Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Month Six

I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Only Time I've Ever Been Grateful for a Diaper Explosion

I was terrified to fly back to Texas from Utah. I was alone with my little baby, and even though she had been on a plane four times before and had slept soundly through each flight, I was paranoid that this would be the flight she'd decide to scream inconsolably and flail around, smacking the other people in my row with her uncontrolled limbs, earning me glares from the flight attendants on behalf of all the annoyed passengers. Maybe it was the stress of being away from Roo, but the thought of this plane flight literally kept me up at night in the many weeks before. I made it a high priority in my daily prayers. It was like, "I'm thankful for Jesus. Please bless that Esmé will sleep through our flight home. I'm thankful for food."

So the day came. We said tearful goodbyes to mom. Hefted all our junk through security. We paced through the terminal. We walked down the jetway. We sat down. The baby seemed pretty cool with everything up until that point. She just jabbered away and tore up our copy of Skymall Magazine. And as we were taking off, I fed her a bottle and she drifted away peacefully in my arms. I was so relieved! I settled in and thought about awesome it is when God does what you ask him to.

And then half an hour later, she woke up. We still had two and a half hours left! Despite how strongly I willed her with my mind to go back to sleep, she started arching her back, squealing, and reaching for everything within her tiny arm's length. She wanted to move around, but I was stuck in my seat. I could foresee a meltdown on the horizon. Within the next two hours, I would learn to be grateful for three things which, previously, I had never, ever been grateful for:

1. About fifteen minutes after waking up, Esmé had a blowout. I heard (and felt) (and smelt) the ominous rumble in her pants. And then slowly the foulness began to seep through her shirt, through her pants. Now normally this would be really crappy (literally..ha, ha), however the mess necessitated a trip to the lavatory. I spent the next 15 minutes struggling like a contortionist in the tiny bathroom to take off her clothes, clean her up, (I won't go into detail. Suffice it to say, it required a lot of effort. A fire hose would've been helpful.) try to wash out the clothes, etc. Why was I grateful for this episode? Because it took up time. Time I would've otherwise spent wrestling the baby in my seat. So I was grateful that the poop gave us both something to occupy ourselves for a while.

2. I had a talker sitting in the row ahead of me. You know how there is, without fail, a non-stop talker on every single flight? Not only does that person talk non-stop, but they speak at a decibel level just above "jet engine" on the decibel scale. Normally I loathe the talker, but during this particular flight our talker provided valuable background noise. Meaning, because she was talking so loudly and at such a constant rate to the guy across the aisle from her, she actually drowned out the noise little Esmé was making. Not only that, but because I am an unabashed eavesdropper, this woman gave me a good two-hour's worth of juicy, true-life drama. She covered every subject from the South American drug trade to suicide, prescription drug abuse, Mormons, child-rearing, and the weather--all of which she had abundant personal experience with.

3. The woman sitting next to me was very friendly. Though that's not something I particularly dislike, I have to admit that I usually prefer to let a polite smile be all that passes between myself and the stranger in the seat next to me on flights. I don't want to talk. I'm a curmudgeon that way, I guess. But on this day, I was saved by my friendly companion. The funny thing was that this woman couldn't even speak English. She knew enough to tell me that she was from Vietnam and that she lived in Houston. But what she couldn't say with her words, she told me with her actions--she was the sweetest lady ever! First of all, she offered me one of her mints. Then, she was so interested in Esmé--but not in a pushy or creepy way. When the baby got restless and difficult to handle, this woman would smile at her and try to play with her and distract her. While I bet most of the people on that flight would've hated sitting next to us, this woman was so patient and kind. She helped me buckle my seatbelt, pick up things I dropped, she even offered to take Esmé for a bit to give me a break. Esmé was very interested in the lady and smiled and laughed with her. I've learned that airline travel is where you can see the worst and best of humanity. That day I was so grateful for this sweet, friendly stranger.

Needless to say, you can learn a lot from difficult circumstances.

I couldn't stop smiling once the plane landed. We got off. Then we met Roo in the airport. That was a great reunion.

