Sunday, October 19, 2008

Thank you Lord for our Daily Pumpkin!

Autumn is in full swing in the Pacific Northwest and we newcomers have "to do as Romans in Rome" or is it as Washingtonians in Washington?  whatever the case, we are adapting and enjoying every bit of it.  It's not like we don't have pumpkins in Miami but our kids here are taking a worshiping attitude toward these pumpkins since the beginning of the season....I am not sure if it's the weather, the smell of pine trees in the air, the color of the leaves or just a little bit of everything that makes this time of the year a true "harvest time" for all, farmers and city dwellers. Well, for us city kids there is always the chance of a field trip to complete the experience.  Recently, Victor and his class had the chance to go to a real farm nearby and pick their own pumpkin (kid sized and all) from the pumpkin patch.  The patch looked more like an Easter egg hunt field but I am not complaining, they made it easy for the kids and it was lots of fun!  Frankie and I tagged along and recruited my sister, Gaby, who was visiting at the time; Ms. Rebecca is too grown up for preschool field trips, so she said, so she did not come along in our adventure.  Frankie and Victor enjoyed every second of the foggy day, petting the animals (I wasn't happy with that but I took my antibacterial so it was all good), learning about farming from our "tour guide" and of course, picking their pumpkin.  I loved how Frankie followed Victor's lead interacting with other kids in the group and the "social ritual" of the field trip experience could not have been more fulfilling than it was - we scored great and even got pumpkins to prove it!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Dragons and Knights!

The picture speaks for itself....somebody is not happy to be the dragon in this story!  Believe it or not, a minute before this picture was taken the "dragon" was happily chasing the scared knight but when the knight decided to fight back the dragon did not like it - not one little bit. Regardless of the chase, the pouting and the lack of princess (Rebecca) in distress, I adore this picture and it represents what I have to look forward to every morning; days full of imagination, role playing and childhood games!  Although I am not sure if  given the choice I would have chosen to lead this kind of life, now that I am deep up to my neck in it, I don't think I would have trade it for any other choice.  Having the time to re-discover each holiday with my kids and enjoying every small thing through the eyes of a child is just priceless and I am thankful to God for allowing me to be a kid again!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Pink Beads

Got my mammogram today and I am so happy I don't have to do more this time.  Yes, since the first time I had a mammogram I have been going to the dreadful second and third and the occasional biopsy.  I have gotten so used to the process that I couldn't believe the doctor when she said, "everything is OK, see you next year"  - I could hug her!  OK, I did hug her!  She probably thought I was crazy but I didn't care - I do not have to deal with this until next year and that is worth celebrating.   

So, in honor of Tia Orfita and to celebrate the news, I got some pink beads today at the grocery store while getting my usual stuff.  Our local Safeway (pretty much like Publix for you Floridians) is always raising money for this or that and giving you all sorts of colored beads for your donation.  Of course, October is breast cancer awareness and the pink in everything is kind of getting on my nerves - I don't like pink but I don't like cancer either so I am coping. Regardless of my aversion for the color pink, I am proudly wearing my beads today and if I could, without getting too weird, I would tell everyone I encounter today that my mammogram was perfect - for the first time EVER!  No, that would be too weird even for Seattle standards;  I will just wear my beads and enjoy the news inside my heart.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Barry B Boots

This morning was a typical Fall Seattle morning, gray, rainy and very windy.  As soon as I opened the garage door, my three kids ran to put on their shinny rain boots that did not get to be used enough last season.  Although this year we had a great Spring and a glorious Summer, my kids were itchy to wear their boots and I must agree, they are fun to wear!  Unfortunately, we were experiencing not only changes in the weather but also in some body's shoe size, Frankie's boot did not fit and this was the beginning of the end of my pleasant morning so far. Of course, there was no way Frankie will put on sneakers after trying on the boots, especially after Victor and Rebecca were sporting their boots, so after about 10 minutes of feeling like the worst mother in the world - how could I not foresee this drama??? - I secured a barefooted Frankie in his car seat and headed for the school rounds with the mission of hitting the store right after to take care of Frankie's boots.  We went to our favorite department store to find the same type of boots Frankie outgrew and I was surprised to find out he needed boots two sizes bigger than the ones he currently had - WOW, no wonder he was screaming "ouch, ouch" so loud this morning!  After much searching, I was able to find the new size on the same color, navy blue and red, perfect match for his coat - I felt like a great mom again!  Sadly, I was not able to enjoy this feeling for too long because it was interrupted by Frankie's discovery of the "Barry Boots."

"Look, look!" he cried "I want Barry Boots, Barry Boots!"  Of course, I was hopelessly lost and had no clue of what he was referring to....Who was this Barry? By process of elimination and with the aid of his very good pointing skills, I was able to figure out what Frankie was asking for.  He was talking about this hideous black boots with yellow tips, the loudest boots on the rack and that, by the way, did not match with ANYTHING my son had hanging in his closet, let alone his very nice navy blue coat.  Even though I was not even remotely thinking of buying those boots, I wanted to find out more about the connection Frankie made of the boots and this mysterious fellow named "Barry" - could he be a fireman?  The boots did resemble firemen boots so I continued to ask Frankie who Barry was.

