Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year

I know that it's winter and, unless you live in Australia, it's probably not really beach weather. But I really love this photo. I took it while on a family vacation (read: torturous week with in-laws) on the northern coast of Egypt, about 60 km east of Matrouh. This captures the only part of that trip that I enjoyed; being on the sand watching the waves and not arguing with anyone, washing anyone's clothes by hand or having to count to 11 repeatedly since everyone dumped the "lifeguard" duties upon me along with their kids as I was the only one who actually  knew how to swim. I digress.

The  photo is peaceful and cleansing and clean. It makes me think of the future and how there is nothing bad ahead of me. I'm looking forward to the coming year. Not in the whole resolutions thing but just the idea of new prospects. I am excited. Don't get me wrong. I'm planning to get healthy and lose weight and stop giving in to the stupid whims like hacking all my hair off and bleaching the crap out of it until I have Marilyn Monroe color only to realize that I look really stupid with blonde hair. Also, I fully intend on finish my book this year. It may not be a best seller or even sell at all. But I want to complete it. So, I'm seeing good things in my 2013.

And I wish for all of you good things in your 2013. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

NaNoWriMo....FO and other

I felt like a failure....again.

I committed to writing everyday and failed to do it.

Maybe it was my own fault. I should NEVER have announced to these rotten kids what I was doing; the fact that I was committed to writing every day.  This just caused an immediate fist fight, screaming match or need to find something RIGHT NOW the second that I parked my but in this seat and turned on the computer.

That combined with the mother of all sinus infections that left me bedridden for three days left me feeling overwhelmed and depressed and so I quit. I know. Big quitter. Yup, that's me.

The good news is this:  I can still finish my book. I don't have to announce to the adolescent world around me that I am writing again. I can just do it and keep it a secret. Let them all think I'm just playing Spider Solitaire or something. Then they won't care or interrupt me. Because no one ever talks to the mom when she's bored enough to just be playing cards, right?

One day. I'll get there. But for now, I'm still struggling. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Why Don't They Like Me?

eyes Pictures, Images and Photos
My heart just broke into pieces last night.

My little girl, who is now thirteen, came to me and asked why her cousin doesn't write to her anymore.  I asked if she was writing.  "Yes, but I don't write as much anymore because she never answers." I started to say something and she interrupted me, "Don't say it's because she doesn't get on the computer much, because I know that she's writing to my brother. I just don't understand why she doesn't like me anymore."

I hugged her and told her not to worry about it and assured her that her cousin does still like her but that maybe she's having one of those typical young girl crushes on him.  It happens.  Of course, my son overheard this and rolled his eyes and said, "Ewww."  And my daughter wouldn't talk again until he left the room.

I told her that I have friends all around the world and that if she would like, I could ask one of them who has a daughter who is a little closer to her age (her cousin is 14 months younger) if she would like a "pen pal." Her lip started to quiver and she shook her head no. I asked her why not? And the tears fell as she whispered, "What if they don't like me either?"

OH GOD!  My heart hurts for her. She said that out of the 40 girls in her class at school not one of them is her friend. She said that people are always friendly to her until they find out she's a foreigner, and then either snub her, or want to borrow money. The only time they want to be her friend is on exam days because she is very smart; on English exam days, she has more "best friends" than she could ever imagine. She knows they're using her. And I just want to hold her and kiss her and tell her it will be okay....that none of those girls deserves her friendship and then we'd braid each other's hair and bake cookies.

But I'm just her mom. And while she finds consolation in my hugs and words right now...I know that it won't be for that much longer. And I know that I'm never going to be the "girlfriend" that all of us think back on when we remember our middle school years. But I'll keep trying to carve out another chunk of time for just her and keep trying to hug and console and comfort her while poking all those girls with imaginary sticks in my mind for hurting my baby. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012


It just dawned on me today.  I have no clue why I hadn't realized it before.  But now all the pieces seem to fit nicely into that jumbled up 5000 piece puzzle that is my life. I have been trying to figure out what is with all of the tantrum  pitching, screaming, arguing, fighting, crying and thumb-sucking for months and I was at a complete loss...until tonight.

So I pulled my thumb out of my mouth and wiped my tears, so that I could focus my eyes on the monitor and figure out why in the hell I'm no longer emotionally capable of dealing with these stinkin' kids (at least like I used to deal with them.)  And you know what I found out?  Oh, it isn't pretty.





No, it's true.  I'm stuck in that in-between stage where life has finally balanced itself and I'm an amazing, supermom, able to multi-task writing, cleaning, homework, cooking, shopping, scrubbing down the fingerprints (and friggin' footprints) off the walls and still manage to be showered and looking hot by the time the husband walks in the door.......and where your menses stops and you are labeled OLD.

I guess with most women it may be easier to diagnose (you know, as though it's ever easy to diagnose.)  But see after my fifth baby (who was 10 lbs 5 ozs) they found thousands of little fibroids. Those were apparently the spawn of the Mutha Fibroid (henceforth known as MF) that was lodged with lots of little tiny veins at the back of my uterus.  So, removing them surgically was too dangerous and I have issues with depo-provera so we decided that even though I was only 33, I'd gotten a whole lot of mileage out of that uterus and we had that sucker pulled out through my c-section scar, which, coincidentally, also had a lot of mileage. (We had it bronzed and put it next to the baby shoes on the mantle.)

Anywho, since I haven't had a period in more than ten years, menopause is totally NOT something that's on my mind.  Except that for the last two or three years, I've been feeling really hot. Like, disgusting, fat, sweaty, guy wearing a snowsuit in Atlanta in August hot.  In fact, most days while I'm on the computer, I totally feel like this:

So, I knew that I must totally be depressed or something so I did what any woman stuck in a foreign country with four teenagers in the house in the middle of the night would do.  I Googled for self-diagnosis. But I think that this one is pretty spot on. Here's where I read perimenopause.

Actually, I already had an idea that I was going through this.  However, what clicked in the so-called mind today was that PERIMENOPAUSAL WOMAN + THREE TEENAGERS + ONE ANGSTY PRETEEN = An awful lot of rampant hormones in my house.

And that's when I went out into the desert to dig a large but shallow grave to get rid of the teenagers.
NOT REALLY. But I did fantasize about it briefly.  I digress.

So, what now?  It's after midnight, so I'll probably just resume the fetal position and suck my thumb while I cry myself to sleep tonight. But I'll probably research some sort of herbal/natural remedies to help me just not give a shit anymore and go back to blowing off the sassy and angsty pubescent hormones.  In the mean time, I have empty soda bottles full of water in the freezer and I'm not putting away my summer clothes for the winter. I'm just throwing a couple of cardigans into my closet for days when my body starts acting like it's got some damn sense.

They say that the average age for menopause for American women is 51.  Guess I've got a few years to go.
But at least I understand what's happening to me and that I don't need to make that reservation at any mental health inpatient facilities just yet. 

For Updates on Gaza

Hi. I've been a bit busy the last week or so. Please don't feel ignored. I know how much everyone lives to read my blog. Pffffft! Anyway, I'm posting a link for friends and family who have expressed concern or sent me queries as to the proximity of the air strikes in Gaza as it relates to us.  I have found little in the way of accurate or reliable reporting locally or from any of the Israeli papers that I  have scanned. 

However, I am a member of a group that sent me a link to a British independent reporter who is covering the situation via a live feed on the ground in Gaza. So if you would like accurate, up to the minute information on the Gaza attacks, feel free to click here and follow Harry Fear live. 
God bless you and protect you and your team, Harry. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Always the Bad Cop

My chest tightens and my breath grows shorter.
 Jaws are clenched and I can feel my teeth grinding to nubs.
I see tiny white stars pop in front of my eyes.

Orange peels decorate the living room with dirty tissues to contrast.
The teaser had been chucking snot rags at his brother, who
returned fire with the orange peels.

The teased one explodes and pounds the teaser.

The smaller sees red and chases the larger to the
corner by the front door (so all the neighbors
can hear) and pounds on him until he screams
like a girl, twisting to get away and ripping my
curtains out of the wall.

The swear words and shouting back at me; ignoring me
when I call their names; blatantly disregarding directions
or punishment - these are the things I have to deal with
while their father is gone....

He goes off to work and buys them nice gifts because he
misses them.  They don't act like monkeys on methamphetamines
when he's in town. And when he comes home they are his sweet
respectful kids and he gives them gifts.

Me?  They give me shit and it doesn't matter whether I do nice
things or not for them....I'm the mom.  So I reap the shit.

