Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Hairy face mask

Grayson, my sister's four-year-old son, is very particular. She has told me this... but it really didn't click with me until this afternoon. Grayson wanted to go outside an play with the rest of the kids and it was about 12 degrees. He wouldn't wear a face mask... so out he went...

...and in he came within five minutes.

Grayson: Mom. Muh-why face is co-ed.

Yaso: Well, we told you that would happen Grayson. You have to wear the face mask.

So, Yaso proceeds to put the face mask on Grayson... without asking him first. WHICH... I had been clearly told on several occasions by Yaso herself, NEVER to do. You don't just put stuff on Grayson without asking his permission first.

She puts the face mask on him.

Kinda like a teapot whistle that starts off with a soft whistle and gets louder and louder... that is how I would best describe Grayson's reaction to the face mask.

Grayson: Muhhhhhhhmoooooooooooooooommmmmmmm! Muuuuuhhhhhooooooooooooooooooooommmmmmmmyyyyyyy!
I doe wike dis! I doe wike dis on muh-why facccccceeeeeeeee! Ehssss hai-weeeeee!

Pause (big breath in)

Grayson: I doe wike dis hai-wee ting on muh-why faaaaaaaacccccceeeeeee!

Yaso turns to look at me. It's a look that says, "Oh my God. Do you see what I am dealing with?"  I, of course, offer her a sympathetic look... and then proceed to cover my mouth with my hand so I don't laugh out loud.

Interestingly enough -- I totally got what Grayson meant by a hairy face mask. It was one of those super fuzzy ones made of yarn... that had been worn so much... it kinda looked hairy. I'm sure it felt hairy.

Me: Grayson! Just hang on there lil' fella... Chino is going to find you a non-hairy face mask.

Yaso: Great. See Grayson? Auntie Chino has another face mask that isn't hairy.

Me: Yup! (I run into the mudroom and find one right away). Right here. See? (I show it to him). See? This one isn't hairy at all! It's very soft.

I proceed to put it on his head.

Yaso: Don't just put it on... he won't like it. You'd better ask.


Me: Grayson? Can Chino put the mask on your face? It isn't hairy. I promise.

Grayson: Uhmmmm. Oh-kway Chino. But I want dis off. (he takes off his hat).

Me: May I put it on now?

Grayson: Sure.

I put the face mask on his head and adjust it.

Me: There! What do you think?


He looks up and over to the left.

Grayson: Uhmmm..... I do not want dis on my face. I want dis off my face Chino.

Okay. Apparently not un-hairy enough.

Me: Okay Grayson - but it will keep your face very warm. You'll be able to stay outside and play with the boys for a long time.

Grayson: Uhmmm.... no Auntie Chino. I do not want dis on my face.

Me: Okay. (I take it off and put it back into the mudroom).

At this point, the conversation has already moved onto the next item:

Grayson: (talking to his mother). I told you I didn't wont choo to bwing deez gwobs.

Yaso: I told you you have to wear the ugly gloves because the nice gloves are not warm enough for Fargo.

Grayson: But I told you I didn't wont deez gwobs.

Yaso: That's all I got hon. What do you want to do.

Grayson: Mommmmmyyyyy will you gib me new gwobs? Peezzz. I need new gwobssss!


Yaso: (sigh). Hang on Grayson.  Mommy needs a drink

Turtles turtles everywhere...

My sister is in town for the week with her two kids, visiting from Florida. She's 2 and a half years younger than me... and smart in ways that I am not. She's got an undergrad degree in mechanical engineering, she went to Duke and got a master's in biomechanical engineering...

She's smart.

But sometimes she says some really interesting things.

Like today...

She and I took her two kids out for lunch at Culver's (well known for its fabulous ice cream). After our burgers, the two of us shared a Turtle Sundae:

Yaso: Huh. What kind of nuts are in this?

Me: Pecans.

Yaso: Ah... this must be where they came up with the name for Turtle Bars.


Me: What?


Yaso: Turtle Bars! They have pecans too. Turtle Bars must get their name from the Turtle Sundae.


Me: What?

Yaso: Turtle Bars. You've had Turtle Bars haven't you? Turtle Bars must get their name from Turtle Sundaes.

She is kidding, right?

Me: So, you're saying that Turtle Bars got their name from Turtle Sundaes. Did I get that right?

Yaso: Yea!

Wow. Wow. Just wow.

Me: Yaso!

Yaso: What?!

Here we go... 

Me: (I say this in my first-grade teacher voice) Oooooooorrrrrrr... the Turtle Sundae gets its name from the Turtle Bar.


Yaso: What?

Me: Seriously Yaso?

Yaso: What!

Me: Well, why do you think the bar was named after the sundae?  I mean... couldn't the sundae have been named after the bar?

longer pause

Yaso: Oh. I guess I hadn't thought of it that way.


Yaso: Wow. Huh.


Yaso: Wow. That was kinda dumb.

I put my head down on the booth because I am laughing... then she starts laughing...

Yaso: So we are answering the question of which came first... the Turtle Sundae or the Turtle Bar?


Yaso: Come to think of it... we also have to consider the Turtle Cheescake, the Turtle Pie, Turtle Clusters...

There's that Duke degree kicking into gear!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

3 planes or 1?

Early in the morning yesterday, my sister Yaso called me on Skype frantic.

Yaso: Please talk to Grayson will you? He said that you told him it only took one plane to come to Fargo. He will not listen to me that we need to take three planes.

Grayson is four.

Me: Uhm... I don't remember telling him that. Is this important?

Yaso: Yes. You need to tell him. He went to bed last night very angry and insistent that it only takes one plane. First thing when he woke up this morning was, "Chino said it only takes one plane." He is going to give me a lot of trouble if you don't tell him.

What was I thinking? Grayson is four - of course this is important. 

Me: Okay. Sure. I'll talk to him.

She calls him over to the computer.

Me: Hi Grayson! Are you so excited to come to Fargo?!

Grayson: Yes. And it will only take one plane.

Wow - he IS stuck on that, isn't he?

Me: Yeah... well.. Grayson... the thing is, Chino made a mistake. It will take three planes to come to Fargo.


Grayson: Three?

Grayson tilts his head slightly to the left and looks over to the right. This is a typical "look" for Grayson. A look that sorta says... "Uh. I don't like that answer."

Me: Yes Grayson. Auntie Chino made a mistake. It takes three planes. Because Fargo is far away.


Grayson: But you told me one plane.

He head is still tilted left, eyes to right... and now his pointy finger is up. 

This can't be good.

Me: Yes. I know. I told you one. But I didn't know it was three.


Grayson: So three planes take us to Fargo?

Me: Yes. Three planes will bring you to Fargo.


Grayson: So... where do four planes take me?

I had to think for a second...

Me: Bismarck.

Grayson: How about five planes?

Me: Montana.

Grayson: How about 10 planes Chino?

I am now apparently Grayson's travel agent.

Me: I think Hawaii....  But the important thing is that in three planes, you will be in Fargo. Okay?


Finger goes down, eyes go down, head returns to upright position.

Still no verbal confirmation.

Me: Grayson? Do you still love Auntie Chino even though I told you one plane?

His eyes go up again.. and he smirks.

Grayson: Yes.

Me: Okay! Well... you need to get ready then! The first plane is leaving soon! You need to get ready to come to Fargo!

Grayson: Okay!

He runs off... and as I hear his feet on the stairs he yells out:

Grayson: I still woh-ve you Chinoooooo!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Going to Chinos!

My sister, and her kids -- Grayson, 4, and Anya, 9 -- are coming to spend a week with us starting Dec. 26.

They have been so excited about coming to Fargo to stay with their Auntie Chino -- which as you can just about imagine doesn't go over well with my mom.

Note: Chino - that's me.

My sister told me this morning that she was skyping with my mother when Grayson runs in.

My mom: Grayyyysooon! Are you excited to come see me?

Grayson: Yes! I am going to Chinos!

12 hours early

It is 5:30 am...

I am in a state of complete relaxation... and about to drift off again for a few more winks... when lo and behold... I hear someone in the room... someone besides my husband that is.

Ethan: (in a loud whisper)... Dad!

Ah. Ethan. Gotta love that kid. On Monday he woke me up from a lovely dream by turning on the lights in our bedroom and announcing: "I gotta find some matching socks!"


Ethan: Dad.

Paul: (groans) Whhhaaaat?

Ethan: Dad. I want to go downstairs.

Paul: (still groaning). Then go downstairs.

Ethan: Dad. I want you to come with me.

Paul: I'm not coming with you.

Ethan: But dad. It's time to open presents.


Paul: (big sigh). Ethan. It is not time to open presents. We will open them at night.

Ethan: (beings to whine) But Daaaaaaaaddddd....

Paul: Ethan. Mom and dad do not get up before 6 am.

Well - that's not exactly true because Paul is usually up and at 'em by 5 am... but today he has off from work...

Ethan: (whining) Noooooo. It is time to open presents now.

Paul: (now awake and not groaning... headed towards barking). Ethan. Do not whine. We will open presents tonight. We do not get up before 6 am. Now go back to bed so you are not crabby all day.

Huh. Impressive summary for a guy who just woke up.

Ethan shuffles off.

A couple minutes go by... and I start drifting off to sleep again.


Paul gets up to go downstairs.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Detour

Oh the fun of living in the upper midwest.

The worst snowstorm in a decade is moving towards us faster than expected. It's already snowing... we could get up to 20 inches...

