Cultural Glimpse

Enjoying diversity

Tag: Children

On the Way to School

On the way to school

While organizing my office, I watched a French documentary on Netflix called On the Way to School. I expected this film to occupy me a little while I multitasked. I did not expect it to capture my attention more closely than a suspense movie.

On the Way to School is the story of how children in different parts of the world, who live in remote villages, get to school. Jackson and his young sister live in Kenya and walk ten miles a day each way to get to their school.  They have to beware of the wild animals in their path. Carlito and his younger sister ride their horse more than eleven miles each way across the plains of Argentina. Zahira and her friends live in the Moroccan Atlas Mountains and their journey, partially on foot and partially hitchhiking, takes four hours to get to their boarding school. In India, two brothers have to push their brother Samuel, who’s in a wheelchair, 2.5 miles each way to get to school.

These children not only go to school, but they also help around the house. They did not complain, analyze or compare their situation to anyone else’s. They did what they had to do and learned a great deal in the process. They had an attitude of gratitude and a type of understanding that parents hinder their children from having when they baby them too much.

When I finished watching this documentary, I told my children they had to help me clean the house. I handed out a list of tasks and I stopped feeling bad about telling them to make their own sandwiches, grab their own drinks and potato chip bags. Since I watched the movie, each time an inner complain wiggles itself inside my head, I think of them. I think of their dedication and perseverance and I switch my complaints to an attitude of gratitude.

That’s what good movies are all about. They make you visit other peoples’ lives, learn something new, gain a different perspective, and maybe, hopefully, make a change.

Crappy Sun

Crappy Sun

After a long day’s work of organizing my office and paperwork, cooking brussel sprout stew for lunch, preparing the stuffing for the grape leaves I will roll tomorrow, taking my son to school, dropping books and movies to Friends of the Library, taking the Ipad to get looked at an Apple Store, picking up my kids from school, coming home to feed the kids and out again to take my daughter to a Rock Climbing class while I exercise on the treadmill, then back at the house, preparing dinner for my husband, helping my daughter with her homework, researching for a possible weekend family trip, washing the dishes, on the way to taking out the garbage, I hear my son open the garage and yell, “I want Crappy Sun!”

I couldn’t help but smile. I didn’t correct him and say, “It’s Capri Sun.” I simply thought to myself, as difficult as it is sometimes to be a mom, with one word, one hug, one smile, our children can melt our hearts, make us remember how worth-while life is and how unnecessary it is to treat it too seriously.

Love, Greece and the Movies


I was nineteen years old when I first watched Shirley Valentine, a comedy about a 42 year old bored housewife in England who takes a trip to Greece and while on holiday, decides to change her life forever. As a result of the beautiful scenery of the Greek islands in this film and the message it gave, that we should love ourselves and go after what we really love before it’s too late, I began following my desire to travel – first and foremost to Greece.

Today I went to the Main Arts Theater and enjoyed watching an intelligent and mesmerizing film. Before Midnight is an American romance drama film and the sequel to Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004). It takes place in Greece and it’s about a couple who ironically are in their early forties (guess I have this thing for the 40s). This couple gets a little time off from their twin daughters and end up confronting each other with some interesting conversation that challenges the questions of commitment and acceptance.

It was exciting to see that such wholesome smart stories still get created, even though they are put in one theater. It’s unfortunate that only certain types of people go to see them. Today, for instance, the majority of the twenty audience members watching this film had grey hair. Still, all that really matters is that they are being made and there is an audience for them!

Stories that Hurt Our Hearts

The Mansour Family

A week ago today three children rode a tube behind their father as he towed them with his jet ski on Sylvan Lake. Another man, 56, driving a boat did not see the kids and hit them. The 11 year old boy died shortly afterwards, his six year old sister died the next day, and their 10 year old sister is still in critical condition.

I first heard this story on Monday night, one day late of everyone else. I was washing dishes and talking on the phone with my friend when she asked, “Haven’t you heard what happened to this one Chaldean family yesterday? It’s all over the news!”

