Friday, December 29, 2006

Happy Eid, Happy 2007!

It's Eid; it's New Year; it's so many good things happening lately!

We're having our formal dinner/celebration on Saturday, combining Eid and New Year. The Canada clan are not coming. We're not happy about it and hope it won't happen again! Do you read me guys?

We're having friends over to celebrate and have dinner with us; a Chinese couple and an American couple. We'll have roasted "racks" of lamb with mint pesto, rice with nuts, tebahaj, salad, and lots and lots of baklawa and magrood for Sol to dive in!

The Eid image above is from a greeting I received from a friend. It is the first time we receive a Eid greeting from an American--Thank you, DeAnne! I just wish the bland/average/white/Christian Americans wise up more and acknowledge other people's Holidays and celebrations and join them just like the others do. It does tick me off big deal that they don't, while on the other hand they get shocked if someone says "We don't celebrate Christmas!" So cocooned in their bubble that they're oblivious of other ways of life and other traditions. They talk about openness, tolerance, and acceptance of the other, but in reality they do it by ignoring the differences. In my opinion, that's adding insult to the injury. I've heard that it is different in other parts of the country, but I have yet to see and experience that.

We're all excited about tomorrow. Moody and Tala can't wait to open their Eid gifts; so do I! We'll drop them at the gym tonight for movie night so Sol and I could do more Eid shopping.


Thursday, December 28, 2006

Happy Birthday, Up and Down the Family Tree

Mama, Safia Bensaud, is 63 today!

My sweet niece, Ruqaya Kambaraki, is 6 today!

Happy Birthday!

Picture taken today... Thanks Moony xox!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Tis the season to be jawy!

OK, if I read one more thing about how wrong it is for Muslims to celebrate Xmas, then I'm just going to hurl! What's up with that? People sending questions to religious authorities asking whether they are permitted to attend a Xmas party. Dude, if you have to consult some authority on going to a party, then what the hell do you do with life's--slightly--more pressing questions? It's just fascinating!

We are not talking about some bizarre fringe elements. This is mainstream stuff. Today, I read in the government-controlled Libyan press that the authorities were rounding up merchants who sell Xmas items and symbols, treating the shops as "dens of corruption," and branding all participants in this trade as "people making jackasses of themselves." How's that for the free market of consumer products, let alone the free market of cultures, styles and ideas?

For the record, cultures copy each other. They have done it throughout history, and all too frequently, they have done it in bizarre ways. Christianity started in the middle east, but the injection of Christmas trees into Libyan and nearby popular taste (i.e. consumer culture) really has nothing to do with Christianity per se, as much as it has to do with importation of a "western" commodity, albeit cheaply produced in China! This reminds me of the last time I was in Libya on Milad (the anniversary of Prophet Mohammed's birth.) Nostalgically, I made it a point to go to Bab al-Hurriya and check out the scene. Kids were selling fireworks, officially "illegal" but somehow imported by the boatload, and the teenage vendors were being chased through the crowds by agents of the green-clad "Municipal Guard." OK, nothing changed--I loved it! But I did see something unusual that left me with an indelible memory: a plastic Christmas tree with a little palm chandelier (Khmesa) on top, and get this: the tree was hot pink! You get my drift about it being made in China? lol lol lol You gotta love globalism! You know, it is one thing to make a pink Christmas tree, but to find someone who buys the beast, now that's priceless! lol lol In short, Christianity was born in da 'Hood, got exported westward, embellished and infused with all kinds of local spices, then returned by way of China, and in a form that just takes it all off and runs out in Bab al-Hurriya! lol lol lol.

I also remember another cultural boomerang-in-the-head type of story from way back in ninth grade. In my history class, they were telling us all about the impact of Muslims on western civilization. (Or was it Arabs? Hard to say which way the mill spins sometimes.) So of course there was mention of the word "logarithm," and how it was a western hot-pinkification of the name of the famous mathematician, our homeboy al-Khawarizmi y'all! Then we'd have our math class, where we discussed something we awkwardly called "loo-gha-rithem," where we took a concept that had already been through the hot-pink transform, and instead of inverting it, we passed it through again! lol lol

All ye bearded dudes jawing about the immorality of Christmas trees: Chill out a bit. Cultures copy one another all the time, they even copy the horrid copies they make of one another. The results, if viewed in the proper light, usually make for fantastic entertainment. Support your local Bink Bushers, and if you ever want to bring me a gift with deep meaning: Please pass through Bab al-Hurriya.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells!

Yesterday, we went to the Rigney's Caroling Party, an almost-4-decade tradition for the Rigneys, and becoming one for us too. Here's Ann in the picture singing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer! Ann is a wonderful lady. Her husband, Dave, is a professor with Sol. She was the first to take me out and about and introduce me to my surroundings when I first came to the US. Though I've been busy lately, we still manage to get together, especially when her grandson, Corey, comes to town.

