Thursday, May 29, 2008

Speech Therapy

I took Nick (and Catie tagged along) to speech therapy for the first time today. She was very nice, and related very well with the twins. The good news first: she's not all that worried about Nick. She agreed with me that he isn't displaying any signs of autism, and that he has all the signs that he's ready to speak: he looks when we talk to him, he can concentrate on things for a long time, he is social, he understands when we talk to him, he can follow some simple commands, etc. She gave us a few things that we need to do to help him out. I'm going to list them here for your information, but also so that I can record them while they are fresh on my mind. :) First, I need to spend at least 10 minutes one-on-one with him working on language everyday. Also, I should make as many symbolic noises with him as possible (airplane noises, animal sounds, etc.) She also said that since he's gotten used to not communicating, he's become very independent, so he tries to do things on his own or cries out of frustration instead of coming to me to ask for help. So, we need to teach him how to ask. I have to find something to do that he cannot work by himself, but that is very interesting (she suggested blowing bubbles, blowing up a balloon and then letting it go, building a block tower then knocking it down, or spinning a top.) I do whatever it is once, then ask him if he wants to do it again (More?). Then, I have to wait for some response, right now even if he looks at me and indicates nonverbally that he wants it again that's okay, and when he responds, we do it again. The goal being that he would say "more" when he wants something. Another activity that we should do is to put everyday items in a row on the floor and ask him to give us one (eg. get the diaper.) Even though I've heard all this before, it was good to get the concrete ideas and see her apply them, and I was glad to have her agree with my assessment so far. We go back on June 22nd for another session, this time without Catie, even though the therapist said it was fine if Catie comes too. Nicky was a little doll throughout the whole session, playing and behaving. Catie, on the other hand, cried when we got there and I put her down, grabbed the toys from the therapist when she was working with Nick, threw two temper tantrums, climbed up the stairs, and then didn't want to leave.

Monday, May 26, 2008

19 Month Pictures

We took the twins in on Sunday to get their pictures taken. I meant to go when they were 18 months, but I took a little too long to decide where to go. So, we have 19 month photos. I don't think they've changed too much in the last week since they turned 19 months. :)

It was an interesting experience, starting with the name of the studio, QatShoot (pronounced Cat-Shoot) which sounds a lot like a sneeze. These people aren't the smartest. First, she showed us the backgrounds, all of which were these painted canvases. Let me tell you, the Arabian tastes certainly run differently than the Americans'. We settled on a nice park scene that coordinated with their outfits. :) Then, the assistant pulled out an old fashioned baby carriage. Toddlers in a baby carriage! Yeah, that didn't go over so well. While Catie was getting over her temper tantrum, Nicky had a blast stomping around on the furry rug they put down. Speaking of the furry rug, I had to ask for the cream one, because she picked up a bright blue one first. Nick thought it was great fun under his feet, and that was only enhanced by us laughing and calling his name to get him to look up. Catie never completely came around, but with Baby in her arms, she knew what to do for the camera. What a ham!
After we got a few shots of Catie alone, we put down the wriggling Nick so that he could stomp on the rug a little more.

We weren't sure if we got the shots or not, so they suggested the fake stairs, which of course meant that we had to change the background since stairs don't belong in a park. By this time, Catie had hit her stride. She knew exactly what was going on, and she was having a good old time getting all the attention she could ever want by just sitting and looking cute. Nick, on the other hand, was in full play mode. We never got any good pictures of him on the steps because he was so busy climbing up and down. We even turned the stairs around so that we could see his face as he climbed, but those came out silly looking.

We chose our favorites and went up to the counter to choose sizes and pay. I couldn't believe what they wanted for each picture, knowing that this is a one hour place which means they aren't sending them out for quality printing. If we had bought wallets for everyone, just wallets alone would have cost us $250. That's dollars, not Riyals. So, we (I) decided that we would just buy 5X7's (Five 5X7's cost us $75) and then scan them in. Well, my scanner here is not so good. I played with them, but they still look terrible, especially the ones of Catie standing and the one of both of them together. Soon, I'll be back in America with my nice scanner, and I'll be able to get better copies. Soon....

