The Green Mug

At the end of each school year in college, all the girls who would be living in the house the following year participated in a lottery to determine the order in which we would choose our rooms. (Yes, I went to an all women’s college…and yes, we lived in houses–not dorms.) The seniors, of course, chose from the best single rooms in the house. We spent part of that day checking out each other’s rooms so we could make a list of our top three or four choices. But not me. I had spent that year with a wall protruding into my room, so there was only one room I wanted (the best room in the house of course)…and I was not going to waste my time picking out a second or third choice. And…apparently…I made this known…to everyone!

When it came time to draw the numbers from the hat, the whole house was gathered in the common room. As my turn to draw came up, everyone in the house started cheering me on, “One! One! One! One! One!” It started off low…but as I approached the hat it got louder and louder: “ONE! ONE! ONE! ONE! ONE!” The windows were rattling to the noise.

I stuck my hand in the hat. “ONE! ONE! ONE! ONE! ONE!”

I could feel two numbers in my hand. Which should I keep? Which should I drop?

“ONE! ONE! ONE! ONE! ONE! ONE! ONE! ONE! ONE! ONE!”

I could feel it! I was going to get that room!!

I dropped one of the two numbers and pulled it out.

“ONE! ONE! ONE! ONE! ONE!”

I looked at the number…and fell to my knees. Not one. Not anywhere near one. The last pick was 50…I pulled the 50. I’m not sure if I was laughing so hard that I cried, or if I was laughing at my tears…but I remember laughing and crying simultaneously.

The house resident gave me a green mug as a consolation prize for getting the last pick. But I love that mug. Or rather…loved that mug. It was the perfect reminder that we can plan and plan….and want and want…but nothing happens without God’s will. I Praise God that whenever I forget that, God sends me His signs to remind me. I loved that mug because it was one of those signs.

It was my favorite mug…until yesterday. My eleven year old, who has been told over and over to use plastic cups, was drinking in it. When he finished, he didn’t put it in the sink. He didn’t put it on the coffee table next to him. He balanced it on the arm of the couch. A moment later, my three year old approached…and the mug fell to its death.

I did love that mug, but I don’t need it to remember that beautiful day when I felt supported by all my housemates. I don’t need it to remember that we take each step in life only by God’s will. But it breaking was a good chance for me to teach my kids that material things are replaceable. Life’s true treasures are our loved ones… and memories of beautiful moments.

Pasta and Math

My son is the sixth grade, which here in Egypt is a ‘diploma’ year. It basically means that…well, to be honest, I’m not exactly sure what it means. I thought it meant that if he failed his finals he would be held back, but then someone told me they allow them to retake the exams if they fail. And if that is the case, then what of all the non-‘diploma’ years? If they failed those would they still be promoted to the next year? None of it sounds right to me, but that’s because I didn’t attend school here, so I just don’t get it.

Regardless of what it means, it is a lot of stress on the kids and on the parents. The majority of the middle-class people in this country send their kids to private schools, then pay even more money for private tutors in most subjects. I am against that; the day I sign him up for private tutoring is the day I pull him out of private school. We’re not at that stage, yet, but I think it’s obvious that the education system here…how do I put this…well, it sucks. There is no other way to put it. I attended public school in America from kindergarten through high school…and now when I hear people complain about the quality of education in The States, I just want to tell them to thank God for the blessing they have!  I was so fortunate to get that education, and I mean that sincerely. I was taught to think, to problem solve, to work with others in finding solutions…The only thing my kids are being taught, is how to memorize. And to be honest, they don’t even teach them the ‘how’ part…the system just wants them to do it!

Anyway…so I was helping my son study math the other day. He’s learning about volume. So the question asks him something like: If we have a large box of volume 1000 cm3, how many small cubes of volume 10 cm3 can we fit into it? I read the question to him a couple of times, sculpting the box and cubes in the air with my hands, trying to get him to visualize it. He looks at me as though I’m speaking an incomprehensible Alien language. I stand for a few seconds trying to figure out how I can better explain it to him.

But just then I had to drain the pasta so it wouldn’t over cook. So as I pour the pasta into the colander, I have an idea!

“Look!” I say to him. “If I know the volume of this colander, and I know the volume of every individual piece of pasta, how can I figure out how many pieces there are?” So now he doesn’t need to imagine the question in his head…its actually right in front of him. And I can see the gears in his head turning. And in my mind I’m cheering him on, “Say divide! Come on! Say divide!”

The gears continue to turn. He’s thinking.

“Say divide! Say divide!” I keep mentally cheering him on.

And all of a sudden I see the light go on in his head. “YES!” I’m thinking, “Here it comes…he’s going to say divide! We’ve got it!”

And he jumps up in his chair and says….

“I can count the pieces!”

 

All in a Week’s Work

Just some things my kids have heard me say this week (and probably every week):

“Get down from the chandelier!”

