Friday, July 23, 2010

Seven Days; One Pair

Zayd and Evan returned home after a week at the YMCA's Adventure Camp at Lake Comorant, MN -- their first week away from home.

I had two fears:
1. Getting called by camp officials to pick them up and bring them home after one night.
2. Looking inside their duffle bags when they returned.

Tonight I faced my second fear.

I hauled their duffles to the basement laundry room and had decided I would throw everything into the laundry without looking or smelling anything.

All was going well until I got to a zippered side pocket on Zayd's duffle.

There I found seven pairs of underwear...

....each one them clean.

Oh. My. God.

One by one I pulled them out of the pocket and placed them on the ironing board. They were neatly folded - looking just as they had when I first packed them in...

After staring at the gleaming stack of underwear for a minute in disbelief,  I grabbed one and gave it a quick sniff...

...Hoping to God the smell would take me out and I'd come to a few minutes later comforted by the fact that I would have seven gross pairs of underwear to wash.

This of course did not happen.

The stack smelled like Downy -- Original Scent.

I threw them in the washing machine, poured twice the amount of laundry detergent necessary, set the temp on hot wash, shut the lid... and did the math:

Hmmmm... We left the house a week ago Saturday and spent the night at my in-laws lake cabin. He had enough underwear to change into a fresh pair on Sunday, and each day after that until today - seven pairs in the suitcase... 

Seven pairs still in the suitcase... all clean.

I took a deep breath and walked up the basement stairs to find him on the computer in the kitchen.

Me: Zayd. (I say in a monotone voice)

Zayd: What. (He replies while continuing to work on the computer)

Me: May I ask you if you wore the same underwear all week.

Zayd: Sure.


Me: Did you.

Zayd: Yes.


Me: You wore the same pair of underwear since we left the house last Saturday. (I remain calm).

Zayd: Yes. (He still does not make eye contact).

Me: You did not change your underwear once.

Zayd: No.

Me: May I ask why?

Zayd: Sure.

This is why some parents eat their young.

Me: Why did you not change your underwear, Zayd.

Zayd: (He finally looks at me - expressionless). I was too lazy.


I take a deep breath.

Me: You told me they made all campers take a shower everyday.

Zayd: Yes.

Me: Did you?

Zayd: Yes.


Me: And you put the same pair of underwear back on.

Zayd: Yes.

I have nothing more to say to this child.

I walk up another set of stairs to our bedroom where I find Paul, folding clean laundry.

Me: You are never going to believe what I found in Zayd's duffle bag.


Paul looks up at me slowly... and braces himself.

Paul: Uhm... what.

Me: Seven pair of clean underwear.

Paul stares at me for about 10 seconds and his eyes narrow. He too is doing the math and probably trying to absorb the magnitude of this information.

Paul: Gross.


Me: Really gross.


Paul: So he hasn't changed his underwear since we left the house last week.

Me: That is correct.


Paul: Gross.

Zayd has since been forced to soak in the bathtub filled liberally with Axe.


I don't know where he put that 7-day-old pair of underwear.

And I'm not coming out of my bedroom until someone else finds it...

Friday, July 16, 2010


Thinking is bad when you play charades with my children. If you think, you won't know what's going on...

I find it best to let my mind go totally blank.

Then, at least, I have a fighting chance to correctly guess what they are acting out.

Actually, guessing what Ethan is acting out is pointless. Ethan acts out things that don't happen... Well... with the exception of things that happen in his imagination...

Oh, and things that could be part of a Scooby-Doo episode.

Zayd? Oh my God, Zayd. Zayd's act is 10 scenes long... So you may correctly guess at least 30 plus different actions before he gets to the one he is showcasing for charades.

Tonight - Ethan went first. He turned his back to us, squatted, and did a little butt wiggle.

This should be interesting.

Then he got down on all fours, leaped around the room with a wild look on his face... and then stopped, looked at us and said...

Ethan: Well?

Me: Well what?

Ethan: Well? What is it?

Evan: Ethan. It was nothing. You didn't do anything.

Ethan: Yes I did!

Evan: Then what was it?

Ethan: I can't tell you! Then you can't guess!

Me: You are going to have to do it again, because we didn't follow.

We all watched for another five minutes.

Me: Ethan. I have no clue what you are doing.

Ethan: Oh my gosh! I can't believe you can't guess it!

Me: I must be slow tonight. What were you doing?

Ethan: I was peeing in the toilet and then I looked behind the toilet and saw a zombie monster and then I ran screaming out of the bathroom!

