Saturday, November 19, 2011


The kids finished the school year on June 8 and on June 10, the kids and I were off to the states.  I probably can't tell you how ready I was to go home.  The only sad thing was that we left Mark at KAUST for 8 weeks.  This was not the easiest thing for either of us so we will probably re-think how we do this next summer.

The month or so before we left, we had to decide what we were going to do about transportation once we arrived in the states.  It was going to cost about $5000 to rent a car for the three months that we would be there so we looked into purchasing a car.  Thanks to my wonderful dad, we purchased a 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan from the Chrysler lot.  He helped get the transaction done for us too which was so nice of him.  The kids and I flew into Washington DC and my dad generously drove down to DC to pick us up.  It saved quite a bit of money because the flight from DC to Detroit was going to add up for six people.

The flight to DC was uneventful and my dad and our cousin Lucy met us at the airport.  I remember going through immigration and just being so grateful that I could carry on a conversation with the person working there.  I promised I wouldn't kiss the ground when I got there, but I sure felt like it!!!  For as many problems that there are in the US, I really think we are blessed to have such a wonderful country.  You really can't appreciate some of the freedoms you have until you live without them!  Not to get all political - but please remember that when you're voting in the elections next year - it is a very important one!!!

So back to our trip....we arrived and got through customs very easily.  Found my dad and Lucy - my dad made me cry because he was so happy to see all of us. We hopped into our van and off we went.  We decided to stay about an hour outside of the DC and then drive the rest of the way the next day.  We got to our hotel and headed out for dinner at Ruby Tuesday.  Everyone was pretty exhausted as the flight was all of our "day" time.  It was about 9 pm Jeddah time when we landed and by the time we got to dinner it was probably midnight Jeddah time.  Lizzie was so tired, she was falling asleep in her macaroni and cheese - poor girl.

Over the summer, we saw lots of friends, ate out a lot and had a great time.  Spencer played on a tennis team, attended Youth Conference and High Adventure.  Megan attended Girls Camp.  Rachel, Alex and Lizzie took tennis lessons and the little girls took some skating lessons too.  Alex attended Cub Scout camp.  I travelled to Jacksonville and Boston for work and we spent a weekend in Rome, NY for my cousin Stacey's wedding.  Here are a bunch of pictures from the summer.

Spencer and Alex enjoying a day out on the boat

Mom and dad and my nephew Nathan

Rachel, Abby, Lizzie, Nathan and Alex

My cousin Stacey and her Groom Steve

The family - except for Mark :-(

Enjoying ice cream at Nicky Doodles

Nicholas and Nathan

Keeping cool on the 4th of July!

Enjoying the pool at my cousin Kristen's house

Kristen's cute daughter Dani

Can't get better than ice cream at the pool!

Enjoying the ward picnic at the Park

Cayenne, Doug and George jamming out
A little tubing at Grandma and Grandpa's house

My babies turned 10 on August 4

Grandma and Grandpa with the triplets

More summer to come....Mark arrived back in the states on Aug 5 and we took our family vacation out to Utah to visit his family.

KAUST Activities

KAUST offers a variety of activities for families to participate in and there are school activities for the kids also.  Megan had enjoyed playing softball when we lived in Lake Orion so she decided to try-out for the softball team here at her school.  Here at Harbor Secondary School, the team was co-ed and since we don't have a baseball/softball field, they practiced in an open grassy area behind their school.  There aren't any other teams to play in the immediate area so it's mostly just practice and scrimmage games against each other.  But the season culminated in a trip to Dhahran to the Aramco compound for a multi-school two-day tournament. 

So the question you let your not quite 13 year old daughter travel with her co-ed softball team across Saudia Arabia by herself.  Well....I wasn't comfortable with that so we told Megan that she could go if her dad or I went with her.  She wasn't thrilled, but we decided to have Mark go with her.  The kids stay with host families on the compound but Mark wasn't officially part of the trip so we needed to find someplace to stay.  Through our church, we found someone who was willing to let Mark stay the night - which worked out wonderfully.  Mark also became the unofficial photographer - or perhaps now it is official, because many of his pictures ended up in the yearbook!  Here's a couple that he took of Megan...

