Toy Story

This morning I was on my way out the door when I heard shrieking and explosions, and rapid gunfire. I do not live in a war zone, but I do live with a 6 year-old boy.  That is  when I noticed this…

Lego Guy was being held prisoner. The minions were torturing him as he sat over a burning a fire


Just in case Lego Guy thinks of escaping, the minions have a back-up Lego Skeleton armed with a laser gun, aimed directly at Lego Guy.


Army guys maintain their positions, just in case Lego Guy makes a run for it.


A Lego built launch pad houses a jet fighter ready to deploy. In the background is Luke Skywalker armed with the Force.


This minion is operating the computer, ensuring that Lego Guy does not get away.


...and of course there's always the Chief Minion standing by, just to make absolutely sure that things go according to his plan. Mwah, hah hah!!!

Easter Re-Cap

Another Easter all wrapped up. Olivia, Erica and Nico ages, 15, 13 and 12 are getting older now, so to quote Nico, “Easter isn’t what is used to be.”  Sigh. I tried, but I kind of agree with him. Even though my efforts were last minute and I spent the better part of Saturday afternoon running around to Target, ULTA, Old Navy and Rite Aid, buying make-up, iTunes gift cards and candy to stuff in their baskets, the morning’s egg hunt was a bit anti-climatic.  Something about only one kid, six year-old Diego, who is still a believer, hunting for eggs in our front yard in his pajamas…well it is a bit of a let down for me from previous years.

In earlier days,  when my other kids were little, we would get together with all their cousins and tons of family to hunt for eggs in the park, knocking each other down and dragging themselves through the mud in the process.

But the real message of Easter isn’t about the white bunny laying eggs, which by the way generated a very interesting conversation from Diego at the breakfast table. The real message is about re-birth, renewal and hope that comes in the form of an empty tomb on Easter morning.  So we all went to church to hear that message and take part in the Easter celebration. Literally. I assisted with communion and got to wear the really fancy robe, called a dalmatic. Olivia, Eric and Nico all served as acolytes. And because of our participation in the service we all got preferred seating on the chancel. Yeah! Only Juan had to arrive an hour early and stand in line with Diego waiting to get in.  But, as anyone who was there will tell you, it was worth the wait.  Our rector’s sermon was inspiring, the choir and brass ensemble magnificent, and the flowers were beautiful!

Speaking of beautiful, our Easter brunch was a thing of beauty.  The food turned out delicious and plentiful. And our Easter Hollandaise tradition was a success. You can read about that here. The entire family preparing the meal gave new meaning to, “Many hands make light work.” And the group effort led to precision timing.

Thanks to Erica for the hollandaise sauce, Juan for the hash browns, Olivia for the cinnamon rolls, Nico and Diego for the table setting and me for the perfectly (yeah!) poached eggs.

All agreed it was a wonderful meal.

After hunting eggs, brunch and church you’d think we were ready to call it a day.  But, wait, there’s more. We had more Easter ahead of us as we loaded the van with baskets, more plastic eggs and drove to South Orange County for a gathering at Juan’s sister’s house. They had already eaten, but that didn’t stop us from bringing more food and grazing all afternoon. The littlest ones, Diego and his cousin Juliana, hunted for eggs. Of course, Diego got the most eggs, but they were sweet together.

When it was all wrapped up we put all the kids together for a family picture.

Then someone had the great idea that we needed another picture with all the parents and grandparents. The even better idea was to position everyone at the far end of the yard, near the edge of the pool.

You knew it would happen…

And it did….

Sorry, Lolo.

But it makes a fun Easter memory. Happy Easter!

Mommy Melt-Down and a Teachable Moment

One of the most important jobs I face as a mother of two boys is to help them become men. Independent, strong, sensitive, caring men, who are good, capable citizens, and can cook, clean, and do their own laundry.  One of the jobs I face as a parent in a blended family, and co-parenting with the other parents is completing and communicating the hot lunch order.

Let me explain.  Our shared full-custody with the Nico’s dad and Erica and Olivia’s mother has evolved to a week on/week off arrangement. When the kids were younger we would split the week between the two houses. Now that they are older, the kids want to stay longer periods of time at each house. Nico’s hot lunch order form is submitted to the school on my off-week. I never know if his dad has ordered it during my week. The hot lunch order for Erica falls on my week. I order it for her, and if I can remember, I email the order to Erica’s mom.  I am pretty organized but, it can sometimes feel like a Herculean task to keep the lunch orders straight.  So, on days like today when the lunch order slips through the cracks, and I am frantically trying to make breakfast, and I am making last-minute alterations on Nico’s too tight uniform pants, because he left his other ones at his Dad’s house, the atmosphere is ripe for a melt-down. A Mommy Melt-down.

Nico is a wonderful 12 year-old boy. He is loving, kind, smart and funny. He moves at his own pace, but sometimes that pace is not fast enough for me.  When, 10 minutes before we were supposed to leave the house, I realized he hadn’t gotten himself dressed, we couldn’t figure out the hot lunch order and he came back empty-handed when I asked him to get the bread out of the refrigerator, I lost it. I reverted to parenting from the 1960’s. Humiliation as a motivational tool. When Nico’s eyes filled with tears, I dug deeper. “Why are YOU crying?” Ugh. Not one of my finer parenting moments.

