Saturday, May 30, 2009

Falling pecs

Zach just came running into my bedroom and said (in a dramatic voice)...

Zach: What? My "latipheus door-sigh" has gone flabby. I better get to a rowing machine.

He then took a dramatic jog out the door.

This is how I live.


Friday, May 29, 2009

Underwear theme continues...

I asked my 14-year-old to read a book to his 5-year-old brother before bed. Zachary left, and a few minutes later, returned to my bedroom straight-faced...

Zach: Uhmmm. Yeah. You know, I don't think I need to be subjected to this kind of experience.

Me: (sigh - along with frustrated look) 

I'm just asking the kid to read ONE book. Help me out here.

Zach: Ethan's hands are in his underwear. I don't know how long they've been there, but I'm guessing it's been long enough to have some significant effect to the cleanliness of his hands. Frankly, I don't want to be near his hands. I don't think that is too much to ask, is it?

Me: (another sigh) Zach. Please? Just read him a book.

(pause)  We stare at each other for a moment.

Me: Why don't you take him to the bathroom and help him wash his hands.

Zach: Mom. Really? I don't think soap and water are going to kill the germs that are growing on his hands. I'm just saying.


Zach: OK. Fine. I'll do it this time. But next time - it's your job. I'm done. Until his hands come out of his pants on a long term basis, I'm done.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


How is it that my 5-year-old can look me straight in the eye and tell me that his hands are not in his underwear when I ask him, "Why are your hands in your underwear?"

His hands are clearly in his underwear because all he is wearing is underwear.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Stuffing Your Pants

We are home no more than a hour from our Memorial weekend trip, and the boys are fighting.

I ignored it for about 20 minutes - but then the piercing screams from the 5-year-old hit a new octave - and I had HAD it.

I went marching down the stairs, already using my "angry voice."

Me: OK - THAT is IT! WHAT is going ON down here!

Ethan's face is red and sweaty, tears are running down his face and his screaming hits a high as I approach. His arms outstretched, he is holding a stuffed bunny in each hand. One is a cute blue Beanie Baby - the other is not. And frankly, looks kinda scary. He got from the "cousins" house during our weekend stay.



Zach is lounging on the recliner watching television... ignoring what is happening. Zayd is perched on another chair watching me like a spectator - waiting to see how THIS one is going to go down.


Me: WHAT! WHAT did Zach do!

I am now yelling even louder than before so Ethan can even hear me over his screams. So I CAN even hear me over his screams.


Pause. Uhhh.. Did I hear that right?

Another scream.

Yes. Yes, I did hear that correctly.


Zach sits straight up and looks at me.

Zach: What! He kept throwing them at me! I told him if he did it again, I was going to put them in my pants.

Ethan: NOOOOOOOOOO! (Another piercing scream).

Oh my. I'm going to start laughing - and Zach can see it coming. So he starts smiling at me.
I turn my head away to pull myself together. "Angry voice Najla! Become one with your angry voice."


Me: Zachary!


Zach, Zayd and I are now covering our mouths with our hands. After a few moments, I conjure up my angry voice again.

Me: Zach. Did you put the toys in your pants or in your underpants?

Zach: Just in my pants.

Me: Seeeeee Ethan! He JUST put your toys in his pants, not in his underwear. See?


Me: No Ethan. He said he did not. ZACH! Say you are sorry for putting his toys in your pants. And mean it!

Zach: (Serious voice) Ethan. I am sorry I put your toys in my pants.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Biker boy

Ethan, 5, just learned to ride a two-wheeler today. I sat on the front-step hooting and hollering for him, as he rode by back and forth.

I yelled out, "Ethan, I'm so proud of you!"

He yelled back, "Yeah. I know. I change-ed into a boy who can ride a two-wheeler."

Ink blotter

I walk into the mudroom... and the first thing I hear is water running full force out of a faucet (which drives me crazy - along with everyone leaving lights and televisions on).

Before I get into the kitchen I yell out, "Why is the faucet running?"

My 14-year-old, Zach, replies, "Ethan is washing his hands."

This cannot be good. My children do not willingly wash their hands.