Here's Roo seeing Esmé for the first time in seven weeks:

Friday, December 10, 2010

Come on In!

Well, we've settled comfortably back into life in Texas with the greatest of ease.
So I'd like to take you on a little tour of our equally little home.
Here is the family room:
(For a little extra fun, see if you can spot the tiny baby throughout the house--she's like our own little Waldo, minus the striped cap and the cane.)
The dining room:
(Did you find the baby? This one's tricky!)
The kitchen/laundry room:
Waldo--I mean, Esmé's--room:
We got the crib, mattress, and bumper for a screamin' deal of $75!
Roo's bathroom:

Our bedroom:
Annie's bathroom:

This completes our tour. Next time, feel free to stop by and try looking for Esmé in real life. Then you can babysit.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

13 (by: Roo)

A conversation and more between Roo & Annie.....


Roo: Good morning Annie.
Annie: Good morning Roo.
Roo: Want to hear about my dream last night?
Annie: Sure
Roo: I gave Esme the Holy Ghost (at age 5 months).


Roo: Annie, do you want to hear what I was doing with my life at age 13?
Annie: Umm, is it depressing?
Roo: I didn't have any friends. I spent most of my time on the
computer. I downloaded the Anarchist's cookbook and studied how to
build time delay fuses. I built Star Wars models, and I watched Star
Wars hourly, with an occasional viewing of the movie Hackers.

Annie: (Laughing or crying, not sure).
Roo: (Defensively, and to restore some dignity) But I could beat
anyone at any sport if they dared to challenge me.

Annie: Wow!
Roo: Well, let's hear about your awesome life at age 13 then!

Annie: I didn't have any friends. All I did (and all I wanted to do)
was stay in my bedroom, do jigsaw puzzles, and listen to Celine Deon
on my walkman.

Roo: (Laughing empathetically) We truly were meant for each other. To
celebrate our lives at 13, let's watch Hackers?!

Annie: Umm, is it... (interrupted)
Roo: Full of e-mischief and totally awesome? Heck yeah it is!

8PM: Start watching hackers
9PM: Stop watching hackers, feel dirty and sick

Roo: Let's go to bed
Annie: Good idea

Annie: Roo! What's wrong?!
Roo: (Sweaty, scared and freaked out) Ohh! My dream! I was dreaming
about you....and then you turned into my brother JJ.....and then you
started bashing my head in!

Annie: (Puts her arm around Roo and tries to comfort whilst trying to
forget anything that happened in the previous 24 hours.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What We've Been Up To

Missing daddy:
Taking baths:
Trying new hairstyles:
Being cute, generally:
Going to church:
Playing with grandpa:
And in one more week, we'll go home to Texas and see daddy again! But we've sure had a good time here in Utah and we're definitely going to miss our wonderful family! (Mommy would've gone insane without them.)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Roo's Accomplishments

As the great poet Ozzy Osbourne once penned: I was looking back on my life, and all the things I've done...I started to do the same. This is what I've come up with so far.

0. Climbed to the highest place in contiguous US: Mt. Whitney, CA.

1. Set foot in the deepest lake in England: Wastwater, the Lake District.

2. Passed through the lowest, hottest, and driest place in North America: Death Valley, CA.

Some other more life changing accomplishments that have shaped my character...

3. Enjoyed rides and entertainment in the largest indoor theme park in the world: Ferrari World, Abu Dhabi.

4. Shopped the largest mall in the world: Dubai Mall.

5. Watched friends ski down the largest indoor ski slope in the world: Mall of the Emirates, Dubai. (Sorry, I'm just not a skier).

6. Ascended the tallest building in the world: Burj Khalifa, Dubai.

And from the top of the tower at night:

7. Rode the fastest roller coaster in the world: Formula Rossa, Ferrari World.

8. Saw Twilight 7 the theater. (While this may not be a general record, I challenge any other 28 year old male to admit their dominance in this category).

Some final/general records to help restore my dignity...

