Friday, November 28, 2008

exactly what am I thankful for?

Exactly what am I thankful for? Is there a way to quantify that? I mean, exactly where does one start?
I could start with that I am alive.
That my body works, my fingers and toes and legs arms brain olfactory nerves, ya know, my body.
I'm thankful for my family. My man, my rock-solid gorgeous TCB-ing man. My daughter who amazes me daily with her wisdom, her beauty and her absolute love of life. My son, oh my sweet son who is unfolding like a flower or a sleeping tyrannosaurus rex, we'll see which he awakes to be tomorrow because it is ever evolving. From there, my family of origin who I would pick over and over and over to revisit this life this world this experience with because my dad, my mom, my brothers - the one we lost, the one we found, and the one who's been next to me all along, and my sister are unarguably the most loving amazing hilarious cool and wonderful people on the planet.
I am thankful that I live here, in this house, on this street, in this city, in this country. There, I said it. I have lived in another country, I have visited a few other countries and while each place had its charms and loveliness, there is no other country on this planet like the good ole U.S of A. (I am not jingoistic, just grateful that I do live here.)
I'm thankful for morning snuggles with my babes, cozy in our big bed with the light streaming in and blue sky above through the window and I am extra thankful for those special mornings when I awake first, Augustus, me, Magdalena, then Ethan, all still in bed, all still asleep around me, I hear their breath, feel their closeness, and I feel safe, like there is nothing bad or scary in the world. Oh how I give thanks for those mornings.
I am thankful for my sparkly clean bathroom and new shower curtain.
I am thankful for the new stereo in the Mitsu that my darling husband ordered for me and my bad-*ss BIL put in for me (thanks Neil!).
I am thankful for our family traditions, the way we laugh, Anthony's movie lines, and that our family is growing.
I am so thankful for all my Cuban primos, they keep me grounded in history and family and who we are.
I am thankful for my husband who reminds me that I am also Puerto Rican, German, some other northern and central European and more so stand proud.
I am thankful that there are people in my life who remind me to have some gratitude.
I am so ever so thankful for the people in my life who share their lives with me, us, who let me in enough to witness their quirks or defects or worst sides so that I know that I am not alone, that I am not so awful, and that it is human to be human.
I am thankful for my Georgia cousins and auntie who have more love than they know what to do with and have always loved me, through thick and thin.

I am thankful for moments of Grace, those seemingly split-second moments when my mind cracks open and I can see, if only for that moment, that my life is lived in perfection, not a cosmic eyelash out of place, that God's got it baby, that it is all alright, that we are not going to be ok, but we are all ok right now.
I am so thankful for those moments those sand-slipping-through-my-fingers moments because as fleeting as they are, when I realize total surrender to what is and realize the beauty and love of the life that surrounds me, I am at peace, I understand serenity, and even as the moment fades I am left with a knowledge and understanding of God, perfection, unconditional love and true pure beauty.

That is exactly what I am thankful for, that and oh so much more.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

magic, dreams and believing

I remember when we first moved to Florida, somehow the subject of Disney World came up and Ethan said, now I'm paraphrasing but I think I got it pretty close: That will never happen. Baby, I will never go to Disney world. Oh come on I thought, eventually we'll go, we have children, we live in Florida for goodness sake! But I must say, I got the sentiment. Disney means many things to me, and most of them having to do with marketing and pastiche (sans satire), not magic love joy or beauty. So imagine my surprise when my sweet mama says to Jeanna and I last spring, we're going to Disney World! I got this package for three days and two nights and Disney tickets so let's plan a trip! I believe I audibly groaned, but when the abuela offers to take her grandchildren to Disney, there is one correct answer, protocol love and respect dictate, and that answer is "We'd love to go! thank you mom!"

The planning began and after months of knowing it was coming and asking and dreaming on the part of Magdalena, the weekend was upon us. Magdalena, Augustus and Frida's excitement was infectious and I got really excited. Who knew? We arrived at the park and the first thing we saw was the parade. And can I tell you, there is nothing as incredible as the look on my daughter's face when she saw Pooh, then Mary Poppins, then (GASP!), The Princesses! I cried the kind of tears that are all gratitude and love and wonder and thanks and goodness and awe. I cried because my daughter was with my mom and it was pure magic. I cried because who knew I could be so moved by spectacle? I cried because there is an innocence in us all, and it broke through my cynicism and I was filled with joy, absolute joy. Watching my mom up front with Magdalena and Frida was magical, the kind of magic that I imagine Walt Disney himself thought of when he dreamed up Disney. Disney's theme is "Where Dreams Come True!" and you know what, they do in a crazy veneer sort of a way.

