Lucky 13

I am lucky. Today you turn 13.

Thirteen years ago today you made me the luckiest person on earth. Actually, 13 years ago today, you made me more than lucky,  you made me your mommy.

I was lucky,  not just because I became a mommy, but because I became your mommy.  I am lucky because for 13 years I have had the chance to raise you, watch you grow, and believe it or not, to learn from you. You remind me that life doesn’t always have to move so quickly. You remind me to appreciate our family, because I know that you do.  And even though it may not always seem like it, you remind me not to lose my temper. Your calm manner and sweetness remind me to let go of anger and pride when I am frustrated or impatient.

Someone once told me, “Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.” For the last 13 years I have been able to witness the process of an acorn becoming the oak tree. The little baby that you were– so happy, so calm, so easy going.  The toddler years were a joy even though I had some sad days because I had to learn what it meant to be a family with just the two of us. But we got through it, and we found a wonderful rhythm together. It seemed like you adapted easily, enjoying the time with your father, and then coming home for some time with Mommy. And when our family grew to include your sisters and brother and Juan, your generous loving heart, accepted our new family.

On your 4th birthday, you traveled with your dad to New Mexico to visit your Granny. I waited all day for you to come home but your plane was delayed. When your dad finally arrived I opened the door, and you were asleep in his arms.  It seemed like you had suddenly grown up. Your dad said, “I brought you back a 4 year-old.” He carried you inside  and put you in your little bed.  I looked at you sleeping there and wept with gratitude that you were home, and I was amazed that you seemed to grow up overnight.

It’s been 9 years since that night when you could still be carried in your father’s arms. It’s so hard to believe that you have grown as tall as me. Your voice has deepened and you no longer play with toys, unless you do it because your brother has bugged begged you to.  You told me you didn’t want any toys or games for your birthday this year. Instead you asked for money to save up for a computer. How responsible of you. How mature, how grown up.

I know you don’t like it when I worry about you and when I tell you how to do things. I can tell because sometimes I catch you rolling your eyes. But, then we exchange looks and we laugh because we can tell what we are each thinking. I know you probably don’t realize it, but I am happy to see you grow up. I do miss those days we shared together when it was just you and I, and those days  I would enjoy watching you play with your toys or invent some game with Erica or Olivia, but I don’t really want to go back to those days. I am happy for today. I feel lucky that I get to see you turn 13 and enter adolescence. I feel lucky that I get to see you grow up and become the kind-hearted, responsible, witty teenager that you are. I am lucky to see the acorn becoming an oak tree.

Happy birthday Nico. I love you.

Mommy Mom

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Top Reasons Why August and I Are Not Friends

It’s the final week of August and the end of a long summer in our house. I enjoy summer for many reasons, also because the days are a nice change of pace from the hectic schedule of the school year.  But this summer was different, and I find myself looking forward to a new season, even if it means another busy school year.  However, before  I can get started on the new school year, I have to get through August, and August is the month I hate most in summer.  August is the month when I scramble to find camps for the kids to fill in my big gap in day care; August is the month when summer temperatures heat up and relegate my already restless kids indoors; and August is the month when my temper and my kids’ tempers are as short as the days are long. Here’s a few other reasons why August is not my favorite month:

1) School Supply Shopping.

Beginning in August the kids start bugging to go shopping for school supplies. I try to put off this chore as long as possible, but not so long that the stores run out of supplies.  Usually in August, the kids’ schools send a list of school supplies they will need. It is usually very specific with things like, “College Ruled Spiral Notebook with Three Subjects and Pocket Dividers,” or 3 packages of 150 quantity 4×6 White Notecards, Unlined. Can you tell why I hate shopping for these supplies? Sometimes I feel like I am on a scavenger hunt, and when I am done running between at least 2 stores, hunting for everything on their list in triplicate, I have the pleasure of spending somewhere in the neighborhood of $250.00!

2) Summer Homework Torture

Nico, Erica and Olivia all go to schools which assign summer reading and math packets.  The reading assignment also includes an essay which must be turned in the first few days of school. For Olivia, she gets tested on her summer reading.  I know the kids should read throughout the summer anyway, but something about this assigned reading makes what I consider a pleasure, a pure hardship for them, and me.  In August I become a complete nag about their unfinished reading, essay writing, and math homework.  Sometime after the dismissal bell in June and the beginning of August, my kids’ brains turn to mush and they cannot write a complete paragraph without constantly  interrupting their work with bathroom breaks, trips to the refrigerator, or watching “5 minutes” of television. It is pure torture, watching them “write” the essays. It’s usually not until the final day before school that I can light a fire under their *&!$ and they can get their summer homework done.

3) The Birthday Season

In August I begin preparing for the birthday season. Beginning on August 1, we celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday. This is the kick-off event for the month of birthday celebrations which culminates in my father-in-law’s September birthday.  In the coming weeks I will have to plan no less than three of my kids’ birthday parties. I like to get the party planning  done before school starts so I don’t have that to contend with sending out invitations as I cover text books, shop for last-minute school supplies and fill out a seemingly unending stream of enrollment forms, medical clearances and notices of emergency contact information.