And my office phone and cell phone are ringing off the hook with my children calling, crying and pleading. (Well, not the 14-year-old). We aren't going to Cavalier, ND to spend Christmas with the grandparents and the cousins.


It is so hard to disappoint them. I hate it. If Paul and I thought we had a decent chance of driving three hours north on decent roads, we'd do it. But even us hardy, experienced North Dakota drivers have our limits. There is absolutely nothing worse than being caught on the open highway in a white out. Scariest damn thing ever. I have been in that situation once and I didn't think I would make it out alive.

I was a new reporter working in Grand Forks, ND... I was headed home to Brookings, SD, for Christmas - actually. Four hour drive straight south on an interstate. I left after work so it was dusk. And I drove right into a blizzard.  I couldn't see a road, I couldn't see a car, I could barely see the own hood of my car. I had no idea where I was driving or if I was even driving straight. I finally came to a bridge... and pulled over underneath it, praying no one would come barreling at me from behind. Thank God I didn't get stuck out there overnight. And... no cells phones way back then.

But the kids don't understand. All they know is that the trip they have been looking forward to for two months is off.

I literally had one kid on my cell and one on my office phone at the same time...

Oh! Look at this - another one calling me. Again.




So - there you go. We've made the right decision, but I am not looking forward to coming home tonight to three very sad boys...


Update at 7:35 pm...

Seven phone calls to my cell phone later -- I got home to a group of boys who had accepted the fact that we were not going to Cavalier for Christmas. I suggested to Paul that we take them out to eat, since they had been home all day... in hopes of perking them up a bit.

They were all doing pretty well. Zach, of course, didn't have a problem at all with either staying or going... but he's older. Ethan apparently, was off in la la land during all the commotion during the day. At dinner, when it came up again...

Ethan: WHAT! We are not going to Cavalier?!

Everyone looks at him.

Zach: Where have you been?

Ethan: Oooooohhhh... Why??!

Evan: Because it is too snowy out and the driving is bad.

Ethan: Oh.

And that was that for Ethan. My easy going child. Thank God I have one.

During dinner, Evan began asking questions about "Santa's gifts" - which he knows are always a little better than Christmas Eve gifts. Santa gifts are ones that mom and dad would NEVER get.

Evan: Soooo... can you tell me how many gifts we are getting from Santa?

Zayd: Hey! How would she know.

Zayd and I lock eyes for about 20 seconds. He found out last year about Santa and the Easter Bunny. He was angry.

Zayd: Oh. Yeah.

Evan: Are we all getting one big gift or what?

Me: I don't know.

Evan: You know.

Me: I don't know.

Evan: Come on... please?

I keep eating and don't respond.

Evan: Well... can you tell me if I'll like it? Is it big or little?

Paul: Evan. Santa is dealing with a recession. There won't be as many gifts this year.

Evan: A recession?

Me: Yeah. The economy isn't doing well. Lots of people have lost their jobs.

Evan: Yeah, but you and dad still have money. You both have jobs.

Me: Yes... but we are trying to be careful.

Evan: Hmmm... okay.

Me: I think you'll like your Christmas Eve presents better than your Christmas ones...

Evan: Oh. Okay.


Evan: Well... that's okay. It's the thought that counts, right?

Me: Yes.

After we got home.... I went up to our bedroom and Evan came in...

Evan: I feel bad.

Me: Why?

Evan: About the recession. I feel bad that you and dad are spending money on presents when there is a recession. You should be saving your money.

Me: Oh my... Evan. It's fine. We are fine. It's good we are spending money - it helps when people spend money.

Evan: Oh. Well... I still feel bad. I didn't know there was a recession.


He rests his arms on the bed and lingers.

Evan: Uhm... mom?

Me: Yes?

Evan: I was wondering if any of the presents I got are really big. Like something I really want. I mean, not that it matters, I know. I was just wondering.

Me: I don't know.

Evan: And I know it doesn't matter how big it is. I was just wondering if you could give me a hint at one of the presents.

Me: I don't know.

Evan: Come on mom... (he tries a charming smile)... you know. Just a little tiny hint?

Me: I don't know.

Evan: Just one hint. Just one. Like... do I need a pencil to use it? Do I play with it? Do I need to roll a dice?

Me: I don't know.

Evan: Mom. Please.

Me: I don't know.

Evan: (sigh) Okay. I love you. And it doesn't matter how big the gift is... or if I really want it. I know it is the thought that counts.

Me: I know you know.

But... I also know its really cool when you get a great big gift that you really really wanted.

New boss in town

This morning, around 3 am... I had a brilliant idea.

The boys have the day off from school and are holding down the fort today - Paul and I are working.

Because of the forecast for up to 15 inches of snow tonight for the region... we may be headed to our Christmas destination tonight... which means much must get done around the house.

My idea? To leave our 9-year-old, Zayd in charge.

I am so smart.

At 3 am it occurred to me that maybe Zayd will be more amicable to helping around the house, if I give him the authority to be responsible for it. Zayd is incredibly stubborn. I can't emphasize that enough. If he doesn't want to do something... it is World War III to stick to our guns. When he was younger, he'd throw tantrums - SEVERAL a day - that would last for HOURS. HOURS. He is much better now, but he still has a temper... and he is still stubborn. And if there is anything he hates more -- it's cleaning. Particularly dirty dishes. Anyways... I think my plan will work. He'll help out this time.

Also - putting him in charge will make Evan and Zach crazy... so there are those additional perks.

This morning, before Paul and I left for work, I gave Zayd the news.

Me: Zayd? I want you to be in charge today.

His eyes grow wide.

Zayd: Meee?

Me: Yes.

Zayd: In charge?

Me: Yup. You are in charge of everything today. You da' man. If we are leaving for Cavalier soon, there is a ton that needs to get done before we leave. So, I'm going to write it all done, and I'd like you to figure out who will do what. I would like you to make sure it gets done properly. Like, the way I would do it.

He is standing up taller and a smile spreads across his face.

Zayd: Okay. What do I need to do?

Me: Let's write it all down.

I pull out a spiral notebook and start making a list.

Me: One. Everyone needs to pack. I'll list everything you need. So... 2 pairs of underwear.. clean underwear...

Zayd gives me his cute snort laugh.

Me: Three sets of warm socks, three shirts - LONG sleeved, one sweatshirt, snowpants, gloves, the warmest hats you have...

Zayd: Coats!

Me: Yup - coats. And... a couple of things for nighttime. Okay?

He nods

Me: Now you'll need to make sure Ethan has everything packed.

Zayd: Okay. I'll make sure.

Me: So... number two. Clean the kitchen. And I mean... CLEAN the kitchen. Dishes out of the dishwasher, dirty ones in, counters wiped down, clutter put away. Sparkling clean.

I continue writing down all the particulars.

Zayd: Evan will clean the kitchen. He is the best cleaner.

He is right about that.

Me: Basement. It is a pit.

Zayd: I'll do that.

Me: Okay - but I"m not talking throwing things under the couch clean... I am talking clean and organized. Your cousins will be here as soon as we get back from Cavalier - so it needs to be ready.

Zayd: Got it.

Me: Basement bathroom and main floor bathroom. Totally gross.

Zayd: Yah - there is pee everywhere.

Isn't there always?

Me: So, no cutting corners. Mirrors and counters wiped, toilet cleaned, floor wiped with Mr. Clean... new towel on towel rack.

Zayd: Check.

Me: (sigh) And... bedrooms. All bedrooms need to be cleaned - especially yours.

Zayd: (sigh) I know.

Wow. He took that really well.

Me: You really need to organize it. You've got crap under the bed, next to the bed, on the shelf of your bed. Your cousin will be sleeping in your room - so it can't be like that.

Zayd: Anya?

Me: No Grayson.

Zayd: Thank God.

Me: But, Zach and Evan's room needs to get cleaned too - because Yaso and Anya will be sleeping together in one of them.

Zayd: Okay.

Me: If you have any problems, you let me know - just call me at work, okay?

Zayd: Okay.

Me: Now Zayd... it is important to remember that good leaders don't "boss" ... they lead by example. So you need to think about how you are going to get your brothers to help you.

Zayd: I know! I know....

I organize some things in my bag, grab my coat and scarf, get my cup of coffee and Paul and I are about to go out the door...

And Zayd is studying his list. Ethan is next to him on his tip toes trying to see what he is doing. Ethan is always VERY aminacable to following instructions.

Ethan: I'll clean! I am good at cleaning!

Zayd: Uhm... you should clean the mudroom. It is messy too. And you will have to clean your side of our bedroom.

Ethan: Right. We have a line in the middle. I'll clean my side.

Me: Oh... one more thing. Zach is still responsible for watching Ethan. You make sure he watches Ethan... and you help him. Zach also needs to make sure everyone gets fed. K?

Zayd: Okay mom! (he starts writing this down).

I head out the door.

Paul drives me to work today - my car is in the shop because my dad hit it... that's another story.

As we are pulling out of the driveway...

Paul: Shoot. The garbage. It's garbage day.

Me: Okay - I'll call. .... Zayd? Someone needs to take out the garbage.

Paul: Metal handle towards to street. Make sure to put it at the end of the driveway or the city will write us a note.

Me: Metal handle towards the street - that is very important. Evan knows how to do it - ask him. K?

Zayd: Uhm... mom? How do you spell all that?

Me: Don't worry about writing it down... just ask Evan to do it now. K?

