You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘child exploitation’ category.
The Sunday before graduation was Elliot’s party. Here is a copy of the invitation with our address whited out, since I’m the one writing this blog not Abel. (Sigh. I don’t mind having these conversations about internet safety with my children; what I mind is how often I have them)
I invited everyone I could think of, and managed to forget several important people I’ve thought of since. My problem is that the people I know and love are scattered, not all gathered about around one location (for example, a home town or a home church), but here and there from our nomadic existence.
I spent the weeks ahead of time stressing. I imagined people judging me for my back yard (with some excuse, I will admit) or for the fact that you can sort of tell at a glance that although I can clean my house, I own far too many books to be a really good housekeeper.
The nice thing about moving every 2 years or so is that you never have to reorganize closets or move the fridge on a regular basis. We’ve been in this house nearly 3 years, and our housekeeping habits are starting to show. In short, we did need to move the fridge. It was disgusting back there. I mean, really nasty. (I suspect I need to clean out my cupboards too. Darn it.) I scrubbed it clean, and I also scrubbed floors and counter-tops and made dozens of Welsh cakes which didn’t turn out well at all, due to my using baking soda instead of baking powder, like an idiot.
We were finally ready. The house looked fantastic, the yard looked almost as good as the day we moved in, and we were ready. I woke up Sunday morning and showered, and was making the bed when suddenly my lower back seized up with excruciating pain. I hobbled downstairs and sat down, only to find I couldn’t stand up again.
This was a problem. I still had things to do. Two of my Iraqi friends had gone far beyond ordinary friendship and spent their Saturdays cooking up a storm–I had 80 chicken schwarmas (I cut them into 3 pieces each), and mounds of homemade falafel and dolma, not to mention about a gallon of homemade humus. I needed to cut up Arabic bread to go with the humus and heat things and stuff like that. But I could barely move. I swallowed ridiculous amounts of ibuprofen and texted my friend to pray for me, forgetting that her husband is a doctor. He came to the party and talked to me and prescribed muscle relaxants. I found that as long as I didn’t sit down, I could function. But I dropped something on the ground, and it took me 5 minutes to pick it up. Not exaggerating! (well maybe a little. But not much)
The party was a huge success none-the-less, thanks mostly to other people. Ilsa did the fruit platters and Donn and Elliot took care of putting ice in the cooler, putting pop cans in the ice, carrying the large water thing with ice and lime and mint, and all those sort of things. Friends carried large platters to the table and took care of refilling things.
The party was supposed to go 3-5, but it was 10:30 before everyone had gone. By that point, I’d taken scary amounts of ibuprofen and was still pretty miserable. I took a muscle relaxant and went to sleep. In the morning, it took me about 5 minutes (not an exaggeration) to get out of bed. I’ve never had anything like this before. Of course Donn’s parents were arriving about noon.
I had about 3 days of excruciating pain, and then we settled into a routine of 4 ibuprofen every 4 hours, which isn’t so good for the liver but made life possible. All Donn’s family were here, which meant cooking for 11 people. It really wasn’t an ideal time but we managed. I wondered a lot about the all-extended-family camping trip planned for that Friday though. How on earth was I going to handle camping?
Oh you want to hear about camping? All right. Next post.
First there was this:
And suddenly, this!
It happens like this, life. Children grow, parents die, and I am for now in the middle. Elliot graduated last week, and it was a joyous occasion, in spite of the school principal going on and on and ON about how first of all it’s Cheerios and bedtime stories and then they’re teens and now it’s time to learn to let go, like he was trying to make us get sentimental and teary. I was ready to get up and slap the man, except that he was too far away. Because there were approximately a million people there, lots of proud parents and grandparents and bored siblings and extra people who like sitting through speeches about believing in yourself and going far in life and eating Cheerios blah blah blah. Seriously, graduation was very nice but there were about 500 graduating students and those bleachers were not comfortable. We were all supposed to give just one clap for each student, and overall we did, and you could tell where each student’s family was sitting.
Afterwards it took us ages to find him. There were a lot of people there! Eventually we did, and gathered the happy grad, his friends, Donn and I, and all of Donn’s family, who’d come out for the occasion. The only people missing were the twins, who had gone to find Elliot and had instead found lots of their other friends. I had a really hard time finding them again. Short and social is a bad combination in crowds.
