Sabbath Day in Amman. We enjoyed a blessedly quiet night aside from a brief wakeup by Ayame. We arrived at church on time--a relief since Nate was slated to speak. He gave an excellent talk on charity and, thankfully, the girls were quiet throughout. I kept Aya strapped to me in the ergo the entire time just to eliminate one possible cause for disruption. I should add that his talk inspired me to recommit to ore charitable behavior, a goal I have already blown but at least it is on my mind.
Aya was welcomed into the nursery--a little bonus in a ward with (currently) only two nursery-aged kids and two nursery leaders. She doesn't stay the full hour and one of us usually has to come get her after a half an hour or so. Aya is a generally very content little girl but still falls (and cries) a lot. Today she fell hard enough to bite her lip and I found her with blood trickling down her chin. Considering these two ladies are doing us a favor by letting her into the nursery in the first place, we try to scoop her up and take her away quickly if she starts to fuss. And considering how used she is to a morning nap at 9:00am, she does get fussy by 10:00am.
Yumi is currently the only girl in a primary of six boys. She like these boys but was ultra reluctant to go into her class today. I was brisk with her, telling her to make her choice quickly between going to primary or sitting in the "boring" adult meeting all by herself. She reluctantly went into class. I felt badly about it and returned about five minutes later to apologize and show some empathy. She did not look very cheered by my pep talk but I felt better for having apologized.
I chatted a few minutes after church with the husband of the missionary couple serving a humanitarian "mission" in Amman. I have not had a chance to speak to them at all this entire summer but gather that the wife of the pair was a missionary many years ago in Lebanon! That area of missionary service was small and closed long ago, and it is rare to find to find someone who served there. She is only the second person I know of who has. You would think in a congregation this small I would have found the time to chat with her but there is always the problem of what to do with the girls. They do not just wait quietly after church is over for us to chat with people. Either Nate or I must actively watch out for them or they may just leave the building to play unsupervised outside.
Today was a perfect example of how difficult the process of keeping track of the girls can be and how it so often causes irritation between me and Nate. I was chatting with the missionary, getting info on church services in Beirut where my parents are RIGHT NOW. I saw the girls walk out of the room but saw Nate, Aya in his arms, leaving nearly right behind them. I assumed he was watching them so I could finish my conversation. A few minutes later he came rushing back, panicked, because he could not find them. I finished getting the info and left the building to look for them. I don't know if they were there all along but they were exactly where I would have expected them to go--behind the church. Regardless of that, Nate had every right to be worried if he could not find them, but I bristled at his irritation that I was "just chatting" and not watching the girls. Considering that 1) I watch them all of the time and 2) justifiably thought he was watching them, I felt his irritation to be unfair. Of course, as he explained later, his irritation was compounded by the fact that the girls, one found, did not listen to his order to come with him immediately. As I mentioned yesterday, they simply to not listen to us unless we dangle a reward or threaten a punishment. Offering all kinds of cutesy options so as to motivate them to make a right choice can get tiring. One does not want to have to always offer to swing or bounce to the toilet. One wants their child to simply go to the toilet was asked to go. The occasional defiance or deaf ear is to be expected and should be tolerated with patience; consistent defiance is just demoralizing. It is really draining us and makes us very irritable with the girls. How could it not?
This little rift led to Nate leaving immediately for home with Aya. I wanted to stay in the church garden for a few minutes and take advantage of the wireless Internet, something we rarely have these days at the hotel. While Yumi and Emi played, I sent off an email or two. We returned home and, amid the sadly unsurprising bickering and whining of the girls l put together lunch. Nate came home yesterday with a package of what looked like pancakes. I'd seen them being prepared and sold in mass quantity and Safeway and assumed they were a Ramadan treat. Just what is so special about the rather bland-looking pancakes I have no idea but people are obviously eating them. I did not know that this "pancake" is a Ramadan treat Nisreen had mentioned to me only a few days ago. That the pancake I'd seen and the treat she loves were one and same was revealed when Nate came home from class early yesterday and happened upon us in the courtyard. He had with him some Carrefour purchases including a package of this treat and maple syrup. Ah, cried Nisreen. The treat about which we had only just been speaking. I can't remember its name right now else I'd include it here. Apparently one puts cheese between two of these pancakes and then lightly pan fries it in butter. Sounds good. She was amused at Nate's intended use of the treat--to drizzle it in maple syrup and eat it with a fork.
This is what I fed the girls for lunch, along with strawberries. We all miss Nate's homemade wholewheat pancakes he makes on the weekends. I am fasting so I did not try these makeshift pancakes but the girls seemed to enjoy them enough.