Of course he was.

Me: Okay. Zayd, you are next.

Zayd began his show. After about a minute, Zach asks:

Zach: So... uhm... Zayd? Are we watching the prelude to what we need to guess, or are we watching the pre-prelude to it?

Zayd honestly had no clue what Zach was talking about. So, he kept on acting...

Here's a run down of Zayd's actions - each of which we guessed, and each which were not the actions to be guessed...

1. He is lying on the ground with his eyes closed.
2. He sits up with his eyes opened and a smile on his face.
3. He stretches his arms.
4. He gets up and walks to an unknown space where he leans towards something at eye level and looks closely.
5. He appears to be looking in a mirror.
6. He picks ups something, picks up another thing, does something with his hands... then brushes his teeth. (Yup - clearly brushing teeth - he spits and rinses too).
7. He combs his hair
8. He gets dressed - pants, shirt, socks, shoes...
9. He stops again and looks at something.
10. He opens a door and closes it.
11. He walks some more.
12. He opens another door and pulls something out.
13. He does a move that looks like he is starting a lawnmower.
14. He begins pushing the object which he started like a lawnmower...
15. He walks around pushing for a bit.
16. He stops and looks at us like we are crazy.

Zayd: Oh my God! Don't you know what I am doing yet?!

Yet? Seriously?

Evan: You're mowing the lawn.

Zayd: Yes!

Zach: You know Zayd, you don't need to do all that stuff beforehand. You could have just started with starting the lawnmower... we would have guessed it.

I flash Zach a disapproving look.

Zach: What?

Me: No Zayd. You are doing it just right. Don't listen to Zach. You do a great job at charades.

Why rush him? Pretty soon, he may not want to play charades with his mom.

I've got plenty of time to watch...

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Najla vs. The Wall Anchor

You'd think when a kid like me grows up to be a 42-year-old woman, wife, and mother to four boys of her own...

Her fear of her own dad "getting mad" would subside.

Nah. It doesn't.

This little ditty is part of a much bigger story that I have been working to cut into segments for my blog for months. The big story is that my mother convinced me to tackle a huge home improvement project for her while my father was out of the country.

Home improvement projects, in and of themselves, are rarely pretty. Less so when you are trying to do it for your mother. Even less so when you are doing it for your mother while your father is out of the country because your father would FLIP OUT if he knew ANY home improvement project was occurring.

I have officially become an accomplice in a crime that will be etched into the walls of my parents condo for eternity.

So - THIS part of the story comes at the end of the home improvement project. The last little tiny finishing touch which I couldn't get finished before dad came home. I did not get the towel rack hung in the upstairs bathroom.

Everything else was finished (including the other rooms involved in this project which as a whole I lovingly refer to as "Project Hell").

In the upstairs bathroom, I had carefully chosen and hung a few pictures that my mother loved, yet complimented the decor. I placed a couple decorative pounded copper vases with leafy sprigs in a way that would draw the bathroom user in... and make them want to kick up their feet, and stay a while.

But the towel rack. I had not gotten the towel rack hung up yet. So I had to go back to my parents the day after my dad came home from his 3-week adventure overseas adventure.

When I got there, my dad was dressed as he usually does when he is lounging around the house - in his seersucker bathrobe, my mother's purple slippers with strange enormous flowers on the sides, and a towel wrapped around his head.

He gave me a kiss on both cheeks when I came in.

Me: So! How do you like the changes? (I try to act super positive and cheerful)

He shakes his head...

Papa: You know... you're mom... she shouldn't have asked you to do all this for her.

Me: No! I didn't mind. I finally have time, and she's done of a lot stuff to help me out - so it's not problem. It really wasn't that hard.

Okay - that has GOT to be the biggest lie I have ever told. For God's sake - I've named it Project Hell.

Papa: Well. It looks good. You did a nice job.

Me: Thanks!

He sees that I have a bucket of tools with me.

Papa: What are you doing now?

Me: Oh I just need to hang this towel rack in the bathroom upstairs - then I'm all done.

He peers into the bucket.

Papa: Is that a drill?

Me: Yeah?


Papa: Do you know how to use that?

Now I'm irritated. If I could give him a play-by-play of the 24-hour a day, 7-day Project Hell, he would step back in awe of me and say "Drill away my fantastic, skillful, eldest daughter!"

Me: Yes dad. I know how to use it.

His eyes narrow as he looks at me skeptically. He lowers his voice and leans towards me as if we are part of some drill mafia or something.

