Family time plus nine


This past week was somewhat of a blur and flurry, guests arriving, shifting, cooking, cleaning and finally everyone packed up and made their way back to their homes. Yesterday afternoon the last of my children headed back home and now the house is relatively empty. The house is still a bit messy and today will be my big weekly clean up which means an all day effort of moving furniture, sweeping, scrubbing and finally everything will be back in place, shiny and routine. IMG_1500 (1)

Last Tuesday morning I cleaned the house, made guest beds, moved furniture around to accommodate our large family and stocked the pantry with basics.

Wednesday was spent baking and waiting for my kids to arrive. I worked on my contribution to the dessert table with a turtle cheesecake.

I did my last minute jobs to ensure that our house was once again ready to be bursting with the usual antics, and soon after Yusuf and Alicia came driving up in their brand new electric car. I am assuming in years from now the grandkids will look back and laugh at us oldies who were amazed by a car that needed to be plugged in and charged at few and far between supercharger stations!! The next order of business was a spin in the vehicle and a return home to get settled in.

My middle child flew into Spokane late Monday and insisted on chauffeuring  Grama and Grampa to our home on Wednesday. Meanwhile Saleeha and Edison would arrive around midnight, Osama, Jacki and kids made their way to Fattima and Ben’s that day around 3 and eventually everyone ended up at the family home for pizza and of course this included, home repairs, playing games, wrestling matches and some time for chatting.

That night my middle child picked up the engaged couple at our tiny local airport and everyone settled in.


After a good night’s sleep it was time to head over to Fattima and Ben’s for breakfast and precious moments were spent with the whole family. All nine of my children were in one place and it was just like old/new times.

Babies were put down for naps, cars were loaded and it was time for the days festivities to begin.  This year I took charge and made sure things stayed on a loose schedule and it went fairly well. The family picture was scheduled for 12:30 and although everyone hemmed and hawed they knew I would not take no for an answer! I started with a picture of my parents and all of my children._DSC0019

Jacki and I switched places as photographer

Eventually Heme’s friend came over and took a photo of the whole group _DSC0056

Cooking commenced and a whirlwind of pans, dishwashers and dryers, oven overloaded with food, turkey and stuffing, shepherd’s pie and sweet potato au gratin, spinach salad, smashed potatoes and rolls were all served promptly at 3:00 p.m.

After dinner everyone pitched in and cleaned up following the jobs list to the letter. Dessert was the only thing that occurred out of order and a line that formed behind the cheesecake was inevitable. I really liked the recipe and only made a few changes, some of the batter for the cheesecake was mixed with caramel sauce and a portion was mixed with chocolate, marbling it with the plain cheesecake. I chose to make a chocolate ganache and topped that with caramel sauce and pecans.IMG_1091

Our white elephant was the best ever and my gifts were stolen numerous times, specialty candy and a puzzle of Seattle, a stack of scratch tickets, VR headset and a holiday tin of popcorn and finally I ended up with outdoor led light torches for the yard. The other gifts included; a tortilla press, a digital cooking thermometer, gift basket from the World market, snowman cookie jar, tiny pool table and candy and too many others to list.

Games, cards and movies were watched, babies carted around and general family time shared.

Cars were packed, bags loaded and slowly each family and individual went back to their place of residence leaving our cozy little household of only 4.  I think Alayna expresses our sentiment in splendid fashion with no words!IMG_1216


This Thanksgiving I was encouraged to take charge once again and so I found my rhythm and my place as the head of household.

Blessings to all and thankfulness for every day!

The last birthday


The first half of the year we celebrate 12 of our 16 family birthdays. Our last birthday until October was yesterday and now I am left with only two teenagers! I took last week off and tried to just feel better and luckily no one else in our household seems to have come down with strep throat.

I spent the week tending to my plants and flowers


Packages for the bridal shower kept coming in and we spent more time working on our menu.

The week came to an end and it was time for a favorite meal and the last birthday for months to come!

Beef szechuan, Chinese cabbage salad, fried rice and brown rice teriyaki noodles!

Turtle caramel cheesecake topped with fudge sauce and caramel, pecan, mini chocolate chips and peanut butter cups! 

Happy birthday to my 7th child and a huge piece of my heart! I love you Mude!

Weekend before Easter

This weekend we spent a quiet couple of days after being with the sweetie pies on Friday. On Sunday I cooked and took a few walks and worked on scheduling. But last weekend it was right after my birthday and the kids came to stay. I really love routine and make lists on top of lists to check off my monthly, daily and weekly tasks. However, when the kids come to visit it is just plain fun and my planning takes on a beautiful come what may status.

