Thursday, July 19, 2007

Idiot that I am

The idiot that I am just backed up my car into my new very nice cleaning lady's car. Argh.
More on the very nice leaning lady to follow...
The saga continues...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Homework pet peeves

It's summertime.
We're spending time at the pool, taking a few day trips here and there, and planning out Hilton Head Island vacation.
We eat out a lot, and I take the girls to fun little things like the cooking classes for kids at Whole Foods and events at the library.
Yes a lazy time for sure.
However we always try to get an hour of math done 5 days a week and half an hour of piano every day. Many of my friends whose children are less docile about sitting at home with a workbook have enrolled their children in summer school classes.
I'm cool with that.
Others are focusing on their children learning their mother tongue whether Chinese or Japanese and doing homework daily in their language. I'm cool with that as well. One of my very good friends in Chinese and will be going back for the Olympics in Beijing next summer. Now that's really cool!
Some people choose to let their kids totally off the hook and have them do nothing at all during the summer. I'm totally cool with that.
Anyhow, I have a few acquaintances who fall into one of the rather annoying categories that I'm not all ALL cool with:
Number One: "We believe in our children having time OFF during the summer. We don't believe in studying over the summer. That's just mentally EXHAUSTING for the poor little things." Meanwhile that person is spied dropping her child off at 9:00am for math summer school but she vehemently denies summer schooling but her child miraculously aces the September and October assessment tests at school. Hmmm... I wonder how that happened?

Number Two: "Aww my daughter NEVER listens to me. She REFUSES to do her workbook stuff. I spent seventy bucks at Holcombs getting all this books for nothing. I've given up!" Meanwhile the child is overheard telling her BFF that her mother makes her sit at her desk for THREE hours every afternoon. Hmmm.... Kids just say the darnedest things!

Number Three: "My kid won't work at home with me, but she'd love to come to YOUR house and work with your girls! Can we set up a time so they can all study together? I could bring her over every day at three!" Hmmm... I know I'm having a lazy summer but I might not want to have you adorable child sit in my house all summer doing her work and messing up my schedule because she doesn't listen to her mom!

Monday, July 16, 2007

On Hoarding

I like to say that I am one of those people who rid themselves of unwanted possessions:
I give away our old and the children's outgrown clothing once a year.
I trash month old magazines and day old newpapers.
I have never saved a sour cream, yogurt or any plastic food container EVER.
I routinely rid the fridge of near expiration condiments.
My house is free of excessive knicknacks and my kitchen counters only have the necessary appliances neatly ligned up.
I throw out old yellowed spatulas, stained tupperware and other unsightly items.
All my friends truly believe that I am the queen on minimalism, and, sometimes, the neat freak from hell.
Little do they know my secret passion which will be revealed for the world to see for the first time ever.


Well, maybe not in the traditional sense of stocking up on canned goods to last us through a storm, a tornado, or a nuclear bomb.
I am the
owner of an overstocked pantry and two very full fridge and freezer in my garage.
The fridge and freezer are filled not with the staples of a month's worth of well planned meals but with a hodge podge of foods that catch my fancy. They are mostly prepared foods, or any kind of ingredient I can whip up an exotic far away dish in no time.
I have tons of frozen food. In my freezers are several types of Okra, some Egyptian Jews Mallow or Molokhia for my favorite dish of all time, frozen tostones, arepas, empanadas, and croquetas de jamon, cheese, cheese broccoli blinis, several raviolis, lots of Morningstar and Boca burgers in different flavors, frozen shu mai and other types of dumplings and spring rolls, and frozen corn tortillas, pita bread, and garlic bread all in addition to the frozen bagged veggies, meat, chicken and fish.
In my pantry are twenty plus tins of french pates, three different kinds of dried mushrooms and fungi, several kinds of seaweed, ten different vinegars, mostly French because I'm a sucker for their labels, a whole shelf of salsas, mixes, refried beans, adobos and the making of Mexican and Latin-American food. I have seven kinds of mustard, a four bottles of steak sauce, three Bearnaise, two Hollandaise, a half shelf of German foods including potato bread and dumpling mixes, red cabbage, a my favorite coffee. I also have another shelf devoted to middle-eastern style canned dolmas some from Turkey, some from Greece, some from Lebanon, pomegranate molasses, rose water, orange blossom water, sumac, a three kinds of zaatar, as well as halawa. On my Italian foods shelf I have 6 types of pasta sauce, about 8 different pasta shapes and sizes, anchovies, and several types of tomato and my favorite type to hoard the POMI brand. I also have jars upon jars of pickles: beet, turnip, eggplant, oriental cucumber, dill picles, giardinera, and even Indian pickles. I also hoard several types of European chocolate, LU and Bahlsen cookies, Arabic style cookies from the Middle-Eastern market, and chips in about six flavors including shrimp and seshuan! I also hoard quick mixes: chicken chasseur, meatloaf, potato pancake, taco and fajita, dill dip, southwest ranch dip, Alfredo, and especially any mix made of a European or Latin American market. All this in addition to the staples of three different rices, eight beans and lentils, different grades of cracked wheat, three different couscous types, four different flours, and huge cans of olive oil from Lebanon. All this doesn't even scratch the surface, ad yet, at each time I go to the grocery store I have to buy something that catches my fancy: marinated hearts of palm, Turkish yogurt soup, Polish beet and sour cream soup, a heat and serve pack of dal makani, a jar of German frankfurters, Nescafe Cafe con Leche, and Cajun style fish fry mix.
I hoard all these lovely foods and serve them up every once in a while when I'm in a hurry to have something on the table and also because, belive it or not, our food on a daily basis consist of very fresh and very good for you Lebanese food with some American favorites thrown in once in a while to make the kids happy like home cooked from scratch chili, macncheese, spaghetti, burgers and fries, and a casserole or two.
Ahh food! Just writing about it makes me want to go grocery shopping again!

