Ramadan Mubarak

As the school year comes to an end we are forced to constantly come to terms with our inability to visit the states this summer. This will be our first summer away from home. It is, however, for a good a cause; our baby is due in August which doesn’t leave us enough time to travel internationally. I am dreading the intense heat and am a bit leery about the start of Ramadan.

Ramadan is  a holy and very scared time for Muslims.  However, because there is no separation of church and state, Ramadan initiates a temporary routine/ life change for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. While speaking with some of our friends and family back home, I realized that most of them don’t understand Ramadan and it’s effects on this country and more specifically its expatriate community. I hope that this post sheds some light on how different things will be here in the UAE and other Muslim countries during this time.

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What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is a month of reflection, prayer, and fasting for Muslims. They fast from dawn (around 4:30am) to sunset (around 7pm) everyday to become closer to Allah, cleanse their body of impurities, and  to be reminded of how the less fortunate may feel. Ramadan is one of the 5 pillars of Islam so fasting during this period is essential for most  devout Muslims. There are some exceptions when it comes to the fasting aspect of Ramadan.  This year Ramadan is scheduled to begin on Sunday, June 29th, in accordance to the sighting of the crescent moon, and end on Sunday, July 27th.

Basic Rules During Ramadan for Muslims

  • No eating, drinking, smoking, or intercourse from dawn to sunset.
  • Curb emotions such as anger, greed, envy, lust, and refrain from gossip.
  • Keep thoughts and actions pure and use the fasting period as a time for spiritual contemplations.
  • Help those in need.
  • Visit friends and family members.

Basic Rules During Ramadan for Non-Muslims

  • It is illegal to publicly eat, drink, chew gum, or smoke during the fasting period. This include ones own car.*Both Muslim and  non-Muslim children, pregnant and breastfeeding women,those with illnesses,  and travelers are exempt from the eating and drinking regulations.
  • Everyone is expected to dress more conservatively during this time. Women are requested and expected to limit the amount of make-up worn and cover arms, legs, and shoulders.
  • No music or dancing is allowed during Ramadan so car stereos should be turned down and one should even be mindful of playing music too loudly in his or her own home.

*As teachers are still expected to work for the next 2 weeks we have been asked to be very discreet regarding food and water that we bring into the building. Also, if we must eat, it should be done in a private area away from our Muslim co-workers.

Overall, non-Muslims are asked to be respectful and mindful of  Islam and Muslims during this time.

Changes in  Everyday Routines

It is widely stated that during the fasting period Muslims spend a lot of their time sleeping and praying. Therefore, hours of operations for businesses shift to adhere to their schedules. During the day some restaurants are completely closed while others are open for takeout only. Most businesses are open for a maximum of 6 hours a day. For example, a local home store will open from 11am-2pm and then again from 8pm to 11pm.  Nightclubs will remain closed during the entire period of Ramadan and live music will not be played in hotels and bars. Alcohol, however, will be served from 8pm onwards in bars and hotels. Music in shopping centers will either be non-existent or replaced with Quran recitations. Some family friendly entertainment venues will remain closed during Ramadan while others will open from 8pm-midnight.

From 7pm onwards the UAE comes alive. Muslims and non-Muslims will be out and about eating and visiting friends and family. The streets will be packed and restaurants open for dining in. Muslims will be having Iftar, the meal that breaks their fast, either in their homes or in restaurants. Iftar is usually a large meal that is eaten with both Muslims and non-Muslims or just with ones own family members. Providing Iftar for others is seen as a charitable act. Several hotels advertise their Iftar timings and specials and I’m looking forward to our experiencing one during this time.

How will Ramadan Effect Us?

Overall, we will be forced to be hermits during the day. We have discussed trying new recipes and a perhaps completing a home project.  We have also decided to have Christmas in summer this year and buy lots of new toys as we will be in the house with a 1 and 2-year-old. Bedtime will possibly be pushed back to experience less of the day.  We live in a row house which means that we can hear our neighbors through the walls at times.  One of the families next to us practice Islam, so we are concerned about their schedule during this time.  Hopefully, they will be traveling to their home country as many people here do during the summer.  If not, it may mean that we will have to be considerate of their sleeping during the day and they will have to consider us at night.

Since this is our last day of “regular” living for a month it’s not too early to wish everyone a Happy Ramadan.

