Thursday, January 30, 2014

Welcoming the Weekend ... Katara

It's the end of a good week. Jeff has been home, enjoying a two-week holiday, getting caught up on work, and with him home, I've been enjoying having a little more space to breathe. And so, today was a good day to get out in the afternoon and enjoy the warming weather. This week we've noticed a definite shift in temps. The space heaters have been put away again, and the afternoon sun has been soothing and warm. I was craving a few hours out instead of being cooped up in our darkening villa.

We hadn't been to Katara for a long time, so we headed down, through all the road construction, thankfully easily finding our way. And Katara did not disappoint! It was hopping with people and action, since it happened to be the first day of the Leshtah festival. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure what the Leshtah festival is about, or what makes it different than the other festivals. When I dropped "leshtah" into Google translate, it gave me "for their health." Hm. No matter. It was a good excuse to get outside and welcome the weekend.

Kids can draw a picture and enter the colouring contest. Kaiya chose to draw a rainbow with a pot of gold at the end.

Katara has a lot of fantastic restaurants, but today we opted to just go to L'wzaar's fish and chip stand, and eat it on the steps of the amphitheater.

Kaiya ran to the guy with the falcon, but then completely shied away from touching it. She told me later she was too nervous. Still a cool experience though!

There were people working on and displaying different handicrafts. One man was weaving together these beautiful baskets.

And here, another man is constructing these miniature dhows.

And here, a man is carving intricate patterns into gypsum. Many of these handicrafts are sold at Souq Waqif. We have our own carved piece sitting on a shelf in our home.

Our weekend plans include yet another birthday party (our main form of socializing these days!) and hopefully more outdoor time. Hope everyone has a nice weekend!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

You are one.

Sweet baby Izzy. It's been a day of reminiscing, of thinking back over the past year and the many ways you have come to change our lives. You fair-haired doll... you are a unique bird. I love seeing the way you surprise us every day with your one-of-a-kind personality. Today, we celebrate YOU.

You are a daredevil. From just a few months old, you have loved playing on our bed. Rolling, tumbling, bum sticking straight up in the air, falling ever closer to the dangerous edge. You like to dive headfirst, and you protest when we catch you, so we let you hang there, upside down, head dangling over the edge, your big, dazzling smile showing us your pleasure.

You have a peculiar tongue. It likes to curl up and stick out, and I can't get enough of it. When you were six months old, and you started to babble with your tongue sticking out - lah loo, lah loo - I was afraid it would be a short phase. But thankfully, I was wrong, and this ridiculous cuteness has continued, growing into full, bird-like babbling.

You love to dance. Whether it be in our arms, or sitting alone on the floor, as soon as you hear a catchy tune, you bop your head up and down, flapping your arms and kicking your legs as you enjoy the rhythms.

You are a might particular. Practically from the day you were born, you have been a bit choosy, a bit shy, about who gets to hold you. For the most part, it's me, dad, Kaiya, and nanny Marcelina. Even now, as you become an outgoing, expressive baby, you immediately turn to me, arms held up high, reaching out, if anyone else dares to try to pick you up. People have to earn their trust with you, baby Izzy, yes they do.

You are a happy, peaceful baby. We are thankful, ever thankful, for the full nights of sleep, for the long, luxurious naps. And when you wake... oh! It might be an hour before you call for us, and when you do, it's holler, holler, holler! And then a huge smile and full body laugh as we enter the room to find you standing and grabbing the sides of the crib, shaking with excitement to see us again.

You are feisty. You scream loud and clear when something is not to your liking. Whether Kaiya is bothering you or we are taking too long getting your food ready, you let us know. And you never, ever leave hairbands on longer than two seconds. Ever.

You are one. You are, most definitely, your own creature, your own beautiful, unique self. And we can't wait to watch, day after day, as your personality continues to unfold before us.

Thank you, baby Izzy, for coming, and for making our lives so very rich.

