I need to take a moment and be thankful and grateful for all that I have in my life.

I'm learning more than ever that we, as US citizens, have already basically won the lottery of life. We could be born of or to anyone in any country.  No matter what our struggles have been, we have been blessed with the freedoms and rights of our great nation.  The vast majority of the global population has not had this luxury.

There is a woman here, a refugee or gypsy I would assume, that has a little girl about three and little boy about 18 months I think....the same ages as Little P and Little R.  She navigates between intersections along the road we live on, dressed in full black abaya.  She sits with her kids and waits for the kindness of others.  She does not beg, I've noticed.  She sits at a corner lamppost, holding her youngest, while her daughter dutiful takes the givings offered by strangers out of their car windows.  Very few people give.

Now I know we've all seen the commercials, and we've all seen the beggars on the streets of Manhattan and DC, at intersections in the suburbs, hanging out on off ramps with a sign.  H and I rarely gave anything to those people because we knew that most of them had no reason to be homeless.  And when we gave it was usually in the form of food or drink, not cash, because we all know that those who are truly homeless are mentally ill or suffer from addiction.  The US has an infrastructure that can and does help many of these people.  Between the government and the churches and other charitable organizations, being poor in America is not really being poor at all.  One can dig enough wasted food out of a garbage can outside a McDonalds to keep persisting.  And hell, all it takes is one dollar from a stranger to get a burger off the 99 cent menu.  As much as we like to complain that our government does too much or too little for those in need, we really shouldn't complain at all.

Jordan is a country with an extremely high unemployment rate- so much so that the government has mandated jobs in the service sector which have ballooned to absurdity.  There is valet just about everywhere, even at the grocery store, and workers who put your groceries onto the cashier belt, and even more to load your groceries in your car.  The baggers at the grocery stores in the mall will push your cart to your vehicle if you want them to, and will hail a cab for you if you need it, all for a measly 1JD tip.  The gas stations are full service, with a separate guy to wash your windshield and pump your gas.  Most of them are very kind, and it's overwhelming.  One of my taxi drivers was a university student on break, which explained his impeccable english.  Every building has what's called a boab (or three or four), and for a monthly fee they do everything you ask them to.  They take our trash out, water our lawn/plants, wash our porch and our cars.  They will come in and help you move furniture if you ask them.  Most of them are Egyptian migrants.  That's right- all of the building workers are Egyptian.  So are most of the construction workers.  All the families where we live have two or three house staff- all of Asian descent- Asian migrant workers. (Sound familiar?)

The refugee woman, as I'll call her, has no options.  There is nothing for her to do but sit and hope and pray to whomever she prays to for the kindness of others.  She likely has no papers confirming her identity, therefore making it impossible for her to work.  This about it:  with no ID or Birth Certificate or Passport or Resident Card, she can do nothing.  She could never be a maid or a nanny for an Embassy family.  She is also likely illiterate and for that reason cannot work.  She can't write to make a sign as the "homeless" in the US would do.  She cannot read and try to learn about what her limited options may be.  Education is not free here.  She cannot get grants to pay for her GED.  Finally, and most importantly, she has two young children who must be taken care of, so therefore cannot work.  Add to this the significant possibility that she may be a widow, or her husband a meager farmer who is equally illiterate, and it is clear that her "job" is survival.

I've watched the refugee woman for a while now and today my heart broke in two because her youngest was clearly very upset.  She was sitting on the corner wrangling her screaming little one while her girl sat obediently beside her.  As I was driving by her it started to rain.  It's cooling off here, probably in the sixties today, and her little one was dressed in a brown t-shirt.  I have no idea what color the shirt should have been.  I imagine his fussing was from both hunger and cold.

I've heard stories that some of these women give their babies opium so that they calm down so they can continue to beg.  Before everyone is so quick to crucify them for doing such a thing- how on earth would she know anything different if her mother did the same before her, and her's the same before that?  How can we ridicule such an act if it is a cultural norm to her people?  Would you not do anything to offer your hungry child relief if you had no food to offer him?  It is very easy to pass judgment from a place of knowledge, but knowledge is such a privilege in this vast world.  And remember, we've already won the game of life, we have forgotten how privileged it is to have the knowledge we have.

