its own… yes, seriously), the seat can be attached forward facing or rear facing or removed entirely and replaced with the car seat, and they used to sell a front tire made for off-road use. First problem: they discontinued the tire before I could buy it so my All In One stroller dream went out the window pretty quickly. Second problem: Abby hates it. If your child throws a fit when they sit in it, all the benefits go out the window. It is slightly heartbreaking, because I still really love this stroller, it just did not work for us, and by us, I mean Abby.

I went back to the drawing board (and got a recommendation from an amazing friend- thanks Liz), and I checked out the Baby Jogger City Select.

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Baby Jogger City Select

This stroller is awesome. Just watch the video on their website. In a nutshell, it is easy to push, easy to fold, has a nice big basket, and, best of all, it grows with your family. Instead of having to buy a double stroller, you can just buy another seat for the City Select and it becomes a double stroller. OR you can add the car seat adaptor and now your toddler and infant are in the stroller together. OR you add a board to the back and your preschooler can ride on the back while your other munchkin(s) are in the seat(s). The seats can face in multiple directions. It’s amazing! And of course it is compatible with our car seat (but as usual you have to buy the adapter separately). This is an amazing stroller that will grow with your family as you have more kids. It is NOT a lightweight stroller, but I LOVE it and so does Abigail.

Once I fell in love with the Baby Jogger brand, I bought their lightweight stroller called the City Mini.

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Baby Jogger City Mini

The City Mini is a FANTASTIC lightweight solution without being uncomfortable to push like ALL UMBRELLA STROLLERS. It folds up with one hand (crucial when you have a baby, diaper bag, shopping bags, and no other adult), is light, easily carried, and is comfortable to push. Plus, the seat back lies completely flat so if your toddler happens to fall asleep in the stroller, you can lie the seat back and they can continue napping. OR if you need a quick place for a diaper change, you can lay the seat back and go to town. We have the four wheel option, but it is available in a three wheel version if you prefer. There is also the City Mini GT that has more bells and whistles. Since we already have the bells and whistles on the City Select, we chose the basic City Mini.

Last but certainly not least is my jogging stroller. I had a very hard time choosing between two: The BOB Revolution SE (everybody’s favorite) and the Thule Urban Glide (new kid on the block). To help with my decision, I borrowed a BOB from a friend. It was good, but it didn’t blow me away. While there wasn’t a ton of information on the Thule Urban Glide since it is a fairly new stroller, the test reviews I read were very positive. So I put it on our family Christmas list and we were very blessed to have received the Thule. Oh boy am I glad that I did!!! I LOVE MY THULE!!!!

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Thule Urban Glide

It is a dream. I can push it effortlessly with one hand and maintain my stride with my other arm. The front wheel can lock, or remain on a swivel, depending upon whether I’m off-roading, or on the road. It folds up super easily. The handle height is adjustable so it is comfortable for both me and my 6’4″ husband to use. Abby loves it (she actually fell asleep in it and she had NEVER napped in a stroller before). And it has little extras that other joggers don’t have, including a seat back that lies almost flat (essentially unheard of on jogging strollers), a huge sunshade that has a transparent visor at the bottom so Abby is protected but can still see, and a basket underneath that is a great size AND has the ability to ZIP SHUT! Trail runs? Trips to the beach? Unexpected puddle while running? No problem- your sweatshirt, wallet, car keys, phone, etc, are all protected in the closed, water resistant basket. 🙂

Every family needs something different from a stroller. My biggest piece of advice is to go to a store and look, touch, try. Borrow from your friends. Think about how you live your every day life, how much you will use your stroller, and what it will primarily be used for. If you don’t run, you don’t need a jogger! Will you use it just for walks around the neighborhood, leaving it unfolded in your garage? Will you leave it in the trunk of your car to use when you’re out and about? How big is the trunk of your car? Do you live in a walking city and need an all around encompassing stroller to use all the time but that you’ll need to collapse and carry up stairs regularly? Will you baby-wear more often than you would use a stroller? How much do you want to spend? All of these questions will affect your stroller choice.