Aya was just plain tuckered out and cranky, so I could not get the girls down for naps fast enough. Nate left to study elsewhere soon after we got home, so I am all by myself here. Hopefully Emi will fall asleep soon so I can stretch "quiet time" as long as possible. We are expected at Nisreen's home for a visit at 4:00pm. I am excited! This will be only our second visit to a Jordanian family this entire summer--and probably our last. Unlike our somewhat challenging visit to the home of the taxi driver almost two months ago now, I think this visit will be easier. Nisreen has two small nieces that the girls can dote on and, possibly, play with some of their toys. Nisreen and her family are fasting for Ramadan so we will not have to worry about the matter of meals. It is always a quandary; you know the host has prepared something but is not likely to bring it out until several hours into the visit. You do not want to leave before they bring out the food--such would be rude--but you just can't stay for hours OR you are starving. You don't want to ask and the whole time marveling at cultural differences and the "difficulties" that arise from them. This time we won't have to worry about it; they are not eating and won't be until 8:00pm. Nisreen knows that our visit must be no longer than two hours; she has heard enough about the girls to realize--however different it apparently is in her culture--that we just cannot stay for hours and hours when visiting. The girls will just not tolerate it.
This evening: Sometimes I have to laugh when I re-read my entry on the first half of my day. Occasionally I will announce our evening plans and it is always interesting to see how much the actual events differ from my intended plans.
We arrived at Nisreen's beautiful home at 4pm as planned. Fun to see her without her hijaab (head scarf). I almost didn't recognize her when she met us at the door. Their home is quite large and occupies the first floor of a building they own. Her sister and family live on the floor above. They rent to several other families but these apartments are intended for Nisreen's brothers when they marry. She has three brothers, all of whom I met met this evening.
I assumed Nisreen's little nieces would be a part of the gathering but we never saw them. That is the first important thing that differed from my hopes for the visit. The presence of her cute little 1.5 yr old niece would have been the distraction my girls needed. Without it, they were bored bored bored after about fifteen minutes into the visit. Second change from my "plan": within five seconds of arriving Nisreen's mother announced that we WOULD be staying for Iftar and she would hear no excuses. Now--of course I was grateful and touched for the invite but here it was 4pm and they would not be eating until 7:30pm-ish. Not until the official sundown. I knew I could beg a snack off Nisreen for the girls but I dreaded having to entertain them for hours. It would be hours of me trying to keep them from embarrassing us by complaining, fighting, crying, and just acting unhappy. The Iftar would undoubtedly be delicious but Emi would likely not eat anything and Aya would certainly make a mess. And forget about getting them to bed before 9:00pm. All of these are very grim statements but without a doubt true. This all ran through my mind when Nisreen's mother insisted we stay. And there I was, thinking Nisreen understood that our visit would need to be short. I looked to her for some help when her mother told us we were staying but Nisreen just smiled and nodded. We were staying.
Of course I am glad we did because: 1) This was the only Iftar we've had an who better to have one with than the darling Nisreen? 2) Leaving after the invite would have been rude and I wouldn't want to offend Nisreen or her family. 3) I enjoyed talking with Nisreen and her family...for hours. 4) It was great to be in such a lovely home with a garden complete with fountains, waterfalls, bench swings and grape trellises. 5) The Iftar WAS delicious. The best meal I've had all summer and that even includes the awesome restaurant at which Lindsay and I dined. See the picture I'll post on facebook.
It was NOT a relaxing experiencing because I had to keep the girls happy for four hours in a house without toys and other children. I finally succumbed to plunking then down in front of a movie on my iPod. They were not terrible by any means, but it is exhausting to be constantly urging them to be polite or quiet or nice or whatever. I think they had a fine time, however. They played in the garden and drank Sprite for the first time and watched Lilo and Stitch. They did not complain much and only did a little crying. I guess it is just me who stresses over their behavior and could not fully relax. Not when I literally felt trapped; we could not have left before 8:00pm at the earliest and just knowing that stressed me out. What if they really started to get cranky? I'd just have to keep apologizing for them and pray the time would pass faster. Luckily the worst did not happen but again, like I said, there was the stress of knowing what could happen and that I'd have no "out" if it did.
Nate had offered to come initially but I knew he would rather study. I called him, though, at Nisreen's mother's urging to invite him to the Iftar. He did and I am grateful because I would have been at my wit's end at the Iftar table trying to feed all three girls. He nicely held and fed Aya--a chore I usually have and do not particularly enjoy. We also had to walk quite a ways to find a taxi--another task made easier by his presence. For those reasons I am glad he came. I could tell he was not happy to be there, though, and my enjoyment of any event plummets if the girls or Nate are not also having a good time. I despise that about myself; does that make me codependent? But when any of those four other people are in any type of sulk then I no longer enjoy myself. I don't know what he was not pleased about--I really did not want to ask because I knew I would have a hard time emphasizing with his reason--but we have barely spoken six words together since he arrived at Nisreen's until now. At the present he is asleep; we put the girls to bed, he said "I hope you girls had fun" (in a nice way, mind, not meanly) and then he rolled over and went to sleep. Granted, the girls were really a mess when we got back and there was lots of crying. We could not have even dreamt of having a conversation. But my days are so trying and I need his company in the evening to feel like a person again. I always feel wretched when he just shuts me out like that and goes to sleep. I know he is overwhelmed with the sheer difficulty of dealing with our girls. I am too. The problem is I want to recharge by talking and laughing with someone. He, however, just wants to sleep. I know this difference between us is not that uncommon between spouses and shouldn't grieve me so, but it does. I am often left feeling uncharged because he is unavailable, recharging on his own in dreamland. I want something to take my mind off discouragement and yet so often just feel worse for the fact that the person whose company I want the most does not need mine.