It's been a while since we blogged. I don't expect this to change; sporadic blogging it's going to be for a while!
First things first, we had a very nice visit with Nick, Azzam, and Nikki. It was just a little short, but they had to get back to Sabrina and Jasper. There was a lot of worry and calling the sitter to make sure they were both OK. Apparently, Sabrina was being very unfriendly, and Jasper was just pouty and missing his family. These are a cat and a dog I'm talking about here. Now I know I'm definitely not going to get a pet. It's hard enough to try and find care for the kids when neither of us can be with them for a while. Pets, who needs them!
Yep, winter is sure here, for real. We got our first dump of snow on Sunday, and we've been below freezing since. I don't mind it; I mean what's winter if it's not freaking cold, snow, and ice! Last week was terrible for me. I had classes Monday through Wednesday; a meeting on Thursday evening; a meeting on Friday; 3 group meetings, on Campus, on Saturday from 9am till 7 pm; and a meeting on Sunday. I was literally not home the whole week.
My classes start at 6pm this quarter, which means Sol has to be home no later than 5, which in turn means he has to leave work by 4:30! To make things work better, it was decided that I would drive with the kids to Campus and switch cars with Sol. But that meant that we either have to leave home very early and wait for more than 30 minutes in the car for Sol, or leave not so early and be late. It's that time where 5 minutes would make a lot of difference traffic wise.
As a result of all of that, and that... Sol and I have been arguing lately on who was supposed to do what and who is to do what. Even grocery shopping had been thrown out of whack! Last night we decided to assign tasks and have them written down and displayed visible to both of us. Problem is, I realized today, that we have not decided who to write down the task list.
Amidst all that, it's time to give Tibra some time and attention. You have all read my previous post about the 2007 Tibra Awards and my plead to you for action. I'm still waiting for action! Helloooo, anybody there? Readers, do something; $10 won't poke a hole in your pocket! Good news is we got our minimum of 3 nominees, so the program is on. Better news yet, we have more participation from Libya!
A couple of days ago, Tala showed me the calendar she got from Friends 2B Made and she said, "Look Mom, I circled the day of my birthday, August 26." So I asked her to circle Juju's birthday, June 28. Notice the numbers of both my girls' birthdays, 8/26 and 6/28. So, Tala started flipping the pages in the calendar starting with December going backwards in the months. She kept saying, "This is not it," for every page she flipped till she got to June when she said "Here it is!" I was surprised, "She could read!" I thought to myself. I mentioned that to her teacher the next day, and the teacher told me that they have noticed it too; Sol did too.
Tala has always taken us by surprise when it comes to her development and the things she could do. It's always been, Tala can't do this yet, Tala can do it very well. We don't witness the development stages she goes through with her skills. I remember when she was about 2 years old, she wasn't a toddler of many words. She would only say a couple words or so. It's not that she tried talking and didn't know how to; she was not talking at all--very quiet. We had her tested then for any developmental delays, and she qualified for speech therapy; so we started her on a program that involved speech therapy and music therapy sessions at home. Speech therapy is straight forward; music therapy was very interesting. The therapist would come home with all kinds of musical instruments, guitar, keyboard, maraca, flute, etc., and would spend an hour with Tala playing music and singing together. On her next evaluation at 3, Tala passed ranking very high in the speech scale compared to her peers. It was as if somebody pushed Tala's talk button!
This brings me to another story. Tala had always showed her artistic talent on the walls. Moody, on the other hand, never did that, not even once. I was constantly cleaning and wiping walls after Tala, till I decided I was not going to do it anymore. I thought clean walls were what invited her to fill them with art. Last year, I went over the basement walls with the paint to cover Tala's art. It was around December of 2004. There was this tiny little guy she drew on the wall that I didn't have the heart to cover. So, I left it there. That guy has been a source of laughter for us. Again, last December, I retouched the basement walls and left that little dude there. It's too cute to wipe out!
Here's another proof of Tala's talent. This picture is of Picasso's Summer Bouquet painting. Tala decided that Picasso fell short and his painting needed more work. She added a face with eyes, mouth and nose at the bottom of the painting. It's in faint red crayon. Luckily, it could be wiped out since the painting is coated with a protecting material, but again, I didn't have the heart to do it!
Our friends from Canada are coming to spend this long weekend and celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Day with us. We're excited and can hardly wait for their arrival. Moody had been wondering what they would bring him this time, but last night he told Sol, "I don't care what they bring me, I'm just happy they're coming." That's the spirit, I'd say!
I started this post last Sunday, and I finally have some time to finish it. School started on Wednesday and I'm teaching an interesting class this quarter, different from our usual classes. It is an introductory class taken by a wide range of engineering students. I have a little over 200 students, which is expected on a campus with over 50,000 students, but it is really huge in comparison to our department's average class of maybe 20-30 students! So, it's a different ball game all together, requiring different methods, different styles, etc. Interestingly, the adjustments that I have to make are sort of connected to real ball games and to the subject of this week old post. In sports broadcasting, you usually have a minimum of two: one doing what's called the "play by play," and the other doing "the color." The new class requires more of the former skills, and I am generally more comfortable in smaller classes that are more suitable to a "colorful" style. I am talking about style of delivery, not necessarily a difference in the amount or quality of information. A colorful style does not necessarily mean an imprecise or lean message; on the contrary, it can be quite far reaching, but there has to be some latitude, some flexibility. To the extent that raising children is an educational affair, there is an interesting parallel between work and home for me. In my family broadcast, Hannu does the play by play, and I do the color. Of course we trade tasks back and forth, and we both have to play both roles as required, but in general that's our natural division of educational labor.
