Anticipation

I dropped her off two weeks ago yesterday.  She left the next morning with her aunt and uncle and cousins.  They were heading west to meet my parents at the halfway point between their house and ours.  That’s not a quick road trip when you live in Texas.  They all had lunch together and stretched their legs and made their goodbyes.  She and one of her cousins climbed into the backseat of their grandparents’ car and continued their journey west.  My sister and her family turned around for the five hour drive back home.

Two weeks without a teenager in the house sounds like bliss during the Summer when you have four others living with you, too.  It’s not.  I am happy that she got to bond with her grandparents.  I am grateful that they took them to see such awesome and amazing natural sites of New Mexico and Arizona.  I am elated that my niece and daughter have had time together, away from their siblings and parents, to build that strong friendship and trust that cousins should have.  But the hole in my heart while she has been away has been difficult to deal with.

I love all of my nearly grown and grown children.  Each one has their own section in my heart.  I enjoyed spending time with my boys this Summer.  I learned that a lot of our conversations are interrupted by my daughters.  With only one daughter, the one who is usually blamed for these interruptions, I realized that it’s not only she who breaks into these moments with the boys.  I need to work on that.

I realized that my two girls, who fight daily because they share a bedroom, love each other to pieces and actually miss one another.  Randa slept in Samiya’s bed the first five days she was gone, just to feel close to her.  She had nightmares the last few days.  She kept getting out of bed, panicked, shouting, “Get in the car, Mommy!  It’s Samiya, trapped in a cave.  It’s save Samiya. Bring her home NOW!”  (She had seen the photos of Samiya and her cousin in Carlsbad Caverns from the second leg of their trip.)  Anxiety and Autism has a way of altering perspectives sometimes.  It took a lot of consoling and coaxing to convince her that Samiya was safe and back at Granddad’s house and that she would be home in just a few days.

Her brothers have missed her, too, although mostly as it relates to the frequency of their turns to wash dishes.  Ismail mentioned to me that he had been texting her throughout the two weeks.  Aiman had been talking to people they regularly game with online and talked to me excitedly about how Samiya had been promoted to a higher level on their team.  Mohamed talked with her, too, a few times by phone while she was gone.

But the person who has missed her most is her father.  He kept asking during the whole two weeks, “It’s long enough, right?” and when I told him that my sister planned to stay the night out there and come back Sunday, I could see his face fall just a little.  Then he said, “We should celebrate her coming back.  I’ll bring home chickens and you grill them on Sunday.  It will be a welcome home party.”  Daddy’s little girl personified.

Today, Randa will be pacing back and forth to the front door to check for her aunt and uncle’s car.  They drove out through the desert again to pick the girls up from Dad’s house.  And I will be washing and cooking and prepping for her return, trying to keep busy so I don’t jump out of my skin with excitement.  I missed my girl.

 

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THIS IS ONLY A TEST!

Like most of the “popular vote,” our family mourned the election results on November 9, 2016. My 11 year old niece was in tears, asking my sister, “But how could HE be elected? He’s mean. How could America elect a bully to be our next President?” Indeed.

She wasn’t the only kid to react this way. I have friends in Florida, North Dakota, Wisconsin, California, Maryland, New York, Georgia, Arizona and everywhere in between who held their children on Wednesday morning, wiping away tears of confusion and disappointment that someone who bullies others in public and on television and LIVES the example of what they are NOT supposed to be, could be elected to lead our country.

I gave myself that Wednesday (and honestly, the following Thursday and Friday, too) to grieve Hillary Clinton’s loss of the election. And then I chose happy.

My sister has a sign in her kitchen that says: Happiness is a Choice. Of course, she keeps that sign on the counter right next to the knife block. So, I guess if you can’t choose happiness, you can always choose the butcher knife. Still, it’s a choice. I chose happy.

Am I happy that Donald Trump is our President-elect? Hell, no. But I am happy to have the next four years to find someone better to run against him in 2020. (Sidetrack: Wouldn’t that be an awesome campaign slogan? JOAQUIN CASTRO FOR PRESIDENT- Because hindsight is 20/20. I digress.)

Look, I am an American Muslim of Irish descent, married to a naturalized Egyptian. We have a disabled daughter and we live under the poverty level and we don’t have health insurance because it’s not offered at my husband’s job and we fall through the cracks of ACA because our dumbass state officials in Texas decided to “show them” and not expand Medicaid….EVEN THOUGH Texans are still federally taxed. So we’re paying for Medicaid in other states and not insuring the poor in our own. I had EVERYTHING to lose in this election. But I’m choosing happy.