The was taken right after Megan avoided being tagged by
3rd baseman.  She was pretty proud of herself :-)

KAUST also offers a lot of activities throught the recreation center for families.  Last year, there was a family 5 K walk/run, there are "Dive-In" movie nights at the pool, kite flying days, etc.  The pictures below are of the go-cart day that they sponsered in the parking lot outside our stadium.  Mark and the two older kids went because the little ones were not big enough to drive the carts.

All in all, KAUST is a very nice place to live and it's really a wonderful community! 

Disneyland Paris and Interesting Flight to Jeddah

Well it's at least 6 months since our trip to Paris and I'm finally getting around to finishing up the blog about it.  The sad thing is that I can't remember details of the day to day activities - which, of course, isn't really that important.  I do remember that we all did enjoy the time we spent at Disneyland Paris.  It was definitely different than what we experience at DisneyWorld but it was Disney, so it was great!

We stayed at Hotel Cheyenne which is one of the Disneyland Parks. Some of the interesting things about the hotels are that they are "American" themed...Sequoia Lodge, Santa Fe, Davy Crockett Ranch, Hotel New York. The Disneyland Hotel which is the nicest hotel on the property actually is right at the entrance to the park. Some of the rooms overlook the park.

Disneyland Hotel

Main Street USA in Paris

The Cheyenne Hotel was nice - I would compare it to a Value resort at DisneyWorld.  Breakfast was included in the price of the room which meant that the restaurant was always very crowded in the morning.  It was your basic continental type breakfast with croissants, rolls, cheese, etc.  A couple of funny things compared to staying at Disneyworld - they were very stingy with the pillows, we asked for a couple more and they made sure that they told us that they mark down how many pillows there are in a room.  Also, if you wanted a blow dryer, you had to go to the lobby to get it and put a 25 EUR deposit down that you get back when you return it.  So from this, I'm wondering if Europeans make a habit of stealing pillows and blow dryers from hotels :-)

There are 2 "parks" at Disneyland Paris - Disneyland and Walt Disney Studios.  There are a lot of similar rides and attractions to what is in DisneyWorld but some that are different.  There is also a Disney Village which is similar to Downtown Disney.  I would say the majority of things are in English but there were some attractions that were done in both French and English.  It was very amusing to hear Buzz Lightyear speak in French!!  We joked because it sounded like Buzz was talking about sausage - but that could just be because we are pork-deprived while we live in KSA.

Space Mountain is slightly different (called Mission 2), they have a Toy Story "land" in Walt Disney Studios which the kids really enjoyed.  Crush's Coaster was probably the favorite "new" attraction of the family, except for me.  Now that I'm getting older - spinny rides make me a little sick.  Crush's Coaster is a roller coaster that spins also - so I didn't do it twice but everyone else did.  They had Michael Jackson's Captain EO playing there also.  I think they used to have this playing at DisneyWorld along time ago because I think I've seen it but it was fun to watch it with the kids. 

I think the thing that I disliked most was all of the smoking!!  There are supposedly designated smoking areas in the park but no one paid attention to these and it seemed like everyone was smoking.  The kids and I started counting how many people we saw with cigarettes outside of the designated smoking areas and I think we at least got to 75.  The ones that cracked me up the most...Lizzie and I were sitting waiting for the family to ride an attraction and Tigger came out to sign autographs.  The kids were just surrounding him (no acutal line) and this guy brings his kid in to get an autograph and is puffing away amongst all the kids.  Another time we saw a mom and dad holding hands with their 2 kids walking around - both of them had cigarettes in the other hand.  As you can tell...this really bugged me! I said...I can't remember day to day what we did anymore so here's some pictures to enjoy...

Rachel at the entry to Fantasy land

Headed into Fantasyland

It's A Small World

You have to ride Dumbo!!

Megan is enjoying the ride

Lancelot's Carrousel


Sleeping Beauty's Castle

Outside Pirates of the Carribean

With Walt and Mickey

Toy Story Playland

Singing in the Rain

Just a pretty picture of Megan

Slinky Dog Ride

Hanging out

Mark and Rachel on Slinky Dog

We had the same van service pick us up at Disneyland to take us back to the airport.  We had the same driver this day that had taken us into Paris from the airport.  We really enjoyed the information he shared with us regarding Paris and the surrounding areas.  Instead of taking us on the freeways - which he said were crowded - he took us through some small villages to get to the airport.  I felt like this was one of the highlights of our trip and really enjoyed the country scenery.  Mark snapped a few pictures on the way.