As we entered the park, a park official asked Magdalena if she would be kind enough to autograph his book, to sign in for the day, and of course she was thrilled to write her name for him. He didn't ask us, he didn't ask the littles, just Magdalena. Imagine.

Bring on the magic!
Now, who'd the kid here I ask you?

Jeanna rocking the princess mouse.

In Toon Town, one can actually go visit the Princesses. Magdalena asked "where are the princesses?" so off we went to find them. In the strange world that is Disney, we waited in line watching snippets of the different animated Disney movies about princesses or the new fairy movies, waiting to go visit the princesses in their, uh, waiting rooms I guess one could call them. Each princess was perfectly the princess she embodied. Those princesses were the workingest women I have ever seen, hugging and speaking soooo sweetly and lovingly to child after child after child, squatting down to hug a child, asking questions, treating each little person as if they were the first little person they had seen that day, not the thousandth, and I think that is an accurate number. And not one ever broke character, not even an eyebrow raise.
So we get there, Magdalena jumps up and down with excitement, hides, giggling, behind me and won't go near a princess. She and Augustus crawl around on all fours and Cinderella says in a perfect high-pitched Cinderella voice, "Well it looks like you have two silly mice with you!"
After scoping out the scene thoroughly, Magdalena says, "but where's Ariel?" Did I mention we waited in line about 30-40 minutes? And Belle said, totally respecting Magdalena's question, "Well, Ariel is in her grotto of course, I'm sure she'd love to see you, you can go visit her there."
I do believe it was the last event of the day, our visit to Ariel's grotto. Imagine.

But wait, there's more...


Now, I thought I knew what to expect at Seaworld. I went a when I was little, I remember Shamu, I remember the amazing dolphins. But theater? Acrobats? It seems that Seaworld has taken a page from the Cirque du Soliel book and created a wonderful combination of theater and sea mammals and birds that takes magic to a new level because, basically, it's real! The theme or slogan of Seaworld is "Believe". Believe in yourself, believe in your dreams, believe you can do whatever it is you want to do. Believe. And after a day at Seaworld, I believe.

Magdalena and Augustus dancing on the wall, ears a permanent fixture.
Have you ever seen a sea dragon? Only in Australia.
We were all taken by the pearl divers
If Disney is the fantasy of dreams, then Seaworld is the beating heart and soul of dreams, the visceral actualization of dreams. The dolphin and whale trainers were in love with their charges, working with them and realizing their dreams of swimming with dolphins and whales.
At the end of the day, tired and hungry and in need of good food, thank heavens for the tu tu tango cafe. A restaurant "for the starving artist", walls covered in local art for sale, beautiful live guitar music, a balloon man/magician entertaining the children, and an incredibly delicious tapas style menu.

Our weekend adventure turned out to be a stellar, smashing success that went beyond my wildest imaginings of what it would be like. I went braced for conspicuous consumption, staggering consumerism and the attack of a marketing juggernaut, which we got, but what I didn't expect, or what I forgot about or didn't know about, was the magic, the pure magic of the whole thing. The optimism of a place where dreams come true, the joy and pure fun of Disney and the unexpected brilliance of Seaworld. Think about it, all those people, all that machinery, all that energy just to make you, and you, and you, feel special and for just a moment, feel like all that magic is all there is and really, all that matters.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

perfect light, the crab and a birthday celebration; three of three

A lovely day, a perfect late afternoon on the beach, a beautiful sunset, perfect light, a crab that got Tito Chuchi's bait, 43 candles and a cake that Dave loves more than any other that is an honor to bake for him.

Frida in her natural state, and a bit a canoe trip; two of three

Frida in her natural state. I believe that part of Frida's morning ritual is using her mama's lipstick. Sometimes I think, did she just get cuter, really? Is that possible? Oh joy! The marks around her nose are the beginning of the "cat face" Magdalena is drawing on her using her sparkly glitter body pens from Uncle Tommy and Auntie Luni.