Friday, January 24, 2014

A Little Snippet of Life

At the end of each school day, while Izzy is still enjoying her afternoon nap, Kaiya likes to get me up to speed on the events of her day. "Good news," she'll say, and then launch into a story about getting to play football or being invited to a party. "Bad news," she'll warn, and tell me about how Gabe kicked Billy or how a classmate is moving to a different school, or another country.

But this week, she was really excited. "Mom, I have a wonderful story to tell you!" she exclaimed with a particular sparkle in her eyes. "Sydney and I were playing outside, and she told me she was gonna help me learn how to do the monkey bars!"

I knew this was going to be good. Kaiya has been wanting to do the monkey bars for some time now, but never quite seems to get the hang of it.

She continued, "So she got on and said, 'You just have to believe in yourself,' and then she went backwards so I could watch her and look into her eyes. And guess what, mom?! I got almost the whole way across!!"

Okay. So I'm excited that she learned how to do the monkey bars. But how she learned how to do them? It makes me laugh out loud and hold onto my heart all at the same time. I can imagine Sydney, a spunky, fair-haired, athletic little fireball, coaching Kaiya. "You just have to believe in yourself... okay... now look into my eyes..." Seriously??! What six-year olds do this? So sweet and funny all at the same time. 

It's amazing to me to watch the gradual transformation in Kaiya as friends become a bigger part of her life. The lessons she so stubbornly refuses to receive from us are often seamlessly passed on to her through her friends. Yet another reason I'm so thankful for the larger community that helps us to raise our daughters, loving them and speaking into their lives.

Friday, January 17, 2014

You are SIX!

My dear Kaiya. Sweet, joyful girl of boundless energy. You never tire. Always ready to play, darting your purple scooter down the street, flying over speed bumps, creating songs and games as you go. What a leader you are. The kids excitedly call your name whenever you join them in their after school play. And within minutes, you've drawn them in with your latest imagined creations. Detective stories, dragon hunting, scooter races, or games of hide-and-seek. You lead the way.

This fall we hired a photographer to help us capture our year of celebrations: 15 years of marriage, and two beautiful daughters. Again and again our photographer commented on your spunk and personality, and when she shared her photos, at the top of the page was this quote:

"A girl should be two things: who and what she wants." ~Coco Chanel

Indeed, you are.

It has been a big year for you. Last January you became a big sister. And while your excitement and pride were obvious to all, your meltdowns and arguments showed us this shift in dynamic was tough. After five years of being our only, you've had to learn to share the love. But I think your heart felt the same longing mine did, for I've seen this year how Isabelle has calmed you and brought you a companion, and my heart melts every time I see the two of you playing together, or hear you making up songs for her, or tickling her and making her giggle in the car. You are a lovely big sister. Isabelle will grow up admiring you and knowing full well how much you mean to each other. Thank you, Kaiya, for your big, big heart.

This year was also a year of big girl travels. Coming home early with me and Izzy in June, going with dad and your uncles and ketchup sister to Thunder Bay in the summer, and hanging out with your dad in Nepal in December. Each time, we have said the same thing: you are so easy to travel with. Your adventurous spirit is meant for travel. And you take each change of scenery, each new challenge, in stride. At the age of five, you haggled with merchants in Durbar Square, rowed across Phewa Lake, and spent five hours walking and sketching your way through Bhaktapur while your dad took photographs.

Your life resonates with the cry, "This is the BEST DAY EVER!!"

Stay there, Kaiya. Hold that for as long as you can. I see how you listen to me and dad, how you try to understand our conversations, how you're swayed by our stress. You are so grown up in so many ways. Don't take on more. Because we love your infectious enthusiasm, we admire your tenacity and strength of leadership, and we cheer for your creativity. So just stay there, with your big fat love of life. Be there, and we will strive each day to be there with you too... In the moment, holding your hand, receiving your endless affection. Listening, guiding, answering your non-stop questions. Playing, creating, chasing, tickling. Dreaming of dragons and dinosaurs. Reading you books and tucking you into bed. I love how much you love each of these moments. Every day, you remind us to savor these moments too.

