dieting and driving.

January 22, 2015

January is a time for new beginnings, right? Self-improvement and all that. Or, at the very least, it’s a time for making beautiful resolutions that blossom, wither, and die within a few seconds, like Mr. Wilson’s beloved plant in Dennis the Menace.

Of course, healthier eating is one of the more common resolutions, so I’m on a bandwagon there. But what a great bandwagon to be on! However, when January began, I had no particular resolution beyond, “I need to eat healthier.” Vague, boring, unspecific. I had no real motivation to reach that goal; no one has any real motivation to reach vague, boring, unspecific goals. I mean, if the goal was just “eat healthier,” I could easily end up convincing myself that a Bounty bar is the pinnacle of health food (coconut is a fruit, and chocolate is a salad). Off-topic fun fact: my dad thus far refuses to visit Saudi Arabia–mostly, I think, due to practical reasons, such as an aversion to a 14-hour flight, an unwillingness to leave the farm in Missouri, and a notoriously picky palate–he won’t eat anything with any sort of spice beyond salt and pepper, and the only fruits he eats are somehow incorporated into candy. Basically, my dad subsists on Spam, peanut butter, and Ritz crackers (okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but he does love those three foods, and he shares them with the dogs while he snacks on them). He’s always been a pretty adventurous guy in all other aspects of life. He was a paratrooper in the U.S. Army–which means his job in the Army was to jump out of planes. He had his pilot’s license when he was younger. He rides every rollercoaster at Six Flags. He rides horses. He has a motorcycle. He’s always dreamed of owning a Corvette. But when it comes to food, he’s about as adventurous as a red Little Tikes car. A teaspoon of kabsa will never go near his mouth. However, the one Saudi-sourced food that he absolutely cannot pass up is Bounty bars. I wouldn’t dream of leaving Riyadh on a jet plane without carrying in my suitcase the biggest box of Bounty bars that Panda can offer. ‘Cause my dad loves them, and I love my dad.

A few days into the new year, something came across my Twitter timeline about the Whole30 program. I looked into it, and it seemed reasonable, if strict. There was no calorie counting–no counting anything, in fact, and this was a good thing, because nutrition labels in Saudi Arabia are often not as helpful as labels in the States (this is one thing that Mr. Mostafa consistently laments about life in Riyadh, that it’s so much easier to keep track of what you eat in the States because every packaged food has in-depth nutrition information). No tracking. Just eating healthy, nutrient-dense, whole foods, which are, alhamdulillah, plentiful in Riyadh. And when I read about Whole30, I thought, “This is something I could do.”

So I downloaded an app to help keep me on track, and I’m now on my fifth day of the Whole30. No grains, beans, or legumes. No sugars or sweeteners. No dairy. Just unprocessed meats, eggs, fruits, and lots and lots of veggies. (Spices are also allowed.)

It’s going pretty well so far. It feels good to be able to turn away from foods that are complete junk for my body, and to know that what is going in my body is healthy not only for me, but also for Lavender, who still nurses frequently. It’s also good to know that all of the foods that Lavender shares with me are healthy for her, too. (She still eats pretzels and Cheerios, though. I never realized just how many pretzels and Cheerios I eat during the day due to Miss Lavender coming up to me and placing one of her snacks in my mouth. Generous little pumpkin, she is.)

But there is a side effect to the Whole30 that I didn’t totally anticipate.

Sugar withdrawal.

Last night, I had made plans with a friend to meet her for dinner, along with a few ladies I hadn’t yet met. I was excited about an evening with friends and adult conversation.

Then Mr. Mostafa sent me a text–he wouldn’t be able to pick me up from the dinner. He had received a last-minute text from a busy work colleague/superior, requesting a meeting that evening. After he shared the details, I understood that in the grand scheme of things, his meeting was much more important than my dinner. But that meant texting my friend and telling her that after about a week of assuming that the plan was a go, I couldn’t be there. Because I didn’t have a ride home.