4) Summer Let Down

After I am done buying school supplies, nagging my kids about summer homework, and planning birthday parties, I can stop and reflect on the past couple of months. This is when I realize that summer has whizzed by and I feel like I haven’t really enjoyed it. Truth be told, even if I could spend my days enjoying all that summer offers, I would probably still be let down when August ends, because as an adult, summer just isn’t summer like I remember it. Summers used to be carefree, and fun, with nothing to do spend my days waking late, swimming in my parents’ pool, reading books that I chose, watching All My Children, and  hanging out with my friends. Sigh. How can I help but feel let down when August comes and, if I am lucky, I made it to the beach a few times, and maybe had a few barbecues.  The other day Diego reminded me of all that I am missing from the fun of summer.  Juan and I were headed out the door for work, and I suggested to our nanny that she take the kids to the local city pool or maybe a matinée to beat the heat. Diego asked, “Do you have to work everyday? Can’t you have summer vacation too?” August reminds me that I haven’t stopped enough in the business of the season to enjoy the fun of  summer.

So, now that I am wrapping up my summer, and the kids will all be back in school this week, I have planned one last hurrah. This Labor Day Weekend I’ll be hosting a barbecue, and I’ll be combining it with another birthday party.

The Day We Met

Seven years ago today I met you for the first time,  even though I knew you for some months before that. I knew you when I first felt you move inside me. I knew you when I saw your blurry image on an ultrasound.

Ultrasound at 21 weeks

Throughout those months when I carried you within me, I dreamt of you. Who would you look like? What would you be like? I couldn’t wait to meet you. Even though your daddy and I had only been married a short while, we were ready for you. Your brother and sisters were excited and happy at the thought of you. While you grew inside me, we remodeled our house so that it would be big enough for all of us to live comfortably.  Soon you grew so big, I couldn’t get comfortable.

Diego and our house under construction.

When the doctor said it was time, we scheduled the appointment so you could be born.  The night before you were born, daddy and I went out to dinner. We laughed how it would probably be one of the last dinners we could have alone in a while, but we didn’t care. We were so excited to meet you and we wondered what the next day would bring.  Early in the morning, before the sun came up, we drove to the hospital. I was so nervous and excited, my heart was racing.  The nurses were concerned, but then my doctor came in and said it was okay. Your abuela, “Lala, ” called me on the phone and said a prayer for me in Spanish. I could hardly understand her because I was so nervous  and I was crying.

When I went into the delivery room, the doctors joked with me and there was music playing. I was nervous that your daddy was not going to be able to stay with me, but he did. He stayed with me until they pulled you out and took you away to examine you. You checked out great!

Diego, minutes old.

They showed you to me, but I could not hold you  right away. When the doctors finished taking care of me, I went back to my room.  I was anxious to see you again and hold you. Finally, they brought you to my room. Somebody gave you to me to hold. When I held you and looked at you, I cried again. But this time, I didn’t cry because I was excited or nervous. I cried because I was happy. I was happy to see you. I was happy to hold you. I was happy to meet you. Daddy was there and together, we held you and said hello.

Grandma and Grandpa arrived and they were happy to see you too.

Later that day, Lolo and Lala arrived to say hello.

And, at last, Nico, Erica and Olivia got to meet their new brother!

Since that day, we have shared many things. The baby years were a happy blur. It was such a busy time for you to come into our lives. We were remodeling our house, your siblings were in grade school, there were soccer games, baseball games, all kinds of activities. But you were a trooper, going places with us, never complaining. Over the years we have watched you grow into the funny, spirited, loving boy that you are. You make me laugh more than you make me cry. I love how you have such a special bond with your siblings. How you make friends so quickly. I love the way you question things that don’t seem right to you, like why some people are homeless.  I love the way you accept other things so easily, like the magic of leprechauns.

I love the way that you have brought our family closer, just because you are here. I love that you help me to live a different life–a richer life.  I love that you remind me to be patient, to be kind, to find joy in small things. I know that sometimes it’s hard being the youngest one in the family, because you want to do things like your older brother and sisters. But, there will be time for all of that. I don’t want it to come too soon. I love each day I have with you and each birthday I celebrate with you. I am so glad to be your mommy, I am so glad to have met you,  seven years ago today. Happy Birthday, my sweet boy.

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Freshly Pressed In My New Year

This morning I was all set to write a post about how I had a wonderful birthday. About how much I enjoyed breakfast in bed, prepared by my husband,

Breakfast in bed

and presented by Diego, with a smile.

Breakfast smile

I was going to post about how I spent the day with my boys at the beach…

Nico and I on my birthday.

…and the sky was clear, and blue, and the temperature, a perfect 70 degrees.

And,  I was going to write about how I was actually getting  started on my  bucket list of 50 Before  50 because  of the birthday gift Juan gave me, Number 47.

