Ladybugs at the High Line!

NYC is pretty incredible when it comes to parks. (Understatement of the month. I know.) About a week ago I was able to explore the The High Line with my kiddos, a good friend of mine and her little girls. It wasn't our first time there, but it was special because they were having a Wild Wednesday activity. (There should be theme music everytime anyone says that.) For this particular one, kids were able to learn about ladybugs and get up close and personal with some (read: thousands).  Not only could my City Girls get into a bit of nature, but this was going to be their science lesson for the week. Three cheers for homeschooling! Hip hip...HOORAY!!! Hip hip....ahem. Sorry.

Elasia (my 5 year old) LOVES LOVES LOVES ladybugs so as soon as I read about it - it became a date.

Here are a few pics from our adventures:

we were given bags of ladybugs that we could release into the gardens in the High Line park. Very Cool.

That's about as close as Qara wanted to get to live ladybugs. And yes, that's her "My mom is crazy, I'm pretending to have fun so she won't make me do more crazy things" smile.)

They set up stations where the kids could make "Ladybugs eat aphids" crafts too.

Elasia - my little entomologist, saying goodbye to her little ladybug friend
New York City is full of little treasures like these sort of events. Listen to me...I'm gushing like a tourist. But it's true! 7 years later and I'm still in love with this place.

And I love that my children are growing up here too. :-)

Art Appreciation Time!!!

It was just over 7 years ago when I moved to New York City. A single girl, full of ambition, ready to change the world - but not sure how.  This city's is a beautiful, enigmatic and intoxicating place, but it's not always easy to live here. Sometimes I'd get swallowed up in the "busy" pace of life - just trying to keep my head above water and losing focus of who I was and what I felt my life was suppose to be. I had two places I would ecape to in order to regroup.

One was St. Patrick's Cathedral.
 I'd savor the somberness while sitting alone in a creaky pew. Sometimes I'd listen to the organist practice for an upcoming mass, sometimes I'd over hear whispered conversations of tourists taking pictures in the back. I'd sit and think, read and sometimes doze off.

But there was something about the vastness of those ornate ceilings, the artistry in those stain glass windows and the hushed murmers of fervent prayers all around that helped me remember who I was.

The other place was the Met (the Metropolitan Museum of Art).  I still haven't exhausted that place and I've visited over a dozen times. My problem is during one of my first visits, I met her.  And every subsequent visit, I make it a point to see her again.  

No matter how determined I am to check out a different exhibit, I always find myself wandering - like there's a homing device in my brain - towards European Paintings and then towards gallery #800.  And there she is - larger than life, in breathtaking scale:
This is Jules Bastien-Lepage's famous "Joan of Arc" and man oh man, the internet does not do her justice.  She's magnificent. From her smooth forehead to her dirty toes.

Even without direct eye contact, just looking at her reminds me to shake off petty things that can consume my life, to take chances, to dare to dream. Something about her crystal clear figure in the midst of impressionistic images whispers to me "Remember who you are. Don't get lost in the noise."

If you're ever in the City, she is absolutely worth a visit. Just let me know, I'd be happy to introduce you.

Silly (read: Crazy) Thoughts on Traveling

Adam and I are in Chicago for the next few days, and this is the first time we’ve flown without children since our honeymoon. I know, shocking, right? It surprised me too. The past years have been full of traveling in its various forms: me without Adam and kids, Adam without me and kids, me with kids without Adam (definitely NOT my favorite) and lots of whole family traveling. But never just the two of us on a plane…holding hands with the arm rest up, lazily reading and small talking – even ::gasp:: flirting.

There was a thrill to it that I wasn’t expecting (hey….keep your mind PG….:-)) Topics in our conversation were funnier, more interesting, more concerning, more world changing… So, I understand I don’t need to go on and on about the benefits of parents having some time alone together – yadda yadda – but something else happened that I wasn’t expecting: Crazy Thoughts.