No, it turns out it was not a fireman; "Barry B Benson," is the main character of   "The Bee Movie" and by the way, his closet is full of black and yellow sweaters.  The story put a big laugh in my heart and I had to take the horrible boots and walk to the register to pay for them.  Yes, I bought the ugly boots.  I had just been witnessed to two wonderful miracles that took place in this local store, on a windy, grey and rainy Seattle Fall morning.  First, I had just found out that my son was not color blind - and don't laugh because my father is!  Second and most important, my son was using his long-term memory, coupled with his imagination and exercising his creativity to connect this cartoon character he loved with a pair of boots in a store. 

As far as I am concerned, Barry B Benson does not wear rain boots in the movie - he wears sneakers; furthermore, Barry, as well as most bees, can't fly in the rain so there would be no point in marketing his character in children's rain boots, right?  Regardless, my son will wear his "Barry Boots" with pride because they are one of a kind - he picked them, he named them and they are very special, just like him.  As for me and my wounded sense of fashion, I will turn a blind eye at those loud yellow tips and think:  Black and Yellow, fellow!  Perhaps that will help.

PS:  Victor wants Barry Boots too!

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Toilet Dialogues

Lately, my family seems to be centered around the potty.  I am in a mission to potty train one of my children for the first time and re-train another!  Yes, I know I have three but the middle one is actually OK, at least for now.  

Lucky for me, the subject of my "first time" potty training efforts is Frankie.  This is the same little boy who was born the very day he was scheduled to arrive (all on his own) and decided he was done breastfeeding at seven months.  I am beginning to think that he is deciding to become a big boy all on his own...once more.  We started the potty training with a "potty" chair but this was not good enough for him so we moved on to a ring.  You can anticipate that the ring was not going to be good enough for him either so he took it off and now he sits on the toilet, balancing his little bottom as he tries to keep the "stream" inside - thank God for this!  This past week, he decided it was time to  "produce" for mommy every time I sit him down to potty.  Of course, he is not asking to go yet - get real, the kid is two years old and A BOY!  Still, I am delighted to celebrate each success with lots of high-fives and loud cheering!

Now, here is the other reason for me to hang around the toilet, Rebecca.  My poor daughter will kill me if she finds out I am writing about this - she is already mortified as it is, just to be seeing a urologist at the very difficult age of eleven.  I can't help to find it so funny that not only do I have to remember to sit Frankie at the potty but I have to help her keep a "voiding" diary for her doctor too, under very loud protest, by the way.  Here I am, running all over this house (with FOUR bathrooms) making sure Frankie goes to potty and Rebecca keeps her log.  It seems like Rebecca needs to be re-trained because she is waiting too long to go to the bathroom and her body has been now programed to function this way.  I guess a mother's job is never done and although you might think your kids are ready to go on their own, you can never anticipate that you might have to re-live those days again!  Sorry, no time for blogging a lot these days; I am too busy keeping up with the toilet dialogues :-)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Fall stillnes after a reflective Summer

I was reminded by a good friend that I don't write enough about Rebecca. If I would have started this blog last year, most probably my entire blog would have been ABOUT Rebecca.
My first born put me through it last year with her school transition and the pain and suffering we went through together, made me feel like a fifth grader again...If I would have competed in that program, Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?, I would have probably won! Just to put it in practical terms I am now on a first name basis with her teacher and we exchange friendly e-mails once in a while. At the time, I thought she was looking for attention since so much was going on with Frankie and our daily activities revolved around his evaluations, therapies, doctor appointments and so I think it might have just been a whole different story.

For the second time in her short life, Rebecca faced a life-changing event and my little girl grew up, along with all the pains that accompany the process. The last time she had to deal with a big change it was after losing her grandfather when she was seven and we had to go through just about six months of grief counseling for that.  This time, the symptoms were a little more subtle so I almost missed them. Fortunately, I could relate in so many ways to this change since I myself had to leave my country at seventeen and faced a different language, a different society and had to leave all my friends behind. I know a little bit about young dreams being broken and feeling your whole world is crumbling down on top of you head. Although I knew back then that moving was for the benefit of my entire family, I still had this bitterness inside for a while that made me want to be an only child.

After the drama of the horrible school year we endured with Rebecca, we decided she was not going to Miami for vacation as we had agreed when we first moved. We felt she needed to understand that her behavior during the year had not earned her such a privilege so we went ahead and grounded her. We were probably wrong to do this but at the end, a Summer with my daughter proved to be the best one for both of us. In the midst of lunches at the beach and at the park, along with afternoon walks, I learned to understand her better and to respect her feelings. Most importantly, I made the transition from treating her like a child to treating her like a teen; I was able to see through the soul of this precious being I call my daughter. On the other hand, Rebecca learned how to express herself in ways other than acting up and learned to trust me and speak her mind with respect. She learned that her needs are as important as those of her brothers and I learned to make sure she does not forget this. She is not here anymore as part of the "family move" but she has bought into the benefits of having a better education, of having mom at home and knowing that her brothers, specially Frankie, can look forward to a better future because of all of us pulling together as a family.