The frustration bubbled over, and I cried. A lot. This problem would not have existed if women were permitted to drive in Saudi Arabia. Yes, there are taxis and car services (like Uber and Careem), but, call me crazy, I’m not keen on the idea of using those services because I can’t use a car seat for Lavender in them. And there is no reason why I shouldn’t be allowed to drive. I’ve actually had my driver’s license for two years longer than my husband has. I learned to drive at an earlier age than he did, too. My American driver’s license would qualify me to drive here…if only I were a dude.

Now, granted, in my view, this was a totally legit reason for me to be upset. There was no reason for me to miss the dinner. And I wouldn’t have missed it if I only I possessed testicles instead of ovaries. It’s infuriating.

That being said, at this point, it’s not an altogether unsurprising or unexpected occurrence. I’ve been here for almost three years–it’s not the first time I’ve missed a gathering due to transportation issues, and it won’t be the last, especially since we currently live with my in-laws, and thus we don’t have the space to employ our own driver right now. (I keep hoping that by the time we move into our own house, the law will have changed to allow me to drive and we won’t need a driver. A girl can dream.) It’s just a kind of normal. A particular kind of normal that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world. And even though it was indeed frustrating, there was no immediate reason for me to get really, super angry about it; it wasn’t anyone’s fault. Except maybe King Abdullah.

But I didn’t care. I was mad. And I cried. And I let Mr. Mostafa know how angry I was.

When he got home, he went downstairs to his mom’s kitchen and busied himself. Then he texted me and said, “Come down. I made you dinner.”

Lavender and I went down. He had cooked me a steak and a baked potato. “Since you couldn’t go out to dinner,” he explained.

I sat down and ate.

“I think it might be a little bit tough,” he said apologetically. “I’ve never cooked a steak in the oven before.”

I said nothing.

After I finished dinner and we went back upstairs, I still wasn’t happy, and it was obvious.

“Honey, I hate seeing you unhappy,” Mr. Mostafa said. “Please talk to me about what’s bothering you.”

“You don’t know what it’s like to live this way,” I growled. “I’m sick of having to ask every time I want to do anything. I’m not a goddamn child. I’m an adult and I can’t even leave my house without having to ask someone. I didn’t have to ask this much when I was 16 and I just got my driver’s license. I shouldn’t have to ask you to take me places. I shouldn’t have to ask your mom if I can take the driver. I shouldn’t have to ask. I’m not used to it. It’s not how I grew up. It’s not normal to me. And it’s not fair.”

“The steak sucked, huh?” he said ruefully.

“Yes, the steak sucked,” I snapped.

“I’m sorry, honey. I know it’s frustrating.”

“No, you don’t. You have no idea how frustrating it is.”

He sighed deeply. “I know. You’re right. I can say I do, but I don’t. But what do you want me to do? Do you want to move to another country? Do you want me to send you and Lavi to live somewhere else? I know guys with American wives who have done that. I hate it, but if it will make you happy, we can do it. I can come to you when I have vacation time and you and Lavi can come to see me sometimes. Not a divorce, but living apart. Where you can drive. If that will make you happy.”

That kind of jolted me out of my anger spiral, because my answer to that proposition was instinctive and immediate. No. Not just no, but hell, no. I mean, as Lavender gets older, I know that Mr. Mostafa and I will be spending at least a month out of the year apart, so Lavender can spend plenty of time in the States during the summers, with her American family. But that temporary annual separation is a compromise we want to make for the sake of having well-rounded bicultural kids. And I know Saudi/non-Saudi couples who live in that sort of indefinite separation–still happily married, but living in different countries, for various reasons, and it works for them. But they all have much more valid reasons than, “I’m pissed because I didn’t get to go to dinner on Tahlia Street last night.”

I was still depressed, though. Sad. I texted a friend, with whom I have a standing Thursday morning date to take our little ones out to a park or other place where they can run and play and have fun (she has a driver, so she picks Lavender and me up). I explained what was going on, and then said I think I’ll sit out this week’s outing. I explained that I’m tired of feeling like a flake and a mooch, always because of transportation.

