Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas week

We braved the wind and snow Monday to visit the Museum of Idaho's current exhibits (Olde Fashioned Christmas & Winter Festivals):

It was fun to see Nativity sets from around the world, a variety of gingerbread houses, and displays for Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Winter Solstice.

On Christmas Eve we had some Middle Eastern food for dinner, and then dressed up for our own Nativity reading/reenactment.

It has been snowing all week until today! We received about a foot more snow after this picture was taken. The big kids are loving all the snow and have been sledding, digging tunnels, making snow angels and throwing snowballs. I'm loving the bright sunlight we have today, and I'm grateful for the time I get to spend with my husband and children right now.

Happy holidays and best wishes for the new year to one and all!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Scenes from an eclectic tree

Garland I made from shells collected in Florida during B's internship several years ago. (All the shells had holes in them, so it made sense to us to put them on a string.)

A peasant girl from Russia.

A painted egg from Russia.

A Russian bird of happiness.

A souvenir from our Rhode Island days.

We picked up a few ornaments in Mystic, CT, not far from our home in RI.

From a lovely friend in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

A camel from Sohar, Oman.

Found in Nizwa, Oman.

A bell from the Po Lin Monastery in Hong Kong.

Our Christmas tree is so eclectic it's kind of ugly (to me), BUT these ornaments are part of our history and bring back good memories, so we like it. Sometime I might post pictures of a few of our stranger ornaments, like the shrunken styrofoam cup that B decorated and sent to the bottom of the ocean while on a November-December research cruise...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


We have a real advent calendar this year--traditional paper, made in West Germany (vintage!). It's been fun.

Our rowan berries are covered in snow, and still beautiful. I love these trees!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Elk farm

Photo from National Geographic

We went for a drive Sunday, to explore some of our area a little (because who knows, maybe we'll actually buy a house here eventually, and while we like living within walking distance of the university, we want to see what it's like outside of town too--it might be fun to live there). Anyway, we were driving around some of the rural parts of our community, not very far away, when we saw a huge corral with a big herd of elk. Right across the street from a new residential development. I guess elk farms are big in Idaho. This NY Times article says there are 78 of them in Idaho, while they are illegal in Montana and Wyoming for fear of contaminating wild elk populations. People will pay $6000 to hunt an elk on one of these ranches. Personally, I prefer seeing elk in the wild. It was awesome to watch a small herd running through a river in Yellowstone last summer. The herd in the corral we saw on Sunday just looked so out of place.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Arabic update

As part of my summer plans I had wanted to review/study a little Arabic with the kids. I was hoping they had retained at least something, since I had been too busy or too sick to work with them on it for most of the year since we arrived in Idaho.

We ended up with not much time for Arabic at all, but at least I was able to figure out where things currently stand. They've forgotten a lot, sadly. Before we moved overseas I assumed they would be able to learn a lot of Arabic. But in reality, the amount of Arabic we were exposed to was minimal, especially spoken/conversational Arabic. Even for the kids, who had native-Arabic-speaking teachers at school. (This article by Peter Hellyer expresses some of the frustrations with the realities of Arabic education for children in the UAE.) The only reason I learned some Arabic was because I went out of my way to learn it, and I was helped by a wonderful multilingual neighbor from Lebanon, who taught a group of us at her villa occasionally my first year.

It was nice to be able to use English there since that's my language--it made my life so easy, and I'm grateful English is widely used--but I would have liked to have had more opportunities to use and learn Arabic.

So, now I need to decide what to do... K has been learning a little Spanish this year at school. C enjoys doing Latin, although we've not been doing it consistently. I don't want to completely give up on Arabic, though. I want to remember what I've learned, and learn more if I can. Maybe it will be just another side hobby for me, and I'll involve the kids when/if I can? I love learning languages, but at this point, with kids at different schools and with different interests and schedules, learning any single language as a family may not work for us. And Arabic is not especially relevant for us anymore (although I'd be happy to move back to Al Ain someday, or maybe Muscat, Oman, for something a little different). I also have Russian to keep up (maybe), and other languages I've been wanting to learn (hoping to take some classes as soon as the baby is a little bigger). But regardless, I'm going to try to keep a few Arabic words and phrases in our family vocabulary. Wish me luck!