Did I say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’?

I completely skipped the year 2019 in my blog- it doesn’t make me feel good to even type this, but that’s the truth.  It was a tough  year ;  I lacked motivation to write, despite the dozen people or so, that kept asking me “When will you write your next entry?”.  To them I say:  THANK YOU! 

2019 was a year in which bringing up teenagers really kicked off and sunk in. I hit a wall several times and felt completely lost, clueless and frustrated not having answers to my many questions and doubts about…how to deal with anger, resentment and grudges.  All – or most of it- originated by adolescent behavior.

More times than I can count I have wanted -more than anything- to call my Mom or Dad and vent with them, ask “How did you deal with us as teenagers?” .

After talking to friends and some of my Mom’s friends (in their 70’s) , I have learned that feeling sad, hurt and disappointed is normal when raising teenagers. “This will pass”, “Don’t take things personal”, many told me. But how does one not take personal when your kids are direct and honest about letting you know (at times) that they’d rather be alone than being with you?

For me at least, it is a painful  mix of watching your kids grow up, getting so noticeably independent, not needing you nearly as much as they did when they were little; when they couldn’t open jars, open cabinets, cook a meal, or when they didn’t understand a word or two from their school work.

It’s part of life, I know. However that doesn’t offer any consolation to my feelings of being forgotten and almost set aside at times.

Time flies in such a way,  that I can almost put together my memories of one of my kids saying “capeeteria” instead of Cafeteria, and today saying words I don’t even know the meaning of.

Or them asking “Can you tuck me in?” at night, while today, the kids go to bed usually after I do. Yes, sometimes, they tuck me in!

It is also a mix of being proud of them, and feeling them an inch more distant  every day.

When things get tough or hurtful, when they fall into rude or disrespectful behavior, when calm and peace come (after counting to 10,000), I often wonder …Did I talk to my mom and Dad like this when I was a teenager? Did I make them feel unwanted? Was I ungrateful?  Did I say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ for all they did and sacrificed for me?

At first, my answers were always No, definitely not! I never dared talk to them like that!  But as the months have passed, a lot of memories have been triggered, and I do remember my Dad being resentful when I would get up in the morning super moody, just because, or being annoyed by his overly affectionate ways. He was always thirsty for hugs and kisses from his kids, I am pretty sure when I was in my teens I wasn’t at all affectionate with my parents.

I can only assume it hurt, especially my Mom, who couldn’t even get up and attack us with hugs (like I do my kids).

Little by little, I have realized that I was probably just as rude and cold with my parents more often than I care to remember when I went through this tough age.

Sometimes I feel guilt for those years, and I can only hope they never “took it personal”, knowing that behind all those moody mornings, deep down, I always adored them and admired them both. At least I was fortunate enough to have them alive for the first 11 years of my motherhood. And I can say with all certainty that I did call them (a lot) to express my gratitude and admiration,to vent, to ask for advice, and to say I LOVE YOU!

There are two things of 2019 that I will always remember with great happiness and some melancholy perhaps.

On July 2019, after giving thorough thought to my sister’s advice, both kids went to Summer camp for 4 weeks. I never asked them if they wanted to go, I just enrolled them and planned the trip to Sacramento to drop them off at a Tiny town in a secluded place in the mountains. I had checked reviews and had long phone conversations with the camp director. She gave me assurance about the safety of their kitchen and cooking methods -my son’s peanut allergies have always made me apprehensive about his whereabouts when I am not with him.

A few days before we left to drop them off,  I started helping them each pack their things. When I explained they were not allowed to call, they didn’t like that at all (at one point they called it “a jail”). So I explained they were allowed to write and mail  as many letters as they wanted, or fax them too. “What is a Fax?” my daughter asked.  I just rolled my eyes and thought the answer too complicated and obsolete, was not worth our time.  “Just mail it”- I said.

I had to explain how and where to write the mailing address and returning address on the envelope- after I saw that one of them wrote the mailing address on the back of the envelope…

The stopped at Sacramento for a night, to learn a bit about it’s history, along with a tour of the Capitol Building.

The four of us drove up to Greenville, CA to CopperCreek Camp. My stomach felt knotted and my throat tight when it was time to say goodbye to the kids. They were both nervous and sad but the counselors there did an amazing job at staying close to them , keeping them distracted and busy and not making a huge deal out of our departure.

Upon our return home, the house felt so big and empty, it made me quite sad. My small dog Cinder really became my companion that month. We were not allowed to call the kids (or them us) unless there was an emergency. But we got to see plenty of action packed photos they posted daily for family and friends to see. We received probably half a dozen letters from the kids the first 2 weeks, begging us to come get them: they were lonely, bored and not getting along great with other kids. The photos we saw told another story, but the drama in their letters was almost troubling. Then I remembered how absolutely miserable I was at camp my first time when I was only 12.

So, we waited for another week to pass. By the 3rd week, they were singing another tune in their letters, and by the 4th week they were just as sad to leave as they were excited to come home.

It was a wonderful experience for both of them. They flew back together – unaccompanied for the 1st time- and everything went just fine.  There were no cell phones allowed during camp -of course- so they really were disconnected from everyone.

While they were gone, my husband and I took a weekend trip to Mammoth Lakes, CA. My first time ever. Even though it is famously known as a Ski Resort, it has a lot to offer during the summer as well.

Christmas was also very memorable. Both my sister and I with our families, flew down to Queretaro, Mexico, to  spend Christmas and New Years’ with our brother and his family. It was a great chance for the kids and my husband to see a different part of Mexico they had never been to: Queretaro,  San Miguel de Allende, Mexico City.

The plazas downtown, the townspeople enjoying the holiday, very pleasant weather, delicious food. We even went to Teotihuacan, to see the pyramids. The kids liked it quite a bit.

We ended the year with a small party at my brother’s home, with some friends and delicious food, not having the slightest idea what 2020 had in store for us…

 

 

 

Like birds flying in a V

As the Holiday season ends and the kids’ School resumes, my life slowly but surely goes back to its routine that –although sometimes I complain about- gives me some emotional stability which, right now, I really need.

