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Tag Archives | blogging

In which i get my feet wet

The first time I did NaBloPoMo was the first time we visited Abu Dhabi, in November 2010. We’d told our kids—who at the time seemed so grown up but now, looking back, seem way too young for us to have hauled them around the world—that we were going “just for vacation” and to “see where Daddy had been working.” We didn’t tell them that plans were already afoot for a move the following year.

And now, eight years later, what had been our year-long Big Adventure is just our life; the ten year old is leaving for college next year, the jolly first-grader is now a taciturn 9th grade Marxist.

There seems not to be an official National Blog Posting Month any more, but I’m in need of the exercise, so I’m dipping my feet into the waters of this November challenge to see what happens. And as if to remind me of my first NaBloPoMo, you know what arrived in the mail the other day from my sister in New Jersey? Flat fucking Stanley. On that first trip to Abu Dhabi, we’d not only had the joy of bringing the stuffed crocodile that belonged to Younger Son’s first grade class but also his Flat Stanley. Every outing on that trip meant remembering the crocodile and the paper doll.

Here’s the deal with Flat Stanley: it started as a story, but now kids mail their own Stanley to friends or relatives so that Stan can have adventures that get written up in a little booklet and returned to the kid, who shares the story with her class.  I’m the farthest flung relative, so this Stanley is my second hosting gig. I always feel like this entire enterprise could be kind of a bummer for any kid who doesn’t have a way to get Stanley to somewhere far from home.

And so we’re taking Stanley out: he’s been to the grocery store, thus far, for some portraits near the honey from Yemen and the olive oil from Palestine; he’s going to the beach tomorrow. Not sure if I can arrange a camel sighting, but I will take Stanley to the Mary Mother of Jesus Mosque, which was renamed two years ago, and sits on the same street as St. George Episcopal church, the Evangelical Christian Church, and a few kilometers from the Mormon temple. I will not be bringing Stanley to Ladies Night at my favorite restaurant, where the pink wine is always 50% off.

Welcome to Abu Dhabi, Stan; and hello world of NaBloPoMo. It’s nice to see you all again.

Continue Reading · on November 4, 2018 in Abu Dhab, Children

why i can’t quit facebook

The other day (okay, last month) I read this piece on the fantabulous Arnebya’s blog (she of the Chipotle story, among others) and read what she had to say about all the various ways we have to “communicate” with each other.  Think about it: we have endless iterations of social media “contact,” from tweeting and pinning to vine-ing; we can google+ (although I don’t know what that really is) and get linkedin; we can email and IM and DM and godknowswhatM. It’s stunning.

Letters, actual mail? Like with envelopes and stamps and stuff? That’s so twentieth century. I don’t write letters any more and no one writes to me, really (yes, I see the causal link there), but I remember how nice it was to open my post-office box at college and see letters. Do any of us get that same little bubbly feeling from an email inbox? Methinks not.

But I’m not going to wax nostalgic in this post. Reading Arnebya’s post made me think about why–despite annoying ads and strange video clips of cats and squirrels and the pesky and constant changes that facebook keeps imposing–I can’t quit facebook or twitter (I tried to quit last year. And it totally worked.  For like an entire hour I was tweet-free).

Here’s the thing: my job demands a lot of computer time. I write, I answer student emails, I put together lecture notes. I’m old enough to remember doing these things without a computer — when I taught high school, back when the dinosaurs roamed the earth, I was still using a DITTO MACHINE.  Brief pause here while those of you of a certain age remember the giddy inhaling of freshly dittoed worksheets.

Anyway. I spend a lot of time starting into the computer under the best of circumstances but since we’ve moved, my screen time has become something akin to an addiction. (And right there is why I don’t let my children read my blog. I spend too much time yapping at them about their own screen time to let them know about my own sickness.)

I have days where I look at the “likes” that other bloggers have on Facebook and wonder how they got so many thousands of people when I can’t even crack a second hundred; or why I too don’t have entire herds of twitter followers; or parsing the analytics on my blog like some kind of twenty-first century soothsayer, hoping that somehow overnight I’ve turned into The Bloggess. I wonder about “monetizing” and “branding” and syndication.

Yes. That would be a lesser-known use of social media: social media as self-flagellating device. How to make yourself feel bad in three easy clicks.


But then I realized the real reason I loves me some social media, and it goes even further back in time, earlier than the use of the ditto machine.


Yep, that’s right: “Romper, bomper, stomper boo. Tell me, tell me, tell me, do. Magic Mirror, tell me today, have all my friends had fun at play?”

