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Doing Laundry: Las Vegas Or Russian Roulette

Who could have thought that washing a few dirty clothes could trigger such high emotions! I don’t know about you, but for me, on occasions, doing the laundry is more exciting that winning the lottery. Likewise, I can fall into the depth of dark thoughts and full blown depression just by opening the washing machine. And here is why . . .

I never bother checking pants pockets before I wash them. I hear some of you screaming, “Are you crazy?”, and I get it now. Believe me, I do. But up until yesterday, I thought you were the crazy one: why would anyone want to waste more time with such a boring chore? Sure, I have washed my fair share of candies, and gums. But fortunately, they stay well wrapped so that never caused any major drama. I also don’t bother asking anyone to check their pockets before throwing clothes in the dirty basket. For starters, nobody listens to what I say anyway, so what’s the point? More importantly, I have a rule, which is, “Whatever I find in your pockets when I do the laundry belongs to me”. This rule is supposed to be an incentive for my kids (and husband) to make sure they don’t leave any valuables. But of course, it doesn’t work, because like I said, nobody cares. For once, I couldn’t be any happier that nobody listens to me. So far, I have washed, ironed and kept a good two hundred dollars that had been left  inside pockets. Repeatedly. Clean, free money. That’s not quite as good as having money growing on trees, but close enough!

So knock yourselves out, people! My husband doesn’t want to take me to Vegas (explanatory note: he thinks I have an addictive personality and will gamble until I lose the house . . . pfff . . . who cares about the house . . . ) but I don’t need to.  Every time I put a load in the washing, it’s like winning a (small) jackpot.

Except, yesterday. Yesterday was a turning point as far as laundry goes.

It started like a pretty normal day: screaming match to get the kids at school on time, walking around bedrooms and picking up dirty clothes from the floor while swearing under my breadth that nobody cares, loading the washing machine, and getting on with the rest of the day. WAKE UP!! I am done with the boring bit. Now it’s two hours later, the washing is done and the dryer has just called me, “Ding! Come and get your surprise! What will you find today? 50 bucks? candies?”

Nope. Instead, what I found is this:

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And not just on my kid’s pants, but all over my nice, light colored, clean yet trashed load of laundry. And let’s not forget the dryer: beautifully lined with red ink that cannot be removed. Trust me, I tried!

I did chew my son’s ear off when he came back home. All he said was, “If you were not forcing me to go to school, this wouldn’t happen!” I have nothing to say to that . . .

 

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Syrian Families: Sometimes, It’s The Little Things . . .

As a mom, I never want my children to feel they cannot be part of something. I want them to belong and not experience any kind of rejection, especially in the school environment. My kids know this too well and have learnt how to use and abuse my weakness. If they want something, all they have to say is, “But Mom, everybody’s got it” and I just melt. Sure I’ll argue a bit, and pretend I don’t care what other parents do. But the truth is, no kid of mine is going to sit something out if I can help it.

I know you feel the same. No mother wants their kids to be left out. Our Syrian moms don’t want that either. Yet, whenever a school activity is organized, it’s nearly impossible for their children to participate, because nobody can explain to the parents how to be a part of it.

But all that was before. Before Wafa made sure this wouldn’t happen again. The thing I love most about Wafa is that she gets sh*t done! If you tell her you need something, then consider it sorted. Nothing stops Wafa until she gets results. And that is that!

When she heard that kids were being excluded from certain aspects of school life because they and their parents didn’t understand what was expected of them, she set off on a mission. She established communications with the teachers, and the parents. If one needed to tell something to the other, they would text Wafa with their questions,  documents, or requests. Wafa would translate, and help both parents and kids complete whatever would need completing.

Next week, some schools are going to make gingerbread houses. A fun, creative and social activity that nobody should miss. Our Syrian little friends now have all the equipments they need: candy canes, gum drops and other yummy treats. They will fully participate, like all the other children, and will have a blast decorating their own little house. Thanks to Mrs G, the teacher, who sent her instructions so that Wafa could translate them. Thanks to the Syrian moms, who got in touch with one another to see who had received the same document and explained what they needed to do. Thanks to Wafa who went above and beyond and bought all the supplies.

It might not sound much. But sometimes, it’s the little things that make you feel  you belong.

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Women Are From Earth, Men Are From … Wherever

Women are generally a lot more practical than men. When presented with a situation, we don’t tend to procrastinate over the whys and hows, and what ifs. We just get down to business and deal with whatever needs dealing with.