I quickly drop my stuff on the floor and walk towards the bathroom. Ethan walks out and he is smeared in something black. It is all over - On his face, on his hands, on his shirt and on his pants.

Me: What is that? I examine it more carefully. What did you do? Is that marker?

Please let it be washable marker.

Me: Oh my God Ethan! Is that ink? Where did you get ink?!

Before I bother to find out, I take his hand and quickly walk him upstairs to my bathroom. Nail polish and eye makeup remover and cotton balls - Always my first line of defense.

It seems to work pretty well... Then... it hits me.

Me: Ethan? Where did this ink come from?

No answer.

Me: Ethan? Did you play with a pen?

No answer.

Then... it really hits me.

Me: Ethan.... where is the pen? Is it on a table? Were you drawing on the table?


Me: Ethan. Tell mommy where the pen is.


Ethan: It's on the couch.

Of course it is.

I grab my nail polish and eye makeup remover and bag of cotton balls and bolt outta the bathroom leaving Ethan standing there. I have my priorities.

There is ink all over our beautiful leather burgandy couch. His eight-year-old brother, Zayd is sitting right there, watching television... completely oblivious.

Me: Holy crap.

Zach: What happened?

Me: How is it that both of you are within inches of your brother and no one seems to see that he has exploded a ball point pen on himself and the couch?

No answer.

I begin working on the couch. Zach, Zayd, and now the culprit, Ethan, are on top of me watching. The eye makeup remover kinda works. Then I try nail polish remover. Smears it all over.

Zach: Whoa. That doesn't look good.

Zayd: The couch is turning purple mom!

Ethan: I like purple.

Me: Unless. You. Are going to grab. A cotton ball. And help me. Get. this. off... GET AWAY FROM ME!

Zach and Ethan scatter. Zayd stays to help. I check the internet and find out that isopropyl alcohol works.

In the meantime, husband comes home and takes over cleaning up Ethan with isopropyl alcohol. We didn't bother to check whether that was safe to do.

Ethan appears again - dancing around me in his polar bear underwear as I continue to try to clean up the couch. What is it with this kid and underwear?

Ethan: Mom! I need more alcohol! Isopropyl alcohol

Great. That's all I need now - For him to go to school and repeat that line.

After about 40 minutes, a bag of cotton balls, and a half roll of paper towels... it looks acceptable. I call my husband Paul into the room.

Me: There. It looks ok? Doesn't it?

Paul: Yeah.

We both stand there, staring at the couch for a minute

The Zach yells from the kitchen.

Zach: Hey! Look at the bright side. At least it wasn't a white couch.

Nana wants to use a bad word.

My blog has focused on the men in my life. That's because there is room for only one woman - my mother.

My mother - Nana as my children call her - is difficult to describe. To say she is emotional, passionate, funny, opinionated and unpredictable... would be a understatement. She is personality multiplied by 1000.

She was born and raised in Aleppo, Syria, has a Ph.d in Plant Sciences, and today has a thriving online business via eBay selling antiques and linens. She has lived in this country for about 40 years and has managed to avoid grasping American slang -- which makes everything she says... brilliantly funny.

Mom got her Ph.d when she was 45. She attended college the same time I did. At the same university.

I would often walk through the student union and find my mother at a table surrounded by cute college guys - all laughing up a storm at her jokes, wit and charm. And then, to my complete embarrassment, yell over the noise of the union and beckon me to meet "the boys."

I looked for the nearest exit.

So... now to our story about Nana wanting to use a bad word.

We were having lunch together one day and she got quiet leaned in towards me and said in a hushed voice...

Mom: I have to ask you something.

My heart is already pounding, thinking she has found out about something I've been doing in college that she wouldn't approve of... and there were many...

Mom: What is a prick?


Me: What?

Mom: What is a prick?


Me: Uhmmm... why are you asking?

Mom: Weeeelllll. In class today, the boys were calling Dr. XX a prick. And I didn't understand what they were laughing about. Is a prick funny?

Me: Uhmmm...

I'm still trying to decide how to handle this conversation. As I mentioned, my mother can be unpredictable - so who knows where this could lead - like back to stuff I have done that she would not approve of...

Me: Well, yeah. It's not something nice to call someone.

