Thursday, April 22, 2010

Like mother like son

Poor Zachary. He's doomed to live a life of procrastination, absent-mindedness, and disorganization, along with a spirit of "fly by the seat of your pants." Of all the boys, he looks the most like me, he acts like me, he has my sense of humor, works on stuff he likes and ignores that which he doesn't like...

Anyhow... this morning I left the house at 7:30 am with him and Evan. Evan is destined to live a life of timeliness, efficiency, organization, and obsessive planning...

Huh. That sounds like someone I am married to....

Me: So do you have any homework due today?

Zach: Yes, I have it done.

Me: Did you bring it with you?

Zach: Yes.

Me: Do you have to do anything early since you are going to State choir on Friday?

Zach: Nope.


Me: Did you practice your sax yesterday.

Zach: Yup.


Zach: Uh-oh.

Me: What?

Zach: I forgot my sax at home and I have band today.

Me: (sigh)

Zach: I really need it.

Me: Okay, I'll go back.

Evan: Really? I am going to be so late. God Zach.

Me: We have 15 minutes before you have to be to school, Evan. We aren't that far from home. (and I can drive fast). You will be fine. If you are not there 10 minutes ahead of time, you will be fine.

I work on TV news time. If I have 30 seconds before I have to be somewhere, by God I'll use that 30 seconds. If I can explain an entire city commission meeting in 30 seconds I can certainly get a whole hell of a lot of other things done in that time frame too.

I call Paul on his cell. He is still at home with the two younger boys.

Me: Hey. Zach forgot his sax. Will you leave it on the front step please?

We arrive at the house, and we leave with a saxophone. I drop off Evan 5 minutes before he needs to be at school. And we head to Zach's school. I drop him off and head to my school. Five minutes later the phone rings. Of course it is in the backseat in my purse so I pull several shoulder muscles I didn't know I had to get my purse. It's a text message from Zach.

"I forgot my sax."

Of course he did. Of course I did. 

I try to text him back (yes while driving... just leave me alone okay?)... and my phone won't work. It says that I have too much stuff on it - or data - or something. It won't even turn on. I can't text, I can't do anything.... which means I can't get a hold of Zach which means I have to get out of the car, enter the 9th grade center, and drop off his sax... somewhere.

I manage to navigate my way through the school and find the band room. When I get back to the car, I fiddle with my cell phone. I need to call the office to tell them I am late. Nothing. Nothing works. BUT... the calendar works... Hey! That's something!

...and it shows an appointment to meet my nanny and pay her for the overnight stay she had with the boys.

Except I don't have my checkbook.


I drive all the way back home to get the checkbook. Then I decide if I'm going to be late, I might as well get some good coffee. I stop by a local coffee shop, get my favorite dark roast, and pick up three pieces of coffee cake for some people I work with -- whom without, my work life would be even more disorganized than it already is...

I walk into the office at 8:35 am.

Even TV time couldn't help me.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


This morning as I was putting on my makeup in my bathroom...

Zayd: Mom. I have 30 moles.

Me: Really? Wow.


Me: How do you know?

Zayd: I counted them.


Zayd: And I have one on my butt.


Me: Okay. How did you find that one?

Zayd: I looked.

I stare at him for a moment.

Me: Right. But how did you see your butt?

Maybe I don't want to know.

Zayd: I turned like this.

He turns his head around and leans back a little. Impressive move.

Me: Okay - but what about back here? (I touch his upper back) Did you count those?

Ethan: I DID! (he says excitedly). And I have one in the corner of my eye!

Me: This is great. It's good to know these things. Thank you for telling me.

Zayd: How many do you have?

Me: I don't know. But I'm sure I have many.

Zayd: Should we count them?

Me: Uh... no. We don't have time to count them.

Nor can I think of one good reason to have my children examining my body for moles.

Me: Okay - I need to finish putting on my makeup.

Zayd and Ethan leave. Zayd reappears a few minutes later.

Zayd: I guess I have 31 moles.

Me: Oh you found another?

Zayd: Yes. Right here.

He points to his chest - about where his heart would be.

Me: Uh-huh... (I'm putting on mascara which takes incredible concentration and a steady hand).

Zayd: Do people get moles taken off?

Me: Yes.

Zayd: How?

Me: A doctor usually cuts it out.

Zayd: Oh.


Zayd: Then I'm not going to do that.