9. Married the most beautiful girl in the world:

10. Spawned the most beautiful baby girl in the world:

By the way, if thermodynamics can start a list with zero, so can I!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Some Introspection Appropriate for November

It was Friday and I was standing in the produce section of the grocery store watching my mother carefully selecting apples. I sighed and stepped one foot onto the crossbar at the base of the cart, pushing the cart like a scooter with my other foot, leaning forward lethargically much like (I realized then) I did when I was 11. So I put both feet back on the ground and continued to await the end of the apple selecting process. That was when it occurred to me that this was literally the most exciting thing I'd done all week--grocery shopping (or I guess I should say, pushing the cart for someone else who was grocery shopping) on a Friday afternoon. And then I started to miss Roo. To keep from plunging into a black hole of despair as such a realization might normally cause me to do, I decided to think about the good things in my life, the things I'm grateful for.

Of course I thought of my family, home, health, country, food, and faith. But since that only got me to the deli meats, I had to delve a little deeper:

1. I'm grateful that after some years of neglect, my retainer still fits. I would've felt really bad if, after paying so much money for my braces, my parents came to visit next year and were greeted at the door by a snaggletooth.

2. Our dogs have gone to live in Idaho with Roo's parents in order to relieve some of my stress. I really miss the dogs, but I am grateful that after a couple weeks of living on the hillside in Idaho, they have yet to be snatched up by eagles.

3. I'm grateful my baby sleeps through the night. I get up to feed her around 4 am, and afterwards I'm too tired to put her back in her crib, so I lay her down in her daddy's spot next to me. Sometimes she lets us sleep all the way until 9 am or later, like a couple of twelve year olds on a Saturday morning.

4. I'm grateful that rash on my face cleared up. And so is everyone who saw me.

5. I'm grateful that ultra-flared jeans are a thing of the past. (Heaven willing)

6. I took the baby to get her shots last Tuesday. I know that for a lot of people, hearing their baby scream after the shots makes them writhe in agony for the child. I agree that it's sad; however, I am grateful that shots make Esmé cry, because if after getting pricked with the needle she started to chuckle, I'd be totally creeped out.

7. I'm grateful that when my day consists of feeding, cleaning up baby body excretions, and pushing the grocery cart for mom, I can think, "Well, at least I've been to Paris."

8. I'm grateful I don't work for someone who says things like, "Think outside the box!" I'm so tired of that phrase. Additionally, I'm grateful I don't work in a mine. Imagine working in a coal mine with a foreman who was always telling you to "Think outside the box!" It turns my stomach!

9. I'm grateful I've never had to eat horse meat.

I could list a thousand more random gratitudes, which is something to be grateful for in and of itself...but you'd probably be grateful if I didn't, so I'll just list one more:

10. I was really grateful that mom would drive all the way home from work to pick me up and take me grocery shopping with her, not only did it save me from another episode of Keeping up with the Kardashians, but it made me think she wants me to be happy and I really appreciate that.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Friday, October 29, 2010

A big difference between 12pm and 2pm!

