Hezbollah, the Cumin-timer, and the Box

At the Singapore airport last Sunday. We had South-Indian food for lunch, and North-Indian for dinner. I also got four Rasgulla, a Bengali paneer (home-made cottage cheese) based dessert.


Me: Do you want to try this Leila? It’s called Rasgulla. I used to eat a lot of this when I was little. Really yummy.

Leila: Did you made the Hezbollah by yourself when you was little?

Me: WHAT? No Nani (grandma) used to make it for us a lot. Here, you want to try the rasgulla?

Leila: Yes, I want one Hezbollah.



Me: Leila is the humidifier on? Can you check please.
Leila: Yes mum, the cumin-timer is on.
Me: It’s a hu-mi-di-fi-er.
Leila: Difier.


Maher: Vous voulez aller a Starbuck avec moi, les gars? Comme ca on laisse maman faire son “practice”?

Leila: Starbox. C’est un “box” papa.

Me: Come on guys, it’s Starbucks.

Leila looking at me from the corner of her eyes: Ok papa, let’s go to Star BOX.



How to Make Rasgulla: Indian Dessert Recipe

Translating Bullshit into Bullshit

Rahul and Leila chopping play dough vegetables.

Maher: Qu’est ce que tu cuisine Leila?

Leila: Uhhh, I’m cooking mothika.

Maher: Ah bon. C’est quoi “mothika”?

Leila: Papa, ummm, en francais c’est lita.

Installation Art

A few months ago when the Chengdu rain was pouring incessantly, and probably around a full moon day, I bought a bunch of frames from Ikea. I picked a handful of my favorite paintings by R and L and created a colourful installation.

Me: Do you think these two work in here, in the black frames?

Maher: Yeah, why not. But what do you want to do with all of these frames?

I tore down my yoga-photo wall. After 7 years, a change was necessary.

Me: What do you think Maher? Does it all look fine like this? Too bad for that basket ball hoop.

Maher staring at his Ipad: Maybe you should put them up at a museum.

Me: Oh man, thanks for your help. But hey, what a great idea 😉

Leila's pink painting

Rahul's blue piece

Leila's colourful finger painting and more pink

Installation plus basket ball hoop



How November Whizzed By…

A Family of Scorpios and My Non-Existent Asana Practice

November 1: Happy Birthday Rahul and Leila


Birthday cakes at snack time

November 7: “He won,” Maher exclaims as I walk in. “Now I’m ready to move to America!” he winks.

“But I don’t want to go to America on the Mayflower,” Rahul says. “If we go to Plymouth, America, we will get sick. And then the small people will take care of the big ones.”

We laugh.

“Papa’s joking about moving to America Rahul, and we don’t have to go on a loooong boat ride like the pilgrims, we can take a plane.”

Rahul and Leila break into song: “The pilgrims went to America, America, America…”

November 11: Happy birthday tonton (uncle) Jalal

November 12: Welcome to the World and to Chengdu, cousin Mina XiaoYu Kassar

November 13: Happy Diwali

photo(6)We talk to my family in Zambia. We all wish each other a Happy Diwali. Maher and my Canadian, soon to be sister-in-law also exchange happy diwali’s on the phone.

Maher jokes with my parents that the children are learning all about Halloween and Thanksgiving at school, but they know nothing about Diwali.

“Hey, we did dress up, and take a photo!” I interject. “Maybe next time the diwas (oil lamps), sweets, and stories. I need to google it!”

November 15: Happy Birthday Nana (grandpa) Ravi

November 16: Happy Birthday Jiddo (grandpa) Kamal

November 18: Jiddo Kamal arrives in Chengdu to visit his three grandchildren.

November 22: Happy Thanksgiving


Leila’s Turkey

Rahul's Turkey

Rahul’s Turkey

Thechildren have turkey and cornbread muffins at school. They talk about corn husk dolls and symbiosis.

November 23: L cries and R whines when I meet them at school. They want to do a full day, eat and nap with their friends. Thankfully I’d just discussed this with their teacher.

The evening after their first full day Leila is sure that she wants to stay all day, everyday. Rahul is sure that he wants to come home, always, before lunch.

November 26: Thus begins my three trips a day to the school, one refuses to come home, the other refuses to stay beyond noon.

As a mum of twins this is a big step – the kids first clear decision to do something important and rather long-term independently of each other.


Thanks for sharing this crazy month with us teta Houda.

Thanks for sharing this month with us teta Houda. Finally not only one, but two people who can keep up with you!

Finally not only one, but two people who keep up with you!

"Papa and Teta" Photo by Rahul

“Papa and Teta” Photo by Rahul

Baby Newton

“Mum look kshhhhh, looook, kshhhh doing kshhhhh up kshhhhh down.” That’s what I heard this morning. Rahul was trying to tell me something. Something BIG of course.