She, as always, had words of comfort and wisdom. “We’ve all been there,” she reminded me. Then she pointed out something that hadn’t occurred to me: my sadness and frustration, while catalyzed by a very valid reason, might be exacerbated by sugar withdrawal, as a result of the Whole30. And she could tell me this from firsthand experience, having completed the Whole30 last year.

I Googled it. She was right.

The next morning, she texted me, to check on me. I assured her that all was well, that I was okay. She informed me that she was sending her driver over with some things for me. When the bag arrived, I found, among other things, baggies of banana chips and apple-cinnamon chips that she had made in her food dehydrator, as well as a baggie of kale chips (oh, kale chips. Where have you been all my life?). I cried. Again.

IMG 0785 750x499 dieting and driving.After I wiped away my tears, I opened my Whole30 app to see what it said for the day. Here’s what it told me:

IMG 4399 dieting and driving.

Well, there you go.

what’s in the water in riyadh?

January 15, 2015

So, if you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you’ll have read about how here in Riyadh, we don’t drink the tap water. No one does (hence the endless references to our drinking water dispenser in my last post). Throughout the house, we use the tap water for washing dishes, for showering, even for brushing our teeth…but not for drinking or cooking. I’ve never really questioned this–everyone told me not to drink the water, so I didn’t drink the water. But I’ve always been curious as to what exactly is in the tap water that makes it so unsuitable for drinking. I mean, I’ve been told that the water is very hard, and that’s not difficult to confirm–Riyadh showers will really do a number on your skin and hair, at least at first. But as for drinking…I’ve asked, but no one ever seems to know why the tap water should be avoided for drinking or cooking. It just should.

When we were in the States in October, I mentioned to Mr. Mostafa that I was going to look for a water testing kit to take back with me to Riyadh, so I could do some experimentation and find out exactly what is in the water from our sink.

He nodded. “Sounds good,” he said. “I’ve never seen a water testing kit. Do you guys use them a lot?”

“No, I’ve never used one,” I admitted.

“Then how do you know the faucet water here is safe?”

“Well, we know when it’s not safe. Like when there’s a boil order or something.”

“A what?”

“A boil order. You know, like when they say on the radio, ‘There’s a boil order in effect today from Johnson Street to Thayer Avenue in West Plains…’ Or something like that. So we know they’ve been working on the pipes or something and the water might not be safe to drink for awhile. So if you want to drink it, you have to boil it on the stove first to make it safe.” Pause. “They don’t do that in Riyadh?”

“Nope. Never heard of that happening in Riyadh ever.” He shook his head, and then he nodded thoughtfully. “Yes, I think this is a great idea,” he said. “Except you should get two kits. Test the sink water and the drinking water. Let’s see if they’re really that different.”

Well, duh. Why didn’t I think of that?

So I went on a search for home water testing kits. Walmart didn’t carry them, and neither did any of the local hardware stores. I looked at the two nearest Lowe’s stores, an hour and two hours away, respectively. Although Lowe’s had a home water testing kit listed on its website, neither of my two closest stores had them in stock.

So I gave up and turned to good ol’ Amazon. I ordered two testing kits, but they didn’t arrive before we left to go back to Riyadh. My mom shipped them to me a few months later, in the boxes of Christmas goodies she put in the mail to us during the holiday season.

(A few side notes: if you’re an American planning to ship something to Saudi Arabia via the U.S. Postal Service, make sure they process the package with the zip code in the correct country. Our boxes finally made it to us, but not before they got misdirected to a place called Carle Place, New York…because apparently, Carle Place has the same zip code as our P.O. box here in Riyadh. Also, for the expat bakers out there, my mom shipped me a bottle of pure vanilla extract and a bottle of peppermint extract–both of which are difficult to source here because they contain alcohol, although they do occasionally pop up on store shelves around the city–and both made it through customs just fine.)

