30 August 2014

Jet lag, how do I hate thee?

Let me count the ways. . . Despite all the research I did before we moved to Saudi Arabia, I completely missed the memo on jet lag.  Obviously I knew that traveling any significant distance involves some, but jet lag + kids is a whole different ball game!  Traveling 30 to 36 hours with kids is no party, but sadly in many ways that's actually the easy part of traveling long distances.

Night #1  We arrived late at night and were tired from many, many hours of traveling, so we all slept well.  I was thinking, great, we'll transition to the new time schedule easily this time.  Silly me.

Night #2  The night was a blur of the two older children coming into my room and me walking them back to bed.  And Emily calling from her bed "It's breakfast time!" and "I want to get dressed."  Or my personal favorite, "Mommy, my eyes are stuck open!"  I think I got out of bed around 12 to 15 times.  The kids kept saying things like "I can't sleep" and "But I'm not tired."  And I kept saying things like "Just lay in your bed and rest. . . .with your eyes closed."  It felt like I had 3 newborn babies, all on different schedules.

Night #3  Basically a repeat night #2, but fortunately I only got out of bed about 6-8 times.  The kids are sufficiently over-tired now so they want to sleep during the day.  I keep pulling kids out of bed and off of couches where they are trying to sneak naps.  And of course over-tired kids = grumpy kids = grumpy mommy.

Night #4  All 3 kids sleep until 1:30am.  Hallelujah!  I've actually gotten a few hours of sleep all in a row!  I wake up to the sounds of children in the kitchen and go out to find a breakfast party.  Feeling awesome-ish from my couple hours of continuous sleep, my children momentarily convince me that it is morning.  All 3 are eating breakfast and Elizabeth has even dressed herself and fixed her own hair.

Finally my semi-conscious, totally sleep-deprived brain realizes it is still very dark outside.  I look at the clock:

Ok everyone, back to bed!!  (Well, after I take pictures that is. . . )

Night #5  The girls only wake up once or twice each, but Erik wakes up around 3am and never goes back to sleep.  Fortunately he is old enough to mostly take care of himself.  Unfortunately for me, I have a hard time getting back to sleep after the kids wake me up.

Night #6  The kids all sleep through the night!  But sadly I can't sleep.  Ugg.  I really hate not being able to sleep, especially when my kids are sleeping and my brain is so tired that it is barely capable of forming a coherent thought.

Night #7  Everyone finally sleeps.  Or maybe I'm finally so tired that I just don't hear anyone wake up.  At this point I think the kids could come jump on me and I wouldn't notice.  I'm finally starting to feel like a normal, not-quite-so-grumpy person again.  And we're glad that daddy is back in town now too--he missed all the fun this week since he was on a business trip in Korea.

One more round of jet lag conquered!    

25 August 2014

Where are you from?

I've come to dread this question.  It should be such a simple one to answer, but for me it is a little complicated.  Of course it is partly due to the fact that we don't actually own home anywhere.  And we've moved.  A lot.  (Not that I'm complaining, I've loved the opportunity to live in a variety of places.)

Depending on the circumstances I have different answers to the question.  When visiting the US, I often answer

A.  "I live in Saudi Arabia."  Which generally brings raised eyebrows and questions.  Sometimes I don't have time for/I'm not in the mood to play 20 Questions so instead I'll go with answer B or C (see below).

When someone in Saudi asks me, depending on the circumstances I may answer
B.  "I grew up in Colorado" or
C.  "Most recently from Houston, Texas", or on occasion
D.  "Here and there"

Then of course when it is time for us to go back 'home' for a visit during the summer I have to explain to people why we primarily visit only Utah and Idaho, which don't even appear on the list above.  (If you are curious my parents now live in Idaho and my husband's family lives in Utah.)

But at least amidst all the confusion about where I am from, at least I can say for certain in that I am from the United States.  That part I know for sure.  :-)

So although I am not always certain 'where' home is, I'm learning 'what' is home.  I think home is a combination of a physical place, specific people, and a feeling of safety and familiarity.  Home is family for sure, but it is more than that too.  It is also my own space with my 'things'.  A place where I don't have to stress about my kids ruining the furniture or breaking a keepsake.  A place where I don't live out of suitcases or worry about who else needs the laundry machine.  A place where I can go to a familiar grocery store and then actually know where to find all the necessary kitchen utensils, pots and pans and dishes to make dinner.  A place where I can completely relax and just be me.  (Can you tell I've been 'on the road' for the last 6 weeks?)  So even though in a few years Saudi will just be another place on the list of where I've lived, for now it is 'home'. . . . even though I'm not 'from' there.

How about you?  Where are you from?  What or where is 'home' to you?

20 July 2014

Driving and Ordination

I don't consider myself to be a feminist.  I am a stay-at-home mom who oversees the household duties such as cooking and cleaning while my husband goes to work and earns the money.  I didn't think twice about taking my husband's last name when we got married.  I appreciate having a door opened for me.  Some may consider this old-fashioned, but it works for me and our family.  And while I continue to be happy with this way of life, being an expat in Saudi Arabia has definitely given me a different perspective on gender equality.  In Saudi, women lack many basic rights.  One that affects me, even as a foreigner, is that I can't drive. . . merely because I am female.

