Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cheap toilet paper and other inappropriate dinner conversation....

Occasionally I wonder if there are other families who have dinner conversations like ours does. Or is it a result of having four boys under the age of 15 at the dinner table?

Tonight's dinner conversation:

Ethan: Uhm... do any of you fart a lot because I do.

Everyone turns to look at him.

Me: Okay. Sooo... you mean you always fart, or today you farted a lot.

Ethan: Yeah. Today I did. I had beans.


Me: Hmmm... and how did that go over?

Ethan: (scrunches up his nose)... Uhm... kinda bad.

Evan: Oh my gosh! Can I tell you that no one. NO ONE should ever use the stall in the bathroom at Carl Ben (middle school).

Zach: (sarcastically) Right. Thanks for the update.

Zayd: So where do we poop? In the urinal?

All the boys start laughing. I just look over at Paul and sigh.

Ethan: (begins giggling) Ewwwww!

Zach: Why shouldn't we use the stall?

Ethan: Because the toilet paper is like two of the thinnest sheets of tissue paper ever - glued together. And it sticks to your butt on contact.

Me: Wow. Thanks for that Evan. We are eating.

Evan: I'm sorry! But it is awful!

Zach: You are just comparing it to our soft and quilted Charmin.


Zach: Which by the way is very nice stuff. Quite comfortable and cushiony.

Zayd does his snort laugh.

Paul: We're not using Charmin anymore.

Zach: We're not?

Me: No. We've downgraded - to Food Club.

Zayd: We're using Food Club toilet paper?

Me: Yes.

Paul: I think it is better than Charmin.

Zach: Wow. I couldn't tell the difference.

Paul: Actually I think it is Charmin, repackaged.


Ethan: Uhm... I really farted a lot today in school mom. A lot.


Me: And how did you feel about that?


Ethan: Not so good.


Ethan: I am doing it now too.


Ethan: Excuse me.

Ph.D nerves

Oh - I am really anxious. The relief I felt a week ago after turning in my dissertation to my committee has lifted and the stress of facing my defense has descended upon me.

I woke up this morning and my heart was racing. That is never a good sign. I am usually quite comfortable with stress - It makes me feel alive. But this stress feels different. I feel it in my shoulders and back and every once in a while it feels like my heart plunges to my feet and shoots back up - kinda like that feeling you get on a roller coaster.

I hate roller coasters.

The reality of the last five years of my life being put to the test during one sitting with my committee - who by the way are made up of brilliant young faculty - is almost too much for me to comprehend. When I turned in my paper I thought it was really good. As the days wear on... I'm not so sure.

Maybe it isn't all that good? Maybe I think I'm smart, but I'm not really that smart? Am I a fraud? And worse, if I am a fraud, what if they find out - even worse - what if they tell me!

I have a half-hour to make a public presentation - and I have invited every friendly face I know. My husband and children will be there, my friends, my parents...

Ooo.. maybe I shouldn't have invited them? My dad may not smile. Oh - I'll tell him he has to smile the whole time. That'll work.

I did make one really good decision though in all this. I scheduled my defense in the Alumni Center.

Which so happens to be just a parking lot away from a bar.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Meet Mollie. No Daisy. No Mindy?

As I mentioned in my last post, we went to the dog breeder's farm in Peever, South Dakota to make our pick of a mini goldendoodle litter. Miss Candy, a golden retriever, and Mr. Opie, a miniature poodle, had nine puppies together.

After our encounter at the gas station, we turned onto an unmarked road.

Paul: I don't think this is the right road. I think it is the next one.

I hesitated questioning his remark. I know from experience that questioning Paul while driving in unknown territory is received as criticism.

I asked anyways.

Me: Uhm... so if this isn't right, why did you turn here?

He didn't answer. What a surprise.

He couldn't answer, because besides driving in Minneapolis, the only place Paul doesn't like driving is on mud laden country roads that are like small slivers of land patches in the middle of water-filled farm fields.

