Monday, July 18, 2016

The Wedding Banquet

I had never had a Muslim friend before.  I knew little about the religion or the cultures that are predominantly Muslim.  But we lived in a neighborhood that has one of the largest Muslim populations in the US, so it was no surprise my oldest ended up going to school with children from Muslim families.  Actually the school had mostly students of Chinese decent and since I don’t speak Chinese, by default I ended up speaking to the only other mom on a class field trip that I attended who spoke English and she happened to be Muslim.  She dressed in a hijab and told me her family was from Yemen, but she grew up here and lived here her whole life.  Shortly after that I met her friend, a Moroccan whose husband was from Yemen.  Little by little we began spending time together with our kids outside of school and they were gracious enough to introduce me to their culture, their food, their customs, but also they were very much American which my white American self related to very much.

One day they invited me to the wedding celebration of a family member.  I had never been to a Yemeni wedding before (duh), but I was apprehensive.  I felt safe with my friends, but with hundreds of people I didn’t know and didn’t know me, I wasn’t sure.  Still I was honored and more than a little bit curious, so I went. 

When I walked in the banquet hall I was completely overwhelmed.  There must have been 300-400 women all covered in black.  I actually forget the name of the kind of dress, but there is a name for it.  They had their heads covered.  In Yemeni culture, men and women celebrate a wedding separately.  As for me, I stuck out like a sore thumb: blond haired, blue eyed, wearing a purple dress.  Everyone stared at me.  I mean can you blame them?  How many white chicks show up to a Yemeni wedding celebration?  No sooner had I begun to panic, that my friends found me, seated me, and made sure I had some food to eat.  I started to feel better.

Shortly thereafter the bride and groom arrived and began a procession in to have their first dance.  When they did all the women in the room pulled their veils over their faces (because there was a male in the room).  After they danced, the groom left to celebrate with the other males, and the bride remained to continue the part  Once the groom was out of sight, the women (literally all 300 of them) dropped off their black robes, to unveil the most beautiful, colorful gowns.  Their hair had been done to the nines.  They were so beautiful.  And then they danced.  And danced and danced.  They danced with so much joy.  And then they invited me to dance with them.  So I did.  It was one of the most joyful experiences of my life.  I don’t know why it surprised me that they just seemed so…?  Well they seemed just so much like me. 

There are a lot of misconceptions about people that are Muslim in this country.  I’m not looking to discuss the nuances of their holy book.  That’s not what I’m sharing here.  I’m sharing about what I saw, what I loved, what I experienced behind the veil of some incredible women that I call my friends.  Friends who hurt every single time there are people who kill other people in the name of their religion.  Friends who have been harassed, bullied, and spat on simply because they wear a hijab.  Believe me, if they didn’t wear one, you would never even know their background.  My one friend’s husband is currently in the process of becoming a police officer and his command of Arabic will be extremely beneficial to the department.  My other friend dreams of becoming a police officer one day herself.  In every group of people there are people that very poorly represent the whole.  I think it’s important not to forget everyone else. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

For Laughs Volume 3

I can't believe it's been 2 years since I did this.  Here are the majority of the silly things my kids have said that I have posted to Facebook in the last two years.  Enjoy!


This evening we were so engaged in a heated conversation with J that we failed to notice M was eating his entire dinner with a magnifying glass he received as a party favor! Silly boy!


“In honor of President Obama's suggestion that we should allow children to vote, I ask M who should be the next president. Confused at first as to what a president was he asked, "I have to choose one of my presents?" Upon clarifying that he must choose who will be in charge of our country he selected ME to be president. Unfortunately he keeps me too busy to consider the position!”


“Among other things, this evening J prayed that none of us would get cavities and that he would be good at bowling. : )”


“Proof of the power of advertising---
M: J. I got one dollar. What can I get with it?
J: The only thing you can get with a dollar is a McDonalds spicy chicken sandwich. That's it.”


“M. is on a little bit of a roll today. He's was really excited for Valentine's Day yesterday so this morning when he saw me he shouted "Good morning mommy! Is it tomorrow today?!" Right now he's scribbling pictures for his friends and I suggested he draw an actual picture. His response, "This is a picture! It's me going around and around on a race track!"


“My Dad asked J and M today where their Dad was born. They couldn't remember so he answered, "He was born in Trinidad." He then asked them where I was born and M matter of factly replied, "She was born in Trinimom"


“M describing the taste of Penicillin to J: Its nasty! It tastes like a chocolate alligator with flashlights in its mouth”

“M just shouted to me from the bathroom: Mom I have cavities! I replied: Well I hope you're about to brush your teeth! He then shouted back: No, no, not cavities, I meant diarrhea! I'm not really sure how those two things got mixed up?”


