Fun With The Kids

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I haven’t written a blog post in almost two full months. Partly I’ve been working on my novel, but mostly it’s because I really want to post something light, funny maybe, and lately, with the distressing state of the world, I haven’t felt that way. But the other night, I had a great time with my kids…

We just subscribed to our free month of Netflix. I know, I know, Netflix is old and I’m so behind. But I wasn’t even sure how it would work here in Egypt, and quite frankly, I totally plan on cancelling before the free month is over. Anyway…so we watched our first movie the other day. We chose ‘The Prince of Egypt’ as our first pick. I was rather disappointed by it all. The makers did it a disservice to the film by removing almost all religious context from the story. Throughout the entire movie, I kept having to tell the kids, “Well, that’s not the real story; that’s not how it is in the Qur’an…and probably not how it is in the Bible.” Disappointing.

After that let down we needed something funny. Scrolling through, we found ‘Ferris Beuller’s Day Off.’ Now, most parents would not encourage their children to watch a movie about a young student who ditches school and goes all over Chicago having a grand-ol’ time. Most parents would not want their kids to get ideas about how to deceive their parents, how to trick their school administration, how to take their parent’s car without permission…and after all this, never get caught. Most parents are far too responsible to expose their children to all of that….

Well not me! As soon as I saw it on the list, I yelled out, “YOU GUYS HAVE TO SEE THAT! It’s such a good movie!”

Clearly, there is something lacking in my parenting skills…but whatever! Now’s not the time to dwell on that…

We had a blast watching Ferris as he played sick, fooling his parents and his friends (not his sister, though!). We loved watching him take the restaurant reservation for the ‘Sausage King of Chicago,’ then sneak out without his father seeing him. His rendition of ‘Twist and Shout’ on the parade float was well appreciated by all (although, the kids probably liked it just because I was making a fool of myself singing along!). They loved watching the beat-down Ed Rooney chase after his car as the tow-truck pulled it away! I wonder if they wished the same fate upon their own principal?

We laughed the whole movie through. It was a great time. And for that, I’m gonna go ahead and count it a parenting win. Not because it was a good choice (because who are we kidding?), but because we spent time together, laughed together, and hopefully, they’ll remember that more than any of the specifics of the movie. (I know, I know…not likely. But it could happen!)

Thank you for reading my post. Please give it a like. If you’d like to read some of my fiction, simply click here to read the character interviews for the women of my latest novel, Behind Picket Fences. The interviews were super fun to write and I think you’ll enjoy them. Again, thank you so much for your support. 

Help of a Three-Year-Old

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This year my sister-in-law, K, decided to homeschool some of her kids. It’s not the first year she’s homeschooled, but this school year was marked by a new addition to the family, a new bundle of hysterical outbursts…I mean, a new bundle of joy! And the new bundle has a three-year-old (ish) sister. Yeah, exactly. Craaaaziiiiness. God bless them all and keep them all health, happy and safe. But despite the craziness, I know that K is a rock; if she can deal with my brother, then dealing with a bunch of little punks is a breeze. (Ok, so not a breeze, exactly, but easy. Or…maybe…not easy, exactly, but doable. Yes, definitely doable.)

As you can imagine, K is always busy. Busy with the kids, busy with house stuff, busy with other stuff, busy, busy, busy. So sometimes, while the homeschoolers are in their designated areas doing their work, and she’s dealing with everything she needs to be dealing with, she invokes the assistance of the three-year-old.

“M, can you please go ask the boys if they need any help?”

And M, like the helpful little three-year-old that she is, climbs the stairs to the boys. And, as you can imagine, K begins to prepare herself for the ascent up the stairs. She perks her ears up, anticipating M’s call. But then the baby cries, and K nurses him, and burps him, and changes him…and forgets completely that she had employed M’s services.

Some time passes, a few moments of quiet descend upon the house, and K realizes her pint-sized assistant isn’t around.

“M,” she calls out, “where are you?”

And the answer cascades down the stairs, in the best adult, three-year-old voice you’ve ever heard: “I’m helping the boys with their school work!”

So, ladies and gentlemen, if you decide to homeschool your kids, no need to think that you must have all the answers. Not at all; all you need is the help of a three-year-old!