Me: Alright then.

Zayd: But this mole is going to be a problem.

Me: Why?

Zayd: Because it looks like I have a third nipple.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Paul, 1992, Anchoring at WDAZ in Grand Forks.

Being Najla

Last night I lost my temper at one of my boys.

I was so angry I thought I would pick up a chair and throw it out the window. I needed something to crash loudly so I could feel better and he would understand how angry I was.

I did not do that. Instead I left the scene and cooled off in my own room. As I sat on my bed, staring out the window... I heard footsteps.

Argh. I really didn't want to talk to him.

But it wasn't him. It was Ethan.

He came up to me, put his arms around my waist, rested his head against my side and patted my belly.

Ethan: Why are you so mad mom?

Me: Because someone doesn't want to work very hard in school and it makes me upset that they don't care.

Ethan: I work hard in school.

Me: I know you do baby. Just do your best. That's all I want from you. To do your best.

Ethan: I do! Remember I got all my spelling words right!

Me: Yes, I remember and I am proud of you. But you should be proud of yourself too.


More belly pats...

Ethan: It will be okay mom. It will be okay. Don't be mad anymore.


Later, when I was putting Ethan and Zayd to bed...

Ethan: It's hard being a mom, isn't it?

Me: Yes. Sometimes it is hard.


Ethan: But I try to help you. Don't I help you?

Me: Yes. You help.

Ethan: I help clean up and do my homework and stuff...

Me: Yes sweetie, you help a lot and I appreciate you.


Ethan: Do you hate your life mom?

Me: What?!

Ethan: Do you hate your life?

Me: Oh my gosh Ethan! NO! Of course not! I LOVE my life. I have all of you, I have dad -- I am so happy. You are my life! But just because I love my life, it doesn't mean that it can't be hard sometimes. Life is hard sometimes, right?

Ethan: Yeah. It is.

Me: It's not really hard being a mom at all. It's just hard being Najla.

Ethan: It's hard being Najla?

Me: Sometimes.


Ethan: Ohhhh...


Ethan: I understand mom.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Nana's English Remix

My mother mixes up a number of English words.

Today, my parents came over for dinner. At the table, Zayd, our 9-year-old, told them that he is learning how to juggle.

Nana: So he is a gigolo?


My dad is sitting across from her, and as usual, offers no reaction. I stare at her wondering where to go from that point.

Me: Noooooo... He's a juggler.

Nana bursts out laughing. She looks at me and asks...

Nana: What is a gigolo then?

About 5 million thoughts dart through my brain in a matter of seconds... before I can respond.... my mother looks at my father and asks...

Nana: Do I know what a gigolo is?


Papa: Yes.


Nana: I do? How do you know I know?


Papa: I know because I say it is so.


Paul: And then God spoke... and it was so...

Rooftop Toast

Another gorgeous day in Fargo - We have been enjoying an AMAZING April. 72 degrees, no wind.... nice and warm in the sun.

A perfect day to toast bread.

I am taking a short break from making revisions to my diss (argh). My mother is over and we are lounging on the patio, chatting... when I notice Zayd, 9, standing by our garden shed...

And there is something taped to the roof...

Me: Oh my God, mom. Look over there at Zayd.

My mother turns around.

Mom: WHAT is he doing!

Me: I think he is trying to cook something.

Mom: Oh my Gaad! Your kids are something else! Where do they learn these things?

Me: Zayd! (I yell over to him).

He ignores me.

Me: ZAYD!!!!

He still ignores me. His hands are on his hips and he is carefully inspecting whatever it is he is cooking.

Me: Zaaaaaayyyyyyddddddoooooooo!

He whips around.

Zayd: What!

Me: Whatcha doing!


Zayd: I'm toasting bread!

Of course he is.

Me: What are you toasting it on? Is that aluminum foil?

Zayd: No! It's wax paper!


Mom: Zaydo! It will probably melt! You should use aluminum foil!

We are still yelling across the yard. We have a big yard.

Zayd: I know! But we didn't have any aluminum foil! We just had wax paper!

Mom: (to me) It's going to melt.

Me: Oh well....

A little while later, the wax paper is gone, and so it is the bread.

Me: Zayd? Did it work? Did you toast the bread?

Zayd: Kinda.

Me: Did you eat it?

Zayd: Part of it.


Zayd: But I dropped it on the ground.

