A summer of squares.

  IMG_6495IMG_6106  1) The Del Mar Fair, where it all began for your mom and dad. But this time we come with our off spring, all three of you. Life can feel so full some days, this was one of them. 3) Perfectly perched. Ready to take flight in 9 days. That’s when my Toddler Sorority and I are flying to Abu Dhabi to spend four weeks with Daddy, who’s doing a work assignment there for the summer. 9 days until take-off. Things are getting real, real fast. #hopeyourenotonourflight #actuallyido #icoulduseyourhelp 4) I mentioned Joe’s going out before us, but did I mention he’s going out one day before us? In business class?? With zero children by his side??? Not to worry. Like a good wife, I’m collecting. Starting with my new entry way wall paper. And the pedicure I am getting in this moment. And the massage I’ll be enjoying tomorrow. And… well, the collecting game is going to last for a while. We leave in four days. #milkingitlikeagoodwife 5) 4th of July at the Last’s. What will always scar this beautiful day, is the daughter that broke out with a horrible bout of diarrhea at the party. All I will document is me yelling… “I need serious help here!”    IMG_67251) A friend gathering, sending me off with the best “we believe in you” a girl could ask for. 2/3) I just adore this one. We hosted a farewell dinner for the Sawyers and this one volunteers to help with dishes. 4) A final slurpee run while Dad gets his final immunizations. 5) Followed by a final family dinner here, of course. 6) And he’s off. They have no idea when tomorrow holds. Neither do I.                                        IMG_6813 1) We’ve made it this far. Leaving our home with kids and everything at 5:45am was a lot, check-in was a mob scene, saying bye to my dad was emotional, security a mess, bathroom run (or two) with automatic flushes— a nightmare, a lost soppy cup disaster … this is w o w. I sit here with my toddler sorority, confidence escaping me, singing to myself “I am the Lord your God, I go before you now… steady now your heart and mind, come into my rest.” Breathing deeply as our flight is now two hours delayed, and we haven’t even gotten on a plane yet. #theysatquietlyforsevenminutes #imissmyresponsiblehusband #feedingmykidstictacs #only21hourstogo #abudhabibound #thisisinsane #icandothis #ihavetodothis #toddlersorority                                               IMG_6829 IMG_6864 IMG_68631) That one time we had an “airplane sleepover” on the way to Dubai. Naomi, while looking around our gate “Things look a lot different here than in Escondido.#13hoursleft #thanksforcheeringmeon #givingbenadrylnow #readyornot #offwego #toddlersorority 2/3) Read it: The Maertzs are in the United Arab Emirates. This is madness to me. Rewind six months ago Joe came home from work “Hey something kind of fell into my lap today,” and here we are, walking out of the airport hearing the mesmerizing call to prayer. Unreal. If it wasn’t for Aria barfing like Mt Saint Helens only five minutes after take off— all over us, our seats, our clothes, our hair— drench in puke, and smelling like puke for the next 13 hours, I’d say it went pretty well. #icried #youdcrytoo #criedwhenisawjoe #imacryingmess #hecriedtoo #soproudofthegirls #wemadeit #toddlersorority   IMG_70181) After 24 hours of travel, their personalities shine through. Getting settled into the rental car, and headed to Abu Dhabi. 2) Our first morning on the other side of the world. Our first night involved Juliet falling out of bed twice, and staying asleep on the floor both times. 