Tuesday, September 11, 2012


This morning I woke up remembering, more poignantly than I have remembered in many years, the wheres and whens from 11 years ago this morning.

I was living on 14 St SW in this awesome little casita apartment in Albuquerque.  I was so confused, frightened for the world, and unsure of what to do.  I felt the distance of my far away family, and wondered, where to go?

I thought of my friend Ronnie.  Ronnie of the brilliant smile, Ronnie of the sparkling clean house and unstained white carpet, Ronnie the mom with the big beautiful safe secure house.  Ronnie of open arms, an embrace of love, Ronnie of heart and home.  So I called and went.

The image that greeted me is indelibly and I'm sure at this point, exaggeratedly, inked into my brain and memory.  I opened the front door, entered, looked to the right into the beautiful bright white living room, and there before me, was my very own Madonna, Ronnie of the Rocks, with every possible cleaning utensil and product in her arms, looking all the picture of "Holy Fuck it's an emergency - CLEAN!"  because as many of us know cleaning is the only form of sanity and therapy in a trauma situation.  And there before her, in his exersaucer, was Kenny.  He was so tiny, and he was so happy, and his smile was so brilliant.  He was bouncing like a maniac, laughing and smiling, the absolute opposite of the image on the tv, that of the Towers smoldering.

I, in my own true form, brought food to make homemade Mac-n-cheese, the baked kind with crunchy buttery breadcrumbs on top because as many of us know, cooking and eating comfort food is the only form of sanity and therapy in a trauma situation.

I spent the day with Ronnie.  More folks came over.  I talked to my family.  I did what many people did, I walked around in shock, acting normal, bursting in to tears, unable to process the day.

Here, 11 years later, I wondered, how do I explain this to my children?  What does 9/11 mean to them? I gathered M & A to me, on my bed.  They snuggled under covers and I told them the story of my morning, 11 years ago.  I told them of my confusion, I told them of my sadness, I told them of Ronnie's open arms and sparkly house, I told them of horrible incidents that inform our daily lives today.

We sat together, in a circle, held hands and said our daily prayers together.  We prayed especially for the families of the 9/11 victims, we prayed for all the people who were there, we prayed for the perpetrators - the terrorists and their families, we prayed for forgiveness and we prayed for peace.

We looked at images, watched some very intimate home video, and then listened/watched a Story Corps cartoon about that day, we watched "Always a Family", you can see that here.

After all that, Augustus was pretty sad, Magdalena wanted to watch more.  I decided we were done with our 9/11 tribute/home memorial, and that we needed to move on.  M & A wanted to watch Michael Jackson's Bad video but I said, uhhh…nooooo, let's watch clips from Singing In the Rain.  We watched Gene Kelly do the title song, we watched Donald O'Connor and Gene Kelly dance and sing with the "speech coach", we watched their favorite, "Make 'em laugh" with Donald O'Connor.  We finished with the final scene from "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World", when Ethel Merman walks into the hospital room and slips on a banana peel and the room erupts into laughter.  We watched it over and over and over.  Then we watched it again.

We needed to laugh, we needed to be reminded of joy and freedom and laughter.  We needed to heal, as we still need to do.  We are going out today into this world of remembering and bringing that healing laughter, that joy, and all our love.

Today we are safe, loved, and free.

Invention & Art: Manifestation, Concrete Action, R/R/R, and an Income

Introducing:  "Upcycled to ART": Create With Heart, This Is Where We Start.

Here's the flyer:

After our summer challenge and blessings from the gods of Pinterest, I was awash in ideas for creating art from what is leftover, discarded, considered redundant or useless or trash.  The classic "One man's trash is another man's treasure" theory.  
First class Friday, August 31.  Class opened with a look at images:  familiar images of painting and sculpture, then onto more collage style work, some "isms" - Impressionism, post-Impressionism, Dada-ism, Abstract Expresionism, Modernism, Pop Art, and Post-Modernism.  We looked at what art is, what it could be, what we like, what inspires us, and how wide and broad the term "art" truly is.  

(from our American Art section)
John Audubon,
Whooping Crane
Asher Durand, The Beeches
Joseph Cornell, Untitled, 1945
Joseph Cornell

Mark Rothko, Number 22
O'Keeffe, Evening Star, III
Edward Hopper, Lighthouse
at Two Lights
Wayne Thiebaud, Delicatessen Counter
Robert Rauschenberg, Soudings

Jasper Johns, Target with Plaster Casts

We looked at image after image: paintings, collage, multi-media pieces, installation art, sculpture, still images from video art.  We ended with the discussion of using what we have on hand to create a canvas on which to make our own art, to discover our own expression.  

And then, we worked!

magazines marked for recycling
advertising pages received in the mail
donated paint headed for the trash
sponge brushes 
sewing machine
Objective:  Create "canvas", an area for expression in different media
Process:  spread a thin layer of paint over magazine page, place another on top, repeat 5 -6 times, let dry, sew pages together
Objective:  Create "paper" for small notebooks
Process:  spread thin layer of paint over magazine page, place another on top, repeat twice, let dry, sew pages together 

The result:

Sewed the pages together and, the finished product:

Just what we hoped it would be.  A perfectly imperfect place to experiment.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

Yes, I do agree, necessity is the mother of invention.  

Last fall I asked for transformation with a capitol "T", I wanted absolute transformation: internal, external, spiritual/emotional/mental/physical.  I wanted to transform our lives into that ethereal unknowable always out-of-our-reach life; Ideal Life, as I see it.  Crazy, I know.  I'm asking for the impossible.  An Ideal is an Ideal precisely because it is that, Ideal and "Real Life" isn't Ideal it's LIFE.  

But here's the rub:  Ya know those sayings, like…follow your bliss, doors will open; do what you love, love what you do; Doing what you love is the cornerstone of having abundance in your life; Follow your passion, and success will follow you.

I've always believed all those quotes, and now I get to live them.  On to necessity and invention, and the ongoing transformation, because that's why I'm here, that's what I'm doing, that's what I'm loving, and that's what We're living.  

