The Beginning of the End

Sounds ominous, no doubt. But, it really just means that we are now officially in our last year of living in Abu Dhabi. We arrived on Thursday night the 23rd of August and if I can be honest, I didn’t want to come back. We got home this summer and a switch just flipped. I wanted to stay in Cleveland, it’s not that I didn’t want to go back to Abu Dhabi (although, I suppose it was) – I just wanted to stay in Cleveland. Why? I guess the biggest reason is that I miss my family and friends and I’m tired of not being there for the good and the bad things that happen to people while we are away AND that people there miss the good and bad things that happen with us. That and 3 out of 4 of our core group of family friends and one of our super, favorite couples left Abu Dhabi over the summer. A lot of Abu Dhabi has been about the people, and it is hard to think of those people not being here. We have had a tremendous experience that I wouldn’t trade for all the tea in China, this place will remain a home a way from home for me. Both of our kids have lived in the UAE longer than they have lived in the USA! But there is just something about being back “home”.

In the end (there certainly was a middle, but you don’t need all those details!) what I decided is that our family of 4 being together is way more important than where in the world we are. The kids were quite excited to be coming back and starting school, especially Amelia, girl couldn’t wait to start second grade! And in those last few days before we flew, I started getting that feeling like “it’s time to go back”, the packing up the house, and getting ready for the trip felt like the right thing to be doing. Back to school season in our family (for the last 4 years) has also been the beginning of another season: TRAVEL. And that for me is a huge motivator for being over here. So, stay tuned, I’m going out with a bang.

I certainly don’t want to gloss over the amazing summer we had in Cleveland. We really enjoyed our time with neighbors, friends, and family. Charlie began his little league career!

We went on a very fun visit to Ellicotville, NY where we did a ropes/zip line course and saw an amazing sculptural park.

We visited with almost all of both families (check back for more pictures, I need to have some emailed to me!)

AND on July 23rd, my deezil lost his first tooth!

So, it was action packed!

Which brings us back to today, and the title of this blog. Jet lag hasn’t been too terrible since we’ve been back and now that we are back in the swing of things, it should wrap up pretty quick.

By back in the swing of things, I of course mean school!

I have a first and second grader and I have no idea how! But, they are cute, oh boy are they cute.

And HUGE!

And, most importantly, happy to be at school on the first day (we’ll see what tomorrow brings…..)

Amelia has Mrs. Laura Cowcill and her good friend Amina is in her class. Charlie has Mrs. Surinder Morgan and was nervous because “she’s a yeller, very strict” (according to Charlie!)  but went in this morning (wearing a tie, no less) and had a very happy face, gave me a kiss good-bye, and that was that.

So here I sit, at the beginning of the end. I’m glad to be here, I’m keeping an open mind, and looking forward to the year ahead.

ten.

On April 13, 2002 I woke up in my home on Croyden Rd., Maggie had spent the night, the rest of the girls would be coming soon. Time details have escaped me, it was ten years ago after all. Soon Diane, Katie, and Ann showed up. Heidi needed a few extra minutes and a coke because the night before had been a lot of fun. Emily would meet us there because she had just had a baby 11 days before.

Melanie and that guy showed up to get started,  what was his name? We drank prosecco, had bagels and quiches, we laughed and laughed. My Mom arrived, we were  almost ready then. My eyelashes glued into place, I stepped into my dress and off we went on Lolly the Trolley. My Mom screaming at the driver “Sir. SIR. you are going the wrong way, we are going to be LATE”  She was not from there, she had no idea which way he was going. (Don’t worry Mom, I’ve got nothing but love for this memory!)

We get there, I meet my Dad, and off we go. Through the door, the first person I lay eyes on is Charlotte, my roommate from college. You see the aisle was very long, but then, there he was, and the rest is, as they say history. The ceremony was lovely. Long, but I remember watching people as they came up for communion, time was going slow enough for me to take little snap shots of everyone who came to celebrate us.

Bluuuuuurrrrr through the reception. Dancing and laughing and hugging and happiness.

And so, began the next section of my life. With my partner, the ever witty, supportive, practical, driven, patient, Jon. I loved him with my whole heart. I had no idea that he would be a risk taker (calculated, of course), an amazing Dad, and a pleasure to spend all of this time with.

