Going His Own Way

This weekend Nico went on a backpacking retreat with our church’s youth group.  He looked so grown up as he was leaving the house, loaded down with his new pack.


He’s 13. THIRTEEN! How did that happen? I still think of him as he looked when he was in kindergarten.


Nico in kindergarten

Now he’s in 8th grade and in the last year at the Catholic school he’s attended since kindergarten. He’s had a good experience at his Catholic school. He’s made some good friends and has become involved in activities that he enjoys. Nonetheless, it’s a small school and he’s been with the same kids since he was 5 years-old. The small class-size and familiar environment are comforting, but also a little stifling.

That’s why he enjoys the church youth group so much. The youth group is not affiliated with the same church at his school. Being involved in youth group has given him  a chance to meet new people and make friends from different schools. When I saw him interacting with these new friends and the youth minister, I was surprised to see Nico acting so at ease, and engaged. I told the youth minister that I was surprised to see Nico behaving this way,  since he was usually on the shy side. The youth minister told me that Nico wasn’t shy at all. In fact, quite the opposite. Nico typically participates in the conversation and even leads the discussion.  Later, Nico and I were talking about it and he told me that he really likes being involved in youth group, because he can be who he wants to be. He doesn’t have to behave the way that his school classmates expect. In youth group, with new friends, he is able to re-invent himself,  and be the “funny guy,” he could even be a leader. Wow. I was so amazed and impressed that this boy, this young man had such insight.

Later this weekend, Nico and I toured one of the private Catholic high schools in the area. Given Nico’s insight about himself,  it should not have surprised me when he told me that this high school, which is a very popular choice among his current classmates, is not one of his top choices. Nico has his heart set on attending a high school nearer my workplace, about 45 minutes from home. That school is also the school that is least likely to attract many of his classmates, since it’s so far from our community and it is much bigger than the other private high schools in the area. Honestly, his top choice, is also mine. But, that school draws kids from all over greater Los Angeles, and has a very competitive environment. It makes me uneasy because that school may be too challenging, too unfamiliar for him. However, when I hear him speak with such conviction how he wants to attend that school, how strongly he feels like that school is the right fit for him, I know that I should trust him. He knows himself better than I do. After all he is 13. Thirteen.

Nico on his way.

Sunday Offerings: Saint Anthony- Patron Saint of Lost Things

Saint-Anthony-Novena-Candle-label-by-Lucky-Mojo-Curio-CompanyLast month my brother got married in Arizona. We packed up our minivan and drove to Phoenix for a weekend of wedding festivities. Our van was packed with suitcases filled with all the clothes and accessories for a family of 6 to outfit us for a rehearsal dinner, wedding, reception, and the after-party. I brought along my jewlery bag with a nice assortment of jewlery, including the diamond solitare earrings that Juan gave me as a wedding gift.

I decided not to wear the earrings to the wedding, since I had a different pair I wanted to wear.  Erica was looking through my jewlery case hoping to find a necklace she could wear. She carefully took out all my jewlery and laid it out on the bed. When she found what she wanted she put everything back in my jewlery case.  When we returned home later that weekend, I was unpacking my jewlery when I noticed that one of my earrings was missing. I panicked. I carefully laid out all the jewlery and looked through the entire case. No luck. I could not find one of my earrings. I could feel myself getting more and more nervous. I did not want to tell Juan what happened but when he came in our room and saw me in my frenzied state, tearing apart my suitcase and jewlery case, he knew something was wrong. I told him that I couldn’t find the earring. He stayed calm and reassuring, thank goodness. No sense in both of us becoming crazy about losing a precious stone, with huge sentimental value. He helped me look again, but we still could not find it.

The next day I called the hotel and asked if the maid, or anyone around the hotel,  found my earring. Nothing. I was devastated.  I resigned myself to the idea that I lost the earring, but I still said a silent prayer to Saint Anthony. You know Saint Anthony, the patron saint of lost things? I usually don’t pray to saints, but there have been times when I say a prayer to Saint Anthony to help me find something. I think it’s kind of odd that saints become “representatives” of certain causes. My kids go to a Catholic school named for the saint who is the patron saint of bakers, and hatmakers. On their saint’s day, the kids get baked goods and wear crazy hats to school.  When Juan was working in a drug prosecution unit in our office, and was reassigned to a different unit, his collegues and staff presented him with a bust of Jesus Malverde as a going away gift. Jesus Malverde is the patron saint for drug dealers. It seems that there are saints for everything, so why not for lost things, and lost jewlery?