Don’t believe me? Try to do your tax return with your husband next time around. And you’ll see. While you are rummaging through the house drawers to gather all necessary paperwork, your husband will be updating his softwares, ordering whatever it is that he has always, always wanted but never had time to buy. While he is at it, he will check how much the neighborhood houses are on the market for. Oh, and why not skype the whole family, parents, long lost aunts, uncles and their kids?

Modern technology brought a lot of good things, like an alarm clock that reminds the kids to brush their teeth and get dressed . . . Only kidding, kids will never remember to brush their teeth and put two shoes on. No technology can ever change that. But other than that, technology is pretty helpful, especially ipads, when it comes to taming unruly kids – not speaking from experience or anything. But there is one thing that technology has made worse, and that’s men total lack of practical sense, which peaks when it comes to navigation systems. If you live with a guy, you know: nothing beats the craziness of directions.

I think the problem comes from a superiority complex that men have built up over the past decades, or centuries even. Yes, they are better wired to read maps. If my husband ever wants to make me feel completely useless, he just needs to give me a map. Then he sits back, relaxes and enjoys the show. Maps were probably invented by men to confuse women, and job well done, guys!

But then, GPS came, and with that, no more reason to brag. Because who cares if you can read a map or not, a computer is doing it for you. It’s not perfect, far from for it, but it’s definitely better than driving around in circles, with a map on your lap, crying hysterically and biting everybody who dares talking. Now all you do is follow the instructions of the annoying lady with a nagging voice. Sometimes, you have no choice, you have to listen to her b*tchy comment, “Make a U-turn!” Yeah, whatever. . .  But like I said, better to arrive somewhere than to never make it and collect a nervous breakdown in the process of not achieving anything. So in a nutshell, I like GPS. Easy, life-saver, and practical.

My husband? Well, that’s a different story. When he wants to go somewhere, here’s what happens”

  • He researches what’s the best route to take on the internet. One route is not enough. He needs at least two or three different options.
  • He puts the address in the GPS and fiddles with the thing for fifteen minutes, God knows why…
  • He gets his phone and puts the address in his google map. I don’t pretend I understand, because I just don’t.

So now, we have two annoying voices giving instructions. And funnily enough, although they are supposed to take us to the same place, they never agree on anything.

  • Finally, he inputs his destination in Waze. Because “That’s the best way to avoid traffic”. And still quite  surprisingly, Waze disagrees with both the GPS and google map.

So basically, we are in the car, with three nagging voices, shouting at the same time different instructions “Turn right!” ‘Turn left”, “Don’t turn!”, which makes everybody very confused. You’d think it’s a good thing. After all, regardless of what you decide to do, you cannot be wrong. But you would under-estimate my husband’s impractical character. After hearing instructions from Mrs GPS, google and Waze, he ends up not listening to any of them because “I know the way anyway”. And I’m sure you don’t believe me, but it is true.

Never go on a road trip with my husband. You will lose your sanity.

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We Are A Voice, Kids Are Listening

Children observe the world they grow in. They learn good, bad, and later shades of gray, through the role models they identify with, and the actions they are exposed to. As parents, this is probably the biggest pressure we should feel. If we want our children to be kind, to not discriminate, to be open-minded, we must lead by example. Life is a cycle, and more often than none, it keeps repeating itself, for better or for worse.

For this reason, and this reason alone, we must not, never, absolutely not at any time, promote hatred, disrespect and undermine others. It’s okay to disagree, to feel anger, but we must always be mindful of how we express it.

As cheesy as it sounds, we must also put forward the good deeds, and show children that we are all empowered to do great things. Great doesn’t mean to change the world. We don’t need to become Nobel Prizes, or fight a war, cure diseases or solve poverty in the world to be worthy of a role model. In fact, if that’s what we teach our kids, they’ll never feel they can do enough and as a result, might not bother trying.

Doing good is not about the size of what you are doing, it’s about feeling enough empathy to lend a helping hand. Even if all that hand does is give a hug, steady some feet. There are no small good deeds.

Even when kids are little and don’t know that much,  they understand that good is better than bad. When they grow older, they are looking up to us to prove it. So that’s what we did.

Last week, a local middle school invited us to talk about the work we are doing with ten Syrian families, in order to help them rebuild their lives. We showed them pictures of us surprising the kids with Halloween candies, teaching them how to use the resources of the public library. We shared all the little things we do to try and help them settle here. In the face of the enormous Syrian crisis, we are not doing much. But to these ten families, our actions matter. They won’t change the world, and we know it. But they’ll help a few people and that’s something.

The kids were amazing and asked so many relevant questions. We answered, to the best of our ability, but got stuck when a voice piped, “Why are they fighting?”.