I’m not going to say it has all been roses. 10 years of stress free bliss? Nah. A lot of big things have happened since that day. Pat, Jan & Henry, Jeanne, and Martha were with us. But, then again, Amelia & Charlie were not. We lived in Lyndhurst, OH,  Abu Dhabi was some far off exotic land.  We both had naturally brown hair (grey has affected one of us more than the other).

But, it has been an amazing 10 years. One we celebrated with champagne, tenderloin topped with fois gras, mashed potatoes swirled with truffle oil, creme brulee and lemon meringue, and many memories to make us smile.

Here’s to 10 more. I love him more now than I did when I thought he had my whole heart.

Hopping back into it

Easter this year was weird. We had just returned from a most excellent vacation, and had a few days to relax and do laundry (a lot of laundry). Like all of our years here, Jon had to work on Easter, but this year the kids had school too. We went back and forth about keeping them home for the extra day. We finally agreed that we would wake up when we woke up, hunt for eggs and then head in to school for awhile. Well, Charlie woke us up at 5:47 ready to get hunting. It was all over by 6:30! What were we going to do for the rest of the day? So, everyone agreed that school was the best idea. Plus, it would give me time to make a special dinner for everyone. So, off they all went. The silence was golden.

Amelia decided it would feel most Easter-y if we all got dressed up to match the fancy table setting I had created, so that’s what we did!

Amelia and Charlie’s idea of getting dressed up are obviously different, but I do dig his choice for Easter pants!

We had a very Easter appropriate meal of ham, mashed potatoes, and asparagus. Amelia was let down that it wasn’t tacos like the last few Easters, but everyone really enjoyed the ham.  And, the dessert.

We also realized that Easter marks the 2 months to the day mark of us flying home for the summer! Yay! We are all looking forward to that already. Time will surely fly!

Will all spring breaks be like this?

This was one for the record books. Our family has been in negotiations about our destination since the fall. Jon wanted somewhere with outdoor things to do and infrastructure (read: no more 3rd world countries) and I wanted far-East exotic. Amelia and Charlie always just want to go back to Thailand. We found a compromise to everyone’s wishes: 3 stops, one better than the next.

Singapore:
There is nothing 3rd world about Singapore. It is a full on, fast city. High fashion shopping and really delicious eating. There are malls underground before you even get to the above ground malls, tunnels of shopping so to speak. We only had 3 days here so we didn’t see a lot of Singapore, but we sure had fun seeing what we saw.

As it happens, some friends from school were also starting their vacation in Singapore, so we spent some fun time with Cindy, Jamie, Maryn, and Megan.  We met them on Sentosa Island, a man-made island just off the southern tip of Singapore with all sorts of fun things to do for kids (of all ages).

Park Guell-like mosaic ponds

We went street luging, had fish pedicures, and spent the afternoon at one of the beautiful beaches.

Tickly fish eating their feet!

The next day we headed to the amazing Singapore Zoo. This zoo was unique in that there are no visible enclosures. It is all very safe (Amelia did not fall into any reptile ponds),  there are deep moats around most exhibits, but you don’t notice them, you just notice how the animals run around and the monkeys jump from tree to tree above your head.

As a family, we spent a lot of time wandering around Orchard Road, window shopping and eating some amazing Japanese food.

On to the next stop,

Kuching, Sarawak->Borneo:

South China Sea

This is where our outdoor adventure begins. The area in Borneo where we were is a largely undeveloped rainforest on the South China Sea. We stayed in a resort with an amazing family suite, it had an upstairs for the adults and a downstairs for the kids complete with bunk beds and their own TV, talk about relaxing! We split our time between the pool/beach and jungle trekking!

Sarawak is big into natural conservancy, and if they created roads animals would be driven out of their habitats. So they have made most places only accessible by water.

We were welcomed by rare Silver leaf Monkeys and their babies (who are called albino and don’t turn the silver color until they are 6 months old).

Long nosed Probiscus Monkeys

And, naughty Macaque Monkeys

Wild Boar hogs

And Pit Vipers, which are apparently very poisonous, but very lazy.

The kids really enjoyed our hike through the forest, with Charlie leading the charge. Our guide was really nervous about their ability to get through some of the tough spots, but anyone that knows us, knows our kids are more like the naughty macaque monkeys than anything else!

True to its name, the rainforest produced, and we got drenched on the way back.

We had an amazing day at Bako National Park and on Borneo!

