Saturday, December 29, 2007

Excitement in the Evening? Near misses that will live in infamy.

Well, the bean-mobile had a very near miss tonight. Fortunately, no beans were present in the car at the time. We had a nice dinner out with Teta and Jiddo Bean and were sitting with them at their place when we heard that whoosh that is the compression of air in a high speed accident. Then we heard a second (and much louder) bang, bam, boom! So, of course, we jumped up and rushed to the balcony to see what had happened and if our car had been caught in the fray somehow. It seems that two luxury cars had collided in an intersection right near the GrandBeans' house. It was really, really ugly. I'm certain that both cars were totaled from the impact.

Of course El 3atal pulled on his coat and dashed down to ensure that our car had not been hit. This was a reasonable fear as car 1 (a BMW) had been spun around and stopped maybe a foot from the car in front of us. The entire front end of the car was either missing or pushed so far back into the hood that I couldn't see it. Car 2 (a Nissan SUV, I think) had run up over the curb, hit a parked car, and demolished the stone wall in front one of the buildings. Yikes!

From the angle, I had a firm suspicion that Car 2 was at fault. Now, it seems that there were several bottles of whiskey in the car with the ladies in very questionable apparel (okay, I'm from the US and even I think it was questionable). So, sadly I anticipate that this was an avoidable accident fueled (please excuse the unintentional pun) by drinking and poor choices.

Good news: No one was seriously injured, persons in authority were immediately on hand (no uniforms, but you know of whom I speak)

Bad news: Both cars totaled and damage to a poor bystander who had simply parked on the street in front of his building.

Sad lessons, hard learned for these young ladies (and I do use the term very loosely).

Happy parking!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The coolest pet of 2007, the WebKinz! I wonder if the Konouz family is raking in the big bucks now?

Teehee. Yes, I know this has nothing to do with Kinzi and her family, but did consider giving the Konouz's one for Christmas. I mean, how cool to have a state of the art virtual pet named after you? Too bad Kinzi didn't copyrightall forms of the kinz name. Hahaha.

Here's a shot of all of the types available:

But, don't buy them with the thought that it will help the Konouz. It won't. I do have to admit that virtual pets don't do much at all for me... At any rate,

Happy WebKinz!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas? Well, no actually.

Okay, it's funny the way the mind works. I grew up with green Christmases. I mean really, really green. In Alabama, everywhere you look are evergreens (pines, firs, etc.). So, fall (autumn for your Brit-educated) is a rather anti-climactic time. Even when the leaves have changed and fallen, most of the area is still green. Now, having said that, the green does set off the colors nicely, but... In addition, we rarely got snow (by rarely I mean, we're lucky if it's once a year). And yet, in Jordan it does snow (or at least it did last year). And it gets really, really cold. So, if I have to put up with snow and cold, couldn't it come over Christmas? That would make me SO much happier. Then I wouldn't have to be dreaming of a white Christmas, I'd be having one. How nice would that be? I even got a tad hopeful on Monday when we got a smidgen of hail at the office. And then, it turned warm again. How is that fair, I ask you?

Although, I did have to laugh as I went out for coffee with friends the other day. I realized that it really must be kanuun il awwal because one of my neighbors had broken out the kanuun and was cooking (or warming up) around it. How cool. First time I've seen one this year is in the month named for it. I'm loving the humor of that and glad I have some way to remember the name of the month as they all merge in my mind. At any rate, wishing you and yours a white Christmas (if you want one) and a blessed new year!

Happy kanuun il awwal!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

What Happened at the Cookie Party Stays at the Cookie Party!

At least until those with cameras and much film in them post their snaps... But, I will give a few highlights.
  1. MommaBean took Mazen at his word and he had a supa dupa snowman waiting on his arrival (with snowfamily in tow, predicting fine things for him in the coming days...)
  2. Jad ate all of his creations, being super efficient so no effort was required to take home cookies
  3. Salam made one awesome cookie then retired. However once Kinzi's cookies arrived, she was inspired into series of classic, beautiful trees
  4. Hayat's Mom demonstrated that the talent runs throughout the family. And, then her little brother totally outdid them (but no one out did Mom's spring rolls)
  5. BamBam proved his worth (more than his weight in gold) on the marriage mart by not only being a decorator extraordinaire, but also baking a treat to bring with him (that's right ladies a man who can cook, I'll start taking bids at... oh wait, no...that's another reality show)

Okay, so that's all I'm going to tell. For those who didn't join us, you really missed out. For those who did, well you know what happened, so keep it under your hats. No embarrassing moments will pass my lips. Those are saved for the ones who came. Here's hoping you'll come next time!

Happy cookie eating!