I know that transformation can (and in my case, must) begin with the tiniest degree of change.  Think parallel lines, got a visual?  Ok, now take one of those lines and open the degree of it just a nano-meter, just a hair, so really at first there appears to be no difference at all.  So what's the big deal?  That's transformation?  HA!  But wait!  There's more…every tiny step each baby step on that new trajectory yields movement in a new and different direction.  Soon, those parrallel lines are diverging, then the one that moved a nano-meter is light-years away, moving steadily along with at times great leaps and bounds, at other times a bit of reverse motion, but still, on that new trajectory.  There, my friends, lies transformation.  

Our trajectory moved ever-so-slightly, transformation began, we engaged in the Barnas Summer Challenge of "Reduce/Reuse/Recycle" - buying nothing new for any reason (ok, except sustenance.  We bought lots 'o food:).  We made gifts from resources we have, we upcycled found furniture (put out for the trash on the side of the road) for our outside kitchen, we commandeered cast out lumber, we received the mother load of hand-me-downs, we stopped by the Thrift Store and perused used goods.  And we have had a Very Successful Summer.  We rose to our motto of "Manifestation Through Concrete Action" to the best of our abilities meaning:  We made a schedule and stuck to it…as we could working around the schedule of La Abuela and El Toro (the papa); we did school, Frida days, HAP, and home P.E. (yay for the pool!).  We are following through on chores, we are living rhythmically and with an underpinning of structure, and we are handling our business.  

All clutter has not yet been "de"cluttered, it is a work in progress.  But as I know we must, two steps forward, one back and on and on and on.  

Now, on to necessity being the mother of invention and all that.  Last spring El Toro (my latest moniker for my beloved husband who is a Taurus of classic dimensions;) asked me, "So exactly what...are you qualified to do?"  I thought about it for a second, and responded "Well, I'm qualified to make art, to pour drinks, to lead meetings, to start groups, and to stand in front of groups and get people excited about projects/ideas/plans etc.  Why?"  El Toro, "So what are you qualified to get paid for?"  "Ummm…art?  Because I'm done bar-tending."  …sigh "That's what I thought."  And that was the end of that, or so I thought.  What I didn't get was that the Toro was actually - through his own form of communication, letting me know that I needed to find a way to generate money, that I needed to get a job, that the money we lost from our Frida time (who knew that what I called our "Frida mad money" was actually about $5k a year and that we would really take a hit when that was gone?  Us, you say?  Well, a reasonable person might say that yes, but a reasonable person also might think that I have any idea of money, which, regrettably, I do not.  I waited tables and bar-tended for a living my entire working life.  Need money?  Pick up a shift.  End of story.  Hours worked?  Paychecks? - mine were always zeroed out for taxes, so paychecks hold no sway over me.) and the recession finally hitting the HVAC world was having an adverse affect on us so we needed another income.  Stop the presses!

I have always said I would homeschool until…until we have a lifestyle change, until we needed to do something different, until until until what?  But I didn't mean NOW!  I didn't mean we'd homeschool until NOW and that I'd run out and get a job!  What would I do for the love of howdy?  UGH.  

Enter the Mother of Invention.  Quite a few people said "you should teach art", I do have a degree, a BFA (Bachelors of Fine Art) from University of New Mexico and I do know how to do a few arty and crafty things, but teach art?  No, that's not me.  What, I'm going to teach drawing 101?  I'm not the one.  
Enter Cali Jess, the Mother of Invention.  The inventor of herself, the original HAP (Homeschool Adventure Playgroup in LA from which HAP East comes), L.O.V.E. Parenting, The Ultimate Parenting Course, her world her life her passion and she says, with a voice full of love and support and genuine knowing, she says:  "No Coco, not drawing 101, but your art, what you do, what you did for the summer, the R/R/R summer Barnas challange, art and ritual, art and collage, vision boards.  The art that you make."  And there it was, that tiny shift of perception, she moved my vision a nano-degree to the left and BAM!  There it was, transformation and invention all in one.  

And the invention is "Upcycled to ART".  Photos, projects, and a description to follow.  

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Blogging 101

The resurrection/resuscitation/reinvention of this blog has me a bit perplexed.  This spot has always been a public place to journal online about my family our adventures our life our fun.  Photos have been as important to this space as words.

Now…facebook fills that space.  I update with quick fun photos of our family our fun our sheer fabulousness (really my children's fabulousness) and am ready to go deeper in a different direction here.  I just scanned photos thinking "what photos do I post?  What goes with transformation?" and nothing jumped out.  Ok so for now we have words.

The words that come this morning are "I forgot that I have to make a commitment to blog or blogging and documentation and writing doesn't happen."  That's right!  I forgot.  I'm not sure how often I'll come here, or how much will be in each post.  I just know that I need a record of how this is going so I can look back and gauge where we are partially by where we've been, what has been followed through on, what projects have been completed and what has followed by the wayside and what has been outright abandon and what has been rethought and/or retooled.

I just had a radical (for me) thought.  I should post photos of what my space looks like Right. Now.  (no not right now, gasp!  It's way too messy, it doesn't look good)  I post what is fabulous in my life, but then if our lives where pure fabulosa, then why would there need to be transformation I ask?  I need transformation because of the mess that accumulates when I am too busy to remember that home laundry rooms patios need to be orderly and clean - not spotless mind you, lived in is fine - but free of clutter because clutter keeps me stuck.  So enjoy.  The following shots are why we need shelves and order and structure and a regular chore list for us all mama and papa included, not just a chore list for my little people.  A chore list for life.  (there were lots more shots, but I couldn't bear to post more, blogger doesn't make it easy, or maybe I just haven't figured it out, but these are a nice representation, and also, in my defense, this is critical mass when the mess is at it's absolute messiest.)



Saturday, May 26, 2012

The resurrection of a blog begins.  Last fall I wrote, briefly, about transformation.  This spring/beginning of the summer, the focus of our family, our motto if you will, is Manifestation Through Concrete Action.  Because I can talk about transformation till the cows come home, but without action, well, it's just another concept, isn't it?  

To that end, there are calendars, lists, piles, priorities, projects, budgets, structures to be implemented, a general rhythm to be laid out and nurtured, tweaked, and committed to until it becomes the rhythm of our lives.  And of course because this is me we're talking about, our transformation is nothing short of epic.  Physical, emotional, mental, financial, spiritual - I envision ab.so.lute. transformation.  It did start back when we returned from Nica, an incremental adjustment, a degree of a turn that when laid out next to a parallel line would, in time, represent radical change.