Saturday we, that is me, Magdalena, Augustus, my mom aka abuela, Tita aka Jeanna, Maco aka Dave and Frida, went for a short and sweet canoe trip. We drove north, crossed the wide mighty St. Johns, crossed the beautiful Trout, headed up to Callahan for a canoe trip on Miller Creek, a creek our friend Duke told David about. Let it be known that if Duke is involved, there are going to be critters. And guess what? We saw our FIRST ALLIGATOR! Ever, in the wild, Jeanna, abuela, the children and me, all of our Very First Alligator! (I believe Dave has seen an alligator in his time.) I cannot tell you how thrilling it was! It wasn't close to us, nor was it some humongous 14 foot dinosaur. It did not thrash about and it did not try to dump our canoe over to eat us for a late afternoon snack. It did glide silently across the water, eyes and snout above the water line, out of the way of our oncoming canoes. But believe, I saw those eyes and that snout, it was unmistakable, so did the children, Jeanna, Abuela and David. And OHMYGOD but exciting it was.

We also saw two birds, I'm pretty sure one was an ibis, because of the shape of his bill, and the other might have been an egret. Both still, white, then gone with a swoosh. Then there was this beautiful purple flower with the yellow middle, there on a bare, viney bush hanging over the water, offering up these gorgeous little tidbits of color.

Of course, as with any canoe trip with the Barnas's, snacks were paramount. There was much converging of the canoes as we shared cheddar bunnies, had apples all around, some almond clusters, and the yummy chocolate covered cashews brought by abuela, of course! Abuela always comes through with the special treat.

The gator sighting was extremely exciting, until later that night, after the children were tucked safely in bed and I was trying to fall asleep and I started having total anxiety over being in the same body of water as an alligator. A live hissing reptile with a lethal snap. Can you see where I was going with that? I had to do total mind control and visualization to get past that one.

We missed our man Ethan, papa, Boolu. We missed him in our canoe, we missed him when we saw the alligator, we missed him later at Tito Chuchi and Aunt Su-su's house for the Gator game and yummy game snacks a la Aunt Su-su.
We miss him. Come home soon my love, or I'll come visit you, ok?

Has it been a week already? one of three, what a bargain!

What We Did The Day After The Day After; and, How I Learned Magdalena Wasn't Ready To Ride By Herself.

Magdalena's self-expression the Wednesday after the election, the Little Mermaid in all her land-lubber glory.

Later that week:
We went to the fair! Oh what promise of fun and sugar awaited us! Magdalena and Augustus first saw the fair the week before when we went to Obama rally at the coliseum, right next to the fairgrounds and Magdalena had not stopped talking about it. When can we go to the fair? Is the fair still here? Is the fair open now? Can we go to the fair today? Mama, when can we go to the fair?

So finally, we made the date. The day came, we picked up our buddies Mandy and Henry, and off we went, so excited for the fair! Perfect fair weather, just a hint of a chill in the air, a slight breeze, clear skies, perfect. We saw the duck races, we saw the pig races (hilarious), we checked out the alligator show (not so great), we ate cotton candy, a candied apple, and the bizarrely named "pig-on-a-stick". We went to the fun house and laughed uproariously and really really really loved it, it was my favorite part. Then we made a wrong turn onto the fairway and found ourselves at the kiddie roller coaster, The Worm. It looked way more like a caterpillar, but oh well. Mandy and Henry together, I look at Magdalena and she says, I can ride by myself! and she cheerfully got in the seat in front of Augustus and I.

The above shot is before the horror. Have you ever been strapped into a ride you could not stop? While your child is crying inconsolably in front of you? Begging you to stop the ride? You haven't? Enough said. Poor decision on my part? Uhhh, yeah. A learning experience for us all? Well, yes, now that you mention it. An opportunity to have a do-over when we go to Disney next week? I sure hope so.

And here is Augustus, laughing and loving every second of it. But then again, he was sitting snug as a bug up against me.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

just another day

last Monday morning, Jacksonville Coliseum

Today is a day, just like any other day. The sun rose, the children snuggled, the coffee smelled delicious. But is that it? Is it really just another day? Or is this day a little different, does the coffee smell...just a little bit more delicious than usual? Were the children's snuggles just a little sweeter, warmer, snugglier? Was the light from the rising sun just a little bit brighter, clearer, sparklier? I don't know what your day has been like, but I dare say, mine has been just a little bit magical.
I waited. I hoped. And today my heart shines.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Halloween encore and a few other things

So wait, there's more! I feel like Harvey Korman in Blazing Saddles, "my mind is a whirl of...", I have so many things up there, swirling around. My friend Eleanor would say I'm "dating myself", as in making pop-culture references from the 70s but she's 24 for heaven's sake, I'm old enough to be her mother. No really, I'm the same age as her mother. She happens to be the coolest 24 year old I know, my rock-solid Waldorf-style home-schooling mama buddy, with Allie who recently turned 6 and Kimberly, an August 3 year old. I have just have a whole lot more information stored up in the old noggin, not all of it essential, but much of it very fun.