This school year has been wonderful so far and she has earned a few cooking classes on the side. To our surprise, instead of asking for a cooking class, she asked us to register her in a "babysitting" class sponsored by the red cross. She said she wanted to learn how to take care of her brothers and what to do in an emergency. I tell you, sometimes I think she is the adult and I am the kid - I don't think it has ever crossed my mind to learn CPR - I figured if I had an emergency I can always call 911!!!! Well, Rebecca did go to the course and is proud to display her certificate card on her wallet. Our little girl grew up.

These days I don't write so much about Rebecca because she is back to being a quiet soul, gentle and kind. She doesn't like the lime light and is contempt with being in the background, just tagging along to whatever the rest of us decides the course might be for our pack. Sometimes, more than I would like, I might just lose her in the shuffle of this crazy household but I do make an effort to remember to spend quality time with her like blow-drying her hair, doing each other's toe nails and just being girls. She can watch those dreadful Dr. Who episodes with her dad but that's entirely another blog entry!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The memory of trees

The other day I drove through one of the streets of my daily routes and the trees were all yellow! When did this happen? Well, I guess I can ask the same thing of the year all together...where did it go? Just a little bit ago I was looking forward to the "glorious" Seattle Summer that everyone was telling me about (which was indeed, glorious!) and now I am digging out recipes for Thanksgiving day! Nonetheless, Autumn brings so many wonderful changes along with its changing leaves....the cooler weather, the comfort foods and Halloween, my daughter's favorite holiday. This season, I can't help but to remember my dear aunt, Orfa, who is not in this earth anymore but lives on through The Memory of Trees.

A long time ago, when were all still living in Nicaragua, la Tia Orfita was lucky enough to travel to the United States in connection with her work for the department of education. I will never forget her stories of the changing leaves in Washington DC. Through her stories, my 10-year-old-child imagination could see the yellows and the browns and how beautiful Autumn was in the far away lands of the north. Later on, after I moved to Miami, I still could not have the chance to see those changing leaves because of Miami's tropical weather. Whenever we traveled up North, I would miss the leaves and only got to see naked trees. La Tia Orfita traveled again, this time to North Carolina, again in Autumn, and the stories of the trees continued. She loved this scenery so much and described it with such joy that it was impossible not to fall in love with those burning red trees and yellow leaves although I wasn't 10 anymore.

La Tia Orfita is gone now but I remember her every time I see a tree with yellow leaves. I feel her soul when I admire the wonderful sights of the Fall season. After almost thirty years of the first time I heard from her about the great process of nature that is Autumn, I have finally watched with my own eyes, the wonderful festival of color of the changing leaves. I am enjoying every minute of this season as much as I enjoyed listening to my aunt's stories. The wait has been worth it.

Thank God for Autumn and thank God for aunts like la Tia Orfita.

Click below for a video of Fall paints/pictures around Seattle as well as some of Tia Orfita's pictures along with the sound track from Enya's The Memory of Trees.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

If New York is a Melting Pot, Washington is an Applesauce!

This morning, my husband said to me that we have taken so much from this State...more than we can ever give back. He is right. Sometimes I feel like we are on a "gimme-gimme" rampage and our hands are just full of blessings. From the very moment we moved here last year, we have met kind people ready to make our lives easier and better. I am sure that people in this city do not see themselves as we see them, but for us, Miamians - coming from the land ruled by the "every man for himself" motto,- it's still puzzling to see how involved people are here and how strong this community is. I often wondered where the secret lied in building caring citizens, who work with one another regardless of their background and beliefs but I think I have found the answer. The secret might just be found in making apple sauce.

Recently, Victor participated in making applesauce from scratch with his preschool class at the Shoreline Children's Center. Now, don't be fooled, it was not just any applesauce, it was a group effort and it was just delicious! All children were to bring one apple and participate in the process of peeling it, cutting it, smashing it and cooking it together with the rest. The result of their individual contribution, a "diverse" apple sauce, was shared and enjoyed by all members of Victor's home room (and some lucky parents too!). There you have it: An applesauce made with all kinds of apples (gala, granny smith, red delicious, etc) and sweetened by the pride of preschoolers who were delighted in making something so delicious, together. At the end of the process, this awesome applesauce belonged to ALL but was made from each one's individual apple. What a wise lesson of community involvement! One apple can't give you much applesauce but 30+ can definitely provide you with a big pot! These children are 3, 4 and 5 years old and are already being taught the importance of working together. No wonder Seattle kids grow up to be empowered citizens in charge of their own destiny, with a clear community vision and a strong desire to be involved.

By coming up with exercises like this one, Victor's teacher and her assistants have taught our son the way into becoming a responsible child, eager to learn and share his knowledge with his peers but most of all, he has learned to be kind, compassionate and proud to help others...this is more than I can ask from ANY school curriculum.

We are lucky to have moved to Washington and become some of the apples of this awesome applesauce!

Victor waits his turn and takes a shot at using the apple peeler during the "apple sauce" hands-on Project.