To our great relief, there is the understanding that radical absolute change, an about face if you will, like the 180 degree turn around of a tanker or any other behemoth fellowship/organization/culture, takes time.  Takes surrender.  Takes two steps forward and one step back.  Takes love and laughter and time to back up and cool off takes perspective and understanding and forgiveness and encouragement takes creativity and a willingness to risk our comfort zone and ultimately, well, ultimately, takes…ugh…the "P" word: Patience.

I don't pray for patience because then my life becomes the study of "having patience", a concept I do not relish.  I can get with surrender.  Surrender.  Not acceptance, not really even patience.  Surrender.  I see it like I see those old Nestea plunge commercials from the 70's - I just open my arms and fall back but instead of a pool there is God there is spirit there is the universal love to receive me.

I posted on my dear friend's fb page:

It is ON.

Revolution. Evolution. Manifestation. Trans.Form.A.Tion.
Word to the mutha.

I am inviting in my family, my friends, my community because accountability is a must.  Doing this solo isn't really my style or how I understand my life to operate successfully.  I am a "we" person.  We are doing this - my children my husband me; we are doing this - Abuela, Tita, Maco, Frida; we are participating - are you listening Tito Chuchi?; we are all a part of the whole, and it is with the whole and through the love and laughter and support and suggestions of said whole that we will ride this pony all summer and see where we are come fall.  

This is where I am, where we begin.  And of course also, me being me, I am interested in the process, the daily nitty-gritty, so documentation is part of the process, and this here blog is going to serve as that document.

Let the wild rumpussing I mean structuring/rhythming/actioning begin!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Classic Adventure Stories

Hello sweet blog!  We meet again!
We are on the verge of a revolution!  And we'll be leading the way with adventure!  Looking for ideas?  Well yes, we are.  I hope to find some here:
Classic Adventure Stories

I'm awaiting the next installment with baited breath.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Transformation, a holiday or two, and why I think it's all so great

A few weeks ago I posted about Transformation.  I debated asking some influential/important/incredible women in my life about how to go about effecting the change that is "transformation".  I thought, I pondered, I wondered, I asked myself and ultimately, although I know how important guidance is, I feel like I have - at this moment - enough information to begin.  I have been blessed and given ample instruction on starting where I am and what needs to be in place to effect true transformation, it all begins with me, and it's an inside job, holmes (an often used quote by a dear old friend from Albuquerque.  I cannot say the phrase "it's an inside job" without hearing Adan's voice, and it was always followed by "holmes")

That being said, I also know it is a process.  Deliberate, painstaking at times, tortuous in pace, but it is a process that is going to take time.  So during this time, I'll continue to be present in life as it is, celebrate life exactly as it is, in it's inherent perfect imperfection, and sneak in a "transformation" post, and a Nica post, where I can.

We celebrated the Feast of Thanksgiving in true Storch/Barnas/Houston style at Abuela's casa, bittersweet because it is probably our last holiday season at La Playa, mama is selling the condo and getting ready to begin the next phase of her life, hopefully living at Pablo Towers, and enjoying walking distance to St. Pauls, Publix, and of course, her beloved beach.  

Here we are, I'm attempting my first gluten/soy/dairy/corn/potato free pie crust and Abuela is chopping veggies, preparing our feast.  The pie crust was a relative success, I'm sure I'll get better as time passes.

Frida, Magdalena, and Augustus romping at the beach.

Flying kites with Maco aka David.

A visit from our dear friend Lien, who is one of the kindest and most generous people I know, and we give thanks for her often, probably not often enough though.

Two of the men, maxin and relaxin after the outside play with the littles.

 Thanksgiving has such profound significance for me personally, as well as for us as a family, community, nation.  Every day that I get to walk around healthy with all my working parts is a miracle. Each day that I live, breathe, think and feel is gravy, baby, icing on the cake.  16 years ago I began the journey of becoming the woman that I am still aspiring to become, and where it not for a radical 180 in my life and behaviors, I wouldn't be here today, at least, not in this incarnation.  So I personally find bliss in being thankful for this life I get to live.  And then on top of that, well, the blessings are exponential.

I know how lucky I am to be a part of a family that seeks each other out to hang out with, to be with, to celebrate with, to chat with, to bear the absurdities of life with, to have fun with, to laugh with, to grieve with.  Not that we are unique, but we are special, and we have such love for each other that our gravitational pull is irresistible and I know all families do not share in the mutual admiration society club that is our family.

I appreciate and acknowledge how blessed I am to be a part of a larger community of families - families that practice loving and respectful parenting, families that homeschool, Catholice families that do both!  Who knew?

And finally, especially after my latest sojourn to another country, I appreciate and understand the truly privileged nature of what it means to "be an American".  I can go to the store, wait, let me back up.  I can wake up in my oh-so-comfy-yummy-featherbed-topped-bed that is inside a house with four solid walls, not to mention walk the 15 steps from the side of my bed to our bathroom and use the bathroom, get dressed, walk out the front door of an awesome house that my fabulous husband bought for us to our car that is in pretty darn good shape, and then drive to the store and buy whatever food it is that I care to buy from an astonishing array of food, products, and beverages and then go home to my sweet safe secure comfy abode that shelters our family and cook what I want and then share in all that bounty with my family.  Not every family, in every part of the world gets to participate in that luxurious of a lifestyle, and I know not by a long-shot.  Yes, I know there is profound poverty in the good ol' U.S. of A., but there is also abundance, and I do not take infrastructure or inside plumbing for granted, not lately at least.

This past Sunday we began the Christmas celebrating and decorating here at Casa Naranja, with Tito Chuchi, Abuela, Tita and Frida in attendance to help put it all together.  Below is a snapshot of our day: the bowls of shells that are on the table since Nica, the Christmas flowers from Tito Chuch, the small arrangement of picked flowers from Gustie, shushi to snack on while awaiting the steaming yummy Chicken and Dumplings - gluten/dairy/soy/potato/corn free, of course - and the cranberries for stringing.

Let the decorating begin!  Saturday night, Ethan, M & A went out to find the perfect tree, and find the perfect tree they did!  It is huge and glorious, full, round, and lush.  We love it.

