Category Archives: family

Reasons Why Fathers Don’t Write Memoirs About Their Teenage Daughters

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Hot new black chick in the house

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Her name is Lucy (pictured). She’s about 48 hours old.

She chirps a lot.

She chirps very loudly.

Today I was home alone with her, and our new puppy, Emma. I was in the back room. I heard some noise in the living room, and I sat at my desk trying to determine what it might have been. And then I thought: It’s probably Emma. She’s probably . . .

TRYING TO EAT THE CHICKS.

I dashed into the living room. Emma looked guilty.

I put her in the back yard. Holly told me she has seen Emma licking her chops as Lucy chirps away.

Right now everything is quiet. The living room is awash in a red glow from the heat lamp. There are two new chicks in the house. I don’t know the other girl’s name for sure, but I think it might be Bill.

Chicks are too cute.

Bill

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Team Elhajj Swims at PNS

Kennedy trucking on the 200 free finals

This past weekend was spent at the impressive King County Aquatic Center in Renton. It was a grueling three days of swimming competition. I also got a new Windows phone with an app that can make animated gifs. The loop in this image pretty much captures what the weekend felt like for all of us.

It was a lot of swimming. And then we swam some more. But the weekend was not without its little moments of pleasure.

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Kennedy was part of the girls freestyle relay team that first electrified the crowd. This is her and two of her teammates congratulating the anchor girl who is still in the water. Check out the exasperated hands-on-head look from one of the competitors in the next lane over.

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And of course Aaron gave us all a little excitement. He won his 50 Free event and 200 IM. This is his sister and teammates cheering for him as he rounds the corner and switches from breast stroke to freestyle. I was so focused on getting a picture I didn’t realize how close he was to winning until I looked through the lens and saw the look of urgency on his sister’s face. I love how this shot captures the emotion of the race.

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Aaron also injured himself in a thrilling last minute relay win. He basically sacrificed his arm to beat the boy in the lane next to him, overextending his elbow as he came into the wall. He had to go to the ER and missed the final day of the meet.

All weekend long complete strangers were coming up to me and congratulating me on my children.

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What a world!

More pics at flickr.

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Political Conversations With My Daughter

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Last week I was taking my fourteen-year-old daughter to a sleep over after swim practice, and we were caught in traffic. It was bumper-to-bumper, no let up, the kind of traffic snarl that can make you curse. Apropos of nothing, K turns to me and says something like: “Mitt Romney is a very wealthy man and that’s not going to play well with the middle class.”

And then she did that thing where she  looks at me casually, but I’m pretty sure she’s searching my face for a reaction. It’s a crucial moment for any parent: who doesn’t want to give their child tall he things they want, and especially the things they really need; but there is so much out there that is unaffordable to me, or beyond my reach for a variety of reasons. Me helping out with her geometry homework, for example. But these moments when she seems to need a specific reaction from me seem within my reach.

My first impulse was to giggle or snort–these are the words of a pundit, after all–but I was so upset by the traffic jam that I easily managed to beat that impulse back.

“Good point,” I said.

I’m so glad I did. I can remember being ten or eleven and wanting nothing more than to be able to understand politics. It was the middle of the Vietnam War, Watergate was in full bloom, and every day the television news seemed to offer some fascinating new story about how the world worked. Or, more often, how it didn’t work. I felt terrified to step into that world, let alone articulate an opinion.

K and I had the best discussion.

I pointed out that she’d be old enough to vote in the next presidental election. We discussed potential candidates, which means we bandied about a certian ex First Lady’s name. We both agreed that if the country was ready to accept a black president, perhaps it would soon be time for a woman president.

K wanted answers to questions like these:

“Was Bill Clinton a good president?”

“What is impeached?”

And then we discussed Hillary’s qualifications:

She was a first lady; she’s Secratary of State.

Had the hutzpuh to get through her husband’s scandal without shooting leaving him.

“I think she’d make a good president,” K offered.

I can’t say that I disagree.

But at this early stage, I must say that I’m way more impressed by the makings of the fine citizen before me.

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Kids Need a Mexican for a Class Project

My kids have been attending a Spanish immersion school since they were in kindergarten. They’re big 8th graders now, about to move into high school, where the “immersion” part of school will change, so that they’re essentially only doing a single foreign language AP class. So they’re “graduating” from the immersion portion of the program.

For their final project they have to interview a native Mexican, who speaks Spanish. It’s just a crazy project for so many reasons. A Mexican? We live in Seattle. The photo above is an aerial map of Seattle. Red dots represent where all the white people live. Orange dots represent Hispanics. Where are we going to find a Mexican?

Plus, the assignment is just so ethnically specific. Meanwhile, Seattle is so liberal and progressive people tend to discount ethnic/racial differences, so this is putting ethnicity squarely into focus in ways I haven’t really thought about, and that make me feel somewhat uncomfortable.

“Hey. You Mexican?”

Why not just task them with interviewing someone who doesn’t speak English? They’re in a Spanish immersion class, so it’s hard to imagine they’re going to interview a Russian or a Texan or something.

We tried to coordinate a Skype interview with family friends from Mexico who we haven’t seen in years, but the logistics and technical challenges were too great to overcome. We have all sorts of ethnic friends, but no Mexicans. It was very frustrating. Finally, end of semester approaching, they loosened the requirements to any Spanish speaking culture, which opened up the door to my son’s in-laws, who are from Cuba and Costa Rica. Hooray for in-laws!