“The boys went to swim lessons today. J missed yesterday so the instructor asked him where he was (M was there). M loudly announced: "He was on the toilet! He set a world record for the longest time ever on the toilet because he was sitting on it when we left and still when we came back!" Amazingly J was proud of this feat and just smiled and nodded his head while I was shaking mine.”


“The boys were reading a school library book at breakfast about cows and J says "What's this part where the milk is made?" and M says, "That's the gutters". LOL!”


“T's prayer tonight: I'll title it, "A little bit of randomness"- "Jesus, thank you for this day, and I peed my bed...for 7 7 I gotta wear a diaper...Amen!"


“Epic length prayer this evening from M that included praying for every kind of teacher there was and will ever be (Art, gym, music, Math, and at least 10 more), keeping our home safe from Carvon bionoxide, for those that make and create flags, for help to stop stealing candy, and that he wouldn't get sick or pass along germs to anyone...There was more that I am forgetting now.”


“Today we dedicated Ian at church. While we stood up at the front our pastor addressed us. When he got to the part about how we raise our children and said, "If you speak harshly to them they will grow up only knowing harsh words." Behind me a little well-known voice pipes up, "Uh hmmm! Yup!" That kid is something else!”


“Endless material from Ms' 15 minute long prayer tonight: "...And God please protect me from emergencies, like fires, tornados, carbon monoxide, strangers, epi pen emergencies, and all emergencies. Please also help the people who forgot to put the blood on the door maybe remember to do that next time so you can pass over them too. Please help me not to pee the bed....Amen" There was at least 5 minutes of other prayer on either side of this snippet related to his future careers and helping Ian to be a good baby son. I have to hold my breath while he prays so I don't explode into laughter. : )”


“After the fire department visited Ms' school he prayed without ceasing for our home to be protected from Carbon Monoxide. He also took a clip board and tallied up the smoke detectors in our home (rightly determining that we didn't have enough). After a month of prayers and daily requests for us to properly outfit our home, Ricardo purchased and installed 8 dual smoke/Carbon Monoxide detectors. Miles was pleased, but his prayers have now shifted to asking that no one would come into our house and steal them off the walls. He's really fixed on this Carbon Monoxide thing.”


“J is laying it on: No one likes me! My life is an invisibility! (This is in reference to Miles, Tessa, and our neighbor not wanting to be hit by snowballs)”

Monday, November 24, 2014

Another one year old!

Exactly one year ago today our baby I. showed up two weeks ahead of schedule.  I celebrate so much about his arrival and this past year beyond the fact that he was and is a sweet, incredible, lovely baby.  The fact is, this little boy completely changed me as a mother and as a person in general.  My only regret is that it took me this long to see the light.

I had announced after the birth of T. that I thankfully would never be going through labor and delivery again.  I didn’t want to be pregnant with him.  I spent the first half of my pregnancy languishing the fact that I was pregnant, that I was that much further away from saying good-bye to the baby stage of our life.   I probably should say I’m ashamed of this fact, but I’ve purposed to live my life openly and unashamed, even the ugly parts.  God’s grace allows me to do that.   So yes, I lacked total perspective in the first half of my pregnancy.

And then at some point, my heart turned.  I accepted God’s plan and embraced it a little bit.  And then he was born.  And I just looked at him and loved him.  And in the weeks and months that followed, God began to show me how I had tried to rush through time, hurry my kids through their childhood, so it could get to the easier part, the part where I was getting sleep and not feeling stretched so thin.  I had blamed that on so many things.  But the truth is, it was just my attitude.  And this new little person reminded me of that. 

So this past year I slowed down and cherished each of I.’s little milestones.  I stopped waiting for him to sleep through the night, stopped wishing we were at the next step.  And I also did that for my older children.  Even in the crappy moments, I reminded myself that they would only be young for such a short time.  And I remembered every single day that only that moment was promised to me with them.  It was (is) a gift.   

My little I. shattered my plans for the future and he is a little reminder to me that my plans are completely insignificant compared to those that God has for me.  What a gift he is to all of us!  I pray whatever this next year has in store for him, and for all of my children, that I will continue to live in the moment, to love them deeply, to listen to them, to cherish each and every second because most likely I will blink and they will all be a year older.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

"The Shirt Off His Back"

Everyone knows that expression.  It’s used to describe really generous people.  Yesterday we were invited by some new friends to go swimming and hang out.  We’ve actually been overwhelmed by how friendly everyone is here in our new home.