God.  I can't wait until I have grandchildren.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

What Gives People?

Okay, while I'm elated that President Obama won a second term in Office, clearly there are a whole bunch of people who have hurt feelings over the whole thing.  But rather than handle their disappointment at how the election turned out like politically responsible adults, they're tantrumming and acting out the way a small child does when Mom says, "No, you cannot have candy bars and strawberry soda for breakfast."

I am pretty sure that when George W. Bush won the election back in 2000, a lot of Democrats were really upset.  But mostly, it was due to the whole Florida/Jeb Bush/voting scandal thing.  But after about a week and a recount that didn't come out the way that Al Gore wanted it to, they all swallowed hard and accepted that they would just have to come up with a better strategy and/or candidate for 2004.

And they didn't. And George W. Bush won again. But you know what, that's okay. Because while he and Congress were busy deregulating banks and making corporations people and continuing to fight two wars that we didn't really have the money to fight, the Democrats got their stuff together and came up with a few really good candidates and eventually, Senator Barack Obama won that candidacy.  And then he won the election.

He was voted into office in 2008 because the majority of Americans (voting Americans) believed him to be
the better candidate.  Because see?  We Democrats managed to survive eight years of George W. Bush. And while he left a big ole economic, financial, mess behind, we were still here.  Ready to stand up, put on the gloves and pick up shovels and dig ourselves out of the crap.  And in 2012, having made good on a lot of, but not yet all of, his promises, Barack Obama won a second term in office.  He won it. FAIR AND SQUARE.

And maybe it wasn't because President Obama is the best man for the job. However, the majority of voting Americans decided that he WAS the best man out of the candidates they had to choose from.

Here is where people need to start taking a little responsibility.  I believe that Al Gore was NOT the right candidate for President in 2000. In fact, I voted for George W. Bush in that election.  I didn't know that much about him then.  I did know enough about Al Gore to believe that he was the wrong man for the job.
Since former President Bush had planes scrambled to bomb the shit out of Afghanistan less than 15 minutes after the bombing of the World Trade Center, far too short a time to determine who was actually responsible for the horrific act, I decided to get to know the candidates a little better before the next election time. You know pay attention to the who's who of Washington, because Dude! People were DYING....and a lot of them.

I researched who all was running in the primaries...well, most of them. The only one who was worth half a tinker's damn on the Republican side was Alan Keyes and frankly his tax code ideas started out as a cool new approach....until he started the talk of one or two generations of reparations via tax exemption for African-American of slave heritage.  Also, he began using big words like "socialist experiment" to refer to income taxes. I have issues with elected officials referring to issues with which they don't agree as "socialist."
Most of the time, they're not capable of defining the word socialism. The rest of the Republican candidates looked more like contestants for a possible reality game show that could be called "REAL EGOMANIACS of NARCISSIST CITY."  Come on!  Rudolph Giuliani?  He was on Saturday Night Live at least four times, not to mention five or six other television shows and several movies.

Romney, Gingrich, McCain, Paul, and Huckabee all fighting each other for the spot light and none making much sense on any issues, in my opinion.  I have no idea what Fred Thompson had upstairs to offer in politics. Frankly, Ronald Reagan should remain our one and only Actor-turned-President.  Besides, I don't think anyone could watch a State-of-the-Union Address given by Fred Thompson without looking around for Jerry Orbach to read someone his rights. So what was my point again?

Oh, yeah.  The Republican party didn't have any GOOD candidates groomed for the win in 2008.  Pretty much 2012 was a re-run of the 2008 primaries.  But once that whole Tea-Party thing got a little momentum (and an assload of money from the Koch Bros,) things took a weird turn and I re-registered as a Democrat.

Here is what I'm trying to say:  If you don't like the outcome, then do something POSITIVE about it.  Like get involved in politics yourself.  You don't have to run for President if you don't want to.  But get involved. Find out who the movers and the shakers are within the party you affiliate yourself with.  Stop swallowing headlines spewed out by ANY mainstream news. Find papers from all extremes and from the middle of the road. You want balanced reporting? You're NEVER going to find it unless you balance it yourself.

Fact check what is said in the Huffington Post (very biased- liberal), on FOX News (ultra-biased Republican), Christian Science Monitor (slightly biased Republican), the New York Times (fair/even most times), the Baltimore Sun (fairly even), Chicago-Sun Times (slightly  biased Republican), Milwaukee Journal (slightly biased Democrat)...or whatever source you get your news from.  You can read the same news items in the Washington Times and in the Washington Post and get two entirely different slants from newspapers located within 5 miles of each other. Check the facts in everything.

But don't start acting like you cannot  possibly survive a mere four  years until the next election, crying foul and racist remarks or threatening to secede from the nation or trying to run your husband over with a Jeep because he didn't vote (as though his vote would have mattered since this happened in Arizona which went to Romney ANYWAY! DO YOU PEOPLE EVEN KNOW HOW TO READ???)

Grow up, America. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Get over it. Get up. Come up with a worthwhile candidate who doesn't hide money or change his stance on issues multiple times in the course of a year and get him elected FAIR AND SQUARE. That's what responsible adults do.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Jerry-Rigging...the Second Generation

My dad is an excellent electrician and mechanic. He can fix most anything.  But when he's fixing something that is his own, he may take a few shortcuts....and end up with a few extra springs or screws, like when he
fixed his washing machine.  Or he may be able to determine that the there really is nothing wrong with the
car when the check engine light comes on, but can't find the fuse to switch out in order to make the check
engine light go he'll just cover that check engine light with a piece of black electrical tape so that it's not as distracting when you drive.

I've always joked about it since Dad is an accurate example of "The cobbler's children need new shoes."

And now I see that I have followed in his footsteps. As I type this while I talk to my son over Skype on cheap headphones with the mic on the cord that is too far from my mouth for him to hear me, I am grateful that my web cam is on the fritz.  My hand got tired from holding the microphone up by my mouth so I connected the wire with a twisty-tie (like from a bread bag) to my glasses so that I can talk to my son, hands-free.

Yeah, that apple didn't fall far from Dad's tree!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

It's a Good Day

I suffer from insomnia....but it's only because my kids are night owls who continue to argue and shout at one another from their beds, forcing my eyeballs to pop open after I take melatonin to lull me off to sleep.

And I didn't fall asleep until around 4 a.m. thanks to Ismail not feeling tired and getting up to watch Zombieland on t.v. which of course, set Randa off on a middle-of-the-night-autistic-meltdown which included screaming at me every 10 minutes, "STUPID ISMAIL'S NOT SLEEP....GROSS....ZOMBIES T.V...........MOMMY!"

So, naturally I didn't even hear the alarm go off at 5:50 a.m. and once again, Samiya and Aiman stayed home from school.  Yup. MOTY is just a distant dream once again. Right up there with "full 8 hours of sleep" apparently.

The mosquito population of Alexandria is concentrated under the desk where I'm typing. I expect by now I'm immune to West Nile virus....I do live west of the Nile.  But that's just the bad stuff.

The good stuff is as follows:

1. President Obama is STILL the President.
2. Today was sandwiches day so that I could focus on my writing.
3. Ismail fixed my Birkenstocks with super glue so my feet don't have to cry anymore.
4. I am only 600 words short of where I'm supposed to be on my NaNoWriMo quota.
5. It rained today.
6. My characters in my novel are dragging me through their life story with me playing only a very small role in        
their direction.  This book is just awesome.
7. President Obama is STILL the President.

All in all, it looks like a pretty damn good day for me.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

You've Overstayed Your Welcome, Bitchez!

Mosquito season is in the Summer, right?


It's NOVEMBER and maybe because it's still hotter
than fresh peppers in a hooker's g-string....but they are out with
a vengeance.

And they are sucking all of the blood out of my feet, fingers, and
back. And while they keep doing this WWI Flying Ace death
drop dives into my cleavage, not one of those suckers has drowned
in boob sweat to date.

Which really sucks.

Friday, November 2, 2012


So I made the commitment to participate in NaNoWriMo 2012. That's NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth where I try to write 50,000 words in a month (with a daily goal of around 1637 words.) Since I had already started my novel about 8 months ago, I'm using this first week or so to rewrite what I have so far and once I read about chapter 8 or so, I'm going to start chopping it up and getting back on track. Somewhere along the line I went off on a tangent that I couldn't bring back to my original outline.