3) When we were engaged, Joe and I sat under his makeshift bunkbed and made a pinkie promise to each other: that our lives would venture outside the good ole US of A. Since then, I’ve come up with three criteria for living in an overseas city. One: near a major airport. Two: near a coastline. Three: near an IKEA. So naturally, on day one, we visited everyone’s favorite blue and yellow store. #itfeltlikehome #themeatballshoweverdidnot #carriedourjetlaggirlseverywhere #joecarriedone #icarriedtwo #imbragging #iknow #neverforgetthedoublestrolleragain #toddlersorority                IMG_7020  IMG_71261) Jetlag #marinaisland #abudhabi #toddlersorority 2) Breakfast each morning with Daddy was always a treat. Off to his first day at work in UAE, 11am-11pm. #tradershotel 3) With Joe starting work today, I needed a local phone. This is where you go for that sort of thing. Some might call it Walmart-esque, I call it nightmare-esque. Men pressing around me at all sides, breathing on me as I am trying to attend to my bored toddler sorority and understand blah blah blah {a cell phone service plan}. After his third explanation, he said “You still don’t get me?” I heard me say “I’m really good at other things.” I hated this place. Everything was hard about this place. Downstairs there was an old indoor playground. Think old Burger King, now add 20 years, sanitation highly questionable, and worse I had to pay to use it. While walking over a giant dead cockroach I pulled out a crisp new foreign bill and paid for a quiet kid-less hour. My first day in a foreign land, and I am here, in this dingy musky old space with bad light and cockroaches. In walks a mommy with a young boy. She sits on a bench near me. Her young son accidentally runs into my daughter, and we exchange proper mommy fix-it lines. Her voice. I honestly didn’t want to talk, I knew I’d start talking like a leprechaun. And I did. But she didn’t care. Elena O’Toole offered grace and laughter. She and I shared a conversation that make that dark dingy corner space light up with fresh air and sunshine. She gave me her number and insisted we do this again, but we both vowed never again here. She can’t wait to show me around. And that’s my story: I came for a phone, I got a lifeline. #luckoftheirish #imsohappy #ihaveafriendIMG_7127  IMG_7179 IMG_7181 IMG_72181) Exploring the local souk in pjs. Everywhere we go Aria comments on the “shepherds.” “I wish we could have dinner with a shepherd.” “Why are there so many shepherds?” “Where are all the sheep mommy?” “Another shepherd??” (Strong emphasis on another). She’s killing it. 2) We discovered the incredible indoor kid spaces! 3) Dinner at Traders Hotel. Food on Click became a fabulous resource. 4) She stands along the rest of the world. Instead of seeing all that is different, all she sees is other kids. #sheopensmyeyes #localskatepark #everythingisinthemall 5) Everyone A D O R E S them {especially our blonde}. In so many ways, it’s just different here {see background}. #kindfamilymanfromdubai #ispyaburkalady #toddlersorority 6) The Middle East has it’s perks. #eveninggiggleseruptedhere #dreamyfun #ispyaritzcarltonIMG_7259 IMG_7307 IMG_7321IMG_7329 IMG_74321) It’s this hot. 2/3) It’s the expats that made our trip incredible. Their warmth and kindness to us will always be a highlight. We rode “buggies” almost daily. Sometimes they’d let you girls drive! 6) I wish you could see how brave these girls are. Everyday taking in new adventures— the language, the food, the costumes {their name for all the faceless women}, the insane heat, the everything so foreign and unfamiliar— they move towards it with big eyes, big steps and big brave. #bravebabies #wereinthistogether #toddlersorority IMG_7480 IMG_7752 IMG_7753 IMG_7606 IMG_7799 FullSizeRender 1131) Morning swims with Daddy. 2) This beautiful soul arrived into Abu Dhabi today— my mom. At age 4, she gave me and my three sisters (ages 2, 6 and 9) our very first taste of the world— adventures in Hong Kong and Thailand. That was just the beginning. And here she goes again, passing down the richness of the world to my toddler sorority. #barrelsandbarrelsofspice # girl factories #happybirthdaymom #toddlersorority 3) Playing in the Persian Gulf as the sun sets on her birthday. My mom and I kept looking at each other today “Can you believe where we are?” {I shake my head. We’re in the Middle East. Unreal.