Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Pablo's Papa

After living in three big cities and having family in two others, we don't have a lot of annual holiday traditions.  We do the "city holiday stuff" in whatever city we're celebrating in that particular year, we bake cookies, we hang stockings, and we read our Christmas books.

Our beloved Christmas books follow us to wherever we will be for Christmas and we look forward to reading them throughout the holiday season.  Here are a few of our favorites:

Olive the Other Reindeer
Polar Express
Snowmen at Night
N is for Navidad
The Nutcracker
The Best Christmas Pagaent Ever
The Legend of the Poinsettia

Our favorite of all, however, is probably Pablo's Christmas, a story about a boy in rural Mexico who has to care for his family while his father travels to the United States in search of work.  Pablo has to do many of the chores left by his father's absence,  including scary ones like fighting off coyotes from the chicken coop.  As Christmas approaches, there is no word from his father and his young sisters fear that a "magical queen" has tricked their father into falling in love with her and staying in the United States.  Pablo sets out to make Christmas special for his mom and young sisters, despite their lack of food and money.  He cuts a Christmas tree and carves dolls for gifts.  On Christmas Eve his father triumphantly returns, bringing the family back needed money and a few gifts as well.

We've talked a lot about that book over the years.  Why Pablo's father would leave his family to work in the US.  What kind of work Pablo's father likely had to do when he arrived here. Why their own Abuelos made the same decision to travel to the US for work many years ago.  How that courageous decision changed our entire family's life for the better.

The boys see men working around the city every day.  Men who resemble their abuelo and their papi.  They work in the peripheries of the city.  These men do construction, they dig ditches, work in the back of restaurants, they spend anxious mornings in Home Depot parking lots, hoping the day will bring work.  Their hands are dry and callused and their eyes tired. 

Thanks to the story of Pablo's Christmas, the boys look at these men working around them and see Pablo's Papa.  They see loving husbands and doting fathers forced to work far away from their families.  They wonder if these men miss the food, the language, the predictable customs of their hometowns.  They hope that there is a happy homecoming with their families awaiting these men very soon.  Perhaps on Christmas Eve.  

Friday, November 28, 2014

not fit for a family blog notes

(This is about a year old but I forgot to publish it….)

the "f" word

Asher whispered to me on the way to piano last week.  My friend at school said "f-u-c-h" is a bad word.  First, it drove me insane that it was misspelled and had to correct it.  Then I said, "Yes.  it is a very bad word. one of the worst."  REALLY? said Asher totally shocked.  Worse than the S-H-U-T word (shut up).

the finger

Awhile back, Asher came home from school and said a friend (perhaps the same one as above? Who is this kid?) said it was bad to stick out your middle finger to someone.  I said, yes it is and don't do it.  he asked what it meant.  I said it means "go away" in a very mean way.  I was proud of my explanation without having to get into more details.

Fast forward a Thursday afternoon that always has us running to catch the bus to UW for Noe's speech therapy.  There is a short window of time between when I get the kids from school and when we need to catch the bus.  We almost always end up running up a Seattle hill, book bags and therapy bag in tow, in order to catch the bus.  That day was no different, except the bus pulled away as we got to the bus stop.  I couldn't believe the bus driver wouldn't open the door for us (he had closed it, but hadn't pulled away. I know they can't stop once they pull away) so I flipped him the bird in frustration.   Most of my bird flipping was contained to my NYC living days, but once awhile, in an extremely frustrating situation, it makes an appearance.  As soon as I did it, I heard Asher shout out, "Yeah, GO AWAY!"

larceny

We were walking University Ave trying to find something for a school project after Noe's therapy appt at UW.  I looked down to see Noe was eating a bag of Swedish Fish.  I didn't buy him any Swedish Fish.  He had taken the five finger discount at one of our stops.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Take 2 Seattle Times Sports Blog


A piece I wrote was recently featured in the Take 2 Seattle Times Sports Blog .  It is all about my love/hate relationship with the Seahawks and coming to Seattle amidst NFL football madness.  I wasn't in love with what I wrote when I submitted it, but it has received a lot of attention.  It was really fun to have my "own editor" and to see my name on a byline.

I'm trying to find more time in my life to write.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Funnies for the Week

Just a couple of funnies from this week that I want to jot down to bribe the kids someday for the sake of posterity:

Asher, age 9
Noe, age 11

Asher:  Opening a mini-Three Muskateers bar from his Trick-or-Treat stash, "Why do they call it THREE Muskateers?  There is only one piece of candy here!"

Noe's teacher told me that he pulled out a back molar during class this week, walked across the room, and handed her the tooth.  Too bad it wasn't Teacher Appreciation week?

Asher told me at dinner one night this week that his friend Ben told him that a girl in the class "liked" him.  He told me that after Ben told him, he marched over to her and told her that he was too young to make up with girls.  I asked him what exactly making up with girls means?  He paused for a couple of moments and said, "I really have no idea."