So we arrived at the airport in plenty of time.  We were on a Saudi Arlines flight that went direct from Paris to Jeddah - we didn't leave until pretty late and were supposed to arrive in about 1 am the next day.  The flight was pretty full and they really split our family up - I think only Mark was sitting alone but otherwise we were only 2 together with someone else in our row.  We got seated and figured we move back once the flight got in the air.  It look like we might take off a little early because everyone was boarded but then I noticed the flight attendants talking pretty heatedly with a women the row in front of us.  They argued for a while but I couldn't understand what they were saying because they were arguing in both French and Arabic.  Finally it seemed like she had calmed down when all of a sudden another lady from the back of the plane got up and started yelling at this first lady.  From what I could glean, she wanted to get off the plane because she thought that the first lady was bad luck.  So now it was a full blown argument between these two women. 

At this point, we had all moved towards the back of the plane so we could sit together and I started talking to one of the flight attendants.  This argument had all started because one of the female flight attendants had told this women that she couldn't lift a bag into the overhead compartment.  The flight attendant had just returned from sick leave for back issues and this lady was just really ticked that she wouldn't lift the bag for her.  So the argument continued and they finally brought security on to try to calm these women down.  I couldn't understand why they just didn't remove these women from the plane right away.  After about an hour of this, they finallly did remove the two women from the plane and then we had to wait for them to remove their luggage also.  Thanks goodness!!!  We didn't arrive back in Jeddah until about 2:30 in the morning but at least we did so safely!

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Day Trip to Versailles

On Sunday, we decided to take a day trip out to Versailles.  We chose today because it was the first Sunday of the month.  On that day, all of the museums in Paris open up for free so they are very crowded - our tour book recommended that you avoid museums on that day if at all possible, so that's what we did. 

The weather was not that great today - cloudy, chilly and a little rainy.  Some of the kids didn't want to eat at the hotel so we had a quick breakfast at a little restaurant called the Pomme de Pain close to our hotel and then we figured out what train we needed to take out to Versailles.  It was about a 40-50 minutes trip out and then a 10 minute walk. 

The palace was very beautiful and SOOOO big! So may different rooms with so much artwork. They have an audio tour that you can listen to as you walk through the palace which gave information about each of the rooms you walk through.  The Gardens of Versailles are said to be exquisite and we did head out to see them but decided not to walk through because it was extra cost and the weather was not being very cooperative. 

Gardens from the window.

The room of mirrors.

We were all pretty hungry after we finished our tour so we walked into the little town to get some lunch.  Our problem was that we had no cash so we had to find a restaurant that would take a credit card.  We hadn't exchanged Riyals into Euros before we left, thinking we could do it at the airport in Paris (like we did in Athens) but all of he exchange places wanted to charge a lot of money to do that.  So we exchanged a little but not very much and at this point we had very little left.  We found a cute little diner but they did not take credit cards and nothing else was really open.  So we headed back towards the train station where we had a wonderful lunch at McDonald's - yum!  Actually, it was something we hadn't eaten in a long time so it was kind of good.

Alex and Rachel playing on the train.

We headed back on the train and to the hotel for a little rest time.  After we rested it was time for dinner and we had no idea where to go.  We finally looked into our tour book and found a place called Scoops which was supposed to be a little American diner - we figured out what street it was on and headed out.  Just as our luck with finding places all week had gone, we could not find this restaurant so as we were walking around and we found a little pizza place.  It had long tables that would fit our family and looked pretty cute so we decided to eat there.  The waiter was fun and the pizza was great!  We don't get great pizza here in Saudi Arabia so it was nice to eat some that was enjoyable.

We all seemed to be a little tired from our travels still so we headed back to the hotel after dinner and off to sleep.  Tomorrow morning we had some plans in the city and then we were heading out to Disneyland Paris!!!

Thanks again for reading!