} #6dayswithmom #happybirthdaymom @mamanzano 4) Fun City at Dalma Mall! 5/6) Celebrating Ama’s birthday. The Shangri-La made her a personalized cake!IMG_7881 IMG_7900 IMG_7924   IMG_8033IMG_8045  IMG_8131 IMG_8137 IMG_81261/2/3/4) Playing in the Persian Gulf at the hotel’s beachfront property. 8) In the midst of our trans-atlantic summer, our Juliet decides she wants to be a big girl. I never ever would have chosen to tackle this while traveling across the world, but she insisted. And just like that, she graduated into panties while in the Middle East. 9) What grocery shopping looks like in Abu Dhabi. 10) God Bless sleepovers in Grandma’s hotel room. Tonight it was just us. And our date night started here. #hotelreception #toddlersorority 11) Date night led us here. Beyond the gates of our hotel fortress. Into far less familiar. This is local. #dinnerwasincredible #lebaneseflower #popularlocaljoint #lotsofstares #toddlersororityIMG_8262  IMG_8300 IMG_8374 IMG_8675IMG_8650 IMG_8432 IMG_88141/2/3) Maertzs in the Middle. #hottestdayofmylife #yaswaterworld #imissclouds #whycantwehavewaterparkslikethis #toddlersorority 4) That moment when Daddy heads out the door to work. Everyone is sad. 60 hour work weeks are miserable. I don’t know how other families do this. It’s really hard. The girls miss him so, and I do too. {Thankful it’s temporary.} #8moreweeks #julietheldthedoorshut #babybouncer #toddlersorority 6) She made things feel normal, the load lighter and the days brighter, I might say brighter than the sun, but here, that would actually be a bad thing. #weatherappsaid137today #theychillthepools #shealmosthadaheatstroke #ithinkshedid #godblessgrandmas #shesonaplanehome #toddlersorority 7) Things I never dreamed we’d do in the Middle East. #shedidntlearnitfromme #littlesisterlooks #julietgottwostrikes #toddlersorority #weabsolutelyhadbumpers 8) I found some space to scribble down my heart’s song. With the skies echoing calls to prayer, and Islamic threads on full display all around us, I want to be close and aware of my Shepherd’s nudges— how to move towards love in this part of his world. #jesussaidloveoneanother #bethelonrepeat #goodshepherd #toddlersororityIMG_8897 IMG_8868 IMG_8886IMG_8682 IMG_8978 IMG_8973IMG_8977  1) Guiding these little ladies through this world, seeing them engage with it, and be themselves in it— it’s the greatest adventure of this adventure. #icecreamrun #waitingforthegondola #fancysouk #someoneturnstwotomorrow #toddlersorority 5) From the backseat, the girls held my phone— in awe of the moving dot. “We’re at the top of the palm tree mama! We’re at the top of the palm tree!” #aquaventure #palmjumeirah #atlantis #dubai #julietsbirthday #toddlersorority 5) Years ago your Daddy and Mommy lived for a summer in Amman, Jordan. Day after day we’d feast on the delicious shwarmas of Al Dayaa. Now, with three little girls, we revisit our restaurant jewel of the Middle East. 7) Happy birthday TWO you Juliet!! #thefairesofthemall #persiangulf #toddlersorority 9) Friday night at Fun City in Yas Mall. It’s what you do in Abu Dhabi.    IMG_9426  IMG_9608FullSizeRender 89 FullSizeRender 90 IMG_96931) In the first week of this year, I miscarried our fourth child at 10 weeks along. The end of July holds a lot for me— the fullness of life and the the fullness of loss. Yesterday, on Juliet’s 2nd birthday, I would have been 40 weeks. In this foreign land with my husbandlove, and three beauties, I am trying my best to hold my hands open in gratitude for all I have been given. Thankful: God is with me in life and God is with me in loss. #emmanuel #handsopen #lifeandloss #babylantern #toddlersorority  3) Never dreamed we’d do this in the Middle East. Grateful this beauty’s head wound was fixable. A kind British doctor and her fancy glue made everything better. {Somersault off the couch. Head first into the corner of the coffee