Noe goes through periods where his OCD is high and this is one of those times.  His big thing right now is going through the house constantly turning off lights, shutting doors, etc. I'll be in the kitchen with the dishwasher door and various cabinets open, putting away dishes, and he'll rush in and shut all the doors in a huff, and rush off.  Also, when we are using the toilet, Noe will be lurking outside the door and as soon as we start to open the door, he'll rush to it, run over to the toilet, shut the lid, and run out.  It feels like I'm in some kind of bizarro skit ala Saturday Night Live.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Mysterious Case of Billy H



Billy and Asher.  Golden Gardens Park, Seattle WA, Aug 2014

Flipping mindlessly through my Facebook newsfeed on the school playground waiting for the release bell to ring, I had quite a shock when I recognized the face of the sweet-natured, curly-haired boy Asher had befriended at Golden Gardens Park last summer.

The post was an FBI alert from the Seattle Times.  Billy had been abducted by his father.

I frantically texted Ed at work, sending him the photos I had taken of him and Asher.  We know this kid!  We can help him!  But, it turns out, we haven't been able to help him much at all.

The weather was spectacular here in Seattle throughout August, our days were mostly free, and the beach was less than two miles from our front door.  The boys and I got into a daily rhythm of heading to the beach in the mid-morning, just as the fog was lifting and before the crowds arrived.  Billy approached the boys one day to play….and from that time forward they always looked for (and usually found) each other.  Billy was usually alone playing on the beach.  Only once did I see his dad, a fair distance away on his cell phone.  He didn't approach me and I left him alone to talk.

The boys played in the water, built cool stuff in the sand, covered each other up in sand, flew kites…all the standard beach stuff.  I tried to ask Billy a few personal questions, but he was not very interested in talking. I figured he was having too much fun playing to want to stop and chat with a boring adult.

He did tell us that he and his dad were sailing along the Pacific Ocean this summer on his dad's boat, which was currently moored next door to Golden Gardens.  He said he was from California (perhaps he had lived there previously, but we found out later he lived with his mom in Pennsylvania).   And he played Minecraft on the boat.  And that was all we knew about Billy, but we were all amazed, and a little jealous, of his grand summer sea adventure!

Did I see some red flags?  Of course.  Honestly, one of the reasons why I brought the boys to the beach so often was that I didn't want Billy to be alone.  I wouldn't personally allow my nine year old to play alone on the beach for hours on end, and I would guess most other parents would not allow that either.  And, at the very least, if I was Billy's father, I would definitely want to meet the family who kept him occupied most days.  But Billy looked well-cared for, and he played easily and happily with my kids.  He could return back to his boat, a very short distance away, at any time.

Also factoring into this whole situation, in my mind, was a slew of news stories of parents being charged criminally for allowing their older children to be in parks, and other public places, unsupervised.  Like many others, I felt this was sending a dangerous precedent of interference of parental rights, and further frightening parents out of teaching their children independence, an important life skill.  I didn't want to "tattle" on a fellow parent.

And the reality is that Billy's father had broken no laws during the time we had contact with Billy.  He still had legal custody of Billy during the month of August.  It was not until early September, when he failed to return Billy to his mother in Pennsylvania, that he was charged with kidnapping.

I'm not self-important enough to think that I could have "saved" Billy last summer, but I do have one haunting regret.  I wish I would have forced the issue and met his father.  Perhaps something in my brain and my senses would have clicked that this was not a good situation for Billy, that he might be in imminent danger.  Perhaps I would have tattled.  And likely, it would have done no good, but perhaps it would have caused a reaction that would have sent Billy back to his mother before his father's fateful decision to disregard the law.

Immediately after my Facebook discovery, we did our due diligence and contacted the FBI, telling them everything we knew about Billy.  Ed enlisted the help of his photo editors at the Times and sent the FBI one of our photos of Billy, which is now being distributed by the FBI in their efforts to find him.  I reluctantly told Asher the news about his friend, in hopes that it would spark a memory of Billy revealing where he and his father were headed next on their boat. (Asher doesn't remember, and likely never had that conversation with Billy).

It took a lot of explanation for Asher to understand how a father could "kidnap" his own child.  It is a strange concept, for sure.  I reassure Asher constantly that even though Billy was taken away, he is not being harmed.  I have to reassure myself as well, and hope it is the reality.  That Billy is on his grand adventure on the high seas, having the time of his life, and oblivious to the legal fallout of his father's actions back on land.

UPDATE 10/29/2014:  Billy was found on the small island of Niue in the South Pacific! His father was arrested and extradited to the US on kidnapping charges.  Apparently it took a few days for travel arrangements to be made, so he got to hang out with a local island family.  I hope that Billy is having a wonderful reunion with his mom in Pennsylvania and can move on from any trauma he experienced the past few months.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

August 26, 2014

One week until the first day of school.  Hurray!  I've been looking longingly at the boys' new backpacks hanging up in their closet every day for the past month.