Evan: Are we going to get stuck?

I whip my head around and give Evan the look of evil - like speak one more time and I cannot save you from what your father may do to you...

Evan: Oh. Sorry.

Me: Here's a farm on the left.

Paul: She said it was on the right.

Me: Oh... well there's a farm way up there on the right.

Paul: She said it was only a mile. We are not on the right road.

And yet...

He keeps driving as if we are.

Curious why he does that... I wish I understood the mystery of men and directions. I don't. What I do know is that if I say anything that even remotely sounds critical, or directive, I should do so at my own risk. I can tell him that his pants make him look fat, but by God... I'd better not tell him he doesn't know what he is doing when he is behind the wheel.

I clench my teeth, breathe deeply, and tell myself to stay silent.

After three seconds I say...

Me: Maybe we should turn around.


I try an alternative approach:

Me: Clearly you were right, Paul. You knew this wasn't the right road.

Paul: Yeah. I knew this wasn't right.


He pulls onto another mucky road to turn around.

I cautiously suggest...

Me: Do you have her phone number? Maybe we should just give her a quick call. I mean, since the roads are so muddy. We don't want to risk the car being stuck...

or taking another wrong road...

Paul: Yeah - I'll give her a call.

After a quick call, and a treacherous journey back over the muddy, foot-deep ruts in the road... we make it back on pavement and find the right road. This one, fortunately, is much safer.

We come up to a farm that has seen better days.

Evan: Is THIS where the puppies are?

Me: Yeah. I think so...

And we are greeted by about a dozen guinea hens blocking the driveway. Paul stops and then slowly inches the car forward.

They don't move.

Me: Don't kill one.

Crap. I questioned his ability to maneuver a car without killing wildlife. 

Paul: Najla... I am trying...

We are interrupted by a grizzly looking man with a shaggy graying beard and a big warm smile... He is waving his arms at us to move ahead...

Paul: I don't want to kill one of these things...

The man approaches Paul's side of the car and Paul rolls down the window.

Paul: Hi there!

Grizzly man: Welcome! Just drive right over 'em! We got plenty! (he starts laughing)

The boys were fascinated.... by the birds, the dogs, the farm, and the grizzly man.

Grizzly man: Just pull on over by that barn. Lorna will be out in a minute.

Paul drives over to the left and I see a few pens with dogs barking wildly. A person emerges from the barn.

Okay. I'll admit. I thought it was a man. We all thought it was a man. The person had on a big plaid flannel navy blue shirt, a baseball cap that covered half their face, jeans, and construction boots. I didn't see any hair... But it was Lorna. The dog breeder.

We hopped out of the car and onto the squishy ground.

Lorna: Sorry about how the place looks. It's been so wet. You are seeing it at its worst.

Me: Oh that's okay. We appreciate you letting us come to visit.

Lorna had made it clear we could stop by any time. We didn't have to call or make an appointment. She said her farm was always open.

Zach grabs my shoulder and whispers in my ear.

Zach: What is that smell?

Me: It's farm smell. Manure, dogs, mud, horses... farm. Farm smell.

Zach: Oh.

We walk into the barn and grizzly man follows us in. He has still got a big smile on his face. He's one of those guys you just immediately like.

Lorna: So, you want to see the girls, right?

I look at Paul for affirmation.

Me: Yeah. I think that's what we want.

Lorna: Okay, just wait. I'll go get them and the kids can go into the pen and play with 'em. But they have to sit down. The puppies are all over the place and we don't want them stepped on...

Me: Of course. Boys? Did you hear what she said? You have to sit down, okay?

The boys are all wide-eyed. Especially Ethan. He looks a little frightened.

Next thing you know, there are puppies everywhere.


Apparently, the goldendoodle pups were were interested in were being socialized with some other puppies she had... and they all got out at once.

Yelping, jumping, wagging little puppies everywhere.

Lorna: Okay boys, you gotta help get 'em back in the pen... just pick 'em up and bring 'em to me! (she talks loudly over the barking).