Papa: What do you need that for?

I mimic his stance, look, and voice....

Me: I need to drill the screws in the wall to hang up the towel rack.

Actually - let me now impress you with my towel rack drilling expertise. I learned over the course of Project Hell that there are such things called "wall anchors" - which one needs to use if the screw one is putting into the wall is not going into a stud. Up to this point in the project, I needed to drill a narrow hole into the wall so I could gently tap the wall anchor into the drywall. Then I would use the drill to securely screw the screw into the anchor.

Papa: Do you need any help?

Me: No. I got it. Don't worry.

I walked into the bathroom and began pulling my tools out of the bucket and placing them onto the bathroom counter.

My dad was right next to me. Looking at everything.

Papa: Who does this belong to?

It belongs to the hardware store I just robbed.

Me: It's Paul's.


Papa: And he knows you have it?


Me: Yes dad. He knows I have it.

He nods his head, still looking at the tools.

Me: Dad? Why don't you just let me surprise you, okay? Let me do this. I'm going to close the door, and when I am all done, I want you to come in and see the project all complete!

Please... please go away.

Papa: Okay. I'll go and watch TV. I'll be right next door if you need me. You're sure you don't need my help?

Me: Yup! I'm sure. But thanks. And I will come and get you if I need help.

He leaves me in peace to work.

So I pull out the screws and wall anchors for this towel rack... but man o' man... the anchors are HUGE. I look 'em up and down and I can't figure out why they are so fat. I convince myself that they must be big because they need to hold the weight of bath towels...

I drill a small hole in the wall so I can tap in the anchor. I try, but the hole is WAY too small.

I get a bigger bit and drill a bigger hole.

Then I get an even bigger bit and drill an even bigger hole.

I do it one more time - one bigger bit for one bigger hole. Surely my mad skill at towel-rack hanging will not be thwarted by this last project?

"Now!" I think to myself, "This has GOT to be big enough."

I place the anchor up to the hole and ever so gently tap...

And with that - the anchor goes right through the drywall along with my hammer head leaving a hole in the wall a bit larger than the size of a half-dollar.

"Oh shit." I whisper.

All that stands between my father and me is one layer of drywall.

My mind start racing and I begin to hyperventilate.

"Okay. Okay. It's okay Najla. Just think. Think," I whisper, looking frantically around the bathroom for something to cover the hole with.

I find a picture I was going to leave off the wall, and extra nail and I hang the picture over the hole. It looks like something is very wrong. The picture obviously has no reason being hung in that spot... but at this point, I am thinking of my children. They can't grow up without a mother.

Then I compose myself and walk out of the bathroom.

Papa sees me.

Papa: Are you done?

Me: Oh...uhm... no. Not yet. Don't go in yet, okay. I just need to make a few finishing touches!

I need to find my mom. I start hurrying around the condo half yelling/half whispering "Mom! Mom!"
I find her in the living room. She sees me wild-eyed and panicked so she starts to panic.

Nana: What! What!

Me: Shhhhhhhhsssshhhhhhhh....

Nana: (whispering) What?

Me: You have GOT to get Papa away from that room he is in. He cannot go into the bathroom.

Nana: Why? What happened? (she is really panicked now)

Me: I put a hole in the wall.

Nana: Oh God, Chino!

Me: Okay - seriously mom. You have got to protect me. If he finds that hole in the wall, he is going to go ballistic and the only reason it is there is because you wanted me to do this project. You have to keep him away! Please. PLEASE don't let him go into that room!

Nana: What am I going to do? How am I going to do that?

Me: Mom. I don't know. You take care of Papa, I'll take care of the wall, and everything will be okay.

Now, let me just say my dad isn't some sort of crazy family-abuser. But... when a mother and daughter conspire to do a major home-improvement project that he would never have allowed had he been in the country... and when his daughter walks into his bathroom with tools that he is surprised her husband allows her to take with her unsupervised... he's gonna get mad about a hole in the wall.

Nana: Okay. What are you going to do?

Me: I'm calling Paul. He'll know what to do.

So my mother goes off to distract my father and I go outside to call my husband on his cell.

Cell phones, in my estimation, are for emergencies. When someone calls me on my cell, that suggests to me that they really need to talk to me right now. If they didn't need to talk to me, they'd call me at home and leave a message with one of my children which I will never get. My husband never answers his cell which drives me crazy, especially when I really need him... like when I am about to be hung out to dry by my father for putting a hole in the bathroom wall after I had told him I was completely capable of hanging the towel rack on my own.