This morning Asher and I biked down to Green Lake so he could attend soccer camp on the pristine green soccer fields next to the lake.  Then I came home and worked remotely while Ed took care of Noe.  At noon I picked Asher up from camp by bike and we stopped at the library to collect more books and drop off others before heading home.

We all ate a quick lunch together, and then headed out to Mercer Island to play at the Adventure Playground.  This is essentially a forest where kids have access to all kinds of building materials and can build, construct, imagine, and explore.  The kids had a great time playing and pounding nails all afternoon!  On our way home, we stopped by a home in the Wallingford neighborhood that hosts a year-round 'soccer shoe bank' on their side patio.  We found some cleats that don't pinch Asher's feet and I will add his old shoes to the bank next time I am in the neighborhood again.

After a seafood dinner, Ed took the boys for a walk down to the lake while I worked on getting ready for some upcoming Lego robotics classes.  I enjoyed the cool breeze coming in through the windows and the rare silence in the house while I worked.  There is just a hint of fall in the evening air and we haven't seen any real rain in weeks.  Such a beautiful time of year here in the PNW!

Before bed, I worked with Noe on his literacy skills and using his communication device.  When I told him we were finished for the evening, he requested to continue working.  This doesn't happen very often and he probably just wanted an opportunity to earn more fruit snack rewards, but I'll take it as a win.  Now Ed and I are settling down to finish our 'Mad Men' marathon.   Just a few more days before the Seahawks officially open their season, so I'll try and enjoy these last couple of evenings together.

#LovingtheSeattleLife

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Giraffes By Asher, Age 9

Asher has been working on completing requirements for his Cub Scout Bear badge this summer. I'm not a fan of the BSA program, so this is something he does on his own, without any push from me.   Someday he will understand the politics behind it all, but for now, he enjoys going on adventures with his friends and the refreshments at den meetings.  And I do see the appeal…he likely isn't going to get a chance to shoot a BB gun with Ed or myself.

Anyways, one of the many badge requirements was to research and write up a short report on any subject.  I decided to repost his report on our family blog because it is such a cute representation of him at age nine:  Bright, engaging, full of all kinds of useless facts and righteous indignation.   And always looking for a laugh.  It will be fun to read this a few years from now……

GIRAFFES

Here are some amazing facts about my favorite animal, giraffes.

First, giraffes don't sleep much.  You're probably thinking, "oh my gosh giraffes are gonna get sick after staying up till midnight," but they do that because of those mean lions and tigers out in the savanna.  As you can see, if they sleep, the tigers are gonna sneak up on them and eat them so some giraffes died because of that.  The ones that stayed up till 4 o'clock in the morning survived.* In fact, they still do that at the zoo even though they're safe and far away from the lions and tigers, I hope.  This is no excuse to as your parents to stay up and watch TV!

Second, a giraffe's neck is up to 6 feet, 7 inches.  THAT IS NOT FAIR!  Why can't mother nature create us like that!  Long necks, oh yeah!  I could get my cereal from the top of the fridge because of that instead of climbing up and getting it.  We'd have to make our doors extra tall for our heads to fit in, too.  Alright, let's stop talking about that and talk about why giraffes have long necks.  That's because they love to eat leaves and where do they come from ?  Trees, of course.  So they have long necks to reach up and eat the leaves.  You probably knew that.  It's not like Mother Nature would put our food in the trees to reach.

Third, giraffe's skin is brownish-orangish and white.  I like my skin how it is so there's no point in changing it.  Their skin is that color because when they're born, they start off white.  Then they start changing color to brownish-organish and white.  I really don't want to say that a million times.  I'm gonna say white instead!  And for some reason they're white.  I like their color.  Do you think they could blend in with nature?

Fourth, many giraffes live in Africa.  That's pretty obvious.  Above, I said lions and tigers and savanna so you can see they live in Africa.  I heard in Africa they have mosquito nets around their beds so they don't get bitten by mosquitos.  But that has nothing to do with giraffes.

Fifth, baby giraffes are called calfs.  I love baby giraffes.  They're so cute.  I love them.  I kinda talked about them above.  Read on.

And finally, giraffes are common hunter targets.  I don't like hunters.  Why do they have to kill giraffes?  Why can't they get lions and tigers instead of giraffes?  They use the body as meat, tail hair as fly swatters, and hair for necklaces and bracelets.  Why can't thy go to the store and buy them?  LOL

I hope you enjoyed this helpful, and crazy report on giraffes :) :) :)
 


*We talked about natural selection on our last trip to the zoo.  I guess he kind-of got it?