The boys hesitate at first and look at me like... "What do we do?"  Our old dogs, Ted and Ginger, were 15 and 16 years old when they died. They never liked being picked up by anyone other than me. And they oftentimes growled at the boys...

I looked at them with an encouragingly.

Me: Go ahead... they're just little guys, they aren't going to hurt you!

They hopped into action, scooping up puppies and handing them back to Lorna. Except for Ethan who was still standing right next to me and holding onto my jacket.

Finally, we rounded up the three girls into the pen and Evan, Zayd and Ethan went in and sat down.

And the puppies struck the weakest link. They all went after Ethan... jumping and licking and pawing at him...

He started giggling so hard I thought he would puke.

After holding and watching them for a while... we picked the medium colored one that Lorna had named Mindy.

Me: We'll take Mollie.

Lorna: Mollie?

Paul: Mindy.

Me: Oops. I mean Mindy.

Where did I get Mollie? I know the puppy's name is Mindy. We've looked at her on the website and had thought she'd be the one we wanted.

Ethan: I thought we were going to call her Daisy?

Me: Right. We are going to name her Daisy.

Lorna: Do you want to look at the boys to be sure?

I look at Paul again and he shrugs his shoulders.

Paul: Sure. Why not.

Lorna: Follow me.

We follow Lorna into a kennel with dogs in pens on both sides. She has a lot of dogs. I was starting to feel worried. She probably had more dogs than she should. But the pens were huge and clean... and the dogs weren't crowded on top of each other. And she and her husband clearly enjoyed them. She would pick them up and cuddle them. Grizzly man would pick one up and cradle a puppy, kissing their head.

We played with the male goldendoodles for a bit and I picked one. Dooby.

Nice name. Zach wanted that one because of the name. When we told him no, he wanted to name whichever one we got Dooby. I said under no circumstance would we be naming our dog Dooby. The last thing I need is Ethan calling out "Doooobbbyyyy!" in the neighborhood.

Me: I don't know Paul. This one might be it.

Paul: Okay. Whatever you want.

Me: Well... maybe we should look at Mollie and Dooby together before we decide.

Paul: Mollie?

Lorna: Mindy.

Me: Oh yeah. I mean Mindy.

Evan: Gosh mom! It's Daisy.

Me: I know. I'm so confused.

We walked back out of the kennel and put Mollie - I mean Mindy - Daisy. on the ground with Dooby. Dooby immediately began humping Mollie (I mean Mindy-Daisy).

Me: Uh oh...

Lorna: Ohhhh! We got ourselves a humper!

Lorna picks up a sheet of paper with pictures of all the dogs. She finds the one of Dooby and writes next to his picture, "Humper."

Paul: Nope. We don't want Dooby. Too dominate.

Mollie handled Dooby's humping very well. She stood there like: "Are you kidding me? You are so immature. Are you done yet?" and then she just walked away from him.

Perfect. Not aggressive...

Me: We'll take Mollie.

Everyone else: MINDY!

Ethan: But we are calling her Daisy.

Me: I mean Mindy. Daisy. Mindy-Daisy.

We walked back outside to the car and Lorna introduced us to Mollie's dad Opie, the miniature poodle, and Candy, the golden retriever.

Again... I had to ask.

Me: Uhm... not that I am questioning Opie's manliness or anything... but I'm wondering... how exactly does that work with Opie being so... uhm... so short. And Candy being so tall?

Lorna: Oh we artificially inseminate them.

Me: Oh (I sigh with a sense of relief - although I couldn't tell you why I was relieved.) So the vet does it?

Lorna: No, my vet wouldn't do it. I do it myself.


Lorna: Other breeder came over and showed me how to do it.


Okay. So lots of thoughts ran through my head within a period of five seconds: She artificially inseminates the dog. She does it. How? How...

Grizzly man: (starts laughing) Oh yea... Opie likes her... He doesn't like me.

Holy cow.

I decide to join in the laughter rather than ask anymore questions.