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First I ready the house; baby proof, spot clean, prepare the guest room. Then it is time for groceries, special snacks for the boys and a menu for the big people. The toys are taken out of storage and lined up on the back wall downstairs. Last minute details are attended to and then I wait, thinking of the fun that will unfold!


Our routine is the same, Friday they arrive and I have prepared a meal. The boys are unsure for a few minutes but then start pointing to downstairs where they know they will find toys, aunts and uncles.  They play until they are tired and fight going to bed that first night.

The next morning I am on call waiting for the kids to wake up. I quietly walk in the room and grab the boys when I hear them stir and it is back downstairs. They settle in my lap on the recliner, grab blankets and chatter away. Eventually they shift to the couch where they switch channels and argue over the remote (so much like adults). It is then time for princess to wake up, we grab her and get a bottle started.

Frustration gets the best of the boys and they head to the tiny room at the bottom of the stairs calling Heme. Then it is on to the Aunties door where they pound and try to turn the doorknob. Uncle Hehe or Auntie Deeja wake up and I head upstairs to make a coffee and bring crackers for each boy. Alayna sits watching quietly but her eyes follow every movement!

This visit was different, we had an egg hunt. Fattima took charge and bought plastic eggs, filled them and hid them. The boys were not quite sure what this was all about but they found eggs, toys and candy! Needless to say Fattima was pretty excited and it went well.

My objectives are clear for these visits:

  • Enjoy the time we get to spend together
  • Let mom and dad  sleep in and have a tiny break
  • Hold as many babies as possible, get hugs, play with toys and soak in the sheer chaos that surrounds us with love.
  • Say goodbye and wait for another magical visit

Days when I feel anxious or down I remind myself or someone else reminds me haha, that I am living my dream. I sat in Saudi never imagining there could be a future like this one!


Big Leaf Challenge



Our large family takes competition seriously. Whether its weed whacking, cooking or playing cards, some sort of challenge will most likely ensue. Sometimes it is helpful and other times it is just plain silly! This time it turned out to be about raking leaves which ended up nicely.

The large tree in our front yard seems to lose its leaves slowly and several separate raking days are needed. This time a wind storm meant the majority of leaves made an expansive blanket covering plants and grass overnight.

Mude offered to rake them and did part of the work, no large bags were found and so he said he would complete the task later. The supplies were purchased and he was back to school with no time available. The week wore on and those leaves piled higher making their own little bunches and mounds across the yard.

I could no longer stand looking at the leaves and so I went out and worked for 30 minutes but decided to stop so my back would not act up later. The bending motion has proven to be a bad choice in previous endeavors like this one. Finally I came up with a plan, the kids would each do one bag every day and I would as well. This idea was met with skepticism until Soos said she would do her part right then and there. She raked and I held the bags open as she carried leaves and then neatly tied each into a tidy bundle. Just about that time Heme came out and heard me say how Soos had surely saved the day and had already made great progress. He got that look on his face that means he cannot be outdone and  the rest is in pictures for you to judge!








Happy 4th

Mom has a family wall where she puts a frame at the end of each summer to commemorate the year and what has taken place at the lake house. Visitors, reunions, work that has been done during the summer and all of the events in our lives. The pictures go back about 20 years! Each year a special picture catches her eye and she excitedly declares that it must go on the family wall. Yesterday morning when some of the kids were awake, they started being loud, exchanging the 4th of July hat that has been around for years. They wrestled, laughed and I took pictures as the scene unfolded. Mom jumped in to get involved, organizing, placing bows, hats and flags, she was sure it would make for a great picture! There were quite a few humorous shots along the way and finally I got this picture that elicited her usual response–Now this is one for the family wall!

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Review and edit of beginning 1994–Too polite

Each week I post old stories for those who have not read them, also editing them as I go- Last week- At the end of our tour he mentioned a tiny detail, as he always did, to make sure I understood and accepted, no electricity. The building was finished but waiting for a simple hook up which would be coming any day. Until that time, it was rent free and electricity was supplied from the building next door. The atmosphere and ability to view the outside world precluded logic and in reality the decision had already been made. I had no idea that days would turn into months, enduring temperatures as high as 115 degrees, struggling with hours of no a/c, no lights and no way to cook on the swap meet stove.