Anyway, since announcing this decision 2 days ago, my kids have taken it upon themselves to go absolutely bat shit crazy as soon as I sit down at the computer. I have broken up a record number of fights, helped with more geometry  homework, located at least 46 lost items and made French fries, toast, and a yogurt and honey facial mask all during MY turn at the computer.

Frankly, I'm exhausted.

And I've come to the realization that one of two things is going to happen before 30 November ever rolls around:  I'm going to quit AGAIN and probably never finish this damn book OR I'm going to put all 4 of the remaining kids up for adoption.

Option B is looking really good right now.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Emotional Leg Warmers

When my husband travels overseas for months at a time for work, I go through a roller-coaster of emotions. I usually start out numb for a few days and then I'm fine. But after a few weeks, I start to get depressed. And I usually feel it coming on ahead of time. It will manifest itself at first in anxiety attacks, complete with tightened chest muscles, short breath, and red, itchy blotches across my chest and up my neck. Then, as I force myself to maintain composure and control, for the sake of my kids, I start to internalize the stress and I begin to cry over stupid things like So You Think You Can Dance choreography and realizing we're out of milk when I've already poured myself coffee. I oversleep a lot during this phase and my kids end up missing a few days of school. Also, I will sometimes realize that it has been a few days since I've showered. Usually, my oldest daughter will walk up and sniff my hair and say, "Eww. Hair stinks. Gonna  puke."

Way to all of a sudden get verbal there, Kid.

Anyway, so yesterday I recognized where I was in my cyclical depression and as I tried to pull off my leg warmers, I realized something else. It's not 1984 and I don't own leg warmers! So I decided, "That's enough of that!" and grabbed a razor and hit the shower.

It's amazing how much better I feel. I got up in time to take my kids to school today. (They didn't actually attend though because the power is out and won't be back until next week.) And I have lamb chops marinating in the fridge and just sent one of the boys out to buy me a head of lettuce. I took my younger daughter to buy the yarn she needs for home economics. I'm only two loads away from catching up the laundry. So, things are looking up. And if it would just rain, I'd be a smiling, happy person again. (I love the rain.) 

And maybe, just maybe, I'll make fresh buttermilk biscuits with cheese and fried eggs for the kids for supper tonight before they go to bed. And we'll read aloud on my bed like we used to do when they were younger and I won't miss my husband and my son so much and I'll be able to sleep without waking up all groggy and blue again....for a while. But it's a cycle that I go through every couple of months while he's gone and I recognize that it's just a part of me. 

Monday, October 29, 2012


I got this flash of genius about Labels around 1 in the morning while laying in bed trying to solve all of the world's problems instead of sleeping. Damn insomnia! Anyway, with Randa asleep next to me (because it's HER bed when her father is working overseas) I can't flip the light on and start rummaging through nightstand drawers searching for pen and paper to write down my brilliant epiphanies. So I grabbed my phone and used the recorder app. God bless technology. I hadn't even known that thing was on there until my kids, who are not allowed to even touch my phone, found it and began making really bad attempts at gangster rap. *face palm* 

Here are my thoughts:    LABELS.

They're what people use to define us. Sometimes they're what we use to define ourselves. And those labels with which we define ourselves are not necessarily the ones that others would use to define us. This is true in any kind of label. It doesn't have to be a good word or a bad word or whatever. We sometimes find ourselves in a position where others are defining us in a manner with which we do not agree, specifically, when people only see our outward appearances. My family is American. But when we live in the United States we are labeled as "Foreigners" because we are bilingual. We speak Arabic as well as English. We're Muslim. And because of our appearance (my daughters and I wear the hijab and cover our hair and wear modest, loose-fitting clothes in public) a lot of times in Texas, and other states too, people cannot look beyond our clothing. Immediately, we're "Foreigners." We're "Ragheads." We've been told "Go back to your own country" when we're in fact, already IN our own country. Every one of my children was born in the United States. My ancestors go back about 200 years of mostly Irish-American roots. My husband was born Egyptian, lived in Greece from 15 years old until he was 28 and after he and I married there, he came to the United States where he was naturalized. So, pretty much, we're an American family with very long roots that span several different continents and the labels that others have for us are not things by which we define ourselves.

The name of my original blog was "Square Peg in a Round Hole." And how does that fit me? Perfectly. Where you're trying to force yourself to fit into a society where you just don't fit. Being a family, inter-racial, inter-color?, international?....however you want to look at it.....couple with children, we don't fit anywhere.
In the States, we're viewed as "the Foreigners," "the Muslims," "the Terrorists," "the Weirdos who are always overdressed" no matter where we go. We have those, not necessarily prejudiced, labels applied to us in the United States.

We've lived in Egypt now for 11 years. And here we're also labeled. We still don't fit into the package people want to shove us into. We're "the Americans," "the Foreigners," "the could you leave America to come here?" or the reverse "How can your country bomb all of these innocent people?" It's all just more labeling. Here, at least, most people understand that Ahmed Q. Public is not writing foreign policy for his government. So in Egypt, people tend to be more forgiving of your countries actions with which they disagree. In the US, people forget that people are separate entities from the governments that represent them sometimes.

But the point is, we don't fit the labels of any place where we live. I'm very strict with my kids. I'm a lot stricter with my kids than my Egyptian counterparts are with theirs. In the States, I'm stricter in some aspects and laxer in others seemingly. I guess we have different parenting styles. I know my mom thinks that I'm raising my kids wrong. I guess. I don't know. But the things that we prioritize are different than those she  prioritized while I was growing up. We don't fit into a particular mold. Where my sarcasm and sharp-tongued wit is acceptable in the States. In Egypt, it's less acceptable. They think I talk "weirdly." I mean, they laugh and think I'm generally a funny person. I get comments to that affect all of the time. But self-deprecation is not something that people "get" or appreciate as much and it catches them off guard.
   "How are the kids doing?"
"They're I guess they're just fine."

That kind of a retort is considered scandalous. But we come from two different types of cultures. And where I am so adaptable in so many cultures, I still stick out like a sore thumb. In the States, I've been labeled as "leaving my American heritage" because I've chosen to conform to Islam on some points that I've come to agree with more than the things I was raised with. Not everything....but some things. The manners here are different than they are in the States. There are so many things culturally different....and so many things that are exactly the same.

I fit well here because of my Southern background. The Southern part of me is very generous. We're very good hosts to our guests. We offer refreshment immediately to our guests and come to aid those around us and we get to know our neighbors. And that's very much how it is here in the Arab world. It's like Southern-hospitality meets Lawrence of Arabia. Respect for elders is a huge part of society here like it was the way I was brought up.

Some of the things that I now find unimportant, things I've adapted to in Islamic/Egyptian culture leave some of my American family members at a loss. Like thanking everyone for every damn thing they've ever done for you in their entire lives, I don't think that's important. I would rather God thank me for those things on Judgement Day. I also don't want my kids to accept money for helping anybody with anything. Like if they were to babysit their cousins or to look after a neighbor's pets or plants while the neighbor is away, they're not to accept money for that unless there was an agreement in place for that ahead of time. Monetary rewards for being a good neighbor seems counterproductive to me. You're just a hired hand and no longer a good neighbor. You do this and you will be paid by God, in blessings. If you accept the offered cash, you've been paid and the blessings offer is no longer on the table. In Islamic culture the same is true of a verbalized thank you. When one thanks you for doing something, the customary reply in Arabic is " There is no thanks needed for duty." Because it is one's duty to assist his neighbors and no thanks should be required.

I want my kids to learn that not everything needs to be paid for. They have learned that. I have witnessed this in action. They've noticed their aunt struggling with groceries from the car to the house and without any prompting from me or anyone else, immediately go to her aid. My kids immediately offer to help neighbors or relatives by carrying heavy packages, groceries, or hold doors open because they know that that is what makes them good neighbors; good Muslims. They're very polite. They see that something needs to be done and do it. Okay, they're still not helping me with the dishes or whatever, because they're still teenagers for crying out loud. But if there is broken glass on the steps of our building, they'll not think twice about getting a broom and dustpan to clean it up before someone gets hurt. My two older boys climbed up on the roof of the bakery next door to us and cleaned up all of the trash and junk that neighbors had tossed on top of it from their windows or balconies over the last few years. It took them and a neighbor boy 4 hours to get the job done. And instead of thanking them, the neighbors all told them, "May God shine His light on you."

These are their expressions of love; their expressions of respect. And they don't expect payment. They don't want payment or tips. They don't want thank yous. They understand the appreciation is there, just as their appreciation is there for things that we do for them. They know that. And they know that if they're not thanked in this world, that in the Next World, they will be. That's the difference in the way that we're raising our kids. We trying to teach them also to respect each other.