My faith teaches me that I must be PATIENT. I can be patient for 4  years of a Trump administration. I can USE that patient 4 years to write letters, investigate and research better qualified Democrat candidates and help to promote them. If we move NOW and are patient through the next 4 years, we can help put forth far better qualified candidates to win in 202o. Hey, you third party voters. PLEASE, do the same. If you in the Green Party and in the Libertarian Party work hard at finding a better candidate NOW….start fund-raising NOW….to get better candidates than Stein and Johnson…..get the monies needed to build up a great campaign 4 years from now…..I’ll bet you have a shot. Hell, you guys come up with someone better than the Democrat nominee and I’ll vote for him or her. But
ALL of you, Democrats, Greenies, and Libertarians: Let’s start NOW. Let’s get out in front
of whatever is coming down the 2020 Republican turnpike and make some serious changes in our government. Start finding mid-term candidates for your congressional representatives now. Put some effort in early so that you can all make our Congress more honest; more representative of US, the voters. They work for us. Make them earn their pay.

This is a test. ONLY a test. Somebody wanted a big shake up and change to the status quo. They got their wish. Let’s take their wish for change a step further and use the next 4 years to work toward true greatness. We’ll have a lot of pieces to pick up. Maybe we can build something new instead of just putting it all back together again. It’s not over. It’s a bump in the road. We can do this.

It’s NOT a Tantrum

Walking through a supermarket, the severely Autistic person wears gun-range headphones to help block excess noise to protect her highly sensitive hearing from the overwhelming barrage of clanking, banging, muzak, baby cries, squeaky buggy wheels and blips and bloops from cash registers. A woman getting over a cold coughs into her elbow, and the Autistic person’s face grows dark. Her mother notices the scowl and the wincing on her non-verbal daughter’s face. She puts the Cheerios back on the shelf and grabs her daughter’s hands and softly speaks into her face, “Poor lady. She’s sick. Sick people cannot help coughing, honey. It’s okay.”

The mom gently guides her daughter from the cereal aisle and the cussing begins followed by screaming and crying. “Ears hurt! STUPID WOMAN!” People begin to stare. Some people whisper and make angry faces. The screaming continues while the mom gives deep pressure hugs and wipes away tears, speaking gently about good choices and soft voices.

An angry woman walks by with her nearly full buggy with the squeaky wheel and stops to SHUSH! the girl. The mother spins around on her heel and tells the woman she is out of line. “You should shut her up! It’s incredibly rude to the other shoppers for her to be throwing a tantrum in the middle of the supermarket! What is she? Retarded?”

“First, she’s got Autism and she is in distress, NOT that we owe you an explanation. A tantrum is a fit thrown in order to get what one wants. This is an Autistic Meltdown which is brought on by environmental situations. What makes them continue is rude judgmental people like you! Secondly, this is Kroger. If you want quiet, go to the fucking library!” The mother turns her back on the sputtering woman, who has now become just another bit of background noise. The girl continues to cry and loudly repeat the same line from her favorite movie, as though stuck on a loop.

The store manager walks up and smiles. He knows the woman and the daughter, as they are regular shoppers here. He asks if everything is all right. The woman nods that it is. The girl notices the manager’s very large mustache and points at his face. “It’s big whiskers!” she says, wiping away her tears. The man laughs and agrees that they are. The girl smiles and says, “Bye. Come on, Mommy. It’s Cheerios.” The mom grabs the hand of her 20-year old girl and mouths a quick thank you over her shoulder to the manager. She returns to the cereal aisle and adds the Cheerios to the buggy while the girl happily pushes beside her.

 

Did I Do Too Much for Them?

As mothers, we second guess ourselves and the choices we make all of the time. Since these children don’t come with owner’s manuals or anything remotely close to that, we sort of “wing it” and combine our gut instincts with the way that we were brought up and what we admired from parental examples we admired from TV and movies, and that long list of stuff we swore we’d “NEVER do when I have kids of my own!” And for the most part, that tends to work really well for most of us. We do the best with what we have and what we know and we try to do what is best for our kids and hope and pray that that is enough.

I used the great ways that my mom had to interact with us when we were little. She was awesome at distraction tactics when we would fight. There were four of us and sometimes it would get pretty loud. I remember many times that she would just come in the room while we were fighting and just sit down on the floor. She’d pull all of our building blocks and Matchbox cars, Fisher-Price people and Weebles out of the box and start making entire towns right there in the middle of the rug. She’d completely ignore us while doing this. Soon we were sort of staring at all the fun she was having and no longer interested in who broke what, or whose turn it was to whatever. We’d watch and eventually sit down and ask if we could play with her. She always said, “Yes.” And we’d join in and start having fun, too. Then she’d slowly work her way out of the game and leave the room and we were none the wiser, yet peaceful.