I had heard nothing. I’d spent a nice quiet Sunday reading and writing – half the day alone, since my kids were at their cousins’. My friend filled me on the details and ever since then, I and the majority of the Chaldean community – given we are all somehow or another related – cannot get them off our minds. Whether we’re at a gathering, a birthday party, we bring them up, unable to imagine the horror of a nice Sunday afternoon having turned into a nightmare.

A vigil at St. Thomas Church in West Bloomfield was held for them. Over 1200 people showed up to pray. Other vigils were held in other churches, one even in San Diego. The lake, which used to have a marine patrol that was stopped due to budget cuts, will soon reinstate a marine patrol.

I spoke to another friend, told her that my heart keeps aching for this family, that I can’t help but wonder, again and again, why such a tragedy would occur.

She said, “In the Bible, it is written that there’s a time to laugh and a time to cry. There’s a time to live and there’s a time to die.”

She told me a story of when her cousin whom she was very close to had cancer. She prayed for Jesus to save her. Her cousin ended up dying and she asked Jesus, “Why didn’t you save her?”

He responded to her, “I saved all these other people you read about in the Bible, yet are they still here today?”

Death is inevitable, and some things, like the way in which death comes, are just way beyond our grasp. We can only pray that here on earth, God take care of the 10 year old girl, and her mom and dad. And from heaven, the loving and pure energy of the two beautiful children forever fill and guide their parents’ and sister’s hearts.

Peeing in the Pool


The summer has been stressful enough as it is – hopping from the beach to the pool and back again – when my son decided today to add a little touch to it. The fitness club I belong to has a beautiful outdoor pool area in the summertime that really, I have not found the equivalence of.

Well, a few minutes after we arrived, my sister-in-law exclaimed, “Your son is peeing in the pool!”

I looked and there was my son, his swimsuit pulled down and a tiny water fountain crossing into the lap pool. I guess we had watched Parental Guidance one too many times last week (4 times to be exact, not counting when we first saw it in a movie theater). For those who have not seen it, the movie stars Billy Crystal and Bette Midler. They’re assigned to babysit their three grandchildren when the youngest one decides to pull down his pants and pees onto a half-pipe.

Of course, I scolded my son and the lifeguard who witnessed the incident had the pool shut down. I must say, the employees were so gracious about it!

Later on, we met with some friends at Burger King and when I told them what had happened, a fourteen year old friend said to my son, “You’re supposed to pee inside the pool, not outside of it.”
It wasn’t exactly the advice I was looking for, but what the heck! I still have a month and a half of summer to go.

Chucke’s Anthem

Okay, so where did my son want to have his birthday this year? The same place his sister had it at, Chuck E Cheese. Some of the highlights were that Chuck E Cheese had a makeover, and now has a “younger look.” He’s still the same cool guy on the inside.

Chuck E. Cheese’s was founded by Atari founder Nolan Bushnell. The first location opened in San Jose, California in 1977 and was labeled as the first family restaurant to integrate food, cheap animated entertainment, and an indoor arcade. As the restaurant became increasingly successful, he began to franchise. As of May 2009, Chuck E Cheese operates 542 restaurants.

The birthday took place a few weeks ago, during which time I thought, I’m not coming back to this place for a long long while. Then yesterday I ended up there once again, with my cousin and her kids. By the time I came home, I was going to barf – from the hours of noise, noise, noise!

When I was single, I used to think “you’d never catch me in this place.” Yup! The joke is on me.


Fabulous Teachers


For two years prior to enrolling my son into nursery school, he would watch his sister enter her pre-school class, then her kindergarten class. Each time, he tried to sneak in with her as well. I’d pull him out, kicking and screaming.

This year, he finally got his turn. He attended school twice a week, two hours a day and had two wonderful teachers – Mrs. Sharon and Mrs. Lisa. Mrs. Sharon was so full of life that when she came outside at the end of the school day to inform the parents what the children did in class, I felt exhausted just watching her energy. Her passion for her job and her love for the children was really a sight. It would be raining or snowing or freezing cold, and she would be out there in short sleeves, excited to talk about our kids. It was truly amazing and reminded of when Marilyn Monroe sang in front of the soldiers one cold winter. She was in a sleeveless dress, not thinking about the weather but concentrating on what she loves to do.