I got super excited when I cracked open the water test kit boxes. Vials! Test strips! I’m a scientist, y’all! The kits tested for eight potential contaminants: bacteria, lead, pesticides, nitrate, nitrite, pH, hardness, and chlorine. These levels were evaluated with the kits using five different tests. Some of the tests gave a result with a number range, while others gave a simple indication as to whether or not the water sample exceeded the limits recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency.

So without further ado, let’s get to the results!

The first test was to detect bacteria in the water. There was a bit of gray powder in the bottom of the vials when I took them out of the boxes. I had to fill the vials with water about three-quarters of the way, put on the lids, shake up the vials for several seconds, and then let the vials sit for 48 hours for the final results. If the water turns purple, that means there is no harmful bacteria in the water. But if the water turns yellow, that indicates that there is potentially harmful bacteria present.

bacteria 750x422 whats in the water in riyadh?As you can see, the water for both samples is decidedly purple. (The sink water sample may look a smidge darker, but that’s just because there was a bit more water in that vial.) The water actually turned very purple in both vials within a few seconds of me shaking up the water with the powder, but I went ahead and waited the 48 hours, as directed, thinking maybe it might change over the two days (like, maybe the powder was some kind of bacteria food and the bacteria needed two days to grow enough to show up?). But nothing changed. Totally purple.

The next test was to detect lead in the water. I had to put a small sample of water in a designated vial, just enough to cover the arrows at one end of the test strip. After 10 minutes, I had to check the test strip for the two blue lines.

lead 750x372 whats in the water in riyadh?If the top blue line (the line nearest to the 2) is darker or equally as dark as the bottom blue line (nearest to the 1), then the test is positive for lead. But on both test strips, the line nearest to the 1 is by far the darkest (the top line is just barely visible on both). So no lead in either sample.

The procedure for testing for pesticides was exactly the same as testing for lead.

pesticides 750x421 whats in the water in riyadh?

On the pesticides test, the upper line (the line nearest to the 2) was a bit more pronounced than on the lead test, but the lower line was still significantly darker than the upper line. So, no pesticides.

Next was the nitrate/nitrites test. I had to collect a sample of each type of water and dip the test strip into each water sample for a few seconds, then take them out. After one minute, I had to compare the colors of the pads on the strips to the color chart that came with the kits. The pad closest to the end of the strip gives the total nitrate/nitrite level, while the pad closer to the middle of the strip gives the nitrite level only.

nitrate and nitrite 750x421 whats in the water in riyadh?

Now, I’m going to be totally honest with you and tell you that I have no clue what a nitrate or a nitrite is (or even if it’s supposed to be a countable or non-countable noun), nor do I know how their presence in drinking water is detrimental. I do know that according to the literature that came with the testing kit, there should be less than 1 ppm (part per million) of nitrite in the water, and less than 10 ppm of total nitrate and nitrite. But I guess it doesn’t matter, because there were neither nitrate nor nitrite in either sample. Zero. Zilch. Stay away, nitrate and nitrite! We don’t want you here!

The final test strip gave levels for pH, hardness, and chlorine. As with the nitrate and nitrite test, I had to dip the strip in the water samples for a few seconds and remove them…except for this test, I had to read the results after 15 seconds, rather than one minute.

ph hardness chlorine 750x421 whats in the water in riyadh?This is the only test where I got a significantly different result. Also, this is the only test where I got a result that exceeded the EPA recommendations.

First of all, the chlorine tests, the squares nearest to the long end of the strips, were both negative, so that was the most important thing; they stayed white, which indicates that there is zero chlorine in the water.

Then there was the middle square, which measured total hardness. The brown color of the test pad indicates that the hardness level of both samples is 120 ppm, while the EPA recommended limit is 50 ppm or less. As I mentioned earlier, this wasn’t really a surprise, and there aren’t any known risks of consuming hard water.

The third square, the one nearest to the end of the strip, was the only test where there were definite, noticeably different results. The light orangey-pink result of the drinking water test indicates that the pH of the sample was 6.5, and the EPA recommends a range between 6.5 and 8.5. However, the bright pink result of the sink water test indicates the pH of the sink water sample was 10, and that’s well above the recommended limit. But according to what I could find (thanks, Sheikh Google!), a high pH indicates hard water, but generally isn’t in itself a problem. (Some people even claim water with a high pH is actually good for you because of its alkalinity, but I wouldn’t go that far.)