Zayd: Okay. Bye!

We pull away from the house... 30 seconds later my cell rings.

Zayd: Mom? Zach doesn't believe I am in charge.

Me: Tell him you are.

Zayd: I did. He doesn't believe me. - He is right here. You talk to him.

Zach: Helllloo?

Me: Zayd is in charge.

Zach: Why?

Me: Because.

Zach: Are you kidding me?

Me: No.

Zach: But he thinks he can tell me what to do.

Me: He can.

Zach: You are kidding me.

Me: I am not.

Zach: Why are you doing this?

Me: Because if he is in charge, then he'll work too.


Zach: Fine. Then I don't have to watch any of them. Zayd can watch Ethan.

Me: Nooo... I told Zayd that he was responsible of making sure you watched Ethan.


Me: And feeding everyone... You need to feed everyone.

Zach: Fine. Whatever. Bye.

He hangs up.

I turn to Paul.

Me: I really think this is a good idea. I think Zayd plays his role of victim a lot because we don't allow him to feel like he has some control over his life. I think he will be very responsible. He's not a great follower, but maybe he'll be a good leader?

Paul: Yeah. Until he throws one of his major tantrums, starts hitting and screaming at his brothers...
Yeah - this should be great.

Me: (I start laughing)... Hmmm... this should be interesting...


Paul: You've created Lord of the Flies.

Me: HA!


Me: Oh well!

Monday, December 21, 2009


When you are the lone woman in a house full of men, you learn to live without privacy, and to explain "all things girl."

Body parts -- or lack thereof -- tampons and bras - just to name a few.

The body part one is always fun. When I was a stay-at-home mom, I couldn't take a shower without one of the younger ones making himself comfortable in the bathroom. The conversations that would occur are terribly funny... but even I am too embarrassed to write what they said.

I can't remember how many boxes of tampons I lost because a son would find them, unwrap each of them, and pull them apart.

Oh - and bras. By the time each were four years old, they had tried them on, or wore several at once.

But I didn't realize just how intriguing bras could be until last night.

Ethan is involved in this one, in case you couldn't figure it out.

I had washed several bras and laid them out to dry in my bedroom. Each formed in perfect domes to keep their shape. Then Ethan came in...

Ethan: What are these doing?

Me: They are drying because I washed them.

I turned around to dig into another laundry basket and tackle more clothes. When I came up, Ethan had squished all my finely formed domes.

Me: Ethan! Don't do that!

Ethan: Why? They were all puffy!

Me: They are supposed to be like that. If you squish them, they'll dry all wrinkled.

Ethan looks down at them carefully.

Ethan: Why do you have to wear these?

Me: Because woman have boobs and they need to be protected.


He considers this for a moment.

Ethan: But why are your bras so big?

Me: (sigh) They aren't that big.

He looks down again.

Ethan: Yeah they are.

Me: Ethan, fix the bras please.

Ethan: What am I supposed to do?

Me: Puff them back up.

Ethan goes down the assembly line and carefully pushes them back into domes.

I turn away to grab more laundry to fold. I come up. Now he is caressing the bras.


Me: Ethan. What are you doing?

Ethan: They are so soft.

He is now taking his pointy finger and poking them... trying to see if I'll notice that once again, he wants to push them down.

Me: Don't even think about it Ethan.

He looks me in the eye with his charming little smile. And he pushes two down.

Me: ETHAN! I am not kidding you. Please. Really don't do that! I am going to get angry. Leave them alone. Okay?

He sighs and agrees to leave them alone.

Me: I need to go to the laundry room and get more clothes. Please don't mess with the bras, okay?

Ethan: Okay.

Who am I kidding?

About ten minutes later, I head back into the bedroom. There is a little hallway before you walk into the door, and I see Ethan's reflection in our big window. He is standing on the bed, wearing a bra and looking at himself in the mirror.

Me: Ethan?

Ethan turns to me.

Ethan: I'm wearing your bra (he giggles).

Me: Yes. I can see that.

Then he puts his hands on the bra cups - again caressing them.


Ethan: I like these.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Random Ramblings

Some random ramblings from our weekend.

Paul shoveled the snow off the pond so the boys could skate and play hockey this winter. I've probably mentioned this before, but we live on the 5th tee of a golf course and we have a beautiful, huge backyard. Just outside our back gate is a pond. It really is lovely scenery for a house in-town.

A few winter's ago, Paul decided that the pond should be cleared off so the boys would have something fun to do in during the cold months. He didn't tell me about his plan, I just looked out the window and there he was - with the snowblower, on the pond. Later that day, his dad brought over an agar to try to flood the pond so it would be super smooth. It didn't work. But luckily, the pond was smooth enough to skate on...

When he cleared the pond that first year, Ethan was only 3 - so it was important to have some mode of communication between the house and the pond. Walkie talkies came in very handy, along with some soccer chairs. Ethan would get tired and sit on the chair... and if he was headed towards the house, I'd get a call.

It also proved handy for the older boys. Paul and I could sit in the sunroom and enjoy a quiet conversation, keep and eye on the kids, and know that they'd call us on the walkie talkie if there was a problem.

Honestly, Paul is out there as much as the kids are... and now the pond has become a bit of a local spot for the kids in the neighborhood.


My dad and I are very close. I feel comfortable telling him everything that is going on in my life. Always have. If I am struggling with something, unsure of how to handle a situation, or just need to vent - I can always ALWAYS count on him to listen and offer advice.

This weekend, he was alone - my brother came to town to take my mom on an antique roadtrip as her birthday present. This gave me a chance to call my dad and just hang out with him. Zach and I went out to dinner with him one night, and this afternoon dad and I went to Barnes and Noble to chat over a cup of coffee.

I could write a book about my dad... and what he has taught me. But not tonight.

It was just really nice to spend time with him this weekend.


Zach and I went shopping this weekend for some jeans for him. Since September he has grown several inches. However, he has not expanded. Do you know how hard it is to find jeans in a 26 inch waist and 28 inch inseam? For a while, I wasn't sure what we were going to do. Everything that fit in the waist was about 2 inches too short -- even when he wore the jeans around his hips (which I hate, but whatever).

Finally we scored and found Levi's Slims 26x28. I bought the only two pairs we could find. Then I told him to gain some weight for God's sake. If he is going to grow into a 30 inch inseam, his waist has got to be 28 - or we are in some deep do-do.

Zach has always been a snazzy dresser. While we were out shopping he spotted some stuff that he thought would look good on his 11-year-old brother, Evan. Evan is now in middle school - so dressing well has become more important.

Zach picked out some shirts and jeans for Evan... and we went home. Then, (and I thought this was particularly nice), Zach spent about an hour with Evan, showing him how to put it all together -- along with some of his other clothes.

It leaves me hope that indeed, they do care about each other and will look out for each other as they get older.


Ethan - who is always a little lover - was particularly lovey today. After I got home from coffee with my dad, he ran to me and gave me the biggest hug. He led me to the couch, sat me down, and made himself comfortable in my lap.

He sorta wiggled himself into a position where I had to cradle him -- when the kissing commenced. Random kisses on the cheek, hand, and forehead accompanied by at least a half dozen "I love yous," and several compliments on the way I smelled. He sure knows how to flatter a girl.


Ethan spent much of yesterday singing parts of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody. In particular:

Ethan: I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me...

Followed by...

Ethan: Scaramouche! Scaramouche! Scaramouche!

Anyways... for a bunch of reasons I'm not going to get into, Zach and I ended up picking up my dad to go out to eat for dinner.

As we are sitting in my dad's driveway in the car, waiting for him to come out, I say to Zach...

Me: Zach? Do you have any idea why Ethan was singing a Queen song today? He kept singing "I'm a poor boy" and "Scaramouche! Scaramouche!"

Zach: (laughs)... yeah. I taught him that. Pretty funny.

Me: It was funny. I figured it was you.

Zach: It was...

My father comes out from his house and gets into my car.

Me: Hey Dad. What were you doing?

Dad: Oh... I was just watching a movie called Scaramouche from 1952. It reminded me of when I was in school in Turkey...

Pretty much all I heard was Scaramouche. I turned and looked at Zach whose mouth was hanging open.

Me: Dad. Stop. What? What is the movie called?

Dad: Scaramouche.

Me: Are you kidding me?

Dad: No! An old movie with Janet Leigh and there is swordfighting which reminded me of the time in Turkey when my friend and I had to take a class....

I lost track of what he was saying.

Zach and I stopped him and explained that we were JUST talking and used the word scaramouche.

Me: Oh my God Dad! Isn't that weird?!

Dad: It is weird.

Isn't that freaky? I mean, it's not like Scaramouche is a word people just throw around everyday.

...and I checked. There is a movie from 1952 called Scaramouche. A remake of the original made in 1923:

Which is based on a historical novel written in 1921 by Rafael Sabatini. A a romantic adventure about a young lawyer during the French Revolution. The lawyer, through a series of follies, becomes an actor playing "Scaramouche" in a comedy play. There's a lot more to it... but you'll just have to Bing or Google or Yahoo or whatever you want to do to find out more.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Date 2 nite?

This past workweek was busy and stressful.
For me, it is the little gestures that make a big difference in my day.

My husband made it all better Friday with one short text message:

"Better day? Date 2 nite?"

Mr. Charming

This morning my 6-year-old needed to know how skirts and tights "worked." He walked into my room this morning just as I was finished dressing for the day. He stopped and a funny smile came across his face. A shy smile

Ethan: Why are you wearing a skirt mom?