That mirror she’s gazing into? That’s social media for me, over here in this half of the world. I look through my little facebook mirror and wait to see what’s happening in the world. Sometimes it’s as if I’m seeing things like those time-lapse photographs from space of the sun moving across the surface of the earth: I see the East Coast talking about their morning routines while the West Coast talks about their after-dinner drinks; the news rumbles in from points in the Mideast while the US sleeps; my brother in LA is going to the gym before work while my sister in NJ picks up her daughter after school. And my magic tweeting mirror offers the paradox of feeling utterly involved in the immediacy of people’s lives, even though I’m nowhere nearby.

There you have it. Social media may not be doing much for me professionally but I am no more capable of putting down my magic mirror of facetwitter than I am of putting my hair in that magnificent, Marie Antoinette-esque beehive.



(Of course, if you’d like to like Mannahattamamma on facebook, I’d be delighted to have you. Romper, bomper, stomper boo…)

Continue Reading · on May 31, 2013 in Abu Dhabi, expat, pop culture, tech life, writing

Twelve? twelve? … TWELVE

If you’re a person who writes a blog and if that blog should talk about your children if you have them (or your pets if you don’t, although really it’s about the same thing, isn’t it?), then the occasion of a birthday – theirs or yours – might call to mind a blog post.

And if you’re going to write a blog post about a birthday, you might find yourself wandering in the thicket of photos on your computer, and it might be that these photos, which were going to be organized last year five years ago weekend but then there was that thing that happened so you couldn’t get to it and then – well, anyway, the thicket of photos might prove to be an endless forest in which you would wander for hours, lost in thinking about that tiny baby, who is now…



And you would emerge blinking from your dreamy visit in the digitally preserved past, like so much pixelated amber, and say to yourself, that teeny burrito-sized baby, twelve? 

Because twelve — well, to be twelve, you might as well already be thirteen. Twelve is but the pause, the deep inhaled breath before the exhaled hormonal hurricanes begin.  But what’s that, you say, boys are easier? Less tumultuous, fewer emotional high-wire acts?

Hmm. I’m skeptical. Liam has never in his life, as near as I can tell, followed the conventional path anywhere:

He sets his alarm for 5:49 every morning, gets out of bed, showers, gets dressed in his school uniform, and is already playing his computer game before I’ve stumbled out of my room ten minutes later. He’s been reading Isaac Asimov’s book Atom for fun; he came to a book talk we had on campus a few weeks ago about Yann Martel’s Life of Pi — of his own volition.

At twelve, this boy is torn between being a physicist, a professional soccer football player, a chef who specializes in chocolate desserts, and an inventor – and who is happiest building intricate, self-designed Lego creations. At twelve, he can’t find the “off” switch on his competitive engines, even to play a “friendly” game of Monopoly. He’ll gut you over Boardwalk without batting an eyelash, will wheedle for you to do a trade with him until you give in…and then slam you with rents so high you’re bankrupted.

At twelve, this boy–who lives for football, and finds fart jokes vastly amusing, wanted two things for his birthday: a fuzzy bathrobe and bath products.  It’s as if he’s channeling Hugh Hefner, but he has no idea who Hugh Hefner is.

At twelve, he wants to be a good big brother…if only his younger brother would leave him alone. Except when Younger Brother does leave him alone, Older Brother suddenly feels lonely, suddenly aware that having an in-house companion is a pretty spectacular plus.  And mostly eight and now-twelve have found an equilibrium, realized that in our expat lives, where transience is a fact of life, they’ve mostly got each other – so killing one another is probably not in either of their best interest. A few years ago, Caleb’s joke present to Liam – a rock, ala Charlie Brown’s Halloween – would’ve given Liam apoplexy. Now, in his mature twelve-ness? He laughed.

Twelve. Old enough to be left alone for a bit if I have to run to the store; old enough to be interested in things like nice-smelling shampoo and having his hair look just so in the morning. But young enough to still sit on my lap, to ask for a hug, to want me to tuck him in at night and “say good-nights.”  And as I whisper our good-night ritual, I trace the outline of his face with my finger. In the dark, it’s twelve years ago, eleven years ago…it’s all the years, and I’m rocking a baby to sleep.



psst, guess what? (yes, I’m whispering; the baby is asleep) there’s a challenge grid going on in the yeahwrite world for those of us stupid brave enough to tackle NaBloPoMo. Yes. A post a day. Might not keep the doctor away but it may bring on tendonitis. And a lot of good writing. So click on the badge and look around the grid: you might find some new favorite writers to keep you company through Thanksgiving, US football, rainstorms, and whatever else is coming down on you these days.