Today I went on a little excursion that started with a taxi drive from the mall to the Grand Mosque. My driver being from Nepal, had no reservations in taking me there, nor alternative site seeing suggestions for a sunny Friday morning in this primarily Muslim region. When I say "primarily" I really mean that I am not a Muslim, and everyone else here is. The Grand Mosque is the 8th largest one in the world and is the largest in UAE. So naturally, any Muslim in the area that can go to the Mosque during Friday morning prayer....does. Me and about 5,000 Muslims decided to visit the Mosque today. When I got there I was amazed at how big it was and how many Muslims kept pouring into the complex. I started to walk into the main courtyard (you know, like you walk like you know what you're doing and so people think you really do) and I was immediately spotted as a "high potential to be a non Muslim." I guess my fair skin and huge camera around my neck didn't help my charade. I "thought" I was told that prayer time is only for Muslims until 12, and that I had to wait outside the courtyard. Well, it was only 11:50AM so I had no problems walking around for a few minutes. Meanwhile hundreds and hundreds of men continued to pour in. Finally, at a few minutes past noon, I decided to put my camera in the bag and try to blend in. I found myself in the giant sandal covered courtyard. At one end of the courtyard was the main prayer hall that seemed to be everyone's destination, so before they entered, they ALL took off their sandals. There were thousands of sandals. I decided to risk a jaunt, crossing the courtyard in front of the main doors to see if I could get a peek inside....I couldn't. After passing the door I headed back up the other side of the courtyard, which was kind of intimidating. I was the only white non-Muslim camera carrying American walking upstream against hundreds of Arab Muslims. It was actually really amazing to see it. It was very much like Temple Square during conference. I decided to just stand by one of the pillars on the perimeter for a while just to watch everyone come in (and stare at me as they passed). I risked a few more pictures until my curiosity got to be too strong. I built up the courage to ask one of the guys directing the foot traffic if I had to be Muslim to enter into the prayer hall. He chuckled a little and said yes. Slightly disappointed, I returned to my pillar. 10 minutes and 2,000 passers by later, a security guard came running toward me from a distance....I stood my ground. "Excuse me, are you Muslim?" he asked. I thought for a split second to make sure and replied, "Umm, no." He promptly told me that this was Muslim prayer time and that I had to leave, while kind of pulling me out of the courtyard. Apparently I didn't understand my first conversation at the Grand Mosque, prayer time goes until 2PM....not 12PM! I didn't get to see inside the Mosque, but I got to see what I felt would leave a lasting impression. My friend from Nepal was waiting for me back at the parking lot, and we headed back to a place I felt much much more in my element: the mall.

Friday, October 22, 2010

French Fries and Ghutras

When people travel the world they tend to explore cultures and places to satisfy curiosity, and to expand their knowledge and understanding of others. When I travel the world, I look for Burger King and a movie theater!

My first week at the Schlumberger Middle East Learning Center (MLC) has been organized chaos. The best way I can describe where I'm staying and what I'm doing is to say that it's just like the MTC. I am in a 6 week course with 15 other people (from Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Poland, Mexico, Ireland, India, and more). I am one of two Americans and we both happen to be Mormon! We all wake up, eat breakfast in the cafeteria, go to class from 8 to noon, eat lunch in the cafeteria, go to class from 1 to 5, then go to dinner in the cafeteria.....together. The primary purpose of the class is to teach us a specific data processing computer program. I get to stay in a single room which is quite nice, although I have yet to figure out what this is for....

Typical meal...

Tuesday was a day off so we were all able to leave the MLC compound. Yes, it literally is a compound with guards at the entrance and a 15 foot wall going around the MASSIVE complex. The shuttle took us to the upscale Marina Mall, from there people went to tour the Grand Mosque, the Emirati Palace, and the beach......I toured the mall. It had tons of great stores, but even more interesting people. Everywhere you look there are immigrant workers (primarily Indian and Filipino I believe) ready to clean, guard, fix, wash, hold the door, check you out, or anything else. I never saw one native Emerati worker. However, there were plenty of Emerati's shopping for Louis Vuitton bags, Gucci Sunglasses, and Rolex watches. Men and woman Arabs were never seen together unless they were husband and wife. The accessorized women would be seen walking the mall and the men would all be hanging out at the water fountain. Of course, all of this people watching made me very hungry, so I decided to scout out the food court. To my delight, Burger King was the main attraction. Yes it had the longest lines, and the most noble of customers (some of which could probably buy up the entire fast-food chain). Burger King is like the LDS church, it's the same no matter where you are in the world. You can never go wrong with a few french fries, especially after having lamb 3 meals a day for a week! I topped the day off with a good movie at the mall with a bunch of guys in Thobes and that's what I call traveling the world.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


The world felt extra huge today.

One week down, five to go.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Hamburger Walks into a Bar...

...and the bartender says, "Sorry, we don't serve food here."