Slacking bloggers and the Commercialization of Christmas (A Thoughtful Post, Not A Complaining One)

First off, let me ask, what is it with these slacking bloggers? Seems like most of my favorite blogs have a Happy Eid and Merry Christmas (oh, and Happy Eid and Merry Christmas) post and then a see you next year. What?! No daily recaps of your holiday season? No posts about how much you ate and what stuff you got? Where's your Christmas spirit? Where's your Eid enlightenment? We want news and posts! Otherwise, during these days off from work, where will we turn to be entertained? I'm ashamed of my fellow bloggers. See you next year indeed!

But, seriously, a post of Nas' blog got me thinking about holidays in the US and here. While there is alot of build up to Eid al Fitr and Eid al Adha, there's nothing like the over-the-top widespread mania of Christmas in the US. As I thought about that, I thought about the charges of the overcommercialization of Christmas (valid) and the earlier and earlier start date of the "Christmas season" in the US (now starts before Halloween). And, I wondered, why the focus on Christmas? As you may know, pretty much everyone in the US celebrates Christmas, Christian or not. As a child, my family did Christmas in a HUGE way. When I was very small, we would all migrate south to Florida for Christmas at my great grandparents house. And, when I say all, I mean: The three of us, My uncle's family (6), cousin 1 and his family (3), cousin 2 and his family (4), my great aunt and uncle (2), and my grandmother. So, as you can see, there were 20 or so of us (at a minimum as sometimes the other two cousins and their kids would come). And of that 20, there were 10 kids. Given that we were coming from many different states and far flung, this was a pretty big deal. It was the one time of the year when I was part of a big family.

And this brings me to my revelation. One of the reasons we Americans go overboard for Christmas is that it is one of the rare times we're together as Family (ahli) rather than family (ayli). In Jordan, this is almost always the case. Dropping by Teta and Jiddo is the norm. Seeing ibn Khali and bint Ammi is an everyday occurrence. In fact, teta and jiddo spoiling the kids is also a weekly thing. But, in the US, my family wasn't unusual. Growing up, we lived in AL and grandma lived first in Maryland, then in Minnesota. The great grandparents lived in Florida. My uncle lived in WV, then PA, then OH, then finally in AL. So, this was OUR time. And, it's gotten worse, not better. So, I think one reason we go so overboard is that instead of all of the wonderful family time and visiting and spoiling that happens during the year here, it's a once a year opportunity. Retailers respond to this need for Americans to reconnect with their families by offering more and more stuff. In part, the stuff is trying to replace the intimate family contact. We're trying to find the perfect "something" to show the others how much we care, when in fact just plain caring would be a better way to do it... That's all of my thoughts on the topic at this moment. I've got to go get ready to decorate some cookies!

Happy Christmas Thoughts!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Stifling Creativity: A Cultural Thing?

I pose the title as a question as I'm hoping this post may provoke some conversation and alternate viewpoints. I'm hoping for thought-provoking dialog rather than diatribes about how awful that I'd even make the suggestion. The topic on my mind, after our recent excellent craft making and purchasing experience is creativity.

In fact, this month there is an interesting article in Jordan Business about innovation and creativity. I will admit, though, that I think their solution is placing emphasis far too late. SO, let me start at the beginning...

A couple of weeks ago, we were at ButterBean's school making crafts to be sold in the bazaar we attended yesterday. During the craft making fair (an excellent idea to get parents involved), ButterBean and I made a snowman, a Christmas tree, and a Christmas Card. It was an interesting dynamic to watch how the various parents interacted and what type of role they took in this process.

Making the snowman consisted of taking small plastic bowling pins, putting glue all over them and pushing on cotton balls. Then eyes, mouths, buttons, coats, and scarves were glued on. A few of the parents seemed very concerned with getting it "right". They took over and basically did the entire exercise for their child, letting them pick up the eyes and put on the buttons, but that's about all. For me, I helped ButterBean hold the bowling pin and get the glue onto the applicator. that's about it. As a result, we ended up with a snowman with slightly wonky eyes (one about 1 inch higher than the other) which were close to falling off. We also ended up with a cape instead of a coat as Butterbean's creative little mind said a cape would be more fun. When we finished, the snowman was placed into a table with the other ones for sale at the bazaar. ButterBean was quite sad that we weren't taking it home with us. But, never fear, I had already planned to buy it at the bazaar. And, given it's wonky appearance and the cape, it would be easy enough to identify, right?

We moved over to the clay Christmas-tree making station. On this one, ButterBean wanted me to take the lead, so I did so. I crafted a tree while ButterBean made calls and such to add. After the tree was done, I offered to make a star for the top. However, ButterBean was adamant that she wanted an angel. So, an angel I made. It was a sweet little thing with wings and a harp (yes imagine a tiny little harp less that 1/4" tall) perched atop the tree. Again we placed it with the others and again it was quite unique and easily identified amongst the star topped trees.