And the stringing of the cranberries, it must be done!  I have to say that this is one of my favorite new traditions.  We never did cranberries growing up, and once we discovered it as a family, now we do it every year, and love the process, the outcome, and the making of a tradition.

Speaking of tradition, a funny thing happened on the way to the holiday this year.  I woke up to something that has been brewing over the last few years.  I snapped to the fact that oh, wait a sec, decorating isn't at all about "me" and getting it done anymore, is it?  The children were chomping at the bit to get the big Christmas box down.  They are both old enough to have years of accumulated memories about Christmas, about different ornaments they get every year, about garlands and where they go - as in where we put them in our old house on Gable, and where we put them here in our new house, about the lights and Advent and about our book on St. Nicholas, about presents under the tree, Santa Claus and Christmas classics.  It just gets richer.  Life just keeps changing that way with the children, it just keeps getting better.  Do we have rough moments and serious challenges?  Oh heck yes we do!  Am I a totally-together-always-does-it-right parent?  Oh heck no, I have my own serious challenges!  But it is so rich, life is so dear, and we are, ultimately, blessed beyond my wildest dreams.  And as Martha would say, that's a good thing.  
xo life, we love you.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Release the Hounds

Nicaragua bound, Jaya, Magdalena, Sage, Augustus, and Anna.  Five beautiful children, at the beginning of a five week journey to Nicaragua and into ourselves.  Let me explain.  My dearest darlingest friend, Kimberly Waugh - you can check her out here, and if you just want pure juice, check out her school in action here, was offered a 30 day intensive yoga teacher training gig in paradise.  Why yes, I did say paradise.  Paradise with a paradox, more on that later.   Anyhoo, she has three glorious children (los rubios), and one Sol baby, and we were talking about her childcare options and I remember commenting, something like, wow Kimberly, what a gift!  What an opportunity!  I wonder how I'll ever put something like that together for my children, you must go!  The gears turned, she crunched numbers, and offered a 30 day intensive family gig for me and my two children and It.Was.On., like donkey kong.  

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Post-dated post

(I found this unfinished post in my draft folder, written last February when I was trying to blog regularly again.  It stands.)

One day recently my mom stops by my house and comes in and says something along the lines of  'oh, you're all wet" and I say "I'm HOT" and my son Augustus who is five years old explains "She means sweaty hot Abuela, not sexy hot." (pronounced "saxy")

I'm sorry, what did you just say?  Seriously, what?  WTF mate.  Not so recently, one day when I was talking to my dear friend Jessica whose family is not as media-centric as ours is asked me, after I explained to her that our current favorite song was Kanye West's "Golddigger" because it has a seriously bad-to-the-bone beat and crazy good samples, asked me if I thought my at times unadulterated exposure of musical media was going to bite me in the ass.  Consider myself bitten.

In my own defense, or maybe I should say I have no defense because I don't think Augustus learned "hot" from the media, I think he got that from me.  I think my husband is hot.  Super hot.  And I like to tell him so.  And I have been known to ogle, more women than men, but that's only because I happen to think women are pretty spectacular as far as beauty goes.  Hhmmmm...no wonder where my son gets it.

Anyway, my point is this, I have dropped the ball by my own standards of protecting my children's innocence and exposed them to far more media/screen time than I thought I would.  Which happens to be considerably less than the average family, but I'm not ascribing to "average".  I'll take eccentric, weird, odd, different any day.


Transformation.  It just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?  Transformation.  Nice to say.  Roll it around a few times...mmmm...trrrrraaaannnnsssssforrrrrrrrrrrmmmmmmaaaaaaaaassshhhhhuuuuuunnnnnnnnn.
Now, if I write it beautifully, on unlined artisan rice paper, and sleep on it, the question is, will I transform?  Will - through the power of wishful thinking and osmosis - I transform?

That is a question for the ages.  And tonight, we test it.

At least I know I can transform the form of my blog, my sweet post fb neglected blog.  Ah sweet blog, let's transform juntos.*

*Juntos is Spanish for "together", a little hint at what is soon to follow.  A little bit of together, a little bit of Spanish language reinvigorated after a stay in a Spanish speaking country, and a lot 'a bit of transformation.  Ahhhh...there it is again.  Transformation.  Such a good word.

Monday, February 7, 2011

One fine day

This is what my dining room table looks like right now:
Cake from last night's belated cake celebration for my mama, a.k.a. Abuela, because as far as Augustus is concerned, a birthday is not complete without homemade cake and the appropriate number of candles, which last night meant 73.  Thank heavens we found those looooong sparkler candles that burn a really. long. time.  It takes a minute to light 73 candles!  
A gorgeous lily brought over by Amanda last Thursday for our HAP East Gardening/Seedling day that was for dissection (yes, we were going to sacrifice the lily in the name of earth science) to find the seeds inside, the stamen, the pollen and what not that we never got to because between the making of ladybug catchers and the excitement of dirt/pots/seeds/popsicle stick labels there was no time or energy left over for the sacrificial lily, so she stands tall as a gorgeous part of our table.  
A random striped sock that Augustus wants to wear but he cannot find the mate.
Uneaten cornbread that I made to go with the ribs Ethan smoked yesterday for ya know, Super Bowl Sunday, that no one ate because I was talking on the phone while making it and managed to put a TBS of baking soda in instead of a tsp.  Sigh, it was gross.  And I was so disappointed because cornbread is one of my favorite luxuries in life.
My gorgeous ceramic lion butter dish that you can't really see b/c it is to the left of the cake dish.  
Bottled bbq sauce for the ribs my man smoked. 
Empty orange bamboo bowl that formerly had chips. 
Used blue gingham cloth napkins, courtesy of my MIL, she even monogrammed them.  We love them.
Nature's Gate Colloidal pump lotion (I've heard Nature's Gate is "false" green/organic, but I still like it!)
Random piece of green felt.