Here's what happened when Esmé heard this joke:

She loves hamburger jokes!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pure Gold

The first thing you need to know about us is that we're broke.
These things aren't cheap:

The second thing you need to know is that I have only one piece of real gold in my jewelry collection:

The chain is not gold, but the little bar is. Gleaned from the earth by Roo himself sometime in the late eighties or early nineties. They used to let kids pan for gold at Knott's Berry Farm. So while the other children rode roller coasters and ate cotton candy, Roo was busy increasing his net worth by panning for gold. He scrupulously collected and saved every fleck of gold he could find and, along with some of his mother's old rings, had it all melted down and made into this little gold bar, which he gave to me.

Keeping these two facts in mind, it wouldn't be unreasonable to find us on a Monday evening in a tiny store whose sign promises "We buy gold!"

Undignified? Maybe. Unreasonable? Unfortunately not.

We were both curious to find out how much the gold was worth. I know selling a sentimental gift for cash is pretty desperate, but until sentimentality can pay my hospital bills it's gonna have to hit the road to make way for cold, hard cash. So with this in mind, we strolled into our local grocery store which housed a tiny, gold buying office, fully confident that we were going to come out of there with at least, like, thirty bucks.

As we walked into the store, another customer was already sitting at the counter conversing with the gold man. They both looked up to see us and the customer--an elderly Asian woman--moved over to let us do our business with the gold man. This place was about as big as a generously portioned elevator, so Roo and I and the baby in her carrier spanned nearly the entire store. We hand the gold guy, let's call him the Prospector, the necklace, then we realize the lady customer is still there. Standing right next to us. Close enough that the sight of her crooked, drawn-on eyebrows and exaggerated magenta lip line elicited an involuntary "Gah!". She stood surveying our transaction. Then caught sight of Esmé.

Lady [excited as if she'd only heard of babies but has never actually seen one]: Ahhhh! You have baby?

Roo: Yes

Lady: Oh so cuuuuuute!

Prospector [hands back the necklace]: Its not gold.

Lady [taking both of Esmé's feet in her hands and proceeding to bounce them up and down]: Is boy?

Annie to Prospector: We know the chain isn't gold, but the little bar is.

Roo to Lady: No, she's a girl.

Lady [loudly, as if making a general announcement to us all]: He has hair like boy.

The prospector takes the necklace back, performs this test to prove to me that the chain isn't gold and says: yep, that chain sure ain't gold.

Lady: I mean, She has hair like boy. I have boy so...[she nods]

Roo: Uh...

The Prospector explains the procedure for telling what carat of gold the bar is and starts rubbing the bar on this black slate thing, but we're too distracted by our lady friend who is still bouncing both of Esmé's feet and has now started making kissing sounds at her, like you do to get a puppy to come to you.

Lady to Esmé: Hello! [Kiss kiss] Hello! [kiss kiss]Hello! [kiss kiss] Hello! [kiss kiss]

Prospector holds up his testing slate: So you tell me which one it is.

Roo: Huh? I missed what you were explaining.

Lady: Hello! [kiss kiss] Hello! [kiss kiss] Hello! [kiss kiss]

Prospector: It's the ten carat. Yeah, you've got ten carat gold here. Let me go find out how much we can get for it.

He's gone for a few minutes during which time all that happens is: Hello! [kiss kiss] Hello! [kiss kiss] Still bouncing the baby's feet.

Roo tells me with his eyes that he's going to slap this woman in the face and I'm afraid he's serious so we trade places, making me a buffer between him and our lady friend.

Lady: Hello! [kiss kiss]

Prospector: I can give you twenty five bucks for it.

Roo: No thanks. Let's go!

Lady (remember, she had a heavy Asian accent): Is no gol?

Annie: No, she is a girl.

Lady [pointing to the necklace]: No! Is no gol?

Annie: Oh, uh, no--it is gold, we just want to keep it. (Why am I explaining this to you?)

And then our lady friend contributed the most valuable thought of the evening:

[Pointing to Esmé] Well, this is your pure gol! She is pure gol!

Yes, indeed.

Upon leaving, Roo noted that the gold could've been worth $1000 and he still would've refused just so he could get away from the lady, that she made him feel cold inside.

So despite having spent the strangest ten minutes of the week with the painted face lady and the prospector, and while still being poor, we did learn a valuable lesson--what we lack in actual gold we make up for in 'pure gol':