Sunday Offerings – Three Simple Joys

It’s a Sunday in Summer and, I confess, I didn’t make it to church today.  But, I did spend some time thinking about the following simple things that bring me joy and make me grateful.

!. Dodge Ball

Yesterday, Nico came home from a week at Boy Scout camp. He was covered in grime, and filled with stories of his camp adventures. He told me what he did each day, but when he told me about his last day at camp, his ever-deepening voice was filled with pride.

He told me that on the last day of camp, the camp staff challenged the scouts to an epic game of dodge ball. The game started out with about 30 boys playing against an equal number of staffers. Little by little, as the camper or staffer was hit by the ball, or failed to catch the ball, the player was eliminated. The game got down to Nico, the lone camper, against 3 of the kitchen staff. Nico threw the ball at one of the staffers. The ball hit the staffer’s legs and bounced off, hitting the second staffer, and both in one throw. With the game down to Nico and the last staffer, Nico threw the ball at the staffer. The staffer bent down to catch the ball, caught it, and then dropped it! The other campers who had been eliminated but were still watching the game let out a loud cheer for Nico.

The scouts won! Nico proudly told me how he was carried back to camp on the shoulders of his fellow scouts. What a great moment for him. Nico, the last man standing, triumphs in dodge ball!

2. Magical Cups

I have been helping my mom go through some of my grandmother’s things since my grandmother’s passing. It has been difficult and discouraging because she had so much stuff. We can’t just toss it out because some of it has value, even if it is just sentimental value. I took a few plant cuttings from my grandmother’s garden in the hope that maybe, in her death, my grandmother’s green thumb will have magically passed onto me. Yeah, we’ll see how that goes…

I also took these:

These are metal cups. They are the two remaining from a set which is long gone. When I was a child my grandmother would serve me milk in these cups. The milk always tasted so good when I drank it from these cups. Even though my stomach can no longer tolerate milk I wanted the cups, so my mom let me have them. Yesterday Diego, who rarely drinks milk, asked for a glass to go with his PB and J. Juan served him milk in the cup. Later, Diego asked for more milk from the cup. He said he had never tasted milk like that before. He told me the cup was “magical.”

I may not have my grandmother’s green thumb, but I have her magical cups.

3. Greener Pastures

About two weeks ago, Juan declared war on the grass. He looked at the patchy, yellow, poor-excuse-for-a-lawn we had in the backyard and said, “You and me lawn. I am going to win.” He went out and bought grass seed, lawn topper and set our sprinklers to automatic. Friday, we came home from a couple of nights out of town and we saw this:

Juan Wins!

Grass. Growing. And it is green!

Yeah. Maybe my grandmother’s green thumb went to Juan instead of me?

What about you? What simple things bring you joy? What simple things make you grateful?

What’s in a Name?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

You have probably heard these lines before, but in case you didn’t read the Cliff Notes along with your assigned high school reading of this scene, Juliet is pining away, after meeting Romeo and learning he’s a Montague. The Montague’s are family rivals to Juliet’s Capulet clan. Juliet muses that although her newly beloved is a  Montague, what matters is who he is, and not what he is called. Ah, love.

We all know this is true. What matters is the person you are and not the name you are given. Unless, of course, you are a young boy with a spanish sounding name, growing up in a largely white, suburban neighborhood, like my husband, Juan Rafael. Or Juan. Or Ralph. Yes, Ralph. He became Ralph when he was in first grade and the nuns at St. Hedwig couldn’t say Juan Rafael.  Now, with a name like St. Hedwig, why the nuns felt compelled to give Juan a more English sounding name is beyond me.

Juan Rafael is a beautiful name, and sounds especially nice when it’s said with a Spanish accent. But, when my husband was growing up in the 70’s  and the nuns at his Catholic elementary school couldn’t pronounce his name, they asked him to for the english equivalent. He told them Juan was John, and Rafael was Ralph. They nuns decided to call him Ralph. He was Ralph all though elementary and high school. Even his Colombian family called him Ralph.  When he got to college Ralph took back his name and became Juan. He also changed his political party, joined MECHA and became active in politics, but that’s another story.

So, when I was pregnant with our child,  and Juan and I learned it was a boy, we began to consider names. We knew we wanted something that would translate to Spanish, but we had a hard time agreeing on anything. Then, we recalled where our son was conceived–in Acapulco, Mexico, during a celebratory wedding weekend for some family friends. The groom was named Diego. Diego. It was perfect. Not too ordinary. No tricky spanish pronunciation, but a name that translated to Spanish. We announced to my family our intention of naming our son the Spanish equivalent of James.  My dad, Jesus, loved the name we’d chosen. My dad, whose name is a popular choice among latinos, and who probably fought his own demons because of his moniker, thought Diego was a perfect choice for his only grandson who would be born of two latino parents. But then again, my father, who has a strong sense of pride in our own Mexican culture, would have been happy if Juan and I named our son after the Aztec ruler, Cuahtemoc. My mother wasn’t too sure of our choice. She asked me, “You’re really going to name him Diego?” Yes, I really am.

When our son was born, he did not look like a “Diego.” He looked like, well, a red, squishy faced, hairy little monkey.  One day I sat down to nurse my little monkey and turned on the TV.  As I  changed channels I came across Nickelodeon TV and I I saw this:

What? A kid’s show with a little brown-skinned explorer boy with jungle animals as his friends, named Diego? The show was “Go Diego Go.” It was kind of cute, but still obnoxious enough that I suddenly began to doubt my choice of moniker for my little monkey. How often would he be teased about his name? Would the theme song follow him onto the school yard and beyond? Luckily, I had been living under a rock and didn’t realize how popular the show was. It was a favorite among the pre-school set. By the time Diego entered pre-school, the name had a certain cache to it. My mother even came around, and told me that Diego’s name suited him perfectly.