Friday, July 6, 2007

You just gotta do what you gotta do

Remember my sob story about my inept cleaning lady?

Well, a couple of weeks ago, I ended up letting her go. And that in itself has provoked a lot of soul-searching on my part.

So here's the story.
I did not let my cleaning lady go because she did such a bad job (and it was awful), but because she had a very "foul mouth" as my mother would say.
The last time she was here she was on her cell phone for about half an hour mainly cursing at the person on the other end, sitting at my kitchen table while my girls were having lunch. Who that person was I never knew, but after the fourth "F... you!" and a couple of "Sonofab..." and lots of "Shit!" and "Dam.." thrown in for good measure, I had to to quietly interrupt and ask her to leave. My girls obviously had eyes as round as saucers and were elbowing each other the whole time.
That was the last proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.
My cleaning lady had done some rather heinous things in my eyes such as....
Taking a massive dump in my master bathroom and not flushing it for three hours because she was "gonna clean it anyhow!"
She took long cigarette breaks in my non-smoking home.
She canceled, rescheduled, arrived late, left early, or forgot to come.
She was moody, unprofessional, and was always asking for more money than we had agreed on.

When I let her go, I cited all these reasons, with the cursing being last and least of all. She let a couple of curses fly at me too l while she was at at and left in a huff.

The funny thing is that I had put up with all the other stuff, including my home not being clean, but the nasty language in front of my kids was what had finally motivated me to act.

You see stupid is an insult in our home, and so is shut up. My girls were flabbergasted by hearing someone say shut your pie-hole at camp and the delightful expression "up your a..." at school.

It's as if all my years of being an artsy, colorful, gay bar hopping, green activist person, and on the far left political spectrum are now stashed away in the closet. While I am still an adamant democrat, I don't openly speak about any liberal issues with my children. Especially when living in a very conservative area where anything you say is considered to be unpatriotic if you're criticising the government and too liberal, or overly critical, if you're noting the many small hypocrisies in our little suburban lives.

Three days ago I actually told my daughters that being gay was just being happy, at which point my youngest proceeded to inform me that according to Molly, the little neighbor girl, "its when two boys go on a date or when two girls can get married." "Is that true mommy?" she asked. "Well, ummm yes I guess so honey, there are some boys and girls who do that but not in our family." My husband was rolling his eyes at this point. He is of the opinion that kids should be fully aware of everything around them and that we shouldn't bring them up in the dark, so to speak, about the world they live in especially when we both were not angels ourselves. Also he thinks we are going to produce two close-minded, stuffy, conservative people, the kind we ourselves love to hate.

I stun myself every day at how conservative I act around my children. My argument is that my daughters are so young. Why should they know about social ills and sexual choices, isn't there time for that later on, say in their teens?