Me: Because I dress up for work. I like them sometimes.


Me: Do you like my skirt?

Ethan: Yes. (He smiles shyly again)


Ethan: What is that stuff on the bottom?

I was wearing a long wool skirt with fringe on the bottom, coupled with some riding-style black boots.

Me: Fringe. What do you think of it?

Ethan: I like it. (He turns his face slightly to hide his smile).


Ethan: Why are you wearing boots?

Me: Because I think it looks good with the skirt. What do you think?

Ethan: Yes (smiling shyly again).



He looks at it more closely.

Ethan: How did you get the skirt on?

Me: What do you mean?

Ethan: I don't know how you got it on?

Me: (I show him the zipper). I just slipped it on.

Ethan: Oh.

He sees the tights I am wearing.

Ethan: What are those!?

Me: Tights!

I pull on them and let them snap back.

Ethan tries to do the same...

Ethan: They are soft.

Me: Yes.


Me: So what do you think? Does mommy look pretty?


Ethan: (smile) Yes.

I have trained him well. 

He gives me a great big hug and kiss and bounds out of the room.

Ooo... no prompting on that one. He is a natural!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Negative guy

On the drive to school this morning with Zayd, 9, and Ethan, 6.

Zayd: (in a monotone and depressed sounding voice) Next week is Christmas.

Me: I know! It's so exciting!

Ethan: I am excited for presents!

Zayd: (sigh) I am sad.

Ethan: Why?

Zayd: I keep thinking about Valentines Day last year.


Me: Why are you thinking about Valentines Day last year?

Zayd: Because it was a very bad day for me.


Zayd: (sigh).

Ethan: Why? Why was it bad?

Zayd: Because you (Ethan) hit me that day and hurt me.


Me: Zayd? How about we stay in the present, huh? We were talking about how exciting Christmas will be. Why do you need to bring up something yucky when we are talking about something happy?


Zayd: Because I am a negative person.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Skype-ing Syria

My mother, Mayla, got onto Skype recently. My sister, who lives in Florida set her up - during the process, it was evident that my sister seriously questioned that decision. Helping my mother with tech stuff takes a lot of patience.

Mom eventually got a reasonable handle on Skype, so she decided to get HER sister, Nour,  on it. Her sister lives in Aleppo, Syria.

You can just about imagine where this is going.

It's hard enough to have someone who understand Skype to explain it to someone who doesn't... it becomes almost impossible for someone who only gets Skype because she keeps hitting buttons until it works to someone who doesn't understand Skype. Not to mention the the personalities involved - both women have no patience, are highly emotional, and use their hands a lot when they talk (which means inadvertantly hitting buttons on the computer that they didn't mean to hit).

This morning I talk to my mother over the phone while she is in the process of trying to Skype Nour.

Mom: I can't get this Skype to work! I see her but I can't hear her! Why can't I hear her!

Me: Hear who mom?

Mom: Nour... I see her! Why can't I hear her!

Me: Mom, I have no idea

Mom: I can't hear her. What is happening. Oh... Gaaaad.

Me: Do you have your sound on?

Mom: YES!

Me: Okay. Don't get mad...

Mom: Well - I am mad! I can't hear her!

Me: Okay. Well, maybe it is something on her end.

Mom: What?

Me: I have no idea.

Mom: What could it be?

Me: Mom, I have no idea.

Mom: Well, Yasmine is there helping her. Yasmine is Nour's daughter. I bet she is thrilled right now as well.

Me: Okay. Yasmine will figure it out.

Mom: Yeah...


Mom: Why don't you Skype your Auntie?

Me: Well that's fine, but you didn't give me her Skype name.

Mom: I told you it is Nour Hariri.

Me: Yeah. But I told you there are 8 Nour Hariri's. I don't know which one it is.

Mom: It's Nour Hariri. Just Nour Hariri. Nour Hariri. Nothing else.


Me: Yes Mom. I know. There are 8 Nour Hariri's nothing else. You have to tell me how she identified herself. Is she Nour Hariri Syria? Nour Hariri Aleppo Syria? Nour Hariri, nothing else?

Mom: Nour Hariri Aleppo Syria. I told you that.


Me: Okay. I'll try right now.

Mom: But then I have to get off!

Me: Yes.

Mom: Well then I have to get off now.

Me: Okay, get off. Then I'll  call.

Mom: Okay fine. But I want to stay on the line.

Me: Fine.

 I find the right Nour Hariri and call her...

Mom: What is happening?

Me: I am calling her.

Mom: Did she come on.

Me: Mom. I JUST am doing it now. Give me a sec.

Mom: Okay. Okay.

Zayd is standing next to me watching.

Zayd: Who are you calling?

Me: My Auntie Nour in Syria.

Mom: You found her?

Me: No. I'm talking to Zayd.

Zayd: Who is Auntie Nour?

Mom: Did you get her?


Me: I am talking to Zayd, mom. Auntie Nour is Nana's sister.

Mom: Zaaaayydooo! That's my sister!

Me: Mom. He can't hear you.

Mom: Why?

Me: We aren't on speaker phone.

Mom: What? What? Speaker?

Me: He can't hear you. I am on the phone. Not him.

Mom: Why can't he hear?


Me: Just wait, please? I'll tell you when something happens.

Mom: Okay. Gaaad. You are in a bad mood.

Breath Najla. Just breath.

Mom: Is Zayd excited?

Me: I don't know. Wait mom.

Mom: Fine.

I finally connect with Nour. I can see her, but I can't hear a thing.

Me: Hi Auntie! It's Chino! I wave.

Mom: Is she there?!

Me: Yup. I see her.

OMG - she looks exactly like my mother. 

Zayd: She looks like Nana! (snort laugh).

Mom: What did she say?

Me: Well, I can't hear her yet.

Mom: Why can't you hear her? See? That is the same. I can't hear her either.

Me: I don't know why I can't hear her.


Mom: Zaydo! Can you see your Auntie Nour!?

Me: MOM. He is not on the phone. He cannot hear you.

Mom: He can't hear her either?

Me: He can't hear YOU.

Mom: Can he see her?

Me: Yes.

Mom: What did he say?

Me: Please mom? Let me figure out why we can't hear each other.

Mom: I wonder what is wrong. Deeb (Nour and my mother's brother - who by the way IS tech saavy) told her to buy a microphone.

Me: She doesn't have a mic?

Mom: I don't know.

Zayd: (does his snort laugh) She doesn't have a mic?

I decide to I-M Auntie Nour.

I type: I can see you but I can't hear you. Can you see me? Can you hear me?

Nour (types): Yes.

I type: Do you have a microphone?

Nour (types): No.

Me: She doesn't have a mic.

Mom: I told Deeb to tell her to get a microphone!

I decide to just talk to Auntie even though I couldn't hear her.

I introduce her to my children. Ethan becomes fascinated by all this.

Ethan: Hi Syria! Hi Syria! Can you hear me Syria!?

Zayd: That isn't Syria. Her name is Nour.

Me: It's Nana's sister.

Ethan: Hi Nour! Hi Nour! Nour! Talk to me! I can't hear you Nour!

Which of course sends Auntie Nour into a slight frenzy... she leans very close to the camera and I can see her talking... well.. it looks like yelling.

Me: Ethan. Something is wrong with her computer. We can't hear her.

Ethan: What is wrong?

OMG - don't these people know that if I knew what was wrong I would be fixing it!?

Me: I don't know.

Mom: What is wrong?

Me: Nothing.

Mom: Can you hear her?

Me: No, not yet.

Mom: Why isn't it working?

Ethan: Does she live in Texas?

I think I am going to implode.

I hand the phone to Zayd.

Me: You talk to her.

Paul is in the adjoining kitchen.

Paul: Tell her it's 5 below zero.

Me: It's very cold Auntie. It is 5 below zero.

Paul: Ask her if she wants to see the snow.

Oh. That's kinda a good idea.

Me: Do you want to see the snow?

Nour (types): Yes.

So I pick up my Apple and give her a little play-by-play tour of the house complete with color commentary from Ethan.

All the while I can hear Zayd giving a play-by-play to my mother.

Finally - and honestly I don't know what happened... We hear Auntie Nour. It cuts in an out... but there she is. She tells me she can hear me as if I was sitting in the same room.

Zayd: Oh my God. She sounds just like Nana.

Me: She does, doesn't she?

Me: You look great Auntie! Just like I remember you!

Nour: Oh thank you.

Then she takes her hair out of its bun and fluffs it around.... JUST like my mother.

Ethan: Why is she doing that?

Me: She wants to show you her hair.

Ethan: Nour! Nour! Don't do that! Stop it! Stop it!

Me: Ethan!

Nour: Why do you want me to stop it?

Ethan: Because I don't like it.

Me: Ethan.

She puts it back up.

We talk for about 30 minutes... I heard about how her English was bad -- even though it was really quite good. I hear about how my cousins don't know English because the Syrian government forbad English courses in school while they were growing up. Now that has changed.

She told me she wanted me to come to visit. I told her I would.

Then we said our goodbyes. She was going to try to call my mother.

Nour: But maybe she won't be online?

Me: I'll call her and tell her.

Nour: Okay. Bye! (followed by a dozen blown kisses - Ethan threw just as many back).

I put my computer down to call my mother and my Skype rings.

It's Auntie Nour.