We're having a hell of a time attempting to get that through to them right now. Respecting one another and respect for me are both pretty much out the window at this point. I'm only missing one in my teenage spectrum right now. Aiman will be 12 in January but because he's the youngest and prone to early-starts in everything developmental, he's already begun the "put upon" drama and teenage angst early. This is only because he's already witnessed it 4 times over in his older brothers and sisters. So, a houseful of five teenagers, I'm losing my marbles. My oldest is only 17 so I have a couple more years of all of them being teenagers at the same time. Oh yeah...back to labels...which, "teenagers" is just another label, isn't it? But with all of the hormonal crap I have to  put up with on a daily basis, I think it's appropriate.

So, labels. My son and I had a long discussion about the N-word recently. To him, it's something that he hears in video games like G.T.A. (the bane of my existence that I've deleted from our computer at least 3 times), and in gangster rap. He hears it used by 50-cent, by Ice Cube, by Snoop Dogg and others. To him it is nothing more than a word used by cool guys. I've tried my very best to influence him with original hip-hop from the early 80's, where rap was more about self-promotion and pride and not about keeping others down with the use of the N-word, "bitches," and "hoes." He likes that stuff, but still seems to be drawn closer to the  "clippin' N's with my 9" kind of lyrics. His response to my continued efforts to break the use of these words is always, "It's just the song. It doesn't mean anything."

Well, YES. It actually DOES mean something. The degradation of words like the n-word, is used to hold people down; to dehumanize. It was a term applied to people who were given a status one step above that of an animal. It indicates stupidity, ignorance, laziness, less than human. And it was meant to make our black brothers and sisters to feel inadequate and powerless. That is the history behind the word. It's a word that we hear the younger generations use interchangeably with "dawg," "brother," "homeboy" now. Maybe they're too young to remember the insult attached to it. I don't know. But I don't like it.

A similar comparison can be made to words like "bitch" and "ho." The degradation of these words is used to hold women down; to slander them; to make them feel like their sole purpose in life is for the sexual gratification of men. They are terms applied to women, usually by men who do not respect them. Or by other women, who seemingly don't respect themselves. While I agree that we've come to associate the meaning of the word "bitch" to someone who is crabby and complains all the time, this ultimately is NOT what it means. Bitch is a female dog....which means what? Pretty much the same as whore. Since dogs don't mate for life and tend to mate with anything anatomically opposite when they're in heat, wouldn't that be an appropriate definition? And when my son gets mad and calls his sister a bitch, isn't that true definition of what he's insulting her with?

I've explained to him that according to his religion, what he is saying is 100% haram, wrong. In Islam, we are ALL equal in the eyes of God and no man is better than another save for ANYTHING other than his deen, religion....AND HOW HE PRACTICES IT. Also, in the Quran, women have the same value as men. (Oh, yeah....far different than what many people in the West believe.) Women, just like men, have rights and responsibilities. And there is an entire book of the Quran called "the Women ( النساء ). Throughout the Quran and in the Ahadeeth or sayings attributed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) the sin of sullying a woman's name or spreading untrue slander about her is a sin punishable in this life AND in the hereafter:

Al-Noor 24: 23 reads as:
Those who slander against chaste, innocent, believing women shall indeed be cursed in this world as well as the hereafter. For them shall be a grievous punishment.
Al-Noor 24: 4 - 5 reads as:
Those who slander against chaste women and then do not produce four eye witnesses, shall be awarded with eighty lashes and their testimony shall never be accepted after this. These are the [true] transgressors, except those who [sincerely] repent after this and correct themselves, for, then, God is indeed forgiving, merciful. 
(**These texts are from a source I fully respect, Understanding Islam. You can see it here: )

Anyway, I didn't start writing this piece to proselytize. I'm merely pointing out how I explained to my son the wrongness behind the use of these words. I also tried to explain to him by examples he might get since he's a boy whiter than mayo on Wonder bread. Because he isn't black or a girl and imagining just leads to all kinds of tangent conversations because that is how ADHD works. (Trust me. I know THAT first hand, too.)

I tried it this way:

     "Ismail, you know how when we lived in Texas those four months and the people across the street would let their kids play with you until they saw Randa and me come outside in our scarves?"

     "Yeah. That was weird the way their grandmother came out and ran them all back into the house and shut the door and they weren't allowed outside anymore after that. Why'd she do that?"

     "I heard what she was saying. She told the kids to come inside because we were terrorists."

     "But she was speaking Spanish."

     "I speak Spanish, too, son."

     "But why would she say that? We're not terrorists. We don't blow up planes."

    "I know. But a lot of people associate the word terrorist with Arab or Muslim. And so they think we're bad people because a lot of people want the world to think that about all Arabs and Muslims."

     "But we're American."

     "It doesn't matter where someone is from, what religion they are, what color they are, whether they are boy or girl, fat or thin, young or old, rich or poor. Labels are not a good thing to put on others and they are definitely not something we should judge others by."

     "So what does that have to do with gangster rap?"

     "Well, I think that you're missing the point of some of the lyrics. The underlying meaning of SOME of those raps have more to do with a situation or background that you cannot relate to because whether you were born in downtown Augusta, Georgia or not, you are NOT from the hood and you've lived an incredibly sheltered life. I am not certain why some rap artists find it necessary to use degrading words to define themselves and their family or friends and women in their lives. But I do know that the use of those words has done so much more harm than good. And I want you to stop using them. They're not cool words. They are 1,000 different types of inappropriate. Do you understand?"

     "Yes, ma'am."

Has it stopped it completely? Well, come on. He's a teenager. So, no. But he has agreed to work on it and I'm trying to stop dropping F-bombs. No reason to just blame THAT on my Irish label either, right?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

18 Years Ago Today

He saw me first, only I didn't know it. He was on a date. I was dancing with my best friend from the Seychelles. Mostly foreigners hung out at this club. I was dancing my face off when I felt someone touch my butt. I turned around and slapped the drunk Greek guy standing behind me. That's when I noticed him. He was tall and dark and handsome, wearing a leather jacket and his hair was pulled back in the "cool guy" ponytail that was the rage at the time. He smiled at me. The date gave me the hairy eyeball. I turned my back and returned to my dancing.

A few months later we were introduced by a mutual friend at a sandwich shop in Athens. We talked for a few minutes. He asked me for my number. I asked him why he wanted it. He said maybe we could meet for coffee sometime. I had a rule then to never date guys who were prettier than I am. I'd have to fight him for the mirror. So I said no.

Over the next year, I continued to run into him at various places around the city. And he always asked me out and I always refused. Then one night at a reggae club in Omonia, I showed up and he was already there with other friends. He kept waving me over so that he could tell me something. And he never said anything except a phone number; over and over and over every few minutes over the course of the next 3 or 4 hours. When I finally left that night, I'd memorized it.

Three weeks later, I talked to my friend, Vivi about it. And she asked me the number and then dialed it. I talked to him and I agreed to meet him at a garden cafeteria next door to my office. That coffee turned into souvlaki sandwiches on the beach in Glyfada and then the rest of our lives. We've been together ever since.

We were married not long after that. He turned me into a baby factory. After the birth of our 5th child we were reminiscing about how we met so long ago and he said, "You really didn't know?"

Apparently not.

"It was me that pushed you in the behind with my foot that first night."



Unless I'm working out, I abhor it. And due to my Irish genes, I am doomed to yellowed armpit stains on any white shirts worn for longer than 2 hours on a hot day. What? It's not all Irish people? Just me? Huh. Imagine that. And all this time I thought it was the "sweaty booze trait" handed down for generations. Silly me. I digress.

Anyway, I have now entered the perimenopausal phase of my life. And that's just a fancy-pants way of saying HOT FLASHES, MOOD SWINGS and NIGHT SWEATS........or total laundry HELL since I'm changing my shirts about 3 or 4 times a day now even while sitting in front of a fan.

I read on a blog about the other 33 symptoms I may encounter...Oh Crap. KILL ME NOW. Really? Bad breath? I need THAT on top of the aforementioned and dryness in all parts south of the face, which now if microscopic oil wells were to be built on it would solve the American dependency on Middle East Oil.

I know. I'm an idiot for moving to Egypt, right? The seasonal calendar consists of 2 months of rain and 10 months of H-O-T! And although we are in a desert area (near the coast) it's humid as hell all of the time. Egypt is a plethora of contradictory weather terms. Personally, I blame the Nile because it's running up instead of down. Whatever.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Secrets of the STANDER

Conversation of the Day:


     "Yes, Honey?"