Most importantly, you don’t need four strollers. You don’t even need ONE stroller! You don’t need all the bells and whistles. You don’t need to spend a ton of money. You need a safe way to transport your baby and guess what- your arms do the job just fine. A stroller might make your life easier, but it definitely isn’t necessary. ❤

 

To Fluff or Not to Fluff?

Topic of the Week: Why We Chose Cloth Diapers

When I found out I was pregnant, I immediately started researching (surprise surprise) about the expense of a new baby. How much money was a little one going to cost us and in what ways could we save our pennies? I knew from many friends of ours who are parents that two of our biggest expenses once the baby arrived would be diapers and formula. Well, formula wasn’t going to be an expense for us because I had already decided to breastfeed (see this post for details). Diaper options, on the other hand, were uncharted territory for me. I was only familiar with disposables. Let the Googling begin!

The first thing I learned was how much (on average) it cost to diaper a baby in disposable diapers from birth until potty training. You know how much we would spend PER KID on disposable diapers? Upwards of $2000! I’ve seen some numbers as high as $4000!! Yes, that is PER KID. For us, $2000 is a trip to Disney World. $4000 is a trip to Europe… I’d much rather take vacation than spend money on poo catchers. The next thing I learned is how much, on average, it costs to cloth diaper at LEAST one kid (meaning this amount buys one set of diapers that can be used for multiple children if the cloth diapers are cared for properly. It also includes energy costs to wash the diapers). On the high side: $500. That’s right folks. I was going to save at least $1500 for the first child, and at least $2000 for each child thereafter by using cloth diapers. Well, that sold me AND Josh on cloth diapers right there.  I was going to have to do more laundry, but with washing machines today, how much more work is it really?

Then I found out some information that bothered me. The chemicals in run of the mill disposable diapers are nasty. Seriously nasty. Can-cause-chemical-burns-on-your-little-one’s-privates nasty. Now, some studies have claimed that the chemicals are so minimally absorbed into the baby’s skin, and the number of children who end up with a chemical reaction/burn/skin irritation is so small that it shouldn’t be a point of argument. Also, it is possible to buy organic diapers that are nearly chemical free, so for argument’s sake we can leave this one off the table, but I still found the information troubling.

Now let’s talk about the environmental impact. The average baby will go through between 2700 and 3000 disposable diapers in their first year alone. That’s a whole lotta garbage. The amount of resources used to make and wash cloth diapers doesn’t even come close to the amount used to make disposables, so disposables definitely lose the energy and environment battle.

People who have never cloth diapered say that cloth diapering is gross and they ask me “What about having to touch the “yuck” when using cloth diapers??” Guess what- I HARDLY EVER have to touch my baby’s waste. If you think you will deal with less poop and pee by using disposables, think again. Ever heard of a “blow out” diaper? That is what parents call a diaper when their baby has had a huge poop and it has “blown out” the sides or back of a diaper. Here is a great picture that I found on this blog of a blow out example. Yes, it is a particularly epic blow out, but still. SO GROSS!

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When we travel, we use disposables and, in both Huggies and Pampers brand, Abby would leak poop out of the legs AND back of the diapers EVERY TIME SHE POOPED! So nasty. The poop leaks are substantially less in Honest Company diapers (when she poops she only leaks up the back, not out the legs), but why should I be dealing with leaky poop at all when the soul purpose of using a diaper is to hold in a baby’s waste? I deal with a whole lot more poop when Abby is in disposable diapers than when she is in cloth, hands down. I have had only two poop leaks in cloth diapers, and they were both fit issues, one my fault and one Josh’s, neither of which were a malfunction of the diaper itself.

Then nay-sayers ask, “doesn’t it stink, having a laundry basket full of poop and pee?” Actually, because I clean the diapers regularly, they sit for less time (3 days at the most) than disposable diapers in a garbage can would. Less time= less bacterial growth= less stink. When you walk into Abby’s room, you can’t tell there is a basket of dirty diapers in there, but I have had friends call the hallway containing their baby’s disposable diaper pail “Hobo Alley” because it stank so badly of urine and feces. Yuck.