Me: Hi Auntie! What do you need?

She doesn't respond. Hmmm...

Me: Auntie? Auntie?


I hang up.

Three seconds later my Skype rings. It's Auntie Nour again.

Me: Paul? Should I decline it?

Paul: No. Just don't do anything.

I call my mother.

Me: Mom, Auntie is going to call you.

My Skype rings again.


Me: Mom. Call Auntie on Skype, please. Would you?

Mom: But what if she is not on?

Me: She is. I told her to stay on.

Mom: Okay. Did you hear her?

Me: Yes, it finally worked.

Mom: So she has a microphone?

Me: Apparently.

Mom: What was wrong?

Me: Mom, I don't know. Just call her, okay?

Mom: Okay, bye.

That call is going to take a miracle.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

I'm history

I'm getting old.

Today that became clear to me.

It started with a trip to the mall to purchase some coats for the kids and tennis shoes for Zayd (see entry entitled Mysterious Odor).

I walk through the women's section and most of what is available makes me cringe. Lace leggings, low cut, skimpy shirts, uber-ugly skirts. God! Why would anyone want to wear any of this?

I could hear my parents voice in my head. When I was in 5th grade I wanted a pair of "go-go boots" SO BAD. They wouldn't buy them because they were "in-sharsh-shash" -- which in Arabic essentially means trashy. Fortunately, I got a pair of hand-me-down go-go boots from my older cousin. Man, I loved those boots. And now, here I am... thinking most of the clothes I am looking at are in-sharsh-shash. Thank God I don't have daughters.

How did this happen? When did this happen?

I head up to the kid's shoe area and quickly find a pair of Nikes that will work fine. Then I decide to browse at the men's shoes. Wow. Some of these are just plain weird... ugly.... aren't there any nice classic men's shoes? Why does everything have to look so... so... oh I don't know. Just not the same.

Driving home I flip through the radio stations. Ugh... yuck... What? THIS is music? I think to myself as I hear my options. Finally I land on an oldies station... oldies as in '70s and '80s. Sigh.

In the afternoon, Zayd, Ethan and I went on a tour of the police station, (for boy scouts) and then I took them to a delicious local pastry shop that sells all sorts of fantastic and beautiful goodies. We had a white chocolate candy cane dome, a slice of five-layer chocolate cake, and the biggest mugs of hot cocoa any of us had ever seen.

Zayd: Wow. They use glass mugs. Fancy!

It used to be that the only time you got hot cocoa in styrofoam cups was when you went out sledding...

They downed the food in 5 minutes. Zayd wanted to lick the plate.

Me: You know... we can take our time and enjoy our treats.

Zayd: Why would we do that?

Me: Because this is a nice chance for us to talk about our week.

Ethan: But I'm hungry. I want to eat.

Zayd: I prefer visiting in the car.


Doesn't anyone really visit face-to-face anymore? We have to multi-task? Drive and visit in the car? Why don't my kids get this? Hummm... maybe this is why I blog? No one takes the time to listen to storytelling. There's no time. To many other things to do. Instead, people can read a few sentences, and decide whether they want to continue.

After inhaling their desserts, we went across the street to an antique store. I was amazed at how much time they wanted to spend in there... they were fascinated by everything. Thank God. There is some hope. But some of this stuff just wasn't old. At least, I didn't think it was old.

Zayd: What is this!?

I look down. 

Me: It's a rotary phone.

Zayd: A what!?

Me: A rotary phone.

How does he not know this?

Zayd: Crazy. How does it work?

Really? He doesn't know how it works? Have I traveled to another dimension?

Me: Well, you put your finger here and you turn it like this... See? 2 - 9 - 7... now you do the rest of our phone number...

Zayd: 0 - 6 - 2 - 3. Wow. That is fun to do. How old is this phone?

Me: Not that old. I used to have a phone like this in our house.

Zayd: Wow. That's pretty old. What's this for?

He holds up the cord.

Okay - now he must be messing with me...

Me: It's a cord.

Zayd: For what?

Me: So it works!

Zayd: Oh.


Zayd: Can you take it off?

Me: You can but then it won't work.

Zayd: Huh.

A few minutes later, Zayd had found another "old" phone.

Me: Oh! That's a pay phone.

Why is a pay phone in an antique store?

Zayd: Cool! I've never seen one before. How does it work?

A pay phone. A pay phone? My son has never seen a pay phone.

I explain how it works and he responds

Zayd: Why would anyone ever need a pay phone?

Ethan finds a box of kitchen utensils... in it is a can opener. One that we used to have when I was a kid.

Ethan: WHAT is THIS!?

Me: It's a can opener.

Ethan: WOW! This must be really old!

I am as old as the can opener.

Zayd calls me over to where he is

Zayd: Mom! Mom! Look at these!

I see some cylinder recordings next to some 45s. Okay - THIS is going to be a tough one. They have never even seen a turntable...

The antique store was in reality a history lesson for my boys. And frankly, a not that long ago history lesson. Am I a living member of history? I think I feel sick.

By that point,  I had decided I had enough of the antique store. Next we went to the art museum. Again, Zayd and Ethan were fascinated by some of the "old" sculptures and paintings - made way back in 1975. Again, a glimmer of hope. I was pleased that they loved the museum and we spent about an hour looking all around.

We left and headed home. The boys excitedly told their dad about their afternoon with mom. Then, out of the blue - Zach, our 14-year-old points at the television and yells:

Zach: THAT is Mr. T!

Me: Huh?

Zach: Zayd. Zayd! Look at the TV! It's Mr. T!

Zayd: What? (pause) Wow....!

Me: Why are you so interested in Mr. T?

Zach: Zayd has never seen him before.

Me: You have never seen Mr. T?

Zayd: No. Who is he? What does he do?

Holy. That cinched it. I am old.

Tummy kicks

The other morning, Paul and I were giving each other a nice little greeting before getting ready for work...
the kind of greeting where you hold each other close, face to face....

And he says:

Paul: Did I just feel a kick?

Me: A kick?

Paul: Yeah. A kick.

Me: What do you mean a kick?

Paul: I felt your stomach kick me.

We looked at each other (still in each others arms)... well, more like I looked way up, and he looked way down...(he is 6'6).

The look lasted about 30 seconds.

I think I was waiting for him to wink at me, or laugh, or something that would indicate that he was kidding.

It didn't happen.

Me: Are you serious?

Paul: Yeaaah... (he looked as though he might be concerned that I might really kick him).

Me: I didn't feel anything.

Paul: Maybe it was a gurgle or something?

Me: Maybe it's a baby?

We looked at each other again... this time I think he was waiting for me to wink, giggle, or give some indication I was kidding.

I finally did.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Birds and Bees

My husband is the MASTER of the "birds and the bees" talk. He is so good at it, I have considered transcribing it and selling the script online for $10.


I learned he was the master when I listened to him talk to Zach about it when he was about 7.

Some may think 7 is too young. But, my sister-in-law, who I truly believe knows everything there is to know about appropriate child-rearing, decorating, cooking, home improvement, and properly tearing down non-supporting walls, said that most boys learn about sex by the time they are in 2nd grade. When Zach was 7, I was pregnant with Ethan - so Paul and I figured we'd better tell him before his friends got to him.

I am sitting on the couch next to Zach holding his hand while Paul gives "The Talk."

I'm waiting for the big moment - the point in time where you have to really say what happens. You gotta get down to the nitty gritty.

And... Paul is so smooth! I didn't even notice it. It was so calm, no-nonsense and really, really, really sweet! Beautiful actually. That is when I knew - THIS guy is freakin' amazing. Wow.

Paul follows up his talk by giving the boys an age-appropriate book. This insures that they really "got it."

Just because you tell your child about sex, doesn't mean they get it. My family found this out with my sister. In our elementary school, they offered a "Family Living" class in the fifth grade - sex education. My sister got an A in Family Living, but didn't know how sex worked which I realized after a conversation with her in our room. I remember saying, "What? You think that's how girls get pregnant?" and she responded with, "Uhm.... I guess I'm not sure how they get pregnant." Followed by, "Didn't you get an A in Family Living?"... anyways, I set her straight. That is the only "The Talk" I've ever had to do thank God.

Each of our children, thus far, have responded differently to "The Talk." Zach read the book and immediately had a series of brilliant questions: "If one sperm and one egg make a baby... then how are twins made?""So how are identical twins made?"

Evan got the talk around 8. I wasn't there for his. I had heard it once already. Clearly, Paul knows what he is talking about. From what Paul told me, Evan was intrigued. No questions ever asked, but he did read the book from cover to cover...like a dozen or more times. We think he still has the book somewhere, because shortly after giving Evan the talk, the book disappeared.

However, with Evan we did worry that he would take it upon himself to educate others little boys. I'm not sure if he did or not.

Crap. Is that why the book is gone?

A couple weeks ago, it was Zayd's turn. We had to buy another book of course. We waited until Zayd was 9 for several reasons: 1. He is Zayd (please see all other entries regarding Zayd for a full understanding of this statement); 2. He was recently tramatized by the revelation that there is no Santa Claus and no Easter bunny... which led us to believe he wasn't mentally prepared for "The Talk;" 3. He is Zayd.

Again, I was not present. But I waited patiently for Paul to come downstairs from his mission.

Me: How did it go?

Paul: I think it went well.

Me: How did he take it?

Paul: Uhmm. Fine.  I asked him if he had heard any of this before and he said no.