Recently I watched an interview with Kate Kelly.  Kate Kelly was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon church).  She was recently excommunicated from her church for apostasy; she has publicly asked the leaders of the Mormon church to prayerfully consider ordaining women to the priesthood.  She also founded the Ordain Women website.  Currently only men and boys as young as 12 years old are eligible for priesthood ordination.

As I watched the interview, I started thinking about the parallels between the women here in Saudi Arabia and Mormon women.  According to an official statement from the LDS church leaders  "The blessings of His priesthood are equally available to men and women.  Only men are ordained to serve in priesthood offices.  All service in the Church has equal merit in the eyes of God."  So while only the men are ordained, both genders can equally benefit from the priesthood.

Using that argument and logic here in Saudi, while only men are given the authority or license to drive, technically both genders can benefit equally.  Although females may not actually be the ones behind the wheel, they can still have equal access to go places in a car. . . . . Well, as long as they have both a car and a man to drive them.  And, before they go anywhere, they have to ask someone for a ride.

From my American perspective, why not just allow the women to drive themselves?  It would be so much easier, for both the men and women.  The men (and boys) wouldn't have to adjust their schedules to be able to accommodate driving their wives, mothers, daughters or family members around.  (It is not uncommon to see boys as young as 12, sometimes even younger, driving here.)  But on the upside, a man is able to provide meaningful service to his wife and family by providing rides for them.

Interestingly, according to one study 90% of Mormon women don't believe they should be ordained to the priesthood.  Juxtapose that with another article which discusses a couple of studies, the larger of which states that 86% of Saudi women are opposed to changing the driving laws.

Which begs the question, if women are happy with their circumstances, why bother with change?

In my opinion, it is all about choice.   Having the ability to choose for yourself is true freedom.

Let's suppose for a moment that the prophet of the LDS church received a revelation that Mormon women have the option, but not responsibility, to be ordained to the priesthood.  Apparently only a small percentage of Mormon women would even be interested in the option.  But how amazing for those women who do desire this to be able to serve their own children and families by doing things such as giving blessings and anointing the sick.

Now let's suppose that Saudi Arabia lifts the ban on driving.  Again, apparently only a small percentage of Saudi women would be interested in driving themselves, but how awesome for those who can now have the freedom to do something as simple as drive their children to school or go grocery shopping by themselves.  They would no longer be so dependent on the men in their lives.

If I had been part of the study polling Mormon women, it is very likely that I would have also responded that I am personally not interested in being ordained.  But that being said, I definitely support the idea that women should have freedom of choice.

So while I can understand why most Mormon women don't want to be ordained, I can't understand why Saudi women don't want to drive.  But maybe that is because I've driven but not been ordained.  I haven't ever given one of my children a blessing.  Maybe I simply don't know what I'm missing.  But either way, that isn't the point.  The point is that there are Saudi women who would like to drive, and there are Mormon women who would like to be ordained.  Doesn't it seem reasonable that they make the decision for themselves?

Another interesting statistic that sounds oddly repetitive: a pamphlet published in the 1910s in the United States explained that one of the reasons women shouldn't be allowed to vote was that "90% of the women either do not want it, or do not care."

I find it interesting that in each case it is the group being suppressed who doesn't want the increased rights and privileges.  Just because most women didn't want the right to vote in 1910 doesn't mean that they were already 'equal' to men and that status quo shouldn't have been challenged.  'Separate but equal' generally isn't really equal when it comes down to it.  And just because women now have the right to vote doesn't mean that they are required to vote.

I choose to stay home with my young children and forgo a career.  I choose to drive when in the United States.  I choose to take my husband's last name as my own.  Not only am happy to do so, but I realize I am very fortunate that I can choose each of these.  The most important part being of course, that I had the choice to begin with.  

08 July 2014

A few of my favorite things. . .

We're headed back to the US today!  Although we're dreading the long flights it take to get there, it will be fun to be back home again.  This will be the first time we've been back since we came to Saudi last October, and there are lots of things we are looking forward to!  Of course seeing family is at the top of the list.

We are definitely excited about the variety of foods that we will have available again.  The kids are excited to be able to choose any type of cereal they want, instead of just getting whatever imported cereal happens to be at the store.  I'm excited for yummy breads like Great Harvest and Costco's rosemary olive oil artisan bread.  We are all excited for bacon and sausage.  Although when it comes to pork, I think I am most excited to have a ham meal: ham, favorite potatoes and orange rolls.  Yum!  I'm also excited for some properly Americanized Italian and Mexican food; it's been too long!

And shopping is high on my list too!  And not just some of the specific stores like Costco and Target, but being able to go without worrying about when prayer time is going to happen.  Leisurely shopping without rushing in and out between prayers sounds awesome.  And, I can drive myself to the store, in any clothes I want to wear!  It's the little things that matter.  

I'm also very excited for the variety of activities that will be available.  As nice as it is to be steps away from the beach and pools, it will be nice to change things up a bit.  We've missed hiking in the mountains, children's museums, zoos, concerts and movie theaters.

Thinking of all the people we will see and the fun things we get to do will make the 36+ hour journey that much more bearable. . .