That’s another thing, adults don’t have all the answers. Sometimes, stuff just don’t make sense.

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Popularity Contest: Mom Vs Dad

One of our kids is accusing us of liking the others more when it comes to buying presents. And he is outsmarting us every single time we try to reason with him. If we argue that they are getting the same thing at the same age, he argues that it’s not about age, it’s about grades. And vice-versa. Basically, we never win. Parents: 0 – Kid: 1 million points. These arguments usually end up with him slamming a door, screaming, “It’s not fair!”, my husband rolling his eyes, and me, sitting on the sofa, replaying the last decade to see what on earth gave him the idea that we have preferences. These “events” usually happen around Christmas or birthdays.

This year, kids have been writing their Christmas lists early, because it would seem that demands are very specific and require some planning – Well, good luck with that! The only one who’s really supposed to write a list is my daughter, but we ask her brothers to do one as well in order to encourage her. Normally, whenever we ask them to do something for their sister (like dress up for Halloween, go to bed early, read a book), we are met with much resistance and defiance. But when it comes to Christmas lists, nobody complains.

Once they were done with their lists, they checked out one another’s list. My “least favorite child” (it even hurts to write it) as he has labelled himself, had some major issues with what his brother had written, and started along the lines of, “It’s not fair, why should he get the latest electronic gadget when I didn’t get it when I was in his grade?”

I am never ready for that, so I always try to use logic and common sense to diffuse the argument. This time it ended up with him stomping to his bedroom with a, “You’re a horrible mom”, so I suppose I didn’t win that one. Yet again.

My husband called foul mouth tween back in the room and decided it was time to get a few things straight. So he explained to him that one  needs to look at the big picture,

“Maybe your brother will get something earlier than you did. But let’s not forget that I have been spending most of my week ends with you only, whereas your siblings are with Mom. So if you are looking for fairness in each individual action, maybe I should split my time equally between the three of you”

In essence, what my husband said to him was, “Spending time with Dad is a rewarding experience.  Spending time with Mom is lame and boring. And as of now, it is officially used as punishment: stop being so annoying or you’ll spend your week end with Mom.

I am literally speechless . . .

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You Are Un-Be-Lie-Va-Ble!

What’s the difference between men and women? What sets us apart so much? What’s personality vs gender? Well, I’m not going to launch into a loooonng blog about how men might be physically stronger (debatable) but women are superior in every other way – no argument about that. Only kidding, this is not a feminist post. There is no need to burn your bra after reading it.

No, seriously, men are great. But there are things about them that we, ladies, just cannot get on the same page of. It’s not that they are right and we are wrong, because I am not writing a sic-fi post with a totally unrealistic plot. It’s just that we are not wired the same way. Let me illustrate with an example.

Whenever I do something to irritate my husband – which I can’t understand for the life of me when that would ever happen, but apparently I do (pffff), he goes, “You know, you are un-be-lie-va-ble”. Right after, I launch into this long, angry tirade. “What do you mean? I don’t think I’m being unreasonable. You are the one who doesn’t get it. Blablabla….” With a lot of gesture, some screaming and occasionally, some door slamming. I mean, it’s pretty theatrical, but I’m French and that’s what we do.

Conversely, whenever he does something to irritate me (too long a list to bother writing), I too go, “You are so UN-BE-LIE-VA-BLE” and get ready for Ze argument of the decade. But my husband just goes, “Thank you, hun. I’m glad you are realizing it” and walks off to do whatever he was annoying me with in the first place. So I follow him around and try super, super hard to pick an argument with him But no luck. All he does is smile at me.  Argghhhh, soooo annoying! What is wrong with this dude?

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Plan vs Reality

This morning, I had a plan. A well, laid-out, proactive, no-nonsense plan that would fit all my tasks for the day. I normally don’t bother with organizing anything, but on occasions I have to. Like today. So here was my plan:

6.30: Wake up. See, realistic plan! No stupid impossible get-up-early-and-exercise ridiculous commitment that never happens. I am long done with that!

6.31: Wake up kid 1. Explain to him that yes, he has to go to school again, even though he already went yesterday.

6.50: Argue with kid 1 about putting clothes, shoes and jacket on.  As incredibly as it sounds, my child still doesn’t get why he needs to get dressed in the morning. . .

7.05: Put kid 1 in bus.

7.06: Shower and wash hair.

7.30: Wake up kid 2 and kid 3. Get them dressed.

7.45: Make lunch box while kid 2 and kid 3 have breakfast

8.00: Argue with kid 2 about going to school. It’s okay, it wouldn’t be a normal day if we didn’t . . .