table}. #grateful #unexpectedadventures #toddlersorority 4) This one. With big eyes and even bigger awe, “Naomi! We are going to Jasmine’s castle!!” Once inside, she wouldn’t stop singing. #awholenewworld #grandmosque #wefoundagrabah 5) Another world’s sacred space, still felt sacred. All things beautiful can nudge this heart towards God. #grandmosqueisgrand #daddyanddarlings 6) Don’t bother asking me what the ceilings looked like. I never looked up. #bestillmyheart #marblegardensfordays #grandmosque #ihavethisthingwithfloors #toddlersororityIMG_9718 IMG_9719   IMG_9720 FullSizeRender 115 IMG_98221) My baby and blooms. #bathroom #yesisaidbathroom #grandmosqueisgrand #herhands 2) The man of the Middle East. #husbandlove #archesfordays 3) Trampolines! They have everything at the mall. Juliet cried for 25 mins until the kind expat broke the height rules and let her jump too. 4) Protective sisterhood. 5) They ride in taxis like champs. #thenorm 9) Tonight I watched as she explored this foreign world unguided and unafraid. She wandered through it like it were her backyard. She led the way— I followed behind in awe.  IMG_9874 IMG_0073IMG_0079 IMG_0259 FullSizeRender 91FullSizeRender 93 IMG_0476 IMG_04751) These three are eating up ice cream like they’re eating up Arabic. Their sweet voices filled the souk, and the ears of all who passed: “Shukran!” /Thank you! “Afwan” /You’re welcome! “Ana Bint!” /I’m a girl! “Ana samara bouydo” /I’m a white car! “Ma’a Salam /God bless you. You can imagine the friends they made. #smilemakers 2) Running laps around our apartment, because 4pm in the Middle East is just like 4pm everywhere else in the world. We ran out of things to do. 3) My friend Elena O’Toole. She was a bright light in so many ways. For a friendship only a few weeks old, our goodbye tugged at deep heart strings. 4) Our everyday quest, day after day, mall after mall… to find indoor wonderment. #wefoundgold 6) Behind us is one of the most beautiful ornate gold domes in all the world. Now it’s just a family selfie blocking one of the most beautiful ornate gold domes in all the world. #oops 7) Wall of gold, dress of sparkly gold, heart of gold. #myaria 8) While my girls danced under canopies of gold, Naomi caught eyes with another child. With the most beautiful spirit, she waved and called to her in Arabic— “Yalla!” /Come! #myjobisdone #kindnessineverylanguage 9) In 48 hours, my toddler sorority and I will be on a plane, headed home. #notready #fivemoreweeksforjoe #consideredextendingourtrip #thatgoodIMG_0477 2 FullSizeRender 116 IMG_0627  1) Maertzs found a goldmine today: Emirates Palace. A 7 star hotel that is obsessed with gold. Gold on the walls. God on the ceilings. God sold in ATMs. Gold in the cappuccinos. 2/3/4/5) Our final swim at our home away from home Shangri-La Residence. 6) The view from our apartment. Lush. Rich. Beautiful. That’s how I’ll always remember it. Many a humid nights were spent enjoying this, waiting for Daddy to come home from work.IMG_0813 IMG_0800 IMG_0881IMG_0973 IMG_0964  IMG_1284 IMG_10421/2/3/4) The Maertzs atop the highest building in the world— the Burj Khalifa. 5) Enjoying the largest piece of glass aquarium in the world. This place. It’s go big or go home. And that’s what we did. 7) This is the last family picture of us in Dubai. Moments later, with giant tears from all of us, I pushed our toddler sorority through security and 9,000 miles home to San Diego. 9) As the plane touched down in San Diego, I called for a family huddle. We locked shoulders and eyes, and gave thanks to God for carrying us through this amazing adventure. All huddled up, I looked deep into each pair of beautiful baby eyes and tried to hold back my exploding heart— “I am so proud of you.” #theydidit #wedidit #ididit #24hoursfromtakeofftotouchdown #wheresmybed #finishline #toddlersorority {thanks to all who followed again, for your encouragement, and your plain old likes.} @chinaberrylane