For the first time, this year I decided to tell Ahmed and Tala the story of Eid al-Adha. Ahmed in particular is becoming quite keen on the stories behind such occasions. I don't think he is old enough to get some of the morals, or intended morals anyway, but I have noticed lately that all subjects with a high fantasy content, religious stories included, are head turners for Moody. Now, if religious faith be a "light," as they say, then I'd say that I'm generally transparent, perhaps "reflective" at times, but never emissive. Still I often get reminded by my wonderful wife of my educational responsibilities, which is fair enough. So the word "theory" figures heavily in certain educational conversations I have with Ahmed, often presenting alternative "theories" side by side. As a scientist, of course I can't quite conceal my partiality to the experimentally verifiable.
On Saturday, we discussed the theory of Eid over lunch. I tried to stay close to the standard model, "...and Abraham told his son that he'd received a vision from God..."
"What was his son's name?" Moody interrupted, blocking my turn around the bush! The identity of the son is a point of controversy, in fact, and I intentionally tried to keep it generic. But not with Moody!
"There are a couple different theories on that," I started to explain, "He had two sons, Ismael and Isaac and..."
"Ismael, Ismael," Hannu piped in, rescuing the conversation. lol lol lol
"And Ibrahim said God had ordered him to slaughter Ismael," I continued.
"What? Slather his son?" Moody readied himself for protest.
"Well, hmm, uh, ..." I hesitated.
"That means cut his throat with a knife," Hannu chipped in casually, between bites of a Hareesa laden, baguette supported, olive-oil-soaked tuna fish sandwich that is one of my signature creations.
"That's not fair," Moody protested. "God is supposed to tell him to let his son rest from his chores, not kill him!"
"Theoretically, you see...," I mumbled on.
"Wait till you hear the end of the story," Mom said. "Grrrumch!"
"And as Ibrahim and his son prepared to follow divine orders, angels brought a big ram to be sacrificed instead of the son..."
Louder and louder now, Moody turns vegan and declares, "NO BODY SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO EAT LAMBS. PEOPLE SHOULD ONLY EAT FRUITS AND VEGETABLES, THINGS WE PLANT NOT THINGS WE KILL!"
"Well, in fact we do kill fruits and vegetables..." I said.
"Then there will be no chicken nuggets, no cheeseburgers and no hot dogs for you!" Hannu gets down to nuts-n-bolts.
"What? Hot dogs are not meat!" Moody chuckled.
"Some of the experimental evidence might support that proposition," I threw in.
"Then why do we always say 'beef hot dogs'?" "Beef is cows' meat." Hanu "cuts" through the chase!
It was an interesting conversation. A while later, Moody stressed to me that if I should ever get a vision... I assured him that would not happen any time soon. I also added that Ismael's readiness to sacrifice himself meant that no other kids would be sacrificed ever after (in theory.)
Eid dinner was fantastic. Our guests were two families of my colleagues. Paul retired a few years back, after a distinguished career, including membership in the US National Academy of Engineering. One of Paul's traits is using few but sufficient words. When he visited us after Tala's birth, he said that with a son and then a daughter, we had the million-dollar family. This time, after chatting with kids a little, he recalled that his mother would say, "Those kids got all their buttons!" His wife, Betsy, is a really special person. She is a pottery artist, and she has a certain cheerfulness about her that is so genuinely contagious. It is uncanny, really.
Our other Eid guests, Yunzhi and his wife Liz, are both from China. They moved to the US for graduate school. Yunzhi is about my age, and in addition to many professional collaborations, we often discuss cultural topics without any inhibitions. We often compare notes on growing up in places that were subjected to "cultural revolutions," one a mere theoretical fart, and the other with measurable consequences. He was impressed that I knew, in China they call Muslims "Hui," and I told him it is thought to be derived from the Arabic "Khouy" meaning "My Brother." So now he is always telling me "Hui" stories, like how much he loved to eat lamb at Hui restaurants. Yesterday, he was so impressed by my and Moody's Libyan dress that he decided he had to get hold of some Chinese traditional clothes for himself. I learned more about Chinese culture from Yunzhi than any other source, and what's more, there is no coloration to blur "theory" and "experiment" in our conversations. Liz's father is a calligrapher, and when Moody was born, he gave him the name Ahmed written in Chinese characters, with a dragon to commemorate Moody's birth year. He also brought sheets showing the historical evolution of the word dragon in the Chinese characters. Interestingly, Yunzhi and Liz, in keeping with Chinese tradition, gave money to the newborn, which is the same thing as the Libyan tradition of giving Niheela to the newborn. Of course it came in a special ornate envelope that seemed designed just for such an occasion--we don't have that part in Niheela!
Little Safia turns 2 today! It should be us giving her a gift, instead, I'm posting this slide show that she sent us!
On December 20, I sent a box to Libya, via DHL, with lots of Tala's clothes for Safoo and toys and gifts for the little ones and the big ones in the family. The box made it, in whole, to Bnghazi with all its contents in one week. Actually, it arrived one day before Mom's and Rua's birthday and three days before Eid. The timing and the contents brought out a nice pleasant reaction from everyone--there and here--and I decided to make it an annual tradition.
The next day, after Ayman received the package, he sent me this slide show as a thank you from Safoo. I cried watching it. I immediately called Sol to tell him and couldn't contain myself or stop crying. I watched it tons of times, and every time I did, I cried! Thank you Safoo; thank you Ayman and Amal. We love you!