Sunday, April 28, 2013

Three Months Already!

Here she is, our growing girl. It's been another wonderful month. Just tonight, to celebrate her third month among us, she rolled over from belly to back. Three times, just to let us know she had it down. Just a month ago, I looked back through blog posts of Kaiya's first year with us, and I shook my head when I read about month three. "She was sleeping eleven hours at night??! That's not gonna happen with this one!" And here we are, one month later, enjoying eleven to twelve hours of Izzy-sleep every night. 

I don't think there is anything more beautiful than sleeping babies!

Naked and happy after her bath

Kaiya and Isabelle and I went for a walk around the compound last night after dinner. With one hand, I held Izzy on my shoulder and with the other, I held Kaiya's hand. We have had some bouts of jealousy with Kaiya, but overall, she is thrilled to have a sister. While we walked, she told me, "I know you're going to have another baby soon. But this time, I want it to be a boy, ok?"

Before any of you dub her a prophet, let's keep in mind that the conversation also included her saying, "Can you also have twin girls and then twin boys?" And... "Mom, can people be pregnant googleplex times? Can they be pregnant infinity times?"

My awe-inspiring response: "That would be really uncomfortable."

Sisters. Oh, that awkward baby face!

My favourite time of the day with Isabelle has become the evening. For whatever reason, Izzy seems to think this is our time to talk. She stares at me, smiles, coos, kicks her legs, and is generally over-the-top cute. Even now, three months in, I still find myself tearing up in gratitude for these little moments. She's our little angel, and I'm so very glad she chose us.

Got the crazy Einstein look going on there, baby girl

To see a comparison of Kaiya and Isabelle at three months, check out this link. Similarities, yes. But also many differences. Can't wait to see what the future holds!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Barzan Olympic Park

Last weekend was HOT...the kind that had me lamenting that it was the beginning of the end, of trying to find creative, indoor methods to tame weekend madness (we Epps need our outdoor time). Thankfully, I was wrong, and it has been a beautiful week; hot but lovely, with cool evening temperatures (keeping in mind that my version of "cool" has changed somewhat in the past year and a half!)

Not wanting to spend all of Saturday indoors, we decided on an after-breakfast jaunt to Barzan Olympic park. It has been open about a year now, but it was our first time. It's a fantastic park, just north of Doha and the new Ikea. There's a small entry fee... 5 or 10 riyal, depending on the day and time of year, and it's open from 6am till 10pm.

When we went, we had the place all to ourselves, with one family going as we were coming and another coming as we were going. We were really impressed by the facilities: large playground, some sand pits, complete with beach toys, a bike track (you rent the bikes), even a cafeteria and Baskin Robbins, though these were closed at that time of day.

Of course, Kaiya's favourite part was the fountain. Within minutes she was completely soaked. If there's water involved, you're going to have a very happy Kaiya.

Fun playground equipment

Checking it all out

Beautiful paths run all through the park. Very stroller friendly.

We didn't go in the buildings at all. There are toilets, a mosque, and a swimming pool.

There were mini replicas of many of Qatar's famous buildings. The State Mosque.

Table tennis... you can rent equipment for 30qr/hr. Same goes for chess.

The bikes aren't available till after 2pm. But who cares?! There was a fountain to play in!
Playing in the fountain.

Yes, she went right in the middle!

One very satisfied customer

This weekend we're checking out Aquapark for the first time. I'm thinking a certain spunky 5-year old is going to like it.

Monday, April 22, 2013

I wouldn't be a true Canadian if I didn't write about the weather from time to time...

The weather is perfect tonight. According to the forecast, it's 25 degrees here in Doha right now. Temperature means a lot less to me in Qatar than it did back in Canada. It's kind of always t-shirt/capri and flip-flop weather. I just know that once it gets close to 40, I stop wanting to go outside.

It's been getting close to 40 lately. Enough to prompt members of the Doha Mums group to start asking the annual question on the forum: "So what do you do with the kids once it's too hot to go outside?" I've been feeling the same tension I felt last year, to get outside as much as possible before it's too late, before park and beach visits turn into strolling-around-another-shopping mall-to-kill-time visits. So today's reprieve was welcome. I sat outside with Isabelle during the day, taking in the beautiful sight of our bougainvillea, and in the afternoon, when the breeze picked up, I threw open the windows, for possibly the last time till November.

