Welcome to Texas

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When we made the decision to move to Texas our fellow expats had loads of advice to help us out. Almost everyone that we spoke to had a friend who had lived or was living near Houston, and some had lived there at one point themselves. They had restaurants to recommend, their favorite places to shop, the best beaches to visit, and where to take the kids to explore the state. While everyone had something different to share they all had one thing the same to comment about… the heat!

Living in Doha for the past seven years we know heat. Even when we left the country for six weeks in the summer to escape it we still returned mid August to 52 degree heat and ridiculous humidity which lasted until Halloween.  While the heat and humidity of Houston is sometimes unbearable we deal with it the same way we did in Doha, going outside later in the days and moving from one air conditioned place to another. The one thing that I was not completely prepared for and we were told about was the hurricanes and flooding.

Last week my husband sent me an email about a tropical storm developing off the coast, this was the second time he had sent me an email like this,  his work provides regular updates to employees since they work down near the ocean. This email however accompanied a text saying that I should go to the grocery store and get some supplies, and that people were saying that this was going to be a big one. I dropped the boys off at school as usual that morning and made my way to the grocery store to find that I was not the one person needing to stock up on supplies. The aisle for water was empty except for 2 cases, I grabbed one and helped an elderly man grab the second and put in his cart. I had thankfully grabbed two large bottles of water a few weeks before just in case something like this happened.

I spent the day making sure we had everything we needed if we were not able to leave the house for a few days with the storm. That afternoon I went to the youngest muppets school to help set up for the book fair that would be taking place the following week. When I arrived I found a room full of PTA Moms reluctant to set anything up because of the weather forecast. We sat and visited while they came up with an alternative plan and told me stories about their past hurricane experiences. After hearing about what they went through with Hurricane Ike I began to understand why people were so worried. Two of the women had babies only days old and had to evacuate with small children to safety. There were places without electricity for weeks and some places with out clean water. No one was sure if Harvey was going to cause the same devastation but they were prepared if things went pear shaped.

That evening school was canceled for the following day and my husband was encouraged to stay home from work. So all day Friday we watched and waited for the storm to make landfall. The following days were filled with rain, thunderstorms and wind. We watched as the water rose in the parking lot around our complex, the drains started filling and we watched as parts of Houston and surrounding areas flooded. Monday things stated to not look so good around us, the rain would not let up and the water started rising closer to our apartment. We started worrying that we would need to  evacuate, we were not sure where we would go or if we would be able to get out to any where safe with the roads blocked and the water rising around us. I started packing clothes for a few days and the muppets helped their father move thing on to top shelves in closets just in case the water started coming in. Thankfully friends that my husband works with said that they would come up with big trucks and boats if we needed help out. That night we barely slept, we watched the water levels late in to the night praying that we didn’t wake up to our living room flooding.

Our prayers were answered when we woke to find a new wind blowing through and the water levels descending. We were so lucky, we were safe, still had power and enough supplies to last us a few more days. We watched the news to see people who were not so lucky, houses underwater, valuables and property destroyed, it was heartbreaking. However the amazing thing about this whole disaster is the people of Texas. The volunteers that have come out to help complete strangers, risking their own lives, using their own boats and trucks to rescue people from their homes. Neighbors who we have never met asking if we are ok and if we had enough supplies. People lining up at shelters just wanting to help out and take care of the people affected by the Hurricane.

When we moved to Texas people had a lot of wonderful things to say about this state, one constant thing that everyone said was that the people are so friendly, nice and caring. After going through this experience I would have to agree with them. The people of Texas know how to take care of each other and amidst the devastation we were shown the true colors of humanity this week.

Today the sun is shining and the weather forecast is looking dry, things will start getting back to normal hopefully soon. This was one hell of a welcome to Texas but we are glad to be here and call this place our home! Thank you for all of your thoughts and prayers for our family this week!

