Tag Archives: family

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

Girl in the Woods

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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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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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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End of Summer

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This is the last day of summer and what a summer it was. The kids really came into their own this year, especially with water polo. I didn’t realize it, but water polo is a vicious sport. Most of the really violent action takes place under the water, where unsuspecting parents can’t see.

After one match, Aaron admitted to biting another boy who had been choking him.

He was standing poolside with both Holly and I, and we were both taken aback. Holly said she thought biting might get you expelled from the game, possibly even the tournament. Aaron’s eyes got big. 

She suggested he find the boy and apologize. Aaron, always a good egg, readily agreed. Just then he grabbed a little blonde boy who was walking past and said, “Did I bite you?”

The boy grinned and nodded his head and Aaron quickly apologized. It took about ten seconds. They congratulated one another on the outcome of the game and then the boy walked on. When he was clear, I scrutinized Aaron.

“Did I bite you,” I repeated. I gave Aaron a skeptical look.

I was glad he was willing to take responsiblity for his behavior, but what kind of apology was that? He was acting as if he were completely unaware of his own behavior. Yeah, hey — the coaches are telling me that I bit you out there! My God—can you believe it?

Aaron looked at me blankly for a minute. “He’s a twin,” Aaron said. “I wanted to make sure I was apologizing to the right one.”

Ha! I knew that. My little man.

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Water polo was especially good for Kennedy this year.

She really got more aggressive, really getting in those boy’s faces, which is huge for her. The kids are twelve and both played in the fourteen year old tournament this year. The picture at the top is her doing battle with the fourteen year olds.

Holly says most of the girls drop out after they hit twelve, but I am hoping Kennedy will continue for another few years.

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We also went to A-champs, the big senior competition for swim team in our area. The kids had only gone to B-champs in past years, so this was a big deal. They are both turning into fine swimmers.

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This was also the summer we went to Texas, which was really hot.

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And Holly and I went to Portland with Pace for our 14 wedding anniversary.

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2010 Swim Championships

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A-Bomb–otherwise known as Mr. Pink.

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Kennedy gets a good start.

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Aaron “flipping out.”

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Chin up, girl. Yo. “Not as the giant of their dreams, nor the dwarfs of their fears.”

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Thirty painted toes.

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Momma.

More swim pictures from the entire 2010 season.

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God Bless Holly Huckeba

God bless my wife and best friend Holly Huckeba, who yesterday did convince me to manhandle and operate a rented drain auger to open up our clogged laundry drain, even though I was initially very much opposed to this plan, and did complain loudly, and with much bitterness and consternation, and did say that I thought it would never work (though not in an Eeyore voice, nor with any little rain clouds floating over my head).

Indeed, this course of action was MUCH LESS EXPENSIVE than any previous course of action and as a direct result of this drain clearing success, I am feeling VERY BUTCH today.

Huzzah!

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