I also decided that I liked the way that she kept open lines of communication with us. I employed this, too, with my own kids. But I allowed more expression (like limited cussing when they were at that stage where nothing else would seemingly help them “get it out.”) I never lied to them.  (Okay, I did have them convinced for years that I knew the Minister of Birthdays and Aging and that if they did something really horrible that I could call and have that year’s birthday postponed for another. This isn’t as complicated as it sounds when your kids are younger and are certain that they haven’t earned that year older until they’ve actually blown out their candles on their cake. Truth be told, I did NOT tell them the whole candles thing. That was their own understanding. I just didn’t contradict it until the oldest was about 12 and had figured it out on his own. DON’T JUDGE!)

I would watch some of my in-laws and neighbors and friends who would tell their kids things like, “stop crying and I’ll buy you sweets” or “don’t be scared. The needle won’t hurt at all.” To adults, these seem like little lies to assuage fears and calm kids. But for kids, they are actually HUGE lies that, once told and are proven to be untrue, take away from our credibility and teach our kids not to trust us. I never told my kids untruths about our ability or inability to afford something that they wanted. I would tell them, “No. That is something that is not in our budget” if they were asking for their own mobile phone or wanting to go to the amusement park or join a sports club.

I did not/will not give my kids an allowance. I hated this rule growing up but my dad had it and I’m actually quite grateful for it now. He always said, “I buy you every-damn-thing you need. If there is something you want, come talk to me about it and we’ll decide if it’s something we can do.” So when I wanted a Mickey Mouse watch at 5 years old like my neighbor had, Dad said no. He said it was ridiculous that Michael Murphy had a watch at 5 when the “big dummy can’t tell time.” (I was born in the late 60’s and digital watches were still about 10+ years away.) So, of course, I was heartbroken. But Dad told me that if I learned how to tell time that he would buy me a watch. I accepted his challenge. I learned how to tell time in one week. (And oh, yes, I rubbed that in Michael Murphy’s face big time.) And Dad bought me my first watch at the PX  (Post Exchange for you non-military types.) It was dark blue Timex with silver numbers and hands and had a dark blue band. It was a ladies watch…for grown ups. It was so fancy. He taught me how to wind it and take care not to get it wet. I had that watch for 11 years before it finally broke. I’d earned the right to wear it. And Dad promised it and fulfilled that promise. Trust was built over something little.

When my kids wanted pocket money, I made them work for it. They always had to help around the house and I didn’t pay for that. But if they wanted something extra, I made them work a little extra. My sister-in-law thought I was mean and horrible for making Ismail make all of the beds in the house (a total of 5) after their naps one day and I only paid him 25 piasters. She thought that that was a lot of work for a 6 yr old and that he deserved more than just 5 piasters per bed. I asked what she thought was fair wages. She said 1 pound. I told her she was nuts. I explained that her own sister worked 12 hour days, 6 days a week in a factory making purses and backpacks and she only brought home 250 pounds per month. That averages out to about 1.15 pounds per hour. “He needs to learn that life in Egypt is hard and that people work hard for very little money. Then he will appreciate what he has and will take care of it and learn to work hard himself.” That was ten or twelve years ago. Now she tells me that she wishes that she had done like I did as her kids think that it’s their right to demand large amounts of money to go shopping, buy fast food and go to the movies whenever they like.

I instilled a good work ethic in them. BUT there are other things that I didn’t do right. I still haven’t let them do the other stuff. I handled their confrontations, argued with store owners who wronged them, all the typical advocating for my kids. But they didn’t learn how to do those things on their own. None of them knows how to fill out a job application on their own, their own medical history, how to drive. And I’m not preventing them from doing any of that or still doing it all for them. They’ve sort of just fallen into the habit of asking me to do it and I do it. I fear that I’ve not encouraged them enough to try stuff on their own. I’m afraid to push them out of the nest to test their wings. I know that failure is part of learning and that I have to be a good enough parent to allow them to fail. But it sucks when your job all these years has been to catch them when they fall.

My best friend and I cried together over this earlier this week. She and I have a mess of kids and our oldest are about the same age. She told me that her daughter called from her university on the other side of the state wanting her to put on her “momager” hat and call the school and handle some situation for her. My friend started to do that but then caught herself.

We women are able to have entire lengthy arguments and weigh outcomes of choices all in our minds in split seconds. Men don’t realize this, I think. But we are able to go through every option available, predict results and decide the best course of action to take all within about 3 eye blinks. We’re bionic like that.