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A Sad Day

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This morning started like any other Monday. There were waffles and eggs for breakfast, laughter and giggles as backpacks were packed and wrestling as Muppets got dressed. The youngest Muppet needed to use the toilet while the other two were brushing their teeth so he went into the guest bathroom down the hall. I was downstairs packing my bag when I heard him yell down that he needed toilet paper and I yelled up to his brothers to give him a hand. The next thing he yelled down changed our regular Monday morning routine. “Mama? Kung Fu Panda isn’t moving!” (For those of you who don’t know Kung Fu Panda is our pet turtle who lives in the guest bathtub) I rolled my eyes and made my way upstairs yelling to the youngest Muppet that he was probably just sleeping and to leave him alone. When I entered the bathroom and looked at him I knew at once that he was NOT sleeping. “Is he dead?” asked the youngest Muppet. I gave him a little poke and he stayed in his starfish position and replied “Yup… I think that he is dead!” At this point the other two Muppet’s had joined us in the bathroom, the shock of the dead turtle in the bathtub quickly turned to tears and then questions about what we were going to do with him.

 

I looked at my watch it was 10 minutes past the time we were suppose to leave, with traffic as bad as it was I was not going to make it to work on time. I made the decision that we would wait for the evening when Daddy was home to figure out what to do with Kung Fu and started to move children from the bathroom downstairs so that we could head to school. The middle Muppet struggled down the stairs and I pulled him aside for a little cuddle. Tears stained his face and he could not seem to find the words to say what he wanted to say. I reminded him that Kung Fu was now in a better place with the 3 small turtles from the souk that didn’t make it, our dog Jack and both sets of grandparents dogs. I assured him that he had all the shrimp he wanted to eat and was probably very happy. The middle muppet nodded and we made our way out the door. The drive to school was unusually quiet and when we got to school the boys went straight to their classes to start their day.

 

When after school activities were done we made our way to the mall, the oldest Muppet had hockey in a few hours and it was easier to have dinner and complete homework there then it was to drive all the way home and fight traffic coming back. As we drove to the mall the questions started coming… “What if Kung Fu Panda is not really dead and he is just paralyzed? Do you think Kung Fu made it to heaven already or does it take a while to get there? What if he turns into a zombie turtle, will he come and eat our brains? Can we keep his skeleton on display? What if Lucy pees on the grave?” After twenty minutes of non stop questioning my head was about to explode. I told the Muppet’s that when we got home we would bury the turtle in the garden and say some nice things about him. I also reassured them that I did not expect any zombie attacking turtles in the near future and that if the dog peed on the grave it would be alright.

 

The rest of the evening went well, and when hockey was finished and we made our way home, it had been a long day already and we still had a turtle funeral to plan. My husband was home before us and we told him the plan to bury our friend in the garden. With shovel in hand he dug a small hole, the Muppet’s sat with me on the front step and the youngest started crying. He didn’t want to see his turtle buried, I cuddled him on my lap and asked him if he wanted to pick some flowers from our plants to put on his grave. The youngest shook his head “No” and the other two Muppet’s helped me gather flowers. When Kung Fu was in the ground we walked together into the back yard, we watched as my husband piled the final dump of dirt on the grave. I placed a brick down to serve as the headstone and as tears were starting to flow I began saying my favorite thing about our pet turtle. I placed the flowers on his grave and asked the Muppet’s if they wanted to say anything. To my surprise the youngest stepped forward first, “You were the best pet turtle ever” he choked out between tears “And I will miss you.” I pulled him in close along with the middle Muppet who was to teary to speak. The oldest was next to say his piece and place his flower on the grave and then my husband said the final words. Together we walked into the house laughing about all of the crazy places he used hide and scare us, how fast he could move around the house when he wanted to and the time he bit the middle Muppet.

 

We tucked the Muppet’s in to bed giving extra hugs and kisses a wiping away stray tears, everyone was exhausted and I hoped they would fall asleep quickly. About ten minutes later my husband and I heard the door open from the kids room, we both knew it would be the middle Muppet. He came downstairs and crawled into his dad’s lap. “I can’t think of anything good or happy to help me sleep” he said sadly. His dad started to tell him to think about all the fun times we had with Kung Fu Panda but I knew that this was only going to make him sadder. “Have you tried thinking about unicorns who fart rainbows?” I asked smiling. A little giggle escaped his mouth, “No” he said “And I don’t think that will help” he pouted. I gave him a few more funny idea’s as we walked back up the stairs and as I tucked him in he said “I will think about unicorns who fart rainbows bouncing on a bouncy castle with Kung Fu.” I smiled at him and told him that I was sure Kung Fu would love to play on a bouncy castle with a unicorn and kissed him goodnight.

 

Today we lost a good turtle, it was a pet that I never thought we would ever have and probably won’t ever have again. He brought a lot of joy and laughter to our lives for the past 5 years and he will be greatly missed. Godspeed Kung Fu Panda.