"What hurts worse? Having a truck run over your ankle or giving birth?"

     "Giving birth."

"Yeah. That's what I figured. Know what?"

     "What's that?"

"I think girls can stand more pain than boys can."

     "Really? That's not what you usually say."

"Well, you know that I'm a 'stander,' right?"

     "Son, NO ONE says 'stander.' Everyone else on the planet just says 'I have a high threshold of pain."

"Whatever. Yesterday, Samiya took the lid off of the teapot with her bare fingers and set it on the counter so that she could pour her tea and she forgot to put the lid back on the pot. So I picked it up to put it back on and it was so hot it burned my fingers and I threw it across the kitchen. Samiya is a better 'stander' than I am."

     "Again. NO ONE says 'stander.' In fact, I don't even think that's a real word."



"Don't tell Samiya that I said that."

Monday, October 15, 2012


The candles are lit and I'm showered, perfumed and all dolled up. There is "don't-let-the-kids-hear-us-through-these-paper-thin-walls" music  playing softly from the stereo on the dresser. He comes in surprised and then the clothes begin to come off. Everything is perfect...and then he turns toward the nightstand and
blows out the candles.

"Why'd you blow out the candles?"
    "It's better in the dark. What if the kids come in?"

"That's why I told you to lock the door."

     "Oh. Too late now."

And so the evening proceeds but in a much more mechanical and obligatory way, with me wondering in the back of my mind why he doesn't want to see me naked anymore.

I am well aware that my curves that once attracted him are now a little lumpier...okay, a lot. And the fact that he was blessed with this metabolism that still burns at 46 like it did when he was 19 is not helping in the "Honey, I understand" department. And maybe I shouldn't have eaten those 10-pound seafood and crab submarine sandwiches with everything and bulgoki for dessert while I was pregnant with the first child so many years ago. But five kids later, I am still the same hot and sexy and funny and intelligent woman that he married. More so pun intended.

And I know that I still turn him on and that I am the woman of his dreams. I know from the way he looks at me across the room while I'm doing something mundane like folding another 6 tons of laundry and how he'll hold my hand when we're sitting on the couch watching movies together and how he goes out of his way to fix things for me in the kitchen to make my life easier.

And maybe he has other reasons for not wanting the lights on when we're alone in each others arms. Maybe he doesn't want me to see how thin he's gotten or how gray he's become or how much muscle mass has been lost since we first did this so many years ago. Being "MAN" sometimes causes him to swallow those feelings and insecurities and they won't be shared with me for fear that I will see him in a smaller, less manly way.

I know that I'm an amazing woman whether I'm tipping the scales at the 200-lb mark or whether I've managed to stick to my exercise program and portioning restrictions at meal times. I know that I am not defined by the size of my pants or by a number on a scale. But I still have those days when my shirt clings just a little too tightly around the middle or my inseam rips while climbing up the steps of the city bus and then my usually strong self-confidence is shot to hell in a New York minute. And if I am trying to make up for those feelings of self-loathe and fantasies of liposuction that I know we can't afford by making myself sexy for him, then can't he just suck it up and close his eyes and let me just pretend that he wants to make love to me with the lights on?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

It's Official...He's Out of the Nest

I took a ton of  photos on my digital camera of the boy and his brothers and sisters before he left for the U.S. to live with his father. And apparently my purse is not a safe  hiding  place for my camera anymore. Randa found it, reviewed the photos, and then DELETED EVERY SINGLE ONE before I could download them onto the computer.


So, I will have to wait for him to download the ones I took with HIS camera once he settle into his new digs with his father. I am missing him a lot. But I'm also strangely comforted by the fact that his father's mood should go nowhere but up now that he's got his son with him. (He gets depressed when he's working abroad because he's so far away from us.) Also, I think that the two of them may develop a much closer relationship since they have to rely on each other now. This is good.

But I still miss him and it is going to take me some time to remember to only buy 4 packages of cookies when I'm on my way home from running errands instead of 5. But I guess that's okay. I know that this is what our family needs for now. And so I'll continue, begrudgingly at first. Acceptance is sometimes hard for us moms. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Eau de Butt Funk

Have you ever been in a crowded place waiting, like a hospital or bank, and all of a sudden been keenly aware of a pungent odor that sort of turns your stomach but you can't find the smelly source?

In the United States, you don't run into that many people who smell bad. Americans have been convinced/brainwashed/conned into bathing everyday, wearing deodorant, putting on cologne, wearing their clothes only for brief amounts of time before washing to the degree that unless you are 5'3" and stuck on a crowded subway next to the guy who just finished a double-header basketball game holding onto the safety handle above his head, you probably aren't going to run into anyone who truly stinks.

In the rest of the world, people don't usually change clothes as frequently as we do in the US. In the Middle East for example, we wear pajamas or sweats in the house all the time and only wear our "going out clothes" when we actually go out. And if you wear them for only an hour or two, it's a waste of water, soap, electricity and time to wash them unless you've spilled something on them or you've gotten really sweaty. I've lived in Egypt for 11 years now, and when in Rome....

So, as a woman who wears hijab, I usually go out in a pair of pants and a t-shirt but cover with a loose-fitting overdress called an abaya and then wear a scarf on my head. Over the last 2 years, with all of the errands I've been running, I've managed to tear the crap out of 2 different abayas and I'm down to my last two. One is dark blue with burgundy trim and it's lightweight but it's also 100% some kind of  polyester and I hate wearing it because the sleeves stick to me. The other is black with beige and burgundy and gold and while it's heavier fabric (some kind of rayon blend,) I'm actually not as hot in it as I am in the blue one. Sooo, because I'm wearing a cotton t-shirt for maximum sweat absorption, I can usually wear my abaya for at least 3 days before washing it. Also, I'm still American enough that I still shower everyday and wear deodorant and all that so it's not as gross as it sounds.

Two days ago, I put on the black abaya fresh off the clothesline and went out to pick up a few things. I was gone all of 20 minutes. When I got home, I hung it up on the hook on my bedroom door for easy access for the next time I needed to go out. Yesterday, I wore it again for an extremely long outing from 8am until around 2pm. This outing required a lot of public transportation, walking around in heavy traffic areas and whether the calendar says AUTUMN or not, here it's still pretty hot. The last place on our list was the dentist's office and it was air-conditioned and I cooled off and had a nice rest in the waiting area and since it was just a short walk from there to our apartment, I was comfortable and seemingly dry by the time we got home.

Now due to all of this running about, I've been kind of behind in my duties at home. I'm grateful the 4 teens and tweens that stayed at home all day didn't kill one another or break anything so I sort of blew off the fact that they'd been walking around the dirty pile of clothes waiting to be shoved into the washer next. So I threw them in the washer and fell asleep.

This morning I remembered that I needed desperately to go to the bank. Only when I awoke from my nap I had totally forgotten that my blue abaya was in the washer and had sat all night wadded up and wet in the machine so I had to re-run the load. I, it's only been one day plus 20 minutes in the other abaya. How bad could it be? I did a  "sniff-test" on the scarf and it smelled okay, so I threw it on, "scarfed up," tied up my tennis shoes and hustled on over to the bank.

So I got my number out of the "hurry up and wait till we call you" machine and found an empty seat. They were on number 50 and I was number 66. I pulled out my recent purchase; a yellowed old copy of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickins that is so old that it doesn't even have a copyright date in it. I started to read and by page 2, the smell of hairy butt sweat hit me. I gave the woman sitting next to me the stink-eye.
"Gross. Really? That's like middle school boy smell....Why would she smell like that?" I asked myself.

I looked around me. There was a man who had what looked like dry cement stains on his clothes. It had to be him. But when his number was called and he walked past, all I could smell was cheap cologne. Not even cheap cologne covering sweat...just cheap cologne. I went back to my book. I finished the third page and turned to page four. "Ball funk!" I thought to myself. "That's what I'm smelling! Man alive! What is that?"
I noticed the door to the bathroom down the hall was open and figured maybe that's where it was coming from. I sniffed my scarf but it smelled like shampoo from this morning's shower.

I looked at my sleeve and noticed what looked like white paint had brushed onto it when I walked past. But I hadn't bumped into any white walls at all so far. I couldn't focus on my book. I closed it and put in into my purse. I tried to zip it closed but realized I was sitting on the strap. As I maneuvered to pull it out from under my leg without accidentally breaking the strap, the smell I'd been trying to pinpoint punched me right in the face. I put my sleeve to my face and breathed in. "OH. DEAR. GOD. It's ME!! I smell like hairy gorilla ass! WHY??!"

