Creative Parenting: “Another Way of Seeing,” by Khadijah Lacina. Trash? Look again.

Khadijah Lacina is a regular guest columnist for Riehlife on Creative Parenting. This post is number three in the series. Khadijah and I met through Story Circle Network. She lives in Yemen where she facilitates a writing circle.

In her series of articles on Riehlife, Khadijah shares how she stays sane by encouraging and nurturing creativity in herself and her children. Read about her life in Yemen at her blog Yemeni Journey.

Khadijah is a transplant from Wisconsin’s Kickapoo Valley. She’s lived in Yemen for almost nine years with her husband and eight children.

#1 “Creative Parenting: My Head Is Full of Poems.”

#2 Creative Parenting: Poverty as Creative Catalyst

Now…here’s number 3…


Another Way of Seeing
by Khadijah Lacina

It seems a simple truth that for every lesson I teach my children, they teach me another, unique lesson. This was the case last week, as I sat typing at my computer as my six-year-old daughter. Maryam came into the room and started rummaging around for paper and pencil. I didn’t ask her what she was doing, I simply ripped out a piece of notebook paper and gave it to her, along with something to draw with. As I continued typing, she put the paper on a hardcover book lay down on the floor on her stomach, knees bent, her feet waving in the air.

A few minutes later Mu’aadh, my eight-year-old son, knocked and entered my room. He tossed himself down on the couch and started humming to himself. Just as his tuneless humming was about to drive me batty, Maryam invited him to come and draw with her. He didn’t commit himself, but sat down next to her and they began a whispered conversation that was much less annoying than his humming had been. I continued working as they talked, and soon I noticed Mu’aadh getting down the box of crayons and colored pencils from Grandma Gretchen.

“You have to draw the tree, it isn’t right without the tree,” said Mu’aadh. More whispers, then, “You draw the tree if you want the tree.”

“Where’s the red? I need the red.” The sound of fingers dragging through crayons. “Here, this is sort of red, or maybe sort of maroonish-peachish.” I paused, thinking, “Maroonish-peachish??” Not two colors I would have ever thought to associate with each other.

“You color that part, I’m coloring this part.”

“We can both color it, see?”

After a blessed half-an-hour or so, I was proudly presented with a drawing of our house. It was small, in the background, and indeed no tree had been placed where the tree in reality existed. The foreground of the picture was taken up with a riot of colors–reds, greens, blues. I searched for the “maroonish-peachish” but failed to find it. Not wanting to seem dense, I didn’t ask what the colors represented.

Instead I looked at the picture from different angles. Then I had it. The beautiful jubilation of color in front of the house was the field of garbage where our neighbors all dumped their trash–brightly colored plastic bags, wrappers of all description, vegetable peelings, whatever they had to get rid of. This same field of trash had upset and annoyed me on and off for months. Yet Mu’aadh and Maryam had made it look pretty, almost like a field of flowers in full bloom.

Later, on the roof, I looked down on the garbage field. It still looked ugly to me. Then I thought of the children, and how they could see beauty in it, enough beauty that they felt they had to put it to paper. Always willing to learn a lesson and nurture my inner child, I scrunched up my eyes a bit, and looked again. Instead of looking at each individual piece of trash, I tried to let my mind see what Maryam and Mu’aadh had seen. In the end, I decided their picture was better than the field of garbage could ever look, but I was thankful for the reminder, gently given by my little ones, of the beauty that can be found in almost anything, if we take the time and make the effort to see it.

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  1. Hi Ernest. what a great article you wrote- I tried to reply there but I couldn’t get it to post. This is what I replied: This is true here in Yemen as well. First thing in the morning the trash pickers are out going through the piles of garbage looking for things to sell or use. They sell water bottles to juice places, and they use tin cans for dishes, as well as what they can salvage and sell. It makes you look at trash a whole new way, and it always makes my heart ache wishing there was some way that it wouldn’t be necessary for these poor people to have to do what they do just for one meal. I have a post about the effect of the protests here on the poor at

  2. Interesting exchange Ernest and Khadijah. Both of you write movingly and insightfully about the problem of trash in other countries. This is a big topic for the world. The United States have many ecological activists honed in on how best to handle trash.

    Janet Riehl

  3. Hi Janet-
    It’s easy to get overwhelmed by some of these issues, isn’t it? I just have to remind myself and the people I meet who do care about them that even though our own little individual effort may not seem like much, it DOES make a difference- even within ourselves, as we become better, stronger people.
    As you know, I had a guest post at Little Pickle Press that addressed this idea of thinking globally at

  4. Khadijah,

    Yes, your article on Little Pickle press is a good one. It reflects your effective way of living.

    The Global Homeschooler – Meet Khadijah
    By Khadijah at Yemeni

    I’m glad you’re doing this work.


  5. Dear Khadijah, It is amazing how much our children teach us. Except for one incident in my adult life, every huge revelation or major change in my thinking has come from my children. I remember Chad saying (after I had said something to that effect at a family gathering) that everyone was looking at this rag-tag group of four adult children wondering what in the world I could have learned from them. My answer was…EVERYTHING! Love Always! Thurayah

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