Next question: since you use your washer to wash poop, does your washing machine get nasty? Nope! Everything is dissolved and rinsed away. Think of the other stuff that has been on your clothing and gone into the washing machine. Mud, oil, food, dust, sweat, snot, other bodily secretions… it all gets washed away. That’s your washing machine’s job! No, you can’t dump the, uh, “nuggets” into the washing machine. You have to dump them in the toilet before washing your diapers but anything that doesn’t come off of the diaper without more than a “flick” can go right in the machine. And if you’re still not excited about the excess poo in your washer, you can buy a diaper sprayer for a reasonable amount of money (or make one for even less!) and spray off any excess into the toilet before throwing the diapers into the wash. For the record, you’re supposed to empty disposables too, it’s just that nobody does. Seriously- just read the outside of your package of disposable diapers! Human waste is not supposed to go into the landfill.

I know that cloth diapers aren’t for everybody. It is a little more work, even just to remember to throw the diaper laundry in the washer at the end of the day. A cloth diaper is bulkier than a disposable on the bum making some clothing difficult to fit (this can be solved by sizing up). They definitely take up more storage space both at home and in the diaper bag. If Abby went to daycare I would be concerned sending my cloth diapers to daycare for fear they would get ruined. And cloth diapers aren’t as easily purchased- you can’t just go run to your local Target or Walmart and get some more. You have to either find a specialty baby store or purchase online to get the particular diaper you use. Not to mention there are a TON of different types of cloth diapers (more on this in another post) and they are all different in style and fit so it takes more work on the front end with research and testing.

For me, the drawbacks were definitely worth the benefits. I can’t say enough good things about cloth diapers (obviously… this blog post is over 1000 words- oops!) and I encourage everyone to give it a try. Besides, how cute is this fluff bum??

Abigail in her "Nebula" print Soft Bums cloth diaper

Abigail in her “Nebula” print Soft Bums brand cloth diaper

 

The “Suck” of Breastfeeding

**Warning- this is a very candid post regarding breastfeeding that may make some uncomfortable. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!**

Feeding the Baby

Feeding my baby doll

Feeding the Baby

Feeding my baby doll

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before I got pregnant, I knew I wanted to breastfeed Miss A. Even as a little girl, breastfeeding was my choice for my baby dolls. That was what I always knew to be normal! I don’t remember having baby bottles for my dollies and I never thought anything of it. I was, without a doubt, going to breastfeed my own children.

And then I actually had to do it. My pre-birth concerns about breastfeeding were all regarding supply (what if I couldn’t make enough milk?) or difficulty latching (would Abby and I be able to connect the way that we needed to?) but nothing prepared me for the physical pain and emotional struggle of breastfeeding.

Thankfully, supply was the least of my worries. Abby was put right on my chest after birth, and she latched on easily. It wasn’t comfortable, but it didn’t hurt so I assumed we were all good and I would “toughen up” as time went on. Little did I know that the discomfort I felt actually was a problem with Abby’s latch. My super strong girl has a super strong suck and jaw muscles that caused her to “ratchet” her mouth shut as she ate, consequently tearing up my nipple. Couple that with my sensitive skin (common in red heads, according to my lactation consultant), and within 24 hours, I was in excruciating pain every time I nursed Abby, which, at the beginning, was every hour at least… I started dreading those moments that I was supposed to be enjoying. I did not feel the closeness with Abby but only the equivalent of razor blades on my nipple, tearing off the scabs that had formed since the last feeding. Every time Abby latched on, I was reduced to sobs. I felt inadequate, cheated, and sad. 48 hours after birth, J, A and I stopped in and saw my Lactation Consultant (life saving woman, in my opinion) and I put in a call to my birth class teacher who, after having exclusively breastfeeding four children, knows a thing or two about it. It turns out that not only was Abby’s strength causing difficulties, but I also had thrush.

After following both of their advice, I now had a prescription ointment to battle the thrush and help heal the open sores (APNO- a totally miracle!!), was using a nipple shield to allow myself to heal (helpful but an inconvenience, for sure), and preforming exercises to help Abby relax her jaw when eating. With these life changing additions to our routine, feeding my daughter was no longer a miserable experience. We managed to develop a rhythm, working together, and breastfeeding was no longer a burden. It certainly wasn’t enjoyable, but I could tolerate it. I set a goal to breast feed for six months.

