Monday, January 28, 2008

Riding Airplane with Abooni

“Ana arkab at-ta’irah ma’aki wa ma’… Abooni?”
[a funny pronounciation of the generic “my father”]

It is well-known among toddlers and babies that the best time to fall asleep on an airplane trip is just as the airplane is touching down. If you fall asleep before, you miss the opportunity to spill your apple juice and kick the seat in front of you, play peek-a-boo with other passengers, grind up Fritos, and totally wipe out your parents.

If you know how to ask questions, ask them constantly. Ask about the airplane wings, ask about the seatbelts, ask about the airport, ask about the escalators. Ask in a way that minimizes verbalizing, so you can produce the maximum amount of questioning power to outlast your parents’ energy reserves.

“Whatsthat? Whatsthat? Whatsthat? Whatsthat? Whatsthat? Whatsthat? Whatsthat? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?”

Don’t worry that other passengers snicker or comment on what a little chatterbox you are. Don’t worry that the airplane or bus is silently waiting to unboard and the only sound is your piping, overly amplified voice. Be absolutely confident in your cuteness.

When your voice starts to give, you become tired, or you don’t know how to ask questions in the first place, just whine.

If you ever have trouble understanding what’s going on around you, just put it in mommy-daddy context, since it is a framework that can be applied to most situations.

"At-Ta’irah tanzil ila al-matar…tureedu umaha?"
[The airplane is landing because it wants its mommy?]

“Al-Hafilah Abu Sayaratuna?”
[Is this bus the father of our car?]

Finally, when you hear the landing gear coming down and the airplane roars into its final descent, you may at last curl up and go to sleep. Resist all attempts to wake you up, and make Abooni carry you off the airplane.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Empty Dumpty

Umee, Umee, what do you see?
I see two babies looking at me
…Wait, help! I can’t see anything else.

Writing fits perfectly with a stay-at-home mom’s routine, and it’s the one craft that actually got more fun after kids. Writing is my therapy, escape, morning cup of coffee, contribution to human consciousness. When I really want to enjoy myself, I buy an inspirational writing book from the bookstore, because those repetitive little mantras make me so excited about clothbound notebooks, textured paper, and ballpoint pens. I start to dream in yellowed pages and pretty, stately fonts.

Almost every book on writing starts out with beating writer’s block, getting over the self-doubt and perfectionism that hinders writers from sitting down to perform their painful magic. But I confess—I rarely have writer’s block. I don’t resist writing or put it off. Revved up and ready, when I have a topic in mind I can’t wait to sit down and scribble away, no matter how disjointed it comes out. I have fun doing it because I know writing is a process and I have to go through many, many rewrites before I will ever produce something winning.

But it’s not all good. My head is a quarter-of-a-century-old piggy bank with a couple of dimes rattling around inside. Experience, adventure, in-depth knowledge have been very sparse with their allowances, and I struggle to find the rich, colorful words and objects and emotions to weave into my work. I might like to write, but my life is too shallow for the words to live there.

So, when I sit at the computer all psyched, this is what happens:

Hm, let’s see. (hee hee, I’m so excited!)

I end up writing about green popsicles. Or about a telemarketer for Wyndham Resorts who wouldn’t let up even though my kids were screaming in the background—do you really like whiny little kids at your luxury resorts? Sometimes I write about my own circular thinking traps, or about the hunky-dory life of a lonely housewife, or try on a writing style that isn’t my own--trust me, no one wants to hear those threads. The only promising vein of imagery in my head is along this line: leather-soled baby shoes, dimpled toes; sippy cups of every material and shape; felt squares, sequins, and Elmer’s Glue; The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Blueberries for Sal.

I love writing about my kids, but I doubt my friends enjoy hearing about them constantly. You would think, given my resume (oh YEEAAH, haha, remember those?), that I would have a lot more junk sitting around in my mind. But I can’t seem to dig it out. I’m not the well-rounded hip mama who will chit chat and smartly put pop culture in then out of diapers.

When I get a rare non-child-inspired writing moment, I will keep it on life support as long as I can. Until then, I'm afraid the only nourishment here for your mind are smooshed fries and fish crackers.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

One Bosico, Two Bosico

My eldest daughter is not yet three years old, but she is already mastering her negotiating skills. We make rules, and she does not like it.

“You can have one popsicle, and then that’s it. OK?” Silence.

“One popsicle.”

“Ithnan.” [two] She holds up two fingers, concentrating hard to keep the other fingers down and the two staying up.

“No, one. Do you want red or green?”

“Ithnan bosico. Wahid ahmaw, wahid akdaw.” [Two bosicos. One red, one green.]

I sigh. We go through this routine a dozen times a day, naptime, pottytime, mealtime, bedtime. When she wants something to drink, she attempts to negotiate the best option between what she would most prefer and what she would least. Milk in sippy cup-juice in sippy cup-milk with a straw-juice with a straw-just milk-just juice.

And finally, after tears and me turning to walk out, surrender comes. Ma bil shafata…. MAAAAA. Ureedu MAAAAAA FATTAT!

So with the popsicles, I wanted her to see that just one was a treat. Two was a long shot. And I’m very good at sticking to limits.

"One only."

"OK." Whatever.

She relished her red bosico. “Mmmmmmmmmmmm,” she said with the exaggerated animation of a kid on a cereal commercial. Grinning, red juice running down her chin, dripping onto her shirt which would now have to be pretreated with Shout. Smaller, smaller, smaller, then the last piece of red ice slipped off the wooden stick into her open mouth.

Mouth still full with popsicle, she says expectantly, “Ukhwa.” [Another.]

Green is the color of grass, the flavor of limes. These popsicles are just 100% fruit juice, and I need 10 servings of fruit a day. Wouldn’t you like another serving of peace and quiet? I’m sure she would have said all of this if she could.

Instead, she begged in her two-year-old vocabulary and pleaded seriously with her juice-stained cheeks. When that failed, she resorted to wailing the virtues of green popsicles for the next three minutes, when she promptly found herself in time out.

Like I said, I have no problem sticking to limits with our world-class negotiator.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A Book Review on the Quran

The New York Times printed a book review on the Quran on Sunday. Beautiful.
It was written by Dr. Tariq Ramadan, one of my favorite English-speaking writers and Islamic thinkers.
I hope anyone who reads the article, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, will race to discover the Quran or return to it.