Friday, January 30, 2015

A basket of... Yousef

It was supposed to be a basket of books. It could have been a basket of eggs, or apples or clementines. I could have put garlic or onions or potatoes. I could have used it to contain the random toys or given it its previous role of laundry hamper. I could have stashed it away and forgot all about it. But when we first moved I needed a place for books, particularly for board books.

I had unpacked most of the toys and divided them around the house. Some toys were only to be played with in the basement while others were housed in the kitchen play area. Books, some dolls, and a few small toys belonged on the bedroom floor. Trains and their tracks, mini puzzles and wooden blocks were organised in transparent plastic boxes, while animal and human figurines were bagged up. Later that year JR's school would give me colored drawers and the kids would relocated the trains, tracks, puzzles and figurines there and repurposed the boxes.

The books were left. Deciding what to do with the paper books was easy; they went up on the high shelf in the kids' walk-closet, conveniently out of Yousef's reach. My books went in the hutch in the living area and Jeff's were taken to the basement office. The board books lay there. I debated a small shelf for them, but wised up about that; Yousef would bring down the shelf and the book on himself in no time. I thought of leaving them on the floor in stacks, but knew that soon they would be scattered all over the floor. I looked around the found the two identical plastic baskets and got to work; one basket held Arabic board books and the other contained the English. I set them at an angel in the corner and moved on.

Then came the cold winter day when Yousef and I needed something to do. "Get a book, Yousef," I suggested. He carried the whole basket in from the other room. "Pick a book," I asked. He tossed them out one by one on the bedroom floor. When the basket was empty, he located a favorite and proceeded to look at it, but not after he had climbed into the basket! And there he sat looking through one book after the other until he had had enough.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Jar Volcanoes

I love quality time with Jannah-Rae, but do not always want to play pretend. While she and I have certainly spent considerable time playing "restaurant," "grocery store," "doctor," "school," among others, and enjoyed it, some days I just want to bypass the role play and do something else. Puzzles, legos, crafts and reading come to mind. Today, though, I wanted to try out some science.

I had seen some blogs that boast experiments to try out with children and attempted some over the summer when the weather was warm and cleanup was easy. But since winter had begun we had not put our hands towards much messes. Today, however, was a good day for that.

We gathered our supplies: baking soda and distilled white vinegar from upstairs by the washing machine, food coloring from the pantry, glass jars from the cabinet and dish soap from near the sink. We set them up on our glass table and got to work. There was no magic formula or specific measurements to follow. A little bit of this and a little bit of that was all it took.

First, we poured the vinegar into the three jars: one half way, one a quarter of the way and one almost to the top. Then we mixed in the food coloring; Jannah-Rae chose red, blue and yellow. Next came the dish soap. Everything was eyeballed. Finally came the fun part:  adding the baking soda. First a little, then a lot and the reaction happened: out came the bubbles in all three colors, one jar at a time at first, then altogether.

It was quite a spectacle. It wasn't long before the table was flooded with color and liquid hit the floor. We were ready for it, though, with a towel strategically placed close by.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Paper Bag

It was a Saturday at Jeddo's. We were spending the weekend there, and Jeff was alone in Columbia. Jannah-Rae had just woken up from her nap and we were putting together a puzzle in the living room. Suddenly the sound of Yousef came from the adjacent room; he had awoken. I left what I was doing, and went in for him but was surprised by the Yousef who greeted me. Instead of the cheerful Yousef I am accustomed to seeing after a peaceful slumber, I found myself confronted with a sobbing baby.

I held him. I rocked him. I kissed him. I talked to him. He kept crying.

I told him Jeddo was here. I asked Jannah-Rae to sooth him. He kept crying.

We offered him food. We offered him drink. Nothing worked.

We tried T.V. We tried the iPad. We told him we will take him out. Still he kept crying.

Finally I walked him to the kitchen. "Baddak mammam?" I asked. He pointed to the cabinet. I brought him closer. He motioned for me to open it. I did. He motioned to get even closer. I stood him on the counter. He reached in. He brought his hand out. Then, he reached his other arm, and pulled it out; this one full too. I cracked up. "Ta3a shoof (come see)," I told my dad and Jannah-Rae.