"Now serving customer number 66 at window 5."

I did my business and raced home to take another shower and burn the abaya. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Nearly Time to Fly....OH GOD!

Stomach....knotted up
                                          He leaves in just 2 days
                                          He is the same age I was
                                          What the hell were my parents thinking?

I know it's for the best
I know his future is there and not here
It doesn't make it hurt any less
This emptying nest shit is for the birds.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Today Is 123-Friday!

In honor of my 123rd post on Squarer Pegs, Rounder Holes, I thought I'd mix it up a little bit and just write about all of the little blurb-y type things as they pop into my head. How is that different from my usual postings? Well, ordinarily I would have to scrunch up my eyebrows a bit and squint my eyes and focus really hard to stay relative-ish to the one subject. And what is the relevance of the 123rd posting? I like simplicity, counting, and while the number 123 is NOT a prime number, it does consist of the first 3 prime digits and so I like that. I like math. And I do hate round numbers so much, unless it's a string of zeros on the left of a decimal point as it relates to a check made payable to me.

Justin Bieber-  Really?! I mean, yeah, I come from the generation that brought us the likes of Milli Vanilli, Nu Shooz, and Tiffany.....but they didn't walk into glass walls and doors and then threaten to walk off of an interview set. Dude! Your following will ALWAYS be 12 year old girls. Game over.

American Football- I don't follow it anymore. Living in Egypt has sort of ruined sports for me since I don't give a crap about Al-Ahly soccer team OR Zumalek soccer team. I've heard people talking about NFL teams that weren't even in existence when I left the US back in 2001. So if your refs are on strike or suck now....I'd like to be concerned, but just can't be bothered. My apologies.

I attended high school (first 3 years) in Stuttgart, Germany and right now as I type this there is an all-year alumni/faculty reunion going on IN STUTTGART in conjunction with the Stuttgarter/Canstaadt festival and some of my friends are there now, reliving memories in our old school, football field, and stomping grounds and I am SOOO jealous that I couldn't be there with them. Hope you guys all have a great time. Go Stallions! Class of 1986 RULES!

Mosquitoes- I frickin' hate them. Especially those little tiny beige almost invisible ones that you can't ever kill until after they've drained at least 2 pints of blood from your fingertips, ears, toes, and legs! And then when you finally do, they explode with YOUR blood splattering all over the walls, curtains, and your skin where you've smacked 'em.

Why do we always run out of garbage bags when there is old food in the back of the fridge that needs to be thrown out? And then you leave it in the fridge because this inevitably happens at night and if you leave it on the counter as a reminder to throw it out, your whole kitchen stinks. But then you forget that it's in the fridge and needs to be thrown out and you don't find it again until you're ...that's right!....out of garbage bags again. Oh. And as long as I'm on the refrigerator  path, could you please...someone, anyone?....tell me what is the friggin' direct correlation between every member of my family and the top shelf of the refrigerator??? I use the top shelf for tall or "careful this is spillable" things or large things that won't fit on any other shelves. My kids (and sometimes my husband) will place the following things on the top shelf:  1 egg, a tiny dessert dish with 1/2 Tablespoon of fava beans, anything that requires use of the crisper drawer (because the crisper drawer is where they apparently hide things that they don't want to share with each other,) and the empty milk container. *sigh*

Word of Advice:  Never accidentally drop the f-bomb in front of your autistic teenager, because while MOST of her verbal skills are learned from movies and tv and books, the shit you DON'T want her to say in front of her grandmother to reinforce your shitty parenting skills, is EXACTLY what will enter (full time) into her vocabulary. *Score one more on my parental WIN card.*

Pinterest is AWESOME/DEVIL- I've now managed to complete 10 items from all the thousands of pinned items on my boards. Hey. That's not so bad considering we don't have craft stores or American conveniences here like chocolate chips, instant-ANYTHING (except coffee) or cool stuff like double-sided sticky tape or stencils. The entire DIY-concept is new to Egypt.

In a conversation on Facebook with my sister, MJ, last week, I decided that my list of favorite words included:  diphthong, bracket, penultimate, frivolous, superfluous, and sublime. My list, of course, is not limited to these. She prefers crapulence, kerfuffle, hornswaggle and canoodle.

I love my family...I want to build a garden-butterfly sanctuary in my backyard one day. Can someone tell me why leg hair after 40 is less frequently in need of shaving but some single damn chin WIRE because it's too coarse to be hair continues to pop out ever week or so no matter how often you pull the f***er out?! Will health insurance cover operations that shave bunions off your feet using lasers so it can be done outpatient? And why can't Rush Limbaugh just frickin' overdose already or spontaneously explode into little tiny piles of Rush-lets that only spew minute bits of bullshit at a time and are all polarized so that they can never be in the same place at the same time like tiny magnets? I think the movie "Idiocracy" should be run as a public service announcement to get intelligent people to do their civic duty and repopulate the planet with more intelligent life and stop waiting so damn long to have kids. You're NEVER going to be better "financially prepared" for kids. They will just suck MORE money out of you if you have more of it. Poor people know this. Just have them.

And I'll leave you with one last irrelevant thought:  Kids who are wearing their very last pair of hole-free jeans three weeks before payday will ALWAYS be able to find a tree to climb and "slide out" of it hooking the ass of their pants on that single spot of tree trunk that ISN'T smooth and rip a hole in the back. Murphy's Law? Yes. Me and Murph go way back.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Just Sharing ....

Okay, my friend, Leslie, tipped me off to this and OHMIGOD! It's hilarious.
So, I thought I'd share this dope jam as a shout out to all my soccer-moms and dads fans!

Check it out:

Love this!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Ermahgerd! Fern Sterf!

So, I'm minding my own business, catching up on the photos of my friends and their kids, what they had to eat for dinner and where and scratching my head over those cryptic passive-aggressive status updates, like "People who think they know my business should totally stay out of my head and stop acting like they know...YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!" when I got a notification from one of my BFFF's (Oh, yeah, I DO know there's an extra F in there and if you know ME then you know it's not a mistake.) So I clicked on my own timeline and this is what I found:

And I laughed for about ten minutes with tears coming out of my eyes. And then I went about my business and every time I came back to this photo I'd crack up all over again. And so it went for like 5 days. I know I've read all over the place about the Ermahgerd! girl supposedly being a real hottie now that she doesn't wear Wal*Mart vests and read Goosebumps! books. I guess losing the ponytails and braces would immediately increase anyone's hot factor by about 4 points.

Actually, I know that I'm a dork. (That's "Ercterler, I kner thert Erm a derk," in Ermahgerd-speak.) It doesn't take that much to make me laugh. And the Ermahgerd-girl has done it! She has poked me in the funny bone repeatedly. Not all of these meme's have the same effect on me...but damn, if Buffy and I are not trying to one-up each other by posting these on each other's timelines. And it never fails. We always manage to catch one another off guard.

I have also discovered that someone else has even MORE time on his/her hands than I do, because this person actually sat down and wrote out an Ermahgerd! translator program. NO REALLY! So that if you want to create your own Ermahgerd! meme and are unsure of spelling, you can go -------> HERE and type in your phrase and hit enter and it translates for you automatically on the right. Only downside is that you can't go from ermahgerd back to English.

Is there a reason for me telling you all about this:  NERT RERLER....but it seemed like a good idea at the time I started writing it. And maybe it's funnier in my the sound of the word canoodle (especially when said in ermahgerd:  CERNERDL ahhahahahahahhaha!) But like I said...Erm a derk.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Doh!! I'm Really Not That Clever

On the way home from school today, my youngest son and I had the following conversation:

Boy:  You know this chocolate bar is stupid. I can't believe I just
          spent a whole pound on this skinny chocolate bar and I feel
          like I got ripped off. It's so small.
Me:    Yeah, well. You chose it, remember.

Boy:   Still, it tasted good.

Me:     I guess.

Boy:   You know, Mommy. They have the same size chocolate for
           half a pound but don't ever buy it.
Me:    Yeah, I know. It tastes like butt.

Boy:   Well, I was gonna say, 'It tastes like poop.'

Me:     Got much experience in what poop tastes like?

Boy:    Not really. You got much experience in what butt tastes like?