 

*For more information feel free to read the articles below:

http://www.emirates247.com/breaking-news-ramadan-to-begin-in-uae-saudi-arabia-from-sunday-2014-06-27-1.554555

http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/saudi-arabia/saudi-arabia-to-expel-expats-who-disrespect-ramadan-1.1352684

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/whats-on/whats-on-news/what-ramadan-ramadan-what-muslims-7336269

The First

Terrence was truly able to celebrate having a son today as he gave him his first…HAIRCUT.

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I, on the other other hand, had to fight back tears as my baby no longer looks like a baby.

Before and after

Before and After

*Aaron wasn’t bothered at all by getting his haircut.

Happy 1st Birthday Aaron!

 

Aaron turned 1 on April 10th. I can’t believe how fast time flew. It seemed to have gone by faster with him than it did with Mila. He’s been walking for about 2 months now and his strong-willed and very affectionate personality is shinning through. On his birthday I baked cupcakes, we sang the birthday song to him, and gave him, as far as we know, his first taste of sugar. He, however, devoured that cake like it was his second helping so we aren’t sure what type of foolishness is going on at his school ;).

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We hosted a park birthday party for him on April 19th as his birthday was during our spring break and, as stated in an earlier posting, most of our friends were out of the country. I wanted a simple party: light refreshments, cupcakes, and several opportunities to capture memories. So I decided on a 10am gathering with a serving of fruit balls, crescents, and cupcakes. I picked a morning party as most parents with little ones have been up for hours and in an attempt to beat the heat. Today’s high temperature was 106 degrees Fahrenheit/41 degrees Celsius.  I was hoping that we would stay in the high 80’s or low 90’s during the party but, I can’t even begin to explain how hot it was. It felt like all of 100 degrees plus. Poor Mila and the other younger children couldn’t play on the playground equipment from 11am onwards as we were afraid that it would burn their hands. Next time, I’m having his party at 7am .Who’s with me?

The party was still quiet lovely though. 21 of our closest friends came out to celebrate Aaron’s milestone with us. We felt honored and loved. I’ll be the first to admit that first birthday parties are for the parents. However, having such wonderful friends makes it almost impossible to resist throwing such events.

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Most guest arrived on time, which was a great thing as we were forced to sing happy birthday to Aaron at 10:30am. At around 10:20am I looked at Aaron and his little eyes were heavy and his head was swaying. I couldn’t believe that he was falling asleep in such heat and with so much excitement going on! That just goes to show how different siblings are; Mila would have fought sleep just to be in the middle of everything. Aaron, however, will sleep anywhere and around anyone. We knew that if we didn’t sing to him soon that he would fall asleep and forcing him to wake up would only make for really horrible pictures.

Aaron starting to fall asleep.

Aaron starting to fall asleep.

So we pulled out his cupcakes, party hat, and gathered around to sing happy birthday to him.

Cupcakes

Cupcakes

 

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Sitting back, listening to us sing to him.

Sitting back, listening to us sing to him.

 

Clapping when the song was over. No one queued him by the way.

Clapping when the song was over. No one queued him by the way.

Aaron refusing his birthday cake.

Aaron refusing his birthday cake.

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After the song and pictures Aaron, happily, went to his teacher and fell asleep. By the way, we absolutely love his teacher! I told Ms. Yolanda about the party and she, excitingly, agreed to come. She was a great help with both Aaron and Mila.

It's his party and he'll sleep if he wants to.

It’s his party and he’ll sleep if he wants to.

One sleeping baby doesn’t stop a party, even if that baby happens to be the guest of honor. So children still played and adults chatted away for another hour and a 1/2 or so.

Mila with Brian (Poppa B)

Mila with Brian (Poppa B)

Mila and Ryan. This is her best friend. Anytime we mention Ryan she lights up. They are in the same class at school. Ryan's mother and I being good friends plays a part in their friendship as well.

Mila and Ryan. This is her best friend; anytime she or we mention Ryan she lights up. They are in the same class at school. Ryan’s mother and I being good friends plays a part in their friendship as well.

As most families were leaving and we were packing up the last few items, guess who decided to join us…

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While Aaron missed most his party, I still think that everything went smoothly. I would definitely do it again: same place, same people, just an earlier time :).