I was focused on staying out of his and Leila’s hyper-excited way, working hard at Facebook.

I look at him as he’s throwing a toy into the air, about to move on to another game. I might still be able to listen this time. “What’s up love?”

“Look mum, when I throw it up, it falls down.”

I smile.

“Yeah! Amazing isn’t it.”

I tell Maher about it when he walks into the room.

Leila is a keen listener and vibe picker-upper. Half an hour later she tells me when she throws her doll up, it falls down. She looks me in the eye. She knows I caught her out. We smile.

The only requirement for preschool – which starts middle of next week – is that they’re potty-trained, well other than that they’re 3-years-old by November 1st. Now I don’t know how early Newton figured all that stuff out, we’re still working on it. Baby Leila’s pretty much got it. Our baby Newton might need a little longer.

Past Tense

Some phrases I’m hearing often nowadays:

“I do’d it already.”

“I taked off / take offed my shoes myself.”

“I pick upped the clothes.”

“I comed here before.”

“I throwed it….”

“I bringed it…”

“I catched it…”


Blocks and Princes

Rahul caught a little cold yesterday.

Rahul: Aaaaah mama, my nose not working. It’s blocks


Leila pointing at Rahul: I like this prince mama.

Rahul: I not a prince, I little baby dinosaur.

And the bickering began!

Too Loud

I wrote this 6 weeks ago.  I would *never* have done such a thing today!


“Do you think we should tell Rahul to talk less loudly?” Maher asks me as he enters the kitchen in the evening.

I walk over to the door, peek into the living room where L and R are playing. They’re excited.

“No. I don’t think so.  It’s not a big deal that he talks a little loudly.  And it’s not all the time anyway.”

Rahul and Leila are shouting now.  Fighting over the same toy as yesterday.

When Leila screams, I motion Maher to go and check on them.

Same toy, same fight.  Yesterday she wouldn’t let him play.  She ended up crying from a bite in her arm.

It’s that same cry.  Today. I barge in, demand to know what happened.  They’re still at it.  Loudly.  She’s wailing now.  He’s nagging even more loudly.  No one is able to tell me what happened.


L and R look at each other.  R continues to nag.  He wants the toy.  She won’t give it to him.

My eyes are bigger than he’s ever seen, my index finger points at him and then at his room: WHY ARE YOU STILL SCREAMING?  YOU HAVE THE SAME TOY IN YOUR BEDROOM.  GO SCREAM IN THERE.

Maher looks away from me. I notice a quiver of a smile on Maher’s face. He looks away and speeds out of the living room.

“WHAT?” I glare at him.


After the children fall asleep that night, Maher laughs uncontrollably. “Only 2 minutes before you screamed at Rahul for shouting, you said that we shouldn’t say anything about him speaking loudly!”

I relax. I break into laughter. “OK, so I fu*ked up.  I know.”

My mum calls soon after.  Maher insists I tell her the story.  She bursts out laughing.  We all do.

“It happens sometimes….”  I’ve heard that line of hers before.

Dammit – I was screaming at my children uncontrollably because they were screaming.  I hate that shit.


I came across this the next morning, from a 1924 series of talks by Rudolph Steiner.

The first essential for a teacher is self-knowledge. For instance, if a child blots its book or its desk because of impatience or anger with something a neighbor did, the teacher must never shout at the child for making blots and say: “You must not get angry! Getting angry is something a good person never does! A person should never get angry but should bear everything calmly. If I see you getting angry once more, why then—then I shall throw the ink pot at your head!”   If you educate like this (which is very often done) you will accomplish very little. Teachers must always keep themselves in hand, and above all must never fall into the faults that they are blaming the children for.

Follow Your Husband

Conversation with a caretaker at a children’s park in Lusaka
Woman: You are a Hindu, uh?

I shake my head

Woman: So you are a muslim? But you are not wearing a scarf on your head. Anyway, some don’t, uh? But why do you want to cover up your beauty when it was not even you who created it?

Me: My family is Hindu

Woman: And you?

Me: I don’t follow any religion

Woman: And that is your husband over there? He is white; he is a Christian?

If I tell the truth, I hit a wall.

Me: His family is Christian

Woman: Mami, follow your husband

Leila Baby

Maher: Qu’est-ce que tu fais mon petit bebe Rahul?

Rahul: Rahul grand, papa.

Maher: C’est vrai, tu est mon grand garcon, et Leila c’est ma grande fille.

Rahul peeking at Leila from the corner of his eyes: Leila petit bebe, Rahul grand!

Leila: NON! Leila non petit bebe, Leila grande.