Yesterday was the last day for nursery school, so we may not be seeing Mrs. Sharon or Mrs. Lisa for a while, but we will definitely never forget my son’s first teachers.

I don’t want to be married!

Before the start of “civilization”, people got married in a simple manner. The man said, “You’re my wife.” The woman said, “You’re my husband.” The union was consummated, the two had babies, and everyone lived happily (or semi-happily if not miserably) ever after. Today is a different story. People take months to years to prepare for their wedding. Shortly after they have children, half of the couples end up getting divorced and in and out of court fighting for custody, property and assets. Then they remarry.

Recently, marriage has become even more complicated. A few days ago France passed a historic same sex marriage law. Some people were happy about that, others were outraged. The battle for such law still continues in the United States.

My son has his own theory about marriage. I decided to post it, although I’m not sure it’s appropriate today since today is my eight year wedding anniversary.



It’s the Life of Pee, not the Life of Pi

Feeding Katie & Lucy

After buying a DVD copy of “The Life of Pi”, my friend Linda suggested we have a movie night with Chinese carry-out for the adults and a pizza for the kids so neither of us would have to cook.

We cuddled on the couch, underneath blankets and besides a nice fireplace. The kids and dogs (there were three of them) behaved fairly decently – except for my son who ten minutes into the movie said, “This is a long movie” and later he kept interrupting with questions such as, “Is the tiger going to die?” At one point, he spilled his glass of milk and one of the dogs, Katie, rushed over to lick it off the carpet. During dessert, however, when he had two or three servings of jello and ice cream, he was pretty quiet.

We watched the movie, and periodically looked outside through the glass door where Linda laid vegetables for her bunnies, squirrels, deer, one of which is pregnant, and whichever other animals decided to stop by. The deer didn’t come while we were there, but a fat bunny did.

The movie had a great ending, one which the kids and the dogs didn’t understand. They just enjoyed the food part of the night. On the drive home, we were exhausted. My son fell asleep in the car and when I was carrying him inside the house, he said in his sleep, “It’s the Life of Pee, not the Life of Pi.”

A Message from a Roach

My daughter had half-a-day of school today. After picking her up, I dropped off my son at nursery and she and I went to a café for lunch. While I worked on my computer, she ate a bowl of soup. Suddenly, she said, “Mom, there’s a bug here!”

I looked at the roach lying on its back on the windowsill. Its legs struggled to move in the air as it gave its last few breaths. The sight of it saddened me, reminding me how petty our problems often are. Last night, for instance, a lot of tension arose between me and my three-year-old son when he threw a one-hour tantrum over chocolate ice cream. We didn’t have chocolate ice cream. I ended up yelling at him, and feeling guilty about it. Seeing the roach grasp for life made me realize how ridiculous it is to dwell on the negative. I decided to put my computer aside and enjoy my lunch with my daughter. At that moment, I looked up and saw a bird flipping its wings and flying high.

“Mom, it’s not dead!”

The roach had flipped itself over onto its legs and was now moving. I smiled.

“Let’s take it outside when we leave,” I said.

Using a paper receipt, my daughter placed it on the cafe menu, after she’d said to it, “I survived you” meaning she saved it. We dropped it off at a circle of dirt, bushes and trees, where it belongs. In her excitement, my daughter forgot her Ipod inside the cafe. She hurriedly went back to get it. Thank God it was still there. Otherwise, I would have paid too much to save a roach’s life.  

When I picked up my son from school, he had made a maraca out of a plastic bottle. It was stuffed with variously paint-colored corn kernels. It was exactly what I was looking for, for reasons I cannot yet explain in this post.

I handed my son his bag of snacks (chocolate milk and potato chips) which he always ate in the car after a hard two-hour day at nursery.

“You got me potato chips,” he said smiling and crunching. “So I’m not mad at you today.”


1 Comment