Then, we discovered that Abby has a milk protein allergy and I was required to cut out dairy. Hopefully the lack of cheese in my diet will result in a decrease in my pants size… Our next hurtle was to ween Abby off of the nipple shield. I knew that if I was going to breastfeed past six months, I was going to have to get off the pesky nipple shield. Every day we spent one or two feedings learning to latch and feed without the shield. It took four months of dedication, work and patience, but we managed, and now Abby is five months old and nursing freely without the shield. I am no longer torn up and don’t expect it to reoccur (I do have some APNO on hand, just in case). We are still working on her latch; we are not completely pain free when she eats, but I can feel her improve every single day and I am finally enjoying those moments of closeness with my daughter that I so desperately craved when she was first born. I have no doubt that Abby and I will nurse to our six month goal and beyond!

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Yummy yummy milk!

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Milk drunk!

 

UPDATE! Abby and I made it 16 months until she weaned herself.

Renaissance Mom

So I have become horrible about maintaining my blog (obviously, since the last post I wrote was over a year ago). Well, since then I traveled to the UK, moved from CA to NH, came back to Bahrain, gave Dubai another try, and traveled to Oman. Oh yeah, and I had a baby- no big deal 😛

We have had a LOT of big changes in the Ball family over the past year, and I have experienced a lot of personal growth over that time. Since having a baby I have discovered I’m pretty good at being a mom. It comes naturally to me. Don’t get me wrong- it is still the most difficult thing I have every done, but I have an affinity for parenting. And couple my mothering ability with my obsession with research and I have become somewhat of a Renaissance Mom. I have an “answer” to a lot of parenting questions, and if I don’t have an answer right now, I can and will find one! Once again, don’t misunderstand me- I, like most first time (or second, third and fourth time etc) parents, have no idea what I’m doing, but I am having so much fun figuring it out, and love to help others figure out what they’re doing, too!

I have had more than one person suggest that I start a “mommy blog,” cataloguing my parenting journey, including the choices we made, what worked, what didn’t, and why. I love information, and am constantly inhaling new facts and theories. Over the past year, those facts and theories have revolved around parenting. Hey- why not share what I’ve found with other people? The most important thing to me regarding this mommy blogging journey is that mothers and fathers understand that this is a blog of support, a blog encouraging everybody’s right to choose what kind of parent they want to be. Whether you breast feed or formula feed, cloth diaper or use posies, baby wear or are strictly into strollers, this is NOT a place for anybody to feel judged or ridiculed simply because the parenting choices they have made are different from the choices J and I have made. If you are doing the work to weigh the choices, then no matter what decision you make, if it is the right decision for your family, it is the right decision. There is absolutely no “right way” to raise a child. There are pros and cons to EVERY parenting decision. Now listen, obviously, if you’re doing crack and breast feeding your baby, you are not a good parent- those are not the choices to which I am referring. What I mean is that the majority of us are just trying to keep everybody in our family unit happy, healthy and, in some cases, sane. While some choices may be the best choice for our family, it doesn’t mean it is the best for yours. And it certainly does not mean that the decision either of us made was the wrong one.

I am sick of parents beating each other up, judging each other on their parenting choices, or feeling judged by other parents- this parental competition has GOT TO STOP! Just because you aren’t into cloth diapers, doesn’t mean you need to scoff my choice to use them and say “we’ll see how long THAT lasts!” And I certainly have no right to judge somebody on their choice to formula feed their baby simply because we all know breast milk is the better choice on paper, and the last thing you need to hear is “awww, why aren’t you breast feeding? Such a shame…” I don’t know what circumstances led to your decision just like you don’t know why we chose what we did. If the baby is happy and healthy and loved, then everybody should keep their judgments to themselves.