We schedule to pick up Mollie in a couple weeks, when she is 8 weeks old... we say our goodbyes and hop in the car.

After a few minutes Zayd says...

Zayd: Oh my gosh! We stink!

Zach: Yeah. We stink like farm. Holy.

Zayd: I can't breathe.

Me: You'll be fine. We'll air out soon enough.

Everyone gets quiet. I wondered what they thought of their experience? The farm, Grizzly man, the noise, the dogs, the hens, and Lorna.

Zach breaks the silence.

Zach: I really like them. They seem like really nice people.

Zayd: Yeah. Me too!

Evan: Yeah.

Ethan: I did too! I liked them too!

Me: They are nice people.


Zayd: But I could have done without the smell.

Friday, March 26, 2010

25 or 64

Ethan and Zayd sing a lot.

Mostly in the bathroom and in the car. Apparently those spaces are quite inspiring.

Zayd's genre of choice for the bathroom is opera. Just made-up opera kind of singing. And he's not in the shower.

I'm not sure what that's about.

The other day as I was driving them to school, Zayd was singing in the back seat. I could swear he was signing 25 or 6 to 4...

That can't be right. How does he know that song? Chicago? Zayd? He's 9.

Zayd: (singing) Feeling like I ought to sleeeeep! Spinning room is sinking deeep. Searching for something to saaaay. Waiting for the break of dayyyy. 25 or 6 to 4.... 25 or 6 to fouurrrrrr orrrrr orrrr!

He includes the horns...

omg. It IS Chicago.

Me: Zayd? Are you signing 25 or 64?


Zayd: You mean 25 or six TO four.


Yes. He knows what he is singing.


I am surfing the net another night in the peace and quiet of my bedroom...

(I actually get to be on the computer and NOT write a paper... how lovely it is....)

Ethan's voice comes from the boys' bathroom; singing:

Ethan: If everyboooody had an ooooo-cean... in the U-S-Aaaaaaaaa! If everybody had an ooooo-cean...
on the U-S-Aaaaaa...

He sings this over and over...

And while the words aren't quite right - the tune is most definitely the Beach Boys...

He comes bounding into my bedroom... in only underwear... of course.

Me: Ethan. Where did you learn that song?

Ethan turns red.

Ethan: No where.

Me: Oh. Well it sure is a nice song. I love it.


Ethan: I wasn't singing anything.

Me: Oh. Okay.


He lies next to me with his face turned away from me...

Ethan: (whisper singing) If anybody had an ooooo-ceannnn... in the U-S-A...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Peever's butt crack

On Sunday, the fam took a trip down to Peever, South Dakota to pick out the newest member of the Amundson family: A miniature goldendoodle.

That means it is a golden retriever/miniture poodle cross. Mom's the retriever, dad's the poodle....



I was kinda wondering how that worked exactly too...

More on that in another post...

So - the family roadtrips to Peever - a town... no wait...Not a town. A street? Hummm...
I'll call it a gas station. A gas station about 90 miles south of Fargo on Interstate 29. Gorgeous Sunday afternoon...

We stop at the gas station before we head out to the breeder's farm. And there it is... the biggest butt crack I have ever seen.

Hang on, hang on... I'm not being honest.  It wasn't butt crack.

It was butt.

Full out butt.

Because, you know, butt crack would suggest there was a little more butt to see

Oh no.

Nononononononononon nonono nono no. no.

We park the car and I say to Paul in a hushed voice...

Me: Looky over there hon...

Paul turns...

Paul: Oh my God!!! (and starts laughing. Not a funny kind of laugh like when you hear a good joke - more of a scared, shocked kind of laugh. Like, we aren't in Fargo anymore... kind of laugh.)

He was a trucker and he was evidently having issues with his wheels...

...and his butt...

Me: Paul? Does he not feel the air on his butt? I mean, it's not warm or anything.

Paul: I'm not sure.

Me: Surely he can't be comfortable.