As part of the Christmas common things to do in our house, my daughter and I watched a dozen or so Hallmark movies about Christmas: family, the appreciation of life and traditions. Even though these movies frequently fall into the “cheesy” category for me, I have to agree that most of them (not all!) have left me a small lesson, a warm cozy feeling, a yearning to do some good and mostly to appreciate all I have- which is a lot.

Also, I baked a dozen and a half batches of Maple Walnut Blondies. Yes, it is non-stop work in the kitchen, but the sweet homey scent that fills our home for 2 or 3 weeks and the time spent with my little assistant is something I actually look forward to. Not to mention to share them with our friends and seeing the smile on their faces as they open their box and smell the maple.

On December 18th I put away all the ingredients I usually keep out handy during baking season; I replaced the small bottle of Maple extract last- closed the door of the cupboard and thought “I am not taking this little bottle out for another year…who knows that 2018 will bring!”  Last time I used it, my father had passed just weeks before , and it would’ve been hard to believe if someone told me then ,that the next time I would bake blondies my Mom would be gone too .

We might not have many traditions in our family, but baking is definitely one of them, and I will keep doing it while I can.

The Holidays were hard, but not hard as in super depressing with constant crying, but more like melancholic, numb, lacking.  We spent Christmas together, my siblings and I with each of our families. It was the very first Christmas with only two generations at the table. Us and our kids, that is all.  It felt strange, as if we were waiting for someone to arrive and they never did. But I know our Mom and Dad where present in their own way, feeling so very happy to see we are together, the three of us, in heart and soul.

After Christmas my brother and his family flew back with us and spent 10 days here at our home in California. That gave me immense comfort; it was like a continuation of the festive season with family members so dear and close to my heart. It was hard to feel lonely, our house had 5 kids and 4 adults and our puppy. I loved every minute of it.  Being away from my hometown – and my husband’s as well- is hard.  Especially for the kids. Weekends and holidays it is always only the 4 of us, so having the extended family so close and feeling that sense of belonging is a gift.

The kids are 12 (almost 13) and 11 now so my husband and I have started to go out on short dates without hiring a sitter. They are still getting used to it…and me too.  We recently went to watch a Movie (The Shape of Water). Despite of the fact that is has been nominated for half a dozen things, I have to say it is not my cup of tea.  When I go to the movies, I prefer not to be reminded about the brutality and perversity of human nature.  I can turn on the news for that. But I applaud the creative way in which the director presents symbolisms of what we are, what moves us, what fulfills our most inner self, through the use of his “monsters”.  Just the next day, I was pumping gas, standing next to my car as a flock of birds passed over me lined up in a perfect V. As the leader slightly moved and turned the rest followed like a perfect choreography.  And I wondered, how come we cannot all drive on the freeways like that? With synchronicity and common sense.   Why are there crashes every single day and people injured or dead? I smiled to myself as minutes later I embarked on one more commute to San Diego, thinking….Well, birds fly and focus on their flight. They don’t change radio stations or text or call people while they drive, and specially, THEY DON’T DRINK!

This was just another reminder of how wild life is often more civilized than humans.

2018 is just starting and although I do not believe in resolutions I unconsciously have been more determined about being in touch with people I love and care for, here in town or far away, it doesn’t matter.

Like I have mentioned in my blog before, I totally disapprove of the way technology was messed with (if not ruined) the way in which we reach out and communicate with our loved ones.  Happy Birthday wishes, congratulations for a new born baby, a graduation,  Get Well wishes, and unbelievably , sympathy over the loss of a loved one, are often reduced to a Facebook public line, (or even worse a thumbs up on someone else’s line) or a Whatssapp message. I find it pretty sad for our little ones that already think it is awkward to make a phone call so say hello to someone.

I have made more calls in the past 2 months or so, than I have made in years to people I care for, or I rarely see. In two cases, the recipients of my calls have said to me “You made my day with your call”. If that is not motivation to reach out, I don’t know what is.

We need to teach our kids verbal skills! It is ridiculous what the lack of human touch or conversation has done. So that I guess is one of the things I am working on.

Once I read or heard a line that said “When you are gone, what will people remember of you? That did they learn form you?”  How true that is. Now that both my parents are gone, the most valuable things I have kept and cherish everyday are the lessons they taught me, the advice, their laughter, their discipline and most of all, their affection.

How important it is to show people how we feel while they are alive. Giving a compliment has turned into something less common nowadays. I guess we are all too busy to notice the good?

My Dad still has 3 brothers and 2 sisters that live today and I have enjoyed their company during this Christmas break, I feel a little bit of my Dad through them.  I intend to be in touch with them as well.

Being close to family is something my kids observe, learn from and get used to.  If not teaching by example, then how?  There are things in life that no book or classroom will ever deliver.  Last night my daughter was praying and she said “Jesus, help me be my brother’s best friend one day”. They are fighting a lot lately, mostly due to their age, but deep down they love each other and to hear this prayer come out of her mouth really moved me.

2016 and 2017 will be always years that I won’t forget. They hit me hard but they also made me stronger and showed me that I don’t crumble so easy , which is great news J.

 

2018…  I intend to  blog more often!  That too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The remains of childhood.

Without a doubt this year has been one of the ones where I have enjoyed the small conversations with my kids the most.

I can no longer call them children sometimes; other, yes…I yell at them when they are acting like TODDLERS and call them so!  But most of time, I quite enjoy these exchanges of ideas, opinions or simple points of view.

Sometimes even a short sentence will teach me a lesson; listening to them is key, especially in this era where we are enslaved by our cell phones. More than once they have complained because they are not getting my undivided attention, but shared attention between them and my phone screen, so I will put it away and face them, and listen.  I have heavily criticized people that have their faces on their screens the whole day. It annoys me and I find it disrespectful, and yet sometimes I find myself distracted by my own electronic devices as well.

And speaking of distractions, I have found that defining and respecting the line between work hours, lunch break, family time is sometimes challenging: it blurs when I have a heavy load of work and I want to do it all at the same time. I get anxious and sometimes selfish about my own needs. About a month ago I was leaving town to meet someone at the airport 80 miles away. I was running a bit late and as soon as I got on the Interstate, I saw a mile of cars completely stopped because of an accident ahead of us. I was fuming, and said “Great! All I needed was an accident blocking my way!”  My daughter looked at me in surprise –disapprovingly- and said, “Mom, don’t be selfish, think about the people in the accident that could be hurt.”