Mom: Yeah - I know that! But is it bad? Is it a bad word? Or is it something you can go to someone and say "You are a prick." Like, can I go up to Dr. XX and say "Dr. XX you are a prick."

Me: Oh. My. God. Mom. No. Do not go up to your professor and call him a prick. That would be bad. Very, very bad.

Mom: (now in a hushed voice again - as if we are talking about something really super dirty. She is now very intrigued) So - what is a prick then?

Me: Oh God mom. Why do you have to do this to me? Why can't you ask Dad about this stuff.

Which reminded me of the first time I saw the F word scratched into the back of the seat on the bus in about 1st grade. I came home and asked her what it meant. She said she didn't know. Then she asked my dad. Who explained it to her in Arabic. She looked horrified. He turned to me and said - "It means tutu (which was the family word for penis). But don't use it - because it is a very bad word for tutu."

Come to think of it, tutu sounds like a pretty weird word to call a penis.

Anyways, back to our story.

Me: A prick like calling someone a tutu. But not in the way we use the word tutu. Like saying, you are penis - but worse.

Ok - bear with me now - I'm going to try to write this so you can hear her accent.

Mom: Ooooooooohhhhhh. Vedy Goude. Aheye seee...


Mom: Weh-llll.. Dr. XX es eh preek.

We stare at each other for a moment... and I see her eyes begin to narrow. Shit. We are taking a turn in the convo...

Mom: (now in her angry voice) How doo you node dis wurd? Huh! Deed we teech u dis wurd? U r using dis wurd? Shem on u!

See? What did I tell you? Totally unpredictable.

And pretty damn funny.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Girls, girls, girls...

Five-year-old Ethan brought home his elementary school yearbook yesterday. Of course, we had to sit down and look at his picture and go through all 20 kids in his class: 12 girls and 8 boys.

So, I pointed to each person, one by one, and asked him if he/she was his friend.

Every girl I pointed to was a, "Oh yes - she is my fend."
Every boy I pointed to, with the exception of one was, "Oh no. He is not my fend."

That's fine. I'm glad he enjoys playing with the girls.

But couple this with several other things that I know about my child and I'll be honest. I'm a bit anxious about our years ahead with our youngest son.  

Example. When he was 3, we had a brick patio put in the back, just outside our sliding glass door. He really wasn't interested in watching them put it in... until one day, I found him pressed up against the glass. Every part of him was pressed against the glass.

I look out, and see that a woman has joined the crew. A well-sculpted, very well-endowed, woman wearing low rise jeans and a white tank top. Every time this worker bent over, depending on whether her back was to us, or her front, we got a nice view of either her voluptuous breasts, or the tattoo on the small of her back.

No question - she was a head turner.

Me: "Ethan, what are you doing?"

Ethan: "Mom. I weewee weewee like that durl." 

At which point I promptly peeled his little body off the glass door and said, "I think it's time for us to watch a little Sesame Street."

Another example:  When he was about 4, we had a lovely college woman come over to babysit the boys. She was beautiful. Tall, slim, long hair... you get the picture.

Ethan is a cutie pie. He has long eyelashes and a sweet smile and he knows how to work it. He bats his long eyelashes at her and asks her if she wants to sit and read to him. I go up to get ready to leave and when I get back, he is on her lap and she gestures for me to come over.

Babysitter: "Oh my God. You won't believe what Ethan just said to me," she says in a hushed voice.

Me: "Oooookaaayyyy. What?"

Babysitter: "He looked at my boobs and said, 'You're a durl. I like your boobs.' And then he kinda poked at one with his finger."

Me: "Oh my God!  I am so sorry! ETHAN!"

Babysitter: "NO! No! Don't! No one has ever told me they like my boobs! No one has ever noticed my boobs. I love him! (pause) Actually, we're dating now."

Do you see why I'm a little worried?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Should we cut it off?

My boys are quick to cry over injuries. Sometimes, admittedly it's for attention. Sometimes I really just think their pain threshold is extraordinary low.

Ethan, 5, walks into my room as I am working on my paper with big tears streaming down his face.

Me: Oh my goodness! What happened sweetie?

Ethan: I DON'T want to tell you!

Zach is also in the room. He is grounded from video games, television, and the computer. So, he sits in front of me most of the day bugging me.

