On Sunday, we headed over to Addison for their annual Worldfest, an international event with food from all over the globe, live music, global games, and arts & crafts from different countries. We missed most of the highlights, but made it in time for gyros and dancing. If I had known it was going to be such an elaborate occasion, I would have trekked over there for their opening ceremonies and parade. [Next year!]
I shopped the Russian booth and found a set of Martyoshka dolls for Ava's stocking stuffer. Night quickly fell upon us, and we relaxed near the center stage where we watched chinese dragons drum through the crowd. Afterwards, the ballet folklorico performed their traditional single and couple dances. Ava couldn't sit still. Standing near us, she imitated the girls, with her hands at her hips, and swirled round and round.... [I was imagining myself sewing her a flowing skirt with vibrant textiles when I got home...] As I was thinking about the new project, Ava made her way up to the stage - and if I didn't pull on her shirt, she would have lunged up and danced with them.
Ava is naturally shy - like her mother. And when it comes to dancing, she feels like no one is watching. I was amazed and proud to see her so facinated by what so many fear doing.
Poets... and our elders all know this to be true: "Dance. Like no one is watching" and I imagine it's because they wished they did more often. Watching Ava reminded me of that, and how we shouldn't let a night fall without dancing... even if there is no music.
The event has inspired me to introduce Ava & Noah to more global music at home. Costumes would be a plus. I found my Putamayo cd's and have started researching more at the library. Early childhood educators have noted how physical activity helps children learn better. And I think dancing is the perfect antidote to get there. And learn about culture, heritage, art, language, history, and geography. Wow. I can't wait to tell you how this goes....
Do you have a favorite dance from your heritage? Or a global cd that moves you? Please share - we'd love to dance to it...
Lighter than air itself, Noah's hair is a natural wonder - just like him. Born with an ebony shade, his angel cherub soft hair grew into a helmet of golden curls, sprinkled with strands of blonde and brown mixed with a heavy layer of heaven. To me, it was simply fitting to his unique personality.
One of his signature comedic performance is when he'd shut his eyes, pucker his lower lip, and then sway his mane from side to side - making us laugh down to the core of our stomachs. But the inevitable came around the corner. His goddess-like hair turned into a frenzy of layers across his face and eyes. The gradual change surprised me. So I returned the favor, and took Noah to get his first haircut.
Embarrased by the attention, Noah frowned with disapproval. He had missed his naptime thanks to his mother's spontaneous aha moments. He didn't make a peep, and one lollipop later, he would have been happy to sit through a perm from an intern.
I wasn't sure what to tell our stylist, a good friend of Mom's who runs her own salon nearby. I trusted her instincts and in the end, we got a look at a completely different Noah... and he did too.
Hair out of view, his layers now round his face, and soften those cheeks we often bruise with too many kisses.
Cushioned by Grandma's arms, it was Ava's turn to sit in the hot seat. Another bounty of beautiful golden brown curls was surveyed, and we decided a small trim on top would make her trademark curls bounce. Ava liked the sound of that...
Sporting their new do's, Ava and Noah were true champions at the salon. And while I will anxiously await for Ava's hair to lengthen back to pigtails ... and for Noah's curls to hug his nape again, I will cherish the locks they were born with - now resting in their keepsake boxes.
They look different don't they? To me, they already are... portraying the unique faces and wonder they have grown into... ever so gradually...
The photo on the left, maybe 15 years or so ago, is of my baby sister Roshana and I on a coin ride at Chuck E Cheese. This was her favorite place to be on the weekends. Back then, I could have never predicted that one day, she'd be doing the same with my own daughter. There she is again, on the right with Ava, at 11 months old with the infamous icon of childhood.
Roshana is my kid sister - in otherwords, the baby of the family - and she has the privilege [atleast I think so] of being protected by so many. Since her birth, my parents included my older sister and I as their arms in parenting. Wagma carpooled her to school while I played and entertained her afterwards. She'll argue that it can be overbearing at times - and I agree, we can be. But as I confidently know now, that just comes with the territory of parenting.
I was a teenager back then and found myself saying "are you serious?" most of the time. But I guess this is the way it is with all families with siblings so far in range. Growing up ourselves, wanting them to hurry up and catch up - and yet at the same time, wanting them to stay a baby forever and preserve their natural tendencies...
On Sunday we celebrated Roshana's 21st birthday. A milestone for her, and yet for us, birthdays are a reminder of how quickly the years have passed in our family. So much so, that we have branched out to families of our own...
But thanks to Roshana's energy - we always gravitate back to the center of "family" where we came from...[towing our husbands and kids along] just like it was 21 years ago when she first came into our life - and strengthened our family beyond any measure or memory.
Her presence in each of our worlds, Mom, Dad, Wagma and I - make us dance.
And I look forward to the years when our children, each with a different beat, dance with her...
Roshana is my baby sister, my best friend and my daughter. The transitions between all of them flow at any given moment... and I am grateful.
As I pull her away towards the car, she says, "I don't want to go to school."
Oh boy. Already? Really?
Part of me wants to say out loud, you don't have to. In fact, let's play longer. You're getting so good at catching the soccer ball by yourself. Let's try again.