That table is a snapshot of my life.  The fabulous, the delicious, the mistakes, the random, the unfinished, the celebratory, the pseudo, the pretentious (and delightfully so!), the sacred masking as the mundane, the authentic, the mess.  
Today as I meandered around on fb I ran across this this, a self-revelatory and funny post on the blog   Write With Spike that is a review of the book Poser: My Life In Twenty-Three Yoga Poses, and a bit of a scathing review at that.  Spike jumps in the fray over the real/media generated "mommy wars"; the SAHM (stay-at-home-moms for the uninitiated) and the FTWM (full time working moms).   I'm torn between my natural curiosity and rubber-necking humanity to join in and my what-people-think-of-me-is-none-of-my-business/I don't have time for this foolishness sensibilities.  But what informs most my reticence is that to me it feels all wrong, the real "war" isn't between mamas, it is within the mamas.   Isn't that what parenthood is all about?  Each decision we make is a decision to make the best choice given the information we have.  Whether it's a financial decision or a personal preference, each mama must decide what will work best for her and her family.  
I'll use my sister as an example.  She could stay home with her daughter Frida full time if she was passionately disposed to.  Her family would definitely make some different financial choices and money would be tight, but theoretically yes they could do it.  But Jeanna doesn't want to do it.  When Frida was a newborn, staying home drove Jeanna crazy (I'd say literally, she suffered from post-partum psychosis) and she couldn't wait to get out and about and then back to work.  She struggled mightily with this decision because I think she thought she should be a stay-at-home mom, especially with me - SAHM extraordinaire, constantly extolling the glory of never leaving the house and proclaiming that frumpy is the new black (a different post altogether) for a sister.  
But Jeanna - who has a MA in Psych - understood that if the mama ain't happy, ain't nooooobody happy, and did what works best for her and her family, she works.  She just so happens to work from 3pm-11pm, so she has the days with her daughter and weekends are sacrosanct family time.  For the first 10 months of Frida's life, between Jeanna and her dh Dave, Frida was always with a parent.  Then at 10 months Frida started staying with us for between 20-35 hours a week, and has been ever since.  We all benefit, as far as I can see.  Frida gets to have extended family time every week w/her cousins and auntie (me), Jeanna gets to work a challenging and fulfilling job that she happens to love, their family has the benefit of a two income household, and I make a little mad money on the side.  

I'm an AP parent, a leader of a local API group, a homeschooling mama and I have a specific philosophy that informs my parenting choices, so does that mean I condemn my sister for not being a SAHM?  Do I believe that I am making a better decision?  Oh hellllllllll no, I do not.  I couldn't do what she is doing, she couldn't do what I am doing, and be happy and joyful and grateful for what we have.  Let me say also that we are a one income family with a blue-collar bread winner, please do not assume I have the "luxury" of staying home because we make a certain amount of money, we don't ;)  We do make decisions that support our life as it is, well, uhh, most of the time we do.  Ahem.  As long as I can stay home, I will.  As long as it benefits our family, I'll do it.  Were our life circumstances to change, I would adjust accordingly, but for now, this arrangement not only fits our family, it is the life that my wildest dreams are made of and I love love love it!  

I read once that women with degrees, not just advanced degrees but even women with BA's, are doing the "feminist movement" a disservice by staying home and raising their children.  That we need to be out in the work force, promoting women's working values and rights.  I didn't sign up for that.  I signed up for the women's movement being about freedom of choice, on every level.  I also signed up for a unified women's movement, one that supports each and every woman's right to be the best mama she can be, however that looks.  I am so uninterested in the depiction of "competimom's" or the idea that mommy and me playdates are all about what brand of stroller you have, who took your baby pictures, whether or not you cloth diaper, how "crunchy" you really are, or if you are hip enough.  
Do I hang out mostly with moms who have a similar mind-set as me?  Why yes I do, thank you very much.  Do I care if you cloth diaper?  Only if you want to and I can give you some of my old Chinese pre-folds, truth be known.  Do I condemn the working mama?  Absolutely not.  Do I idealize staying at home?  Are you kidding me?  I live it, there's no idealization happening on this end, it's all stone cold reality.  Do I look longingly at Jeanna who is always so well put together, going off to her professional job?  Only because she is so well put together, I could take a page out of her book, if you know what I mean.

I know SAHMs, I know WAHMs, I know FTWMs, PTWMs; I know FTWMs who arrange their schedule so that they, with the help of their partner, homeschool their children.  I know mom's who look at me and the feeling I get is that they think I am either a saint or a simpleton, because (in their words) Oh My Goodness but I could never do that!  But really I know they just couldn't imagine doing it because it is not where their passion lies.  I must confess that I look at FTWMs and think the same thing, I could Never Do That.  I would loose my mind!  Probably not, but I would miss out on my passion, which happens to be staying home (or as Ethan says, never staying home) with my family, homeschooling, AP leading, adventuring, and creating.  As Martha would say, it's a good thing.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Other half

1/2 the crew

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Celebrating Abuela

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A day at the zoo or ape heaven

We went to the zoo today with our friend and mama of twins Lisa.  It was just Magdalena, Augustus and I with Lisa and her boys in the stroller.  Usually, we're a group going, ya know, at least one other family often two or three, so today felt like a luxury.  
Magdalena and Augustus were together.  Playing.  With each other.  I know I know, there brother and sister right?  They play together all the time, right?  Well...sometimes yes but I realized we've never been to the zoo as just us.  Just the Barnas family and there was something so lovely so sweet so basic about M & A playing together.  At the zoo.  
Lisa had not yet arrived when we got there so we went on in by ourselves.  It seemed so...peaceful, so easy.  We wandered in and Magdalena led the way because since we do always go with other families, I never pay attention to where we're going and really have no idea how to get around the zoo with all it's paths and continents.  Magdalena wanted to go Straight To The Playground.  But first let's stop and take our picture in the photo booth!  (never done that before!)  Next, On to the Playground!  But let's stop and play on the apes!  Next, On to the Playground!  Oh!  There's the lion, so close, right there!  He's sooo beautiful!  OK, now, On to the Playground!  Oh wait, the elephant sculptures!  We must climb those! Mama, mama, take a picture and post it to fb and call it Magdalena and Augustus in Africa!  Done. 
Now, On To The Playground!  (ring ring)  
Now, off to meet Lisa and the boys at the entrance!
Anyhoo, it was a beautiful day.  We played, we saw a few animals, had a lovely lunch with the Jaguars, played at the playground (finally) and rode the carousel.  
It was a special day with my crew, and yes I do believe we will be doing that again one day in the near future.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Tea with the Queen

Today I had tea with the Queen.  Which Queen you ask?  Oh, Queen Magdalena doncha know.