So, yeah. Those were my Riyadh water testing results! In the end, it seems the sink water is not so different from the drinking water, after all. I should point out that I’m not sure if these results would be replicated with water from faucets in different places in Riyadh (or different jugs of drinking water, for that matter), and, as anywhere, test results from a particular building will depend on the quality of the plumbing that serves said building. We still plan to keep the water dispenser for drinking water, just because we prefer the taste. But I’m pretty sure we’ll be using the tap water more. Stuff’s gonna get cooked in water from the kitchen sink from now on!

no weenies allowed.

January 8, 2015

Yesterday started out like any other day. The sun came up. Mr. Mostafa left for work. I made a cup of tea and settled in to work, catch up on emails, etc.

Then Lavender woke up.

From the beginning, she wanted to write. Specifically, she wanted to scribble with the highlighter that I had sitting next to the book I’m currently reading. When I wouldn’t let her write with the highlighter, she screamed, “Nononononono!”

I went to the bedroom and procured a legal pad and a blue jumbo crayon and offered these to her. At first, she said warily, “Nononononono,” but then she settled down at her table and began to intently draw lines with the crayon.

First crisis of the day averted. But within a few minutes, the legal pad and the jumbo crayon were no longer entertaining. She pushed them aside and sat back in her chair, as if to say, “Whew, glad that’s done. What’s next?”

She got up out of her chair and started to play with her shape sorter on the floor next to her table. Satisfied that she was safely occupied, I stepped into the next room to make the bed. But within a minute or so, I realized that I was no longer hearing the clock-clock sound of shapes being sorted. As any parent will tell you, when you can’t hear your toddler, it’s time to panic.

I glanced back into the living room to see that my child had dragged her chair across the carpet (hence, silently), climbed up into it, and was now standing on it, jumbo crayon grasped in her right hand as she mercilessly scribbled on the TV screen.

“Lavender, no!” I gasped, rushing to her and taking her off the chair.

“Nononononono!” she screamed as she furiously kicked her legs in the air. But the kicking meant that her feet literally hit the ground running, and she ran around in circles for a few seconds before making a beeline for the bedroom and flopping down into a pile of pillows on the floor. She busied herself with the pillows for awhile, while I did some other chores around the house.

Finally, I called, “Lavender! Let’s have lunch!” I heated up a plate of food for her and put her in her chair. She gobbled up the food, stood up in her chair, chucked her spoon to the floor, and announced, “Nononononono!”

“Are you done?” I asked.

In response, she climbed out of her chair, ran back into the bedroom, and flopped back down on the pillows.

I put her dishes in the sink, then followed her into the bedroom and continued making the bed. When I looked over to check on her again, she was gone. I looked in the living room. No Lavender. And then I heard the glug-glug of the water dispenser next to the kitchen. I ducked around the corner and there was my child, holding down the button to the drinking water dispenser, the water flowing freely onto the tile floor. She looked at me and grinned from ear-to-ear, never moving her finger from the button.

“No, Lavender, no!” I ran up to her and gently pulled her away from the water dispenser. “That water is for drinking, not for playing!”

“Nononononono!” she yelled at me. She threw herself down on the floor and began to gleefully swipe her hands around in the water all over the floor from the dispenser.

I went to the kitchen, retrieved a towel, and began mopping up the mess. “Okay, if you want to play in the water, let’s go take a shower,” I said. “We have to get ready because we’re going to go see Auntie at her school! Won’t that be fun?”

“Nononononono!” Lavender said pathetically as I mopped up the water, then picked her up and carried her into the bathroom. I stripped us both down and turned on the shower.

Lavender sat on her knees in the shower, looked up at me, and proclaimed, “Nononononono!” Then she leaned forward, putting her face and hands on the wet shower floor. “Nolphnolphnolphnolph,” I heard her say.