So my friend told her daughter, “You know what? This is something you can handle. You need to call and tell them that you don’t want to change dorms again and give your reasons why. I believe in you. You can do this.” Her daughter was pouty but accepted my friend’s advice. Of course, she cried her eyes out after hanging up because she felt she was a “bad mom” for telling her NO. But this is how we have to do it. And it’s hard. And it sucks. But it’s the being there to pick up the pieces if they fall and break during their test flights outside our nests that make us good moms. And while both of us know this intellectually, it doesn’t make it any less heavy on our hearts when our kids want us to do something and we force them to do it themselves.

Have I done too much? Maybe. But we do what we can the best way we know how and trust that we’ve done it right. Excuse me. I’m going to go cry now.

 

 

 

Don’t Touch Me (Breaking Silence)

I have a good friend in Canada who is seemingly my younger twin. She’s also got 5 kids and loves to write…although, Nuala Reilly is published and I’m still aspiring to be. We both blog and we are both passionate about fighting back against this “rape culture” for the betterment of our daughters and sons.

I’ve written about this seemingly overlooked issue in the past that contributes to many boys learning that “she says NO but she really means YES.”  (In attempting to call up that old post in order to link it here, Google sent me to the post that followed that one and not the post itself. Bing didn’t find it at all. Apparently, even search engines don’t give a shit about our women having the right to tell men not to touch us.)

At any rate, I would like to direct your attention to Nuala’s latest post about the same issue. Men (and boys)  need to learn that regardless of how attractive they may find a woman, it is not their right to touch her. The end. Hands off.

Bad-Assery in the Metro

“Thanks for going shopping with me, Randa.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Got your seat belt on?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Should we take the highway home or the slow way?”

“It’s drive faster.”

“Okay. Highway it is. Should we listen to the radio?”

“Yes.”

**Turn on radio and Nickelback is playing.**

“Mommy, this sucks.”

**Change to a rock station playing Aerosmith** “Better?”

“Yes, ma’am. Mommy drive faster.”

You’re Welcome

So the high school bus shows up today and only 2 of the 3 kids who were supposed to be on it, got down. I received a phone call from an unknown number just as the bus pulled away.

He:  Mom? It’s me.

Me: Yeah? Let me guess. You missed the bus.

He: I did. How’d you know?

Me: You not getting off of it just now with your brother and sister gave me my first clue.

He: Can you come pick me up?

Me: Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm… (read in Marge Simpson disgruntled tone.)

So, of course, Sam wants to ride back up to the school with me to get him. I know that it is not due to her being concerned for his well-being or even to keep me company. It is a means to an end. She wants fast-food.

We arrive at the first traffic light en route and we are about the 6th car back. It is odd that there is traffic at this hour; even just after school lets out. So we wait. And we wait. And we wait. We wait for 10 or 12 MINUTES. I look in the rear view mirror and notice that there is a line nearly a quarter mile long on this road that is usually not crowded at all. Finally, I turn to my daughter and say, “Hey. If you hop out of the car and run up to the corner and push the pedestrian crosswalk light button, I’ll give you a dollar.” She grabbed the dollar and took off like a bat out of hell.

The lady in the lane next to me gave me the “what gives?” look with her eyebrows. I told her that I sent her up to push the button so we could finally get a green light. She laughed.
Then the light turned green and traffic moved and my daughter had to jog alongside the open car in order to hop back in the front seat.

You’re welcome, fellow commuters.

 

Starry Night Prom 2016

Randa SNP2015
It’s that time of year again! That’s right. It’s Prom Season. And the Starry Night Prom 2016 is coming up on us….fast!

“What’s the Starry Night Prom?” you ask. Let me tell you by including part of our Starry Night Prom donations request letter:

“The Starry Night Prom started in 2008 with a vision to create a once-in-a-lifetime prom experience for Arlington ISD high school students with significant disabilities.

Taking the vision from AISD special education teacher, Sara Mayo, Chase Christensen developed his Eagle Scout project around creating the Starry Night Prom, along with Boy Scout Troop #396 and the Arlington Elks Lodge #2114. Now an annual event, the Starry Night Prom is heading into its NINTH year of throwing an all-inclusive prom! Students with significant disabilities and their chaperones are treated to beautiful invitations to attend prom, a sit down dinner, professional photography, corsages and boutonnieres, dessert fountain, a prom king and queen, goodie bags, and, of course, a huge dance floor with a DJ, all at no cost to the student or their chaperone.”

randa-and-hamo-prom-2014

You see at an average prom, there is little in the way of accommodations for those students who have significant disabilities. Some of these students cannot eat without assistance or the use of a feeding tube. Some need assistance in using the restroom or cannot swallow and must use a suction machine. Then there are those who have dietary restrictions or sensory issues that must be taken into consideration. Add into the mix the peer pressure and “everyone is looking at me” feelings that most high school students are experiencing at this time of their lives, and you have kids with disabilities bowing out and missing out on one of the most memorable nights of their school years.

