A Plate of Oatmeal Cookies and Dinosaurs- My Housewife Life

In this big vast world, full of countless roads with houses and even more people in those houses, is a place few people have seen. My home.

While the rest of the world was moving, I was quietly sitting still, on the couch, stroking my two year old son’s soft brown hair. His forehead was slightly too warm. I have been indoors with sick kids for two weeks already. It was a cold white winter day in this part of the world, and the snow was shovelled high on our road. My older son was finally feeling better. He had put both legs in one pant leg and dumped every toy he owns on the floor as proof of his new found health. My younger son had taken over the “sick seat” on the couch, cuddled next to me. It was nearing lunchtime.

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Twenty minutes later I smelled something burning. The timer had not yet gone off! I took out the cookie sheet of oatmeal cookies. I can only describe them as a solid mass of something “edible”. The balls I had rolled were melted into one big thin sheet of cookie. Once cooled, they were not bad. A bit chewy but the flavour was okay. However, my enthusiasm skills clearly need practice as my boys were not convinced that this offer was so grand after all. What kind of mother am I? How do I fail so badly at cookies? Especially when my kids have been so sick?! Note to self: always have a batch of store bought cookies hidden somewhere as back up. I’ll just scrap the idea of trying to make EVERYTHING from scratch. Reality check here, just having a reality check. Both boys refused to even try the cookies.  Guess who ate half the batch by herself?

So the excitement of the cookies was short-lived and we were all back on the couch. The sickly two year old had fallen asleep. The four year old grabbed a dinosaur fact book and wanted me to read to him. His favourite pages are the ones that show the internal anatomy of the dinosaur and the page that shows the extinction theories. He loves fire and hot lava. As I read, my four year old burped the word “ouch” in my ear. I looked at him. He was already looking at me, small corners curved up, pleased with himself and his recently discovered talent. Will I ever get used to spontaneously burped words in my ear?

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I looked outside our front window. The snow kept falling. The occasional car drove by. I am a stay at home mom. I should not feel so insignificant but I often do. There are moments, like today, when I ‘let’ the world go on without me, I stop chasing after it. I realise I am wanted and needed right here, taking care of these special little boys. Not much happened today, but that is what it is sometimes.

And in this house, our home, that sits on a street I never knew existed until I moved in, is our world.

I Used To Dream Of Paris

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Years ago while living in London, I got bit by the travel bug. While working and pursuing a degree, I booked flights to places like Greece, Spain, Italy, Turkey and Sweden to name a few. I loved experiencing their food, the textures of the land, their skies and the sounds on the streets whether it was quiet or busy or just the sound of the sea. My bucket list of places I wanted to visit was a long one.

When I met my husband, he also wanted to see the world. I imagined us going to the same places I had already been to, and then we would explore new countries together. Our dreams were big, ambitious and I was excited! We chose Paris as our first destination. We looked at hotels, things to do, and train tickets. But we never booked anything.

With marriage and family life, we knew we may have to hold off for a little while. And that was okay. We were happy to be blessed with our two little boys. When our second son was born, my husband was diagnosed with a rare neurological condition. And sometimes life does that to us. We make plans, dream, achieve some goals, and then we get thrown a curveball. We never made it to Paris.

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I recently had a conversation with a friend who said:

“YOU WILL DREAM NEW DREAMS”

She was right. The travel bug got buried. My dreams no longer contain stamped passports and foreign cheese. Living on the other side of the world now, my bucket list has changed. Every country has delicious food to be savoured. No matter where we are, every sunset on the horizon is beautiful. It’s not where we are, it is who we are sharing it with.