Me:     Touche'.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Diet by Stress

We made a huge decision a couple of months ago regarding our oldest son. And it was fine when we decided it 6 weeks ago because it was the right solution, only still nebulous. But NOW that I'm 3 weeks away from it all becoming a real solid reality, I have developed a nervous stomach....not butterflies. Bats.
And I'm trying to squish in 3 weeks of dental appointments, closet clean-outs, extra hugs and kisses and last minute instructions and don't-forgets.

Is this what it's like? Is this the beginning of "empty nest syndrome?" Or "emptying nest syndrome" since I still have 4 that will be left behind.

On the upside, I've never been so "regular" in all my life.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Flip Side to the Bully Problem

I cried.
I felt the pain and frustration and anguish and nausea of the bullied 
kid's mom.
I felt what she felt because I've been there before with my kids.
But I also felt it from a different perspective.
See, I'm the mother of a "bully."
When I use the quotation marks I'm not at all attempting to say that the word 
bully is a misnomer;
not even in my son's case.
However, it is a label that I don't like attached to him. 
He's so much more than that. 
He's bright.
He's funny...and not only at your kid's expense.
He's also frustrated.
And he's embarrassed.
And he's ashamed.
He has a learning disability that we've only recently been able to figure out.
Does this excuse him punching his sister in the shoulder
because he didn't like how she told him "What's it to you?"
Does it excuse him constantly aggravating his younger brother by 
farting on his head and stepping on his pillow or throwing his used
tissues at him?
Does it make him any less responsible for his actions when he 
chooses to beat up his older brother or challenge his
"manhood" by calling him hateful names?

See, I'm well aware that this kid is my test in I fear I may be failing
I have tried talking to him,
yelling at him,
taking away his privileges when he bullies,
rewarding him when he doesn't.
It's not working.
I ask him why he hits and pushes and teases and hurts  others.
His answer is always the same:
"I don't know."

I am frustrated, too. I want to puke, too. I cry, too.
But not because my kid is being bullied...
because my kid is bullying yours.
And I get the nasty glares,
and the hateful retorts, 
and the threats from angry siblings, cousins, neighbors, teachers and parents.
I'm not ignoring it.
You're right it IS unacceptable behavior.

However, I do live in a country where psychological counseling is 
questionable at best.
So seeing a shrink is not an option.
I'm doing my best to try to find exactly what 
is making him behave this way 
so that we can work together
to fix it.

And it's hard...REALLY, hard.
And I can only apologize to those parents of bullied kids
on behalf of those of us who have kids who bully
and are aware of the behavior 
and are trying to change it.
I'm sorry.
But I'd like to ask a favor of you.

For just one moment, please step back from the emotion
of your situation and it won't be easy...
but before immediately asking that hateful 
and hurtful question:
We don't "allow it."
I know MY kid has never come up and said to me,
"Mom, if so-and-so gets on my nerves today, is it okay if I throw his
backpack out of the 3rd floor window?"
Most of the time, we're not aware of the bullying. 
Once I was notified, I began immediately to work with my son
in an attempt to identify the reasons behind the behavior AND to put an 
end to it.

It's not going to happen overnight.
Let's be realistic. 
All of our kids are works in progress.
I'm not saying at all that I'm sitting back and hoping that he'll outgrow 
this stage like he did the nail-biting thing.
But I'm also groping around in 
the dark.

All of these cool websites who offer "help to stop bullying" are
seemingly coming at it from a "how not to be a victim of bullying."
This is not helpful to those of us who are on the 
other side of the bullying spectrum.

I have found a couple of sites that at least touch upon it
without the immediate 
"Go seek mental professional help" option.

You can find assistance here:
or here:

Anyway, I just wanted to say that 
the bullying problem is just as frustrating from the other
side of it only in a very different
perhaps more guilt-ridden way. 
If we, as parents, work together to teach our kids
to work through their frustrations in a healthy way and how to 
stand up to bullies by talking to parents or teachers or
some other adult who can help,
then maybe we can succeed at stopping 

Feel free to place helpful suggestions in the comments section. 
I really am tired of banging my head against a wall
to come up with new ways of
trying to work through this with him.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Gainful Employment *OR* 1 Down 4 to Go

Yesterday afternoon, while I was sweating my ass off in the kitchen making dinner and washing up the dishes that the kids had stacked up to just under the spigot so that I had to lift it up in order to unwedge the large pot from between it and every dish I own under it, my mobile phone rang. (Okay, it didn't actually ring. It played some bizarre ass Portuguese song called 'O Sol' that I don't understand because, even though I speak  5 languages, Portuguese is not one of them.) I squeezed the excess water (2/3 of which was probably just sweat) from my t-shirt and answered the phone. It was my husband's cousin.

She called to offer my son, Ismail, a job. She's working at a bakery now and in need of someone to work with her selling bread, breadsticks, cookies, muffins, zweiback toast and this awesome, flaky Egyptian pastry thing called FATEER. Anyway, she had heard me talking about how he was on my last nerve and in need of a job to keep him busy and to help him to learn responsibility. I could hear Ismail and his older brother starting to argue, so I told her I'd stop over at her  place after I fed them.

Fast forward through the next 3 hours of my typical, only-boring-because-of -the-repetition-and-not-because-my-kids-don't-try-to-kill-each-other kind of day and I sent Samiya (nearly 13) to her French lesson at the lecture center, Randa (16) was taking a nap, Mohamed (17) was at the cyber-cafe and Ismail (14) and Aiman (11) were just chilling out watching television. I quickly got dressed and ran over to Abir's house. She looked completely knackered. Poor thing.

She'd been at work from 7am until 2pm. She stopped to buy food on her way home and ran home to cook, fed the boys (ages 5, 6, 9 and 10) and then hustled the three oldest out the door to the lecture center (where my daughter goes.) The water had been shut off in their building all day long and she couldn't do the dishes or wash the mountain of clothes that 4 young boys will go through playing soccer in the dirt all day while she was at work. I could totally feel her pain.

So, she started talking to me about the job and explained that because he is strong, he would help her to lift the trays in and out of the ovens. Also, she knows that he is trustworthy. She knows he's ornery as hell but that he doesn't steal and that he has a good work ethic. I was honored that she offered him the position before her own siblings. Anyway, I texted his father and let him know what was going on. He said, COOL. So the boy began work this morning at 7 a.m.

He was up and dressed by 6:45 and out the door to meet Abir just seconds after I insisted he wait until I unlock the door. (We can't have an Ismail-shaped  hole in the door, now can we?) I went back to bed. HE got the job not me.

I called him around 12:30 to see how he was doing. He really liked it. He asked if he could stay until 3 if they needed him and I said yes. He came through the door at 2:30pm, happy as a clam with his daily pay in his pocket.

He had his dinner and we started his English lesson. About 30 minutes into it, I could see his eyelids fighting to stay open. I told him to take a shower and hit the sack. In all the excitement about starting work, he couldn't fall asleep until nearly 3 in the morning. He was out like a light by 6pm.

I am so happy. That old phrase "busy hands are happy hands" could not be more appropriate. When he doesn't have something to occupy his time, he gets creative...usually in a very ornery sort of way. I just can't wait until Saturday. Samiya and Aiman will be heading back to school then and I may have peace in my household again by October. WOOHOO. Can't wait.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Forcing the Hand

I've been busy this past week. I completely blew off my blog with the exception of the post about my step-brother's car accident last week because it was the only way I could deal with my emotions about the whole thing. I was busy editing Nuala Reilly's latest book release, Spring Daisies.  Well, I finally finished that last night. And since I've been focusing primarily on that and NOT playing around on Facebook or too terribly much on Pinterest or here, I decided that I should get on here and get in some goof-off time. I deserve it.
Also, since Mohamed and Ismail are both finishing their 3 day sentence of no t.v. and no computer privileges due to their last 3:30a.m. fight and disrespect Mom session.....I figured, Samiya and Aiman had been online for far too long anyway and took my place at the keyboard. Here's how it went about 15 minutes later, with Aiman:

"Mom, I want to go play at the cyber-cafe."


"Awwwwwwwww! Why not?"

    "Because it's dark outside and your sister is at her French lessons and your brothers are both grounded and you're not allowed to go by yourself."

"You NEVER let me do anything!"

He stomped off and then came back 3 minutes later, plopping down on the foot stool that has become a permanent fixture next to the computer desk.

"How come you won't let me buy membership to Monkey Quest? You HAVE a credit card in your purse. I saw it!"

    "It's not a credit card. It's a debit card."

"So why can't I use it? HUH?"

    "Because it's expired and it's a debit card for a bank I don't have an account with anymore."