I have been waiting ages to post this, for Donn to remember to email me the first 2 pics, which were on his computer not mine. I need him to email me one more thing, so I’m going to post this and write about the grad party in another post. Keeping it short and sweet, that’s me (for a change…).
“I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself the king of boundless space, were it not that I have bad dreams.”
Well that was Hamlet. I am not currently having bad dreams—in fact I’ve been sleeping great, when I can manage to find the time. Here are some snapshots of my life, spread out over several days because you don’t have time either. We’ll begin with…
I had the bright idea to take two families trick-or-treating for their first American Halloween. That is, to take the children of the two families. This involved finding costumes for everyone (and I have two very generous friends to thank for this—they got everyone set up), getting the costumes to everyone, getting everyone to my house, and other logistical nightmares.
Hasan, 8, is whining that he doesn’t want to go. He refuses to get dressed up. I make him come to my house (he can’t stay home by himself and his little sister is resplendent as Belle and his brother is ready to get candy) but tell him he can pass out candy to the other kids. Sure enough, after about 20 minutes of that, he is ready to go himself. He happens to be wearing camo pants and tshirt, so I figure that’s good enough—he’s a soldier, right? I think sometimes everything is just too new, too nonstop for these kids.
My neighbourhood is great for Halloween. I think they bus kids in for trick-or-treating, because although there are normally a lot of kids here, this was excessive. We bought massive amounts of candy (at 5 p.m. on Halloween because we are nothing if not hyper-organized) and still ran out. People go all out for decorations, enlisting family and friends to hide in the bushes and laugh creepily at small children, or dress as witches who cackle as they pass out candy. They drape cobwebs over bushes and hang cages of skeletons and ghosts from trees. There are fog machines, cauldrons filled with dry ice, elaborate costumes. My Iraqi friends love it. I take picture after picture of them posing with witches and mummies, adults admiring and children uncertain. (the pictures do not come out. I hate my camera) I mention to some people that these are my friends from Iraq, that this is their first American Halloween. Some people just smile and nod but a lot of people come through. “Welcome!” they smile. They give us extra candy. They pose happily with my friends.
It’s a bittersweet occasion. Aicha’s two children are the cutest Spiderman and Cinderella ever, but it’s her last night in Portland. She and family spend the night in our family room and we take them to the airport in the morning, where things are nightmarish. Maybe that’s where the bad dreams came in? (see intro quote) Although we have called twice and talked to two separate people to ascertain their luggage allowance, when we actually arrive everything has changed and no one can do anything about it. Two people on two different occasions said they could have 8 cases for 4 people, but the man at the counter, who can’t be bothered to even pretend he cares, informs us that it’s 4 cases only and $70 per case after that, and that we should have known that US Airways was going to use United and we should have called United, although that is nowhere on their tickets. But it’s obviously not United’s responsibility, right? He does his best to make us feel like idiots. I can only assume he is crashing from too much sugar the night before. We have a fun few minutes frantically emptying cases and manage, by presenting 2 smaller cases as extra carry-ons and getting rid of some things they had planned to take with them, to avoid paying the airlines any extra money. The man eventually takes pity on us and comes to offer advice. It’s fine that each airline has their own standard, but if you are going to have the kind of relationship between companies where you switch tickets people have bought, you ought to honour the guidelines of the original airline. Don’t you think? Or am I just hopelessly old-fashioned?
Aicha and I cry. The children are oblivious. We wave them off, and later they call us to let us know they’ve arrived safely, which makes me feel even more like family.
We return home and I’m hopelessly late to ESL class but it’s okay, as all the women knew Aicha. I explain everything, several times. Maude, who has one of the higher levels in the class, takes it upon herself to explain to the others my story. It’s a long day and I return home in a haze of tiredness at about 7 p.m. (after lunch with one woman and homework tutoring with another) to make supper. We have an extra child for the week, one whose own mother usually feeds him at a normal American time, but he does well with our chaotic household, eating dinner at 9 p.m. with a good attitude. (Probably subdued through hunger, but he hid it well!)
No pictures, please!