“Why are ALL the lights on in the apartment?”

“If it doesn’t go down the first time…FLUSH AGAIN!”

“Don’t touch me! What is that on your hands???!!”

“Don’t chase your brother around with a knife in your hands!”

“No, you can not jump from the top bunk to see if you can fly.”

“The kitchen is CLOSED! I don’t care if you’re hungry…you should have thought of that ANYTIME OVER THE PAST HOUR WHILE I WAS STANDING IN THE KITCHEN ASKING IF YOU WANTED TO EAT ANYTHING!!!”

“Stop pulling your brother’s pants down.”

And my all time favorite…the one I can’t go even one day without saying (at the top of my lungs):

STOP YELLING!!!!

They’re Not ALWAYS Punks

Today my oldest son did something that was really sweet…

He hands me a pen and says: “The teacher gave this to me today as a reward for being good and participating. I want you to have it because I’m so proud of you for getting your novel published.” [It’s called Normal Calm and available through Amazon.]

It was really touching. See….they’re not always punks. Despite the fact that every time I’m on the phone with my mom and she asks, “What is all that noise? What are they doing?” I always respond the same way: “They’re trying to drive me insane! It’s their goal in life to make me crazy! They won’t rest until it happens!” Despite that, they have their moments.

Of course, about two and a half seconds later my second child storms through the room, grabs the pen with his quicker-than-lightening hands and screams, “I’M GONNA THROW IT FROM THE BALCONY!” And I have to chase after him and wrestle him to the floor.

Maybe it’s not that they’re not always punks…Maybe it’s that they don’t always have to be punks at the same time. Maybe that’s it.

 

More Thing Not To Tell My Kids

When we were young, our house had wall-to-wall shag carpeting. I don’t know why, really. Maybe shag carpets were ‘in’ back then….Anyway…

One day my older brother and I were home alone; I was probably somewhere between 8 and 10, and he’s two years older than I am. So we’re standing in his room…and he’s holding matches. What is it with boys and setting things on fire?!? So he lights a match, and he’s holding a piece of paper. Now, i don’t really remember the details of our conversation, but I’m sure it went something like this:

Me: Don’t play with the matches…we aren’t even supposed to touch them.

Him: Don’t be a wimp! I’m just going to light this paper, then I’ll blow it out. 

Me: This is a bad idea. If mom and dad find out, they’ll kill us. And really they should only kill you, because I’m against this all together! But I’m sure they’ll take me down, too.

Him: Shut up!

So he brings the paper to the match, and it catches fire. He watches it for a few seconds.

Me: Blow it out already!!

A few seconds later, he tries to blow it out. But of course he’s waited too long, so it won’t go out. Genius drops it, and the rug catches fire. And this part I remember perfectly:

Him: Step on it! Put it out! [No, no… You don’t have to read it again. And it’s not a typo either…That’s right! That was HIM telling ME to put it out!]

And I’m  just about to, too, when I realized that I’m bare foot! And what’s more…HE HAS HIS SNEAKERS ON!!

Needless to say, I tell him what a clown he is (only I wasn’t quite so nice) and he stomps out the fire.

To cover up the burnt section of the rug, we rearranged the furniture. I’m not sure if my parents found out or not…but I definitely won’t go sharing that story with my kids!

When You’re On The Phone…

Most moms and dads have been there at some point: you’re on the phone, and your kids won’t stop bugging you. One is tugging at the cord because she wants to talk, the other is yelling at the top of his lungs, “I want to say hi to grandma!” The third is screaming, “Tell them what I got on my test!” And the whining simply continues. But then, all of a sudden….it stops. Suddenly, you’re alone in the room….but it’s not because you left, its because they did. And you can’t hear anything. For some inexplicable reason, you can make out every syllable of what the person on the other end of the line is saying. You’re torn…because even though you love the feel of being able to have an uninterrupted adult conversation, you also know that silence means trouble….you KNOW something’s wrong!

“But,” you tell yourself, “maybe its a problem that can wait these few minutes while I try to have a civilized phone conversation.”

“Better check,” your conscience teases you.

“No…no…a few minutes won’t hurt.”

But, of course, if you waited that long, then its already too late. Within seconds you hear, “MOM!! COME QUICK! The mattress is on fire!”

“I have to go,” you say into the receiver, “the kids are trying to burn the house down.”

That’s exactly how it went down just about a year ago. I opened the door, and there was no fire. But there was a hole in the sheet and the mattress.

“Who was playing with matches???!!!”

“No one. We were playing with your hair dryer. We pointed it at the mattress, and then the mattress caught fire. My cup had some water in it, so i poured it over the flame, and it went out.”

The moral here: don’t use the phone…its a health hazard. And if you do use it, make sure you have visual access to your kids the whole time.

And don’t forget to lock your hair dryer up in a vault….somewhere on the roof of your house. Maybe…just maybe….they won’t be able to get to it there.