Jeff took Kaiya swimming this afternoon, and as I sat in the quiet of the living room with Isabelle, my mind started playing tricks on me. The rustling of the curtain as it swayed in the breeze suddenly took me back to George Street, and there I was, snuggling a baby while listening to the curtains sway in our bedroom, the same late afternoon light dancing on the walls. And then I thought of all the other weather I hear in Canada. The muffled sounds of a good snowstorm, white powder piling up against doors and windows; the pitter-patter of a gentle spring rain, or the heavy drumming of a storm; the howling of the wind.

Don't get me wrong, we hear weather in Doha too. But not nearly as much as we did back in Canada.  Most often what I think is the sound of exciting oncoming weather is actually just a jet plane flying overhead. Here, a few drops of rain sends our daughter and various neighbourhood kids dancing in the street, shouting, "It's raining! It's raining!" And the breezes I used to welcome so much in Canada make me think twice about opening windows, for fear of the sand and dust that coats our floors and dries our feet within minutes.

I don't miss the long, grey days... the ones that made getting out of bed in the mornings so hard. And I certainly don't miss snow in April. But I miss the variety; I miss the coziness winter brings; I miss loud, cracking thunderstorms and refreshing winds that don't shower in dust.

But tonight was perfect. And as Jeff and I sat outside at the Second Cup at the Pearl (how Canadian of us), we mused about the crazy April weather friends and family have been enduring back home. And I wondered, earnestly, whether I have it in me to go back to the ups and downs of Canadian weather. Because as much as I miss the variety and the seasons, there's something to be said for picnicking in January and sipping after-dinner coffees by the water in flip-flops in April. 

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Al Wakra Family Beach

We've just finished a really great week. Jeff's final holiday till the BIG one in the summer. These holidays were particularly sweet because Jeff was finally all caught up. He had absolutely no work hanging over his head. It was all done. Phew! And, we were completely plan-free. No trips scheduled, no visitors coming. Just us. And a whole lot of time.

It was a funny week. A particularly "Canadian" week for us, with Jeff diving into his favourite past time, puttering. We've often been considered a bit odd, by Doha standards, for the fact that we do so much ourselves. Take care of our own garden, wash our own car (not always), put together our own furniture, paint our own rooms. Neighbours and compound workers alike have often looked at us curiously, and I know our nanny probably appreciates her light workload, though she frequently expresses her desire to spend more time with our girls, particularly baby Isabelle.

But that's how we roll. This week saw Jeff painting Izzy's room (a refreshing, icy blue... hooray for NO PINK!), assembling Ikea furniture, mounting shelves and paintings, and installing light fixtures. It was so great to see him puttering again; I could even deal with the steady flow of Peter Gabriel, Sting, and Genesis...

On the weekend it was time for a break, so we headed Friday morning to Al Wakra, this time in search of the family beach. Unfortunately, each time I have been to the public beach in Al Wakra, I have either been approached or watched by strange men, so we decided to change things up and try the family beach instead. (Where I was still approached by a strange man, but nevermind...)

To get to the family beach, you actually have to drive through Al Wakra, taking the second u-turn back. There's a sign on the side of the road, pointing you right, and then you travel on a two-lane road which should in no way be a two-lane road. At the end of the road, you turn left, hitting the gravel. Honest to God, it's amazing anyone ever finds these beaches. Long, meandering stretches of unmarked roads, followed by unknown gravel turn-offs.

This sign greets you when you finally reach your destination:

If you've been to the family beach in Al Khor, also known as Farkeeh coast, it's much the same. There are toilets (yay!), BBQ pits, some covered areas, and three massive playgrounds which unfortunately were not yet open for business. Oh, and security guards to ensure that only families enter.

We hadn't been to the beach for awhile, and we'd forgotten how good it is. Kaiya just loves it and absolutely loses herself in the sand and surf. She loves wading way out in the water with me, building sandcastles, collecting shells, and playing with hermit crabs.