This week, I was getting ready for work and opened my jewlery box to find a necklace to wear.  All my necklaces are hung on hooks in my jewlery case. After I was done sifting through the hanging necklaces, I tried to close my jewlery box door. It would not close. I tried again and realized something was jammed in the jewlery box lid. I looked closer and saw something shiny. I looked even closer, and saw my diamond earring! Saint Anthony had come through!

This is not the first time we have found something after praying to St.Anthony. The story of the lost iPhone is probably the best known”miracle” in our family.  Juan had the first edition iPhone and when the new edition was released, of course, he upgraded. He kept the old iPhone for all of us to use as iTouch. One day the iPhone went missing. We looked everywhere for it, but we could not find it anywhere. We said our prayer to St. Anthony, but held out little hope of ever finding it again. One day, months later, Juan was looking in our bookcase. He pulled out  a book, and spied something. It was the iPhone! He found the phone, crammed between two books. One book was titled, “Awareness” and the other was “Gifts for Your Soul!” Hah! Saint Anthony must have a sense of humor!

Coincidence? Maybe, or maybe not. All I know, is that when I lose something I say a silent prayer to Saint Anthony. Next time you lose something, you may want to try saying this:

St. Anthony, St. Anthony
Please come down
Something is lost
And can’t be found


Wacky Wednesday

I have been Erica and Olivia’s step-mother for 8 years now and there are a couple of things I have come to know about them. One of the things I know is that the girls are fascinated with the supernatural, and Olivia in particular, loves scary things.  For a while now Olivia has wanted a ouija board. She asked for one for Christmas but her dad and I refused to get her one. (Something about wanting a device to communicate with ghosts and the celebration of Christ’s birth really didn’t sit well with us.) Anyway, Olivia’s Christmas wish was recently fulfilled when she received an ouija board from a friend. It is the Milton Bradley game version, but it is  a ouija board nonetheless.

The second thing I have come to learn about the girls is that they do not like to share. They do not share anything, clothes, electronics, even food.  Sharing is simply not part of their culture. Rather, the girls “trade.” And the trade doesn’t happen unless it is the result of a hard-fought negotiation that works out to the advantage of each girl.

Another thing I have learned over the last 8 years, while my kids have attended catholic school, is that every February, the school has spirit week. Spirit week is part of Catholic schools week. During Spirit Week the kids dress up in a particular theme. For catholic school kids this is big fun, since it means they don’t have to wear their school uniform and the theme usually involves some kind of fun activity for the day.  So what is the point of me knowing these things about Olivia, Erica and Spirit Week at catholic school? I am glad you asked.

This morning Erica was taking an unusually long time to get ready. When she emerged from her bedroom she was dressed in bright purple sweater, turquoise tennis shoes, and she had her hair done up into two lopsided ponytails. I thought about telling her that her ponytails were crooked, but we were so late already I decided against it. Erica also came out carrying a big shopping bag with another sweater stuffed on top. Our conversation on the drive to school went something like this:

Me: What’s in the bag?

E: My lunch and supplies.

Me: Really? What kind of supplies?

E: Stuff for spirit week.

 Me: Oh. What kind of stuff.

 E: Stuff.


 Me: What is today’s theme for spirit week?

 E: Wacky Wednesday.

Me: Oh. So that explains the lopsided ponytails, and colorful clothing.  (But wait, why did she need a second sweater?)

 Me: Why do you have a sweater on top of that bag?

 E: I might need it. (From the girl who will wear a tank top in cold, rainy weather.)

 Me: What’s really in the bag?


 Me: You might as well tell me what’s in the bag because I am going to look inside anyway.

 E:  It’s a ouija board.

 Me: Olivia’s ouija board?

 E: Yes. She told me I could take it to school.

 Me:  Really. Olivia let you take her ouija board? And you think it’s a good idea to bring a ouija board to catholic school?


 I made her leave the ouija board in the car. She’ll have to participate in Wacky Wednesday without a oujia board. Tomorrow it’s Letter day. Erica’s letter is Q. She’s going dressed as a question mark. Sigh.