The other day as I walked down the picture frame aisle, I saw a lovely picture of the Eiffel Tower. The image of my husband and I sitting at a table eating bread and cheese al fresco at candlelight crossed my mind. I picked up the picture. $6. Cheaper than a flight! I added it to the cart. I went next door to the grocery store and picked up a few items for dinner. That night I fed the kids early so my husband and I could eat alone. I propped up the picture of the Eiffel Tower on our dining room table. I also placed a small vase of greenery as part of the centrepiece and lit some candles. Candlesticks that looked similar to the ones we had for our wedding. I had a bread basket with cut up baguettes, and a serving tray of different cheeses including Brie. I even put on some makeup and my jeans. Would our conversations have been so different if we were actually in Paris? Would the bread and cheese taste that much better? I’m sure our dinner would not have been interrupted with the children running back and forth to get their noses wiped, or to stop them from hitting each other or to suddenly run one to the potty. What I am sure of is that, whatever candlelit dinner I am having, I am sharing it with the best company: my husband!

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I used to dream of Paris. But before my dream of Paris, I dreamed of love and children. And here I am with them. They are my dream come true. And if the travel bug bites again, I am glad to now realise that adventure doesn’t have to be so far away. Sometimes just a short drive away. I just need to appreciate what is already around me.

(Photo credit- paris) 

(Photo credit- bread)

Apple Pie

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I recently discovered a wonderful part of the grocery store. I’ll tell you how I missed it before. In usual grocery shopping scenarios, I have my two year old in the front passenger seat of the shopping cart and my almost same sized four year old in the main basket. I try to busy them with a new $1 or less toy. If they are good they can keep the toy, maybe.

Somewhere close-by is my husband pushing around the other shopping cart which has the actual food and household items. More often than not, at some point during our ‘hopefully less than two hours’ long adventure, a tantrum explodes. They want out, they want to run, they saw chocolate or marshmallows or a cereal they need right now or they won’t know how to cope with life. This causes stress of course on us parents. Some customers nod their heads and smile in understanding, giving us the reassurance that it’s okay. Then there are those who shake their heads with annoyance. And those are the ones that make our blood boil.

There have been innumerable times when I went running down the aisles grabbing whatever I can from my shopping list and tossing it to my husband who was trying to find the best deal of everything. Oh how I miss the luxury of Tesco online shopping! I congratulate myself on those occasions where I have been able to block out the tantrums and carry on shopping. When I have been able to ignore my children’s unsafe and out of budget demands, I like looking at foods I enjoy. Walking slower and really seeing what else the store is selling.

I found myself noticing a corner of breads and smaller aisles of baked goods. As I got closer to the treasury of pastries in front of me, my stomach sinks with regret. Why have I not prioritised this corner of delicacies before? Why do I not take more time to enjoy this shopping experience and treat myself and the family? I stop at the rows and rows of pies. I love pies! Big pies. Mini pies. Seasonal pies. Boxed pies and fresh pies. I feel like a foreignor when I say America is crazy for pies! I’ve never seen so many pies in other countries. Pastries, yes, but not pies. Chocolate mousse pie, apple Dutch pie, peach pie, cherry pie, strawberry pie, banana cream pie, lemon meringue pie and more. And this is where I get asked the famed question: what’s your favourite?
This question has always stumped me. Why have a favorite when they are all so delicious? It is easier for me to answer- which one do I NOT like? I don’t know! I suppose I will just have to sample them all. One of all the minis please!

But let’s think a minute. I love apples. There are always apples in my house. I make apple crumbles more often than I do pasta dinners. My go to snack is applesauce or apples with peanut butter. When I’m not feeling well, an apple cures me. I can eat apples everyday. Does that make it my favourite? Not necessarily. Put a fresh strawberry next to a fresh apple, and I’ll choose the strawberry. Does that mean strawberries are my favorite? Put a key lime pie next to the strawberry pie and I’ll choose the key lime because I have yet to try a key lime pie! Oh my goodness, I need a buffet of pies!  So there I was in front of the pie section wanting to take one home with me. One. I want all of them! If I were to claim that apple was my favorite, then people may be surprised if I chose the peach! I don’t pick favorites. I pick moods. I fear having a favorite would run the risk of being stuck to one thing. With food, horizons should be broad. Very broad. I’m so glad I discovered the corner of the store that was always there. And if you’re wondering, I chose the chocolate mousse pie! This made the boys very happy because mommy always shares. And chocolate is always good leverage for bribery 🙂

Next week we will indulge in the bread section and maybe take home some new cheese to eat with it! Love food!