One more lesson learned from her. 🙂

When I was her age (10) I was a very oblivious child, very forgetful and easily distracted. And my daughter reminds me of those days very often. A few nights ago we were watching the Billboard Music Awards. They invited Celine Dion to sing My Heart will go on, in remembrance of the disaster of the Titanic or something of the sort.  While she sang, they showed scenes from the movie Titanic , and my daughter asked “Mom, was that movie shot on the actual ship?”  The question first annoyed me, then almost made me laugh, but I kept a straight face remembering myself as a child, and explained that the Titanic sunk over 100 years ago.

Next, the invited guest was Cher. Neither of my kids had any idea who she was –of course-.  As she performed with her extravagant clothes and hairstyles, my daughter asked if that was Cher Lloyd. I said “Cher who?”  She said “Cher Lloyd mom! The pop star that sings I Want you Back”.   I said “No, this is just Cher, not Lloyd, just Cher. A bit frustrated because I couldn’t hear or watch the show of this amazing performer (at 71 looks amazing still).  So my daughter looked at me straight and asked “no one knows her last name?”

Well, I had to laugh hard then. Her naiveté drives me crazy, in a good way. It shows the remains of what is left in her of my “little girl”.  I love her many questions that just prove how she is still my baby and how curious she can be.

This past week, while we were cooking something one night she said “Mom, what is the purpose of life?”.

A recent movie came out with the name A Dog’s Purpose, so just for a second I thought she was referring to a movie or a book. So I clarified her question, and she said “The purpose of life Mom, what are we here for? What is this?”

I stopped what I was prepping in the kitchen and thought hard for an answer I was not prepared to give while standing with a mixing bowl!

A simple question that called for a simple answer for a 10 year old.

We are here to be decent humans? We are here to create families and extend our values?  We are here to help the needy?  If only she knew and understood how pathetic I think the work-eat sleep-play cycle can be at times, how we live in a society where we are always competing and wanting more to reach a state of happiness that sometimes seems to never come until we “land” and realize what a are some of the fortunate few in this world that have a good life.

The last thing I wanted, was to discourage my little girl about any possible preconceived ideas about life; good ideas.

So my answer was, “We are here to be happy, with what we have”. I then returned the question to her and she replied “I think we are here to learn and help, and be happy”. Good. We were both pleased with our answers.

Oftentimes children (not only mine) surprise me with their questions, their statements, their drawings, their dreams, because it shows how frequently we –adults- underestimate how bright and deep their thoughts can be.

I feel like I am holding on as tight as I can to these last years of innocence, like a dog that will settle for crumbs, I will (almost) beg for conversations with my children, nighttime chats, a walk in the afternoon just to talk to them with no screens present. And I try to remember the things they say to me, or write about them here, in my blog.

I just enrolled my son, now 12- the acceptable age at the gym- to 24 Hour Fitness, where I go to work out several times a week. He seems too self-conscious about his skinny build, and he is constantly asking how he can get “muscly”. He is 5’6”, so at least the height is not a problem for him. So I thought it was a great chance to spend more time with him and help him get “muscly” at the same time.

So it has been fun, walking on the treadmill next to him, or the elliptical or the bikes.  We do cardio for a good 30 minutes, then we do weights. It has been just about a month or 2 and he is already asking his Dad if his biceps look bigger; patience and discipline I tell him, but 2 days later he will ask again.

Last week he said to me “Mom, I have a question about reproduction”. It was a casual afternoon while I was putting groceries away, not at the gym, not at night, just out of the blue. I switched from cook mode to Sex Education mode in seconds. “Yes?” I replied, expecting a very complex question or embarrassing moment.  “How long does the limo have to park in the garage?”

Well, I am glad he explicitly said it was a reproduction question, or it would have taken me a while to figure out what he was talking about. After all I was just putting canned tomatoes away!

Well, these questions are the beginning of the end of the stage I have adored as a mother. These questions are still a mixed bag, in the case of my son anyway.  Where the “bag” is leaning towards religion, politics and sex and less about simple things of life and the endless why this and why that.

Like I said before, I am not looking forward to the teen years and all the difficulties that come with the age, I am not ready but who is? All I can do it keep the bond between us nice and tight, the trust, the emotional freedom, so that when the road starts getting bumpy for them (and me I guess) I can be one of the first persons they will turn to for help or guidance. Me or their Dad of course.

I have a whole Blog entry to write about our recent trip to Cancun and today is Father’s Day so I have one more thing to write before I end this one..

For the first time ever, I have no father to call to say Happy Day. So I am going to write here all that I am feeling today, for him.

Thank you Dad for your laughter, for your smiles, for your silly dances. Thank you Dad for sacrificing so much of your own time and money to provide us with the best of the best, even when we didn’t deserve it.

Thank you Dad for never leaving, thank you Dad for all those Sunday mornings of long breakfasts at our table.  Thank you Dad for years of weekly manila envelopes with an allowance.  Thank you for teaching me how to use a credit card responsibly.

Thank you for teaching me to always wear clean shoes, and return loaned cars with a full gas tank; to pick up the check every now and then. To be a great host at parties.  Thank you for teaching me to be humble and to be charitable. For teaching me to pray and talk to God.  Thank you for being so strict about rules, discipline and school grades, but most of all, for instilling in me and my siblings such respect and admiration for my mother.

Wherever you are Daddy, Happy Father’s Day. I will always, always love you.

 

Untitled, as the winter goes on

It is the weekend, the days of the week that -for me- are most ironic and spontaneous in its unplanned disarray. For five days many of us can only think of…”when the weekend comes” , then it comes and there is so much to do in the house. I fantasized yesterday of a whole day at home, blogging, finishing my 2012 scrapbook that never saw the month of March, and possibly continue with 2013.  I  pictured myself selecting some of the best family pictures to get them printed, framed and hung on our walls, so that our new home ,that is still a bit cold and empty in the wall department, can start getting some friendly and warm faces here and there.