I'll start from the beginning, of the day that is.  The faucet on our kitchen sink is A.) hideous B.) backwards.  Yes, backwards.  One must push the hot/cold handles back for water.  And finally, C.) is leaking horribly and cannot be repaired, thank heavens.  So my hard working man who has worked for a month straight and this was his first weekend off picked up a job yesterday, I said to him I said, Honey, can we spend some time together as a family tomorrow?  M & A were pretty bummed when we woke up and you were gone.  They know it's Saturday and that you do not have the guard and that you were supposed to be home, so can we, hunh, can we please?  He said yes.  Then the phone rang this morning and he said, I'll just be gone a little while.  Sad faces all around.  This won't take long, how about after I get home we all go to the hardware store for a new faucet and then out to lunch?  Happy faces all around.

His job was short, our trip to Lowes was fine.  I said I'd like this, this or this.  And while he checked out the different faucets that met the mama's criteria, M & A & I wandered around the kitchen area fantasizing about our one day kitchen: our one day five burner stove, our one day dishwasher (Nora, I remember your words: It changed my quality of life), our one day two drawer oven, our one day HE front loader, our one day tile backsplash, well, you get the picture.  It was fun.  There is one thing that is a now kitchen and that is gorgeous pulls from Anthropologie and other fabulous places, not a hardware store.

I digress.  After we bought the new and quite perfect faucet and dish soap to go in the soap dispenser (YAY! no more dish soap container on my counter top!) we headed out to Mojo for b-b-q and we had a really yummy lunch.  Then home for coffee and hang out time whilst my man worked some more, but this time for free b/c of course it was here for us.  After a bit Magdalena says to me, Mama, could you please try not to be loud?  Augustus and I are going to take a nap.  Nice I think.  Naps are nice.  Then she wanted some appropriate soft music, turned on Pandora and said mama there is nothing that is the right mood.  Of course there is say I!  Let's try classical.  We try choral...too Christmasy she says.  Then I go for orchestral.  She says what's that?  I say ya know, Bach, Tchaicosky...she says Vivaldi?!  I say yes.  M and A listen to these amazing cd's that are stories of composers lives and music and they are riveting, and yes I listen to them b/c of course I have to and they are really really well done. Very entertaining and they do exactly what they are supposed to do.  Expose my children to great classical, baroque, whatever music and have them fall in love with it.  (We also have been watching the Habenera from Bizet's Carmen on youtube, that is their favorite piece right now.  It's a bit hard to explain that the gorgeous Carmen is a "bad girl", but Augustus gets it intuitively.  She's really beautiful, he says. And she's mean.  Exactly!)

Oh forgive me I digress again!  Such is my nature I do believe.  Anyhoo, so the classical music is playing and Magdalena is snuggled on the couch under a down throw, Augustus is in his room snuggled under his quilt, Ethan is in the kitchen working, I'm doing the endless laundry when Magdalena says Maaaamaaaaa...would you please make me some chai tea?  And then come and sit with me and have tea?  And I say oh Magdalena, I can't, I have so much laundry and... oh well of course I'll sit and have tea with you!  (see how I say no?  see why my laundry is never done?  I thought, as I walked into the bedroom to put down yet another load of not-folded laundry, what am I going to remember in five years?  The laundry that I did or having tea with my daughter in the dim light of her down-time nap?)

Classical music played while I danced my way into the living room with the little blue cafe table and matching chairs for Augustus and I, Magdalena would stay on the couch.  I put down a lavender tule with white stars table cloth, made a lovely pot of chai tea with warm milk and honey, and danced my way into the living room to serve.  Once there, Magdalena proclaimed her royal-ness and that she was Queen Magdalena and that I was her servant.  Fine by me I thought, pretty close to real life but I'll play along.  She spoke with a delightful British accent and when I answered her I barked out my best Cockney accent and she said no mama, you're not that kind of servant, you speak with a nice British accent.  I was knitting on my forever knitting project, having tea with Queen Magdalena and Sir Augustus, and we had a whole discussion of aristocracy, the working class, the servent class etc and accents and countries and what it means to actually say "the sun never sets on the British empire" which led to an exploration of "imperialism" to which Magdalena replied "oh you mean like the Persians!" and then went on a meandering narrative about Cleopatra, Julius Caeser, the Roman Empire and the asp that bit Cleopatra from Magdalena.

Sigh.  A perfect day.  Days like this I think, why do I ever worry about "what if"?  What if they're not learning?  What if they don't learn the right things?  What if I never really stick to a curriculum, whether it's one I bought or borrowed from the library?  What if I fail?  What if I fail them?

And then I remember that at the zoo party for Addie Magdalena was the only person in the room who knew "crepuscular", and one of the few that knew "diurnal".  And then I spend the afternoon having tea with the Queen, getting schooled on Ancient History, what Tasmanian Devils really eat, and who's who with Caeser, Cleopatra, her ten year old brother that she married, and Marc Antony and then I remember how perfect this really is, and how blessed I am to have the family I have, with the husband I have, and the children I have.

Tea with the Queen was all I could have imagined, and more.

Friday, January 14, 2011

What is it about children and kittens?

Frida came in the kitchen and stood back as Lavender wove her way between my feet, watching. I bent down to pet the kitten and Frida said, in her delightful high, light & sing-song voice - can I pet her? We sat on the kitchen floor and I said of course. She picked up Lavender with her little girl skills, and walked away in absolute bliss. She was the perfect picture of childhood wonder and innocence, white pj's sprinkled with pink & blue flowers, trimmed in pink, clutching a freaked out kitten. Does it get more perfect?

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Wow, it's been so long and fb has become such an easy way to spread the Clan Barnas propaganda that I have lost my blog groove.  Those quick and easy posts from my BB are so easy, just like on fb, that well, I guess nothing.
I digress.
Today I spent the morning with some of the most fabulous families I could hope to know.  Mamas, papas, little ones, infants, toddlers, big guys, babies in the bellies...and more love and kindness and good will that one knows what to do with!  Oh do let me gush on, please.
Seven years ago around when Magdalena was four months old I co-founded an API group with four other mamas.  (API you ask?  Check it out here.)  The group in Cruces was like a (not to be cheesy) warm green ocean of love and support for this brand-new-didn't-have-a-community-mama and I loved and still love all the families/mamas/children/midwives/doulas that I met and that sustained me in my wild and random ride of early motherhood.  