"Well, why can't I get a credit card so that I can buy Monkey Quest membership and get access to all the cool levels, HUH?"

    "Because you are 11 and you owe me $37,628.34 for everything I've spent on you so far. Now beat it. And if I hear the words "credit card" or "Monkey Quest membership" in the same sentence from you again I will block the Monkey Quest site from our computer and you won't be allowed to play it again until you're 19."

"You are ALWAYS telling me NO!"

He stomped off again and I was able to write a comment on my friend's photo. It consisted of LOL. Then he came back and started pounding on the arm of my chair.

    "What do you want, Aiman?"

"Can I go up on the roof of the bread factory tomorrow?"


"WHY not? Ismail gets to."

   "First of all, Ismail doesn't "get to." He is going to talk to the woman who owns it and get permission from her to go on the roof of the bread factory so that he can collect up all of the trash and crap that our lovely neighbors have chucked out of their windows and off of their balconies and we can possibly cut down on the mosquito population and keep the bread factory roof from leaking once it starts raining next month. Until he has permission he doesn't "get to" do anything."

"So? Why can't I help him?"

     "Because you're 11. And you trip over air while walking through the living room sometimes. I don't want you clowning around up there and end up falling off and breaking your neck. I really can't afford spinal surgeries right now. I really want to buy a house."

"He's ONLY 2 years older than me!"

    "He's 2 and a half years older than you. And I don't want you up there."

"WHY are you such a jerk to me?"

     "Just remember I'm the "jerk" who can take away your computer privileges for a week due to your sassy mouth."

"I NEVER get to hear YES from you!"

He stomped off again and I got to read a one-liner status update on Facebook before he stomped back over and started slapping his sister's yo-yo around the legs of my chair.

     "Stop it."

"I don't want to. I'm trying to make it wrap around the leg and then unwrap on its own."

     "If you break it, then you will replace it with your own money."

"I don't have any  money."

    "Then I'll let your sister pound 3.50 EP out of your hide to pay the debt. I'm sure she won't mind."

"You are really mean to me."

    "I must not like you very much. Is that what you want to hear?"

"No!  Can I go outside to play?"



     "It's dark outside and you have to be in the house by sunset, per your father's rules. Don't like it? Raise your kids however you like when you grow up and get married."

"I will! And I won't always tell them NO like you do to me, either."

     "We'll see, won't we?"

(Now crying real tears.) "Why do you always tell me NO for EVERYTHING??!"

      "Why do you always ask me for permission to do things you already know you're not allowed to do?"

"What do you mean?"

      "Well, had you asked me, 'Mom, may  I wash the dishes for you?' or 'May I watch t.v.?' or 'Is it okay if I grow a fu manchu mustache?' I would have said 'YES! YES! and YES!"

"I can't wait until I'm 18."


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Just Thanking God Today

My step-brother and his wife, two sons and three other kids from the boys' baseball team were in a rollover accident in this SUV yesterday...and SURVIVED. I am so grateful to God for watching over them all. One of my nephews was thrown from the door of the vehicle and walked away. My other nephew had to have his ear stitched back into place. Thankfully, most of the damage was vehicular and minor injuries.

I was one hot mess last night waiting for updates from my family. Thankfully, everyone is okay and back home recovering from their injuries and thanking God that they are all okay and have each other.

I hugged my kids a few times each today to let them know I love them. We never know what will come our way on any given day. Make sure your loved ones know how much you love them. And let God know how grateful you are for each day you have with them. Because life is short...and sometimes scary. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Self-Confident or Narcissist?

I LIKE ME! Actually, I LOVE ME! No, really. I do. I can honestly look at myself in the mirror and say, "Hey, you good-lookin' specimen. If I could have an out-of-body-experience, I'd totally do you....TWICE!" And then I accidentally drop the towel and think about how long it's been since I've done crunches. But you know, that doesn't take away from my love affair with me.

It took me an extremely long time to like me. I grew up in a military family, where my dad had issues with weight vs. height standards according to the Army charts in the orderly room. I don't think he realized that the standards are different for women than they are for men. My mom was always concerned about her weight and size. I think she's always had an unhealthy view of herself...even when she only wore a size 5 jeans at 5'5". I haven't seen a size 5 jeans since I was in the 8th grade. And my mom had had 4 kids by then.
I think at her heaviest she was 135 lbs......without being pregnant. And probably only 155 lbs while 9 mos pregnant with my baby brother...who was 10 lbs 11ozs at birth. My mom always had a rock star figure. Even the guys in my high school thought so. But she continued to diet and jog and workout all the time. And never for the thrill of the workout or because it made her feel better. Seemingly, it was to lose weight so that she could make my dad like her better. What she never knew was that he liked her fine as she was.

I remember once when I was a senior in high school and a member of the track team and dance squad and running between 2 and 5 miles on the weekends because I liked how it made me feel, my dad asked me how much I weighed. I told him the truth. I weighed 120 lbs. He said that at 5'3" I shouldn't be more than 105. I told him that I'd inherited his mom's body type and short of lopping off a boob, there was little chance of me losing weight. I wore a size 9 which is incredibly thin for my fairly muscular frame. (And when I say muscular frame, I'm talking about back when I was 17. I still have that same muscular frame now at thirty-thirteen but it's very well insulated.) I always blew off the height/weight standards to how I felt in my clothes. I don't think my sisters or my mom felt the way that I did, though.

I managed to get out of my parents home with more self-confidence than my siblings, I think. (I may be wrong about that. They can correct me in the comments section if they like.) And although I thought that since I moved out at 17 years old, that I didn't get any of the low self-esteem issues or lack of self-confidence problems that I had seen in my mom, I was so wrong. I dated guys who were losers. I treated myself very badly. I carried myself in a manner that I WANTED to be but underneath, really wasn't. I wanted to be a mover and a shaker. I was instead, a shover and a faker. It's true. But about the time that I finally decided that I deserved better than the shitty relationship that I was in, I decided to take my faking to a whole new level.

I applied for a temporary assignment overseas....via backdoor means....and then pulled the, "REALLY? I didn't know that was how I was supposed to do it" excuse when I got lectured by my boss about protocol and blah blah blah......Boy, was he PISSED when they called me and offered me the assignment. I took it. And I swore it was all this self-confidence that I had that led me to doing it. But in retrospect, I think it was just a way for me to get away from my ex without having to actually deal with him. And little bits of self-confidence were beginning to grow roots within me. But I don't think they had actually taken root to me yet.

I think it took me about four years or more from that point to feel those roots of confidence start to wrap themselves around my core and then an opportunity to move overseas for a long term assignment. I took that assignment and ran like the wind. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Three months after I got there, I got my final documents giving me back my freedom and partied hard for another three months. I dialed back the partying after that but still had a great time with wonderful friends that I still keep in touch with today. And then I met my husband.

I continued to fake a lot of my self-confidence. I don't think he knew it even....until we talked about it one night last year. It was so weird. I was so certain that I loved him 100% and that he probably loved me 50% or maybe up to about 60% but just wanted a wife because his younger brother married before he did and he felt obligated to marry and I was handy....and kind of cute. But I still felt this way, six or seven years into the marriage. I have no idea why. I had already left my job and we'd moved overseas to Egypt when it finally dawned on me, "Hey, this guy REALLY does love me and REALLY would give me the moon if he thought it would make me happy."

I started to work on making me happy after that. I continued to read more and learn how to do things that I never thought I could. And you know what? It worked. I really, really, really started to like me. I also improved my Arabic skills, learned to sew, learned to make homemade ketchup and brown sugar, homemade pizza dough and to cook awesome Egyptian foods. I taught myself how to make a perfect pie crust, make my own fitted sheets, how to haggle with vendors in the open markets and souvenir shops. I learned how to rewire a lamp, change a valve in a faucet and to snake a floor drain in the bathroom. I discovered that I really suck at making my own clothes but I'm really good at making curtains, valances, sheets, pillows, and mending. I'm also one lesson ahead of my son in learning how to speak French.

I managed to lose 28 kilos through hard work and diet and kept it off for two years. Then it slowly crept back on and I haven't been able to finally decide that I want to focus the attention I need to lose it again. But I will. Soon. And even though I'm way overweight again and unhappy with how I look, I STILL like me. I still love me. And I can see myself through my husband's eyes. I am an incredible, sexy, intelligent, confident woman who does whatever she sets her mind to do. And I no longer need to fake the self-confidence. In the words of Abed from Community, "I've got self-esteem falling out of my butt."