I realized I haven't written much about how a seven year old adjusts to life in the Middle East. It hasn't been easy. In fact, Abbey has been at her limit many days, and I have been at a loss about how to ease her yearning for home. Amazingly though, the days she has been happy far outweigh the sad days for her. Yesterday, Brett and I celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary, and Abbey outdid herself. She painted us a beautiful painting at our neighbor Felicity's house the day before - a painting of a butterfly and a caterpillar. When Abbey gave us the painting she said that I am the butterfly and Brett is the caterpillar. I like that interpretation of her creation. Thanks, Felicity, for helping her with that!
Yesterday I woke up to Abbey tapping me on the arm saying, "Get up Mom, I have a surprise for you and Dad. Happy Anniversary!" She had one bowl of cereal, two spoons, milk, fancy goblets, and orange juice on a tray for us. When Brett asked her why there was only one bowl, she said, "So you can share and be romantic." While we fed each other Honey Nut Cheerios, we opened beautiful pictures Abbey had drawn for us in secret the night before - that is why she got in trouble for not being ready for bed on time, poor girl. By the way, I LOVE kid art. My kids have always been masterful at expressing the purest image with simple lines and colors. I think most kids are naturally artistic, but mine, well . . . . Abbey's drawings of clouds and birds and flowers filled me with gratitude. After that the three of us cuddled in bed, and I had one of those moments of pure joy when everything, and I mean everything, feels completely perfect. I knew it was going to be a good day.
Then last night Brett and I made a steak dinner together, and Abbey helped me light about 50 tealight candles in the dining room and living room to surprise Brett. When he came downstairs it looked like a fairyland, and Abbey's eyes were round and brimming with excitement. She said, "I think I am starting to like this anniversary." Because this month is Ramadan in the Muslim world (more about this in a later post), we thought it best to celebrate at home and not fight the starving people breaking their fasts in the traffic. It was one of the best anniversaries ever, especially because Abbey celebrated with us.
This post seems to be more about our anniversary than about how Abbey has been coping with living here, but it really illustrates her last few weeks. Her resiliency has astounded us. Her ability to always think of the "good side" even when she's sad has been a gift to our family, especially now. Today we finally got to go to her school orientation, and I could see the lights go on in her eyes as she met her teacher, met some of her classmates, and walked around the huge school (about 1000 students in all). Abbey loves people, and waiting so long in this foreign environment to get connected to school and friends has been hard, but I have seen such a strength in her that I've never had an opportunity to see before. Abbey will start second grade on Sunday, and I already find myself missing her dependence on me. Her new independent strength is what I want for her, but for me, those cuddling sessions could go on forever. You see, I have already watched two children get too busy, too grown-up, and too far away to snuggle with in bed. That darn Kristy and Ben! I guess Abbey will join them soon enough in their grown-up adventures, but for now our little Qatar kid still wants at least three goodnight kisses before she can fall asleep, and I'm so fine with that!