 

 

(Thank you for reading and liking this post. You may enjoy reading the four interviews for the women characters of my novel, Behind Picket Fences. The interviews were super fun to write, and I think you’ll find yourself wondering if they are characters from a book or real people. Click here for the interviews.)

 

For the Love of Books

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I have loved to read ever since I was a child. My parents were not in the habit of reading to us, and I don’t think they ever really encouraged us to read either. My dad has always been a math and science guy, so he stressed those subjects. Literature? Not so much. Growing up, neither of my brothers liked to read. And if he didn’t have a degree saying he’s an actual, real life dentist, I may even argue that my older brother doesn’t even KNOW how to read! Just kidding. He totally knows how to read…I saw a Dr. Seuss book on desk when I was there over the summer.

Anyway, in my case, I think it was the influence of my teachers that taught me the love of reading. I don’t remember vividly, because it was so long ago (and I have four kids, which means my brain cells are probably more fried than if I had been a druggie), but I do vaguely remember story time. I remember sitting in a circle with the rest of my classmates and listening to teachers read. My guess is, that’s how I learned to love reading.

But now, my kids don’t get story time at school. And only one of them is showing any interest in reading. I really want to nourish this love, but unfortunately, we don’t have public libraries here. And although I may be able to download books onto his tablet, I feel that digital books are just substandard, especially for kids. I don’t want him on a device, sucking up whatever kinds of waves they have and have not yet discovered being emitted from those things. I don’t want his reading time to be screen time. But the bigger problem is that I simply can’t afford to buy him a paperback book every few weeks. But I can’t afford to have him lose this interest either. I am torn.

So I’m trying to find free e-books, and I can read (at least partly) to them. My kids enjoy that; even my teenager enjoys it when I read to them. I do voice acting, which really keeps them engaged. The problem is it’s very easy to get out of the habit when our routine gets thrown off due to traveling or whatever, and it is very difficult to get back in the habit, mostly because it takes my kids FOREVER to get ready for bed.

But tonight, they did it. They got ready (relatively) early, and we had time to read together. We started The Wind in the Willows (because it was free!), and even though the language is a bit beyond them, and the digital version has no illustrations, they enjoyed it. And so did I.

Now we have a different problem altogether. I mean, do YOU know the difference between a mole, a badger and an otter? Google has already caught me looking up rifles and Dallas and trolls and recipes for cinnamon rolls (which turned out pretty good, actually) and folding furniture and all sorts of madness this week…guess we have to add furry creatures to the list now, too!

(Thank you for reading and liking this post. For a peek at some of my fiction writing, please click here and I’ll send you the four interviews I wrote for the women characters of my novel, Behind Picket Fences. The interviews were super fun to write, and I think you’ll find yourself wondering if they truly are characters from a book. Check it out.)

More ‘On Writing’

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I have now finished reading Stephen King’s ‘On Writing,’ and as happens with any good book I read, I’m sad that it has ended. The subtitle of the book is ‘A Memoir of the Craft,’ but really, it is so much more. He takes us through his writing and publishing journey, but he also gives his readers a look into his personal life, the life which formed him into the writer he is. He tells us about how, when he showed his mother the first story he’d written, her face lit up. Then just as dramatically her face fell when he admitted that he’d only just copied it. She encouraged him to think of his own story, certain that he could write something at least as good. He tells us that he and his wife were barely getting by when his toddler daughter spiked an incredibly high fever; they didn’t have the money for her medicine. Then, his first check for a piece of writing appeared under their doorway. He describes how his writing got him into trouble in high school when he created a satirical newspaper, making fun of a few teachers. Each event was a lesson in life, but it was also a step on his way to becoming the famous writer he is today.

When he discusses the technicalities of writing, King often refers to The Elements of Style, highlighting many of its rules. Avoid adverbs at all costs, for example. The difference with King, however, is that he is more honest about it: he tells you the rule, then a few paragraphs later, he breaks it. He points out his transgression, assuring us that sometimes, you just need that adverb… and that’s okay, too. I have recently read The Elements of Style, and although I feel that some of the rules are a bit outdated, I do think it will prove a valuable reference throughout my writing and editing careers; I recommend it to all writers.

King’s humor is sprinkled all over the book. When he discusses checking spelling and grammar and all that fun stuff, he warns that you should only use dialect if you ‘have a good ear.’ If you don’t have a good ear, “Then fuhgeddaboutit.” I could almost hear him laughing as I read this. He uses the word just a few times throughout, but each time, I laughed out loud.