Some pictures than can remind all of us that we are part of something big and beautiful. That there are people scattered in several  States and in Mexico too, that probably think about us every day, that miss us. and that very likely see our faces on a wall of their own.

My fantasy sounded good, almost relaxing and fulfilling, but I ended up deep cleaning our stove, polishing our kitchen hood, vacuuming the house, polishing hard wood floors, all while dirty laundry was spinning in the washer, or drying.

I got the kids to do some work too, their weekly chores, I didn’t feel so miserable working on a Saturday, plus my husband worked from 8 am to 5 ish too, clearing and moving dirt on our lot in his little tractor. I have to say there was some consolation in seeing all of us working. The fact that I had music playing the whole time helped too. Lately, that is my way of feeling I am not alone, there is almost always a good memory linked to every song as I move around the house with my cleaning supplies.

By noon I was mostly done, and realized I was in a little bit of a bad mood and acting quite bossy with the kids. I made myself a cup of tea and went to sit outside to take a break and become a nice sweet Mom again.

It was chilly but sunny. I sat on our new, but almost never used patio chairs and watched my husband diligently up and down a slope, moving rocks and a lot of dirt. I enjoyed the view, the cold crisp air and my chamomile and peppermint tea  just sealed the moment. Then I thought -yet again- that my Dad would never come and sit there with me.  No afternoons there chatting with him, making him his favorite snacks, laughing, reading. No, never. Then I knew why I was so grumpy and bossy. Because I miss him a lot.  Just then, one of my favorite songs started playing:  Silent Lucidity.  A 90s song that I have heard many many times. I love it’s rhythm, the very soft, deep voice of Queensrÿche’s lead singer, the sound of the guitars, and violin’s in the background with so much emotion, almost pain.  But for the very first time, the lyrics just hit me and made me teary eyed:

“Hush now don’t cry
Wipe away the teardrop from your eye
You’re lying safe in bed
It was all a bad dream
Spinning in your head
Your mind tricked you to feel the pain
Of someone close to you leaving the game of life
So here it is, another chance
Wide awake you face the day
Your dream is over
Or has it just begun? “

This is a song about dreams, specifically about lucid dreams: when we dream we are dreaming. It is like a double depth or layering withing the dream. When we dream we are dreaming, and we know it and have certain control over the dream.  Maybe this sounds crazy or complicated, but it really isn’t. It has happened to me many times, and it is true. I have been able to control the dream. If it is too scary, I make it stop.

I have had many dreams about my Dad in the last few weeks. None of them lucid dreams; they seem to be more like memories of him, of the situations I lived in real life with him.

The song has a protective tone to it: a man talking to a child about not being scared of the dreams and the feelings that come with them. It is amazing how the same song in different stages of our lives can mean something so different. Just today I learned that the track incorporated a tiny bit of Brahm’s Lullaby (5:26) played by a Cello.

http://www.vevo.com/watch/queensryche/silent-lucidity/USEM40200001

So I listened yesterday to the song, uninterrupted and not bothered by anyone, music playing loud through the patio speakers and while I felt sad, I also knew that even if my Dad will never come visit me here, he will visit my in me dreams.

His birthday just passed, on January 31st. I had feared that day to come, but surprisingly I was absolutely OK. I am doing well I think.  The distance (away) from my home town and my parents house has helped. I visited my Mom recently and I have to say that being there, witnessing -again- the empty  spaces and getting a whiff of my Dad’s Bleu  by Channel made my stomach hurt.

That weekend my admiration and empathy for widowers skyrocketed. They stay there, they feel the pain every single day. The clean out the rooms. They are reminded of what they don’t have anymore almost 24 x 7.

I was sad to leave my Mom, but happy to run away from it all. I am dealing with my loss here at home at my own pace.

On another note, life is happening so fast, too fast!  My son got his first real pimple a month or so ago. He is just a couple of inches shorter than me (5’6″),  but he still plays with stuffed animals and asks to be tucked in at night, so in my eyes, he is still my little boy. He will be turning 12 this week. One more year before officially becoming a teenager, but that stupid pimple made me feel like there was no time left at all!  Together, my son and I killed it. With gels and soaps we dried up the invasive premature infection on his face.

That pimple was definitely a marker for what will be the start of a phase I am not exactly looking forward to: snappy kids that talk back and need constant reminders of who is boss, mood swings that are never understood (not even by them), challenging questions to test limits and,  oh my,  kids that after school, fill my car with the smell of dirt and sweat that remind me they are not kids anymore!  :/

My daughter is following right behind. While she is ever so careful with her personal hygiene, she is at the age where, while she can’t sleep without her stuffed bunny, she also listens to songs that could very well be in my own playlists, and likes to wear mascara on special occasions.  I remember it myself as being very confusing, should I act like a sweet little girl or should I make it clear and apparent I almost a teenager and act super cool?

Just last weekend my daughter and I went to see the kids from School of Rock in town, perform at a local  family friendly bar/restaurant. My friend’s daughter was performing, she has been into music and performing arts for years now, she is only 12.  The whole group of kids ranged anywhere from 8 years old to 14, so it was quite a mix of ages and talents. As I sat there, looking at my daughter, 10, wearing a cute and girly outfit, her heir neatly tied up, I noticed how out of place she felt- and looked. The very loud guitars and drums made it impossible to  talk, she was clearly a bit bothered by it, but refused to wear ear plugs (available for all intolerant audience members). She endured over an hour of rock music and I watched as my friend’s daughter along with other kids, were singing their hearts out and playing their instruments with a true and authentic professional attitude. Girls wearing make up, crazy hairstyles dyed with blue and purple, and clothes that made the point: I want to be a rock star.

It felt like watching kids wanting to be adults, really wanting to grow up fast and be cool teenagers. I felt older that afternoon. The memories of watching my own kids at Kindergarten Christmas recitals came flooding my head and I confirmed with myself: time flies!