The Hockey Tournament

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Hockey has become a normal part of life in the Wilson household. We are at practices or games four times a week and I have become incredibly fast at putting equipment on Muppets and tying skates. This past weekend the middle Muppets team hosted a tournament for children under 9. Teams from Saudi, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai came to Doha to compete. This is the second tournament that we have been apart of since joining hockey our first one was with the oldest Muppet in Dubai and since our teams got completely slaughtered in the last one I didn’t really have high expectations for the middle guys team.

We arrived at the rink and we were given our “special passes” to enter the dressing room area. The middle guy was pretty pumped that he was the only one out of his brothers that had one of these passes. The other two Muppets had to sit in the stands while the players got dressed. The teams first game went well and even though we lost 4-0 the kids played hard and had fun. Their next game was in a few hours and I took the kids home for a rest and a snack. I think all of us parents pumped their kids full of sugar because the second game they were on fire and won the game. It was so great to see the middle Muppet smiling from ear to ear as he skated off the ice with his team.

The next morning we had a game bright and early, the game was awesome and at one point our team was winning 5-0. The team they were playing managed to come back and tie the game and in the end we didn’t know if we would be playing for Gold or Bronze. We waiting patiently while the other teams played and by noon we found out the middle Muppets team would be playing in the gold medal game! The locker room was vibrating with excitement before the final game. The middle Muppet smiled at me as I tied up his skates “You know what Mum?” he whispered “Even if we loose this game we still get second place, and we get a medal… all of us get one!” his little eyes sparkled with excitement and he grabbed his stick and made his way on to the ice with his team.

The last game was a nail biter, we scored the first goal and shortly after they scored. For the longest time it was a tied game with so many shots on both teams goals I was feeling the stress for both goalies. Near the end of the game the other team scored 3 goals and we lost 4-1 but man did those kids play hard. The whole rink cheered as medals were handed out to both teams and team pictures were taken. There were no disappointed faces on any of the players, they wore their medals with pride and all chatted happily about the game as they got undressed. When cheers for the coaches were given and goodbyes were said we found the other two Muppets and went for celebratory ice cream.

The four of us sat in the food court a family whos son played on the other team came and sat at the table beside us. The little boy and the middle Muppet acknowledged each other with a slight nod. The middle Muppet smiled at him “Good game” he said “I think the best part is the ice cream afterwards” The other boy laughed and agreed “You guys were really good” he said as he shook the middle guys hand. We sat and chatted with the family for a few more minutes and wished them safe travels. As we made our way to the car the middle guy gave me a big hug and said “Thanks for giving up your weekend to bring me to the hockey tournament, I know that it is a lot of work for you and I am so happy that I got to play” I squeezed him back my heart swelling with pride, it had been a crazy busy weekend and we had to start the week with not much of a break but it was worth it to see him enjoy himself and appreciate being there.

This will not be the last hockey tournament for the middle guy but I am so glad that his first experience was such a good one, even if the best part was the ice cream!

Three Muppets Skiing 

  
Three new snow suits were purchased, new gloves and ski goggles sat on the kitchen table and three excited muppets waited for our first day of skiing in Bulgaria. 

We have skied two previous years out here and unfortunately our first day skiing has always been the worst. Every year there has been frustrated muppets and husbands, tears and in one case almost divorce. I gently reminded the muppets and myself that we were going to have to practice the first day and remember the skiing skills that we acquired last year. I explained to them that they may not be on the big hill right away and that they would have to listen to their instructor. The three of them remembered their frustration at the beginning of last year and agreed that it was going to take a few days to get back to where they were at the end of last year. 

I decided that this year I would take a lesson with a friend as well. This would keep my husband and I apart for my initial remembering how to ski morning and I was also hoping he could give me a few pointers. Once we got the children in to their lesson my friend and I found our instructor and he asked us to do a run down the small hill to see where we were at skiing wise. The two of us made our way slowly and deliberately down the small but steep slope. At the bottom we met our instructor, he asked both of us how we felt with that run. We both shrugged our shoulders and said we thought it was ok. He smiled and shook his head and then said in his thick Bulgarian accent “You are both not so good skiers, you are doing so many things wrong”. We both laughed and followed him to the nursery slope, he explained that with our skills at that moment taking us to the top of the hill we would only be worried about one thing… getting to the bottom of the hill alive! I told them that was exactly how I felt about skiing at all times!!! During our two hour lesson he showed us a bunch of thing we were doing wrong and how to ski the proper way and at the end we both felt a little bit more confidant in our skiing. 