I leave a message.

Me: "Paul. You need to call me as soon as possible. This is an emergency. Please call me now!"

I sit on the front steps of my parents condo for a few minutes. Then I walk back in toward the bathroom.

Nana: Your dad is in the bedroom now taking a nap.

Me: Oh! Thank you!

Nana: Did you talk to Paul?

Me: No, he hasn't called me back yet.

Nana: Okay - show me the hole.

We walk into the bathroom and I remove the picture.

Nana: Oh my Gaaad!

Me: MOM.

Nana: Do you think Paul can fix it?

Me: I know he'll know what to do.

My cell rings.

Me: That's Paul. (pause) Hello?

Paul: (very calmly) What's up?

Me: Oh my God Paul. You have to come over to my parents house right away and help me. My dad is going to go through the roof! I put a huge hole in the bathroom wall trying to hang up the towel rack.

There is silence for a split second and then he bursts out laughing.

Paul: How did you do that!

Me: Paul! (my voice has fear, anger and a hint of panic mixed in) Seriously! You need to come and help me!

Paul: Well, I'm not at home... I'm out at Menards right now and I need to run a few more errands.

Is he kidding me? Errands? My life is in danger and he has errands to run? 

Me: Paul - seriously. Please! I don't know how long I can keep my dad out of the bathroom!

Paul: It'll be fine. I'll come over as soon as I can.

It seemed like an hour, but he came over after about 20 minutes. I sat in the bathroom with the door locked so my dad couldn't get in... and periodically left to check the front door. I also did NOT want my dad to see Paul come in -- THAT would create great suspicion.

Paul: Show me what you did.

I grab the picture and lift it.

Paul starts laughing again.

Paul: You made it sound huge!

Me: Hello!? It IS huge!

He starts going to work to make it right...

Paul: How did you keep your dad from seeing it?

Me: My mom helped distract him and I have been locked up in here.

Paul: Oh my gosh Najla.

He keeps chuckling to himself.

Me: I just don't understand what I did wrong! Look at these anchors Paul. They are huge! I didn't want to drill too big of a hole and I really super gently tapped the anchor in and it just went right through the wall.

Paul picks up the wall anchor and looks at it.

Paul: Najla, these are screw in anchors - the other ones you have been using just needed to be tapped in.


Me: Oh.

Screw in anchors. What the! Shouldn't there be something on the packaging that says, "Hey! Girlfriend! These anchors aren't like the other 10,000 you have used so far to hang up towel racks, hooks, and shelves. These are different just because we want to make life difficult for you. They are called screw in wall anchors."

Paul: This is going to be a cinch. The towel rack holder is going to cover the hole perfectly.

Me: But will it be strong enough?

Paul: Yup. It'll be fine.

Paul finished putting it up for me and quietly left the condo.

I cleaned up the bathroom, and then brought my mom and dad in to see it. My mom kept looking at me wondering what happened to the hole.

Papa: Well... you did a good job Chino! I didn't think you knew how to do it - but it looks great!

I just stood there and smiled.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Comforting mom

I didn't have the best week of my life. And it finally fell on me like a ton of bricks this morning.

With my cup of coffee in hand, I curled up on the sunroom chair and weeped with Paul trying his darndest to make me feel better. The tears running down my face and the sobs choking up my throat reminded me of when I was a kid.

I felt like a kid. I was hurt.

I don't think it is a bad thing to cry in front of your children. God knows they cry in front of me all the time.

So when my 7- and 10-year-old found me in tears... well... they did what I do when they cry.

They tried to comfort me.

Zayd, 10, was a little hesitant. He sat on a nearby couch and looked at me. But Ethan, 7,  jumped right up on the armrest of my chair and started patting my back.

Ethan: Mom... What's wrong? Why are you crying?


What do I say? It's hard to explain. What do I say to my 7-year-old?

Me: Well... I guess... there are some people who have hurt my feelings.

Ethan: Oh.


Ethan: Well... remember what you and dad told us at our last family meeting? You said that if you are nice to others then they will be nice to you? Maybe you need to do that.

We had a little family "talk" a couple of weeks ago because we had four boys running amuck. Telling each other to "shut up" and "you're stupid," sassing Paul and I, and generally being brats. They needed a little realtiy check. Apparenty, our "talk" actually left an impression on Ethan.

Me: Yes. Well.. I've been trying. At least I thought I was trying. I don't know. But it doesn't seem to help much. So it makes me sad.