Why can't they have an idyllic childhood? Because I didn't?
I feel I was wise beyond my years growing up.
I had a materially privileged childhood, I went to the best private schools, I had expensive European vacations, and long road-trips in the United States. I wore imported clothing, ate at nice restaurants, and had all the best things my parents could afford.
Yet I also grew up in the midst of a civil war. I saw poverty and destitution first hand. I also had parents who watched the news and discussed torture, oppression, imperialism, honor killings, and world hunger. The apartments above and below us, and a number of homes up and down our street were both blown out with bombs, and the owners lost most if not all their possessions. My father also regularly took us to bring clothing and food to families of ten and fifteen who lived in one room hovels. It was a life of extremes. Where you'd be eating canned tuna, hot dogs, and corned beef for three weeks while bombs fell, and then be flying off to to the USA to play in the sprinkler at grandma's house and eat pizza and hamburgers and go to the pool and the library like a normal kid. Where you lived in a nice home but walked on streets piled high with burning trash. Where you spent summers in gated off resorts while the filthy public beaches next door had families in go swimming fully clothed.

Now my girls vaguely know that not all children have what they have, and that children go hungry, lose parents, and don't go to school, but that all is a fuzzy thing. When we go to Lebanon where I grew up we take them to beautiful resorts on the coast, to quaint villages in the mountains, and to fancy shopping centers. They have never seen anything scary or ugly. They are oblivious to poverty in inner cities, and the concept of gangs, crack houses, and AIDS. They are typical suburban American kids. And while my husband would rather produce kids who will one day grow to change the world and right all its wrongs, I just want them to run to the ice-cream truck without realizing that the person driving it has probably lived on food stamps half his life. Now what is so bad about that?

Sunday, July 1, 2007

On surviving day camp

Twenty things I survived during my week as a a leader at Girl Scout Day camp.

1. My own children: I swore I would never lead day camp again last year because of my kids. This year around I conveniently forgot how annoyingly needy they act when I have to divide my attention and cater to ten kids who all are whining because their backpack is too heavy, or because they have a blister, or because they want more Gorp, or because they want to go creeking when we're scheduled to go fishing. Somehow I am incapable of tolerating my own children's whining, especially when I have o be careful about my tone of voice wen responding to everybody else's whining.
2. Gorp: Good Old Raisins and Peanuts. After inquiring whether we had any peanut or other allergies in my troop, I asked, in my parent letter for parents to send in the makings of a trail mix. Of course I did not specifically for any items by name lest I inconvenience anyone and send them to the store for an item they did not have. Our trail mix ended up to be an awful (albeit quite delectable to the girls) mix of Cheetos, Cheez-its, fruit Loops. Captain Crunch, Chips, Cheesy Goldfish , and another generic unidentifiable cereal, and some graham type crackers.
Invariably there were girls who lost their Gorp, wanted more Gorp, threw out a perfectly good baggie of untouched Gorp and other gorpish misadventures.
3. Canooing: In the heat, with a huge suffocating life jacket smothering me, and with a screaming child who is going to stand up any minute and tip the canoe into the murky smelly pond.
4. Fishing: Cleaning stinky pond slime off hooks. getting a hook embedded in my palm, my arm and yes my neck. Nearly avoiding loosing an eye, and having to remove a dead fish and toss it back in the hope it will live again. Dealing with sullen girls who didn't catch a fish and boastful girls who did.
5. Creeking: falling into the creek onyour back. Crawdads and getting a baby one in your shoe.
6. Latrines. Cleaning latrines.
7. Girls falling everywhere and running out of band-aids.
9. Having a girl hold it in e in the hope she would make it to the pool restroom on time (only actual restroom in camp girls are allowed to use) and succeeding only in pooping her pants. Yes, abundantly so I might add, and she was an 8 year old girl.
10. Girls who want to sing camp songs all day at the top of their lungs.Girls who refuse to sing camp songs.
11. Parents who are late in picking up their kids.
12. Cooking on a campfire on a rainy day.
13. Parents who forget to pack a water bottle, a cup, sunscreen, bug spray, a lunch, and underwear, sending their child to camp with a journal a broken pencil and a towel, EVERY OTHER DAY.
14. The girl who lost five perfectly good hot dogs off her stick in the fire and the girl who ate nothing but s'mores.
15. Daily lifeguard stint at the pool: the most mind-numbing job there is, and sweating like a pig while the girls are cooling off.
16. Orienteering in torrential rain with girls who can't find North on their compass and having the ink wash off our maps.
17. The control freak camp director.
18. The PALS: Older Girl Scouts (older middle-schoolers and high-schoolers) who are supposed to help each unit of younger Girl Scouts and be role models and buddies to the little ones and helpers to the leaders. We had two sullen long-faced girls who wanted to do what they wanted to do and thought everything we were doing was "lame and depressing". I guess we were spoiled by our lovely PAL last year and thought we'd have the same luck again. Obviously we didn't.
19. Standing for flag ceremony every day and having my poor and very foreign co-leader chat through the whole thing perfectly oblivious to the angry hushing noises around her. Trying to hint at her to be quiet by not answering her but clearly not succeeding.
20. Popsicles and soda so judiciously provided by camp director after camp make for five sugar-rushed screaming kids in a minivan on a busy highway.