The carol party was fun, but I think Moody went a little crazy with this boy Mathew that we've been meeting there every year. When we were leaving, they both said to each other, "See you next year!" They didn't want to be quiet during the singing; they thought it was boring! They also didn't want Tala to join their fun. Moody is into the "Boys only club" and what-have-you, and so is Mathew, according to his mom.

A couple of days ago, Moody cracked up this joke--his own!

Moody: Dad, you know what the snowman's sickness should be called?
Sol: What?
Moody: Warm, got it?
Lol lol lol! Did you get it?

Lately he's been saying he wants to be a scientist. Today at lunch, he asked, "Who's Albert Einstein?" Sol told him he was a great scientist. Moody added, "He rode his bike so fast when he was a kid, that he appeared in outer space and he was riding on a shooting star." Got it? lol. Then he asked, "Is Ben Franklin real?" We said yes. He added, "He made an invention that makes lightning come to life. He attached a key to a kite." Well, he's been reading for himself before going to bed. He got all that from the book Disney's Americana.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Hip Hip...

Yesterday, I received the confirmed job offer that I'd been anticipating and waiting for. Starting September 2007, after my graduation, I will be working for Rolls-Royce. And no, I will not get any discount on Rolls-Royce cars; a jet engine, maybe! They stopped making the cars in 1973 when the motor car business was spun off as a separate entity. Rolls-Royce is a world-leading provider of power systems for civil aerospace, defense aerospace, marine, and energy. I will be with the energy division. I'm elated!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Libya-in-Video Challenge

Taking up Beacon's challenge and following Chatalaine and A.Adam, I made this video. I don't have many personal pictures of Libya, so I made a slide show with pictures of Libyans from 1924 to 1930. The contents of the slide show are used with permission from The pictures are originally from The National Geographic Magazine. The audio is al-Umm (The Mother) by Refaket 3umer. The first picture in the slide show is of my hometown Derna. Enjoy!


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Shamsa is Coming Tonight!

Before 6:30 am today, Moody came knocking on our room and calling out full of excitement, "My tooth has fallen out! My tooth has fallen out!" Oh, how exciting! He came in and got in bed with us and started telling what he wants from Shamsa. It was the Lego white Bionicle, Toa Matoro, then the Nerf N-Strike Longshot CS-6, then some kind of a saber, then... He decided that he and I should go to the toy store so he would decide what to ask for. Of course, he's not going to settle for any of the toys he wants for Eid. Losing the tooth means one more gift--sneaky!

The baklawa is all done with. We have been enjoying the uneven pieces that come form the edges of the tray. When I offered the kids to try some the other day, they refused. It didn't look appealing enough to them! Yesterday, I was about to empty the last tray when Moody said, "Wow, that looks cool. What's this Mom?" He liked the pattern of baklawa in the tray. Then he asked to try some. I gave him a piece; he ate it in seconds and asked for more. He liked it a lot, he said. I have not made the magrood yet. I need to free almost a whole day to make it and haven't had the chance yet. Things keep popping up for me to take care of, so I'm putting it off till tomorrow, hopefully.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Festivities Have Begun!

Moody has been growing his hair for months. He wants it to look like Harry Potter's. He would scream at the mention of a haircut. Finally, yesterday, he conceded and we headed to the hairdresser. I have been telling him lately that his hair looks messy more than anything, and have been showing him pictures of himself with short hair and stressing how handsome he looked in them. The compromise was to leave it long at the top and cut all over. Well, it kind of ended up like that. Most importantly, he went into the hairdresser a Mr. Grumpy, and came out very happy and cheerful--he liked the way he looks now!

Tala didn't have a haircut since she did it herself last February. She too wanted to grow her hair long "just like Mommy." I assured her that we will only get the ends trimmed "so it'll grow longer and stronger." Once the hairdresser asked how we wanted it cut, Tala said, "very short." Just like Mommy! I many times go to the hairdresser for a trim and end up asking to take all the length off. I left Tala at the shampoo station and went to check on Moody. When I got back to her, I was about to open my mouth and ask the two hairdressers what she had been telling them, when they said, "She had been telling us how pretty her Mommy is!" Tala is so innocent and sweet; she could tell what we did that week in few minutes. Scary sometimes! She was chattering away with the hairdresser all the time. She told her how Alexis thinks "I'm just cute, and she is very cute. Actually, I am VERY VERY cute! Daddy said so too."

Eid is coinciding with New Year's Eve. I'm happy for that; it makes the season more festive for us. I decided to make some baklawa and magrood. I made the baklawa yesterday, and will be making magrood today. I used to make them every year during Eids and around this time and give some as gifts to friends. Last year I opted for Shatila's baklawa, not bad, but not as good. I will be taking some to the Rigney's Carol party next week and sharing some with friends.