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Getting Rid of Pest

Henry Winkler once said that ,”Assumptions are the termites of relationships.” Prior to last week I believed that I fully understood this quote. However, actually having termites in my home has forced me to look at assumptions with a bit more disdain.

We, like so many others in Al Ain, live in mainly concrete homes. We have to use power drills to hang any and everything  up in our house. Our walls chuckle at bare nails and mock hammers. So termites never crossed my mind. They eat wood and live in basements and attics; or so I thought.

I was cleaning my living room one morning and looked up and saw what, from a far, seemed to be a string of dust. I took a closer look and it looked almost like the shed skin of a worm. I told Terrence and he suggested that we watch it. So watch we did and this was a show that didn’t disappoint. That next morning it grew in both length and width. That’s when we knew that something lived inside (insert dramatic sound effects here). Terrence knocked a small piece of this tube like thing off and found an insect. When we further investigated we noticed small, pin sized, holes going up our wall as well. We also noted that the tube was made of concrete particles. That’s when we thought termites.

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Tube/tunnel like nest on our wall.

We called 993, a free pest exterminator service in the UAE. However, since it was a Thursday evening we were going to have to wait until Sunday, the next business day, for their assistance.  So I suggested to Terrence that we call maintenance. After all, since we live in row houses termites could be a problem for the entire compound. He followed my suggestion and maintenance sent someone over right away. The gentleman came in with a ladder, paint, and a brush, which was not at all what I had in mind. He knocked the nest down, painted, and left. It was back in full effect the next day.

Thankfully the pest exterminators were available on Sunday and met me during my lunch break to see our tube/nest that was determined to stay with us.  The exterminator took one glance and confirmed that it was termites. He said that they chew away the concrete to get to the wood below. He also stated that termites are actually a bit of a nuance here in Al Ain and that they were the drive behind the start-up of the 993 service itself. After he finished talking to me he nodded his head to the other gentlemen there and they went out in shirts and pants and came back in jumpsuits and masks.

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 the exterminators’ truck

They drilled holes into our tile floors, injected some chemicals, and sealed the holes with plaster when finish. In the midst of drilling and sealing three holes under the nest one exterminator found 2 other nest in another area of our living room. So we went from three holes to seven in a matter of 5 minutes. The little buggers were truly trying to eat us out of house and home (I just couldn’t resist 🙂 ).

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Drilling holes into floor 

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Injection of chemicals

 

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Plaster to cover up the holes. So yes, we have several holes like this throughout our living room. 

 

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This was our wall after the exterminators removed the nest. Please note the fresh paint.

So all in all, I will admit that this was more of a gross ordeal then it was one of great stress or horror.  Having termites actually helped in my discovering the answer to a mystery in our new home. IMG_4372

When we moved in we were trying to figure out what in the world these holes were on our living room. What had the previous owners put there? Now we know. So we have 10 holes total in our living room. Yep, I hate assumptions.

Ras Al Khaimah

For the next 2 weeks we are on spring break and unlike some of our fellow teachers and friends, we are staying in the UAE for this break. We have, however, decided to take this time to see and do some things that we have yet to do. Our first stop: Ras Al Khaimah.

Ras Al Khaimah is another emirate within the UAE and it is an hour north of Dubai, and about 2 hours away from us in Al Ain. Another family told us about a Groupon for an overnight stay and water-park deal for 277dhs or $75. What a steal! We would be able to see the emirate, spend the night, and visit a water-park. We brought the tickets that same day and made reservations for the following day. We prayed and hoped for the best as we knew that in most cases you get what you pay for.

Ras Al Khaimah Hotel

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We pulled up to our hotel at around 3pm. At first glance we were not excited, but we were still optimistic.

We had to park our own car. Now before you judge us, just understand that Abu Dhabi and Dubai have set the standards pretty high as far as hotels are concerned. We have always had our cars valet parked, even when we dine at restaurants. We’re a bit spoiled I will admit. When we pulled up we joked about what we were supposed to do with our car. After beating that dead horse, we parked and walked through a push revolving door. I think that the door was dealing with an identity complex; I don’t blame it at all.

The check in was easy and the staff was friendly enough. They handed us our key and we headed for the elevator. Go back…”they handed us our key.” No, really, they handed us an actually key. Our optimism was left at the front desk. We then stood, jammed in an elevator that could barely old the four of us, counting our loses. We were considering going home.