I picked her up and quickly washed her. “Nooonooonooonooonooo!” she whined as she kicked.

“It’s okay, we’re almost done,” I assured her.

After I got dressed and ready, I quickly put Lavender’s hair up in a ponytail, and then wrestled her into a onesie and a pair of jeans. We headed downstairs to meet the driver, who was scheduled to take us to the nearby Montessori school where my sister-in-law teaches English. The school was having a Culture Fair, and my sister-in-law had invited us to come see it. I was so excited to see all of the adorable displays and projects that the kids and their teachers had created.

IMG 0699 750x500 no weenies allowed.

But at the school, Lavender decided that she felt like interacting with precisely no one. Any time someone came up to her and attempted to speak to her, she buried her face in my shoulder, kicked at my torso, and cried, “Nononononono!”

We were on our way back home within twenty minutes.

When the car pulled up in front of our house, I tumbled out and held Lavender in my arms as I fumbled with my house keys. She kicked lazily and called, “Nononononono!”

“Okay, okay,” I said as the door swung open. I put her down in the hosh. Her feet hit the ground running again, and she toddled rapidly around the corner of the house. I ambled dejectedly after her and plopped down into a chair.

I heard the squeak of her shoes and the rustle of her diaper as she ran around the hosh. As long as I could hear those things, I relaxed. I leaned back in my chair and closed my eyes briefly, knowing that she wasn’t holding still long enough to get into any real trouble.

But when those sounds stopped, my ears pricked up. I looked around just in time to see my child gleefully attempting to climb into a small fountain filled with stagnant water.

I sprinted to her and grabbed her just as she placed her right leg into the water. “No, Lavender, no!” I said, pulling her out of the fountain, water slinging everywhere from the soaked leg of her jeans. “That water is yucky and it’s too cold to play in the water!” As though it would help to offer a rational explanation of why climbing into the fountain was not a good idea.

Needless to say, my rational explanation was ineffective. The fit that my child threw herself into was practically nuclear. She wound up with good ten-seconds of eyes-closed, open-mouthed silence in which all I could do was helplessly wait for what I knew was coming. Have you ever seen Twister? There’s this scene where Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt are chasing a tornado and all of a sudden the twister vanishes back up into the clouds and they begin to panic because they know the tornado is not over, but is merely building its strength before it crashes back to the ground to wreak destruction along its path.

backbuilding no weenies allowed.

As a parent, I find myself thinking of this scene frequently.

Anyway, when Lavender let loose with that first scream, I swear, the construction workers building the house across the street went silent. My mother-in-law came running out of the house, breathlessly reciting Qur’an to protect my child from the shaytaan that must surely be possessing her in order to cause her to scream in this way.

“Nicole, what happened?” she asked, scooping up Lavender and continuing to whisper Qur’an verses.

I confessed my heinous transgression. “I wouldn’t let her climb into the fountain.”

Habibi!” my mother-in-law exclaimed, placing kisses on Lavender’s head. The screams continued, in between hiccuppy proclamations of, “Nononononono!”

“She is tired, Nicole,” my mother-in-law declared, and I agreed. I hauled the sobbing baby upstairs. After I entered the apartment, I sat her down briefly while I took off my abaya and put my bag away. By the time I had finished these tasks, Lavender had run to the water dispenser and was blissfully dispensing drinking water all over the floor again.

“No, Lavender, sweetie!” I said desperately, pulling her away from the dispenser.

She screamed, “Nononononono!”

I carried her to my rocking chair, sat down, and nursed and rocked her to sleep.

Sleep. Peace.

As the baby napped in my arms, my phone rang. It was Mr. Mostafa. I answered quietly.

“Heeeeeey, maaaaaan!” he said in his Michael Scott-inspired voice, which is how he always begins any phone conversation he has with me. Because we are nerds. (I couldn’t find a YouTube clip to illustrate this particular voice, but if you’ve ever seen the episode of The Office when Michael gets back from Jamaica, you’ve heard it.)