Zach: Then why did you come in here?

Ethan: STOP! Growl. Crying continues.

Me: Ethan, just tell me what happened? What hurts?

Ethan: NO-Thing! Which is my absolute most favorite word he says.

Zach and I look at each other, biting our lips and trying not to laugh.

One of the things I say to my boys, when the injuries are minor and they can't stop the drama is, "Do you think we need to cut it off?" This really annoys them.

So, when one of them comes in limping and shows me a scrape, undetectable without the aid of a magnifying glass... I say, "I think we'll need to cut it off." They realize they are not going to get much pity from me and they go away.

After Ethan continued to show off his dramatic skill for about five minutes, I finally said, "I think we'll need to cut it off."

To which he responded with a bigger cry: Why do you always want to cut off parts of my body!

Holey Moley!

Last week was a bit intense in our household.

Zayd, our 8-year-old, came to our bedroom to ask whether he could watch the latest King Kong movie. We decided it was a bit too violent for our over-imaginative son who each night before bed needs to ask us, "What should I think about tonight" in order to avoid nightmares. By the way, after 4 years of this, it becomes increasingly difficult to come up with new material. Lately my response has deteriorated to topics like orange juice and grass.

Zayd is also quite the passionate child - I think today's psychological term would be "strong-willed child."

So, when I said: No, that movie is not appropriate for you. It's very scary." I knew what I was getting myself into - I just didn't know EXACTLY what I was getting myself into.

The pleading began, and with each "no" came a elevated response. So much so that a full-blown tantrum had begun. I then informed my son calmly but firmly that if he would not stop, he would lose a day of television. That sent him to a new level.

Me: No television.

He went ballistic.

Me: You are going to lose two days of television if you don't stop.

Is there word for a level beyond ballistic?

The meltdown in now into its 20th minute.

Me: No television for a week.

All hell broke loose and I took him by his arm and with great determination (and strength) walked him into his room and said, "You will sit here until you calm down. I am not interested in listening to you right now."

I walked back to my bedroom and laid on the bed with my husband. Both of us on our backs, staring at the ceiling and probably thinking the same thing: What the hell did we do to create this child? Well, I mean, we know what we did... but I mean after that... what did we do?

A few minutes later - along with the screaming, we hear a loud bang, followed by another loud bang, followed by another loud bang.

Then we hear a very, very, loud bang. Then silence.

Still staring at the ceiling, I say: Huh. That doesn't sound good.

Paul goes to check things out.

Paul: He punched a hole in the wall.


The commotion brings the other boys into our room. They are used to these meltdowns and normally find other things to do, far away from the noise. But even they knew something new had happened.

First, the 5-year-old, who shares a room with his brother and is not afraid at all of his meltdowns. We hear him run directly up the stairs in into their bedroom.

Loud scream from Zayd.

Then Ethan comes marching into our bedroom with his eyes the size of half-dollars.

Ethan: Mom. Zayd just pumpched a big hoe in de waww. Is a weewy weewy big hoe.

Then the other two run in. What was that!

Ethan: Zayd pumpched a weewy big hoe in de waww. He was quite proud that he was the first brother on the scene.

The other boys run into Zayd's room. More screaming - from Zayd. They run back.

Evan: Oh my God mom! I can't believe he did that! What are you going to do?

Me: I'm not sure what your dad and I are going to do.

Leave it to Zach to sum it all up.

Zach: You know, you gotta admit - that's pretty impressive. He didn't even break his knuckles. I mean, come on, that's amazing.


Zach: Huh..I wonder what he'll do next time?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Caught Red-Handed

This is a "chat" conversation between my 14-year-old and I that just occurred on Facebook. I was upstairs, he was downstairs.


how is it that you are on the computer?

you are not supposed to be on it my dear.




yes. you know that.


or r u just joshin me?


grounded from computer, tv, video games...

no. you'd better get off...

or I will come and hunt you down.


thats unfortunate....




i dont find it funny....


Monday, May 11, 2009


Oh my God. My 14-year-old thinks I am stupid.

He shows up at my bedside tonight while I'm writing my paper and hands me a blank piece of computer paper.

Zach: Will you sign this?

