Aquarium Life

To celebrate Eid al-Fitr this year, we took the kids to the the Georgia Aquarium. I’ve gone there with children over the summer probably 4 times–once with Andrea sharing her love of the sea with Layla, Layla with her cousin another time, then later with a friend, and lastly all four of us this weekend. The experience never ceases to widen my eyes. I’m both enchanted at the experience and a bit achy knowing those amazing creatures would probably rather be in their natural habitat; that look in their eyes gets me every time.

Like many things (eating meat, making too much waste, etc…), I suppress those feelings guiltily and try to relish in the research and education behind the privilege. Seeing a gliding beluga whale with its Mona Lisa smile, watching a Whale Shark soar above pointy guitarfish and grumpy giant trout, witnessing rolling jellyfish propelling forward with elegance, or gaping at small piranhas unquestionably waiting for their elders to eat before they take a bite–how could my kids not form question after question, recognize a world hidden by their normal daily routine, or seed some type of environmental responsibility?

I can’t lie and say it’s an easy trip. I always overspend (darn that gift shop!) and truly fear I’ll lose my child in the crowd (Once, I heard a woman whistling a special tune when we were at one of the exhibits. We thought she was just really happy; turns out she was frantically “calling” her child because she lost him the crowd. I assume this was their emergency plan since there are throngs of kids yelling “Mommy!” while shadowed by a sea-blue glow.)

It never fails that I pine for a long shower and a nap when we get home (oh, especially when I went there in my third trimester–good God that was rough). This time was no different in any of these aspects. To look back, though, I traced back pictures of some of the other aquarium trips.

Here’s Layla on our first visit. It’s 2011.
tiny layla

layla with trout

layla with hand to glass

layla at aquarium

hand to glass

And then 2012.

Layla and computer

Layla and eaing

Layla and Lily on glass

Layla hand on glass 2012

And now 2014.

layla bewildered 2014

layla 2014

daddy and zade

zade and layla by trout

offical aquarium photo 2014

The giant trout has stared indifferently at my kids a few times, but the beluga whale surely must remember Layla’s chubby cheeks back in 2011. The small 2012 sting rays probably chit chat about Layla’s two little fingers brushing against their butterflied bodies. Quite frankly, I’ll be surprised if the African Penguins of 2014 could ever forget Zade excitedly screaming, “Mommy, Mommy! Do you see me?!” after he bravely crawled through a tunnel and popped his head up to wave at the waddling bunch.

They’re probably just as bewildered at our fascination of them as we are enchanted by the intricacies behind those really strong plastic walls.


God Willing and The Creek Don’t Rise


I don’t think it’s humanly possible to hear Ray LaMontagne’s voice and not long for a rural, grainy, and yellowed landscape. Fifteen years ago, I loved listening to famous club djs of Chicago; it helped me imagine my adult life in a small apartment in the middle of a bustling city. Even when I got married, I bought furniture that made me feel urban—West Elm couches and geometrically-shaped wall pieces. I’d giggle when my dad would look out the window of our grey and white Chicago house and say, “I’d love to have a home on a small farm one day. I just want a couple sheep, a few cows, a few of this and a bit of that… just something simple.”

Now, I when I hear the old electronic songs, like my friend Mahnaz has coined, I’m not so easily moved by “the music without words.” I appreciate people like my brother who see the art, but now I need something intimately soulful; I need coarse edges to feel that lasting shine on the inside. Sometimes a girl just needs to hear a surprising harmonica (yes, I just said that), a lyric that despite its simplicity captures a lifetime of thought, or a sandpaper breath in a song that infinitely hits the soul.

I went to Ray’s concert last week with dear friends; his songs have been playing even louder in my house since, a normal effect of his music on me. A few rows in front of us, there was a line of girls who’d stand up to sway to the music; they didn’t care that rows and rows behind them could no longer see the stage. My friend leaned over and nostalgically said, “College girls…they are in a totally different world.” She hit the nail on the head. I wanted the girls to sit, and at the same time, I wanted them to stay standing—taking it in, enjoying where they were at any cost; being a bit selfish because they felt passionate.

Relishing in pre-concert vibes

Relishing in pre-concert vibes

Ray on Stage

Ray on Stage

With my wonderful friends

With my wonderful friends


Took picture of Ray on the screen because the girls blocked our view

Took picture of Ray on the screen because the girls blocked our view

I have to wonder, what kind of music will Zade raise his glass to? What song will hit Layla’s core so much that she’d stand up and only care about herself as an audience? What will be the music that moves them, starts the ache in their heart, moves their souls, and makes them remember that life is good? What musician will remind them of human connection, allowing them to reduce so much static to its lowest terms?

Years ago after dinner, my grandfather put his hands in the air and said his usual “Shokreh Khodah,” thank God. While we drank tea and talked lightly about religion, he said, “You know, I think the real prophets of our time are the artists, the musicians, the poets…” I suppose this line will always stick with me. I think of it when I’m captivated by a song or when a chord strikes a memory.