Happy Birthday, my six year old.

Friday, January 03, 2014

These are not my words...

... but I love them. So I wanted to write them out here. They come from a place that has become a wonderful source of inspiration for me: the On Being podcast with Krista Tippett. If you're looking for some soul food, it's a good place to go. Thank you to my friend Tracie for sharing it with me. This particular podcast was an interview with Joan Halifax on "Compassion's Edge States and Caring Better." I enjoyed the whole podcast, but I found this comment from an audience member particularly ah-ha.

"I was really struck by what you were saying about compassion fatigue. In my younger days I was a social worker in domestic violence shelters. I did a lot of leftist political work. And at a certain point realized that I was surrounded by people who were dedicating their life to "no," to fighting against something. And my husband and I had decided to get married, and we sat down and said, "What's our 'yes?' How are we gonna commit to living 'yes' on a daily basis? Because if we stay here, and do this, we will spend our whole life just fighting and saying 'no.'" And I wonder sometimes if part of what people refer to as compassion fatigue is the unwillingness or perhaps fear of doing the hard daily personal work to pay attention in one's intimate relationships and in one's neighbourhood and in one's community ... because that's constant. That never ends. But if all you're thinking about is "I need to do something about that thing out there. That thing that I see on that television. The thing that I read in the newspaper." Instead of "What's happening in this house? What's happening right here? And why don't I start there?" Once that sort of intention and mindfulness becomes almost instinctual, then the tendency to sort of fall into that empathic pit where you feel like you can't get out in response to what's going on in the world lessens because you're building up a capacity to hold complexity."


Yes. Starting with the relationships right in front of me. Listening and responding with intention and mindfulness. Building up a capacity to hold complexity. So very yes.

How will I commit to living "yes" on a daily basis this year? How will you?

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Welcoming the New Year with a Trip to MIA Park

January 1st. Twenty degrees. How do you spend it? We go to a park. Well aware of the frigid cold and grey skies we will be enduring upon our return to Canada one day, we are more than happy to run wild in a park on the 1st of January.

Have I mentioned MIA park is our favourite?

It was truly Doha's playground today. The paddle boats and kites were out in full force. Families were walking, biking, scooting together. The seating at the outdoor cafe was full, with jet skiiers doing impromptu shows for the lounging crowds taking in the views. 

And the park just keeps getting better. The playground is expanding. Bigger than before, which is a good thing, because it's always crazy busy. And the cafe is now offering "Barbecue Nights" from Thursdays to Saturdays, 3-10pm. On offer ... shish tawouk, kofta, and other delights, making it even easier for us to stay awhile longer, relaxing long after the sun has set.

Kaiya wanted to run in the grass, so we did. But she got mad when I ran ahead and "beat" her. Cranky almost-six year olds...

It was sometime during this ride with Kaiya that I thought, "Now THIS is the way to welcome 2014!!"

They even had cotton candy and popcorn at the cafe today.

Slightly over-excited shot with Izzy. :) What can I say, I like the place.

Yes, this really is in the middle of the park, by the cafe. Really, I promise, we live in a desert!
Our family, 2014.

I will never, ever tire of this view.

Truly the golden hour.

This holiday season, I've been enjoying the quiet, the peace. We've been a bit hermit-like, spending much time just together, the four of us, watching movies, playing with new toys, and eating far too much spaghetti. I am bracing myself for the return to work and early mornings. I've been thinking a lot, taking the much-needed time to let things wash over me.

I'm hoping 2014 continues to beckon me towards the kinder and gentler parts of myself. I want to listen more, pause more, embrace more. I want to see the beauty that is smack in front of my eyes every day, particularly in the forms of my three most important people. And I want to worry less and thank more. Because in the end, it always seems to work out just fine.

Much love to you and yours. I hope we can all open our eyes wide this year to see the every day blessings.