Me: Oh my God. It was a total surprise? He is probably traumatized. Why can't he have friends who are a little bad?

Paul: He'll be fine.

Me: Where is he now?

Paul: Reading the book.

Me: Did he seem interested?

Paul: I don't know. I really don't know.

About 3 minutes later, Zayd comes down the stairs.

Paul: You are already done with the book?!

Zayd: No.

Paul: You didn't like it?

Zayd: I don't feel like reading.


Zayd never did get back to reading the book. It's been two weeks. Unlike Evan, who still has his book - somewhere - Zayd has chosen a different route... that of non-acknowledgment.

Simply put, he refuses to acknowledge that "The Talk" ever took place. He does not recognize "The Talk" sort of the same way that North and South Korea don't recognize one another.  I mean, it's there - we all know it's there - but... it just really isn't there.

Two weeks have gone by and there has still been no acknowledgement. One day, Paul and I are sitting and having coffee when Zayd walks in:

Me: Zayd. I was wondering if you had any questions about your talk with your dad?

Zayd didn't bother to say no. He stood and stared at me for about 5 seconds with a blank, completely disengaged look... veering slightly towards a "Are you really THAT stupid" kind of look. He turned and walked out of the room.

To which Paul and I looked at each other. I with complete panic and Paul biting his lower lip to keep from laughing.

So. There you go. We have no idea what is going on with Zayd.

Come to think of it, we have never really known what is going on with Zayd. So, at least nothing has changed, right?

And despite the latest results of Paul's talk, I'm still pressing forward with marketing the script. We just won't ask Zayd for a testimonial.

Danger Pat

When I put the boys to bed, I usually give them a strong pat on their leg after I kiss them goodnight. We call it the "Love Pat."

Two days ago, while putting Zayd to bed... I missed.

Yes... I hit the spot where no boy wants to be hit.

Zayd doubles up in pain.

Me: Oh my God Zayd! I am SO SORRY!

Zayd: Owwwwwwwwwweeeeeeeee..

Me: Holy cow. I am so sorry - are you okay honey? I didn't mean to do that! I can't believe I missed your leg!

Zayd starts giggling and owie-ing at once...

... and then he giggles more and more and more...

until we are both laughing.

Zayd: Okay mom. No. More. Pats.

Me: Right... no more.

Zayd: Your love pats are becoming dangerous.


Last night I spent quite a bit of time with Zayd at bedtime. While his brother Ethan snoozed away next to us, I sat on the edge of Zayd's bed while he was cuddled up under the covers... and he talked... and talked... and talked. This was part of our conversation.

Zayd: Mom? Did I do something wrong?

Me: No. Why do you say that?


Zayd: I don't know. I just feel like I did something wrong.

Me: Of course you haven't done anything wrong. Did I say something or do something that made you feel that way?

Zayd: No.

Me: Did dad?

Zayd: No.

Me: Hm. Well sweetie, you haven't done anything wrong that I know of...


Me: ...is there something you want to talk about? Something that is bothering you or on your mind?


Zayd: I don't know.

Me: Okay. Well. You can talk about whatever you want to. I won't get upset with you. But you also don't have to talk if you don't want to... k?

Zayd: (sigh) I know.

I play with his hair and stroke his face... and wait.

Zayd: Mom?

Me: Yes sweetheart.

Zayd: I saw Mrs. Smith crying today.

Mrs. Smith (name changed) is one of his teachers.

Me: Ohh... why was she crying honey?

Zayd: I think her mom or dad died.

Me: Oh. Yeah. That is sad. That would make lots of people cry.

Zayd: Yeah.

Me: Where did you see her?

Zayd: In her classroom. She didn't see me. I always stop by before I leave school.

Me: That's nice! You just stop by to say hi or something?

Zayd: Yes.

Me: That is very thoughtful of you. I bet she likes that a lot.

Zayd nods in agreement.

Me: So why do you think her mom or dad died?

Zayd: Well, in class when the phone rings she says 'This might be an emergency' and she always answers. She told us that her mom and dad are very sick.

Me: Hmmm... well that makes sense then.


Me: I will be sad when Nana and Papa die.


Zayd: Do you think Ethan will care when Nana or Papa die?

Me: Well sure he will! If he is still young when it happens, he may not understand it like you or I do.

Zayd: How can he not understand someone dying?

Me: Well... sometimes the idea of someone never coming back is hard for little kids to understand. But Ethan would be sad that he wouldn't see Nana or Papa. He just might not understand the idea of forever.


Zayd: nods in agreement.

Me: You should probably go to sleep. It's already 9:30.

Zayd: Okay.


Zayd: Mom?

Me: Yes honey bunny?

Zayd: I love you.

Me: I love you too.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


Paul, Zach, Zayd, Ethan and I are sitting in the sunroom early this morning chatting.

Zach, with some backup from Zayd, entertained us by reciting line-by-line, scenes from The Office and a Dane Cook schtick he heard on television.

He probably shouldn't be watching Dane Cook... I'll have to get on that one later.

I turn to Paul

Me: Is this a boy thing? I mean, repeating word-for-word movie scenes, television episodes and stuff?

Paul: Oh yeah. I was exactly the same way.

Me: Really?

Paul: Yeah. I was the class clown.


Me: You did stuff like Zach does?

Paul: All the time.

Me: Zach is funny - can you go back to that? I like that. What happened to you?

Paul: I had four kids.


Zayd: No. He got married.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The mysterious odor

Today the family was plagued by a mysterious, pungent and frankly disgusting odor.

Paul and I first noticed it in the morning as we were reading the paper and having our coffee.

Paul: Holy cow! What is that smell?

Me: I don't smell it.


Me: Ohhhh! Wowwww.... Okay. I smell it.

Paul: Ethan! Go and change your shirt - it's the same one you wore last night to bed.

Ethan: I don't smell! It doesn't smell! (He sniffs his own shirt). See? I smell good!

I notice that he is actually wearing exactly what he was wearing yesterday. God only knows if he even bothered to change his underwear.

Me: Ethan - go and change everything. Shirt, pants, undies, socks.

Ethan: Fiiiiine.

He stomps off.

Later, I am in my room typing and Zayd comes in to talk to me. All is well... and then Ethan comes in again.
About two minutes later and the smell hits again. And this time it is REALLY bad.

Me: Ethan! Did you change?

I look him over. No. He did not.

Me: Ethan, go and change or you are not going Christmas shopping with us. Come here...

I take a whiff of him. Hmmmm.. I don't notice anything in particular.

Me: Zayd is that you?

Zayd: Maybe.

Me: Well - for God's sake... go take care of that.

Zayd: Okay.

Zayd decides to take a shower. Afterwards he comes back in to my room. I take a sniff - all seems good.

Ethan comes in again. This time with a new shirt, but the same pants. It takes about two minutes again.. and the smell hits.

What. The. Hell.

Me: Ethan. You need to soak in the tub too.

We get Ethan in the tub. Finally everyone is clean, showered, soaped, and fresh. We head out to shop.
A few hours later when we return home... Zayd, Ethan and I go to my office in the basement to wrap gifts. Zayd is sitting next to me and I smell the smell again. This time, it isn't quite a potent. But the closest thing I can figure is it is his tennis shoes.

Me: Oh my God Zayd. It's your shoes. They smell awful. We need to get rid of those.

We get our gifts wrapped and under the tree... the boys start raiding the kitchen and then the smell overtakes all of us.

Zach: WHAT is that! THAT is sick!

Ethan: WHOA...

Evan: It's ZAYD!

Me: Zayd... come here.

He is walking around in his socks. As he approaches, it becomes obvious that indeed it is his feet. The grossest smelling feet I have ever smelled.

Me: Zayd. Take off those socks, take them to the laundry room and wash your feet.

Zayd: It's not my feet. They don't smell.

He takes his socks off in front of me and smells his own feet. Now, without his socks on... I think I'm going to pass out.

Everyone: Ohhhh!

Zayd: Oh. Yeah. It's my feet.

He disappears for a while and returns.

Zayd: Do my feet smell now?

I cautiously lean towards his feet - but not too close.

Me: No. They smell fine now. Thank you.

Zach: Where did you wash your feet?

Zayd: The bathroom sink.

Everyone: Ohhhh! Ewwww!

Real Christmas Stuff

Tonight, Zayd, Ethan and I went Christmas shopping. Our mission: To find their older brothers, and cousins gifts. Our first stop was the "new" Walmart, built in the hoity-toity part of the city (and no, the neighbors were not happy about it). Interestingly enough, the sign for the nation's discount store in the hoity-toity part of town read: Walmart "The Fargo District" -- complete with mission style signage that seemed a bit more upscale.

Inside it looked exactly the same.

However, the crowd customers seemed a little less inclined to beat their children in the aisle. I may end up going back.


So we found the gifts for the older brothers -- which were not toys. This bothered Ethan quite a bit.

Ethan: So when are we really going Christmas shopping?

Me: We are going Christmas shopping.

Ethan: No. I mean really. When are we buying the real presents?

Me: Uhmm.. honey... these are the presents for your brothers.

He looked at me and didn't reply.

We checked out and got back into the car to get home.

Ethan piped up again.

Ethan: Uhm mom? I want you to buy me REAL Christmas presents.

Me: Okay. What does that mean?

Ethan: It means I don't want clothes or books or stuff like that. I want REAL presents.

Me: So what is a real present?

