Tag Archives: Kennedy

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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My Girls of Summer

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Holly, Kennedy, and a big floppy hat.

I think this photo is from the kid’s elementary school graduation celebration, which didn’t happen until late June because of the teacher’s strike.

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Girl Scout Camping in the Boondocks

This weekend Kennedy and I went camping with her Girl Scout troop and all the fathers, a father-daughter adventure in the Cascade mountains.

We stayed at a fire training camp, which made the whole thing feel surreal. Everywhere you look there were life-size mock ups of typical fire fighting challenges, including a four story concrete building covered in black soot, an overturned tractor trailer tanker truck (pictured below), a railway tank car, and dozens upon dozens of towering stacks of wooden pallets to set ablaze.

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Kennedy and I arrived at the camp first and found it deserted. I kept thinking: this can’t be right. But I was wrong. This was exactly where we were supposed to be. The girls slept on a gigantic mattress, like the ones pole vaulters use to land on. Not sure if this is bona fide fire fighting equipment, but somehow Kennedy managed to slip off it in the middle of the night. She was unharmed.

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There was much girl bonding going on.

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The fathers were excellent cooks.

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There was no snow this weekend so we had to improvise our Saturday afternoon activities. We tried geocaching, which involves all of the father’s standing around intently staring into little hand held devices as their daughters complain.

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Fathers can go places that mother would never approve.

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More pictures at flickr.

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Edward Hopper at the SAM

I invited Kennedy to go see the Hopper exhibit at the SAM (Seattle Art Museum) today.

She got more excited over this than I imagined she would. In anticipation of our date this afternoon, she woke up at 2 AM. Holly had to send her back to bed at 5:30 AM. Needless to say, when we finally got to the SAM this afternoon, she was low energy. They only had a few Hoppers on display and Nighthawks–my favorite–was not among them.

Kennedy and I enjoyed what was there. We also enjoyed the lobby of the SAM, which has some crazy sculpture of cars flipping through the air.


We had a snack in the restaurant. I tried to imagine Kennedy as a girl in a Hopper painting.

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My Favorite Water Polo Game by Kennedy Elhajj

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Here at Present Tense we’re mightly proud to present a memoir by Kennedy Elhajj.

Not only is this Kennedy’s first published work, it’s her first shot at writing memoir. This essay is the result of a fifth grade project done by her entire class. The press is claiming that she fabricated parts of this non-fiction essay, but don’t you believe it. As her father, I can vouch that every word of it is true. My little girl is the real deal.

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My Favorite Water Polo Game
by Kennedy Elhajj

The swimmer was racing toward me while my teamies swam their hardest behind him. It was all up to me now, I was GOALIE! It seemed like slow-mo.

The ball came racing toward me! I WAS TERRIFIED! I tried to tread my hardest; it felt like my legs were going to EXPLODE! The player got ready to cheer. Then… SPLASH! I went underwater. A mysterious pain throbbed in my hands. When I bobbed to the surface my eyes were covered in water. When my eyes cleared the first thing I saw were my teamies cheering.

There was 1 second on the clock! I felt rushed; the score was 10-10. I looked behind me expecting to see the ball. But it wasn’t there; I looked in front of me. THERE IT WAS! The ball was sitting right in front of me!

I was proud and excited at the same time. I had saved the game, I felt good. The clock blared as loud as a siren.

The crowd stood up and cheered. I had saved the game, I felt very powerful at that moment. I got lots of hugs and kisses (even Aaron gave me a hug, when we got home of course, and that made me feel extra good).

But back to game! I got high 5’s from my teamies.

As it turned out my dad had taken a picture of me saving the goal, he took another picture of me and Aaron shouting at each other (after the goal) in a good natured, happy way. My dad made a joke about it and I laughed so hard, that when I was done laughing I was out of breath.

That was my favorite water polo game ever.


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Semper Paratus

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Timmy’s first year in the Coast Guard he was stationed at Port Seattle.

Last week Kennedy called me at work to ask if I knew any veterans. I reminded her about Timmy and my own tour of duty some thirty years ago. How quickly they forget. The fifth grade class was doing a Veteran’s Day celebration and each child was to announce their relationship to a veteran at an assembly of the entire student body. Kennedy was unimpressed with my peace time enlistment. God only knows what she believes Timmy is up to in the Coast Guard.

She ended up annoucing her nanny, Tanya who served in the Gulf with (I believe) the National Guard. Tanya was a life saver who helped us care for the kids when they were toddlers.

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Aaron decided to announce me, despite the peace during my tenure in the Navy. I was very proud. I am also proud of Timmy who continues to keep our coasts safe.

Here are more pictures of Port Seattle.

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Raising Good Citizens

07-05-2005 (264)

The kids were obsessed with last night’s vote.

They started watching the election results after they got home from their after school activities. It was early evening and the results were just coming in. When they heard McCain was up somewhere on the East Coast, there was much wailing.

“Oh, no!” Kennedy cried.

“How can this be,” Aaron wanted to know.

Holly told them to relax. She explained how early it was and got them ready for what we thought would be a long night of returns. Pretty soon Kennedy was aping CNN, talking like a pundit. Aaron was doing delegate math. I got home from work around 8pm. No sooner had I walked in the door, Holly called out “Obama wins!”

And there was much celebration!

I enjoyed the McCain concession speech. I had to scold Aaron for shooting the TV with his nerf dart gun while McCain was speaking. The kids brushed teeth and we all watched Obama’s victory speech.

I like it that we all enjoyed such a momentous occasion together. We never did that sort of thing when I was a boy and that was during one of America’s most tumultuous decades: Nixon, Vietnam, Civil Rights, and Women’s liberation. Not to mention all the Arab/Israeli conflicts.

I remember watching the Olympics with my Dad and brothers and Jim McKay’s plaintive voice saying, “They’re all gone.”

I said, “Dad, the Arabs.” I knew we were Arab on his side.

I don’t remember what he said. I imagine he was trying to deal with the news himself. I just always seemed to want to know more than my parents were willing to tell me. Now I realize sometimes that’s no fault of the parents.

But last night was all kinds of great. All the political questions were easily answered by Dad and Mom. It’s always good when your man wins.

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Orthodontia: Expensive, But Worth It

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Kennedy got her braces off Friday. Just in time for Halloween treats!

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