Today I was at our regular second Tuesday of the month API meeting and there it was again, that warm green ocean of love and support.  The listening, even over the din of children playing, babies cooing, Augustus demanding (noooooo!) and general parenting going on amongst 15 families with various numbers of children, 40-ish folks at least, the quality of listening is profound.  Throughout the din, the parents are heard, and heard with love and respect and offered suggestions and solutions.  Oh how I do cherish the community that is growing here, and thriving.
Like I said, do let me gush on.  This is where we grow.  This is where we thrive.  This is where we learn to surrender expectations, to open our hearts and stretch them all out of proportion to allow more love in so we can let more love out, this is where I connect my heart to my brain to my instincts to my nature and learn to filter out the noise that says our children do not deserve our respect, and in turn, that we do not deserve theirs.  This is where I see the evidence of the success of attachment style parenting.  Listen, if something I'm doing as a parent doesn't work, it's not the fault of my child, nor necessarily my fault, but if it doesn't work, I am certainly not going to do it over and over and over, let alone try to enroll other families in a failing philosophy.  The beauty of attachment parenting - besides the payoff of loving it! - is that it is effective parenting.  It works!  I respond well when I am respectfully asked to do something, not barked at.  Big fat hairy surprise, it's the same for my children.  Shocking, I know.
Oh how I could ramble and ramble and ramble on about the lovefest that is my family and my community, but if you don't know them or me, you probably won't believe me.  And if you do know them or me, then you know.
All this to say that a 2  1/2 hour meeting and lunch at Costco (so random) turned out to be one of the loveliest days around, and I'll take that anytime.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Kitten perfection

Did I mention we got kittens for Christmas? Oh that's right, how could I? I haven't posted since September. Meet Lavender & Yorick, our most precious additions to the family. Augustus held Yorick in his lap and petted him the first night we had them and had such a look of awe and wonder on his face. He said, mama, he is exactly the kitten I wanted. How did you find him?

Time to liven it up again.

Yes, it has been for-cussing-ever (see Fantastic Mr.Fox) since I have posted but now, well, we're mobile. Prompted by a dear friend and devoted follower, ahem, I decided to actually get busy. Hello 2011, nice to meet you.

For Becki

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Words to live by

So I started this all-encompassing post, oh...at least two weeks ago with tons of photos and I could not I mean Could Not get the photos in the order I wanted them.  Either I am trying to force blogger to do things it cannot or I just cannot figure out how to gently force it to do what I want and I do not have the time/desire to learn so here I am.  No photos, no 10,000 word entry covering the last six weeks or two months or however long it has been since I posted, just today. 

Today is Labor Day.  I don't count it being "tomorrow" until I have gone to bed and woken up, so today is still Labor Day.  And guess what we did?  This may come as a complete shock, but we went to the beach.  For the whole day.  And had a glorious time.  And had an enormous delicious and fabulous family dinner whilst the early evening breeze blew off the perfectly green Atlantic Ocean and caressed our sunkissed cheeks. 

Just past the breaks is Magdalena and my favorite place to hang out in the ocean, we've named all the waves according to how we should approach them, as in: "floater", a wide gentle swell that we barely have to move for, one that we gently float up with; "under" a huge wave that is about to break on our heads that will send us tumbling in frothy white bubbling sea foam with a possible abrasion from bouncing off the bottom if we do not dive under it; "over" a biggish wave that we can either jump off the bottom and clear or swim to the crest of just before it breaks; M - "under!" me - "over!" a wave that is about to crash on our heads that Magdalena doesn't think she can clear but I do that as I clear it I have to turn my head towards the shore so the crest doesn't smash me in the face but just makes my hair go all wonky.  There are a few more, but I believe you get the picture.

The Degeneffes joined us on the beach today and they were a perfect compliment to the Storch/Houston/Barnas clan day.  The children romped and played and daddy Joe aka Bobo aka Mr Degeneffe pulled the girls waaaaay out into the waves in Tita's two man blow up boat and would release them into the biggest waves he could wait for so they could ride the most amazing bucking bronco that is a crashing wave - screaming wildly laughing maniacally - to the shore, only to reload and go back for more.  Jen joined Magdalena and I for some deep swimming and could not remember the last time she was able to swim so freely, not just in the shallows holding onto the hand of a giggling toddler. 

Tito Chuchi had his fishing rig all set up and was out casting, water chest deep, curls a-flying trying to round up a bit of fresh sea fare.  The Houston clan came out en masse, not a one missing, shining and sparkling as they are known to do.  Jeanna a vision in her hot pink ruffles, face a mask of horror as she watched Joe let the boat go on huge waves, watching those poor innocent children have the ride of their lives...we all know, the daddies do it differently.  And dropping words like jejune at dinner, (me) what does that mean? (Dave) puerile.  Oh those Houstons!  Those academics and brainiacs! 

Dinner was a riot of stories and food, as it should be.  There was even an official children's table tonight.  Oh how I love a children's table.  And sweet Abuela.  At the table, Jeanna said, these are the good old days, referring to our Mother's noblesse oblige at always being the hostess with the mostess, and not just the oceanfront thing, just her momminess.  Her fervor to serve, to loveliness, her humility.  These are the good old days, and while I do believe we have a lifetime of them in front of us, I would not want to miss a second of honoring how truly special these days are.  How incredibly blessed we are, how fortunate, how alive.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

there have been some changes lately...

Did I mention that we bought a house?  No, really?  Hunh, how strange, I thought had...oh yeah, I did just mention it in passing in that last post/rant, but now I'm announcing it:

WE, or rather, I should say, My Man, done bought us a house in the suburbs y'all, and it is the loveliest thing I have ever participated in.  And that lovely comes from what is pictured below, a pool.  And a tree.  And not just any old tree now, but a Tree, capital T Tree.  Big beautiful old and shady Live Oak Tree.  The kind with a mountain of roots at the feet and a canopy large enough to keep our entire back yard in the shadiest of shade all throughout the long hot humid north Florida afternoons and shady enough to keep us all from getting roasted on a regular basis and shady enough to keep the water a refreshing mid-80 degrees.  Oh sweet mystery of life, I have found you, again!  And did I mention that our neighbor to the east has a very similar tree, in his yard, that keeps the morning sun from scorching said cool refreshing pool and backyard until ours can take over in the afternoon?  and that there are trees all along our back fence also?  Ohhh delightful trees and shade.  So so sooooo appreciated by me, my little guys, and every person who has experienced it so far. 