Ethan: Toys. I want toys. You know... toys. Things to play with. I don't want books. You can't play with books.

Me: Okay. You want toys.

Ethan: Yes. Toys mom. No books.


Ethan: Mom. Toys. Okay?

Me: I heard you.

Ethan: Promise mom? Promise real presents?

Me: I promise.

Ethan: Good.

Play by play: Poop

Ethan is standing in an odd way in front of me in my bedroom.

Me: Do you have to pee?

Ethan: No I have to poop.

Me: Well go to the bathroom then!

Ethan: Okay!

He starts walking like an old man towards my bathroom. As he is walking, slowly I might add, he says:

Ethan: Actually it is starting to come out right now. It's kinda half in and half out.

Oh my God.

Ethan: (Still working on getting situated on the toilet). It's kinda dry and crunchy.


Ethan: No I think it might not be dry. It's going to be a wet one. And it's a big one.

He is giving me this play by play in a raised voice. Kinda monotone. No real emotion. Just the facts.

Ethan: Oh. My. God. Yup. It's gonna be a big one. It's kinda hard and dry.


Ethan: Hmmm... no. It's kinda wet and dry at the same time.

He starts singing: Rubber ducky... you're the one... who... whoo.... I don't remember.

Ethan: Holy cow. (pause). You gotta come and see this.

I hear little plops in the water.

Ethan: These are my chicken nuggets from last night.

More plopping.

Ethan: Whoa.


Ethan: Ewww... No. (pause). They are kinda juicy.


Ethan: Mom. You do not want to see this. You defintely do not want to see this.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Another nighttime conversation with Ethan, as I am putting him to bed:

Ethan: Mom. There is mud all around the basement - right?

Me: Uhmmmm....

Ethan: So the basement is in the mud?

Me: Oh! Yes. The basement is under the ground - in the mud.

Ethan: How did it get there? Who made it?

Me: Well... when the house was built they dug a big hole and made a basement.

Ethan: Who dug the hole?

Me: The construction company.

Ethan: How many people dug the hole?

Me: Hummm... maybe four or five people?


Ethan: How do they dug a hole?

Me: They use a backhoe.

Ethan: What's a backhoe?

Me: It's a big shovel that sorta looks like this and digs like this. (I try to show him how a backhoe works using my hand as a big scoop - apparently it worked - he got it).

Ethan: Ooooooohhhh! I knowed what a backhoe is!

Me: Yeah! Great - this is how a backhoe digs up lots of mud and then it puts it in a dump truck.

Ethan: So isn't a backhoe yellow?

Me: Right. A backhoe is yellow.

Ethan: And it has some black on it?

Me: Yes.

Ethan: It has black letters on the side.

Me: Okay.

Ethan: Well... actually... the letters are yellow and there is black around the yellow letters.

(While he is explaining all this - he is using lots of hand movements - this helps a lot when discussing backhoes)

Me: Oh. Right.

Ethan: Right?

Me: Sure.

Ethan: And there is sometimes a black oval next to it? On the side of the backhoe next to the letters?

Me: Uhm.... I don't know....

Ethan: Yes. There is.

Me: Okayyyy.


Ethan: And the shovely part has those little things sticking out of it? Like little spikey thingys?

Me: Right! Exactly!


Ethan: What else can you tell me about the backhoe?

Me: Gosh - I think you've covered it.

Ethan: No. No. Remember? There is those handles that move like this where the person makes the backhoe shovel the mud. (he mimics controlling a backhoe)

Me: Oh right! You remember a lot of stuff about backhoes.

Ethan: Yes. Yes I do.


Ethan: We had a backhoe in our backyard once. Remember?

I am now shocked. That was three years ago when we added on to the house. 

Me: Yes! How did you remember.

Ethan: 'Cause I knowed a lot about backhoes.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Today as I was cleaning the kitchen, the television was on a football game. Ethan was sitting eating his lunch. A commentator began yelling his opinion into the mic.

Me: Oh my God! Why is that guy yelling!

Ethan: So people can hear him mom.


Ethan: Old people, like Nana and Papa.

Me: Oh really? Nana and Papa huh?

Ethan: Yesss, because old people can't hear good. So the men have to yell so they can hear them.


(he goes on with his explanation, without prompting from me)

Ethan: Mom - you know yesterday I was at Nana and Papa's house when you tooked me there? Well. Nana was in the laundry room and Papa was in the kitchen and Nana had to yell really loud so Papa can hear her.


Ethan: Papa can't hear. So Nana had to yell a lot.

Me: So why didn't Nana just walk over to Papa so she didn't have to yell?

Ethan: Mom! She was doing her work! She couldn't go and find Papa!

Me: Oh. What was she working on?

Ethan: Her e-bay

(My mother has a thriving business selling linens on e-bay. She's a "power seller" which she is exceedingly proud of... )

Me: Oh.

Ethan: So that's why the man is yelling on TV. So old people like Papa can hear what he's talking about.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Funny quotes for the day after Thanksgiving

Zayd: If I am going to be a plumber - I'll need to start dressing like one.

(he then turns around and shows me his falling jeans complete with butt crack. What's with people showing me their butts lately btw?)

Zayd, after eating a turkey sandwich:

Zayd: Okay - now I am going to start my diet.

After eating another sandwich

Zayd: Okay - now I really am going to start my diet.

Zachary, while listening to his brothers arguing loudly.

Zach: See mom? This is why I play video games. It's my Advil.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Just across nid-might

Tonight Paul and I took Evan, Zayd and Ethan to the Holiday Lights Parade in downtown Fargo. It was a balmy 38 degrees - many years we are bundled up in snowsuits watching the parade. This year the kids didn't even need gloves - so they were able to scoop up lots of candy.

As Zayd noted, "It's like Halloween all over again!"

After we got home and dressed in our pajamas... Ethan crawled into bed with me.

Ethan: Is it okay if I ate 10 candies?

Me: Don't eat 10 candies... you'll get a stomach ache.

Ethan: How about 9 candies?

Me: That's too much too.

Ethan: How many candies can I eat?

Me: How about five candies.

Ethan: If I eat six will I puke?

Me: What?

Ethan: Will I throw up?

Me: I don't think so - it's just not good to eat too much candy before bedtime.

Ethan: Okay.


Ethan: Will you warm my feet?

He plops both his feet in my lap. And I warm them up with my hands.

Ethan: I know what will warm them up too!

He gets under the covers and snuggles right up against me.

Ethan: Mom? Can I sleep here tonight?

Me: No. You can stay here for a while and then I'll put you to bed.

Ethan: But I want to sleep here... in your cozy bed... with your cozy pillows... and your cozy covers.

Me: Wow. Is my bed THAT cozy?

Ethan: Yeth.

Me: Ohhhh... I'm glad you think so, but I'm sorry. No. You can't sleep here tonight. You need to rest in your own bed.

Ethan: Between you and dad...?

Me: Hmmm...

Ethan: He won't feel me.

Me: He won't?

Ethan: No.


Ethan: Can I stay until nid-might?

Me: Nid-might?

Ethan: I mean mid-night. Can I stay until midnight?

Me: That's a long time.

Ethan: Okay how about just across from midnight?

Me: Hmmm... just across huh?

Ethan: Yeth.

Me: How long is just across midnight?

Ethan: It's just a little long. Not a lot long.

Me: Well... maybe you can stay a little long.

Ethan: Can you hide me? Cause if dad sees me, he'll make me go to my bed.

Me: Where should I hide you?

Ethan: Right here next to you.

Me: Okay. If you lie really still... maybe he won't notice you.

Ethan: But what about my head! He'll see my head sticking out of the covers!

Me: I'll hide your head.

Ethan: If he gets here quick, can you hide me under the covers?

Me: Sure.

Ethan: What if he finds out I'm under the bed?

Me: You're going to be under the bed?

Ethan: I mean, what if he finds out I'm under the covers?

Me: Well... he might find out.

Ethan: Will you tell him that I am sleeping here with you tonight?

Me: I'll tell him.

Ethan: Good.

It took him about 2 minutes to fall asleep. He looks so sweet and peaceful.

Maybe Paul wouldn't notice if he stayed?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Da Dahhhhh!

The following pictures represent what happens when:

a. You dress in the dark
b. You can put on your jeans without unbuttoning or zipping
c. It is early in the morning
d. Your name is Zayd
e. All of the above.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Learning to win; learning to lose

Tonight was the Boy Scout "Space Race" - a space-take on the pinewood derby concept. The boys get a pinewood block to create a rocket ship. It's a kit; fairly simple to do. Zayd worked on his on his own. Paul had to help Ethan sand his block.

The boys have been talking about the space race for four weeks they have been SO excited. When I picked them up from their after-school program tonight, here is what we talked about in the car:

Zayd: I am soooo nervous about the space race.

Me: Why are you nervous? It's going to be a lot of fun!

Ethan: Yeah! I'm not nervous. I'm excited for the space race.

Zayd: Well... what if I don't win?

Me: Are you doing this just to win?


Zayd: Yes. Why else would I do it?


Me: Well... not everyone is going to win. Sure it would be fun to win... but you might not. You worked on your rocket - you did your best. Just go and have fun. They'll be pizza and pop and all your friends will be there.

Ethan: I don't care if I win! I don't care! I'm going to have fun!

Me: See Zayd? See? (Then I do a little cheer) Whoooo hooooo! The Amundson's are going to the space race to have funnnnn!

Ethan joined me.