Today, this scene just pierced me to my core.  I cannot even fathom what this woman must deal with on a daily basis, and she has no knowledge of any other way of life.  Today, I decided to do something instead of sitting back and doing nothing.  I decided to make a little difference in someone's life rather than just say "Oh, how sad."  After all, I was driving home in my giant SUV with a trunk full of groceries that I purchased with the income of our family.  They would be unloaded with the help of my nanny (from the Philippines), who would give my two boys snack in their cute kid bowls.  I would then put jackets on them to go enjoy the fall-like weather outside.

So when I got home and we unloaded the groceries, I filled one bag with two pears, an orange, an apple and a liter of milk.  I filled another bag with a couple pairs of sweat pants (which our kids never wear), some long sleeve shirts, a couple shirts of mine, and an extra fleece blanket that we never touch.

Patrick asked me what I was doing and I told him that I was taking these things to people that had nothing.  That we have so much and we are going to share it with a family that has none.  He asked to go with me.  So I put him in the car and drove 1/2 mile down the road to where the refugee woman was.  She was sitting against a telephone pole, with her head down and hidden, her little boy sleeping in her lap, her little girl sitting beside her.  I pulled up and parked and the little girl came running to the passenger's side of the car.  She looked hopeful (not high on opium).  I rolled the window down and handed her the bag of food.  When she went to run back, I handed her the bag of clothes.  She lit up like it was Christmas and ran back to her mother and woke her to show her the bag full of clothes.  The little girl immediately started pulling out the shirts and looking at them.

Her mom looked up and met my gaze.  She nodded and murmured something I'm sure was thanks.  I smiled and nodded in return.  Her eyes were grey and sad and filled with weariness.  In that moment we shared a connection, that of a mother who simply wants to provide for her children.

So take a minute today and be grateful of your blessings.

Love and Happyness to All,

~M

toddler sounds title

A friend of mine the other day mentioned that she believed that infants and early toddlers learned whichever noise was the most irritating to their parents and used it exclusively to get their attention.

This, I firmly believe, is precisely the case with Little R.  From the time he was about 9 months old he would issue out this sound that is of the decibel that makes one want to rip their ears from their head.  It isn’t particularly high pitched, and is definitely not a scream.  It is quite like an air siren of the sort that warns of tornadoes, or impending air raids, with a sprinkle of bull horn for good measure.

I sincerely hope that things over here don’t get that serious, because I’m quite certain that I may not wake up for thinking it is actually Little R wanting milk in the middle of the night.

Seriously, it’s like nails on a chalk board times a gagillion.

He’s learning words everyday, but he still can’t quite use his words to communicate what he wants.  So his default is the Noise.  He will bring over a book, show you an airplane for the 100th time that day, and issue the Noise.  He will want a puzzle to play with and issue the Noise.

He will fall down and hurt himself and issue the Noise.

He will get in a tussle with his brother and issue the Noise, which may or may not escalate into a hybrid of shrieking and the Noise.

He begins the day with the Noise coming from his room to let us know he’s awake, and when you go in there, depending on how you posture yourself, he will either get louder with the Noise, or he will give you an adorable “Hiiiigh,” for hello.  I have yet to figure out how I can get the latter greeting every morning.  There seems to be no significant predictable pattern.

He often ends the night the Noise to let you know he’s ready for his story and milk.

It is the worst broken record on the planet and it makes me want to lock myself in a padded room.

We are trying to ignore the noise and get him to begin using his words, or signing for what he wants.  The noise has become a bad habit that we need to break and I know the only way to break bad habits is with consistency, firmness and a TON of patience.

For the love of God, will he please grow out of this soon.

He's still adorable though.

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On a good note, the weather is cooling down here in Amman and I’m finding it almost reminds me of home.  We even had thunderstorms the other night.

Rain, Rain, don't go away!
Rain, Rain, don't go away!

Love & Happyness to All!

~M

How do you all break the bad habits your children slip into?