On to the last stop,

Kuala Lumpur:

We packed it in during the 3 days we stayed in KL. We actually met an American family when we were in Borneo who are living in KL and they gave us the skinny on what to do while there. KL is an amazing mix of Malay, India, and China. We checked it all out!

The best China Town ever!

charlie loves shrimp fried rice

amelia loves stir fried wagyu

The  next day we headed over to the Crafts Complex where they were having a huge exhibition with a lot of hands on activities for the kids.

learning the art of batik - painting on silk

Amelia chose as her souvenir from KL a pair of wooden clogs especially made for her.

That night we found an amazing kids park in the middle of the city.

The weather in KL is humid and warm year round, with rainstorms often. So one of the coolest (literally) parts of the city is its tunnels and above ground enclosed walkway systems, all completely air-conditioned. The Petronas Towers were about a 20 minute walk from our hotel, all completely covered except for the 3 minutes it took us to get from the hotel to the walkway system. It was really great because we got to walk everywhere in the city with out the concern of the weather at all.

We experienced some of the Indian Culture at the Batu Caves.

amelia counted 250 steps up

On our last day in KL it poured buckets, so we headed over to the Petrosains Science Center.

This was an amazing experience for all of us. We satisfied everyone’s wishes of outdoor activities, far-east flavor, good food, shopping, and relaxation. I taught the kids how to properly swim under and bob over waves. They even started learning how to body surf, in the South China Sea. Wow.

Best spring break yet? Probably!

All photos and a few hilarious videos here

Worst blogger ever?

Alright, alright. I’ll admit that the blog is neglected. I am guessing that I might still have a few people checking in from time to time, and they must be disappointed. Here’s the problem as I see it. “The Reuter’s Big Adventure” is not so much an adventure to me anymore. It is just our life now. But, I am certain, 10 years from now when I want to look back at this time in Abu Dhabi or take a walk down memory lane with the kids, I am going to be really annoyed at myself for the lack of material I have been providing lately. SO, I am going to try to do better. For the kids and for me, you are just the bonus.

As I said, not a lot has been going on lately. This has been the longest, coolest winter we have had here so far. Very pleasant in the low 70s. We had a warm weekend last weekend and I thought that was it, time for the heat. But, another shamal came through (with TONS of dust in the air) and we are back to cool again. I am not complaining!

This month has been literacy month at school with lots of reading and special activities. Today is the last day of school before the spring break so the kids were encouraged to dress up as their favorite book character.

For those of you that are not up to date on 6-7 year old’s favorite characters, let me enlighten you: Charlie is Little Charlie Bucket from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Amelia is Judy Moody from Judy Moody:Goes to College. Super cute, we all loved literary month. In keeping with my writing this blog to serve as my memory down the road, I must mention that Amelia loves non-fiction. As a family, we have been enjoying fiction books, such as Judy Moody, Horrid Henry, and all of the Roald Dahl books. But, when Amelia is reading on her own, it is non-fiction all the way. She loves to read to us as we are driving in the morning. All four of us together as we drop Jon off at work and then head to the school. Let me tell you, we would win any trivia challenge concerning pine trees and pine forests! Amelia is currently interested in becoming an arborist when she grows up. Next month it will likely be a marine biologist as lately the books have been about seals and dolphins.

Well, I know I can guarantee a new blog entry in 2 weeks time, as this Friday we leave for Spring Break. And you know I can’t help but blog about the places we visit. So stay tuned for our journey to Singapore! Sarawak on the island of Borneo! and Kuala Lumpur!  Oooooooh, am I excited!

Peace begins with me

My very favorite holiday/assembly we have at the kid’s school is International Day. It is why I became the president of the PTA this year. Did I tell you that? That I am a little crazy and signed up for this post? Anyway, I had to make sure that International Day and the companion International Food Festival was successful this year since the school is sorta new. (By that I mean there was a new school built that started this fall and half of the students, teachers, and principals went to the new school while half of us stayed where we had been. So it is like a new school this year with a lot of new families).

I digress.

So our lovely little school (186 students, ages 3 years to 3rd grade) had our International Day celebration and food festival over the last few days. 43 nationalities are represented at our school. 43! I am so impressed that we have such a diverse school and that our kids are all learning about each other every day. Everyone dresses up in their cultural clothing and we have an assembly and flag ceremony.

Americans? Yeah, we’ve got Old Navy t-shirts…..