As our seatbelts were fastened and we were ready for take-off all these thoughts ran through my mind. “What if something…happens?” “Will my kids be okay?” “Who would I want to take care of them?” “Should I keep my phone out to text them a final moment ‘I love you’?” “Why am I thinking these things?!” “But what about their futures…?” “Which friend, family member, person would I really trust to raise my children?!”

Crazy thoughts. I been through 2 passports and have flown domestically quite a bit and yes I’ve had fleeting “Whoa – I could die…” thoughts (especially that one time In turbulence over the Pacific Ocean) every once in a while. But I’m SERIOUSLY not a paranoid person. People that know me might even say I err on the side of not having enough caution. Yet for the first time in my LIFE I was consumed with thoughts of what would happen to my children if we both were to die in that plane. I realize it’s more dangerous to drive a car and that the chances are more likely to get struck by lightning then to be in a plane that crashes. But I do call New York City my home. It was this very city that was so deeply wounded on September 11, 2001. And it was this city's portion of the Hudson River that became the impromptu landing strip for Flight 1549 on January 15, 2009.  Maybe I’ve become more tentative in my “old” age. (hahahahahhaa….)

There we were – BOTH of us on the same flight. Isn’t it a rule the President and Vice President can’t travel together? (is it? Seriously. I don’t know if it’s a rule or not…) One freak accident and both our girls would be orphans. Crazy thoughts. Thankfully and absolutely Providentially, I’ve been immersed in a world view that comforts me in times of “crazy thoughts”. There is One who cares for my children more than I ever could. The same One who gives me peace when faced with my mortality.

But it doesn’t stop the crazy thoughts from coming. And….thinking about it now – it makes me chuckle. Am I the only one who ever thinks of these kinds of things?

::smiling::  I love being a mother. It brings out the best, worst and craziest parts of me.

Chicago bound and Kid-less?!?!

Tomorrow my husband and I are flying to Chicago to attend a conference. (I'll probably blog from there - stay tuned!!!) My gracious (and fabulous) mother in law has flown in from Maine to watch our kiddos for the week.  Grown up talk, sleep and ::gasp:: make-up/high heeled shoes!!

Truth: I'm looking forward to it so. much.
Truth: I miss my kids already.

Cheese Appreciation

I'm typically ambivalent towards "feel good" quotes, but lately - I blame it on the sleep deprivation and shallow content of children's TV - I've been soaking up anything even mildly encouraging in regards to parenting. So please forgive the cheese as I share some of the lastest quotes on parenting that have either made me think, smile or love my "job" again.

Most of these came from a website called "Quote Garden". See, I told you - not for the lactose intolerant. ;-)

"You don't really understand human nature unless you know why a child on a merry-go-round will wave at his parents every time around - and why his parents will always wave back". ~William D. Tammeus

"Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body." ~Elizabeth Stone

"When you have brought up kids, there are memories you store directly in your tear ducts." ~Robert Brault
"Parenthood: That state of being better chaperoned than you were before marriage." ~Marcelene Cox

"Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children, and no theories." ~John Wilmot

"It would seem that something which means poverty, disorder and violence every single day should be avoided entirely, but the desire to beget children is a natural urge." ~Phyllis Diller

"To bring up a child in the way he should go, travel that way yourself once in a while." ~Josh Billings

It's not only children who grow. Parents do too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours. ~Joyce Maynard

"Don't worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you. ~Robert Fulghum

"It behooves a father to be blameless if he expects his child to be." ~Homer

"It kills you to see them grow up. But I guess it would kill you quicker if they didn't." ~Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams

"Children are a great comfort in your old age - and they help you reach it faster, too." ~Lionel Kauffman

"If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders." ~Abigail Van Buren

"The quickest way for a parent to get a child's attention is to sit down and look comfortable." ~Lane Olinghouse

"Too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to solve." ~Roger Lewin

"There are two lasting bequests we can give our children. One is roots. The other is wings." ~Hodding Carter, Jr.