Ethan pipes in

Ethan: I did! It worked! The bread was really hard and kinda brown!

Hummm... the roof is brown...

And so is the ground.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Gamma radiation and midi-chlorians

I was driving with Zach in the car. I was in a foul mood.

Me: Oh. Great. Yeah. Just walk right in the middle of the parking lot so I have to drive behind you at 1 mile and hour. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.  (I huffed about a woman who was in my way as I was looking for a parking spot at Target).

A few moments later.

Me: Good God! Why bother parking in between the lines when you could park right on top of them!

A few moments later we get out of the car. We walk by a car with a dog barking in it.

Zach: Stupid dog! Sitting there and barking like an idiot!

Me: Why did you say that?

Zach: I didn't want to miss out on all the fun you were having.


After our Target trip, we get back into the car.

Me: I don't know why I am in such a crabby mood today. I hate that. I don't want to be in a crabby mood.

Zach: Do you want me to figure it out?

Me: Uhmmm... you can't figure it out.

Zach: You don't know me very well.

Me: Fine. What's wrong with me?

Zach: Have you ever been exposed to gamma radiation? (he says in a serious voice, totally straight-faced).

Me: What?!

Zach: Just answer the question please.

Me: No. What would that mean if I had?


Zach: Bruce Banner?


Me: Oh! The Green Hulk?

Zach: The Incredible Hulk mom. He's incredible.

(I start laughing...)

Zach: Have you ever been bit by a spider?

Me: (I burst out laughing). No!

Zach: Have you ever worn a ring with a green lantern on it?

I am trying to remember which character did that...

Me: No. Why?

Zach: Don't ask questions please.

Me: Sorry. But I just want to know...

(he cuts me off)

Zach: Shhh. Shh. Sh. Just focus on my questions.


Zach: Are you force-sensitive or do you have high levels of midi-chlorians in your blood?

Me: What?!

Zach: Mom. Mom. Mom. You aren't being helpful. You need to focus on my questions and answer honestly.

Me: I don't think so. What would happen if I was?

Zach: You'd be a Jedi.

I start laughing again.

Me: Are Jedi's always in a bad moods?

He sighs

Zach: Mom. Darth Vader.

Me: Ooohhhhh. Of course. Do you think that's my problem? I'm Darth Vader?

Zach: There's only one Darth Vader mom.

Me: So why are you asking me about that!

Zach: Shhhhh.... calm down. I'm trying to rule out all possibilities.

By that point, I couldn't help but be in a good mood. Zach always knows how to make me laugh. 

God I'm going to miss him when he goes off to college.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Ethan Snippets

A couple of funny Ethan stories....

Our puppy Mollie is still in that biting phase. Ethan hasn't quite gotten the hang of how to keep her from nipping at him.

Today, when he was with our sitter Kate... he told her...

Ethan: Watch out for Mollie or she'll bite you in the nuts.


A few mornings ago, I walk into Ethan and Zayd's room to make sure they were getting ready for school. Zayd is kneeling beside his bed with his face in the mattress. Ethan is standing over him... looking guilty.

Me: What happened?

Ethan: I didn't do anything!

Me: Zayd, what happened?

Zayd: Arggggghhhhh!

Me: Ethan?

Ethan: I said I didn't do anything!

Me: Zayd?

Zayd: GO AWAY!


Me: Okay - whatever. Figure it out yourselves then. But get ready for school.

I walk out and get myself ready for school...

A couple minutes later, Ethan walks into my room.

Ethan: Zayd is still mad.

Me: Really. (pause). I wonder why?

Ethan: I don't know (he says looking down at his feet)

Me: Hummm... (pause) You don't know, huh?


Ethan: He says he is really mad at me and he is going to punch me!

Me: Well, you better go and work it out with him, then. Something must have happened between you two. Figure it out.


Ethan: Well... I hurt his eye.

Me: Oh. Did you poke it?

Ethan: No! I just spit in it.


Me: Well, that's not very nice. We don't spit at people.

Ethan: Well, I didn't punch him or anything. It was just spit.

Me: Well we certainly don't punch people.


Ethan: Well I brushed my teeth first!


I cock my head and narrow my eyes at him... as if it helps me understand the logic. Let's see: Ethan spit in Zayd's eye. Zayd is crying. Ethan didn't PUNCH him... AND Ethan was good enough to brush his teeth before he spit in Zayd's eye. Uhm... I don't get it.