Photo credit (apple pie)

The Cab Driver

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I have journals for both of my boys. In those journals I have written some experiences I have had in my life, I also write down stories about them when they were babies and over the years. I have written quotes and other inspiring stories I have come across that have somehow touched me. I want my boys to know bits about my life too so I try to choose carefully which stories to share. And this one about the cab driver, is important to me. It was a unique, brief encounter all about kindness from a stranger.

The year was 2005 and I was in my second year of university. Dressed in my usual jeans, trainers and green corduroy jacket, I had taken the train from Barking to West Ham and stood waiting for the Jubilee line. I looked up at the time schedule, 15 minutes. That was very unusual and I felt my underarms become heated and my heart started to pound. I had to change trains again, but the DLR only came every ten minutes and I would definitely miss my deadline! There had to be another way to get to Prince Regent Station on time. I quickly walked, okay it was more like half running, out of the station to the pay phone by the ticket booth. There were numbers for cabs everywhere. I dialled a few mini cab numbers but the waiting time was too long. I had a deadline creeping up fast! So I called for a black cab. They were posh and pricey but I was desperate. A shiny black cab pulled up and I ran to the door. In a possibly stressed tone of voice I said to the driver-

“To the university please! I need to be there before 4 o’clock! I don’t know how to get there from here on the roads.”

Calmly he replies- “No worries!”

My watch said it was already 3:47. I looked out the window. In my head I thought, black cabs are notorious for taking the long way or driving slow just to cash in! How annoying that I always take public transport and don’t know the roads! Here is another time living in London when I missed having a car! Somehow having car meant more independence. Relying on public transport meant that I was constantly at the mercy of them keeping time! I said a prayer in my head that this will turn out ok.
The driver disrupted my negative, yet hopeful, thoughts with-

“What’s your essay on?”

That was a surprise. I looked at him. Middle aged, brown hair, pleasant face. It was then that I noticed the cab was very clean as well and had no bad odours. It took a second to think of a reply but he went on before I spoke-

“My daughter is in college, deadlines can be stressful. Don’t worry though, I’ll get you there.”

He was calm and his voice sincere. He spoke to me the way any girl would want a father to speak to her. And he was being kind to me. An unpleasant, stressed out stranger. His words helped my heart stop beating so fast. He drove on roads I had never seen before and pulled up to the backside of the main building, a side I never saw because I am not a part of the car world.

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He spoke again-

“Just go and turn in your essay, I’ll wait here.”

I quickly glanced at the money meter then opened the door and ran down the long hallway to the main desk. I couldn’t believe he trusted me! A young, possibly dodgy, university student! He was just going to wait for me? That was going to be so expensive! Darn Jubilee line and tube delays! He seemed nice though and if he trusted me then maybe I could return the favour and trust him back. I handed in my essay to the lady at exactly 4pm! Relieved, my steps slowed down but I could feel a migraine growing behind my forehead. I walked to the cashpoint on the opposite side of the building from where the cab was supposedly still waiting. Taped to the cashpoint were the dreaded words “out of order”. Are you kidding me? What luck today!

I ran back to the cab and he was parked in the very same place. I was not even sure if he was allowed to be there but he didn’t seem to care. Apologetically I said-

“I am so sorry but their cashpoint is out of order! Can you just take me to Barking station? There’s another one right inside.”