Ilsa and her haul
a little unsure of the scary men…
Don’t hate me because I live in Oregon, where we’ve been having a cool rainy summer and griping about it. I know many of you can’t say the same. But we did plan a hike with our guests, only to have it rained out. What to do? Donn covered himself with glory by setting up his lights and backgrounds, handing the three 14-year-olds his camera, and letting them do a photo shoot.
They had a total blast. Ilsa in particular, who practices her pout for hours on end and views dramatic make-up as “painting” and “creative,” was in her element.
The outfits were most dramatic.
The actual pictures came out much better. These were taken with my little point-and-shoot. Plus Donn taught Ilsa the basics of photoshop, and she had a blast adding in layers and layers of special effects.
A thoroughly good time was had by all, especially me as the observer. They were very, very funny. If I get around to it, I will post some of the real pictures. Ilsa has had to add “fashion photographer and designer” to her list of career plans, along with artist and writer and, maybe, rocker chick and dancer. She’s come a long way since she was 4 and her career plan was “princess surfer.”
When Elliot was 12 months old, I found out that not only was I pregnant again, but that there were two little heartbeats, as the technician put it, pointing to the two flashing little stars on the screen. Once I had calmed down from my initial hysterical laughter (ultrasound tech: You’re taking this very well. A lot of women cry when they find out it’s twins. Me: Um, this is hysterics. I have a one-year-old and you’re telling me I’ve having two more?), I worried about how this would affect my precious child. We were so close. Would adding two needy tiny infants to the mix ruin his life?
As it turns out, it probably saved him from being spoiled through too much attention. And he still managed to get plenty of notice. But that’s not the point of my post.
We decided that whenever possible, Donn would take Elliot with him when he ran errands, so that Elliot could have a “special time” with Daddy. And as the twins got older, they started getting their own one-on-one times with me or Donn. We figured this was a good way to ensure that each of our 3, so close in age, got some personalized attention. We do not call these “dates” because that is a creepy term to describe taking your own child somewhere. And I have really fond memories of the various times we’ve managed to get them in throughout the years—it will come as no surprise to learn that we are not hyper-organized in this, as in anything. We do them sporadically, once or twice a year, rather than the once or twice a month originally visualized.
This too-long introduction is simply to highlight some of the pics Ilsa took on a recent outing with her dad. She took my camera.
and came home.
It’s that time of year again. On Saturday morning, I found a note on the stairs. “Working on lego crèche. DO NOT DISTURB” it said. This is the 3rd year that Abel has graced our house with his own version of a nativity scene, made out of legos.
Our lego crèches always include Roman patrols, which I feel is at least as realistic as one camel, one donkey and one sheep looking at a manger without having to be held back from the straw. An overcrowded Bethlehem packed with census takers would certainly have had some soldiers passing through, armed to the teeth and looking for trouble makers.
This year, Mary is reprising her outfit from last year, with just a few new touches. Makes sense in these economically troubled times. Joseph, as a typical male, has not changed.
Baby Jesus continues to be legless, but this year, he’s smiling and content and possibly even cooing. A far cry (HA!) from last year’s scowl.
(Aside: look at how dust-begrimed the green base is. You can tell it spent time in Mauritania. That’s what happens to all your things in that desert nation. I wonder if I could run it through the dishwasher? I wonder if I will bother?)
Bethleham’s main inn has really expanded this year, adding an extra story and an extra two rooms out back, complete with staircase.
The inn really is full though, as you can see…
Out front, the innkeeper is keeping the grounds as free from dust as possible…
The inn also has a new sign. Given that much of its clientale isn’t literate, it’s just a picture.
It’s a lovely creche. This year we have 3 nativities–an origami one, made by a friend in Mauritania, a Peanuts one (already much beloved), which was a lovely surprise sent by Tonggu Mom, and this year’s lego version. I think last year’s version, with wise men AND the wicked King Herod, might have been my favorite, but I’ll never forget the original Mary (not to mention Ilsa’s attempt to match with her toffee infant) from 2008–she’ll always have a special place in my heart.
When Elliot was 8, he announced he wanted to be a history teacher and specialize in medieval times. I thought this was weird. When I was 8 I wanted to be a nurse because my mother was a nurse, and in real life I read voraciously and wrote stories about infants with small feet born in a country where everyone had big feet and other wildly original tales that are mercilessly lost to time. I didn’t have the same kind of drive and far-sightedness. Elliot has always been very different from his mother.