We got off on the first floor, headed towards our room and stopped at our hotel door.

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No commentary needed.

We entered our room and I immediately thought, “I need Lysol/Dettol spray and shower shoes.” Terrence must have been going down a similar list as I noticed that we both rushed out of our train of thought to stop Mila from climbing onto the bed. We dashed over to the bed, pulled down the comforter, blanket, and tossed off the decorative pillows. If you haven’t seen the special on hotels rooms on 60 Minutes you should watch it; it will change your travel life forever. In the midst of my grumbling, I looked up at my children rolling on the bed laughing and playing and it was then that  I decided to make the best of the trip. They were having a good time so their father and I could at least attempt to do the same.

We put on our swimsuits and headed to the hotel’s pool. The water park would have to wait until the next day due to their time of closing.

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*Yes, we need to purchase a life jacket for Aaron as the size nor color of Mila’s really work for him.

The pool was fine and our children enjoyed themselves. After their dip in the pool we got dressed and headed to a local mall for dinner at Chili’s. After which, we called it a night.

The next morning we headed downstairs for the hotel’s breakfast. After picking over the food and wiping our chairs and table down, we headed back the local mall for breakfast at McDonald’s. We were still attempting to have good time.

Dreamland Water Park

The park was about 30mins away from our hotel in the middle of nowhere. It, however, was not a let down. Mila, Aaron, and I had a good time in the children’s pool area. There was also a lazy river close by that Mila and I floated down. All in all, we enjoyed our time spent there.

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Now Mila was not excited about the play area in the middle of the children’s pool. It, in fact, frightened her.

So what did we learn from this trip?

1. Nothing is a steal.

2. We have to stay young at heart for our children. They seemed to enjoy all aspects of our trip.

3. Ras Al Khaimah was, in fact, worth the visit.

Arriving Soon

Dear Baby #3,

I really wanted to share my thoughts about your becoming a part of our family and this world soon. I contemplated on how to pen my feelings; would I write an open letter or an essay type piece? I settled on writing to you instead of about you. Technology is beyond anything that I could have imagined as a child in middle school with a typewriter so I’m confident that you will, indeed, come across this letter at some point and I want you to know that even at this stage you were…you and loved.

I found out about 3 months ago that I was pregnant with you. I was just finishing up the Insanity Workout program and my weight had plateaued; the scale wouldn’t budge below 140 lbs/63.5 kilo. I was eating clean and doing the workouts to the max. Along with that, I was unable to nurse your brother as my milk had suddenly disappeared. I fought discouragement for weeks but as I entered my last week of the program I was forced to admit that it had not worked for me and that I had to find yet another way to lose the extra 15 pounds which, indiscreetly, sat around my middle section. Feeling a bit defeated I decided to ditch my regular scheduled workout time and go for a mani/pedi instead. This mani/pedi visit it what led me to you. I walked into the shop and not 1, but 2 women asked me was I pregnant. I almost cried. I was aware that I hadn’t lost the weight from your brother but to assume pregnancy was just hurtful. I sat in the chair coming up with all types of plans to get the weight off: running outside every other day, running the stairs in our building 3 days a week, and tossing in Pilates for my rest day. In the midst of my mad planning it occurred to me that I could actually be pregnant. The sudden lost of breast milk, the bloating, maybe even the inability to lose weight. My heart sunk and I all I could think about was racing out of there and heading to the pharmacy to get “the test.”

I walked out of the pharmacy, gripping the bag with “this test” that could change my entire being, praying that I was not pregnant. I just wasn’t ready. Your sister, Mila, is 2 and will not be 3 until October and your brother Aaron will be 1 next month. You see love being pregnant with you meant that I would have had 3 babies and 3 caesarean in less than 3 years. It meant that I would be in this “little baby” season for at least another 3 years. Parenting is hard. Parenting abroad, without family and a reliable support system is even harder I’m presuming. All of your siblings were born here but I’m confident in stating that my parenting experiences would have been different and a bit easier if I were in America, close to or in SC. It’s just your father and I all the time. I’m exhausted. The idea of having another child scared me terribly. I hope that you will, one day, understand these emotions.