"Sing out loud in the car even, or especially, if it embarrasses your children." ~Marilyn Penland

"My mom used to say it doesn't matter how many kids you have... because one kid'll take up 100% of your time so more kids can't possibly take up more than 100% of your time." ~Karen Brown

How pleasant it is for a father to sit at his child's board. It is like an aged man reclining under the shadow of an oak which he has planted. ~Walter Scott

"What a child doesn't receive he can seldom later give." ~P.D. James, Time to Be in Earnest

"If you want your children to improve, let them overhear the nice things you say about them to others." ~Haim Ginott

"Give me the life of the boy whose mother is nurse, seamstress, washerwoman, cook, teacher, angel, and saint, all in one, and whose father is guide, exemplar, and friend. No servants to come between. These are the boys who are born to the best fortune." ~Andrew Carnegie

"Now the thing about having a baby - and I can't be the first person to have noticed this - is that thereafter you have it." ~Jean Kerr

"Never raise your hand to your kids. It leaves your groin unprotected." ~Red Buttons

"Mother Nature is wonderful. Children get too old for piggy-back rides just about the same time they get too heavy for them." ~Author Unknown

"The guys who fear becoming fathers don't understand that fathering is not something perfect men do, but something that perfects the man. The end product of child raising is not the child but the parent." ~Frank Pittman, Man Enough

Mother Nature, in her infinite wisdom, has instilled within each of us a powerful biological instinct to reproduce; this is her way of assuring that the human race, come what may, will never have any disposable income. ~Dave Barry

"When my kids become wild and unruly, I use a nice, safe playpen. When they're finished, I climb out." ~Erma Bombeck

"The hardest part of raising a child is teaching them to ride bicycles. A shaky child on a bicycle for the first time needs both support and freedom. The realization that this is what the child will always need can hit hard." ~Sloan Wilson

Most American children suffer too much mother and too little father. ~Gloria Steinem, New York Times, 26 August 1971

As a child my family's menu consisted of two choices: take it, or leave it. ~Buddy Hackett

Insanity is hereditary - you get it from your kids. ~Sam Levenson
Humans are the only animals that have children on purpose with the exception of guppies, who like to eat theirs. ~P.J. O'Rourke
Raising children is like making biscuits: it is as easy to raise a big batch as one, while you have your hands in the dough. ~E.W. Howe

A young lady is a female child who has just done something dreadful. ~Judith Martin

Children are natural mimics who act like their parents despite every effort to teach them good manners. ~Author Unknown
Conscience is less an inner voice than the memory of a mother's glance. ~Robert Brault,
Always end the name of your child with a vowel, so that when you yell, the name will carry. ~Bill Cosby

Your responsibility as a parent is not as great as you might imagine. You need not supply the world with the next conqueror of disease or major motion-picture star. If your child simply grows up to be someone who does not use the word "collectible" as a noun, you can consider yourself an unqualified success. ~Fran Lebowitz, "Parental Guidance," Social Studies, 1981

A child, like your stomach, doesn't need all you can afford to give it. ~Frank A. Clark

Getting down on all fours and imitating a rhinoceros stops babies from crying. (Put an empty cigarette pack on your nose for a horn and make loud "snort" noises.) I don't know why parents don't do this more often. Usually it makes the kid laugh. Sometimes it sends him into shock. Either way it quiets him down. If you're a parent, acting like a rhino has another advantage. Keep it up until the kid is a teenager and he definitely won't have his friends hanging around your house all the time. ~P.J. O'Rourke

In spite of the six thousand manuals on child raising in the bookstores, child raising is still a dark continent and no one really knows anything. You just need a lot of love and luck - and, of course, courage. ~Bill Cosby, Fatherhood, 1986

Ask your child what he wants for dinner only if he's buying. ~Fran Lebowitz, Social Studies

The trouble with being a parent is that by the time you are experienced, you are unemployed. ~Author Unknown

You have a lifetime to work, but children are only young once. ~Polish Proverb

In the aftermath of a 5 year old's birthday party....