I also didn’t think it would last but so far, it’s holding. He’s 14 now and a total history buff, and is planning, as when he was 8, to become a history prof. He has broadened out his interests to include military history in general (thanks to his aunt sending him some very cool books) and WWII in particular. He’s fun to travel with, as he can most likely tell you something about where you’re visiting.
So when Marcus Brotherton, an old college friend of mine, wrote a book about the original “Band of Brothers*” and mentioned that Penguin Publishing would probably send me a free review copy, I agreed with alacrity. I knew Elliot would love it.
This is Marc’s second book on the topic. He wrote “We Who Are Alive and Remain,” a look at the personal stories behind those presented in the mini-series. “A Company of Heroes” contains interviews with family members, and presents an in-depth look at war in all its horror and glory. The result also shows the aftermath of war; the toll it takes on soldiers who return to their families irrevocably changed. Given our current history as a nation, it’s a very timely book and interesting on many levels.
Penguin sent it promptly, and Elliot read it promptly, enjoyed it very much, and is now passing it around his friends. He even wrote a review. Here it is:
“This is a great book that tells the stories of some of the surviving (and not surviving) members of the “Band of Bothers”. This story is really touching as it tell about the back grounds and life after the war of these different soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice to defend and protect America and her ways. The story is composed of four parts each taking a different section of the army and telling the story of some of the men who served in that specific part of the army. Part I: Enlisted Men, Part II: NCOs, Part III: Officers, Part IV: Easy Company’s fallen.
The book contains twenty-six chapters and an epilogue. Each chapter is the story of a different soldier. Every story is recounted by a family member (sometimes more then one) which I think is a great way to do some research. These men are true heroes from my perspective: they sacrificed every thing they knew to fight for the freedom of America. We sometimes take our freedom for granted and it’s really great to be reminded of these men who gave it to us.
One really good story is chapter 21 Part IV (1st sgt Bill Evans), I just really like this one part because it’s a really good example of the sacrifice these men made: “I never met my great-uncle, as he was gone long before I was born […] My grand-mother said he volunteered for the service so his brothers, who had children, might not have to go to war.” This is a great example of sacrifice on Sgt Bill Evans part.
This is a must-read for anyone who has a family member who took part in WWII or who is interested by the subject of WWII.”
*you remember that mini-series that I refused to watch because I’ve seen enough WWII movies now, thankyouverymuch, and me watching another harrowing Holocaust movie or a mini-series of personable young men getting blown to bits isn’t actually going to help anyone. I already hate war—I don’t need to be reminded why.
On Saturday, Feb 20th, I dropped Abel off at his friend Mathis’ house (pron like French painter—Matisse). It was the start of their two-week Winter Break, and Mathis’ family had invited Abel to go on a trip to the desert with them. They were going to ride camels, camp with nomads, and have an opportunity to buy souvenirs. Here is his account of the trip:
Sunday: we went traveling through the mountains. There was snow! We stopped by the side of the road and played in it, even though I didn’t have snow gear. No one really had snow gear. I was wearing long sleeves though, so I didn’t even put my jacket on.
We had a snowball fight! It was fun, like all snowball fights.
We continued on and we reached the hotel where we stayed that first night. I forget what it was like. We ate supper and then left next morning after breakfast.
Monday: we traveled some more, through more mountains, except this time there was no snow. We went to the studios at Ouerzazate…well, one of them.
We saw a Roman boat being made for the second movie of Ben Hur, and we went on the boat and pretended to row. Then we went on deck and I pretended we were getting boarded.
We saw the ark from Indiana Jones, I think.
At one point, at the very end right before we got on the boat, we saw a mummy (a fake person wrapped up in a coffin) and we also saw how they how made dead people. It was weird.
We also saw Egyptian stuff, and we could see the castle from Cleopatra (the Asterix and Obelix movie) but we couldn’t get to it because there was so much mud, from all the rain we’ve been having here in Morocco.
Then we traveled through more mountains. Mountains, mountains, mountains. We got to this one place where we spent the night. There were a ton of little kittens that were really cute but they were scared of us.