I will admit that after initially finding out about you I hated talking to new moms or people with baby fever who were overly enthusiastic about my pregnancy. The bitter parts of me wanted to tell them “have 3 babies, in less than 3 years, and then let’s see how, naïvely, excited you are.” I’m ashamed, really. I tried to avoid the mothers that have been unable to conceive as they have desired. The talks of my fertile uterus made everyone involved uncomfortable. My forced smile and overly theatrical gestures of excitement made me feel both guilty and rushed. I also wanted to stay clear of those who weren’t excited about you. I couldn’t understand their feelings. We can’t use them as sitters and we don’t need any help financially. Their emotions upset me the most. I didn’t need anyone to validate or negatively influence my already warped emotions.

In my attempts to be in a better place, I’ve spent the last couple of weeks trying to consolidate my feelings/fears into bullet points and this is what I have come up with:

  • I fear that I have, in ways, decreased you and your siblings quality of life by having you all so close together. I saw it immediately after having Aaron when I realized that Mila was going to have to miss out on park visits and one on one time with mommy for while. If debilitation didn’t keep from doing the things that I wanted to do for her then your brother’s needs did. We are back into a pretty good routine now but I do think that she will have to grow up a bit faster than only children her same age will. As will your brother when you come. His expiration date in the crib is 20 months. Will he be ready to render his bed to you? Will he be ready to share me in August with someone who will need me far more than his older sister? I believe that Mila knew about and was ready for Aaron when he arrived. Aaron seems a great deal different from your sister. I haven’t been able to put my finger on it yet, but he’s different. My inability to nurse for the amount of time that I desired also leads to guilt. I was forced to stop nursing your sister at 11 months as I stopped producing milk because I was pregnant with Aaron. I had to stop nursing your brother at 8 months because I pregnant with you. I will feel extremely guilty at the first sign of an ear infection as studies have found that formula fed babies chances of getting ear infections are higher than those of breastfed fed babies. Luckily for you, I will be able to nurse you until you are two if we so desire (I can admit now though that I won’t want to do that past 1 year).
  • I often think about the fact that I have been pregnant my entire marriage as I became pregnant with your sister 6 months in. So my weight and hair growth has fluctuated my entire marriage. My mood as well. I’m so exhausted most of time and am usually on auto pilot so I wonder how good of wife I really am. Your daddy says that he’s happy but I will tell you now that children change the dynamics of a marriage. Mostly in great ways but there are some areas that will need special attention to maintain a healthy relationship.
  • I’ve spent the last almost 4 years trying to figure out who I am as a wife and as a mother. You can’t get married and just think that you can do, well, you. Same as becoming a parent. I’m afraid that I will get lost. I already feel lost. Like I’m no longer “LaAisha.” While trying to be a great partner to my spouse and the best parent that I can to my children I have found that I have pushed other personal desires to the side. I fear that I will wake up one morning, still a teacher, with only distant, blurry memories of wanting more; yet, with a strong and very present feeling of discontent and resent for my lack of pursuit.
  • I wonder about my emotional ability. You will be born in the United Arab Emirates. Same as your sister and brother. Again we are miles, lands, and waters away from our family. There are no such things as mommy and daddy time or just mommy time for that matter. Hence the auto pilot I am assuming. That has to have an effect on my parenting and I’m sorry. I’m very sorry. I am trying to get onto the road of recovery however. I even took a day off work last month just to rest and regroup. I will probably boast of this day for years to come as it was so needed. We are also seeking a nanny. Someone that can help your father and I care for you guys and our home. I think that this will help me in becoming a better mother and wife. I was stubborn about doing it all on my own before but I will tell you that being overly and, at times, unnecessarily independent has its price.

I think that sums up my biggest fears. The others are bit superficial such as hoping that I lose all the weight that I will gain with you along with the leftover weight from my pregnancy with Aaron.

I am happy that you are coming. Despite my roller coaster of emotions and wavering mental state, I do feel blessed about being able to bring you here in August. I know that your being here is God’s will. So while you may not have been in my plans, you are a part of a plan that far exceeds mine. Walk boldly and unashamed in this for the rest of your life. Know that your father has been excited about you since day 1 and that he’s in love with you already. Your sister often points to my stomach/you and ask “what’s that.” The conversation usually ends with her pointing to her stomach and saying “baby.” If she and Aaron understood they would be excited about your joining our family too. Baby #3 we love you deeply. Thanks for allowing us to become a part of you.