Although Tuesday, March 22nd was Elasia's actual birthday, we had invited all of her "little kid friends" to a Dinosaur/Heart themed  Birthday Extravaganza. (Yes dinos and hearts - so. very. Elasia). (side note: Elasia has lots of "grown-up friends" that she adores and wanted to party with too, even though they don't have children of their own. So we had them over for dinner on Tuesday night.)

The kid party was a huge success. We had some private space at a chain restaurant and the kids got to: make their own pizzas (chefs' hats and everything!), eat an inordinate amount of sugar in various forms and narrowly avoid death by piƱata stick. (more
pics to come! That is, once I can whittle down the album to a sane number to share online and figure out how to get it all on a slide show in a post rather than in the sidebar)

We surfed our way through the chaos fun times of Saturday, pushed through a full-scheduled Sunday and now I find myself in ....The Post Child's Birthday Party Zone ::cue creepy music::.

There are newly opened toys scattered throughout our apartment, with all their wrappings and plastic and cardboard and twisty-ties littering our floor like confetti. There are slightly deflating heart-shaped helium balloons - floating like suspended animation art- in our bedroom. There are leftover dinosaur favor bags hidden through our place like Easter eggs. And I'm not actually sure where that last cupcake went....hmmm. Maybe we'll find it petrified under our couch next week sometime.

And there is a happy 5 year old, soundly asleep in her bed and a tired but satisfied mommy, deliriously blogging on the couch in the living room.

I used to judge, misunderstand, or just plain ignore moms who throw "themed" parties. I used to see it as an unhealthy extravagance in the light of world poverty...yadda yadda yadda. I was just ridiculously ignorant like that. But now ... I understand. I know what it's like to love a child so deeply you would give your right arm to make every birthday wish come true. I know what it's like to look at the limited resources you have available and figure out a way to make something spectacular within your means - to stay up late making the decorations by hand (because it's cheaper AND because even in New York City it's tough to come by heart-shaped dinosaur decorations).

I still value minimalism in my kids expectations. I still stress that they should be grateful for anything they get in the birthday category. (Seriously - anything.)  So far it's going well. But I also know from first-hand experience what it feels like to overhear your daughter telling her friend, "I really like hearts AND I like dinosaurs. Did you know that a brachiosaurus was a herbivore and that the T-Rex was...." and then feeling like my goal for the next month was to somehow fill her world with hearts of every color and dinosaurs. I look at her smile and I feel it. I'd move mountains for that little girl. Just 'cause.

But yeah, I'm wiped.  And I probably over-committed/over-extended/over-spent myself this weekend.  But to the nagging little judging voice in my head - I say - she's only 5 once. And I'm smiling as I put my feet up and watching Iron Chef tonight.

It was totally worth it.

Motherhood Mondays: Tomorrow's the day!!

You know - people say "Enjoy those early flies by so quickly..." but I kinda disagree.  The first few years of this adventure called Motherhood seemed to drag on and on and on. I feel like I aged 10 years for every week my baby grew. On a micro-level, I adore my children. On a macro-level, I'm STILL trying to figure out what "mothering" entails.

Tomorrow is a HUGE day. Tomorrow morning our living room will be filled with pink balloons and streamers will be hanging from the ceiling. We'll have a cupcake for breakfast and spend most of the day celebrating our fabulous birthday girl.

Elasia Hope will be 5!!!! 

I remember that first year, feeling swallowed alive by this new role in life - 5 years old seemed so far away! And here it is. Here she is. Such a work of art. Such a gift from God. A reminder daily, in our crazy lives, that - as her name means - God is the God of Hope

I'm so excited.......

from this:

to this:

We made it, my precious Bee-Do!! We made it to 5yrs old!!!

love you muchly,
your momma

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

In honor of my husband, whose entire last name and....ancestrally speaking...whose WHOLE pinky finger is Irish ;-)

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

much love from Hamilton Heights!