Pictured here is Tito Chuchi and the afta trick-or-treating Candy Party. Like Nora, I so remember that moment, coming home with a pillow case 1/4 full of candy, dumping the booty out on the bed and let the sorting begin. This for now, this for later, the "good" candy, the cheap candy, the candy I could care less about, the tart or sour or licorice stuff. Basically, if it wasn't chocolate or some kind of Tootsie candy, I pretty much didn't want it. Except the Kool-aid in a straw, there was something so weird about that candy, the powdery, granular sugary experience, yeah, it was good. Above is the very beginning of the party, the candy had yet to be dumped. I went in shortly after this and Augustus was in a haze, just opening candy after candy, not finishing them, just licking or taking one bite or one piece and throwing it down, on to the next candy, oh which ones do I like best? with a crazed glint in his eye. That's when I knew it might be time to put the candy away for the night and I don't know, maybe eat some actual food? Call me crazy, but calories exist from other sources than the ones in sugar.

I am inspired by Things We Never Want to Forget,, Halloween blog. Nora mentioned that "we were a homemade costume family". That's what got me thinking, revisiting all those Halloween pasts, remembering specific costumes. Most tragic: the Hamburgler from the old McDonald's marketing campaign (kinda creepy, isn't it? a Halloween costume based on a character from a marketing campaign for McDonald's? It makes me cringe just to think about it). Most fabulous: Adam Ant. Oh my but did I love me some Adam Ant. I scoured the city for the perfect band/short tux/military jacket, put together the most perfect outfit/costume, I remember almost shaving one of my eyebrows so that when I did the makeup, it would be perfect. Ok so I didn't do that but I did look like this:

What fun was to be had! But really, it didn't matter if I was going to be a corporate shill or imitate my favorite androgynous singer, Halloween was all about getting creative and super crafty. There are many years I don't remember, but what I do remember was always creating a costume. Halloween was always one of our family's favorite events of the year. There was so much to get crafty about! We had the same witch hanging on our door for probably 15 years. My mom, in a moment of sweetness and poor judgement, sent me that witch. I hung it on my door and promptly lost it. But I remember every crinkle of it's face and the wart on her green nose and wish oh how I wish we had that witch now...maybe a crafty idea for Halloweens to come, yes?

And on a different note, today I Voted. I exercised my blessing as an American citizen and I voted. On Sunday, when everybody is off work, the weekend before what is predicted to be the highest turn-out election in recent history, and I chose today to early vote. I had really really really wanted to vote on Tuesday, to cast my ballot on that day, with most other Americans, but I tell you what, on Tuesday we have Frida and the idea of potentially waiting in line with three little ones is daunting, so off we went today. It took about an hour and fifteen minutes, and Augustus and Magdalena had to vote also, as in fill in their own bubbles which had me sweating with anxiety because I was so scared they were going to mess up a bubble and then would my vote count? Remember, I am voting in Florida, voting debacle central. Anyhoo, I obviously did not let them fill in the biggies, just the local judges who I was not informed enough about anyway. Which will not happen again, for the record.
Oh. My. God. What a feeling it was to go vote. I was so excited, probably as excited to vote as Magdalena was for Halloween to finally be here. I kept wanting to talk to all the other people in line and say things like Do you know how amazing this is? Why aren't you smiling, this is the greatest possible thing in the world! and then I came down to earth and realized the unsmiling couple behind me of whom one member was texting furiously the entire time they were in line might be Republicans or maybe just were having a bad day, but really, I thought it was like a party and we should all be celebrating. Because shouldn't we be? Do I dare hope, truly? Is it too good to be true, or is hope here? In Spanish the word esperar means hope and wait.
Espero. Espero.

Sleeping Beauty, Max, Cinderella, fairy butterflies, wild rumpusing and candy candy candy

We left our house, Friday morning, in a swirl of pink taffeta and fur tails, two gorgeous excited children and one happy mama. Early Friday morning, the first words I heard through my sleep-deprived fog were "It's Halloween mama! I am soooooooooooo excited!". So off we went, me (a half-baked fairy godmother), a delightful Sleeping Beauty and Max.

