Saturday afternoon a shiny, new stove arrived at my front door! The other stove was only nine years old but had seen much wear and tear, burners refused to turn off and heated up randomly and recently a buzzing noise from inside started catching the attention of my children. Still, I was so very grateful to have a stove as many people do not.
Stove from Osama and Jacki!
If you have followed my blog and life story then you already know that I cooked on a stove that was purchased from a flea market of sorts in downtown Riyadh. Two of the four burners functioned and both shocked me if I used any metal utensils. We lived with no beds, chairs, tables etc. for a couple of years and with the very bare necessities when we lived outside of compounds. My parents supplied any luxury items for our family (new towels, clothing, shoes, kitchen gadgets, toys) and we fought to hang on to those. We have all learned to be grateful for the smallest of things and realize material items cannot bring happiness, but they can make life very difficult when you do not have even the basics.
I was raised in a beautiful home on six sprawling acres of pine trees and never imagined living without the basics and also the many extras that I had become accustomed to. I was unaware of the insidious cycle of abuse until it swallowed me whole and spit me back out.
But now things are different and my children are allowed to make their own choices and to be who they were meant to be.
My nine children
Meanwhile, I sit in my comfy recliner and sip coffee while visions of jelly roll, sugar cookies and fried rice dance in my head. Thoughts drift to concoctions that will be whipped up on a brand new stove!
Happy Holidays and remember that things can get better, there is always hope!
This is the story of our first year back in America, other installments can be found here:
A sharp buzzing pressed in my ear waking me from a restless sleep. It was time to rouse one of the girls, spoon coffee into a filter and pour a pot of water into the reservoir. Thoughts of school and the day before held a nagging place in my gutt. The sad little figure that lay sprawled in the grass amongst students and helpers remained fixed in my memory. I had overlooked the possibility that this was my youngest child and instead a mask of denial coated my brain leaving it in an unrealistic fog. But after his sister sat beside him taking her place in a stance of not so much concern but possibly comfort, it was clear that things would not be as easy as I had hoped. My focus turned to the thought that there were only two more weeks of the paper route and then a new routine would take shape; no more nights spent wrapping bundles, sorting orders and jumping out to deliver to each and every home. Cooking for the co-op, cleaning once a week at a building and the odd sub job assured me that we could keep afloat and each time mom and dad visited they unloaded boxes of bread, croissants, peanut butter, canned vegetables and chicken, candy, school snacks and staples. Provisions were hauled into the apartment, stacked on the kitchen floor and put into cupboards. I watched as hot coffee dripped into the carafe and pushed away the idea that I was truly at fault but still I couldn’t help but wonder if leaving Saudi was for the best. I heard his words ring through my ears triggering shooting pangs of guilt to my core. “You are torturing me and the children with your stubborn and unhappy ways, you have become one of those women that I hate”
I edged closer to the tiny parking spot that stood above Frat row. It was a cement slab just big enough to accomodate a large vehicle but still unnerved me each time I navigated onto the platform. Plastic bags were grabbed in batches and hauled over the rugged path and into the door of the old brick building. It was grocery day and that meant unloading and preparing a “fast food” meal including plenty of variety for those with dietary restrictions. I stuffed bags inside of each other forming a large ball of sacks that would be used for trash bags at a later time. Several packs of ground beef were placed into a large skillet and stirred, smashing them into smaller bits. The familiar sound of sizzling and the smell of taco meat would soon bring girls into the kitchen. Soos, Heme and Deeja made themselves busy with coloring books and crayons, cards and stickers. They placed themselves at a wooden table just outside the kitchen where residents would soon sit after dishing up their last meal for the day. Sullen faces stared blankly at my workstation and I knew that our discussion regarding school had still left them confused and fearful.
That day we had walked through the rickety wooden gate and into the school yard that lead to a side door. I kissed each one goodbye and delivered them to their respective classrooms, leaving my youngest for last. We had been to see the teacher days before and although she was inexperienced, she was also bubbly, kind and understanding. I was sure that everything would go as planned and so I walked with an air of confidence and pride. We reached a brightly colored door that said Welcome to first grade. Other students sat at standard desks and tables, hanging hoodies and jackets on a coat rack, backpacks were shoved into cubbies and parents waved their goodbyes. The teacher nodded her head as if to tell me that it would be fine and it was time to leave. I gave a quick wave and returned the same way I had entered, leaving the wooden gate and parking lot behind.