Number 47 on my list

I was going to post about how turning another year older wasn’t so bad, and celebrating my birthday as my own personal New Year was a positive spin on the “age” thing.  The post was in my head and I wanted to get it out.  I wanted to sit down with my laptop and write about it. But wouldn’t you know it?  I came home from a day at the beach and my refrigerator was dead. Everything in the freezer was thawed. We spent the evening dumping food, moving everything that hadn’t spoiled  to our back-up garage fridge. I had to help the boys with their homework, and I still needed groceries for the week. No time to write. My post just stayed in my head. I thought I might be able to get out a draft during my lunch hour, but first I had to check my email for responses to the T-Ball team party I was planning.

What? No email from the other T-ball families? But, I did see an email from WordPress. And then another, and another. And this…

My blog had been Freshly Pressed!  This post was featured, and I was receiving dozens of comments, and “likes.” What a great belated birthday surprise! Thank you everyone for reading and commenting. Thank you for subscribing. Thank you for, well, “liking” me.  I think this is going to be a good year.

My Own Memorial Day…Also Known as My Birthday

Gabe-birthday-part

Image via Wikipedia

Memorial Day 1963. A day when our nation was honoring the fallen who had given their lives in service to their country. A day when many were probably out enjoying picnics, barbeques, and parades. It was also the day when my mom went into labor, my dad drove her to the hospital and, thinking he had time for a quick errand, left her in the doctor’s capable hands. Boy, was he surprised when he returned to the hospital a short while later, and was told my mom had a baby girl, me! As my brother will tell you, that was probably the last time I arrived early for anything!

Like my brother, who was born on New Year’s Eve, this year my birthday falls on a holiday. But unlike my brother, who grew up feeling like he was getting short-changed on gifts or parties because he had to share his birthday with a major holiday, I don’t mind sharing my birthday with Memorial Day. Because my birthday falls on Memorial Day I sometimes get a day off from work, friends or family are ready for a party, there’s always a new movie release, and there are some really great sales. This year, I am not going to any parties or barbeques. I will go out to lunch with my family and if the weather clears, maybe I’ll go the beach, and if not, then I may see one of new summer movie releases. Sounds like a perfectly good way to spend the day, especially when I am still reeling from our whirlwind New York trip last weekend.

In honor of this birthday, the birthday that brings me another year closer to a landmark birthday, I have been putting together a list, a Bucket List, of sorts. I shared the list with my husband, and he said it looks more like a big ass TO DO list. True. Many of the things on my list involve home projects, and probably cause him some concern because that means the Honey-Do List isn’t too far behind. Some of the things on my list probably are contradictory, like #37, “Try a new wine, #20 “Try a new recipe once a week” and #18, “Lose 15 pounds.” But still, it’s my list, and I hope by putting out here in the Blogosphere, I will be more inclined to check it off as “Done.” Besides, the list may generate some interesting blogging material. I hope that some of the activities on my list will keep me from getting too caught up in the busyness of life and force me carve out some time for some fun. So, here’s my list of 50 Things to Do Before 50:

1. Take a sunrise hike.

2. Clean out my attic.

3. Clean out and re-organize my pantry.

4. Organize the kid’s school files/records/memorbilia.

5. Re-paint my family room.

6. Take a cooking class.

7. Make curtains for my bedroom.

8. Read a classic American novel.

9. Read a classic English novel.

10. Whiten my teeth. :)

11. Learn to take better pictures.

12. Print photos for my hallway.

13. Frame photos for my hallway.

14. Hang photos in my hallway

15. Go on an overnight spiritual retreat.

16. Teach Diego to ride a bike.

17. Ride bikes along the beach.

18. Lose and keep off 15 pounds.

19. Try cooking with a new food once a month.

20. Try a new wine once a month. :)

21. Visit a local landmark/attraction once a month.

22. Travel to Italy.

23. Get a new blog design.

24. Review my financial retirement plan.

25. Begin working on my book.

26. Drop a dress size.

27. Take on a cause.

28. Replace my morning coffee with green tea.

29. Take a hot air balloon ride.

30. Keep a Gratitude Journal.

31. Thank some of my former school teachers: Mrs. Smith, Mr. Gilliland, Mr. Brooks.

32. Take a sunset horseback ride.

33. Participate in a 1/2 marathon.

34. Go to the Hollywood Bowl with a picnic.

35. Camp on the beach.

36. Get a dog.

37. Try a new recipe once a week.

38. See the desert in bloom.

39. Watch a movie marathon.

40. Go on a baseball trip.

41. Plan my 50th birthday bash.

42. Take a family portrait.

43. Pay off my student loans.

44. Get a new car. (Not a minivan)

45. Try out for The Amazing Race.

46. Complete Covenant II.

47. See Les Miserables (again!).

48. Learn to knit a hat.

49. Scan and organize old photos.

50. Practice spanish weekly.

So, there you have it. This list will stay up under the “My Story” menu tab on my blog. So you and I can both go back there and check it out to see how I am progressing. Good thing I have some time to finish it off because I will definitely need it. Now, I am going to get celebrating my own Memorial/Birthday….