He reached over and turned the meter back on. I thought he was going to charge me for waiting and all the time of his I was taking, but he was only charging me for the driving. I sat back in the cab seat. The trains were delayed. The cashpoint was broke. I barely made the deadline. And I have been a wreck. In the midst of my challenges today, God sent me this particular cab driver. He pulled up to the side of Barking station where other cabs were also parked, I got out and the smell of cigarettes and fried chicken hit my face making my migraine worse. Again the driver patiently waited for me as I went to that cashpoint.

After such a hectic afternoon, he only charged me £25! Despite my previous bad luck of events, I then felt very lucky!

There was that moment where I wanted to hug this stranger who no longer felt like a stranger. I wanted to tell him that I hoped to see him again! I wanted to tell him that I hoped God would bless him forever for being so kind to me. But I just said thank you several times and we said good bye. He drove off, and I walked back to the station and headed home to share this story with my family.

I think about these encounters often and want to document them. I feel the most important thing he did for me that day was not getting me to the university on time for my deadline, but he instilled in me an experience of hope. Hope for kindness. Hope for good. Hope that there are people who are fair in these business dealings with me. Any true story that demonstrates kindness from strangers is a story I want my children to know.

Photo credit (cab)

Photo credit (UEL campus)

Socks- Moments in my Housewife Life

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He sat in front of me with defiance in his eyes. Our eyes did not move away from each other, watching closely, intensely, waiting for a reaction from the other. As if we were in a boxing ring, anticipating who would make the first move so that the opponent knew how to cleverly fight back. With growing impatience, I broke the silence.

“Let mommy put your socks on.” He didn’t flinch. Not yet.

I believe that in these moments, children have an advantage of being ignorant to time. I know there is a clock and our lives pretty much revolve around that.  In these moments I also wonder what career route he will end up making. What job would suit these characteristics of his?

“Give me your feet without kicking, and let mommy put your socks on please.” I stayed in position, mentally congratulating myself for staying calm, yet also ready to grab him if he were to try and make a run for it.

As a new mother, one of the many advices I’ve been given is to “CHOOSE YOUR BATTLES.” I have battled one at a time. Today I face a battle within myself: my impatience vs my wanting to parent right. I mentioned a clock, but there comes a point when even the clock has to take a seat while I live my family life. I am tempted to bribe him. It ALWAYS works! Marshmallows, chocolates, a walk around the block to grandma’s house. I also know I cannot raise him like that forever. There has to be logic in the things we do. Socks keep our feet warm and we put our socks on first, then we can put shoes on.

“Do you like these socks? They’re from grandma so they’re special. We all love your feet and want to keep them warm. Or did you want to pick another pair?”

Sometimes it is not the moment at hand that is the real issue. I believe that these battles are the final bomb after several events throughout the day. Except now it is only 7:12 am and we are getting dressed for school. So what on earth happened already? Maybe little brother woke us up too early and disturbed our sleep. Maybe mommy should have let him have chocolate milk this morning? Maybe we should have kept track of his special car before we went to bed so we could have found it first thing this morning? Maybe he had a bad dream and it’s just put him in a mood. Maybe his tummy hurts because according to the chart it has been 4 days since his last BM. Who knows! But here we are, and all I want to do is put his socks on! It’s so simple! They’re just socks! What is the deal? Why does being a mom have to be so hard? I thought this defiance wouldn’t come until the teen years! He’s four! And for four years I have been faced with his constant no’s. I have broken down from time to time. I have lost my mind from time to time. But not this morning. Today I will win!

I open the drawer hoping he will accept the invitation to choose his own socks. I usually have his outfit picked out the night before and he usually does not care what he is wearing. I still don’t think he really cares, I think he just TRIES to do anything he can to push my buttons!

He finally moves out of his frozen position and looks in the drawer, and pulls out another pair. In continued silence he hands them to me. A satisfied look on his face that mommy did not get her way. That he in fact chose THESE socks and he will now MAKE mommy put them on him.

I do put them on his feet. I have always loved little feet. From newborns to little children, but not older children, not when feet get big and dirty and stinky! Hahaha! His skin is soft, his toenails too long. Another battle for another day.