Sunday, May 25, 2008

It's Monday Again!

Here's my menu for this week:
Monday: Steak and Potatoes
Tuesday: Taco Salad
Wednesday: Southern Hamburger Pie
Thursday: White Chicken Chili
Friday: Omelets

Here are a couple recipes:

Southern Hamburger Pie (This recipe is a favorite of my husbands that my mom found in a First Place cookbook. It was originally a low-fat recipe and tastes good that way, so feel free to substitute with low-fat ingredients.)

1 lb ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp cumin (or more to taste)
salt and pepper (to taste)
4 oz cream cheese (cut into chunks)
1 Tbsp flour
1 small can chopped green chiles (drained)
1 cup cottage cheese
1 egg
red pepper flakes
1 can refrigerated biscuits (I'm going to omit this part in the interest of low-carbing.)

Brown ground beef and onion. Drain fat. Add cumin, salt, pepper, and cream cheese and stir over medium-low heat until the cream cheese melts. Add flour and chiles.

Arrange biscuits in the bottom of a greased pie plate (or not if you don't want to like us, but it's really yummy with the biscuit crust.) Spread meat mixture on top. In a small bowl, mix the cottage cheese and egg. Spread on top of meat mixture. Sprinkle with paprika and red pepper flakes.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30-45 minutes, until top is set and biscuits are brown.

White Chicken Chili Deliciously simple!
1 Tbsp oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
1 onion, chopped
1 can chicken broth
1 small can chopped green chiles
2 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp cumin
1/2 tsp oregano
2 cans white beans
shredded cheddar or jack for topping, if desired

Cook chicken and onions in oil in large sauce pan until onion is tender. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The VIP Treatment

Brad and I had a date last night, and, unlike our last date night (my birthday), this was his night. We went to City Centre, where, of course, it was crazy because everyone goes out on Friday night, so we parked in our favorite illegal parking spot because there were no open spots and everyone was driving around honking at each other. After parking, we went to Nando's, a restaurant that he's been wanting to try, but I wouldn't go with the kids our first time. The place is intriguing because the seating is open to the mall and you can see everyone eating off these huge metal kabob skewers hanging on stands over plates full of rice and veggies. We ordered a Mediterranean salad, hummus, and one of those fascinating plates with the huge kabobs (that's not what they called them but I can't remember now.) It was all delicious, but the meat was super spicy. When we go to Applebee's or Chili's here and order something spicy, like chicken wings, they always say, "That's spicy," and we say, "That's fine," because, really, it's not that spicy. But, we should have listened to them at Nando's! Afterward, we had some time before our movie, so we went to look for guns, water guns that is, for something that's going on at Brad's work sometime soon. That took us about all the time that we had because it is difficult to even walk around in that place on Friday night. We went to see Indiana Jones, and since we knew it would be a popular movie and because Brad's been wanting to do this, we bought tickets for the VIP Gold theater. They cost 100 Riyals (about $25.) Brad says it's worth it to do once for the experience, I say, save your money. :) This is what sets the VIP theater apart: only about 40 seats in the whole theater, the large, Lazy-boy type seats that recline, the tables in between the seats, the private bathrooms in the back of the theater, and a waitress to run out and get you snacks. Fun, yes. Worth it, uh, not really. As far as the movie goes, if you haven't seen it yet, I don't want to spoil it for you, so I'll just say that the premise was strange. I rank it third in the series, just above Temple of Doom, but far below The Last Crusade. We were discussing this as we came back out to our car, only to find that we had a sticker on the window. Parking ticket! It's in Arabic, so we have to wait for it to get posted to the website to find out how much it cost. It may have been a much more expensive date night than we anticipated!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Nick Update and More Cuteness

I took Nick to the doctor yesterday for a checkup. It looks like the fluid in his ears has gone away again. The doctor and I aren't convinced that that is the problem, but she's referred us to another ENT to get his opinion. She also gave me a referral to a speech therapist.

I'm starting to feel more and more that he's just waiting until he feels like it to talk. Last week I asked him if he wanted his diaper changed and he said "no" and ran away. I'm not surprised that the first meaningful word he used was "no," because even though he's the sweetest little boy ever, he still knows how to tell us what he wants, even without words.