Because of the abrupt circumstances in which I received the new year, no resolutions or major reflections were made. But it is never too late to stop and think what changes or additions we intend to make in our lives. On 2017 I want to make my fantasies come true about being more leisurely on my weekends. The kitchen hood can wait, the windows too. But to watch our kids grow up leaving childhood behind and turn into young adults can’t wait. Every day counts, and it is my intention to be right there with them, reinforcing the trust and communication bridges both my husband and I have built between us and them.

To answer their questions promptly before they resource to the internet when they get curious, to cheer them up after dealing with mean spirited kids at school. To laugh at the things they think are funny, because as we get old, our sense of humor changes too, and I have learned it is refreshing to really get involved and listen to their funny stories. To tuck them in at night as long as they will let us. To keep teaching them the values that we believe matter, values that will make them better people in this crazy and sick world, specially in a time where our country is so divided.

2017,  here we go!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall, Middle School and Vivaldi

Summer passed (yey) and my favorite time of the year is here: fall.  Fall equals cozy, beautiful colors in the trees, pumpkin everything (Oreo cookies? really?); fall is butternut squash recipes, creams and soups, fall is dressing up the house with Halloween theme first, then Thanksgiving followed by Christmas. My second favorite time of year.

Updates on previous topics: after giving up on decent technology to have Internet at home, we decided to go for Satellite Internet, the worse one can have (only because Dial up doesn’t exist anymore). I can finally work from home, no need to bother my cousin at her home, or buy dozens of unnecessary Starbucks drinks and treats to use their Wifi, or 2 hour trips to the library with my kids objecting every time.

Our speed is good enough for me to work, or pay bills on line, or my husband to research a topic, but definitely not good enough to stream Netflix or You Tube. Our kids were extremely upset at first, asking me…”If we can’t watch Netflix or You Tube Videos, or Play on the Xbox Live , why would we want Internet at all?” Unbelievable what the concept of Internet has  become for the kids.   That afternoon I explained to the kids how I used to do my research for Middle and High School: Encyclopedia Britannica.

My daughter said, “Oh yes, I have seen those thick books at your Mom’s house”. I bet she thought they were ornaments for people that want to seem smart. I made them appreciate what it is to have data at the click of a finger for any imaginable subject.

I honestly find this situation an opportunity. Our kids are still reading more than they did all last year, and we spend good quality time with them after dinner, on a slow morning on weekends, before bedtime.

About my mom:  She had tests done a month ago and no clots were found: none.  I was so blown away by the results, I had to hear it directly from the Cardiologist, so I reached out to him kindly asking for a brief summary of his findings, and he replied confirming that he and his team were as pleasantly surprised as us. We all prayed a lot…a lot. I believe the power of prayer, plus the determination (and stubbornness) that my mom possesses, and of course, the medication –medication that “could only do so much”, in the words of the doctor- all contributed to a very successful result.  My mom if now off the oxygen machine and as of today, October 30th 2016, has taken 2 trips already.

On October 12 she landed in Tijuana, Mexico. I had the joy of having her visit, and stay at our house for 10 days. I got all the equipment she needed: power wheelchair, Oxygen for night time only, and my (adorable, amazing) husband made her a ramp in an hour, to make her access to the house smoother.

Our kids knew what happened to her in July, everything, they saw me cry many times, and be sad for her, and some of that sadness got to them; they were a bit worried, and my daughter specially, prayed for her many nights. Our son is a bit less expressive, less comfortable with showing feelings, yet they were both as affectionate as I know they can be with her, each one in their own way.

Like many kids, they don’t have any of their grandparents in town, so when one of them visits, it is very special to them. My mom truly enjoyed the house, the ease with which she could move in a one story home, the wheelchair friendly bathroom we designed for her, every inch of it.

But more than the house, she could not get enough of the mountain views, the hillsides with perfect rows of fruit trees, bright healthy green,that go for miles to the west of our house.

The sunsets that look like the sun is exploding with unique orange and pink colors as it sets and disappears, leaving us holding up our cameras that fail every time, to capture the beauty of it.

Every morning she sat at the end of the dining room table, sitting facing west, looking at it all morning as she applied her make-up, read in her kindle, or had breakfast.

Once I told her, “Mom, let’s go out to the patio to eat”, she said, “I am already outside”.  We have no blinds or curtains, it was all as enjoyable to her  from her spot in the dining room.

I observed every day all that it meant for her to travel, with her aide, her wheelchair, her seat cushions, her medications, her foot brace she uses at night. Her dozen creams and make up (it’s no wonder she has the complexion of a 40 year old), and she never fails to amaze me: there is no limit for her. She will bring whatever it takes with her, to visit her children, to be there, to see her grand kids, to be part of our lives, not just from a distance, but in person.

She told me one afternoon, “I really like spending time with the 3 of you” (meaning my siblings and I).After that, I didn’t care much about taking her out, to the mall, to go grocery shopping, because I understood very clearly she was there for me, to be with me, so see our lives from within, our family and be a part of it for a few days.

I felt like a plant that was being watered: fed, nurtured. I had not realized how much I needed her, just as she needs us. My husband told me more than twice that week “It is really nice to see you so happy.”

Our kids and my husband really enjoyed her company. The day she left my son’s first words that afternoon when I got home where “The house feels very empty Mom”.

We are looking forward to her next visit.

Our kids are doing very well at school. Our son is still getting used to Middle School. The change is big and I am not sure he embraces every aspect of it. The first week of school he came home to tell me his school was “rated R”. Because all he heard were bad words. He quoted several kids very disapprovingly and said they were completely inappropriate. (By the way, he is 11)

We have been giving him advice on how to deal with bullies, or just aggressive verbal kids. How to be likable to…..yes: girls!  We are already there. I can’t believe my baby boy has a crush on a girl. He is almost as tall as me, which I am still getting used to.  Eleven years old and 5’5”.   I find it a bit harder to lecture him or give him the “Homework and chores first” speech when he is almost eye-to eye level with me.

I know my daughter will catch up fast too, so either I start wearing heels more often, or use a step ladder to give my speeches, or just get us all used to the shorty mom still be the boss of them (I am 5’8” and yet I will be shorty soon).