With socks now on his feet, which is the last of his clothing attire besides shoes, he runs off knowing he is done for now. Again I mentally pat myself on the back that no war raged, that anger was kept at bay and we can move on to the next phase of our morning.

The journey of motherhood is full of unexpected rebellions from our kids, but if there is one thing I have learned so far in this 4 year journey, it is that love conquers all.

Waking Up Into A Dream- My First Day in Sweden

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It was afternoon when I woke up on a brown leather sofa in my grandmother’s living room. I looked around. Above me on the wall was an oil painting of a sunset on the water. Water can be so beautiful but I am terrified of it. To my left was a wall covered in framed family photographs. There was a small photo of my family when there had been only four kids. Close to it was a photo of my mother as a young girl. For the first time I saw my great grandmother, she looked like she had been working when the photo was taken. To my right was a large open window with white curtains that danced in the breeze. It looked out to the back courtyard. I was on the ground floor in an apartment building, in a neighbourhood with lots of other buildings that all looked exactly the same. The soft sounds of the upstairs neighbour’s conversations travelled down to us. It was the month of May and the sun shone brightly, trying to cheer up my gray mood.

‘I am in Sweden’, I kept repeating to myself. I am awake, but it feels like a dream. I left reality behind, this isn’t real. I am not really here. I touched my arm, my face and looked at my feet. I saw that I was whole, but parts of me felt missing.

My grandmother noticed I had woken up and brought me a glass of pear juice. It was delicious. I looked at her. It had been several years since she had visited us in the states. Her hair still black with only a few white strands. Her physique slender from all the walking she does. Her face naturally beautiful as she did not wear make up. I could see that she was my mother’s mother. She then started to point out her things and explain them. She had a large collection of white porcelain pieces displayed in a glass cabinet, all labeled on the bottom with her name and the year she got it. She had bookshelves full of journals that she had faithfully written through the years. I looked out the window again as she kept talking. Her Swedish was easy to understand. My mother’s mother, they spoke similar. Just yesterday I had been home in Ohio. Four airplanes later I was here. The world felt small and I grew restless. I stood up and asked if we could walk. She looked surprised but agreed.

We walked around the block. I was looking for something interesting, something that stood out to be “different”. Something that would make me feel like it was okay to be here because there was something I would have otherwise missed out on. We crossed the road onto a sidewalk that was made of cobblestone. It was pretty to look at, but made my ankles hurt. The greenery was beautiful, the cars that drove past were all nice but the thing that stood out the most wasn’t a thing, it was sound. Everything seemed so quiet. The cars weren’t honking. The dogs weren’t barking. People weren’t shouting. The calmness around me a direct opposite from how I was feeling inside, because inside I was screaming.

We walked back to the apartment and she began to cook dinner. I sat in the living room and called my mom. The phone sounds were different. The smells from the kitchen were foreign to my nose. I had just arrived but I was ready to run. Like an ungrateful spoiled girl, I sat with a bad attitude. Complaining about everything under my breath. Blind to the opportunity around me. Eventually I would learn, but I was a hard egg to break. And with that hardness, some things come too late.

A Foreign Community, An Extended Family- A True Story

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Many years ago when I lived in Sweden, in my early 2o’s, I had my own apartment in a community made up of foreignors. The buildings were tall, brightly painted with huge numbers so addresses were easy to find. I was number 74 V.2. We were from everywhere. Brazil, Iran, Pakistan, Argentina, Russia, different countries from Africa, America, Poland, Chile, Peru, Iraq, India, and many more. Ironically, technically, I am Swedish. I do not have the stereotypical blonde hair and blue eyes like all my cousins, and I didn’t (still don’t) speak with the same Swedish accent, but I am a Swede. A Swede who seemed to fit better in this international neighbourhood.