Catie, as always, is more willing to try doing things that she doesn't quite have down yet. Her new favorite song is the ABC's. She sings right along, even though there are no discernible letters in her version. Also, I like to count when we go up on the elevator. I put out my fingers and count as we go up the floors. When we get to ten, I say, "10! Yay, 10! We live on 10!" Catie has started along, her favorite numbers being 2 (doo), 3 (eee), and 10 (de!). When I say 1, she usually puts up 6 fingers and follows with a doo!, then sometimes she'll say eee!, and usually before I get there she shouts de! because that's her favorite part. Adorable!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

I've decided along with Brad that it's time that I start menu planning again. So, since everything in my life seems to go onto the blog now, I figured, why not this too? Especially since there's a whole group of bloggers who do the same thing! :)

We're on a low-carb diet right now, so most of my recipes will be low-carb friendly, but you can add carbs if you want. :) Also, my side dishes are a little boring; they usually consist of a can or bag of veggies, so I'll spare you typing those out. :)

Monday: Salsa Chicken
Tuesday: Crustless Broccoli Quiche
Wednesday: Meatloaf
Thursday: Western Chicken Chunks
Friday: Chicken Stir-Fry

Salsa Chicken--Easy and yummy!
chicken breasts (as many as you need)
salsa (as much as you want)
sour cream and shredded cheddar (to taste)

Put the chicken breasts in a greased, glass baking dish. Dump some salsa on top (I use about 1-1 1/2 cups for 4 breasts.) Bake at about 350 degrees Farenheit (My oven is in Celcius and the temperature knob is stuck at an unknown temperature and this recipe still worked. :) ) for about 30-45 minutes until the chicken is no longer pink (better yet, use a thermometer.)

Let chicken cool a little, then shred with two forks. Top with sour cream and cheese. If you're not going for low-carb, it would be delicious inside a tortilla. :)

Western Chicken Chunks--a silly name for a family favorite
4 chicken breasts cut into 1-2 inch cubes
Ranch dressing (about a cup?)
2 cups Cornflakes (crushed to about a cup)
salt and pepper to taste

Mix salt and pepper into the crushed cornflakes in a bowl or ziploc bag. Set up an assembly line with chicken, a shallow bowl of Ranch dressing, a bowl (or ziploc bag) of crushed cornflakes, and a greased cookie sheet (I like to cover mine with foil for easy cleanup.) Dip chicken into ranch dressing, then into the cornflakes, and place on baking sheet.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes or until no longer pink in the center.

Growing up, my mom usually made a side of baked, seasoned potato wedges with this, but alas, I think we'll just have some roasted cauliflower if my husband will eat it. :)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A long time coming

We've been thinking about buying two things for the twins for months now, and I finally bought them both on the same day.
Back in January, Brad's mom told us she wanted to help us buy the twins a kitchen set. After looking at a couple places, we settled on the sizzling kitchen from Early Learning Centre, one of my favorite toy stores here. First, we didn't want to buy it until we moved into our new place. Then, we never had time to mess with it when we were at the mall, or we forgot, or they didn't have it in. Finally, on Monday, I stopped in to the shop, they had one in, and I bought it. The box was a little messed up, and I considered asking to look at it first, but I didn't. I should have; the bottom was cracked badly. So, today I went back and got a different one. The guy apologized about 10 times, which is such a change for here. Usually they try to blame you, and it's really hard to return things.
During the twins' nap, I set the kitchen set up, so that when they got up and came into the living room it was the first thing they saw. They've been happily playing with it ever since, except for a short break for dinner.

On the same day that I originally bought the kitchen set, I also bought a table and chair set for the twins. Back in February when we went to Dubai, we visited a family for dinner and they had a kids' table. We thought that was a good idea, so we stored that in the back of our minds. Since then, we've been checking out kids' table sets, but everything we found was either expensive or not sturdy enough. Well, on Monday, while shopping at Giant, I found this set that I love. And, it was a great price, 130 Riyals (about $35.)