Me: So... you're telling me that your spit was clean before you got it in his eye?

Ethan: NO!


Ethan: The toothpaste in my spit burned his eye!


It was absolutely gorgeous outside this evening. 75 degrees, sunny, no wind... fantastic. So we all -- yes even Paul and I -- played outside.

But Ethan was having a bad evening. I'm not sure what happened, but he was lying in the grass, face down, crying. When any of his brothers approached him, he screamed.

We just decided to leave him be. So, while the rest of us played TV tag, a bit of soccer and with Mollie, Ethan had his little hissy-fit in the middle of the yard.

After a while, I suggested that Evan go and find out if he could talk some sense into Ethan. A few minutes later... a dramatic scene... something out of a war movie maybe. Ethan limping towards me with Evan supporting him...


Me: What happened?

Ethan: (sobbing) I gotted hurt.

Me: Where?

Ethan: (still sniffling and choking on tears) Well... Zachary hurt my pinky and then Mollie scratched me and I got hurted! (more crying).

Me: Hmmm... let me see...

I check him over. I don't see scratches... and his pinky worked fine. He continued sniffling.

Me: Well. How about we go inside. You can take a nice bath, we'll put your jammies on and I'll read you a story?

Ethan: I DON'T WANNA GO INSIDE!!! (Crying intensifies).

Me: Okay! Okay... calmmmm downnn.


Me: Well then... what can we do to make it better?

Ethan: (crying) I DON'T KNOW! I'm not a doctor or a nurse or a vet! How should I know!

Ethan and the Mummy

Evan, our 12-year-old, created a sarcophagus with a mummy for a social studies project.

Paul and the boys went to the local hobby store to get a doll to mummify.

And Ethan seemed to... well... bond with the doll? Protect the doll? Frankly, we still aren't sure what was going on in Ethan's mind regarding the doll.

We're not sure if it was with the doll itself, the mummification process, or what.

While they were at the hobby store, Ethan insisted on holding the doll. She was a brunette. Perfect bow red lips and blue eyes... about 36-24-36. She had a sort of 1950s innocence about her...

expect she was naked.

So Ethan held the doll... I'll call her Bonnie... around the store and in the car. They stopped at another store and Ethan was told that Bonnie could not accompany him. He chose to hide Bonnie in the pocket of the front seat.

As soon as they got back in the car, Bonnie was in his hands again. Safe.

Paul said when they got home, they pulled out the gauzy roll of material he had found and began wrapping up Bonnie, from the feet up.

Ethan was sitting right next to them, watching carefully.

Then, they got to Bonnie's chest.

When her 36 inch chest was wrapped with gauze Ethan let out out a big sigh.

Ethan: Oh...(sigh of relief). You FINALLY covered her up. I have been waiting!

... and he walked away.

Muddy Mollie

Need I say more?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Nana and Najla's Dissertation Defense

Tuesday, April 6, 2010. Najla's public presentation of her dissertation is scheduled to begin at 3:30 pm, followed by a private meeting with my committee.

3:05 p.m: My husband and son Zachary arrive with a Diet Coke and string cheese. I have not eaten all day because of nerves.

3:07 p.m: My nervous system begins to fail and I walk into the bathroom to hide and gather my thoughts... I soon realize I have no more thoughts. I have lost most of my facilities.

3:10 p.m: I peek out from the bathroom and see the first of many guests have arrived and are finding their seats.

3:15 p.m: Women begin to enter the bathroom, so I leave to find a new hiding spot - a dark hallway. 

3:17 p.m.: My husband finds me in the dark hallway and asks what I am doing. I tell him I am about to barf and it would be best if he just told everyone to leave. He says "You'll be great." He then tells me my parents have not arrived.

Of course they haven't.

3:20 p.m. The associate dean of the college of arts, humanities and social sciences happens to find me in the dark hall. I explain that I am practicing my presentation. I decide not to tell her about wanting to barf.

3:23 p.m. My husband finds me again and says my parents are still not there. I walk outside the Alumni Center and stand by the one-way traffic hoping they will see me.

3:25 p.m. I give up on flagging down my parents and go back to my dark hallway. 

3:27 p.m: I peek out from the dark hallway to see one of my committee members coming down the stairs. She sees me before I can dart back behind the wall. I direct her to the room where the defense will take place. As she opens to door, it is apparent that there are far too many people who have taken me up on my invitation to attend.


what the hell was I thinking?