Zayd did not.

Zayd: (heavy sigh). I will not have fun if I don't win.

Hooray for me. This should be a blast.


Did you know the Boy Scouts take their races very seriously? Uhhh... yea. They do. Very seriously.

We arrive at the school gym a little before 6 pm to find this contraption. Two wooden things on either side of the gym with four long strands of fishing wire tied between them. The rockets hang from the fishing line. They shoot out of this starting gate and the rocket that makes it the farthest wins. The rockets are really like little planes - they have a propellor on one end that is hooked to rubber bands. You  are allowed to rotate the propellor 100 times and then when you let go.. the rocket goes down the fishing line...  It's really simple - but hard to describe.

There were 16 kids with rockets. So how do you figure out which kids race against whom in the "four lanes" rocket contraption?

You use a computer program. A computer program that not only calculates who needs to race against who based on how well the rocket performs... but on what lane they've raced in (just in case there is more drag in one lane versus another). And guess how many races it takes to make sure you've given all rockets an equal opportunity?


Thank God I had pizza, pop, and Paul with me.  I might have died of hunger, thirst, or just gone mad.

Zayd's rocket was out of contention early on. He didn't cry, but honestly? He might has well have. He looked like a crushed little soul. Pitiful. Sulking in his chair. Ethan was still in the race, and way trying to console Zayd and not get too excited about his chances at a trophy.

So...sixty races and 2 and a half HOURS later... we came to what they called the "final round."

Thank God, I thought.

The scout leaders announce that "final round" is made up of 18 heats.

I frantically turn to Paul:

Me: What does that mean?

Paul: It means 18 more races.


Me: Are you kidding me? (I may have added an expletive)

Paul: Nope.

Shoot me now.


Ethan's rocket ended up racing in like 20 heats over course of the evening. We snapped 10 rubber bands and finally had to resort to borrowing ones from others who were out of the race. By the way, being in 20 heats meant rotating that damn propellor 100 times each for 20 races... Paul's finger was bleeding at the end of the night.

Oh - and did you know you are supposed to "lube" the rubber bands?

Did I mention the Boy Scouts are serious about their races?

In the end, Ethan won first place for the tiger cubs (the den I lead) and our other two tiger cubs also got second and third place trophies. Ethan also came in second overall.

Zayd did not get a trophy. He was fine until he got in the car. Then he lost it.

Zayd: (bawling - and he cries VERY loud)

Ethan: Zayd.. Zayd... ZAYD! Just CALM down. CALM down. Just calm down Zayd. (He is admiring his large trophy, of course).

Zayd: (bawls louder)

Ethan: Zayd. You don't need to cry. It's JUST a space race.

Zayd: (continues sobbing).

Ethan: Zayd. Don't you remember what we said in the car before? It doesn't matter if you win or lose. We are just having fun.

Zayd (sobbing)

Ethan: I didn't care if I won or lost. I don't care. I had fun.

Zayd: (louder).

Me: Yeah! It doesn't matter if you win or lose! We are ALL WINNERS! Right guys! WHOOOO HOOOOO! (I cheer).


Ethan: Except for Zayd. He is a loser.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Three squeezes

The boys and I have a little communication code that started because my now 11-year-old was getting too shy to say "I love you" in public.

Together we decided that three squeezes of the hand meant "I love you" - and four in return meant "I love you too."

It's a sweet little ritual that all the boys do with me... Sometimes I've got Zayd in one hand and Ethan in the other hand and we are walking through a parking lot... and I am getting and giving hand squeezes left and right (so to speak).

Even Paul and I do the "I love you" hand squeeze when we are out in public. Sometimes when we are taking a walk around our neighborhood, sometimes when we are out to dinner... sometimes even just when we are snuggled up watching television. I'll squeeze his hand three times, and he squeezes it back four.

It's never planned... it just happens. It's our family's silent but special way of reminding each other that we love each other.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dressing in the Dark

Zayd was walking out the door this morning... Like - right out the door - coat on, backpack on, on his way to school... when Zachary noticed something strange.

Zach: Uhm... excuse me. Did anyone notice Zayd has his jeans on backwards?

Everyone looks

Indeed. Zayd had his jeans on backwards.

So - Paul takes a picture - It will probably be revealed again at Zayd's high school graduation reception which will inevitability be held in our garage in keeping with North Dakota tradition...

But I digress...

So Zach asks the obvious question:

Zach: Zayd! How did you manage to do that?

Zayd: It was dark!


Zach: But the zipper... AND the button - didn't you wonder why you had to zipper and button up in the back?


Zayd: I didn't have to button or zipper! I just went into my closet - and pulled up my pants. I didn't need to do anything!

Zach: Oh my God. What would you have done if you got to school like that!

Zayd: Well... if I noticed... I would have gone to the bathroom and switched it around.

IF he had noticed.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Couple of Random Conversations

Some random conversations from today:

Driving Zayd and Ethan home from their after-school program.

Zayd: Why do people in hospitals get the special treatment?

Me: What do you mean the special treatment?

Zayd: They get to lie down in bed. Watch television and play with a PS-2.

Me: That's the special treatment?

Zayd: Welll. Yeah! That's what Evan got to do when he was in the hospital.

Me: Zayd. The kids in the hospital feel really terrible. They hurt. Hospitals have things for them to do that doesn't require them to get up and move around too much when they are sick. They also have some things for them to do so they don't think about how sick they feel.


Zayd: I want to be hurt so I can get special treatment in the hospital.

Me: Zayd! Don't say that! You don't want to be in the hospital.

longer pause

Zayd: No. I kinda do.

Me: Zayd!

Zayd: Well! Don't I have to have my tonsils out? Like Evan?

Me: No. You do not need your tonsils out.

Zayd: Dang!


Zach: I kinda have an odd question for you.

Me: Okay.

Zach: So - when do women stop getting "that time of the month"

Me: Uhm... it depends. Some women can start as early as 40... some quite a bit later. But it doesn't just stop. It takes a long time. Why are you asking?

Zach: Well... I don't know if I should tell you.

Me: Why?

Zach: You might get mad at me.

Me: Why would I get mad?

Zach: Okay... well... I think my math teacher is having her time. 'Cause she gets really (and then he snarls like a cat attacking something -- and does a little cat claw gesture action to accompany his feline vocals).

Me: Okayyy... wow Zach. Wow. Well... it doesn't sound like she is going through menopause.

Zach: Yeah! I know! I'm wondering when she WILL go through it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Back Scratch to Basics

My good friends Anna Kudak and Carol Bruess published a book called, "What Happy Couples Do" - based on research Anna did during her master's program at NDSU on rituals.

My parents were interviewed for Anna's thesis and are featured in the book under the heading "Back Scratch to Basics" using pseudonyms.

Quote from the book (using my parents real names):

For the past twenty years or so, Hassan has been scratching Mayla's back as she falls asleep at night:
"It's the best thing to go to sleep and relax with someone scratching my back. Each night around nine o'clock, I climb into bed and turn to Hassan. 'Okay, now it's your time to scratch my back.'"

Well, about 3 years ago, my dad almost lost his arm to a rare infection. Well... we almost lost him. He was in the hospital for six weeks. Six surgeries and 11 large incisions to his arm later... he was back home.

One of the things my mom told Anna was that she had thought - "Hassan won't be able to scratch my back anymore." And how much she would miss that.

So the first night my dad was back from the hospital... guess what happened?

My mom says as she was falling asleep she opened her eyes to find him standing on her side of the bed, scratching her back with his good arm.



Sunday, November 15, 2009

Zayd's repetoire of songs

I've mentioned before that Zayd, our 9 year old, likes singing. A lot.

Today I woke up to:

Zayd: Oh it's ladies night and the feelings right, oh it's ladies night - oh what a' night.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Zach was helping Ethan pack today to spend the night at Nana and Papa's house.

Zach: Did you put your underwear in the suitcase?

Ethan: No.

Zach: Well where is it?

Ethan: In my pants.

The phone call

Last night we went out for dinner with some good friends of ours. Zach was in charge of the herd of men.

About an hour into dinner, Paul got "the phone call" -- here is what I heard of the conversation:

Paul: Hello?

(short pause)

Paul: Yeah.

(10 second pause)

They are asking for permission to do something I bet.

Paul: What happened?

Crap. Something happened. Do we have to go home now? Zayd and Evan are probably fighting and Zach can't control them.

Paul: On his finger?

Ooooo. Not a fight - a finger...  

Paul: Is he crying?

Dang kids - it's a burn! Are they cooking? They are SO going to get it from me.

Paul: Is it blue?

Whew - not a burn. Must have slammed a finger in the door.

Paul: Yes. Put it under some cold water. That should help soothe it.

Cold water? For a finger in the door? What the?

Paul: So, where did he find thread?

Thread? Wait. What? Thread? 

Paul: How did you get it off?

Najla. Inventory time: thread, finger, blue, off... hmmm... 

Paul: What was he DOING?

Ethan. I should have known. 

Paul: Okay. Call back if it doesn't look better.

He hangs up.

Me: What happened?

Paul: Oh, Ethan wrapped a piece of thread around the tip of his finger and it swelled up pretty bad, turned blue and he couldn't get it off...

Me: Oh geez...

Paul: It's okay now. They got it off and he stopped crying...

Me: Yeah, but what about his finger?

Laurie (my friend): Aaaaa... finger shminger... It's just a fingertip. He doesn't even need it.