8.05: Drop kid 2 at school

8.10: Finish homework with kid 3.  I admit, we do that in the morning. . .

8.30: Drop kid 3 at school

8.35: Be at my desk and finish my news article, prepare my speech for tomorrow, write a blog, post on social media, photocopy worksheets for French class, call lawyer in France. Estimated time for all this: six hours.

Now, here is what really happened:

6.27: Get up. Yay! A full three minutes earlier than plan. It’s gonna be a good day. . .

6.50: argue wit kid 1. Still good, all going according to plan.

7.05: Drop kid 1 to bus.

7.25: Still waiting for bus. Where’s the bus? Now I have to forego the shower and hair washing.

7.35: Bus has a flat tire. Bummer! Get kid 2 and kid 3 in the car, with no breakfast, some clothes on. Maybe shoes, if they are lucky…

7.40: Shlep all the way to kid 1 school, trying to make it for the 8.00 am bell. Can’t estimate what speed I would need to drive to achieve that, due to caffeine deprivation, but it’s a lot of miles and not enough minutes.

8.10: Spit out kid 1 from car, ten minutes late. Not too bad, considering I was driving without any coffee.

8.45: drop kid 2 fifteen minutes late. Oh, wait. Kid 2 has an urgent question to ask: why is there a pie sale? What is it for? When? And how?

8.50: Promise to buy all the pies in the bloody sale if only she could go to her classroom.

8.55: Try to ignore whaling cries from kid 3 who wants breakfast before he goes to school. Launch into a speech about how unreasonable his last minute demands are, but get an evil look from a mom eavesdropping. Tempted to be rude, but decide to cave in and drive kid 3 home for a speedy breakfast.

9.00: Shovel cereals in kid 3’s bowl while calling the school to advise of our impending arrival.

9.01: Try to think of a clever line to answer school lady question, “Why are you wasting five minutes calling me to say you will be here in two?” Nothing comes to mind. Decide that “clever” and “sensible” are off the agenda today. Yet again . . .

9.15: drive kid 3 to school, who’s supposed to start at 8.15 but guess what? Ain’t gonna happen.

9.20: Prepare a cup of coffee in order to start the day. NO MILK! What the . . . !!!!

9.30: Dash to supermarket, after crying uncontrollably about lack of milk

10.00: No more petrol so stop to refill tank.

10.15: Computer has rebooted automatically so lost newspaper article, photos I prepared for social media and blog outline.

10.16: Go back to bed, cursing that this day is sh..t.

1.15: Get a shower, wash my hair.

Some plans just need a little tweaking . . .

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The Power Of One

Over the past few weeks, friends and neighbors embarked on a journey to help relocated Syrian families get back on their feet. This effort, led by my friend Rana, is intended to go the extra mile, with a  holistic approach to help. It’s not just about providing immediate necessities, but also teaching the families tools that will enable them to rebuild their lives. Last week, Rana decided to introduce the families to the public library, a place that not only has books, but tons of other resources to serve the community they now belong to.

A couple of days before the library meeting, our kids prepared some Hallothumb_DSCN2290_1024ween bags to give to each of the children. We made an enormous mess cutting stickers, gluing stuff to the floor, and drawing on about everything that came in sight. But none of that mattered, nobody got mad. We felt good about what we were doing and we knew that we were sharing a special moment. Even we, grumpy moms agreed!

On the day, of the library visit,  we had assigned ourselves the mission to help the families register to, and navigate the place. Our kids were tasked with giving candy bags and distribute books to the children.

We all had a job to do, but we didn’t work. Not one of us. Because none of it fell like a task, an assignment. It was sheer pleasure and pure reward. We connected, we made friends, we hugged, we laughed. And more importantly, we learnt many life lessons from the very people we came to help. At the end of the afternoon, it wasn’t clear who was helping whom. I think it’s fair to say we were all helping one another.

This is what the Power Of One is about. We all have the ability to bring life changing moments. We don’t have to be powerful, rich or grown-ups to make a difference. We are not expected to cure the world of all its illnesses, to find big scale solutions. But we can help our neighbors. With our individual talent, we can give without counting, comparing or expecting something back. The Power Of One doesn’t move a mountain. The Power Of One picks up a person who stumbled, gives the encouragement that one needs to move forward.  That afternoon, at the library, I witnessed many examples of The Power Of One:

The librarian, Miss Amy welcomed the families, showed them the resources they can use to learn English, get books to their kids. She even set up classes with special softwares to help them learn faster and more efficiently.

Syrian moms and dads taught us that real strength comes form resilience. They showed us that humility and dignity are pillars, and they don’t come with money or status.