Love,

Mommy

family

First Christmas Abroad

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A month later I am finally getting around to sharing our Christmas with everyone. I apologize for my delay.

In order to make sure that it still felt like Christmas 7,444 miles from family, we made sure that we decorated and attended as many festive activities as possible. While it did not compare to celebrating with family we did enjoy our first Christmas away from the states.

We brought the tallest, fake Christmas tree that we could find, replaced our green plants with fake poinsettias, and hung personalized stockings from our wall shelves. We also hung Aaron and Mila’s Christmas artwork from school on their bedroom doors. We tried.

Christmas Dinner

Our church hosted a Christmas dinner for church volunteers and their families a few weeks before Christmas. The theme of the party was “What Would You Bring the King?” We were asked to bring a gift that was for God but could be appreciated by our brothers and sisters here. As this was clearly something that we, culturally, have never experienced I pondered for weeks as to what to take. Was this like secret santa with a holy twist? So after going back and forth I decided on 4 candles and potpourri. Don’t laugh at my reasoning as I am shocked that I even had this in me to embrace: the candles stood for a burnt offering and there were four because there are four of us. The potpourri was, you guessed it, a sweet smelling savour.   I thought that it worked, Terrence thought that it was corny. So at the dinner, after eating and singing Christmas carols together each person that brought a gift was able to pick a gift from under the tree. Once your gift was pulled you had to explain the meaning behind it. My (I originally thought “our”) gift was pulled first. When asked whose gift is this Terrence shouted “Aisha’s!” So he wanted no parts of my idea. When I explained it, everyone seemed to have liked the idea. I mean, we got Frankincense and someone else got a jump drive p titled “Jesus’s Favorite Playlist.” I think that my gift fared pretty well.

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Terrence and Mila getting our gift.

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My friend Whitney and Aaron

Christmas Eve in the Desert

Our church, along with other Christian churches in Al Ain, hosted their annual Christmas Eve potluck in the desert. We were looking forward to attending this as we knew that this would be one of the few times that we actually experienced cold weather as it is always much colder in the desert and it would be a new experience for Mila and Aaron. We didn’t stay long as it was a bit too cold for our children but we ate, laughed, and chatted a little before parting.

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Christmas Day

We had a very relaxed Christmas. We woke up, I cooked pancakes, we ate breakfast, then we opened our presents. After which we went to a friend’s house for Christmas dinner. Mila and Aaron had a wonderful Christmas thanks to grandparents and cousins. Thank you guys for helping to make our Christmas special.

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*Piper and David, we waited to give Mila her Elmo doll that you sent for Chirstmas. She and Aaron plays with him.

7 Months

Stats

Weight: 8.6kg/19lbs.

Height: 70cm/27.5in

  • Aaron is crawling now!
  • Currently eating 3 meals a day and is definitely showing a greater interest in food than he is milk.
  • Usually screams with excitement whenever music starts and enjoys screaming with his sister when she is being silly.
  • Is an affectionate baby as he already gives me hugs and grabs my face to give me open mouth kisses.
  • His two bottom teeth came in last week
  • Fights me to get down on the floor to play with toys.
  • Has the coolest mohawk that I’ve ever seen 😉

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Happy 2nd Birthday Mila!

Stats:

Weight: 13kg/28.5lbs.

Height: 84.5cm/33inches

We can’t believe that Mila has been in our lives for 2 years! It’s been an amazing journey and we are definitely looking forward to many, many more birthday celebrations with our baby girl. She truly makes us happy.

She had her birthday party at school where she shared Sesame Street cupcakes with her classmates and gave them treat bags with playdough, a mini tambourine, and stickers. Afterwards, we went to Dubai for dinner and let Mila pick out toys from a toy store. She selected the “Peepo” book and a Daisy Duck stuffed animal. The following day we took her to a water park and and then we ended her birthday weekend with a trip to the zoo. Below are some pictures from her party.

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Unfortunately the lady that made her cake last year moved to Dubai. These cupcakes were good but I think that would have been both good and a bit more aesthetically pleasing had the other woman made them.

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Mila and owner of the nursery.

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Mila and her teachers.

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MIla's 2nd bday

Mila’s birthday certificate from school.

Check out the video below to see birthday song sung to Mila in English and Arabic.