The signs of growth and maturity have also been very “loud and clear” with our daughter too: no crushes or boy talk,  but perfume, colored lip gloss and pimple cream (even when she doesn’t have a single one yet),  fancy shampoos and flowery scents all over her room, and a taste in music that keeps surprising me.  She will sing to Def Leppard’s Pour Some Sugar on Me, Erasure, Neil Diamond, the Fratellis and then Taylor Swift, Justin Beiber, Arianna Grande. The girl is carrying the very mixed tastes of her parents, the radio top 40 and then some. She will happily dance to it all.

And speaking of music…Our son is taking Viola lessons at school. For the first 2 months he absolutely hated the class. Month 3: he is reading music, playing basic simple songs that he knows (like Jingle Bells) and loving the sound of his Viola along with 20 other kids that take the Strings Class. His first concert will be in 2 weeks.

I love listening to him practice at home. Even if this doesn’t last for the rest of Middle School , just this year has brought him the basic knowledge of what music is, how difficult and challenging it can be to read music, to play with others, to combine sounds, and to build and maintain  the harmony needed to be part of a Strings group and on a bigger scale, an Orchestra.

For the last months, as we drive to or from school, he asks if he can select the music to play during the drive, I always say yes. He will choose Bach, Debussy, Edvard Grieg (one of his favorites), Tchaikovsky and lately Vivaldi.

He plays it loud and asks us to please be quiet. I love every minute of it.

Every now and then both kids will say a piece sounds familiar, so I remind them about the Baby Einstein and Little Einsteins videos we played for them a zillion times as babies and toddlers.

I have friends with kids that just left for college and often talk about how they miss them and how the house feels empty. These are constant reminders for me to enjoy our own, at this age. They can be so much fun as they can drive us crazy sometimes. They keep teaching me lessons, to calm down, to chill. To take it easy, to watch my back (literally) and not bend over or carry heavy things, since I have had several episodes of severe pain and days of being bed bound.

They have become much more helpful around the house. More opinionated, more curious just about anything. More involved in our conversations, in politics (Can’t wait ‘til elections pass!). But all of it makes them more aware about the world, and not just the small bubble they live in.

I have learned lately that I have to be extremely careful with what I say in front of them, because…THEY WILL REPEAT IT!!!  This has already caused embarrassing moments.

Our house keeps getting little things (that I buy) here and there, more color, more personality, more “homey”. I am loving it and feel blessed and fortunate for being where we are today.

I went to a PET SHOP BOYS concert last night. I enjoyed it a lot since I almost never go to concerts: my husband is happy to listen to our son play the viola for 30 minutes and that’s about as “concert” as it will get for him. So I go with girlfriends every now and then. Listening to the songs I danced to in my 20s brought back very good memories at the same time as I watched the lead singer (completely bald) singing his nasal, high pitched  voice to Go West , It’s a Sin, Domino Dancing and New York City Boy –among others- made me realize….we are the old crowd for many! But, who cares. We had fun, enjoyed the music AND had midnight tacos (at 2 am) like on the old days.

I must head back home now to start testing my Blondie recipe in our oven that I have yet to master.

Must get ready for Christmas time,  when I have many batches to bake.

Happy Autumn Season.

First Month In:  scraped knees, off the grid and coyotes howling.

I cannot say time flies right now; this first month after we moved in really has felt like a full month.

We knew that getting Internet and a land line would present a challenge in this hilly area. After a painful and thorough research, we concluded that Satellite Internet (slow as a donkey, reliable as the weather man and expensive as limes in California) was not what we wanted, which meant settling for DSL technology.

Considering I work from home, this issue was not something to take lightly. The one and only company that services this area is so slammed with orders and all sorts of problems after buying  a big part of Verizon’s telecommunications, that I’ve had to call them around 10 times to schedule, reschedule, confirm and reconfirm our service. Tomorrow is the big day of hooking us up. I am not getting my hopes up until I can actually see my laptop reaching out into the big WWW.

During this first month, I have made my place of work all of these: primarily my (very generous) cousin’s house, but also Mc Donald’s, Starbucks, the City Library, my son’s swim school, my daughter’s Dance studio. Wifi has never been as valuable as this last month. But I am tired of chasing the signals and can’t wait to actually sit at MY desk which has been empty – and very organized- since May 14th.

Being “off the grid” has also meant no Internet for the kids, no You Tube, no Animal Jam, no Xbox Live. As dramatic as it sounded at the beginning, the kids have gotten used to it.  We had the luck of having neighbors close; a family with a boy, my son’s age, who likes biking. So he has been biking up and down our road, more than he has biked during the last 3 years. He has scrapped his knees more than once but has kept at it. He and his newfound friend have discovered a way to make their bikes sound like motorcycles by jamming a flattened water bottle between the frame and the tire. It is hilarious. Even my daughter has joined them in their biking adventures on several occasions. Needless to say, now she wants a bike that looks like a boys’ bike: all black.

I love watching them do things that they had stashed somewhere in the back of their minds: crafts, drawing and even reading.  Of course, every now and then we get the “I am bored”, so they are obligated to get creative or just go watch TV…that, we do have.

Me?  Not having messages constantly coming in from the half a dozen groups I am in, or email from 4 different accounts is actually de-stressing. I don’t find myself checking my phone or checking facts on google when I am in doubt about…anything, you name it. Every time the kids question me about something I am not 100% sure about, I just say:  “ I don’t know”, end of story. And if I do know, there is no chance of my son second guessing me and checking Google to check my facts: sweet.

Another effect of being off the grid: a little bit more conversation. More deep conversation: the last chat I had with my 11 year old son, he asked me…”Mom, you know how there are couples with 2 men, or 2 women? So, how do they make babies?”

After a very clear, age appropriate answer about Sperm banks and surrogate moms, he said, “oh, ok. I wonder how high my cholesterol is…”

Just like that he ended the subject and as easy as eating pie he started with the subject of his own health. So, yes, different conversations for sure. It probably has to do with his age. This business with the tweens and Middle school, I don’t know. It scares me!

The noises in and around the house have also changed quite a bit. We no longer get speeding cars right on our street or street racing at night like before. Or neighbors partying hard just yards away.