I know, I know. You are all amazed by my shopping prowess. All I can say is you haven't seen nothing yet. Just wait until I get back to the States in July. Then you're going to see some power shopping. I can't wait to dive in to some good old, American-style clearance racks.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

Yesterday was my birthday, and I had a great day. Brad let me sleep in while he got up and took care of the babies. Then, they went out to pick up my present while I got ready for the day. When they got back, we went to the zoo. We only stayed for about 45 minutes, though, because it was so hot! (It was 100 degrees when we got back that afternoon, but it may have been hotter while we were at the zoo.) After that, we went to Landmark Mall for lunch at Dairy Queen. On the way in, we spotted some cute Eeyore pajamas, and Brad bought them for me. When we got home, the babies went down for a nap, and Brad gave me the birthday presents he bought me, some dishes I like and this beautiful diamond ring:
At 4 pm, the babysitter came, and Brad and I went out. We were going to go see Fool's Gold, but the internet site was wrong, and it wasn't at the theater, so we saw The Other Bolyn Girl, which was very interesting and well done. Afterward, we had eaten too much popcorn to eat right away, so we went to a couple stores that are hard to go into with the babies (they like to grab everything now!) Around 8:30, we went to our favorite Chinese restaurant in Doha. When we got home, I opened the present from Brad's parents, a digital keychain and the movie Enchanted, which we watched today--it was fun! My brother and sister-in-law sent us a gift card from, and I know there are other presents in the mail. :)
The whole day was great!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Catie's finger

My dad asked about Catie's finger in the picture of her playing with toilet paper. Well, part of the hotel room in Luxor that we couldn't babyproof was the drawer in the nightstand. Catie loves opening and closing drawers. And, she even started putting things in and taking them out. It was all fine (although it did worry me) until she lost her balance while her hand was in the open drawer and threw all her weight against it, smashing her finger. I saw it happening, but couldn't do anything about it. Poor little girl. It looks awful still, and I think she's going to lose the nail, but it doesn't seem to bother her anymore.

Pictures of the twins I promised

The prince and princess in their royal thrones:

Nicky's new favorite face:
Don't these highchairs look regal? The baby stuff at the Sofitel looked cool, but it wasn't very practical. The highchairs were huge and they didn't have safety belts! We made it through unscathed, though we had a few close calls.

The prince and princess's royal subjects:

The twins were absolutely adored in Luxor. :)

Catie having a little too much fun in the bathroom while Mommy gets ready:

I took Nick to get his hearing checked on Monday, and everything seems to be okay, but he has fluid in his right ear again. He seems to have what they call "glue ear," meaning that he has some sticky, waxy fluid just sitting in his ear all the time. We went back to the pediatrician today, and she prescribed some more medicine and we have an appointment to go back again next Thursday. She may need to refer us to another ENT to get tubes put in. Please keep him in your prayers. He's been a lot more responsive the last couple days, so we're hoping this is a turning point.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Temples on the East Bank

Some bloggers do posts called Wordless Wednesdays. Well, this post is Almost Wordless Wednesday. Sorry, I had trouble narrowing down the pictures. :)

On Sunday night, we hired a babysitter through the hotel and ate dinner at the other Sofitel in town, the Sofitel Winter Palace. Look at this beautiful garden:

After dinner, we went to the Sound and Light show at the Karnak Temple. It was really cheesy and you couldn't see much. You have to walk around in the dark while they talk, and just when you think it's finally over, you go sit in some uncomfortable bleachers and listen to 20 more minutes of silly narration while looking at a not so spectacular scene. But, Dame Judi Dench was the narrator. I love her. :)Don't get me wrong, it's beautiful during the day, but the night show is silly. I'll spare you my terrible photos, except this one:

The next morning, we explored the two temples on the east bank, driven by our favorite cab driver, Ahmed. First is the Luxor Temple. I'll spare you a history lesson, but you can click the link if you want more info.

The Avenue of the Sphinxes used to go all the way from Luxor Temple to Karnak Temple:

Remnants of the Christian church that at one time was built on top of this temple.

The avenue of the sphinxes leading up to the Karnak Temple.