What he held out to us amounted to at least a week's worth of chocolate and treats; that's what he was after! To make things funnier, my dad asked "baddak kees ya Yousef (Yousef, do you want a bag)?" And to this Yousef nodded and we laughed some more. This was too funny, too cute.

Jeddo gave him a brown paper bag. He smiled. With a bag now available, Yousef filled it with what he held and went back for more. He kept fishing out more and more treats and dumping them into the bag until there weren't any left. He had kitkat, nutella on the go, Godiva chocolate covered cookies, oat bars, cereal bars and twix bars, saltine crackers, mini chocolate squares and a couple chocolate truffles. There was even leftover candy canes from the holidays. He wore a huge smile on his face, he was now one happy boy.

Bag in hand, "I want choo-choo," he exclaimed. He was ready to go.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Don't Tell Me

Please don't tell me I should hug,
Don't tell me I should care.
Don't tell me just how grand I'd feel
If I just learned to share.
Don't say, "It's all right to cry,"
"Be kind," "Be fair," "Be true."
Just let me see YOU do it,
Then I just might do it too.

~ Shel Silverstein
Where the Sidewalk Ends
40th anniversary special edition

~Thank you Marcia and Kayla for introducing me to this American classic by getting it for Jannah-Rae for her 5th birthday.

Monday, January 26, 2015

A "Bol" Game

One Saturday evening in January. Arlington, VA.

Look Teta, it's a bol game.

I think I will sit hear and watch. 

Hmm. I wonder what they are doing. 

Will he? Will he?

GOAL! They scored!!!

I will drink to that!

Yum. Yum.
Mai. Mai.

Watching intently. Hanging on to my drink. 
Do not disturb.
The stakes are high. 

Darn it. He missed.

I guess I will have another drink. 

What?!?!? Does this look strange to you?!?!
Me on a bar stool, watching T.V., with a water cup in my hand?
Considering Mama's position on screens, it sure does. 
I can assure you, though, Mama knows.
Actually, it was her idea.
She had to get me off the restaurant floor,
and up from underneath the table,
and away from the salt shaker.
She had to stop me from banging on the table,
and throwing the utensils on the ground,
and dispersing the sugar packets all over the place.
She had to keep me quiet, 
She had to keep us from getting kicked out,
and her from leaving an insane tip.
And to her defense. I had already eaten all my dinner.
This was just that so she can finish hers!
I love my Mama. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

His and Hers

It is that time again, time to watch the snow come down and accumulate, time to stay warm inside and bundle up outside, time to make the most of being outdoors. Seeing how I am not a cold weather person, I have been avoiding spending much time outside. Most of my expeditions are walking from the car to the door and back, while parking as close to the door as I possibly can. And although touting a coat, a scarf and a hat are a little too much sometimes, I chose to over, rather than under, dress, and do the same for the kids. And yet some days, if I park close enough to the door, I dash in and out sans external layers - those are the best outings since they mean that I won't be carrying around my extra clothing in addition to those of the kids.

Jeff, on the other hand, is all about the cold. He loves how refreshing it is, how clean and crisp. So, when it was time to shovel snow out of our driveway and salt the front steps, the delegation was easy; it was to be him. And Jannah-Rae!

"Can I help you, Baba?" she asked as soon as she heard the words "shovel" and "snow." "I want to help you," she continued and continued until she was asked to bundle up. "You can use my shovel Baba," she offered pointing to her little orange plastic sand shovel. "Thank you, Jannah-Rae," came the reply, it was such a generous offer from a wonderful little girl. But the little shovel could not hold up to such a demanding task, so they went to the store. What they came back with was memorable; matching shovels in appropriate sizes!

The next twenty minutes went flying by. They worked together and separately: her all bundled up trying her best and checking in on the quality of her work, and him in the minimal gear encouraging her on and helping her out. It was quality time at its best. All that was needed was a little snow, a little determination, and a little girl. They connected with each other and with nature, doing something they both enjoyed. When they were done, the shovels stood to dry. His and Hers now stand side by side in the garage ready for the next storm.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

About Yousef

"Write about Yousef," she answered when I asked her for a topic. I was sitting in front of an empty blog post page having just published my last piece. I was out of ideas and reached out to Jannah-Rae who was sitting next to me on the couch "doing Reading Rainbow" on the iPad. I thought it would be interesting to see what she would propose. The last post was about her and she had seen her photo, so she was wonderful in suggesting I write about her brother next.