But instead I say, "Ava, you have to go to school. Your teachers are waiting for you - and so are your friends. Don't you want to go play with them?"
She thinks about it, and some days, I get a flat "no." Other days I get a smile, and she skips towards the car. This tease makes me anxious. Like the incident the other day...
Teacher: [notices embroidery on Ava's dress] I see triangles on your dress. Remember we learned that last week? What shape is this?
Teacher: That's right - good job.
Me: Ava, you're soo good at your shapes. You were talking about your planets this morning. Want to share with your teacher?
Ava: [whispering] Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. And those are my planets.
Asst. School Director standing by: Wow. I don't even know all my planets.
Me thinking: I'm in trouble here.
Either way - the storm clouds are brewing over my head, and I can't see through the fog right now to make a decision. If I pull her out, would she miss out on cupcakes or girlfriends to hula hoop with? And if I keep her in, will she hold herself back or come home with [gulp] cut-out paper triangles instead of dioramas of pyramids? Not challenging herself... getting lost in 9 other children's worlds - instead of her own?
With the pressure of waiting lists, application fees, and simply not knowing "enough" in seconds about everything out there [montessori? private? homeschool?.... unschool?] I'm afraid I'll keep taking her to this program. Until one day, maybe a lot like today... when the rain just fell on us unexpectedly and instead of running straight for cover, we had fun getting a little wet outside.
Noah on the other hand, made it quite clear to us that the program wasn't for him from the beginning. And I regret that there was a trial period to verify what my gut had been telling me all along. But that's how it happened - and I'm one step closer to understanding Noah's unique growth for discovery and playfulness to experience the world as he sees it, rain or shine...
At dusk, we headed outdoors again, this time for a nature walk leading to the playground. The wind was blowing on my face, and while holding Ava's hand I asked, "Ava, isn't the wind nice?"
She candidly responded, "Yeah [pause] but the wind is blowing my curly hair in my face." [oh how I love those curls.]
The sky turned purple long enough for us to take notice, and we found ourselves mesmorized by our shadows and echoes bouncing inbetween us.
There wasn't much left to do at the playground and I regretted not getting out of the house sooner. Ava and Noah obliged to leaving after rounds of going up and down ramps. With their basket proudly filled with leaves and acorn caps, we headed back towards home under the moonlight - and the notion that we will return soon for another chance for the autumn breeze to rearrange our curls.
We hear the grunt grow louder down the hall - and I watch two little heads swivel in opposite directions as they duck for cover.
It's a simple game... that tickles them beyond laughter and scares them beyond squeals. Whether being taunted by the count to 10 slowly, or being grabbed before catching their breaths - this is the game we fall back to when we are tired of playing with objects - coloring, painting, matching puzzles or even reading. We all need to run a little, and when the shoes are no where near to fit all 8 feet at once, we default to a little masquerade of hide-and-go-seek at home.
And the best part? There are no batteries required. No rules or board game pieces to lose... Just our imaginations. And good places to hide under... even if it's just half way...
What's your favorite childhood game you played with your siblings or friends? I'm curious - and would love to know...
When we reached the play area, we were at a loss at what to do first. Ava couldn't decide which bounce house to explore. It was either too crowded or too scary... but she managed to sum up enough courage to handle both. They bounced, they climbed... and went for a hayride...
And by the time the sun's rays caught up with us, we were ready to embrace a little AC and head indoors to refuel. But not before picking out this year's winning pumpkins from the farm...
I'm not sure when the tradition of people placing pumpkins on their porches began.. but it's a sweet one. Except when I think about how awful it is to put food out like that... all month - only to rot green and shelter grateful insects. So the two sweet little ones Ava rescued from the patch [if we don't buy them, then they'll rot on the farm anyway right?] we'll make a pumpkin pie... or two... and remember this day...
Our Indian summer... and how by afternoon's end, spent in Nana & Papa's backyard, we enjoyed the warm breeze, each other's company, and runaway bubbles...
P is for "pop" and so we turned to our good 'ol friend Jiffy to help.
And so Noah obliged by saying "pop" over and over again. Ava did too... by eating them. The smell of homemade popcorn filled the room quickly, and Aaron and I gravitated to the family room - for a movie night with the kids. We didn't plan it like this - but that's how learning goes doesn't it? One fun thing leads to another... So the 4 of us cuddled on the couch and we narrated a Disney movie for the kids.
Me: The wooly mammoth and sloth are good friends.
Ava: Where's the baby's mommy?
Me: She went for a swim. And got lost. So the sloth and mammoth are going to go look for his daddy.
Me & Aaron: laughing at the slow-mo of the sloth breaking the watermelon.
Ava: I don't like this movie. Let's watch Sound of Music.
What a view. If you asked me if I'd ever take my daughter to the park dressed in her Afghan clothes, I would have said- are you kidding? But here's the evidence. I did. [Thanks to last week's Eid celebration where we got the kids outfitted for the holiday.] So here we are this weekend, at the Plano International Festival at Haggard Park, dressed to represent their Mother's origin. Other locals dressed up their kids from their native clothes and students from area schools performed live dances in the gazebo.