I wish I had a photo that would show you how amazing this part of the temple is. It's a forest of columns. I would estimate that there are about 100 columns in this room.
An obelisk: it was built by the only female pharaoh, Hatsheput.

The sacred pool where the pharaoh was cleansed and rejuvenated before going into the presence of Amen-Re:

Well, that just about does it for the things we saw and did in Egypt. I just have a couple other cute pictures that I took of the babies in Luxor that I'll share tomorrow. :)

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Luxor Museum and the West Bank

On Saturday morning, we went to the Luxor Museum in a cab driven by Ahmed Mohamed Ali (How's that for a Muslim name?) who became our driver for the rest of our time in Luxor. The Luxor Museum doesn't look like much on the outside, and it's much smaller than the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, but it was much more organized, and everything had plaques to tell you what was what. Included in the displays are about 12 beautiful statues, a golden cow's head from King Tut's tomb, and three mummies. Unfortunately, cameras aren't allowed inside.

We spent the rest of the day at the hotel, napping, swimming, etc. We ate dinner at the poolside restaurant that night. The kids loved the chicken nuggets, and we loved the atmosphere.

On Sunday morning, Ahmed took us to the West Bank for a quick tour. We didn't make it to the Valley of the Kings (not worth it with the strollers, and it was too hot to be outside that long), but we saw a lot anyway. First, we stopped for some pictures of the Colossi of Memnon.

After driving by Deir El-Bahari, which is a very impressive sight--take a look at the link, we went to an alabaster factory, where they showed us how they hand-carve alabaster.
The babies playing with alabaster eggs at the factory. Ahmed is holding Nicky.Then, we went to Medinet Habu, a temple mostly built by Ramses III. It was the first ruins that we were able to go into in Egypt, and we were appropriately awed by it. It was beautiful.

Don't be fooled by the scale of the above picture. These things are huge. Look for the babies in their strollers at the statue's feet in this picture:The ceilings still have paint on them after all these years. Amazing!
After our tour, we headed back to the poolside restaurant, but it wasn't as nice during the day. There was no wind to keep the flies away.

More temples tomorrow.... :)

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Goodbye Cairo, Hello Luxor

On Thursday, I woke up with a terrible stomach ache that wouldn't go away. We were planning on going to the Coptic museum that morning, but we decided to take it easy at the swimming pool and then go in the afternoon if I was up to it. We all ended up taking a really long nap after swimming, though, and we stayed in the room the rest of the day, including a room service dinner.

Friday, we flew to Luxor. The domestic side of the Cairo airport is, well, seedy. Like all the airports we've been to in the Middle East, you have to have your luggage scanned before you even get to the ticket counter. Well, after we got checked in, Brad decided to go get some cash from an ATM. In order to get there, he had to go out of the secure area, but the guard didn't want him to go until he told him what he was doing. When he came back through, the guard wouldn't let him back in--he actually physically stood in his way gesturing and making noises in the Egyptian way--until Brad gave him a little tip. Since he had just come from the ATM, the smallest bill he had was a 50 ($10), and you know that that guard had to know that. When we finally were called to board, 15 minutes after the plane was supposed to take off, we all got on a bus and literally drove across the street to the plane, about 30 feet. Everyone on the bus laughed. It was ridiculous.

The difference between Luxor and Cairo is amazing. If you ever go to Egypt, I recommend a short stay in Cairo (a day or two) just to see the pyramids, and then a long stay in Luxor. There is so much to see there, and it is much more relaxed and beautiful. And, if you don't have children with you, take the Nile Cruise. We heard wonderful things about it all week. But we enjoyed where we were with the kids. The Sofitel Karnak really was a resort, with beautiful landscaping, a large pool, several restaurants, attentive staff, childrens' programs, nightly entertainment, etc. (And we got a good deal on
Here are some pictures in and around the hotel:

Looking back at the poolside restaurant, where Brad was waiting for me:

The Nile:

Catie looking at the Nile:

Some of the beautiful landscaping along the Nile. I knew Brad was waiting for me, so even though I realized after I took the picture that (duh!) the pole was in it, I didn't snap another one. :)More later on our time in Luxor....