Finally we moved to the card-making table. For this activity, the teachers had cut out most of the necessary shapes leaving the kids to tear one paper (to make grass) and glue the shapes onto the card. They were also able to add glitter. So, again I helped ButterBean with the glue. (Writer's Note: by now you are wondering why I talked about stifling creativity, aren't you? It's coming right now, I promise.) As we were down to the final touches, I asked ButterBean what color glitter she wanted to use on the moon and stars, gold or green. The teacher who was facilitating this table leaned over and said, "Oh we're using gold for the stars and green for the grass." You know, each of these children has years and years and years ahead of them facing inestimable pressure to conform to others' ideas about everything from hairstyles, to clothes, to the color of glitter to be used on stars. You'd think that, at this most creative age, every possibility would be open. In the Bean household, trees are as likely to be pink as green and brown. Monkeys are purple and people are blue (and every other color). After all, I only hope that my children can imagine a world where all of the colors mix together any which way.

** Warning tangent ahead**
What if Picasso (and none of my kids is Picasso, I can assure you) had been raised believing that people couldn't be blue? What if his teachers had insisted that people look like people?
** End of tangent**

So, ButterBean actually wanted the moon and stars to have gold glitter, so that's what she put. But instead of following the "pattern" for the grass, I made grass the way I would normally draw grass (three little gather lines that intersect at the bottom) and had ButterBean drop the green glitter on those. Our end product mostly conformed, but was just a tad unique.

All in all, I was quite pleased with our artistic efforts. They were half-formed, had drunken angles, and generally looked like a Kindergartner had made them. I was terribly pleased that the bazaar was scheduled for right after I came back from the US, not while I was gone. And then it happened...

I dropped by the bazaar shortly after it opened to ensure no one else would buy our wonderful offerings. only, they weren't there! I looked and looked at the Christmas trees and none had an angel perched atop it. I moved on to the snowman and there were no capes. Confused I looked again and the teachers manning the booths helped. Then they said the fateful words... the art teacher had "improved" some of the crafts we made. I guess he made them "right" to her way of thinking. And, what message did that send to any kids in the position of mine? Well, frankly, it says that their creativity wasn't good enough and their efforts fell short. We didn't buy a tree and ButterBean picked a snowman, but it had lost its meaning. I can't say now, oh that's the snowman ButterBean made when she was in KG. Future years, it will be the snowman that she might have made... The only thing that was actually identifiable was the card we made with the unique grass. So, I feel like we missed out on an opportunity to carry on the memories of the craft making session in tangible form. The things that most reflected ButterBean were made unrecognizable by someone's "improvement" efforts. Maybe she just doesn't get that I want the one with wonky eyes and a cape because that's what my beautiful angel created. I would have been happy to pay for the items and take them home the day we made them. i would have been pleased to pay in advance and let them put them out with a sold sign. I just wanted to be able to take home the exact items exactly the way we made them.

In the end, I see this early stifling of individuality to be a symptom of the overall educational challenge in Jordan. Instead of focusing on imagination and creativity and self-expression, the system is geared towards conformity and doing it "right." The end result is groups of college graduates who are unable to structure coherent thoughts, who copy others' words and string together their ideas without attributing proper credit, and who can't make a convincing argument (I even had one say to me "what do you mean copyright violations?" when I commented that his work was one big copyright violation, after all he'd gotten 8/10 for this in his college course (I assure you he would have gotten an F for plagiarism in the US)). They focus on the "right" answer rather than the best answer among many right answers. And, as we face hiring against this educational backdrop, we look for graduates of American schools, not because the learning is better, but because it's more applicable and less conformity focused. In this real world we live in, there are very few right answers and lots of good choices. For Jordan to advance, it must overcome this shortcoming. But, back to my original question, is it a cultural thing?

Happy creativity!

Finally a kids event worth attending!

Today the Beans and Lil Kinz had an awesome outing. Butterbean's school had a Bazaar. This is one of the many new initiatives undertaken by the new director of the school. About 2 weeks ago, parents were invited to come and help the kids make little items to be sold at the Bazaar. El 3atal and I went and had fun making a snowman, a Christmas tree (turned into a snow globe), and a Christmas card. Today, they sold the items at a booth at the bazaar. It was open for folks to rent tables and sell their wares. It was a great collection of Christmas-sy products mixed with other things of interest. They also had a kid's area where there was face painting and a bouncy castle thing.