That said: I can't wait for camp next year! niahahhahahah (deranged laugh)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Biting off more than I can chew

Sometimes, more often than not, I am in "Yes!" mode. That's when anyone who asks me for anything is immediately rewarded with a hearty "Sure!" or an emphatic "Yes!" or a carefree "I can do that!" a careless "No problem!" or a timely "I'll be there!".
Looking back at the past three years of my life I feel as though I have been living my life for others. I'm your volunteer mom for all the field trips, your class mom, your bake sale mom, and your math club meetings mom. I'm your girl scout leader mom, and your watch your kids in a pinch mom. I'll cook a gourmet meal for ten on a two day notice, and host all the family holiday celebrations.
Sure I get pleasure out of a busy life, and I enjoy volunteering, but I feel as if all the time I spend doing for others is not given it's just value. Especially when I'm dumb enough blow off any offers of help, and act like it's breeze, or no big deal to do all I do, or be in charge of a huge project.
When is it too much? When I can't remember what being in "No!" mode feels like. I remember that I used to have my bouts of selfishness when I used to work. Back then, I had no kids either, I knew my own value, and I knew when someone was trying to foist a thankless project on me. I knew when to quit, and I knew I was better than that.
I'm heading off to Girl Scout camp tomorrow. I know my daughters will love it, I know I'll have some fun times with my best friend, yet I also know that I've shouldered the planning for the entire week, and that tonight I'm already burnt out.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Why I don't have a blog roll

In my two previous blogs I had a blog roll.
I must admit, the first time around I just loooved having one. It was so cute! So fun! I was part of a group! I had cyberfriends! Blogging buddies!
Every new friend I met online I automatically added. Every blog I read was there. Every site I visited more than twice was listed. Needless to say, my blog roll became really really long. I had also just emerged form my peeping blurker voyeur status and had begun my "friendly commenting" phase. Then, I felt I needed to add any blog I commented on to my blog roll. Just to be polite in a way! But along the way something strange happened.
I started to resent my blog roll.
It was a "show me what you read and I'll tell you who you are" kind of a thing.
I began to realize that my blog roll or my list of fave sites said something about me just as the blogs said a lot about their owners. Then, I had to update the thing! Some blogs I fell out of love with...the newness was gone...they didn't provoke that little spark of excitement anymore...I wasn't manically logging on every day looking forward to see whether they had posted or not, it was more like a perfunctory check once a month or so.
Blogging itself was a drag. More work, more time spent online, more of the whining behind my back of "Moooommyyy you're on the computer again!" As you can tell by my posts, brevity is not really my forte, and blogging was becoming a long arduous task that I HAD to do EVERY DAY. My blog roll became that annoying thing at the side of my page that I wanted to take down but I didn't because well, everybody else had one. What would I look like without all those cyberfriends! Like a lonesome nobody, that's who! Like an Internet newbie! So on it stayed and on and on it went, getting longer and longer, until one day, in a fit of frustration I did the unthinkable: I DELETED my blog!
Oh the agony! Oh the sadness!
It was the beginning of endless bouts of recrimination :
What I fool I was! Now I had to start all over! Boo hoo!
It was truly heart-wrenching I tell you!
So, without further ado, just a few short weeks later, I created another blog. It was on another blogging platform. It had a brand-new name, a different focus, and, eventually, a whole new set of buddies. Some old friends I told my new blog about, and the vicious blog roll cycle began.
Well, almost. You see, I was less polite the second time around. I didn't always include people who linked to me. I took a long hard look at my blog roll and only included people that I adored, whose stories I couldn't keep away from, and non-personal sites that I read regularly and linked to just because, well they were a part of my Internet routine.
Sadly however, that blog was short-lived. It lasted for a summer, and I fell out of love with blogging in general. But I didn't want to repeat my first fiasco and regret it.
So I deleted my blog roll first--to give myself time to think--then, a month later, without much regret, I deleted my blog, again.
By the time I embarked on this venture I realized that I'm such a hodge podge of a person, that I have no business having a blog roll! I'm a little fickle, a little flighty, and frankly some blogs have no business being listed together at all! So here I stand before you, with no blog roll to call my own.