He sits for a minute.

Ethan: Okay. Well, maybe you need to tell them they are hurting your feelings.

Me: Yeah. I guess it's not that easy hon.

He leans over and touches one side of my face.

Ethan: Hmmm... I think you need to try to forget about them. Just wipe them from your mind.

He sounds like his dad.

Me: Okay. I'll try.

I decide that maybe I need to just go back to bed. I was up early and it wasn't helping my emotions...
So I left Paul and the boys and crawled into bed.

About 20 minutes later, Paul comes in to sit by me and talk.

...and a few moments later... Zayd walks in, throws something on the bed next to me, and walks out.

It's a lovely picture he has made in his summer art class.

Paul: I think that is to make you feel better.

Me: I guessed as much.

Then Ethan walks in, climbs into bed next to me and strokes my hair.

Ethan: Mom... you are still crying? You need to stop crying.

Me: I know. I will. I'm just tired.

Ethan: Remember what I told you? You need to stop thinking about it. You just need to relax today!


Zayd walks in again and throws another drawing on the bed and stands there.

Me: Okay. I will.

Ethan: How about you go and find something to relax you? Why don't you go and get your nails done!

We all stop and look at him.

Zayd gives out one of his little snort laughs and Paul tries to muffle a chuckle.

I get a big smile on my face and look up at my sweet little boy who looking at me as serious as can be.

I get up in bed and give him a big hug, kiss on the cheek and I hold his head in my hands.

Me: You are absolutely right, Ethan and you are such a sweet little man!

He's only seven and he already knows that there's nothing like a good manicure to take care of a bad week. God he's going to make a great partner to someone someday.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Calls from the homefront

My children and I have discussed on numerous occasions that they should not call me while I am at work unless it is urgent.

My definition would include:
1. Broken bones
2. At least a pop can full of blood loss
3. Any injury involving a sharp object that is still embedded in the body - particularly the eye
4. The removal of an appendage 
5. Fire 

And frankly in all these cases, they either should be on their way to the hospital before they call me, or have already called 911.

Their definition of urgency:
1. A splinter
2. A scratch that would take a nuclear microscope to see
3. Inviting a friend over for a sleepover.
4. Asking what we are having for dinner
5. Asking if tonight when I get home if I will drive them to the local grocery store to rent a video game.

Zayd needs to talk to me at work today. The sitter - who DID have an important question to ask me - called - and then gave the phone to Zayd.

Zayd: Hello! Hello! (he says in a sing-songy joyful voice).

Me: Yesss?

Zayd: Uh... Hi. (pause). Mom?

How is it that he is questioning whether it is me or not on the phone, since clearly the original contact came from his end, not mine.

Me: Yes Zayd.

Zayd: So... I have a little tiny question to ask you...


Zayd: Okay?

Me: Yes Zayd. 

Zayd: Uhm.. okay. So... (pause) Wow! This phone is really loud! 


I take a deep breath to oxygenate my patience.

Zayd: Uhm... (his voice goes down to a whisper)... uhm... are you still there mom?

Me: I'm here Zayd. Go ahead. 

Zayd: Oh! Good! Okay then... so... uhm... I wanted to know if you talked to dad about me getting an email account?

Ah yes... let's add email to our list of urgent discussions....

Me: No honey - I haven't talked to dad yet.

Zayd: Oh. 


Sensing extreme disappointment I say:

Me: But thank you for reminding me. Why don't you remind me again tonight and we'll sit down and talk it over.

Zayd: Okay! Uhm... do you think you can put it on your calendar?

Me: What?

Zayd: Will you put it on your calendar so it's scheduled?


Me: You want me to put the email discussion on my calendar?

Zayd: Yes.

I consider this for a moment.

My 10-year-old son is scheduling an appointment with me to discuss the urgent matter of obtaining an email account. On the one hand - very professional. And on the same hand - he knows me too well. If it isn't on my calendar it does not exist. Part of this is my ADD (although I have never been formally diagnosed - I am certain that I would respond to medication)... part of it is the fact that I am juggling too many tasks at once.

And then... 

I am overwhelmed by guilt. 

Because my son knows he needs to schedule an appointment with me in order for me to remember to talk to his dad about the urgent matter of obtaining an email account.

Me: Zayd - yes. That is a great idea. I will put it on my calendar to remind myself to talk to dad.

Zayd: Oh! Thanks mom!


Zayd: Oh and mom? I love you mom.

With all my faults? Thank goodness...

Me: I love you too.