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It rained this evening.  It rained in Amman.  It is the first rain.  The drops were cold and big.  It lasted maybe ten minutes.

Rain makes me blissfully happy!

Almost as much as snow.

I am in heaven!  That is all.

(sorry, not sorry, the photos are so grainy)

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We REALLY love rain!
We REALLY love rain!

 

Love & Happyness to All!

~M

2

pancakes

....stuffed with BACON!  Because, seriously, what says fall sweaters and boots, scarves and hats, beer and football, more than maple-allspice-cinnamon-laden-bacon-filled goodness?

I was pretty sure that this pancake recipe couldn't get any better.  I have dozens of friends who swear by it.  It really is melt-in-your-mouth good.  And we are BIG on breakfast in this household. I've added spices, fruit, nuts, chocolate chips to this recipe and always had great results.  The running joke in this house is that this is about the only recipe that I haven't drastically fiddled with, because I'm a serial recipe un-follower!

But I wanted a little change, I was wanting something that had a little more texture and depth.  Plus, I'm never one to settle for the same old stuff come fall, and being overseas in a country with no color change has filled me with fall envy!  I needed something warm and filled with fall, something that would feel like a blustery October day, if food can do that.

Earlier this week I achieved a whole new level of pancake bliss, and it was all because I happened to grab the wrong container from the pantry, and we happened to have not much bacon left.  I had burned a whole pan full, which sent me in to quite the tizzy because pork gold bacon is like $12 a pack here!

I tweaked the famous recipe just a bit, and the results were astounding.  The pancakes had a nice crisp to the edges, and the spices made them very dinner-worthy.  And then, well, there is the bacon part- you can make anything amazing with the addition of BACON!  Don't worry, they are good without the bacon too, in case you were wondering.  They pair great with a pumpkin or oatmeal stout for the grownups (I have know idea how I knew that)!

The kids ate these up and H complained because we ran out.  I almost don't want to share these because I secretly want to keep them for myself. 🙂  But that would not be very graceful or generous would it?  So, without further adieu:

Maple Fall Spice Pancakes

6 pieces cooked bacon
3/4 cup of milk
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar  (or white vinegar if it's all you have)
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cloves (opt. for a little extra something)
1 egg
2 tbsp melted butter
2 tbsp packed brown sugar (this was that wrong container I mentioned)

In a small bowl combine the vinegar and milk.  Set aside while you fry up the bacon.  In a medium pan cook bacon over low heat.  You want the bacon to be done evenly and crispy, not undercooked, and certainly not overdone.   I'm sure you could broil it or bake it to achieve this if you wanted, but seeing as my oven doesn't like to stay lit, I stuck to the stove top.  While the bacon is cooking mix your dry ingredients in a medium bowl.  In large bowl whisk egg, butter and brown sugar together.  Finish up bacon and place on paper towels to drain.  Whisk milk in to egg mixture.

I don't mix my wet and dry together until I'm absolutely ready to drop them in to the pan or griddle.  I'm having to use pans right now, on our pretty, but unreliable, gas stove in our new house.  I use two pans, with the burners set to the lowest flame.  I still have to pull the pans off between batches, and often wipe the pans with a paper towel because the butter burns.  But if you have a finicky stove like ours, these steps have ensured perfectly done pancakes, with no burning.  I can get this recipe done in three batches without the batter going flat.

So, once you're cooking surface of choice is heated (to where a few drops of water skid across the pan), mix your dry ingredients into your wet.  I use a rubber spatula for this part, folding slightly to get everything wet, but keep the mix clumpy.  Don't over mix lest you want flat pancakes!

Melt a little butter in your pan or spray with nonstick spray.  Drop batter in 1/4 cupfuls into pan and sprinkle with bacon pieces.

IMG_2011 Flip when edges are dry.

I do not make any representations as to how healthy (or not) these are!
I do not make any representations as to how healthy (or not) these are!

Enjoy plain or with real maple syrup (not that plastic bottle nonsense)!

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Happy Fall everyone!

~M

I sometimes share at these parties!  Come join the party fun!