Unlike the Halloween and Christmas "parties" we experienced last year, this one was not a silly DJ with overly loud music and very little fun. This was actually something kids could get into. In fact, my only complain is that the art teacher "fixed" some of the things we made a couple of weeks ago rendering our snowman and tree unrecognizable :(. I let ButterBean pick the one she thought was hers, but I'm not really sure it was... Very sad. On the other hand, ButterBean said to me as we were leaving, "Mom, this has been an awesome day." So, Kudos, Miss Mirna. Keep up the great work.

Happy Kids!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Nothing Says I Love You Like... Paper Products?

Okay, while I was doing my shopping, I noticed a VERY odd thing. Fine (yes that's right the tissue and toilet paper folks) are marketing a "gift box" for Christmas. It seems to include two boxes of tissues, a pack of holiday napkins, a set of coasters, and a keepsake frame. Wait a minute! Someone thought it would be a great gift idea to give someone tissues?! Might as well have included a six pack of toilet paper too. I'm sorry, but for me this goes into the "what were they thinking" category. So, those of you who were considering giving me a fine box of Fine for Christmas, save your money and make a homemade card instead... it will be more appreciated. Of course chocolates would be even MORE appreciated, teehee.

Honestly, this box of Fine products really smacks (to me) of the last minute Christmas Eve shopping some people are wont to do at the drugstore. You know, the perfume for her and comb for him... and don't forget the ubiquitous nail clippers. I always used to say, nothing says I don't love you like last minute gifts from the drugstore. Well, here even that would be a step up.

Happy White Christmas! (May yours be paper filled and blessed (and your presents slightly more inspired)!)

*** Update***

When I got home from the store yesterday, you'll never guess what Teta and JiddoBean (unless you actually read the above post). That's right, they brought us a Fine gift pack! Hahahaha! Okay, and now the admission, the boxes are cute and the kids are really enjoying them. As a fun little something for kids, it is a cute gift, but as the only present someone gets you, it would still be very hokey.

Happy Nose Blowing!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Moms, Necessary or Overrated?

So, as most of you are likely aware, I had to take an emergency trip to the US to be with MimiBean during PJBean's last days. We had the funeral (very moving and exactly what he would have wanted) on Saturday and I headed out Sunday for home. My reception at home was great. I hugged and kissed and hugged and kissed on the beans. However, when TetaBean was getting ready to leave, JujuBean started crying and wanting her to stay forever. Of course, after a week of playing with TetaBean, I kind of expected that.

Then, when we dropped ButterBean off at school, El 3atal asked her teachers how it had gone. They were very, very pleased and said that usually when parents went out of town, the kids were more clingy and crying than usual. With us, the exact opposite was true! Yikes! As if they didn't already think I'm a bad mom... Ha! ButterBean cried less getting dropped off by TetaBean than by MommaBean. How silly is that? But, I guess I can take it as a compliment. ButterBean is so sad to leave me and misses me so much that she nearly cried this morning. too funny.

So, I started thinking, Moms, are we necessary or perhaps a bit overrated? Teehee. Sometimes I think they get along just as well without us!

Happy insecurities!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

A Very Tough Day, The Bean Family Needs Your Prayers

Today has been a hard day. Those of you who are looking for a happy and amusing post, please move on along now.

I received a call from my mother this morning letting me know that her husband has died. They managed to use heroic measures and revive him, but I'm not sure how long that will hold. All of you who pray, please pray for my PJBean, Mom (MimiBean) and for the whole Bean family. My Mom finally found this gem of a man in 2003. Their time together has been short, but very happy. As many of you know, PJBean was diagnosed just over a year ago with bone cancer, in addition to having had his kidneys fail. After treatment, his bone cancer had gone into remission, but he has struggled with a variety of ailments since then. He's been in and out of hospital. He had been on strict no contact (meaning all visitors wore masks and gloves and even MimiBean couldn't kiss him). I just called her moments ago (in the midst of planning an emergency flight) and found that they have him alive on life support at the moment. So, now I'm in limbo and will be rushing to finish a great deal of work before the call comes to go. No more lackadaisical days off (like today was going to be). Even this is a bit of a blessing given the pain and discomfort he's been under, so I'll keep giving thanks to God for his knowledge and timing, which is always perfect.

On the plus side, fabulous HelperBean managed to find my missing box of Christmas decorations. As a result, all of the ornaments are now present and accounted for. I'm thrilled about that. I had been worrying about those ornaments in the back of my mind. So, one very small good today and one very big bad. But, I'll keep thanking God for the small blessing as it took my mind off of constant worrying about PJBean. The Beans and I put all of the additional ornaments on the tree and even got to put on tinsel as it was in the same missing box.

At any rate, again, thank you for your prayers (those that pray). You know how helpful they are and we need them now very much.

Happy (or Sad) Blessings.