Plano is soaked with diverse cultures, and it was nice seeing the global faces enjoying the great weather and music. Children were running around with "passports" and having vendors stamp their national seals. Polish hot dogs, gyros, and homemade ice-cream had everyone picnicking on the lawn. Noah didn't like the hummus, but he tried it anyway.
It was packed and hopping. Mom got stopped by an event coordinator and asked if Ava could do their fashion show next year... Delighted, my Mom accepted on her behalf. The afternoon was fun - but my most favorite moment was watching Ava play on the playground... with another Afghan girl nearby...
and I could only wonder... if this is what our life would be like... if things were different in Afghanistan 30 years ago... and we never left...
Eid ul-fitr is one such tradition where Muslim families and their communities come together to mark the end of four weeks of Ramadan and the sighting of a new moon. We pray. We feast. We gather in the company of our elders and are grateful.
I grew up enjoying the festivities of Eid with food, dance and playing with my cousins. We received gifts or money - which was always spent before the week's end. Each year was different from the one before. There were years where I didn't understand its purpose - and drew away. And then there were years where I fasted for 30 days and concentrated only on my faith and direction. By reflecting on all those years past, I cherish how it has accumulated to what it is today.... And I am in awe of the spirit of tradition and how it ties us all together - divinely.
With the blessings of Ava and Noah, I am humbled by the opportunity to continue this tradition as my parents did for us. And honored to create new ones as unique as our own family.
We read My First Ramadan, a children's book that beautifully illustrates the simplicity and love within the religious holiday, and stories from the Koran nightly. We drew pictures, ate dates, and became more conscious of the food we consumed. And before we knew it, a new moon was sighted - and Eid was here.
The traditional Afghan dress my father brought back for Ava from his trip to Afghanistan was finally fitted - and a local trip to the international market for accessories and gifts for the kids were completed.
We celebrated at my parents house with traditional Afghan food, and of course, "eidies." I wrapped the children's gifts in their artwork and filled tubes of wrapping paper with candies, dancing sticks and bangles [yes, we even got Sophia a set]. The night was memorable - and once again... breathtaking.
This year we have beautiful Sophia, their newest cousin, joining the festivities of our family and faith. Our children may be too small to ebrace the religious scope of the holiday, but they are full of life, love, and gratitude for one another...which to me, are derivatives of Ramadan.
Eid Mubarak to all the little ones who are celebrating for the first time... and to everyone else around the world with fond memories of their childhood traditions with family.
We made it! After attending our first Antique show this past April, I knew I had to go back. Miles and miles of treasures, art, old and new... and getting lost in conversation with people from all over...
I brought my Mom with me for some overdue Mother/Daughter time, and although I see her every week, it was the one-on-one time of us laughing that made me feel so special to be her daughter. Our drive down south on Monday was filled with stories about her childhood, summer vacations, and raising me and my sisters... we talked about marriage, religion, and the wonders of future plans. Our jaws hurt by the time we arrived at our B&B. The first night we shared a room, we felt like college roommates - flat on our stomachs stretched across our beds from each other... talking on our cell phones to friends and family - with our legs waving in the air... we ate what ever we wanted, and took breaks as a new story surfaced. It was a fantastic 2 days of having her all to myself - leaving me wondering, why I don't do this more often.
We ventured out the first day and walked up and down the streets of Warrenton - weaving inbetween aisles and aisles of booths containing people's collectibles, antiques... and junk.
I saw many familiar faces - thanks to my legs for memorizing my favorite booths - including my favorite vendor, Crystal Greer, who runs an eccelctic shop of vintage jewelry, recycled furniture, her own art work, and pieces of this and that...
Instantly she recognized me, and we were able to pick up right where we left off 6 months ago. We chatted like school girls, giggling and gossiping underneath a tent in a backyard. We have nothing and everything in common - a Mom of 6 children and wife of a preacher - she opened up her own boutique in Houston to fulfill her dreams. I was excited to see her booth - and admire her artwork. She said she painted more than 100 canvases for this show, and on the first day, an Art Gallery came through and bought 70 of them.
The fact of the matter is - everyone places a personal value on their perception. To me, art is in everything - and its how it resonates within each of us - igniting our best selves that makes it artful. Art is even in the way we do things - like raising a family [smile]. I found Greer's faceless artwork peaceful - and was happy to purchase 2 more to complement the children's paintings at home. Everytime I pass by their artwork, I bubble over. And have a better day... remembering the brush strokes that made Ava or Noah squint, curious, and messy....you can't even begin to put a price tag on this feeling...
The sun's rays slowed us down - but not as much as the southern hospitality. I will never forget the beautiful Texan woman, donned in a black cowboy hat and red lipstick who shared her life & death story during a search for a mall - in Italy. And I told her about my travels to Italy, my bond with my mother, and the family I was raising back home. Cultured, smart, and a loving mother - she strung a few chords with me that we hugged and kissed good-bye...
It is all of these moments - more than the shopping - that will keep me going back... and then racing home again to be with my favorite artists of all time.