We had planned to get the "Holiday" tree yesterday. Moody has been saying "Christmas" this or that, and correcting himself "Holiday" this or that. I told him that he doesn't have to be hung up on what word to use. It is Christmas anyway and calling it so is still correct. I looked up the farm and directions during the week, but didn't take note of the directions or the exact name of the farm for that matter. While taking care of the baklawa tray that just came out of the oven, I asked Sol to look it up and get the directions. He couldn't find it and started calling out and asking me questions from the den while I had the microwave oven on and other noises in the kitchen. So you figured, we both got annoyed and Sol "declared" that I should look it up. I did, and I realized that the farm is called Cackler not Crackle as I told him. I still haven't heard the end of it! I told him he could have googled "Christmas tree farm Delaware Ohio;" that's how I got it. Duh!

Finally, we headed out. I noticed that we were heading in the opposite direction of where the farm is, south instead of north. I commented and then kept quiet, or struggled to keep quiet. Eventually, we changed direction and started heading north, but taking Juha's tour (برمة وين وذنك يا جحا). Check the map: The red line is the route we took, the blue is the map directions. Typical what? Guy, Libyan, or both? We got to Delaware, passed it, got on route 42, and kept driving and driving past Ashly and into Morrow County. That's when Sol said, "I don't think it's here. We've come very far." I asked him if the directions said it was on 42, he confirmed.

We turned around. It was about 4:40, the farm closes at 5 and it was their last day of business for the season. Then Sol said it was on a road called Cackler off 42. Sure enough we came to that road and were at the farm at 6 minutes before 5! Since it was almost closing time we picked a tree that was already cut, though what's special about the farm is that you get a saw and a sled, walk around the trees, choose one and cut it yourself. There was this cute donkey at the farm having a blast with a ball. We had the tree netted, trunk trimmed, Sol secured it to the van and we were on our way back.

I kept my eyes on the tree through the sunroof opening all the way home. From being at the middle of the opening, the tree shifted to the very edge. I was so worried that it would fall off. Thankfully, we made it home with the tree and two little hungry buggers that wanted to decorate the tree that same day!


Sunday, December 10, 2006

It's Eight!

We were married in Djerba, Tunisia, December 10, 1998. The picture above was taken on December 11, the day after the wedding (etsendeera in my lingo اتسنديرة). That was the last day I saw my parents and siblings. Notice Sol's hat--don't laugh--it's a Misrati hat!

How we're celebrating? Moody greeted me in the morning, "Happy face-in-the-pie day!" And Tala followed suit, slightly modifying the greeting to "Happy face-in-the-cake day!" We have been having so much fun the whole day. And it's still continuing. We are cleaning closets--major cleaning--the first in more than four years! We started with Moody's, Tala's and the guest room yesterday. Today, it's our room. The fun is when we see the results: organized spacey closets, clothes we can see and reach. We had lunch break; now it's time to get back to the fun!


Saturday, December 09, 2006

Cloud 9.5

Yesterday, as we were getting ready to go to dinner, I told Ahmed that he turned six and a half last week. He was absolutely thrilled by the news. "Now I'm older than Anthony," his classmate who is really only one month younger, but he's not yet officially six and a half! "Dad, when am I going to be almost seven?" That's the next tick on his age scale. So we went to dinner at one of our regular hangouts. Moody announced his promotion at every opportunity: at the door, while waiting for a table, and to the waitress--at least once. So Hana conspired with the waitress and surprised him with a little bit of celebration.

A few servers brought out the cookies and sang Happy Birthday. He was just elated by the whole thing. He made a wish and blew the candle, and then could not stop thanking everyone! All the way home and afterward, he was just full of compliments and very expressive. As I tucked him in bed, he said, "I really love what you and Mom did for me, Dad. You're the best." That pulled me up to cloud 9, just half a click below where he was.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


I'm done with exams! I'm on break till January! Yippie! And watch out, I'm a certified Green Belt now!

Yesterday morning, Tala told me that she "had a very bad nightmare." She said, that she "uncovered" the toothbrushes, and I was "very unhappy" with her and then I flushed Moody in the toilet! I couldn't help but laugh, and of course, Moody joined me. Tala got upset, "Stop laughing about my nightmare. It is not funny; it was scary!" We don't really flush our kids down the toilet, so don't get any ideas! We just happened to see Flushed Away at the theatre on the weekend. And when I asked her how she "uncovered" the toothbrushes, she said "I lifted the carpet. They were under the carpet."

Moody Hip-Hopping!

Tuesday was parents observation day at Straub Dance for both Moody and Tala. Moody and I "observed" Tala in the morning. Tala was pouting and had a long face most of the time and kept saying, "I'm hungry." Talk about public embarrassment. Before we got to her class she kept complaining that she was tired and "weally weally need to sleep." Later, Sol and Tala "observed" Moody in his after-school class.