The Starry Night Prom helps make this night special for these kids. My daughter is a junior this year. She is severely autistic and has sensory issues, mostly related to noise. She wears noise canceling headphones that block 21 of every 23 Db of sound. This is because she has incredibly sensitive hearing and too much sound or too loud sound can cause her head to ache and this hurts and frightens her. So to see my daughter in a formal gown with her bling and sequins veil in a pair of pink headphones is just the norm at Starry Night Prom. The DJ takes these types of sensory issues into consideration of our Prom participants, and never blasts the music too loudly and never uses strobe lights.

Shelby and Randa dancing SNP 2014

Starry Night Prom is a recognized 501-C3 Non Profit Organization and all donations are tax-deductible. Would  you consider donating to the Starry Night Prom 2016, being held Saturday, April 30, 2016? Over 300 people attended Starry Night Prom 2015. In kind donations are needed in every area, from items for our prom “goodie bags” to food to serve 300 guests. Financial donations of any amount are also needed, as 100% of all financial donations go to purchasing items for the Starry Night Prom. A tax deductible receipt will follow your donations, as will a public thank you letter supplied to all prom attendees and donors.

This is a program that I believe with all my heart. I never thought that my daughter would be able to participate in her prom. But Starry Night Prom leveled the playing field and, as you can see from the photos shown here, she just sparkles like a princess and thoroughly enjoys herself in a social setting that she would otherwise have to skip.

Please consider donating to the Starry Night Prom 2016. You may click here to be directed to our fundraiser website—–> STARRY NIGHT PROM 2016 DONATIONS

If you would care to contribute to goodie bag items, please contact us via email:
StarryNightProm@outlook.com or like us on our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/starrynightprom .

**All photographs are property of Nikki Mohamed-Fawzy and Sara Mayo and are used with permission.**

 

 

 

 

 

Conversations with My Kids – Study!

“Mom! I want a turn on the computer.”

     “You had a turn. Leave me alone.”

“I want another turn.”

     “Uhm, did that whole ‘You’re grounded from your second turn’ thing slip your mind?”

“But I’m BORED!”

     “Do I LOOK like Julie from the Love Boat?”

“What’s a love boat?”

     “Never mind.”

“But I’m still BORED!”

     “You’re still grounded from your second turn today. Go study.”

“I don’t want to study. Today is Friday. I don’t study on Friday.”
 
     “You don’t really study any other day of the week either.”

“Mommy!!!!! Come on. I want my turn back. I don’t have anything else to do.”

     “Read a book. Draw some pictures. Watch TV. Go to sleep.”

“Boring, boring, boring. I’m going to get a job at the cyber cafe.”

     “No, you’re not.”

“Why not?”

     “It smells like smoke in there because the owner is always smoking and won’t even turn on the fan.”

“So what? If I work there it will be on Friday and Saturday when I don’t have school and I will work when he is upstairs eating dinner.”

     “I’m considering banning you from going there again. Besides, you can’t get a job a month before final
exams and we’re moving next month. You need to focus on your studies.”

“But I can’t work in the States unless I’m 16 and that’s another 4 years away! That’s a third of my LIFE!”

     “See? You totally own fractions! Go work on geometry.”

“You NEVER let me do anything fun.”

     

Shiner

Me:  Son, you keep teasing your sister and one of these days she’s going to tag you right in the eye.

     He:  Pffft! I don’t think so. She knows better.
Me:  Mm-hmmmmm. Keep it up. I’m telling you, she’s going to pop you one and make you cry.
     He:  Yeah, right. 
**********Several weeks later, during a power outage when nerves were high after sitting in
the dark for well over an hour*************
He:  Shut up, Randa!

     She:  Ismail, stop it. Don’t say ‘shut up.’

He:  You’re not the boss of me. I said, ‘Shut up,’ so ‘SHUT UP!’

     She:  Ismail! Stop yelling!

He:  Yeah, heifer! SHUT UP!

     She: No, Ismail! SHUT UP.

***SMAK!  HIGH-PITCHED SCREAMING AND WAILING!*****

Me:  Aiman, give me the flash light! Son, what happened?

     He:   She  punched me in the eye! I’m going to kill her!

Me:  Let me look at it. Hmmmm. Remember a few weeks ago when I told you to let her be or she’d pop you?
 
    He:  Yeah?

Me:  Well, consider that eye dotted!