How many times did I hear that as a child and know that no matter how hard I tried to keep from crying, those words only turned on the water works even more. Here I was parenting in the same style I had grown up with. My parents are loving, good people. But parenting as I was growing up was  different from today. I don’t even think they used “parenting” as a verb. I think it was called disciplining. Haven’t you seen Mad Men? So, in this New Year, where I try to have more compassion, faulting him for his tears, not living up to my expectations, isn’t exactly compassionate is it? How can I expect him to always remember the hot lunch order or his uniform, when I  have trouble in the shifting between two households? If he can’t find his way around the kitchen, and assert some self-sufficiency, whose fault is that? Mine. (Well, his Dad’s too.)

I need to do a better job.  When I am in the kitchen cooking, he can help.  And if the uniform pants don’t come back from his Dad’s or the hot lunch order isn’t communicated, I need to help Nico figure out what to do to fix it. Sure I can take it on myself, but then I am not doing my job either because I fail to teach him to do things for himself.  I will be setting myself up for another mommy melt-down when he doesn’t behave like the self-sufficient, independent young man I expect him to be but have failed to help him become.

Tonight, I will sit down with Nico and tell him I’m sorry for this morning’s meltdown. I will tell him I love him and what I expect of him.  I don’t think this would have been part of the 60’s era parenting style, but it’s a new era, and for me personally it’s a new year, a year in which I try to live out compassion in all that I do.

Modern Warfare

My son Diego is  ALL BOY.  He loves to run, jump and play. All the time. He often complains, and asks that I “unsign” him up from all his activities, just so he can have more play time. Don’t get me wrong. I am thrilled that he loves to play. I believe that playing should be a 6 year-old’s greatest occupation. However, it is what Diego likes to play most of the time that is beginning to trouble me…

A battle between minions and army guys.

Snipers in position on my family room mantle.

Casualties of the battle


An arsenal of light sabers for intergalactic battles.

An array of Nerf guns for more conventional warfare.

I try to round out his interests by exposing him to different things….

Tiger cub scouts…

Tae Kwan Do…

church choir…

I even encourage him in doing art…. Today he brought home a sculpture from school.

When I asked him what it was, he told me that it  is was supposed to be a porcupine. Then he changed his mind and told me it was a weapon.

I try to encourage reading. We have books all over the house.  He often sees Juan and I reading.  I read to him.  He even goes to the library weekly. The last time he went to the library, this is the book he checked out:

What’s a mom to do? We are a peace-loving family. I think I may need to negotiate an arms control treaty.

Date Night With My Husband

Last week I told you about my date night without my husband. Thank you for your comments, it really was a special night for  Nico and I.  Last, night was special too because I had a chance to have a date night with my husband, Juan.

When Juan and I met and started dating we already had kids–Olivia was 5,  Erica was 3, Nico was almost 3. Between our jobs, the kids and our custody arrangements, Juan and I didn’t have the typical courtship. We dated on our “kid free” weekends and sometimes, because we worked together, were able to have lunch together during our workday.  We dated for 2 years before we got married, and once we got married,  our date nights and lunches became pretty infrequent.  Add the new baby in the mix, and  let’s just say we were pretty much settled into a routine where date nights meant getting the kids to bed, renting a movie, opening a bottle of wine, and falling asleep in front of the TV.

BUT lately, things have begun to change.  For the better.  Except of course, if you are a high school girl with her own social life.  You see, Olivia is now 15, and in my book, that is Babysitting Age.  Add to that fact,that Diego is now 6, and the other kids are pretty self-sufficient, and that means that I can leave the kids for a few hours occasionally and go out for a date with my husband.  This works out pretty well for us, except when it infringes on Olivia’s “plans,” then it doesn’t work out as well for her. Oh well….A happy husband and wife, makes a happy family life. Or something like that. Still, we try to be careful not to “burden” the kids too much with self-sufficiency, and responsibility. Ha! (Anyway, I digress, and that’s a whole other blog post.)

So last night, Juan and I enjoyed our date night and went to The Yard House where we sat at the bar, just like grown-ups, we had a drink,  and went to a movie. When we came home we said good night to Nico, kissed a sleeping Diego, and relieved Olivia from her Facebook childcare responsibilities. Then we tried to watch a recorded episode of Mad Men. That is, until I fell asleep in front of the TV.

Juan and I enjoying some adult beverages during an adult night out.

Fun Friday – Celebrating Los Muertos

Today at Diego’s school the class celebrated El Dia de los Muertos with a fun sugar skull making activity. Diego is in the first grade at a spanish immersion program in our local public school district. It is a great opportunity for him to become bilingual, biliterate and enjoy his latino culture. It’s also a great opportunity for me to practice my spanish skills and enjoy my latino culture. Today was a perfect example. I took a couple of hours off from work to help out in the classroom.

In celebration of this Mexican holiday, the kids were shown how to decorate a traditional sugar skull. The skulls are made of real sugar and more than one of his classmates tried to taste the skull before decorating it.  The kids decorated their skulls with a frosting-like paste.

Then they attached sequins, feathers, glitter and more frosting.

 The end results were simply good enough to eat.  Que divertido!