Art Appreciation!!

Art Appreciation?  Yep - like that class I had to take in high school. (truth: It was the class where, although the teacher was wonderfully "artsy" and kind, I learned nothing really and spent most of that time passing notes, making plans for the weekend and ...well...getting into trouble.)

I have this alter-ego inside of me and it's asleep most days. It's an artist. The anti-artsy side of me is usually the more practical one that gets me through most days of mothering, being a wife of a very busy man, etc etc. But then the other me wakes up, usually when I don't expect it...snorts and grunts a little and I see "beauty" that I've overlooked in everyday life. I see potential in raw materials. I feel stories bubble up from my belly that just NEED to be told. I hear music that makes me want to shout and cry at the same time.  I couldn't live like that all the time. I feel things too strongly and I'm sure I would spontaneously combust.  But I like how that version of "me" pokes its head out every once in a while to make sure things aren't boring.

So that's why this post - and maybe future ones along this line will be called "Art Appreciation". Partly in penance for my delinquency in that poor sweet teacher's art class (See! I did "open my mind"!! I promise!) and partly to share when I find cool things that the "arsty me" can't just overlook. :-)

Today I can't get enough of Mumford and Sons song "The Cave".  Yep, it's popular. Yep, it's even trendy. But looking at it from an artistic point of view - it's AWESOME!  Music, lyrics....everything.
The video is below - but you gotta read the words first. :-)

It's empty in the valley of your heart

The sun, it rises slowly as you walk
Away from all the fears
And all the faults you've left behind

The harvest left no food for you to eat
You cannibal, you meat-eater, you see
But I have seen the same
I know the shame in your defeat

But I will hold on hope
And I won't let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I'll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I'll know my name as it's called again

Cause I have other things to fill my time
You take what is yours and I'll take mine
Now let me at the truth
Which will refresh my broken mind

So tie me to a post and block my ears
I can see widows and orphans through my tears
I know my call despite my faults
And despite my growing fears

But I will hold on hope
And I won't let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I'll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I'll know my name as it's called again

So come out of your cave walking on your hands
And see the world hanging upside down
You can understand dependence
When you know the maker's hand

So make your siren's call
And sing all you want
I will not hear what you have to say

Cause I need freedom now
And I need to know how
To live my life as it's meant to be

And I will hold on hope
And I won't let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I'll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I'll know my name as it's called again

Courage and my 4 year old

(Mandatory yet unrelated update: we think I have Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome. Boo Hiss. Might be more on that in a future post. Maybe not though. We'll see.;-) )

Every summer and family vacation...well, any chance we can get...our family gets in the water. We also feel that "real" swimming is a valuable gift to give to our children, not to mention a HUGE safety issue. Elasia is old enough (turning 5 in a few weeks) and we found a class that was 8 sessions long with an opening down on 14th street at a very nice YMCA and took the jump financially.

And that's how Elasia began swim classes.

This was her first time taking "real" classes. She qualified for the class where I don't have to get in the pool with her (which was wonderful, because what would I have done with my little monkey a.k.a. Zaqarah? I'm sure the YMCA staff would've had to call 911 within the first 10 minutes of class because she had managed to slip away and gotten herself stuck on the roof. I'm sure of it.) Elasia is very cautious by nature, and has never been in a pool with out us. I was pretty apprehensive leaving my little scrawny green bean alone with a handful of kids and 1 instructor.

I watched from the nearby giant window.  The whole class lined up by the side of the pool. It was then I realized that the odds were stacked against Elasia being able to get through this class with out a royal "freak out".

1. Everyone was older than her.
2. Everyone had taken swim classes together last season at this same YMCA and knew each other. Elasia didn't know any of them and this was the first time she stepped foot in this building.
2. She was the only girl.
3. The kind lady she thought was the instructor went into the office. A man she didn't know jumped in the pool and motioned for the children to get into the pool one at a time.

