Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Can you smell it?

Sugar and lots of chocolate. It's candy season!!!!! It's the time of year I spend lots of time going up and down the seasonal candy aisles at every single store feeding my love for candy. This is my alternative to the winter season. From now until the end of March I will be in candy heaven.

What are your favorites?

He dances!!!

And its cute!

He has started dancing alot at home but we were at a wedding this last weekend and he went crazy. I couldn't get enough of watching his moves. They vary from moving his body up and down, lots of feet movement, or feet moving a little with one arm in the air.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Macen loves this new game.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Donkey Carts

A quick post today. One of the interesting things in Iraq is that there are simple things that smack you in the face and remind you that this is a third world country. One of those things is number of donkey carts that you see on the side of the road and in the areas of the city. The local population uses these donkey carts in much the same manner as we use our SUVs, trucks or station wagons, to transport goods around the city, such as propane tanks, concrete blocks, and produce. The people who use the carts are the poorer people who do not have a truck or car to haul the goods, but as you will see in the pictures there are different levels of poor.

As I said you see a lot of donkey carts as you are driving around the city. The first picture demonstrates just how hard it is to take a picture of a donkey cart that is moving at about 5 mph while you are in a truck moving at about 50 mph. After a couple of months trying to get a centered picture with me and the donkey carts both on the move, I had to break down and take a picture of a stationary cart.
The people who use the donkey carts are probably the poorest. Donkey’s are cheap compared to horses. As you look at a typical donkey cart it is easy to see that the cart itself probably hasn’t changed in design in a couple of hundred years. It looks like the newest update is the rubber tires and the steel wheels. Speaking of the wheels I have seen carts with chrome wheels, spoked wheels, and just plain wheels, much like the wheels on a car the wheels on a cart a chance for the owner to express himself. Today I also saw a donkey pulling a cart with a donkey attached to the back of a cart. Would you call that a spare tire???

Most horse carts look like this one, a longer cart thereby needing four wheels instead of two. Of course a longer cart means you can cary more goods, and if you are carrying more goods then you are more prosperous than a regular donkey cart driver. Also as mentioned previously horses cost more than donkey’s.

The final level of the donkey cart is actually the motor cart. As you can see donkey/horse part has been replaced with the front end of a motorcycle and the cart is powered. As you can tell there are three levels of donkey carts entry level (donkey), mid level (horse) and luxury (motor cart).

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Pants Update

Macen made it out the door yesterday in pants. There were fits for them to come off and then alot of tugging and whining in the truck on the way to our destination but he survived. I had also put the blue hoodie on him but there was no way he could handle that and the pants. As soon as he got outside, the hoodie came off.

Monday, September 1, 2008

16 months

We had a very, very busy and fun month. We had lots of visitors (see below) one of which was a good friend back from Germany. Macen loved hangin' with Brian. James said he needed a good male influence for the day. Macen had so much fun, he cried when Brian left. And Shannon, Macen can't wait to meet you and Nik.
August was a horrible teething month. He had atleast 4 coming in at once with 1-2 molars only half through. So the normal temper tantrums were magnified with teething. I'd say he has atleast 14 or 15 teeth now. He has also picked up more signing. He can now do book, ball and baby. And given the recent bad behavior, I have gotten a few more signing books for feelings and 'I want..." We are waiting for them to arrive in the mail so hopefully that will help him express himself a little better. Macen has become obsessed with bugs lately. He has chased a butterfly and a grasshopper around the yard. And he likes picking up or stomping on other bugs he finds.
We have also started going to playgroup. Macen transitioned himself to 1 nap a day (with an occassional relapse of 2 naps) so we thought we'd give playgroup another shot. He enjoys watching the other kids and playing with new toys.
Macen learned how to kick a ball. He is pretty good at it and enjoys when I play keep away from him. He has started to "talk" alot more. He has been repeating quite a few words when he hears me say them. Enjoy the picture overload!