"What about Yousef?" I pressed. I wanted to better understand her idea and use it as a starting point.

"About how he doesn't listen all the time," came back her response.

I smiled, I giggled, I laughed. She followed suit. In all her innocence Yousef's rebellious almost two year old ways are a worthy topic of recording, and I cannot but agree that they are. At the risk of being charged with comparing my two kids together, I have to say that Jannah-Rae was an angel of a two-year old. She listened, followed directions and had few, if any, tantrums and meltdowns. She was sweet and charming and very pleasant to be around. Yousef, while also a wonderful companion, is certainly very different.

Yousef's personality came about like a volcano, silent and peaceful one day, and loud and destructive the next. The easygoing tag-along toddler became an inquisitive boisterous almost two year old. Once content with the toys in front and around him, now the entire world is his toy, nothing is out of reach or out of bounds. While JR would sit next to me in the kitchen while I cooked and busy herself with the plastic-ware, Yousef would not leave any cabinet unopened. And should he not be able to reach something, he would grab the stepping stool, set it up and proceed. He pushes the chairs around to get to the light switches, and climbs on books and boxes to get taller.

With Jannah-Rae there were no gates, no toilet locks, no "out of bounds" areas. With Yousef, on the other hand, we were introduced to physical boundaries. Some days I think that he would not hesitate to climb into the dryer if he could. Toys and trash end up in the toilet, JR's art work and school work end up in the recycling bin. And should he see something of interest in the garbage he doesn't think twice about fishing it out and exploring it: one day it was an empty chocolate container, he wanted to have some, another it was an empty Starbucks cup, he proceeded to drink from it, a third it was an expired food item that got tossed in its packaging, he attempted to open it.

"Not everything needs to be touched, Yousef," instructed Jannah-Rae while we were browsing the kitchen store. Of course Yousef did not heed. The next thing I hear is a ceramic plate swirling and twirling on the floor. My first thought was, "there goes $35 down the drain." Yousef had picked up an expensive dish, called out "ball" and threw it down. Luckily, it was sturdy and did not break. Unfortunately that brought an end to our outing.

Then there were the times he picked up a Godiva chocolate bar and a Nutella snack box from the stands near the cash registers opened them up and started eating them. Of course I then had to pay for them and take them away from him.

"Did we buy that," Jannah-Rae would ask every other time we leave a store. What she would be referring to is the item Yousef would be holding in his hand unknown to me. It might be a plush toy, a bag of M&Ms or a bar of soap. The decision then becomes whether to let him keep it for the drive home and return it to the store on the next visit, or leave it behind in the cart while distracting him with another toy.

There are also the knock down drag out scenes at home, and elsewhere. A complete and utter meltdown over not getting or not wanting. The screams that pierce the ears, the tears that flow. The crouching to the ground, head between the knees, legs tucked underneath. The laying on the floor, face down, arms and legs flagged out. The arched back, the stiff body. There is the defiance, the repeated requests that are met with a "no," the "make me do it if you can" looks.

But then there are the times when he is loving and lovable. There are the hugs and kisses, the snuggles and cuddles, the hand holding and pant grabbing. There are the two hands that hold my face in place while they plant a kiss on my lips. There is the head that turns to me when I ask him for a kiss. There are the "hold me mama", his arms outstretched towards me. There are the "do not put me down, mama" his legs grabbing my waist. There are the "I am tired mama" his head resting on my neck. And the "it's bedtime mama" laying on my chest, his arm reaching through the neck of my shirt. There are the laughs and the giggles, the smirks and grins, the looks and the smiles. There are the eyes that sparkle and the lashes that shine. There is the (double) chin and the doughy neck. There is the soft hair, and the smooth skin. There is the chocolate mouth and the beet lips. There is his warm body next to mine in bed, reaching out to me while he sleeps. There are his lips that kiss mine in the midst of sleep, and his cheeks that touch mine just the same. There is cuteness and mischievousness, affection and tenderness. There is love and warmth and presence. There is Yousef: the best son in the world!