Monday: Day One of class. I have invited 8 women and only one shows up.

Tuesday: I sit in Nadia’s apartment and stare at the table. On it are two huge platters of home made pizza, hummous, tabouli, yogurt, schwarmas, kefta meat with grilled vegetables, rice, and a huge bowl of stew made with lamb and okra. Leslie and I plow our way through it. Afterwards we have Arabic coffee, then enormous mugs filled with ice-cream and topped with chocolate syrup, coconut, and nuts. Leslie and I roll away. I stop by Suzi’s and she tries to feed me cake, which I refuse to even touch. She sends me home with a big plateful. Monday was Elliot’s birthday, but we end up doing the food celebration on Tuesday, so I go home and make him a big birthday dinner which I don’t eat.

Wednesday: Day Two of class. 3 women! 8 kids! It feels busy and happy. Leslie takes her first turn at teaching and does well. This is my first time ever being on the other side—the one watching, giving guidance. I don’t do so well. I talk a little too much, give advice during instead of after. I’m learning too.

Jordan and Haley arrive. They are part of a family we knew in Mauritania, who now live in Tennessee, and we have not seen them in 4 years. In the intervening time, they have developed some thick Southern accents. Jordan is Elliot’s good friend and Haley is Ilsa’s. So we are rocking 5 teens in the house, and I must admit that they drink a lot of milk between them. (Why milk? I don’t know. I don’t like it myself, and when I was a teen I certainly didn’t down it by the gallon. But they do, all of them.) We take them out for pizza. It’s fun. The level of giggling and punching going on is nothing short of amazing.

Thursday: Donn and I are busy all day, but we manage to drop the teens off at Oaks Park, Portland’s very own, very small amusement park. It works. They are amused.

In the evening, Ilsa and Haley dye their hair with Kool-Aid. The kitchen and bathroom end up with smears of red paste everywhere, and the house reeks of cherry. I wrap their heads in plastic wrap and they top it off with towel turbans. They are planning to sleep like that. I worry a bit about my carpet, since they’re sleeping downstairs.In the morning, sure enough their hair is red, but not as startling as I was anticipating. I tell them, “Try lime green next!” cuz I am a cool mom like that.

Friday: All plans are off! I get called in to sub and Donn has previous commitments, but the kids seem to survive just fine. A friend, someone who also works with Iraqis, stops by and stays for dinner, and we get talking till midnight. The kids are in the other room, giggling (girls) and punching (boys) and, apparently, absorbing milk through their pores or something. Around 10 or 11, they start a Lord of the Rings marathon in memory of when they did that for Elliot’s 10th birthday. They watch all 3 extended versions, so this takes about 12 hours. Donn and I go to bed about 1 to the distant sound of swords and spears and haunting music. At 7 the power goes out, and Elliot comes to tell us about it. “I suppose it’s touching that he has such belief in you,” I groan to Donn. We don’t go back to sleep. The power comes back on, all by itself, about half an hour later, and the booming noise of battles once again echoes through our uneasy dozing.

Saturday: The kids go to the Avalon theater for an extravaganza of movie-watching and arcade-game-playing. They love it and ask for more time when we go to pick them up. (They can’t hear or feel their cell phones ringing in that dimly-lit place of flashing bulbs and bleeping noises!) We agree reluctantly—while we were out enjoying a coffee, we got a phone call and an Iraqi family is coming for dinner. This actually makes me really happy, because I feel honoured that they would treat me like this, like one of their own. It is a bit stressful though. I am ridiculously proud of myself when I manage to pull off my best Arab-style hospitality yet! Lamb korma, chicken drumsticks, rice, bread, yogurt, salad, hummous, pizza, olives, pickles… the table is practically groaning! Best of all, the husband has a 2nd cup of my tea for the first time EVER! I feel very proud. They leave around midnight.

How was your week?