From the upstairs window I scanned the school playground hoping to catch a glimpse of at least one of my four children. The recess bell rang and with it a massive exit from the side door of the one story school. Children carried balls and toys and quickly started in with their mid day break from books and lessons. A tiny figure stood alone in the large grass area, a hood tightly wrapped around the shiny hair of what appeared to be a small child. A stark contrast became unsettling as he crouched near the brightly colored playground equipment looking from side to side and finally giving in to tears. Classmates ran, laughing and giving chase, engaging in childish games that only youngsters play. Their smiles and shrieks of glee only heightened as activities progressed into throwing, catching and eventually climbing onto a metal structure. I watched him cover his face, firmly placing it into the school yard grass until a familiar figure with dark brown hair placed herself next to him and gave him the company he longed for.
Many of you already know that I am a mom to nine fantastic children. But maybe you don’t know that I have five sons and four daughters. Recently Foof got married and a month before the ceremony my eldest daughter Saleeha, got engaged! As I have written in many of my true life stories, it was hard to ever imagine this joy and the idea that my girls would be able to pick their own careers, daily habits and most importantly their love interest. But here we are, two of my girls have found amazing partners and now for the second time I am overjoyed to witness them blossom, find love and build a future.
Saleeha met her intended through a friend and they share many similarities including their love for literature and writing. It has been a long road for my girl, building that trust and learning to relax and accept love and a warm and endearing heart but she is there and I couldn’t be happier.
Edison is a soft spoken Phd in Chemistry, a poet and he loves to cook! The ring he picked has a vintage look and is just what Saleeha wanted.
They have not picked a wedding date and both of them are not really into having a big bash so they will find what suits them. I am all about being yourself and doing what works for you, so whatever they chose will make me happy for them.
Edison proposed at their special place, deception pass. I posted pictures last year after they shared a romantic day there.
Recently wedding dress shopping commenced and she found the perfect fit for her! It is gorgeous. I will only show a bit of the dress so that Edison isn’t disappointed!
There is hope after the storm, there is peace and you can make it, whatever your struggle might be it can be part of your life and can make you stronger, not break you. Never would I have imagined that we would be here, back home, together and thriving. Don’t ever give up and stay true to being the best you!
This past weekend was spent traveling to Spokane, celebrating my youngest daughter’s birthday and babysitting. Osama and Jacki took a little trip that had been planned months before and then forgotten. With their busy life I can see where it would easily be brushed aside! Foof decided she would babysit and I agreed to help her for part of the time. My younger children went with their oldest sister out shopping, to dinner for the birthday girl and in the end they stayed in a comfy hotel. Meanwhile we did crafts, made a fort and watched the usual movies.
Later that night Ben arrived to help and I retired to my room where the boys both tucked me in and Aiden showed me his Halloween costume.
The next morning the kids came from the hotel, bringing coffee and some breakfast sweets. We decided to leave soon after so that the kids could get home at nap time. We drove in to see Great Grama and Grampa who had purchased a cake for the birthday girl. Both of my parents and my sister, were excited that the kids made a surprise visit.
Gifts were opened and then cake was served, all of which the kids enjoyed taking part in.
We discovered that Alayna does like carrot cake and insists on feeding herself! She has also become a strong little girl even at this age. Watching her deal with her brothers gives me insight into my own daughters. None of them will let their brothers, from the oldest to the youngest, get away with anything!
I wondered where this sweet little baby would fit in among identical twins, but it is easy to see she truly is the boss!
I hope you had a fun and relaxing weekend as well. Here’s to a great week ahead!
One of my real life super heroes! Tucks me in at night, turns off the lamp and kisses my cheek. Nigh nigh and the door gently shuts. Life doesn’t get any better than this!
I grew up in a family of four, in the valley of a mid sized city. My sister was two and a half years older than me. We had one small dog and one cat. We sat at the family table at 5 p.m and politely asked to be excused before removing our supper dish. We were not a rambunctious group but a quiet, happy little family. We camped in the summer, went clothes shopping at the turn of each new season and we celebrated holidays in a joyful but calm manner. It was a nice, idyllic childhood that prepared me for whatever the future would bring.
We did not argue over card/ game tournaments nor did we prank, carry or wrestle each other through the house.
We never pulled our mom into the kitchen on her exercise bike insisting that she instruct us on cooking meals! And we most certainly did not carry the recliner upstairs hauling it through the kitchen and into the living room, plopping it down in just the right spot for mom! The boat was never full and there was plenty of room at the table.
Large family life is fun, unexpected and warm. I loved growing up in our little family unit but I adore being part of this big crazy family. Homemade cards and gifts, possibly a song production or two are thrown in there for birthdays and graduations.
Personal projects often end up being group efforts
And most certainly the younger kids never forget that they are definitely not the oldest!
Even in the quietest of times, there is never really a dull moment. There is no shortage of opinions, love, noise and support.