The best thing King says about writing fiction is something that I’ve never heard articulated before, although I think this is how I feel myself. He says the story you’re writing right now, it actually already exists. It’s already out there somewhere, and your job as the writer, is to excavate it and set it to paper. It is a fossil, he says, and your job is to unearth it as carefully as possible, so that you completely preserve its integrity. Perhaps that’s why sometimes we can see it so clearly, and the words write themselves. I wish he had made any mention of how he felt seeing his stories represented on screen. So many movies just don’t live up to the book (from a reader’s perspective); I wonder if writers feel the same watching the screen versions of their books? Or worse, even, because it is their creation that’s been altered? And if they do feel cheated by the movie versions, how do they cope with it? But he didn’t go into any of that.

Obviously, King discloses so much more of his writing knowledge in the book, but I’ve given you some examples of what you can expect. My next post will be my last on ‘On Writing.’ I’ll tell you how King managed to incorporate love into his memoir about writing, and my biggest qualm with it. Keep your eyes peeled!

Walking Through Spider Webs

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I just started reading ‘On Writing’ by Steven King, and although I’m only a few pages in, I’ve laughed out loud at least three times. He recreates stories from his life (I’m still on his childhood) in a way which shows his readers how they helped him form into a writer. So it’s life and writing all in one; perfect for someone like me.

There is one story in particular that really spoke to me. He tells about a teacher who once told him to use his talent for something more worthwhile. After he recounts the incident, he writes, “I think I was forty before I realized that almost every writer of fiction and poetry who has ever published a line has been accused by someone of wasting his or her God-given talent.”

This is certainly true for me. ‘Why waste your time writing this non-sense!’ he says to me every chance he gets. ‘You should write something that’ll make a difference, write about the political climate, something of importance, not just something for entertainment!’

What he doesn’t know—this person who is a valuable part of my life, who I love and cherish very much, and for those reasons, can’t resort to avoiding him (or beating him)—is that I do use my writing to make a difference. I aim to raise awareness of family and societal issues and attitudes which often go unnoticed. I do aim to teach through my fiction. But I do it in my own way. Some will get it, and others will not, but my intention is certainly there.

So if you’re an artist who has been told to devote your energy to a more useful cause, just know that you’re in the same company as Steven King…and me…and probably millions of other creators out there. Know that you’re in good company, and learn to walk through the belittlements the same way you’d walk through a spider web: At first it’s ‘Oh my God, what the ….? There’s a spider web in my face!’ But with a few waves of your hand, it magically disappears, and just seconds later, it’s as though it had never really been there. Brush off the negativity like you would a spider web, and raise your head high in the knowledge that even if the closest people to you don’t get it, you have your own motives for pursuing your craft… and those are good enough.

Gotta Love Family

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Yup, that’s the view!

Funny how one week away from home can throw off your routine! We went away to visit my grandmother in a place called Ein Sokhna, on the Red Sea. The water there is so calm and clear. My kids caught a bunch of starfish and sand dollars, not to mention the number of shells they collected! If it weren’t for the ferocious mosquitoes which attack at night, it would have been a perfect vacation.

The internet there is not too stable, however, so I’m behind with blog posts and a couple of online writing courses… and I feel like it’ll take me twice as long to catch up. More writing related things on my to-do list!

As soon as we got back I started preparing for the online launch of my upcoming book, Behind Picket Fences. I practiced reading Beautiful, the poem I was planning on reading as well as the excerpt from the novel, until I finally got them right. (Well…that’s what I thought anyway. Listening to the recording, I think I could have done a much more effective job with the poem. You’ll have to give it a listen and let me know what you think!)