My kids interviewed Tim’s mother-in-law, who was kind enough to stay up late and chat with Aaron and Kennedy, who both got a HUGE case of the shy-kids, and proceeded to chat for about an entire two minutes. As it turns out, that was enough. Interview accomplished.

So. Major kudos to my daughter, Carry, who took a huge part coordinating the effort, despite a full-time load at university and two little ninas of her own to care for. Thank you Carry! And big thanks to your mother, Miriam, for taking Aaron and Kennedy and their school project seriously.

We really love you guys!

Will be interesting to see what the interviews look like. Not just Aaron and Kennedy’s, but the entire class. We were not the only ones that had a hard time. I know of at least one family who went to a Mexican restaurant and interviewed one of the wait staff. The assignment required the students to get pictures of the people they interviewed, and when the cameras came out, the restaurant staff all got a little antsy. Does that just seem — I don’t know — incredibly awkward?

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Remember the Veteran Day

12-16-2005 040, originally uploaded by tim_elhajj.

Tim is much taller than I. This shot was from a few years ago. Tim has earned more rank since then, as well as a bit more of my esteem. What a great son!

Giant Ripped Me Off

Last week, I was in Pennsylvania for my brother’s golf tournament. That’s Mom at the ninth hole driving a stake into the ground for one of the sponsor’s signs. As soon as she saw me produce my camera, she grabbed the hammer and immediately started hamming it up, pretending like she was some migrant worker toiling in a field or something. Why does she do this? That’s just Mom. I saw her eyes glitter when I pulled out the camera. I guess the idea of a matron pounding stakes just tickled her.

For some reason, on this visit I got a strong sense for just how hard it must have been for her in the 70s. Seven kids ages 1 to 14, no real job, and a hole where my dad had once been. She is quite a character and always has been.

The night before the tournament Mom and I were at Troy’s house alone.

He had taken his wife and kids to church. I was going to go visiting myself, but before I could get out of the house Mom came rushing into the kitchen, a pensive look on her face, the long white tail of a grocery receipt trailing behind her.

“Tim, you got that car?”

“Sure,” I said. I had rented a little compact car for the trip.

“Take me down to the Giant,” she said. Giant is the big chain grocery store in Pennsylvania. “They ripped me off,” she said. She waved the receipt in the air beside her head and scowled.

“Look, look,” she said.

Flattening the receipt onto the kitchen counter, she showed me the problem. “I got 7  dozen rolls, but they charged me for 12 dozen.” Sure enough, there were 5 line items for a dozen rolls listed on the receipt, an empty space, and then 7 more line items of rolls.

“Should we add it up?” I asked. I reached into my pocket for my Windows phone, which had a calculator app.

Mom scoffed. “You can never add it all up,” she said. She shook her head and grimaced. “There’s tax and a super saver discount.”

The tax and discount were also line items listed on the receipt, but I didn’t want to argue.

“Let’s go,” I said.

We were going drive down and talk to one of the Giant managers in person over a possible overcharge totalling maybe seven or eight dollars.

“It’s not the money,” Mom said as we drove the few blocks to the store. “It’s the principle. They’re always ripping you off. I hate that, I hate that.”

We got to main doors and Mom told me to the stop the car. She got out and told me she’d be right back. I parked and followed her inside.

I found her waiting in line at the customer service counter. When it was our turn, Mom did all the talking.

A manager was called in. He was a young man, maybe just out of high school. He said he need to take the receipt into the back to reasearch it. A few minutes later he came out with a few sheets of computer print out. He told Mom the problem with her receipt was a printing malfunction. An anomaly. Mom sighed. I asked the manager if the total on the receipt my mom had matched the total he found on his print out. He said it did. He showed us both amounts.

Mom sighed again.

“Is everything okay, ma’am,” the manager wanted to know. “Do you feel good about this,” he asked.

“Okay,” Mom finally said. “It’s fine.”

We said our good-byes, turned, and walked together toward the car.

“Do you feel okay about that Mom?” I whispered. I wasn’t sure what else we could do.

“Well,” Mom said. “I’d have felt better about a refund. But, what are you gonna do?”

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Long Course Swim Meet in Wenatchee

Last week we took an overnight trip to Wenatchee so the kids could compete in a swim meet.

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Wenatchee is a small city nestled in the mountains of Central Washington and it’s really a lovely place. We put Pace up with the neighbors. Of course, the car started acting up, sputtering and engine light flashing, so just to be safe, we rented a vehicle and split up on the way home: me in the Jetta, everyone else in the rental. Once we got back home, the car ran fine. Note to self: never take Jetta out of town again.

Earlier this year we enrolled the kids in one of the USA swimming clubs in our area. They have worked really hard at the daily practices on top of their normal load of homework. They have an exceptional coach and I hope to post more about him later. For now, know that I am really pleased with their performance this year.

This is the time of year when they compete at Olympic-size swimming pools, called long course. Fifty meters one way! These pools are a sight to see after competing in the more common 25 meter pools most of the year and in rec clubs in prior years.

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Welcome to the World: Jade Isabella Elhajj

Jade Isabella Elhajj: 6 pounds, 13 ounces, 19 inches. She arrived at South Miami Hospital this morning at 8:18 a.m.

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