Now, along with that wonderful backyard of heaven, comes a few other lovely things: 

my 1962 pale pink GE oven, and our delightfully delicious custom green walls, a la Senorita Flaire and her exquisite sense of color.

Augusutus' Blue Galaxy walls, on which will hang his moon that lights up with all the phases that we love

Magdalena's luscious pink room, just a passage

formerly a window onto the porch, but now a wonderful "pass through" (view of the kitchen from the rumpus room, and further back, the laundry room/pantry) from the kitchen into what has been dubbed the "rumpus room" that holds all things arty, crafty, dress-up-y, homeschool-y, ya know, basically a room where our children can actually spread out and play and create and be and absorb. 

Front door of said house, immediately after closing, with the blissful me and the OMG-really-what-did-I-just-do? Ethan, ready to open the door of our home for the first time.

And above, directly after entering said casa, after having our very first swim with friends.

Before we moved in, we had what I thought was one week to paint.  And pack.  No problem, right?  Uh, well, no actually, major problem.  I have issues with time management, it could be said, but nothing like the hurdles I have to leap when it comes to time perception, as in, how long I think something will take me to get done and then the actual reality of how long it takes something to get done.  And by something, for now, I mean paint every square inch of walls, ceilings, baseboards and doors of our new-to-us but really much too neutral colored house. 
With an army of help from family, friends, painters, bearers of food, and basically everyone I know who is available to help, I am still not finished, and I do not jest.  Sigh.  Hence the photo below of three sweet sleeping children.  After having enlisted everybone's help for a solid week and not being near done, I said baby, (to my man), I've got to spend the night.  If I have to leave every day and feed you and the children, and then wake up and get it all together to come back, I'm missing hours of valuable stay-up-late-and-paint time, and wake-up-and-work time, so I'm staying.  And where I go, goeth my children, and of course at times Frida because who wants to miss the fun?  So just let me say that I constructed a seriously comfy palette for us to sleep on.  Three pool rafts, blown up and duck taped shut (the valves kept popping open, who needs that?), layered with 7-8 quilts, a thick and fluffy comforter, topped with a super thick pillow top mattress pad to hold the entire shebang together, soft as an old t-shirt jersey sheets and let me tell you, you got one seriously comfy bed.  Exhibit A:

We celebrated Independence Day in true grand style, outfitted by Aunt Su-su and Tito Chuchi with red-white-and-blue tie-dyes for the children and patriotic tattoos for all. 

And Frida caught a wave, WOW!

And Tito Chuch, a fish (he went back, of course, just wanted to document...)

And now, (drum roll) may I present my newly minted seven year old daughter, Magdalena!  She wanted to start her day at her favorite breakfast joint, Famous Amos, and how could I deny her that?  Who can resist fried tomatoes and grits?  Not me anyway.  We partied like it was 1999 I tell ya.  First breakfast out.  Then an afternoon family pool party.  Tita called me a little after 11am, saying I'm on my way, thinking maybe she was late because the party was supposed to start at noon to which I answered don't worry, we're not even home for heaven's sake! 

Here Magdalena is practicing her eye roll.  I know, it seems obnoxious, and one day I know it really will be, but for now it is still relatively cute because she doesn't really have it down (not realizing, of course, that she has been doing it naturally for years) and every time she tries it is sooo obvious and she can't help smiling a bit at the end, like, I did it! and I always say- I saw that eye roll, which makes her break out into a huge grin because I noticed it. 

And here Augustus is doing my favorite new face that he makes, it's insanely adorable and he just started doing it, out of the blue one day, totally a made up face because when I say "do the face", he totally does it.
And did I mention the scarf?  Normally he likes to wear it as a fluffy bow tie with either his bright orange or green shirt because the orange of the tulips is picked up by the orange shirt or the green of the outline accents the green shirt.  Well, this day he opted for what he called his "cowboy" look because as he said, "mama, don't you know?  This is how cowboys look."  Rock it my son, as you are known to do.

Abuela and her big girl

The party, Tito Chuchi manned the grill and the chicken, well, it appears he does not have the same phobia of undercooked chicken that compels me to cook chicken for at least an hour, and his was succulent and juicy, not to mention cooked! 

After the family party, we had our little family - mama/papa/MJB/AWB party, plus one birthday sleep-over date friend, and I didn't even start the home-made pizzas until 7pm, so as you can imagine, we sat down for dinner at 9pm.  Maybe not so out of the ordinary for us, not so regular for Lulu.  At dinner Ethan asked her, what's your bedtime?  And she said, 7:30.  Uhhh, yeah. 
Magdalena had Very Specific Ideas about her birthday this year, and that included brownies and ice cream for her afternoon party, and cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory for her evening party.  (cake disclaimer here:  As you may or may not know, I am the caker in our family. I love to bake and I love to bake fabulous and decorative and delicious cakes.  Check them out here and here.  There are more, just can't link to them, anyway, we did a shake-down bake the day before we were going to bake a cake for our dearest darlingest Sarah, decided on some simple cookies.  So I pop the cookie trays in the oven and in seconds there was smoke coming from the bottom of severely charred sugar cookies.  What a bummer, yes, but also, I'm not into baking in an oven I haven't gotten my groove on with yet, so Magdalena said, you mean we get to buy a cake?  As if that were some crazy kind of treat.  Trust, my cakes are good.)   Anyhoo, break out the cheesecake at 10pm, and let the wild rumpusing begin.  And go on and on and on and on.  And the party never stops.  Then of course we all sleep in a bit on Saturday but it is still a party by george, so break out the sausages and let's go swimming!  Oy vey!  I must say, a fabulous time was had by all, as to be expected. 

And don't you have a photo of yourself like this somewhere?  I know this is not the first one I've taken, or posted for that matter, and I know it will not be the last.  There is nothing as perfect as an untroubled childhood, and this is reminiscent of mine.  I know the last time I posted this I mentioned what my mom did with one of our old photos.  Scroll down about half-way through a super long post, and you can read about it here.