3:28 p.m. My husband comes back to find me and says I should probably come in the room. I tell him I'd like to wait a few more minutes. I stare at the floor breathing deeply until he tells me it is now 3:30 p.m.

3:30 p.m. I go into the room. Still no Nana and Papa.

3:32 p.m. My advisor asks if we should wait for my parents. After 15 seconds, I say "no" - let's just get this over with...

3:35 p.m.: My advisor introduces me... and I come up and begin my presentation.

3:40 p.m.: My butterflies are just beginning to dissipate when I look up and low and behold... my mother walks into the room with my father trailing behind her.

Everyone turns around.

I am cornered into addressing their entrance.

Me: Well... I should probably take a moment here to introduce my parents to you.

Nana: (In a loud voice) We got lost! Of course! Your dad got lost!

The crowd bursts out laughing.

Nana: I knew he would get lost. (She basks in the attention)...

Me: Well why don't the two of you sit....

My parents then proceed to sit with my committee in the back of the room. My mother has cozied up to one of my committee members.

Hummm... I'm not entirely sure that is the greatest idea ever....

Me: ... Ooookayyyy... And I guess my parents will be joining my committee and keeping them company in the back of the room. Wonderful.

More chuckles.

Throughout my 30-minute presentation, whenever I looked to the back of the room, all I see is my mother's black hair covering her profile. Rather than listening to me, she has opted for chatting it up with one of my committee members - Dr. Zoltan Madjik. Dr. Madjik looks as if he is politely listening... while politely trying to pay attention to my presentation... 

Who am I kidding? In an attention match between my mother and I - my mother will win. I resign myself to the fact that Dr. Madjik will not be hearing anything I have to say... maybe it is for the best.

However, the back row of the audience is also having a hard time hearing what I have to say, because my mother's inside voice teeters on an outside voice.

 I can hear my mother...

What is God's name is she talking to him about?


After I finish, I get some excellent questions. My advisor allows this to go on for about 10 minutes and then announced that the "executive inquisition" will be begin, and everyone has to leave.

I later find out, via my husband who heard this via my dad... that as my mother got up to leave, she pointedly looked at Dr. Majdik and said (I would think in her threatening Arab voice):

Nana: You'd better pass my daughter.

Good God.

Someone besides my father should have been assigned to chaperone her. 

After my private session with my committee (who by the way had lots of constructive criticism -- but left me feeling as if I had failed)... I was asked to leave the room.

I went out into the hallway (the one by the dark hallway) and found my husband, mom and dad waiting for me. I sat down - I felt sick.

Papa: You look white.

Me: I feel white.

Papa: You look like you are going to cry.

Me: I might.

Nana: What happened? Did you fail?

Me: I don't know. I hope not. But it felt like it. 

Papa: Why do you think you failed.

Me: Because my dissertation sucked! They found so much wrong with it! Oh my God. I don't want to talk about it.

Nana: Oh my Gaad! What if you failed?

Me: You are not making me feel better right now mom.

Papa: She didn't fail... I'm sure she didn't fail.

My advisor comes out and says:

Advisor: Great job! Congratulations!

Were we even at the same dissertation defense?

Anyways... the rest of it was kinda a blur... I don't remember much except that I asked the committee for verification that I had actually passed. They said I did.

Afterwards, the kids, Paul, my parents and I went out to eat to celebrate. 

Nana: Where is Zoloft from?


Me: Zoloft?

Nana: Yah - Where is he from.


Me: Mom. Zoltan. Not Zoloft.

She looks at me blankly.

Me: Zoloft is an anti-depressant mom.

Nana: Oh Gaad! Where did I get that from!

It's actually a compliment that she called him Zoloft rather than his given name. My mother and father do not call people they like by their given names.... only nicknames. 

My son Zachary is Zek Zek
Ethan is Etho
Evan is Evo
Zayd is Zaydo
I am Chino
My sister Yasmine is Yaso
My nephew Isaac is Alfonzo (seriously)
My brother in law Lon is Lonny.
Our next door neighbor when I was growing up was Oklahoma (I still don't know her real name)

Paul is Paul...

Huh. Wonder what that's about?

And now Dr. Majdik is Zoloft.


Welcome to the club.