Here, I remember especially the women. They’d smile at me and shout out a “hello” in their language as they beat their rugs outside, and I felt they instantly accepted me as one of their own. Sure I’ll pretend a second to be Bolivian! Hola! Okay that was the only one I knew at the time, to the others I just smiled back. These women cooked with open windows and the smell of their food made my mouth water. Where ever I went, there was a woman with children closeby. Be it her own, or her grandchildren, or nieces and nephews, children were everywhere. I was fascinated that all these people from around the world had found their way here.

Across the courtyard from me lived a close friend that I had met and gotten to know. Her family was Assyrian from Iran. I later learned to greet them with a word that sounded like it would be spelled “schlamalockhone”. Her parents didn’t speak much Swedish but it didn’t matter. They were so kind to me! Spending time in their home made me realise how my friends must have felt visiting my family. They only knew English and my family spoke Swedish at home! In time I learned the sounds of their language and when I heard others at bus stops or shops, I always knew if they were speaking their dialect of Assyrian or not and I would greet them with a friendly “schlamalockhone”.

My friend’s mother was such a busy body. From what I observed, she cooked a big pot of food each morning. I can still almost taste her meatballs with buttery rice on the side.Whoever came to the house could have some food and there was always plenty to eat. She then spent the rest of her day helping others. Every day! On days where she was home cleaning, she had the TV on a channel that played her home music. Have you heard of Arabic oldies? I loved it! I became infused by their culture. They easily made me feel like I had more than just friends as neighbours, they were my extended family.

One Christmas I was the only one in my family in Sweden. Christmas Eve was spent with my aunt and cousins and it was wonderful to learn more in depth the Swedish traditions. Christmas day was spent with my Assyrian family. We put on our best dress and went to… I think it was their grandparents home. See the importance of keeping a journal? Memory is so unreliable. So many people were there! And I had no idea what anyone was saying but it was great. More kindness was shown to me. The grandfather said these words, as my friend translated them for me: “Today we understand that you miss your family. Today we will adopt you as one of our own. Feel at home.” He then invited me to bless the big Christmas meal! I was honored! The food was out of this world delicious.

After the meal they all sat around the large living room and sang traditional songs, I had learned some of their dances and joined in on those. It was time for presents but there was so many people I only remember envelopes of money. I watched my friend and her sister open theirs, then I opened mine and we had all gotten the same amount. My heart swelled with gratitude that I was truly accepted that day and I did not feel alone or left out at all. God bless those people for opening their heart and home to me.

I’ll never forget the warm summer nights my friend and I would slowly walk around the footpath that outlined our entire community. We talked for hours. Everything from earth to heaven, our pasts and hopes for the future and probably literally EVERYTHING. Women do have a gift of talking. During our walk, we walked past a soccer field that was right in the middle of the neighbourhood. The older boys playing with the younger ones like little brothers and including them in their game. We walked past whole families who were also out walking, husband, wife and children enjoying the evening stroll. I watched them and thought, I want that one day too! Evening strolls with my family.

Family is always there when we need a friend. Or are friends there when we need family? Either way, this night she was. It was at about 2am, I woke up with an intense pain in my leg. It was a pain that had resulted in a knee injury 3 years before. I went into the kitchen and panicked when I realised I had no painkillers left. This pain would only get worse and it was unbearable. I called her. At 2am she actually answered her phone! She lived at the top of her apartment building and had to come all the way down to open the door for me. In her flat she offered me food and medicine and I simply stayed the night. She was so much more than a friend. She was like a sister. Always there and never upset with me.

I remember talking to her a lot about how much I missed home- Ohio. And it was a hard time for me. But looking back I realise more and more that those years in Sweden had become some of my biggest blessings in life. I cannot thank God enough for the experiences I had, for the life long friendships that were built, for the lessons I would not have otherwise learned. Yes, sometimes trials are blessings in disguise.

And I thank God for my extended family around the world.

xx

(photo credit)