Friends volunteered to tutor adults, because they saw successful people, just needing a little hand.

Kids hugged one another and whispered, “You are my friend”, even though they had just met. They can’t wait to meet again, next week.

Are we going to solve any crisis with hugs, English lessons and a few candies? No, of course not. Will our action be like a drop in the ocean? Probably even less than that. But not to our forty seven friends. To them, and to us, we are empowering one another to believe, move forward and take positive strides. The power of one.

When it was time to leave, everybody had to go somewhere, but nobody could extract themselves from this surreal atmosphere. No doubt it won’t always be so nice and cute and there will be bumps. But it’s okay, because we are connected, and we are there for the long haul. Not because we have to. But because it’s meant to be.

 

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Elsa Ruined My Life

If I ever have to answer the question, “What changed your life in the past few years, I definitely know what to say, “Elsa!” Followed by, “change is the understatement of the year”. Elsa and her gang have turned my life upside down. When I share my frustrated comment with other moms, some go, “Oh, yes, I know. My daughter likes Frozen too”

Likes? LIKES! No, ladies, this has nothing to do with liking, or loving. It has to do with complete, utter obsession.

So if your daughter gets addicted, recognize the signs, and get help before it’s too late, like it is for us. The advanced warnings of a HyperFrozenmadmaniatis (not even dramatic enough)  are:

1.  You’ve seen the movie so many times that you know all the lines by heart.

2. Point 1. in at least one foreign language.

3. You’ve seen Frozen on ice, on fire, under water and in space.

4. Your daughter owns three Elsa dresses, the shoes, the jewelry, the wig, the crown, and just put an offer on a castle.

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5. Your house is full of plastic Elsas of all sizes.

6. You’ve decorated your queen’s bedroom with Elsa’s posters, Elsa’s bed sheets, Elsa’s cushions, and a big, giant Olaf guarding the bedroom. And just so you know, Olaf looks very creepy in the middle of the night with his scary grin, like he’s going to swallow you. If I meet him in a dark alley, I won’t be giving him warm hugs.

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Olaf at night

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. Your dog has been renamed Kristoff – must have to do with the smell.

8. You’ve intentionally scratched the CD, totally by accident! Because if you hear someone telling you to “Let It Go” once more, you’re gonna give them what they’re asking for.

9. You own more Elsa books than you can possibly imagine. Even Disney doesn’t know there are that many.

10. You’ve heard a rumor that there’s a sequel coming out, so you need to remortgage the house to get the new outfits, toys and houses.

Finally, if every single conversation in your house has turned into an excerpt of Frozen, you’re cursed. Like whenever there’s an argument brewing between two people, and your daughter mumbles, “Let the storm rage on”. Or if you ask her to put a jacket on to go to school and she blurts out, “The cold never bothered me anyway”, you’re doomed. The only option is to move to another planet. I’m seriously considering that plan.

 

 

 

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Syria: The Faces Behind The Story

Syria? Never heard of that place! There isn’t a person who can say that nowadays. Try as you might to avoid news, this one has found you. In the endless debates about whether borders should be open or not, in the name-and-shame political game of who does too much, or not enough, in the tragic and heart-breaking stories of people dying in transit. It doesn’t matter what you know, understand or care for. You cannot shut yourself from the horrible crisis that Syrian people are going through right now.

 

holzfigur-980802_1920Recently, eight families from Syria were relocated in our community. People who left everything they owned behind, fled their country torn by war, and arrived here, with their kids, and a few suitcases. Now all they have left to do is start from scratch, with zero resource, not speaking the language and still, needing to provide for their children. That’s all!  (insert sarcastic looking emoji here).

 

 

And just like that, the “Syrian crisis” has a face: forty one faces to be exact. Sixteen adults, and twenty five adorable children who have already suffered beyond any parent’ s worst nightmares and who, just like our children, deserve the best.

We might not agree with decisions from the people in power, heck, we might not even agree among ourselves. That’s okay, none of us are expected to know the solution for this crisis. It doesn’t mean we cannot be part of a solution.

A few of us embarked on this journey to land a helping hand. We didn’t quite know what to do, how to make an impact, who to turn to. So we talked. To anyone who would listen. Shop managers, friends, acquaintances, complete strangers. We thought that not many would listen, but one was better than none. How wrong were we? The response we have received so far has been unbelievable, tear-choking and so heart warming.

With this blog, we want to share our journey. It is one filled with compassion and empathy. No doubt there will be some frustration and setbacks. But for now, let us celebrate. The world can be an ugly place sometimes, but have faith that there is a lot more beautiful than ugly.

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