We said goodbye to the villa, I kissed Um Abdullah (Saudi neighbor living downstairs) on each cheek and gave her my regards. We barely understood each other but she was a light for me in what had become a dark abyss. She offered her home, her phone and brought me tea and sweets on her visits. Looking back I can imagine it pained her to see nothing on top of nothing. For Arabs this would be considered a shame, something I didn’t know until years later when I watched young brides move into fully furnished apartments, new wardrobes filled with dresses, shoes and gold sets. One evening days before we moved, Um Abdullah sent her son to tell him(husband) that she would make a visit to see me. He (husband) rushed up the stairs and once again whispered to me, “make sure to shut the doors, she cannot see that we have no beds”  so being the dutiful wife that I had become, I did as I was told. Even with the bedroom doors secured, Um Abdullah had to have noticed, the lack of typical adornments, pictures and doodads that Arab ladies place proudly around their residence. Instead a single large cloth was haphazardly tacked to the plywood that had been nailed up where an a/c should have been. We sat chatting, eating  biscuits and drinking the mint tea she carried on the ornate gold tray.  A kiss, kiss and words of God’s protection were exchanged until her black coat disappeared down the stairs and into her villa. I waved goodbye to her and to the villa as the huge brightly colored truck drove off down the road ending that first chapter of our life in Saudi.

Summer temperatures steadily rose to 115 degrees, opening the large picture windows in hopes of a breeze, only brought dust and sand and little relief.  Days wore on as we waited for electricity to come, but days turned into weeks and eventually months. Our building was hooked up to a neighboring complex and took whatever power was left over. So after an hour of morning chores I could hear the dreaded thud and chug as the a/c abruptly shut down, signaling the end to electricity for an undetermined amount of time.  An air conditioner was purchased before we moved to the apartment under the proviso that it be used only on low and intermittent.  In order to obtain this much needed item I agreed and followed the terms for usage. This is how our life progressed, a measured step forward with many stipulations. My baby was 6 months old and woke frequently at night so at 5 a.m. I took the opportunity to start my morning routine.  I vacuumed and started a wash, hung it on the drying rack and prepared the afternoon meal. A good day meant finishing morning chores and getting a meal started for the day. An average day was met with power being spotty and nothing much being accomplished before the discontinuation of electricity.  We were the only tenants who lived in the building and an eeery feeling fell over the apartment when lights had gone and clicking could be heard in the hallways just outside the door. Prospective renters walked the halls, looking at various units and then just as they had entered, they exited. The children entertained themselves, running and playing tag through the empty apartment, carting each other on the back of a tricycle their aunt had purchased and making forts out of the bed pads. I passed time, looking out the large, clear windows, taxis sped past, workers washed cars with a rag and bucket in hand and feral cats rummaged through the garbage dumpsters.

A few weeks after moving in, a cousin who lived in Riyadh, came and brought his family for dinner. In Arab society it is obligatory to visit and congratulate people when any significant life event occurs.We had no real furniture, but hospitality being what is is in the middle east, no one can be refused. I was to cook a large dinner for them and started on it as early as possible. With no electricity and a stove that barely functioned, this was a difficult task that I spread out over several days time. When they arrived, the woman, Um Tarik (mother of Tarik) came into the family room with her four children. She greeted me, removed her scarf and coat and sat, positioning herself directly in front of the a/c.  We chatted back and forth in bits and pieces of English and Arabic. She fanned herself and tended to her younger ones, pushing them to join my kids, riding the rickety blue trike. After the initial niceties, awkward silence set in and the language barrier once again became evident.  I told her I had to check on dinner and left, shutting the kitchen door behind me. Minutes later the door flew open and Um Tarik entered, she looked around and smiled in approval of the cheery white cupboards with bright red trim, but just as quickly she seemed to search for something. Her eyes darted towards the a/c in the living room and she moved swiftly, twisting knobs, shifting the vents and putting this machine into high mode. I stood watching her, feeling the wave of cool air as it dried the sweat that had pooled under my eyes. I felt a twinge of worry and walked to meet her, cautiously and politely explaining the rules for proper usage, which were my job to enforce. Turning the a/c to high and opening the door was a waste of cool air, it would be automatically sucked into the kitchen and wasted on cooling.  I adjusted the knobs back to the appropriate settings,  shut the door and returned to my work. Um Tarik repeated her previous actions and ended her movements by flinging the door open once more and tying the door knob to the kitchen counters with a string she removed from the onion bag. She ended her tirade but stood firmly in her place, “Um Osama,you, too polite, he will come to this Mutbukh (kitchen) and cook instead of you”???