We have learned through the years to stand together, catching each other if we fall.
2016- look at us now
2009 moved to U.S., worked paper route, cook at girl’s co-op
Big family life
For the past few years Fattima has tried to throw a Halloween party. Each time things get in the way and it doesn’t happen. She makes a facebook post for the siblings and then takes it down. She has been haunted (just had to say it) by this fact and reminded every year by her brothers and sisters. But this year she was determined to make sure it actually worked out and we were the lucky invitees.
Saturday after doing a few jobs around the house and taking a walk, we popped over to Fattima and Ben’s where we planned to spend the night. Dinner was cooking in the kitchen and decorations were festive and spooky!
Dinner was served and was exceptional featuring a variation of smashed potatoes made by Ben. Fattima made an autumn salad that is one of my favorites and
Turkey meatballs in a fiery hot sauce alongside artichoke spinach dip.
After dinner we sat in the living room and watched movies, played games and shared each other’s company. A chocolate peanut butter fondue was prepared for those who were not too full from supper.
I turned in early as I am always waking up around 4:30 a.m. and the next morning true to form I was downstairs at 5:00 making coffee. Soon after Fattima made a delicious cauliflower hash and then it was time to head home! Everyone knows it is hard for mom to stay in one place but this little sleepover was a huge treat!
Thanks Fattima and Ben!
Pumpkin by Sumaya!
Deeja, Heme and Sumaya
Her eyes were tightly closed, a trickle of blood escaped from pursed lips and made a dripping pattern on the marble floor. I placed my hand on her back trying to ease the throbbing tension but in reality I knew it did little good. Her tiny frame shook and there was nothing else to be done. There were no prescription tablets, ice packs or specialty foods, this was it. I held her hand and let her squeeze mine, but it was clear she was unable to absorb the unrelenting pounding. In my desperation I crushed cubes of ice with a mallet and placed them in a cloth, softly holding them on her cheek and jaw. I watched the clock, waiting for seconds to tick away when another dose of tablets could be given. Her head rested against mine and she relaxed for a few moments and then drifted into a chaotic sleep.
The phone did not ring and no inquiries regarding the removal of her wisdom teeth were ever made. He was at the camp where he had worked for months, only returning on weekends. I told myself that he was busy and of course his mind was on our household and he would be calling soon. I was sure he would return a day early as he had numerous times for visits with friends and dinners.
The children played and laughed, free to move about without restriction. It was better this way and it was my job and duty to ease his stress. The phone rang and a wave of guilt washed over me for doubting his commitment to our family. He reminded me regularly that we were his top priority and he worked hard to provide and take care of us. I grabbed the receiver and eagerly answered with the customary greetings. There was a pause and then I heard my mother’s voice. “How is Saleeha”? She listened intently as I recounted our day; a ride provided by the man who owned the falafel shop, dropped off at the dentist for surgical removal of wisdom teeth, a few hours spent in the waiting area and a somewhat complicated procedure with local anesthesia that had been inadequate, followed by a return trip to the villa. I asked her what else could be done for pain as no medication was provided. She gave some tips for reduction of swelling and let me know that she was there for support any time of day. My father’s unwavering voice added a level of comfort and he assured me that everything would turn out o.k.
Dinner, bedtime and clean up, the evening ended with pain, more bleeding and a desperation that had become normal. No call, no email and no hope that he might come home a day early to help with the situation. The kids were put to bed, more ice was crushed and I took my position on the single bed where I could keep watch overnight.
The next afternoon he walked through the door at the usual time. He smiled, greeting the little ones, laughing and swinging them in the air. I managed a grin knowing that happiness was always required. He watched Saleeha and laughed joyously stepping towards her. I knew it was finally time, he would embrace her, purchase ice cream and inquire about her surgery. She stood looking gaunt and disheveled, pieces of her curly hair stuck in a sweaty matte on her forehead and tiny spots of blood about her mouth.
He told her she was fine and grabbed each cheek boldly pinching them between his thumb and finger in a back and forth motion. This was life and we should thank God and count our blessings.
This is our last week babysitting the kids! For the past couple of weeks we have been making the two hour drive and staying four days, then home for three. This time it will be shorter and then we are back to routine.
It is amazing to be part of their lives
To see their kind hearts
And their beautiful souls
Naptime, selfies, a cuddle bug day
Sweet dreams and ice cream I wish we could stay
Carefree are moments when I am with you
Dance party, touch your head, sticky fingers too
Young people, infants, we all grow up
Wipe the floor, turn the page don’t spill your cup
Look back remember deep inside your mind
Hold it close and treasure it won’t be hard to find
Love you, Gaga