The mornings are exceptionally quiet and serene, the air around us feels crisp and chill. I have heard birds that I have never heard before, making sounds I wouldn’t imagine a bird can do. I heard the sound of squirrels too. The sounds I am not crazy about at night: packs of coyotes all over, near and far, always moving. Very distinct, is the howling of the leader, who clearly has a dominant sound. I know we will all get used to it.

On another note, I am actually getting comfortable in the kitchen. After many frustrating moments and several pages on a variety of manuals, I now know how to use the temperature probe in the oven, and I have almost accomplished the level of not burning the scrambled eggs on our cook top. Apparently the BTU’s do matter. Sometimes I feel like my heat resistant spoons are going to melt! Everything with measure, they say.

Even though we are going through the worst heat wave ever since we moved here (117 F today), the rest of the time has been extremely pleasant during the day and chilly at night. Consistently around 5 degrees cooler than down in the valley, where the City is.  So, I still have not been able to put away all my sweaters and light coats; they are hanging right next to my summer clothes. But I have resigned to the fact that it is the way it is in most of California: flip flops during the day, and sometimes boots at night.

One month in and less than 5 boxes left unpacked: not bad at all. We are missing several sets of furniture, which makes the house fells pretty spacious. As we start getting couches and tables, the house will feel fuller and cozier I hope.  Hanging art and photos should help too.

The first week here I was reminded of when we moved into our last home. My dad flew in to help us clean up, unpack and arrange what we had then. I remembered perfectly how we arranged plates, cups, cleaning supplies. He helped scrub floors and toilets, and the countertops too. I was (and still am) very grateful for his help and his company as well.

The day I arranged my plates, cups and containers here, I found myself a bit teary eyed remembering those days. I felt pretty lonely that morning. The kids were in school, my husband at work, and there I was, one of the most exciting weeks of my life, having reached a milestone to remember for many years to come, but all by myself this one time. I missed my Dad very much that day.

Our guest bathroom was designed in every sense to accommodate my wheelchair bound mom. Spacious with a roll in shower and safety grab bars; looking at it made me miss her too. I can’t wait to have her here.

Two weeks after we moved in, my husband mustered up the energy and resolve to install a sound system in the house, which he had previously wired the house for. This was my Christmas present that I had only enjoyed by looking at the half a dozen boxes in the garage.

Ten speakers or so where installed in the ceilings of different rooms, a controller for each room and the central brains of the system were all put in place in 2 days. The evening he tested it out, he used my Ipod (since we don’t have Internet to stream music online), so the songs were all mine.

My husband knows that music is one of my passions, my mood changes dramatically when I have music in the house or in my car. Music takes me places, it makes my brain work in a different way; it’s hard to explain. But I feel empty and lacking when I don’t have music with me. I have noticed that our days start better when I play the right music for the kids while cooking and eating breakfast.

Because my kids are not old enough to buy their own music yet, they have had to listen to mine (and my husbands’). So it is not surprising that my daughter has come to love Erasure, Pet Shop Boys, A-ha, Abba, and Dance/Electronic Music too. She loves dancing, so Music is a big part of her too. At the same time, both the kids have gotten used to Neil Diamond, which our parents used to listen to, so we both like as well. It is like a generational musical transcendence. And I love it.

In our old home, I used to have a Blue Tooth Bose Speaker he gave me as a present, and I would carry it around or play it loud so I could hear it everywhere.  So when he told me about this Christmas present, in times where things where already tight with the construction going on, I was tremendously grateful.

So back to the day he tested the new system, I was getting dressed in my closet, where there is a speaker. Suddenly I heard a piece from the Classical Ballet Coppelia, by Leo Delibes.  I heard the whole piece as I got dressed, then I just had to sit down on the edge of the tub and take it all in.

My first time at a Professional Ballet performance was at age 7. My Dad, lover of Classical and Opera took me one night, and this is the Ballet we saw: Coppelia. I was mesmerized by the graceful movements of the tiny ballerinas, the intensity of the live orchestra, the costumes, the beauty of it all.

So sitting there at the edge of my tub, I started crying uncontrollably. I was happy, extremely happy and overwhelmed.

I realized my husband had gone through back breaking work (climbing into the attic more than twice to find lost cable ends), covered in fiberglass, all itchy and sweaty, just to give me the joy of music.

To top it off, he tested the system with music that takes me back to 1978, that night at the theatre with my Dad.

I came out of the bathroom sobbing of joy. He found me in the hallway walking towards him and gave me a worried and puzzled look.

I hugged him tight and thanked him for all his work. Like the ABBA song says “Thank you for the music…”

Life has been good to me so far, extremely good. Some things we worked for, some we deserve, somethings are pure luck. All together I am grateful and very appreciative of the many joys I have today: my health, my precious family (immediate and extended!) and –always- the music.

More to come…hopefully form my home’s Internet!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Irony of the Hello Kitty Belt.

Often times I agonize and dwell over the fact that my kids are growing up so fast, too fast. I look deep into their eyes, and for a brief moment I see them as babies holding up their milk bottle while looking back into my eyes; as toddlers inquisitive and curious , their eyes asking questions about the fast paced and loud world  around them.  Then, seconds later, I zoom out of my precious memories and see them today, freckles around their noses, smelling of dirt, sweaty foreheads, big teeth, too big for their little faces.

I am proud to say I have enjoyed each and every moment with them,  growing up, growing smarter, defining those very clear personalities they each have.  Despite the fact that I have never stopped working out of the home, I can say I have been there- so far- every step of the way. That even though I have a ridiculous number of photos in my laptop , with triple online backup, I also have them imprinted in my mind.

But is it also true, I DO want to slow down time, or freeze a moment every now and then, because I know tougher times are coming: Middle School, and before we know it, High School and all that follows-all in a breeze.

My daughter – age 9 now- has been developing all too fast, a sense of sensuality, along with the dreaded Hollywood prototypes with its empty and vain concepts of beauty and female perfection. Who do I blame,? None other than media: music videos, commercials, unnecessarily explicit ads, and sadly, movies. Even animated ones, yes.  This past summer, she came down the stairs one morning ready to go to school – or so she thought- wearing  a T-Shirt that was tied on one side with a hair band, making it look like it was knotted, resulting in an exposed mid-reef. I stared at the whole outfit for a few seconds, debating, struggling on how to approach this situation, which was  not the first one, and most definitely wouldn’t be the last.