I saw her legs tremble.  I saw her wring her hands. She looked up, bottom lip trembling, to where she knew I was watching, looking for some kind of reassurance from me. I waved, gave her a thumbs up and a smile. (Truth: it took EVERYTHING in me to not crash through that glass, run across the pool deck and scoop my little girl in my arms and tell her we'll wait 'til next year.)  I had to steel myself and see what she would choose.

And then it happened.  She took a deep breath, knees still knocking, wrinkled her little nose with determination and willed her body to sit at the edge of the pool.  Every other kid slid right into the pool, as if they had the process memorized. They held on to the side of the pool and started kicking. 

I watched her wipe a tear that had snuck out of her eyes and down her cheek. Her nose still wrinkled in resolve, she looked up again and smiled at me. (smiled?! I still can't believe it.)

She tentatively slid into the pool and held on to the side and....... began her kicking.

With the other moms and their "been there, done that" expressions, I knew I couldn't really just scream with joy right there. But I really could've flown to the moon and back!!  I had just watched one of the most courageous people I've ever known make a really brave choice!!!  I know my little girl. I know what situations are difficult for her, and those same situations might not even be an issue for her little sister - or even anyone else.

Because of things we couldn't have known or foreseen, this swim class was set up to be one of the single most difficult things for Elasia specifically.  And she was brave. She chose to look her fear, her discomfort, her insecurity...all of it in the face...and she chose to go through with it. 

Now, would it have been okay if she had a melt down at the side of the pool, crumpled up in sobs and I had to sit with her in the lounge until she calmed down. Yes. (because she IS only 4, people.) I would've been set back a large chunk of change, as the classes are non-refundable, but I wouldn't set my daughter up for unnecessary torture. And of course, I wouldn't have shamed her. I would have been disappointed, but I'd have understood. I know life is going to present so many more of these same moments. I honestly would have been okay with "no way, Mommy" on this one.

But she chose to be brave. And her little determined, tear-streaked face is etched in my memory as a permanent book mark...a reminder.... for me to make similar choices.

When I'm tired and frustrated and it is easier to scream, yell and demean my children - I must choose to be brave, and be their hero. To lay down my own emotions to help them through the tricky paths of childhood.

When I'm intimidated by potential for failure, I've got to choose to be brave and take risks.

When I'm afraid of the consequences that my choices may have on the relationships I hold so dear, I need to be brave, to choose honesty and transparency - to live with integrity, as this is the only way to true intimacy.
I learn so much from my precious Elasia Hope.  From her sensitivity to others feelings, her care for the overlooked, her quick wit and list could be a mile long. (And she's only turning 5!)  But what I needed and what I've learned from her these past few weeks going to swim class is:

It's possible to choose courage, even if you don't "feel" it. (and if you cry when your scared, it's okay.)

Under Construction?

It's been just over 3 months since...I lost my ability to think clearly.

Okay, I'm being a little dramatic (hey, being Puerto Rican gives me some license, right?)... But something is going on in me that I haven't quite figured out yet.  It could be as simple as stress-induced fatigue, or as complicated as - well, I don't know what. That's the thing - not knowing what's wrong with me is driving me a little batty.  (There are still a few more doctors' appointments to be had)

Whatever it is, it's leaving me tired for at least half the day, forgetful (more than your average mommy brain), nauseous (at times) and unable to process life without help.  It's vague and hard to articulate. And leaves me feeling "bad" most nights.

So that's were I've been. I have so much in my brain I want to get out - so many ideas that would make great "blog entries", so much that I NEED to express because God made me a writer and dang it, sometimes I HAVE to just write....But they're stuck in a gridlock-type traffic jam in my tired mind.

We'll see if I can get the traffic to clear up - it may even be therapeutic for me in this whole "what's going on in my body?" season.  'Til then, let's just say that this blog and my life are Under Construction.

Sending so much love from the Big Apple,