After the "observation" I went digging for the recital DVDs of last year. We got them sometime in June, but never watched them. The Friday recital DVD that had Moody's number didn't work, the Saturday DVD worked. Watch the video above (you need flash). Digging for the DVDs, I found the CD for Tala's numbers. The song for her Friday dance is All I Really Need by Raffi Cavoukian who was born in Cairo to Armenian parents. Interesting, isn't it? I like the song, especially the part that goes "All I really need is a song in my heart, food in my belly, love in my family." And sweet loving Tala was hungry! Enjoy the song:

And check out Raffi's Songs for Peace at this link.


Saturday, December 02, 2006

Welcome to the new digs!

We decided to move everything to a real web host. This way we can have real storage space and a permanent address.


Friday, December 01, 2006

Tips of the Week

Tip #1: If you were born before 1970 and happen to be in a music store, don't ask a young rep to help you locate a CD!

The kids and I went to Best Buy for Yusuf's An Other Cup. I went to the "S" section and found Cat Stevens, but not the new album. I stopped a young salesguy, late 20s, and asked "Where do I find Cat Steven's new album, An Other Cup?" He said, "Cat what?" I replied, "Cat Stevens, Yusuf Islam." He asked again, "Is that a group?" I got annoyed and pointed to the CD I was holding in my hand (shown below), "Read this: CAT STEVENS!" Still no clue! I went with him to a computer station and pulled it up from their web site. Now with the number he could find it, but not with the name. Are we that old?

I was driving with the kids the other day when they played In The End on NPR. Moody loved it and started asking about the singer and the songs. When we got home, I checked the album on iTunes and decided to buy it with The Very Best of... which I did today. Once we got in the car, Moody asked for In The End. I didn't know he picked the name of the song that day. And yes, Soad, Peace Train it is. It was my favorite in those old days, and still is... (I'm listening to it as I'm writing this)

Now I've been happy lately
Thinking about the good things to come

And I believe it could be, something good has begun
Cause out on the edge of darkness, there rides a peace train
Oh peace train take this country, come take me home again

Yusuf and Youssou!

The song The Beloved caught my attention; it had the same voice, and language that we don't understand, in Youssou N'Dour's CDs. No wonder, it is Youssou N'Dour himself singing with Yusuf. A great combination--awesome!

Tip #2: Don't get in a grocery checkout lane behind an elderly!

On the way back from Best Buy, we stopped by Kroger's. The checkout lanes were kind of long and the self checkout lanes are useless when I have fresh veggies in my cart since I'd have to wait for an assistant to ring them up. I picked a lane that had an old guy paying, followed by an old lady with 3 items in her cart. The man took his sweet time with the cashier arguing over something that was not on the shelf it was supposed to be. I placed a divider after the lady's stuff and started unloading my cart. She was so nice, and took on organizing my stuff on the conveyor belt. Then comes her turn to checkout. Remember, she had 3 items only! It took her 17 minutes to check out, arguing over the price of a pumpkin can that rang differently to what was marked on the shelf. Of course, the cashier needed a higher authority to override the price... Since I already unloaded, I had no choice but stand and wait, and remind Moody and Tala to keep their hands to themselves, "Don't touch anything! No, we're not buying candy! Because I said so! Please stop talking! For a minute please!" Finally it was our turn and the guy bagging the stuff asked me if I've seen the ad of a man who puts his girl in the back seat in the car and she goes on and on talking non stop. I said I have not, but I sure have two of those!

Tip #3: Before cooking today's dinner think what everyone had the day before!

I've been thinking about what to cook since I got up this morning. I didn't feel like cooking and was not in the mood, but knew I had to. Why? Because we ate turkey from Thursday to Saturday last week, had Chinese takeout on Sunday, KFC on Monday, some junk food on Tuesday, Pizza on Wednesday, went to Max & Erma's on Thursday! At Kroger's, I walked by the meat department and spotted Tilapia. Aha, there's a delicious, easy meal: baked Tilapia and brown rice with veggies (peas, carrots, onions, scallions, cilantro, and garlic). I was stirring the rice and veggies when the picture of what Sol had for dinner last night jumped to my mind: baked Halibut with rice and veggies! Oh, no! But, of course, mine is different and yummier. So Sol, just enjoy it, OK? Sorry!

Tip #4: Don't plan any electricity-dependent activities during bad weather!

The weather is terrible today. Rain, thunderstorms, and wind of over 40 miles-an-hour (~65 km). Tornadoes are expected in the region. Bad weather and thunderstorms could very likely lead to power outage. I started the cooking and the power goes out, back on, out again... till I gave up and put the cooking on hold. The kids got excited and were running around the house flipping light switches to see if the power is out everywhere in the house. When the power came back to stay, I found every single light in the house on!