 So we arrive at the pool play date.  The kids have a blast.  The grown ups hang out, and then it’s suggested that we go get ice cream.  Everyone is on board.  We begin to get ready to go.  J. comes up to me with a distressed look on his face.  Seeing as this happens regularly a few times a day, I am not highly alarmed.  He tells me he forgot to bring his shoes.  He’s upset because now he can’t go into the ice cream store with no shoes.  Really what kind of a mom doesn’t even notice that her kid got in the car, arrived at the house, swam etc… all without any shoes on his feet?  I must raise my hand, because apparently that mom was me yesterday.   The host of our get together notices our plight. J’s nearly in tears and I’m basically chastising him for coming without footwear.  She leaves and returns from her car with a pair of flip-flops.  “I found an extra pair in the trunk”, she tells me.  I’m so relieved.  On to the ice cream store we go.

So that was really generous of her and we’ve probably all done that once or twice; given up an extra pair of shorts or t-shirt or diaper to another mom in need.  But my story doesn’t end there, because when we arrive at the ice cream store and walk in both Ricardo and I notice that her son the same age as J. isn’t wearing any shoes!  She had literally given me her son’s only pair of shoes.  I was floored. 

 It was a gesture that only the most generous soul would do.  It’s what Jesus would do.  It really touched me to the core.  I hope I can be more generous like that.  It was an amazing lesson for J.  We noted to him later that his friend was walking around without shoes so that he wouldn’t be upset not to have them.   I think we all need to challenge ourselves to be more like that, to give not just the extra that we have, but to give sacrificially to others.   I know giving J. a pair of flip flops might not be quite on the same level as the poor woman in the bible who gave the last of her small amount of money, but it's the same concept. 

“ All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”  Luke 21:4 NIV

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Our New House!

The story of how we ended up in our new home is long.  It’s really four years long because that’s how long we pondered, prayed, and worked to get here.  We didn’t know where God was leading us for the majority of it.  We didn’t know when or how He would do it.  But in the end, He did. 

Four years ago we found out we were having a third child and knew that at some point in the nearish future we would want to move out of our apartment and give our kids some space and much needed fresh air.  That began a roller coast of emotions for me. I spent a lot of that time wondering when God would move us, how He would do it, where we would go, how we would afford it etc…  Ricardo remained steadfast and certain that God’s timing would be perfect and we must wait for that time before so much as lifting a finger. 

We looked at a lot of communities before and after we visited the town where we are currently settled.  This one just felt right.  Still there were some logistical challenges to living here, mostly centered around how far away it is from work/church.  We waited and prayed some more. 

A year and a half ago we drove by what is now our home and Ricardo immediately fell in love.    Truthfully, it really was beautiful, but to me I just saw something way out of the ballpark for us.  We admired it from the outside and drove back to New York.  Unbeknownst to us the home was almost sold that spring to another family, only to have the deal fall through at the very last minute.  It went back up for sale and a year ago we decided to tour the inside of some other homes and apprehensively I told our realtor we'd like to look at the inside of this home too.  Ricardo again was in love with this house.  I worried that it was too big, would require too much upkeep, and quite frankly was just way too wonderful for us. 

So many things had to fall into place in order for us to even consider this house a possibility, and amazingly they all did.  We had an offer accepted in March and then waited for our apartment sale to close before we would officially be able to purchase this house. 

Everything on the apartment sale went smoothly until the very end.  Our buyers had to get approval from the board as we owned a co-op apartment and at the very last hour we were told they might not be accepted.  Basically the majority of the board was voting “no”.  They were having one final meeting and if one person changed their mind it would go through and if not, we would be without a buyer and stuck in our apartment. 

I knew right then and there that God was with us.  He was going to give us a clear answer on this move.  Either He was going to shut down the whole thing or confirm for us that He was with us in buying our new home.  At 11:30 pm, four hours after the start of the meeting, we got the call that our buyers were approved!  A few days after that we were able to buy this house!

We’ve been here three weeks now.  I have a ton of boxes I’ve given up on unpacking for now.  But it’s been confirmed in my heart with every new person we meet and when I see the joy in the faces of my children, that we made the right decision.  We belong here!  I can’t wait to see what God has in store for us.  Our home is beautiful and it will be shared with everyone we know.  We know He didn’t give it to us only for our personal enjoyment, although personally I can say we are enjoying it very much!

Here's a few pics of our first week in our new digs:

                                 Last moment in our apartment.  So many memories!
The new digs!

Lots of great neighbors!
Love the wildlife!