A few minutes before the launch starts, I sit down and adjust my computer and log into the event and everything is set up. Then I happen to notice that my parents are ‘attending.’ The reason I notice this right away, is because, despite the fact that all other attendees have their videos turned off (as they should), my father has his on. So he’s just sitting there, leaning back in his chair, focused on his computer screen..and everyone can see him! They can’t even see me! Then, despite all attendees being muted, I hear my mom say, ‘It’s supposed to start now.’ Oh, but that’s not all, folks! A few minutes later I look at my screen — the one the hostess of the launch is showing to all the attendees — and instead of it saying ‘Hostess is sharing her screen’ it says ‘Ali Hegazi is sharing his screen.’ I kid you not, people! I saw the stock page he had on his bookmark bar and all the news webpages he follows! I chuckled and thought to myself, ‘Yup, that’s just about right. My dad’s gonna ruin the launch.’ A couple of years ago when my dad went to visit my brother at his dental clinic, my brother had him wait in his office until the previous patient was finished; my dad spent those few minutes on my brother’s computer. A short while later, the receptionist goes up to my brother and tells him that the computer system is down! Apparently he had upgraded something in the system, and the upgrade didn’t go too smoothly. But we all have those moments, right? Where would we be without a little family embarrassment/entertainment?

Luckily, his sharing of the screen didn’t last long and the launch went well. I had been worried my internet would act up, but it behaved itself. Hasn’t been behaving since then, mind you (and I can’t blame it on my dad, either!), but I was relieved the launch took place without any technical glitches. We picked two winners to receive signed copies and announced the pre-order incentives, not to mention the Q & A session where attendees asked me all sorts of questions! I love helping out other writers, so that was my favorite part of the launch.

In case you missed it, you can watch the online launch here. The pre-order incentives are the current discount price at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, which will revert to full price as the official launch date (July 1) approaches. So if you’re interested, order your copy today to take advantage of the 25% discount! The other incentive is the character interviews that will go out once a week for four weeks (starting June 1), but these are only available to those who subscribe to my free newsletter. So if you’re interested in learning more about the women of Behind Picket Fences, make sure you sign up here.

In my next post I plan on spreading some of the knowledge I’ve gained through the online writing courses I’ve been taking…stay tuned!

 

 

Search By Voice

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Sometime last year, my brother was in his room when he heard his son say something down the hall. He opened the door and the words became more clear, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” A few seconds of silence followed, then my nephew repeated his request, only louder, “TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES.” My brother just chuckled to himself and closed the door. Several minutes later, when my brother came out of his room, there was his son, spread out on the floor, propped up on his elbows watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles right on his tablet. My nephew’s experience was actually my first exposure to Google search by voice. I mean, I had seen the little microphone icon at the end of the search bar, I just never really had any faith it would give reliable results. I am still reluctant to use it. Some people, on the other hand, have complete confidence that voice searches will give them exactly what they want…

Recently, my daughter, who is only five, has gotten into the habit of watching Frozen themed YouTube skits on my laptop. She comes home, pops open the device, scrolls through the tabs or asks me to search for her, and commences to watch her shows. They’re really strange, actually, with Elsa and Spiderman and the wicked witch from some Disney fairytale that I can’t keep straight. Wicked strange really, with no spoken words at all in order to reach a global audience. The only sound any of the characters make is the evil laugh by the witch. “Mwahh… haaa… haaa,” she says. But it’s clean, so I let my daughter watch. Just last week, she started searching them using Google voice search. Sitting on her knees on the chair to position her mouth as close to the mic as possible, she directs her voice at the computer, “Frozen, real.” She thinks that’s what it’s called…because are ‘real’ people playing the parts and not cartoons. But because I myself don’t really know what this type of skit would be called on a google search, I don’t correct her. When the Google lady tells her to try again, she raises her voice a bit, and again, out come her accented words, “Frozen, real.” This goes on and on, with her raising her voice gradually until she’s basically screaming, at which point either miraculously what she wants pops up, or I put myself out of my misery and go help her.

But the other day, she did something unprecedented. She sat down in front of the laptop, and instead of asking Google to locate ‘Frozen, real’ or any of the other children’s programs she watches, she started to say something else. I was unsure of what I’d heard at first, because I was in the kitchen. Could she have really said what I thought she said? I paused my chopping for a minute and listened. And sure enough, she was saying my name! She wasn’t saying ‘Mom.’ No…she was saying ‘Hend Hegazi.’ My daughter was actually googling me using search by voice! I couldn’t stop laughing! Especially since she just kept raising her voice, thinking the problem was that the application couldn’t ‘hear’ her. She kept screaming my name at the computer, until finally, the Google lady said to her, “Kid, no one here knows your mom. She’s in the kitchen; go ask her whatever you want.”

Ok, so maybe that’s not what the Google lady said verbatim, but it’s pretty close. At any rate, I don’t think my daughter will be googling me again any time soon.