Continue Reading · on November 18, 2012 in growing up, Kids, legos, Parenting, preemies

eleven-question tag: better than choosing sides for dodgeball

Confession: In elementary school (and middle school, and okay, high school too) I was always last chosen for games in PE. Maybe it was the glasses & braces combo (plus the stringy center-parted hair), or maybe it was the utter lack of hand-eye coordination, but I was the girl standing on the sidelines, waiting (and dreading) the “choose teams” moment.

I got over it. Eventually.

Flash forward to now. Bloggers have been playing eleven-question tag–answering questions, passing along the game to another list of bloggers…sort of like choosing a team.  But thanks to Greta, at Not Enough Patience and Never Enough Jewelry, I’m not on the sidelines! I got tagged!  Yay Greta!

My seven-year old self can go slinking back into the deep recesses of my subconscious while I play the game.

Here are the rules:

You must post these rules. Each per­son must post 11 things about them­selves on their blog. Answer the ques­tions the “tag­ger” listed for you in his/her post, and cre­ate 11 new ques­tions for the peo­ple you tag to answer. Choose 11 peo­ple to tag and link to them in the post. Let each blog­ger know that you have tagged them.

Greta’s questions:

1. What kids’ show do you detest, and which one do you secretly watch when your kids aren’t around?

I pretty much hate all of it, but particularly iCarly and her ilk.  I love “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and was furious at the hash that M. Night Shamalamadingdong made of the movie. Luckily most US kids’ TV shows aren’t on here (or else we haven’t found those channels yet). There is an Arabic language show called “Freej” that was inspired by “South Park,” of all things, and it cracks me up: four old ladies cackling about the state of the world.

2.  If you had to wear one outfit for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Oh gadzooks. Um…the outfit I wear here almost every day: a knee-length jersey knit skirt and a t-shirt, purple birkenstocks. No one has ever accused me of being fashion-forward.

3. If you could start over completely with a brand new Facebook account and ditch the one you have, would you have the same number of friends, fewer friends, or more friends?

Waaay fewer. There are people from my past who are, due to FB, now in my present. And they should’ve stayed in the past.

4. If you could retire tomorrow (or if all of your kids were in school), what would you do with your days?

Write and be outside. So I guess if I could have a house with a big porch that would be ideal: I could write outside.

5. What toy from your childhood do you secretly wish you could still play with?

I wish it were still all right for me to sit and read for hours at a time. That and play with my Sasha dolls. Best. Doll. Ever.

6. What is your favorite movie of all time?

I should probably come up with something witty and intellectual but at the moment, all that comes to mind are the “Thin Man” movies with Myrna Loy and William Powell, or maybe “Bull Durham,” which is probably the last time I was able to watch Kevin Costner in a movie. Or else it would have to the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.  Those movies show me that an adaptation doesn’t always have to diminish the original. Plus there’s that whole Viggo-pre-Russian-mobster thing.

7. If you could spend a week with any celebrity and couldn’t leave his/her side the whole time, who would you want to spend it with?


8. What is the first thing you would say to that celebrity?

Is it hard to walk around in the world and look at the rest of us? Or rather, what’s it like to be inside those cheekbones looking out at the pudgy wrinkly spotty world?

9. Do you have any major regrets in your life?

Probably… I mean, sure. But then again, if you believe that everything we’ve done in the past leads us to where we are, then I can’t regret anything or else I wouldn’t be where and who I am now. And mostly that “now” space is okay.

10. If you could choose any (other) profession, what would it be?

Heiress? Philanthropist (that would be contingent on choice A happening, however). Person-who-makes-her-living-from-writing?

11. What song do you crank up the loudest in your car and sing along to?

I’m not sure we can call it “singing” (bellowing might be more accurate), but I do know all the words to “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” by heart…and then of course, there’s the wild emoting that comes along with anything on the album “Tapestry.” Have also lately been wailing along with Adele and with the Black Keys.


And now my questions (some of which have been cribbed from others):

1. What is in your refrigerator?

2. What chore do you most loathe?

3. If you could be anywhere else, where would you be?

4. What is your favorite book?

5. What’s in your purse (or pockets or satchel?)

6. What’s the title for your autobiography?

7. Do you have any physical scars? What’s the story of one scar?

8. If you had to have a car, and could have any kind of car you wanted (someone else will do the grocery shopping and kid/pet/horse/goat shlepping, this one is just for you), what would it be?

9. Are you a dog person or a cat person?

10. What are you most proud of that has only to do with you (can’t be kids, partner, well-trained pet)?


Lady Jennie

Squashed Mom

Random Handprints

Adelaide from Adelaide


I Love You More Than Carrots

Kvetch Mom


Mommy’s Little Monster Blake

Mamabird Diaries


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Continue Reading · on February 12, 2012 in Abu Dhabi, writing

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