Tuesday: in the morning we got to this one place, left our cars and unloaded our stuff and put them in 4x4s, and drove off through the desert. At lunchtime after we had a tagine (with a ton of vegetables which I was fine with), Mathis’ sister’s friend brought binoculars and she let me use them to see when the camels would come. They came, we got on them, and traveled through the desert.
My butt hurt after a while. After a time, your butt just starts to HURT. Sometimes it kind of goes up and down and moves a lot, shakes, kind of…it depends a bit on your camel.
We traveled through dunes, then rocks, then we got to some giant sand dunes where we camped out for the night. Tents were already set up there. They brought two sleds, and we went down the dunes on them. I stood up on them, like I was surfing the dunes!
At dinner, there were other people there and I met some Americans. (Finally, someone to speak English with! I didn’t talk to them much though) One was Italian or Irish or something but still spoke English, and there were 2 men, one from the place where the Pittsburgh Pirates are from…Pennsylvania I guess. We had tagine for dinner. After dinner, the nomads did some nomad music for us.
Wednesday: In the morning we got back on the camels. At first, my butt didn’t hurt, but it only took about 15 minutes for it to start hurting again! We went over more rocky dunes, and I got off the camel for a little bit to walk with the parents. Mathis got off also, because really we couldn’t stand it—our butts were hurting!
The saddle was this round thing they put around the hump and they put blankets on the hump. At the front of the saddle it had a metal bar so you could hold on. You had to hold on cuz it was bumpy. It was fun when they stood up and got down. It was like WHOA!
So then we stopped at this well to get some water for the camels. Then we went off again and stopped at the main dune in the night. It was this giant dune, and I had to drag the snowboard all the way up it! Believe me, dragging it up that far plus that high is not fun. It is tiring! I wanted to run back down to the camp, get some water, and go back up. But I didn’t.
At the top, I was so tired I let Mathis’ sister’s friend use the snowboard. They all go down sitting. I pretended to swim after her, but you get going fast cuz it’s soo steep! I stopped about 3/4s down and climbed back up again. By the time we were all back up again, no one wanted to play anymore because we were too tired, so I rode the snowboard back down again. It was really steep; it was a GIANT dune.
The parents had already left with the camels, so we caught up with them quick cuz we were in a 4×4. We passed them! We made it back to camp, and there were some souvenirs to buy and I bought stuff for everyone in my family, plus a knife for me.
We got back in our normal cars and were off.
Friday: Two days later, in the night, we got back to Rabat!
I know it’s corny to end this way, but this is…
So I’ve started jogging. I did this during the kids’ Fall Break (Vacances de Toussaint, or alternatively Vacances de novembre), in which I cruelly and forcibly MADE THEM go with me to the aptly-named Hilton Forest. The hotel next to it is no longer the Hilton, and it’s not EXACTLY a forest, but it is lovely and the sort of place that should be named Hilton Forest—a large park with a center lake and a café serving very good orange juice (freshly-squeezed of course…no other kind exists in Morocco!), a stand of planted pines (no turkeys though) and a running path that goes through grove after grove of eucalyptus trees (I’m addicted to parenthetical comments so thought I’d add one more).
The children whined horribly. Anyone would think that being dragged kicking and screaming from in front of the television into the fresh air at 11 a.m. on a delightfully crisp sunny fall morning constituted that much-maligned cruel and unusual punishment. At one point I had to threaten to smash Ilsa’s head into a handy eucalyptus trunk if she didn’t stop whining!
That last bit is sort of true.
I had planned to simply walk and talk and connect with my oh-so-delightful-and-happy children, but I decided to see how far I could run. This thrilled them, as you can imagine. And, surprise, I could go father than I’d thought. (It was still pitiful, and you don’t need to know how far it was). It was clear that I needed to start jogging regularly, here amongst the large trees and filtered sunlight just meters away from heavy traffic and honking horns.
Three times a week now, I go and run amongst the eucalyptus, breathing deep their spicy scent. It’s a great place to run. The entire track is 3.5 kilometers, and there are little markers along most of the way, showing how far you’ve come. Or, you can head into the middle of the park, where there are benches, soccer pitches, a prettily-landscaped lake (and café, as I’ve mentioned). I am rather proud of myself for managing to add some regular exercise into my life, and keep it up for several weeks now!