Paul: Well... it might also be equally uncomfortable to have his pants up.

hmmm... I hadn't considered that.

I turned around in the van towards the kids:

Me: Anyone need a pit stop?

No takers... so Paul and I went into the gas station. There was a nice lady working the cash register and her daughter - I'd say she was about 7 or 8 years old - was helping her behind the counter. I smiled and said "hi" as I walked to the bathroom.

When I emerged... the lady was standing at the door looking out. Her daughter was standing back near the ladies room saying...

Little girl: What? What it is mom?

Mom: Nothing... (she is chuckling...) nothing...

Little girl: Why are you laughing?

Mom: (Turns around slowly) Ohhhhh.. I don't think you need to know....

Our eyes meet and I purse my lips. We both have now been exposed to "The Butt."

When I get to the car, Zach's mouth is hanging open.

Zach: Holy cow! Did you see that guy?

Me: Yes.

Me: Did your brothers see him?

Zach: Yeah. I think Ethan is traumatized.

I look at the trucker again...

Me: What's that dark thing on his butt?

Zach: I know! He was lying on the ground to fix his tire and he got up -- IT'S MUD! He didn't wipe if off or anything.

Me: Are you sure that's mud? Maybe it's a birthmark or something...

Paul gets in the car...

Me: Paul, is that mud on his butt or a birthmark?

Paul: Well, why don't we find out?

Me: Whaaaaaa?

Paul then proceeds to drive toward the semi... he loops around the gas station to pull up right next to it.


Paul: Here you go Najla. Something to remind you of Peever forever.

The car bursts into groans...

The guy doesn't even notice our car is behind him...

then again, why would he...  his complete sensory system is out of whack.

... and we drive off.


By the way...

It was mud.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

One tiny little story

Okay, okay... One tiny little story for E.F. who requested one...

As you all know, the dissertation writing continues. I have "writing central" set up in the lower level of my parents condo.

Both my parents have their Ph.Ds and are excited that I will be getting mine soon. Particularly my father.
He wants me to get done, because he thinks if I don't finish up for a May graduation, it will never get done... which is probably right but anyways...

He's excited.

And he's sentimental.

So this past Monday night I was writing until 2:30 am... which was stupid because I had to go to work the next day, and I'm not 19 anymore.... so I'm not sure what I was thinking...

But my dad - now HE was thinking.

At 1:45 am he came downstairs in his white undershirt and boxers... and his little fuzzy baby blue slippers that I have mentioned before that are really my mother's but he still wears them...

One thing you need to know about my dad is he is very particular about his weight. (Have I mentioned this before?) He weighs himself every day and if he goes over 145 lbs, he goes on a diet which means he only nibbles on Little Debbies. He also has chicken legs... which I inherited.  ANYHOW... he comes downstairs...

And he has his camera.

He is taking pictures of me. Writing. At 1:45 am.

Then he takes pictures of the clock.

THEN he tells me not to look at him (maybe because he finally realized he was standing there in his boxers and undershirt)

and then he stops and looks at the camera to see the pictures and says smiling...

"We are going to save these so we can remember how hard you worked on your dissertation."

And then he shuffled back up the stairs to bed.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Almost done

I have been absent from Najmania for a bit... focusing all my my writing attention on my dissertation.

The good news is, I expect to graduate this May.

The bad news is, far too many funny little stories happened in the meantime...

And I don't remember a lot of them. 

But I have faith. Faith that funny things will continue happening at the Amundson household.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


My mother is busily attending to her eBay business as I work on my dissertation. Her "office" - which is the entire lower level of their condo -- is also where I have set up shop. So, we talk.

We can hear my father moving around upstairs. It is a well-known Ghazi fact that my dad spends a lot of time getting ready in the morning. It is commonly referred to as primping.

Mom: Is that your dad upstairs pimping?


Mom: Or is it primping?


Mom: Isn't pimping a bad?

Me: Yes. Pimping is bad, mom. We would hope dad is not pimping.