The flag ceremony gets me every single time.  They play this song :

And 43 kids from 43 different countries march across the field carrying their flags. There is no soccer involved but I promise you, the energy is exactly the same and there is not a dry eye in the house.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. We are so lucky to be here. To have this experience. To really know people from all over the world. Amelia and Charlie are getting old enough that they will remember our time in Abu Dhabi, the details may get fuzzy over time, but being exposed to all of these kids and their cultures and religions are shaping the people that they will grow up to be.

Our principal gave a short speech to these small children that generally speaking, was about kids looking to their left and right, seeing their friends and classmates in their different clothes from their different countries. But, these are our friends, no matter where they are from and not one of us is really different from the next.  It is important now to be kind to these kids in our classrooms and on the playground, this is called Peace. It is equally important as we grow older to be kind to people from everywhere, all the time. We can only be responsible for ourselves, but if everyone is kind to everyone else, there will be Peace everywhere. Peace begins with me, now hold up your fingers in a peace sign and say it out loud “peace begins with me”.  Again cue the waterworks.  It is such a relevant message for 3 to 333 year olds. We may look different and be from different places and even think completely different things, but if we can be kind to one another,  there CAN be Peace.

So, after we all dried our eyes, there were more fun festivities and songs.

On to the weekend and the International Food Festival! The Parent Association worked so hard to make this a special event for our school community. We asked people to dress up and decorate a  table from their home country or culture, and then for all families to bring in a dish from those places to share with everyone else. We had a “food passport” made up for the kids and as they tried dishes from different countries they received a stamp in their passport. It was a blast!!

Australia and New Zealand

The good old US of A!

Colombia! (Yes that is a hammock in the background!)

Sweden

Korea

There were many more! These were just some of the best.  It was such a successful day.  I will try to get some more pictures for my public album but I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off the whole day!

I feel like there is something else…….Ah yes, there is a cheer leading squad at Gems World Academy now and they had their first performance at the International Day Assembly. I’ll leave you with a few videos of their cheers. Maybe you’ll recognize one of the girls.

GWA Gazelles Cheerleaders

Sweet Chuckles

Well it happened, my “baby” has to use both hands to show his age. Six. (Insert my waxing nostalgic about how he was teeny tiny only a minute ago…) Instead of that I’ll just tell you what he is up to now:

  • Charlie is in KG2-5 this year, this is the same as kindergarten in the USA. His teacher is Ms. Liz.
  • He just brought home his second “take home reading book” and is doing really well with learning to read.
  • His favorite subject is “the playground”.
  • His extracurricular activities include: soccer on Saturday mornings with Daddy, piano (which he is doing very well with, he gets the notes right all of the time, but not necessarily with the correct fingers. The song he is working on this week is Mary had a little Lamb), cold cooking (where he apparently is willing to try everything and always wants to save a little of what he made for me to try).
  • On TV he loves Scooby Doo, The Spy Kids Movies, and Pawn Stars (thanks, Daddy).
  • He is a little too good at Super Mario Brothers, both on the Wii and his DS.
  • The toy of the moment is LEGOS. I couldn’t be happier about this, I love legos, especially the people.

This year Charlie really thought about what he wanted to do for his birthday and decided he didn’t want a big party and lots of hullabaloo. He wanted special things with his family and a play day (all day) with his buddy Julien. So the night before his birthday, he and Amelia slept like this:

Yes, those are our camping cots, and yes they are in the TV room.

Then he wanted a special breakfast:

This might be a good time to tell you that Charlie only has one smile as a six-year-old: the creepy one.

Julien got dropped off around 11 and we headed over to the mall to do some ice skating!

I have no pictures of them actually ice skating, because I was ice skating with them and didn’t want to completely break the camera!

Then we headed back to our house and they just played. They played with Charlie’s new legos. They played the new Wii game. They just played and played. They were so good and so happy all day. Eventually around 6, Julien’s parents and sister came over and we had pizza and then of course, THE CAKE.

Can I at least get an “A” for effort? I have discovered that my skills can be forgiven if I make wheels out of oreos and there is some sort of action figure to take away from it all.

Charlie dug it, and that is all that counts.

So, it was an amazing, completely easy birthday this year.  Thank you to all of our family and friends who sent e-mails and e-cards, left voice mails and texts, and skyped with us. We felt the love.

Time to build some more legos.