Track star

Macen may very well become a track star someday. He has already started practicing. He started doing this when Stacey and Carson where here. So if he does become one, I've promised Stacey his first autograph since she spotted it.

When we got for walks he gets in postion, jumps up and then takes off running. Now I say Ready, Set, Go and he will run at go. He loves it! He will get back into position about every 4 ft. We take pretty long walks so you can imagine how long it takes us now.

Playing with Carson

We also had a visit from Carson and Stacey. We had some good weather so the boys took walks, played in the water and went to the local zoo (if you can call it that). Carson and Macen played together really well - they would chase each other from room to room screaming and copying what the other did. I got lots of good pics so here are a few. The boys thought they could do flips on the sidewalk if you are wondering why they are heads down.

Playing with Annabelle

Macen got to play with Annabelle when she came to visit with Katie, Grandma and Jennifer. And boy did he play with her. He sat on her back and then bounced on her. Later, he realized he could pick up her feet. So he picked them both up at the same time and it looked like he was using her as a wheel barrel. She took all of it like a trooper though and didn't seem to mind any of it. They were pretty cute together. Macen even learned a few new things from Annabelle.

Cultural Lesson for Today

Some of you had wanted to know about some of the Islamic culture. Well one of the biggest things in Islamic culture is the holy month of Ramadan which begins today 1 September and lasts until 30 of September. I have had a considerable amount of cultural training but I can’t take credit for what follows since I pulled it from various sources across the web.

Ramadan occurs in a different 28 day period every year because the Islamic calendar is based off the lunar calendar. Because of this it even starts at different times in different parts of the world. This year in the Middle East it starts on 1 September, but in North America because lunar sight ability it will start on 2 September. It should also be noted that in the Muslim calander, a holiday begins on the sunset of the previous day, so observing Muslims will start celebrating Ramadan on the evening of 31 August.

Ramadan is believed to be when the Holy Quran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed. Since this is the month that the Quran was revealed then Muslims are encouraged to entirely read the Holy Quran during the month to reacquaint them with its teachings.

Islam itself has 5 pillars of faith which are:


Prayer (Salah)

Alms giving (Zakah)

Fasting (Sawm)

Pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj)

Ramadan is a time when Muslims concentrate on their faith and spend less time on the concerns of their everyday lives. It is a time of worship and contemplation. Therefore they spend a lot of time concentrating on the first 4 pillars (The Hajj occurs during its time period). The most prominent pillar during the month though is Sawm the fasting.

During the Fast of Ramadan strict restraints are placed on the daily lives of Muslims. They are not allowed to eat or drink during the daylight hours. Smoking and sexual relations are also forbidden during fasting. At the end of the day the fast is broken with prayer and a meal called the iftar. In the evening following the iftar it is customary for Muslims to go out visiting family and friends. The fast is resumed the next morning.

In order to be respectful or our counterparts the team will not consume anything or smoke in front of our Iraqi Army counterparts during the day. I have been told by my predecessor and other advisors not to plan on doing too much with the Iraqi Army since they will spend most of the day in prayer. I wonder if they will go out and do Operations in the evenings though after the iftar.

The end of Ramadan is marked by a holiday called Eid ul-Fitr or Eid for short.Eid ul-Fitr literally means "the feast of the breaking/to break the fast."The holiday marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting and is a culmination of the month-long struggle towards a higher spiritual state and is actually a three day festival. After breaking the fast, offering prayers and alms, families begin their celebrations with food and family and friends gathering. In most parts of the Islamic world, Muslims give each other small gifts and wear new clothes, children receive money from their parents, relatives and older friends, special feasts are held, and desserts adorn the table for days while families and friends reunite.

Well there is your cultural lesson. Now it’s time for public announcement in this politically correct world we live in. Nothing here was meant to be an insult to the Muslim culture or to a Muslim, if I have misstated something please correct me but do so with good taste and without hate. Thanks