The Hilton Park is a popular place. There are always scads of women, usually in groups, wearing headscarves and velour track suits. Western women in sports bras, tank tops and leggings weave their way in and out, iPods blaring. There are kids on bikes, and toddlers picking up pine cones and eucalyptus bark peels. There is a small army of men working, constantly raking the paths, collecting the debris, watering the plants, resting on their rakes as I pound heavily past, gasping for breath. (Hey, I just started! I’m working on skipping lightly and gracefully) Young men sprint the entire track, beaming with pride at themselves. Families stroll. It’s the place to be for a lot of the population of Rabat.
On Saturday afternoon, the kids deigned to meet some friends there. They don’t mind going as long as they are not forced to walk/run the perimeter, which is unbelievably boring and Must! Be! Whined! About! They were willing to go play football however, which doesn’t count as “exercise.”
My friend Shannon and I went for a walk, through the planted pines (he’s right—they’re not straight! i.e. Vernon, Florida), around the “lake” (really more of a large pond), and had an orange juice in the café under the trees. And, since I wasn’t jogging, I brought my camera and took some pics of the kids and made that an excuse to write a post…
She loves to climb trees
Our kids do a lot of things at earlier ages than we did. Computer games, for example. Elliot started Reader Rabbit Toddler at 2 ½. I was already 30, and not nearly as enthralled at being able to move the mouse to pop onscreen bubbles.
Still, I didn’t expect Ilsa to have her first art exhibition before she was even 12. I mean, I knew she was talented when she already drew “mommy and daddy” with curls (me) and bald head (Donn) before she was even 3, but I also realize that I tend to exaggerate my children’s accomplishments. (Seriously, though, they are brilliant. And adorable. And really really sweet. Except when they aren’t.) Donn was 20ish before he had an art exhibition, and I haven’t had one yet and the chances aren’t looking good for me at all, frankly.
When we stayed with our friends in their basement back in November, my friend Kate was making cards to sell to raise money for the Children’s Hospital. She is a talented artist, who took children’s simple drawings and transformed them into enchanting designs that she silkscreened onto paper. The cards were great. I bought some that eventually my sister-in-law (not you Kris; I got you something else) and mother-in-law will get. Someday. (And I just went back to get that URL to that post and realized that many of you wanted to see those cards and I never posted them. Well, you can be thankful that I never did send them to people for Christmas! Once again, procrastination proves to be the better choice!!)
Kate decided to do a children’s art class, and invited Ilsa to be one of her first students. As a finish, she organized an art exhibition for the 3 of them at the Korean Embassy the end of February.
It was a cold, rainy Saturday morning as Ilsa and I headed downtown to the flower market to buy a bouquet for the girls to present to the teacher. Ilsa had already attended a special class, held by Kate, on how to behave in case the Korean Ambassador made an appearance. We rushed home with a gorgeous arrangement of lilies and roses and I once again forced Ilsa to wear that horrible black skirt that makes her look like a 30 year old hag.
A small ceremony was held at about 11 a.m. There were many languages in which speeches were not made–Tagalong, for example, or Lingala. Donn wanted to make one in pig-latin, as one of the few under-represented languages: “I amay osay oudpray ofay ymay oughterday…” but he was restrained by his camera. On the other hand, there were speeches in a lot of languages–Spanish, French and Arabic, for example, plus several in Korean, not to mention several in English. At the end, the girls presented Kate with a floral arrangement, which was followed by a succession of arrangements from various Korean friends culminating in a truly enormous one from the Korean Embassy itself. It was rather like the old “I Love Lucy” where Fred keeps walking behind Ethel carrying larger and larger plants, until finally our poor little arrangement was completely eclipsed and looked rather cheap and unimpressive.
Kate didn’t mind. And the girls didn’t mind either. They were all enjoying the attention, making faces for proud parents with cameras, cracking themselves up.
Here is Ilsa in front of the panel featuring her artwork. I’m sorry I don’t have close-ups of her artwork, so you can’t really appreciate it, but trust me–the kid is talented and driven, two things that make it fairly likely she could actually earn money at this. Isn‘t that the point? No? And yes, I’m sure I’ll show you a pic of Kate’s cards soon!