If I do decide to write a mommy blog, I certainly hope readers do not feel judged because they made different choices than we did. I hope that they find my potential blog fun and informative and a place to feel welcome as a parent. I want to include ALL sides of parenting, include posts from people who have had different experiences and made different choices than I have. I want to learn from you and your choices. And I hope that readers know that I am absolutely no expert in the field of parenting. Just somebody who is passionate about it. Even though there are days when I am reduced to tears because being a parent is so stinkin’ hard, I enjoy my job, and I want to share that joy and passion with other parents out there.

Culture Shock; it’s not what I expected

Over my first few days here, Josh took me around to the common places of the island like the Navy base, the grocery store, our gym, etc.

We live in Amwaj, the man made islands at the Northeastern corner of Bahrain that were basically built specifically for westerners. It is the only part of Bahrain where you will see women wearing bikinis (and I did, yesterday; they were sitting by the pool while I was on the treadmill).

Amwaj Islands Northeastern Corner of Bahrain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most of Bahrain is VERY westernized, especially Amwaj. Every sign is in either both Arabic and English, or just English. Advertisements use photos of caucasians. Women will be dressed in anything from jeans and a stylish blouse, to full a niqab which leaves just the eyes and hands uncovered. I have not, however, seen any other red heads.

Even though the country is the most westernized of the Middle Eastern countries (so they say- I haven’t been to any others except for my brief layover in Kuwait and Bahrain is definitely more westernized than Kuwait), whenever I am out in town I am painfully aware of how different I look from the rest of the residents in Bahrain. Even though Bahrain is heavily saturated with ExPats from Europe and Australia, not to mention the large military community with service members and contractors from all over the world, red hair, blue eyes and fair skin are far and few between. In some parts of town, I regularly catch people staring at me with puzzled looks on their faces. When I catch a woman staring, she is quick to look away. But when I catch the eyes of a man staring at me, he holds my gaze with a terse look on his face and I quickly look away as though I were the one who was caught staring. Even though I am looked at as a strange and foreign creature, the looks were not offensive. The staring made me feel mildly uncomfortable, but not in danger. And let’s be honest, if any of you saw a woman dressed in a burqa walking down the street in your home town, you’d probably stare too.

Yesterday while Josh was at work, I walked down to the lagoon for lunch and to pick up a few things from the grocery store. While I was waiting for my meal, I found myself captivated by a little boy and his sister sitting with their parents a few tables over. The boy was about three and a half years old, his little sister a year younger than he. The two children were playing around the restaurant’s patio while their parents looked on and ate their lunch. They were a traditional Muslim family, the matriarch dressed in a full abaya. The little sister was CLEARLY in charge of her older brother. He would follow her around, dance for her, and obey her instructions diligently. “Sit!” she said. And by golly, he SAT! “Here!” she said. And he galloped after her. I couldn’t help but laugh at how easy going the little boy was and how strong and independent the little girl was. With her pig tails falling out and shoes untied, she was not stopping for anybody!!

I know that the culture here in the Middle East is patriarchal, and women do not have as many rights as men. But, as I wrote earlier, I have never felt objectified because of my gender, and I have witnessed women living as women, girls living as girls, laughing together, living together, enjoying each other without fear of the man standing over them.

Aside

Life as we know it!

I remember when I was little- maybe 5 or 6 years old- and driving a 15 minute drive was torture. It felt like FOREVER! Now, I blink and hours have gone by. Days. Months. It wasn’t long ago that we had a year and a half before we would head to Bahrain. Now, our first pack-out is next month and the second is in December. Very shortly, we will be moving again, and life as we know it will change drastically. Now, I know big change is part of the Navy life, but for some reason it still catches me by surprise, no matter how prepared for it I am. Speaking of preparation, I ordered my Bahrain living books to brush up on culture and customs of the country and cannot wait to receive them! 

In other news, I have joined a site called Influenster and am loving it. It is an opportunity to review and answer questions about different products that pertain to my interests and, once my participation level is high enough, I am sent free stuff to try and review! I just received my first VoxBox full of free goodies and am super excited about it. I’ve already found my new favorite hair accessory (Spin Pins by Goody) and my new favorite candle scent (Bath & Body Works Pumpkin Cupcake). Loooooooove!