The afternoon and the following days consisted of the muppets getting more and more confident in their abilities. Everyday they were a little faster, and able to go down a different run. By the time our friends from the UK arrived they were happy to ski from the top of the hill. My abilities on the other hand had not gotten quiet as strong as my children’s. My fear of totally hurting myself held me back and I was always last down to the bottom of the run (like super duper last). I am very thankful they have a father who loves to ski as much as they do and I started to ski on my own and enjoy hot chocolate and my book a little more than the slopes. 

On our last day of skiing the muppets reluctantly put on their snow suits and climbed in to the ski van. All five of us were exhausted and if we hadn’t pre-purchased lift passes I think we would have decided to stay in bed for the morning. When we got up to the hill the muppets did their regular warm up before the instructor came. Once they were going they were happy to be out on the hill. The muppets had their two hour lesson, mummy had her two runs and two hot chocolates and Daddy was able to ski for two hours with friends, the morning was a success and when we stopped for lunch the vote was to do more skiing in the afternoon. As we loaded everyone on the ski lift the muppets talked about going up to the “big hill” they were eager to do a big run with their dad. I on the other hand had some reservations about that run. The previous day it was busy and icy and at the end my legs felt like they were going to fall off. My husband suggested that I follow him and the kids in the big snake line. “Ya mummy, you can just follow us down in the big snake, don’t worry we will take care of you. The middle muppet encouraged me. So I agreed to take the big run with them. 

Right from the start I was behind but just kept going at my own pace. As I passed the middle muppet he said “You are doing great mum just keep going”. I approached the last hill in the run and watch the oldest and middle guy make their way down. The youngest was standing beside me and his father told him to follow me down since he was going to go anther way. Then he changed his wording and told the youngest he should lead me down the hill. The youngest smiled at me and said “Come on Mummy, I will take you down with me.” I followed him slowly down the hill, “Come on this side Mummy, it is easier” he shouted. I followed his lead and we skied together to the bottom of the run. “Good job mummy, you are doing very well” he said with a smile. We met their dad at the chair lift and I decided that I was finished for the day and the four boys went off together and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon skiing. 

Our last day of skiing was as good as our first this year, there were no tantrums, no tears and no divorce papers. The muppets have grown as skiers and are officially incredibly better skiers than their mother and probably will be from this point on. I think that in the future, ski time will be spa time for this princess but we will see. With the encouragement from the three muppets I may give skiing another chance next year! 

Turkey Day

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The youngest Muppet woke me up yesterday morning whispering four words.  “Happy turkey day Mama” he kissed me on the cheek and left the room. I got up and went down stairs to find the three Muppets on the couch. The three of them each greeted me me with a good morning and happy thanksgiving. Since moving to Doha we have adopted American Thanksgiving as our own. Canadian Thankgiving is in October and it is always a busy month for my husband at work and with the kids at the American School it was easier for us to celebrate in November. Plus we have some amazing friends who put on a great feast every year.

The youngest Muppet had been looking forward to turkey for the past few days. We had talked about Thanksgiving and the three Muppets had been learning about it  in their classes at school as well. Yesterday morning my door bell rang bright and early. It was our neighbor form across the street with a pumpkin pie in  each hand. Their oven had stopped working and they had two pies, two big turkeys and a bunch of other Thanksgiving food to cook. After a little reorganizing we we were able to find ovens around the neighborhood to cook all of the food and by 5 o’clock the fest was ready.

The youngest Muppet inhaled his first plate of turkey in record time, he came and asked for seconds before I had even filled my first plate. With full bellies we all sat around the table and enjoyed each others company as the kids played around us. Just before dessert our host gathered the kids together and we all said what we were thankful for this thanksgiving. Most of the answers were similar and what your would expect… family, food and friends but there was one more common thing we were all thankful for.

We were all thankful for the adopted family we had found in Doha. All of us live so far away from our family and it can make holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas hard.  These people have become our emergency contacts, our sisters and brothers, our children’s aunts and uncles and the people we can count on to be there in good times and bad. We are so lucky that we have found such an amazing group of friends here in Doha and I am truly thankful.