Our regular downtown public library, the Main Branch, hosted quite the Halloween festivities for the children. They oh-so-rock. All the librarians were dressed up, some too well (scary witch Magdalena hid from, a regular librarian we know, but just too scary) and they set up a trick or treat scavenger hunt for the revelers. There was a parade around the fountain outside, then art/craft was making candy bags, then we got a hand-drawn map of the library with clues and questions. Each desk that had a pumpkin had candy for the trick-or-treaters and there was a fact to find out and fill in with the map. After successfully carousing four proper floors plus the basement for facts and treats, we returned to the children's section and got to pick out a book per child. Wow. Beautiful, new, illustrated children's books. The mission to promote reading is made a reality each and every time we visit. Our library is a magical and wonderful, full of people who love and cherish the children and do everything they can to make our experience fruitful and rich.

After the library festivities, we sojourned down to Heming Plaza, our favorite plaza downtown, for hot dogs and chips and candy candy candy.

There was dancing and magical play and performing and the wild rumpus was at hand.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

a whirlwind of party tafeta, tule, felt and black whiskers

Monday we spent the day shopping. And I mean shopping, like I normally do not shop, left the house by noonish and got home after 7pm. Staying out past 7pm is not a part of our normal rhythm, we're home by 4 folks, but with my man gone, the homefires just aren't the same. We actually went to the mall. I'll tell you why another time but let me just say, ya know, there's a reason I don't go to the mall. It feels like a casino, this constant low frequency buzz, filling the ears and overwhelming the senses, no real natural light, no clocks, re-cycled air, and the message to consume consume consume was enough to have me running out as fast as I could, dragging Magdalena and Augustus with me. But no, I had business to handle so up and down the mall we trudged and then, knowing we were going to go to Target and Joann's Fabric afterward, we made a quick stop at the food court. Thank heavens for gyros. Nuff said.

Tuesday I started on the costumes. Let's see, I think I've known for I don't know, at least a month what my children were planning on being for Halloween, so why do I act like a college student cramming for exams? I started the costumes on Tuesday. Started. I posted back on October 20 that a mama made outfit was in the works. In my mind maybe, but I didn't even buy the material until Monday, so exactly what was in the works two weeks ago is beyond me. I didn't even have the Max suit worked out in my head until after 10pm on Thursday. On Thursday. Night. I think I might have time management issues, yes?

Aunti Susu came over for some serious Halloween cookie decorating on Wednesday. She is so awesome! She came over, pumpkin shaped sugar cookies ready to be decorated, frosting made, paper plates to contain sprinkles. What a wonderful auntie, truly. That gave me a moment to work while she occupied the children with lots o sugar. Of course I did take a break for a cafe con leche and a cookie, come on now, you would have also.

When the cookie fest was finished, I put the children out in the yard. Yes, I did. Listen, it was gorgeous outside, perfect late afternoon fall weather, crisp and cool, run around in weather and they had just eaten a ton of sugar and sprinkles, they needed to be outside! I had been working feverishly on Magdalena's costume all day, in between cooking and making beds and doing dishes and reading children's books, of course, and Augustus was really really ready to have a costume. He put on the basis of his Max suit, pre-embellishments, and insisted, I mean Insisted that I put the whiskers on his face. I have medical skin paper tape that is always in the kitchen drawer, but not that day, no. So directly onto his face I scotch-taped the pipe-cleaner whiskers, where they stayed until the next morning, and happy happy happy he was.

a pumpkin patch and cool enough for coco

Tita, aka, Jeanna, the greatest auntie/sister in the world, picked up my two last Sunday for a big day at the "pumpkin patch" with abuela and Nikki, Vangie and Fletcher. I say "pumpkin patch" because did you know that pumpkins don't grow in Florida? Something about the heat and humidity = mold so basically a "pumpkin patch" is a big field covered in hay with pumpkins placed all over it, in what must pass here for a reasonable facsimile of a real pumpkin patch. So off they went for a day of play, then they went over to abuela's for dinner and I didn't go pick them up until like 9pm. WOW. I had Such Big Plans for my day solo. I had a list a mile long and I think I got to the dishes. And I thought something different would happen?

Tuesday, Jeanna had a lovely impromptu fall celebration/hot coco fest/pumpkin carving/dinner party so there was more carving to be done! The children are sitting at their perfect outside table, enjoying their coco, and "chin-chin-ing". As in:
Vangie: Let's toast!
(all the children slide their cups toward each other, clinking and saying toast! toast! toast! toast!)
Magdalena: We say chin-chin.
(all the children slide their cups toward each other, clinking and saying chin-chin! chin-chin! chin-chin! chin-chin!) Wanna watch?

Abuela, bundled up in Tita's fabulousness, getting the guts out with Magdalena. I seem to remember my favorite part of carving pumpkins was "getting out the brains" as Jeanna said. Well, I have to tell you, neither Frida, Augustus, or Magdalena would have any of that. Maybe next year.