How to you tell a 9 year old that exposing her body like that is not acceptable, when she is not yet fully aware of what dirty looks are, about the image she portrays as a girl, about respecting her body. It’s a tough one, at least for me, to make her lose a bit of her innocence and naivety because of how our world is these days, because there are registered predators within blocks of our house, because of the sick and disturbed human nature of some.

Looking at her tiny waist, her half exposed belly (she has a 6-pack already due to her gymnastics!), I observed that she was wearing a Hello Kitty belt, hot pink, metallic, with a Hello Kitty Head as a buckle. Of course!  She is only 9.

I half smiled to myself, and had a little chat with her about appropriate dress code, not only for school, but for her age. Confused a bit, she agreed to take the fake knot off and told me some girls wore T-Shirts like that. She never really understood what age had to do with it.

After this one event, both my husband and I have sent her back to her room  at least half a dozen times to change. One has to stick to it and be consistent, so that is what we are trying to do. However, the “control” somewhat ends there.  Once they are out of the house, other issues come into play that are more of a challenge to have a grip on.

Last week, we all went for an easy hike, together, as a family. These outdoor activities  have turned out to be some the best to spend quality time moments with our kids. There are no phones, no videogames, no dancing and jumping and tumbling. No Noise. Just us, walking, climbing, having a small picnic or snack, talking. Every now and then, we split in pairs for a while. Walking only with 10 yr old son, he asked me how he could get his “crush” to like him. Again, I paused, thought and many, many things came to mind. The very first one:  HOW AWESOME that he is asking me this, not a friend, not even his Dad ( he has always had the girls talks with me).  Next I wondered, isn’t it too soon? But I immediately recalled my first crush, I was probably younger than him. So, to soon? No. Then, a question to myself was: how do I give him advice on being likable to a girl, while at the same time discourage him from thinking too much about girls?

Concluding that I could not control his thoughts anymore that I can control my need for Dark Chocolate, I took his question with an open heart and a smile and so started the chat about girls.

Because I have tried to participate in as many school activities as my job allows me to, I happen to know not only his “crush”, but this adorable girl’s Mom too. Just briefly, during a field trip to one of California’s Missions, I met them both. So I can understand why my son has been secretly admiring this girl for over a year. A year? Yes. My son told me he looked up on the internet how to make a girl like you, and the advice he found was “Let time do its work”. But he said “Mom, I have given time a whole year and nothing happened, so it is time I do something . This is how I found out his crush is that old. I was glad the advice he found was all good and clean. God knows he could have found the worst and nastiest advice at the tap of his fingers.

Later, than same day, my daughter , still 9, made a confession too. She was so uncomfortable and embarrassed, she waited until bedtime to talk. The precious time when I tuck her in, lay with her, in her tiny twin size bed (with my butt and one leg hanging off the edge at times),  with lights off to start winding down we chat about the day, about life, about my childhood, about her grandparents, then pray, then I leave. So she chose this moment to tell me that some boys she has been hanging out with at recess, were having inappropriate conversations with her: it had been going on for days and she felt so dirty and guilty so couldn’t hold it in any longer. She provided me with details which made my head numb, she talked and I listed but my mind was going in slow motion, I couldn’t fathom  the whole scene, the conversations that 9 or 10 year old boys were having. What is going on with people? Should I have seen this coming this soon?

Thankfully, over the last weeks of summer, my husband and I already talked to both kids about sex: from  the reproductive system, how it all happens, how babies come to this world, briefly touching upon sexual relations. The focus was more on body changes and how babies are made. It was all very science-focused, a lot of drawings on our kitchen whiteboard (yes, next to the shopping list was a drawing of the female uterus and the menstruation  sequence).

Despite my efforts to use mating and animals and keep it all serious, my kids and I ended up laughing hard because my drawing skills are TERRIBLE to put it lightly, so the penis and scrotum outlines fell into the humorous category. Oh well, some humor actually helped break the nervousness and embarrassment.

Because of this talk (and common sense), my daughter knew that the conversations these boys were trying to have with her, were out of line. I was -again- grateful she came to me and got it off her chest. Her heart was racing the whole time we chatted. After telling her several times she was not  in trouble, she calmed down and went to sleep.

Me ? I was in bed, wide awake, thinking about the day’s events. My son had a 1 year old crush and wanted to be likeable. My daughter was told she is sexy and a boy wants to “do it” with her. Age came to mind. I felt 60 years old that night.  A scary vision of High School came to mind, driving, alcohol, partying, drugs and all the chaos that usually comes with those years.

To top it off, that same afternoon my husband made a ship for the kids to play with, using leftover cardboard from a huge box we had in the garage. The illusion of them playing with it quickly dissipated. Apparently (I wasn’t there) they both went back to their games after briefly acknowledging it.

These are the subtle signs that come bite you (‘cuz it hurts) of how they are growing up fast, and they are no longer our “babies”.

Tired of looking at the soft blue glowing light from my night stand clock, I left my room at 1:30 am directly to where I now sit. I furiously typed an email to the school principal, detailing as much as possible. I (kindly) demanded she talked not only to the boys but to their parents as well.  Only after that, I slept.

I am currently reading a book about a Helicopter mom, (mom’s that hover over their kids and take away their breathing space). I don’t believe I have ever been intrusive or overprotective, otherwise I wouldn’t have the honor of being my kids listening ear and soundboard when they are angry at the world.

However it doesn’t hurt to read about other moms’ mistakes (according to the author, that is why she wrote this novel about helicopter moms). While I promise myself to give them space, freedom of choice, and support when they need us parents there, I also intend to keep being involved -as much as they allow me- in their lives. Being there, is the difference sometimes between  a happy child and a depressed child; between self confidence and feelings of inferiority; between feeling ignored and feeling loved and needed. 

Like the cliche says: Time flies.  So, let’s fly with it instead of watching it pass us by.