I love how she has no fear of these things. At one point, she put a hermit crab in my hands, saying, "Now, put your hands straight and hold still. Be patient and don't be afraid. He doesn't bite."

Izzy did amazingly well, sleeping away most of the windy, sandy day in this little contraption. Funny thing is, when I bought it, I wasn't even thinking of trips to the beach. But it's really perfect!

Moments not captured on camera:

  • Kaiya and Jeff's sandcastle volcano, complete with moat, bridge, and covered in her dinosaurs, of course
  • Me being asked by a couple of abaya-clad Jordanian sisters to play football (read "soccer" North Americans) with them. I can't even remember the last time I kicked a ball around. It was great!

Jeff's back to work this week, but Kaiya's home for another week. Seriously, this kid gets far too many school holidays. And in less than 10 weeks, I'll be back in Canada with the girls. It's all going just a little too fast. I know September and my return to work will be here waaaaay before I'm ready for it. So for now I'm just soaking it all in as much as I can.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Good Weekend Memories

Qatar is so hit and miss sometimes. You may have the most perfect weekend plan, but then any number of factors such as bad traffic, road detours, non-existent parking, major crowds, fill-in-the-blank, can really mess it up for you. Never mind throwing a two-month old into the mix.

But somehow that makes the times that you get it right that much sweeter. Last weekend was one of those times. We Epps were feeling rather celebratory. Jeff was starting a week off of work, a week that came after a few crazy months of playing catch-up, nevermind the usual lesson planning, curriculum development and report cards. We were all breathing a collective sigh of relief.

Ahhhhh.... holidays.

A number of events were taking place last week. As much as we enjoyed last year's food festival, we decided to skip it. Just thinking about the traffic and parking at its new venue made me slightly hyperventilate. Maybe next year. So instead, we went to Katara to enjoy the Halal Hal festival, which the Gulf Times summarized like this: The 10-day  annual event celebrates traditional Qatari culture through arts and crafts, food and entertainment, games, folk songs and more. The festival also provides a rare glimpse into the country’s livestock industry.

I figured, "Hmmm... sheep and goats. Kaiya should like that."

When we first got to Katara there was absolutely NO sign of a festival. This has happened before. You could add it to the list of factors in paragraph one: Advertised festivals that don't actually exist, or exist on a much smaller (read teenier-tinier) scale than anticipated. So Jeff and I decided to play our favourite game, Ask the Security Guard. Yes, go ahead, ask away, eagerly anticipating the amusing non-answers you may get.

Strangely, we were given a very clear answer. The festival was at the far end of Katara's beach. Nice. Not what we expected, but it was a good day for a walk.

The festival was perfect, a wonderful showcase of traditional Qatari culture. And the best part: not too big and not too busy. Jeff and Kaiya got up close and personal with some sheep while Isabelle chilled on my shoulder and I drank karak. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

I underestimated how much Kaiya would enjoy the sheep.

She fell in love with this one, her "friend," feeding it hay.

And that's about as far as she got.

Traditional Qatari sweets. I wish I knew what it was. First time I had ever seen it.

After some time, Kaiya finally got coaxed away from the sheep by the promise of oryx. Oryx are Qatar's national animal, and Kaiya got a stuffed oryx, "Spiky" from a book fair in December. She carries it around everywhere, always saying hello to its family when we drive through oryx roundabout. So naturally, a photo shoot ensued:

You can see its horns to the right of Jeff's butt.

This one turned out a little better. :)

We like oryx.

Even though the festival was small, there were so many interesting things to see. Handicrafts I hadn't yet seen here, a replica of a traditional Qatari home, and models of traditional life complete with English explanations. I wish we could have spent more time. But it was getting late, and I knew we'd be better off hitting the fish and chip stand by the beach. So Kaiya and Spiky called it a day...

And we walked and scooted back to the busy beach...

Just in time for a perfect sunset meal.

(Katara tip: the beach is pricey. But it closes when it gets dark. If you get there about half an hour before sunset, the security guards look the other way, and you can enjoy a quick meal on the beach... L'wzaar fish and chip stand conveniently located just behind us)