In reality, I’m by no means a country girl. But, I want a porch now—even in a place where summer “air is thick with water.” I imagine myself somewhere near a bit of that rural that Ray inspires. I have fallen in love with an old memory of something I didn’t grow up in but feel kinship with now. I’m certain I’ll retain much of my past, just like I’m certain my daughter may want the bustle of a city one day and my son may feel that freedom is synonymous with city life—an itch so many of us had once.

Oh, the porch and the chairs...

Oh, the porch and the chairs…

But, like Tally and I say, “Knock on wood, Inshallah, and God willing the creek don’t rise,” I’ll get to relish in an imaginary-me looking out to the future with an open mind, inspired by the “prophets of our time,” while I press my bare feet to the grass and feel closer to the truths captured in those songs we seek, the lyrics that stamp our memories.

Who knew?

Screen shot of June lists

I recently went through the test of patience called “trying to transfer information from an old phone to a new phone.” I knew preserving information from My Contacts and My Calendar was very important, but I found out that the Notes app housed many casually-written memories with which I really couldn’t part.

But before I knew that iPhone had me backed up somewhere, I started reading through my incredibly casual quick-notes to see which one I should really try to preserve. Quickly, my determination got complicated.

A simple grocery list sparked the memory of the baby shower I helped throw for my friend last year, for example, and I surely couldn’t toss that away. And then I found a list of questions I wrote before going to Zade’s doctor appointment, and I felt a pinch of relief that I know a bit more about ear infections now.

As summer can be a perfect time for some reflection, here are a few pictures of random notes that I found while on my phone-merging escapade.

grocery list

See that last word? Robe? No, I didn’t need a bathrobe. This is where my Farsi and English brain try to be friendly with each other. The word “robe” in Farsi means tomato paste. I had to laugh when I read that I actually wrote that down phonetically. This happens often in my life. I can’t help but add a dash of Farsi when I speak English or a swoosh of English when I speak Farsi.

I found an occasional dramatic rambling as well:

Dramatic text

Can you tell that I must have been frustrated after waiting for 893 pictures to copy from my phone to my external hard drive? Why do I have 19 pictures from the same angle of the same image?

Then, I got a kick out of decoding my grocery lists:

I love this recipe notes

I adore Pioneer Woman. I’ve never made anything from her book of secrets that I haven’t loved. I must have been craving her famous artichoke dip when I wrote the list above. I’m trying this one out over the weekend for my gluten-free best friend.

Here I am right before winter break is over. I stress out every year about finishing our familoy calendar on Shutterfly and re-reading novels I’m about to teach again. Oh, and don’t forget wanting to buy post-holiday work pants from one of my shopping-therapy stores.

About to start back after maternity leave text

These notes have also reminded me of what patterns I had even just over a year ago. For example, I used to make black beans and rice at least once a week, but I haven’t made that once this summer. Also, I think the last 5 years of babies and toddlers has affected our sweet potato intake as there was a time we’d never been without them, and now they don’t even make it on our grocery list. Need to add that goodie back on there!

Oh, we used to eat that list

If you’re a casual note-taker like I am, I encourage you to make a cup of tea and scroll through your phone’s notes; it’s the most no-fuss walk down memory lane that you’ve probably ever experienced.

The Us of Many Years Ago

There is a beauty about being a teacher for years in the same community.

In my classroom

The hostess who greets my friends and me at the restaurant door happens to be a student I had four years ago who is working her way through college now. The lifeguard at the sprayground to which I take my kids was in my honors class two years ago and is getting ready to move for college. And the wedding invitation I receive in the mail is from a former student who has fallen in love.

Teachers love this feeling—being connected to these people who move on, live, grow, and change; students whose branches still extend to us from time to time ignite us and tickle our stomachs, reminding us of them and then reminding us of us—the us of many years ago.

Today was no exception.

Our friends invited us to a 4th of July celebration at their gym. We took the kids to play in the pool and eat grilled hamburgers, run around with red, white, and blue pinwheels, and have some fun with squirt toys. Standing in line, I ran into my former student from years ago who I didn’t recognize until I got up close. She works at the gym now.

She outgrew her teenage looks and now fit tightly into her adult features. She has one more year left to finish at a local university. We chatted, hugged, and went about our day—her at work and me with the kids.

It wasn’t until I sat in the car that I recognized something about her: she is the same age as I was when I met my future husband; thus, she could be about to make some really important decisions about her future.

Oh so young

The way he looks in my memory

The way he looks in my memory

The reason this stuck with me is because when I was her age, I was already engrossed in my to-be-husband’s family and making decisions about this new place in my life. I had already felt college heartbreak brought on by college relationships and met the professors that would tilt my future just effectively enough to make my experience count. I had already felt I arrived at a place that was very different from where I was just a few years ago.

A year after we met

She could be somewhere like that now. So I have to give her credit, recognize the kinship, and remember what that time in my life felt like. I have to reach back and tap back into it—not only because it makes me a better human but also because it’s eye-opening. Resting my head back and looking at old pictures, I’m reminded at the possibilities and insecurities that engulfed my early 20s. I’m aware that a decade later has offered new importance and new relationships.

Zade and Mommy Horsing Around

Zade and Mommy Horsing Around