Me: Huh?

Zach: Will you sign this?

Me: Why do you want me to sign a blank piece of paper?

Zach: Because.

Long pause. We stare at each other.

Me: Uhmmm.... no.

Zach: Why won't you just sign it?

Me: Because.


Zach: Fine. I forgot to bring my permission slip home for a field trip. I need to bring the permission slip in tomorrow or I can't go.

Me: Ooooooo-kay. Sooooo... why am I signing a blank piece of paper?

Zach: So I can see how you sign your name and I can forge it on the permission slip tomorrow.

Is he kidding me?

Zach: I'll tear it up right after I forge it!

OK. High marks for me on open communication with eldest son. Low marks on ethical standards.

Add another man to my list

As if worrying about five men weren't enough. Now I get to add my 76-year-old dad into the mix.

Papa and Nana (my mother and father) live down the street from us. Right down the street. Ten houses down the street - same side of the street. Are you with me? They moved to town when Papa retired from 25 years in higher education as an engineering professor.

Last year we were thrilled when Papa agreed to come over to the house everyday at 3 pm to watch the three younger boys until their 14-year-old brother got home from school. This means Papa is responsible for a 5, 8 and 11-year-old for one hour.

My 14-year-old has been telling me for months that Papa doesn't really watch the boys. As Zach puts it, "Papa is merely present."

Today - Zach had some supporting evidence to that effect.

As I walk into the house today at 5:10 pm, I am greeted with a pungent odor. Zach is sitting at the computer in the kitchen.

Me: Why does is smell like poop in here?

Zach: (Slowly and deliberately turns his head to me) I've been trying to tell you for forever that Papa doesn't watch them.

Me: (pause) Oh my God. (pause) What happened?

Zach: So, I get home and I walk in and the place smells like it is burning down. Ethan is in the family room and has vacuumed up half a quilt. He can't pull it out, the vacuum cleaner is hot, and smells like it is going to explode.

Me: And where is Papa?

Zach: Papa is in the kitchen watching TV.

Note: The kitchen is open to the family room. It is impossible to be in the kitchen and NOT know what is going on in the family room. That is, unless you are Papa.

Me: So what did you do?

Zach: Well first, I stopped the impending house fire by turning off the vacuum cleaner and yanking the blanket out of it. Then I got Ethan and Zayd outside doing something else. THEN I asked Papa if he noticed that Ethan almost burned the house down.

Me: And...

Zach: He said, (insert heavy middle-eastern accent here) "Yeah... I guess I noticed something smelly..."

Me: And...

Zach: And then he said "Bye Zeki" and left.

OK. So maybe Zach's right. Papa isn't watching them.

He obviously isn't smelling them either.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Jedi Mind Trick

My 14-year-old introduced me to the "Jedi Mind Trick" the other night. Apparently, with the swoosh of your hand in front of the face of your victim, you can get them to do whatever you want them to do.

Zach: Mom. Do you want to take us to Culver's after dinner for ice cream?

Me: No.

Zach: Completely straight faced. Swoosh. Yes you do.

Me: What are you doing?

Zach: Jedi Mind Trick.

Me: I look over at his father. What is he doing?

Paul: Jedi Mind Trick.

The rest of my men folk at the dinner table nod their head in agreement. This includes 5-year-old Ethan, who I am pretty sure has no idea what a Jedi is... let alone the concept of a "mind trick."

Me: I am not taking you to Culver's.

Zach: Mom. Swoosh. You are taking us to Culver's and you are so excited about it.

I turn to Paul.

Paul: Swoosh. Yeah.

I turn to Zach. This time, I "Swoosh."

Me: Zach. You are so excited to clean up the kitchen, sort all the socks that have been piled in the laundry basket in my room for the last week, and clean all the pee around the toilet upstairs.

Zach. Uhmm. No. Mom. Jedi Mind Trick only works on the weak-minded.


A little later in the evening, we are all outside enjoying the warm weather when I catch Ethan on his hands and knees about to pick up a pretty dang big branch off the lawn with his mouth.

Me: ETHAN! DO NOT put that BRANCH in your MOUTH!

Zach: Giving me a smug look. See Mom? Jedi mind trick. It really works.