“Shhhhh,” I said.

“How is your day, kid?” he asked.

I ran down the events of the day thus far. “That’s why,” I concluded in a quiet but ominous calm-before-the-storm tone of voice, “it would be a good idea for you to bring home Firegrill for dinner.” (Firegrill is the local version of Chipotle. It’s not exactly the same, although I’m pretty sure it’s intended to be. But it’s yummy, and certainly enough to satisfy a Chipotle craving.)

Being the smart man that he is, he listened. He came through the door with a large Firegrill bag. By this time, Lavender was awake, but cranky. She scowled at her dad from her perch in my rocking chair.

IMG 0701 1 750x937 no weenies allowed.

But she perked up once she discovered that Mr. Mostafa had brought her a cup of guacamole from Firegrill. This kid has a serious love for guacamole.

We all settled in to eat our dinner. With the guacamole cup in front of her and the spoon in her hand, Lavender was the happiest I had seen her all day. By the time she finished, her face was covered in guacamole, and a glob had been mashed into her hair at the top of her head. I mopped her up, and said, “Lavi, we need to rinse your hair out. It’s full of guacamole.” I took her into the kitchen and turned on the sink.

“Nononononono!” she hollered, bursting into heartbreaking sobs.

Mr. Mostafa, ever the pushover, called from the living room, “Babe, don’t worry about it. It’s not worth the fight.”

I sighed, swiped a wet kitchen towel over Lavender’s head, and set her back on the floor. She ran straight to the water dispenser and jammed the button down.

No, Lavender,” I said, carrying her away from the dispenser again.

Grinning, she toddled over to her baba. Then she did an abrupt U-turn and ran back to the water dispenser.

I sat down in an armchair. “I’m done,” I announced to Mr. Mostafa. “I’m not taking her away from it anymore.”

He said to me incredulously, “What is it with our kid and the water dispenser?” Then he hopped up and ran to our daughter. “Lavender, no,” he reiterated. She laughed uproariously and ran into the bedroom. He followed, then came back out and settled on the floor in front of the water dispenser. A few minutes later, he announced, “Babe, I fixed it!”

“What do you mean, you fixed it?”

“Look. I put a piece of eraser in the back of the button, so when she pushes it, nothing comes out. I turned off the hot water heater here and if you want water, just turn the hot water switch and use that button instead. You’ll get room temperature water.”

“I love you,” I said.

We continued to tag team the rest of the evening, handling our child’s messes, playing with her, reading to her. Finally, at 11:30, when it was still abundantly clear that Lavender was nowhere near falling asleep, he said, “Honey, I have to go to bed. I have to get up for work in the morning,” he explained, as if I were unaware that he had a job.

“I know. It’s fine,” I assured him. “Go on to bed.”

He did.

I put on a movie and tried to rock her to sleep. Nothing. She wriggled out of my lap and played with her toys, with her books, with my phone. She scribbled on her legal pad. She did everything but indicate that she was ready to sleep.

Finally, I changed the TV to Bubble Guppies, picked her up, and settled back into my rocking chair. I’d had it. I was done. It was time to sleep. This kid was going to go to sleep.

“Nononononono!” she said, wagging her finger at me and shaking her head. She grabbed the remote control and smacked it on my arm as she sobbed, “No bub-bub!” In other words, no Bubble Guppies.

I took the remote, and as I rocked and soothed her, I changed the TV to Doc McStuffins.

“Nononononono!” she screamed shrilly, taking the remote back and smacking it on my arm even harder.

I heaved a great sigh and changed the TV to Spongebob Squarepants.

“Nononononono,” she said, but sweetly, as if to indicate, “You’re on the right track, Mom.”

I changed the Spongebob episode to “No Weenies Allowed.”

She grinned broadly and settled into my arms. I kissed the top of her guacamole-scented head as I realized that my kid just wanted to watch “No Weenies Allowed.” Within five minutes, she was finally–finally–asleep in my arms. At two in the morning.

Let me tell you, parenthood is not for the faint of heart. No weenies allowed.