I felt very pleased with myself about the name we had chosen. I even celebrated it when I planned his 3rd birthday party with a Go Diego Go theme.

One day, not long after Diego entered kindergarten he came home telling me about the friends he’d made. There was Ben, Ethan, Chris, Matt and a little boy with a biblical name, Oshea. Diego asked me why couldn’t he be named something else. Something more simple. Why couldn’t he be called Ben or, even better, Oshea?  Sigh.

Sunday Offerrings – A Day at the Races

Today we went to at a Cub Scout event, the Soap Box Derby. The Derby is an annual event where the boys race homemade cars. The boys steer the cars with their feet as it goes along the slightly downhill, winding course. In case things get a little scary on those hairpin turns, the boys use a hand brake to slow themselves down. The runs are timed and the boys compete against each other.

Diego’s Cub Scout pack is a really nice group of families and boys. I like the cub scouting program because I think it helps to remind boys about what it means to be a kid. The kind of kid who plays outdoors in the water on hot summer days, goes camping, and takes hikes though the woods. Sometimes my boys become so hooked into the video games and television they forget about going outside and playing around. Today, they were reminded of that.

And I was too.

My "pit crew" readies me for a race.

But Diego did much better than I did.

Here’s my attempt:

Obviously, Diego did a lot better than I did!

3rd Place Finish!!

All Creatures Great and Small, Except Slugs

All things bright and beautiful,

All creatures great and small,

All things wise and wonderful,

The Lord God made them all.

-Cecil F. Alexander, 1848.

I am generally okay with most creatures great and small, except for three small things, roaches, rodents and slugs. But, Diego loves all creatures great and small, especially slugs.  Diego once picked up a slug and excitedly let it crawl on his forearm. He held it out to me and told me, “Here, Mommy, if you let it crawl on you it tickles and leaves a shiny mark!” No thanks.  I first wrote about Diego’s love of slugs here, my first blog post ever.

Diego loves to explore the wilds of our backyard and capture animals and insects. He has a fascination with these creatures, as I suspect most boys do.  In fact, I am sure as most boys do. My other son, 12 year-old Nico’s pet…

Spike the Bearded Dragon.

Spike, perched on my shoulder.

See? I really am okay with most creatures great and small.

So, it does not  surprise me or creep me out when Diego occasionally asks for a jar or a box of some kind to house his roly-poly pets, insects, or whatever. It does, however, creep me out when he asks for a jar to house his pet slug.  He did this the other day, while I was in the middle of making dinner,  otherwise known as throwing food on the table for the kids to inhale.  I absent-mindedly gave him a clean glass jar without a lid. I told him we could punch holes in foil and use it as a cover. I did not see what he did next,  but I have since learned that he promptly placed “Sluggy” in the jar, without foil, and put it in our TV cabinet in the family room.

The next day I got a phone call while I was at work. It was our babysitter, Marian Poppins.

MP: Hi Diana. Have you seen Diego’s pet slug?

Me: What? What pet slug?

MP:  The one he said he put in the jar you gave him. He said he  put the jar and the slug inside the TV cabinet.

Me: Oh. My. God. I didn’t know he was going to put a slug in that jar, and I certainly did not know he would bring it in the house. Please find it!

MP: Okay, we’ll look for it.

Later, I checked in with her and asked if she found the slug. She replied that they looked all over and could not find him, or her. (Do slugs have a gender?)

I have not walked barefoot in my house since.

My son, the ….?

This is what Diego recently said he wants to be when he grows up:

1)  Scientist – I am so proud!

2) Spy –  No doubt, influenced by his recent multiple viewings of The Spy Next Door, Spy Kids and Spy Kids II. Thank you Netflix.

3) Assassin – Okay,  I think it’s time to cut him off from Halo and the X-box.

4) Judge –  Perhaps it has something to do with his dad and I being lawyers, because I am not even sure he knows what a judge does.

5)  Cop –  Doesn’t every boy  say this sometime in their life?

6) Vice President – Really? I don’t even know what to think about this.

A Hairy Situation

It’s summer and around here that means it time for summer haircuts, for the boys. When Nico was younger, and before he had an opinion about his appearance, he would  get a buzz cut for the summer. This was a good solution since he has a head of hair that becomes a soggy mop after swimming, and a wool coat during our long, hot days.  Now that Nico is older,  he still gets a shorter cut but he does not like the shaved look, so he no longer gets a buzz cut.

However, since Diego is only 6 years-old, I figured that I could still have some say about his hair. Boy, I have never been more wrong about anything in my life. Maybe it’s the influence of his older siblings, or maybe it’s the Justin Bieber and Big Time Rush look, but Diego has definite ideas about his hair. He did not want a buzz cut. No way. I didn’t realize how much his hair meant to him, until this weekend.

Juan had to run some errands and decided to take Diego with him so they could stop and get a haircut.  First, they went to the pet store. The pet store had its usual weekend dog and cat adoption fair. And as usual, Juan sent me a text which read “Can we get her?” and attached a photo of one of the dogs.   Our dog,  Mischief , died last November, and our family has been missing a dog in our lives.  But right now? Life is really busy, we may travel on a vacation.  I texted Juan back. “Cute dog, but not now.”

Moving along, Juan’s next stop was Supercuts. Juan told the hairstylist that Diego needed a summer haircut. The hairstylist talked with Juan and another hairstylist and they agreed they would use the buzzers at a level 3, but somebody forgot to tell Diego. I am sure if they had,  he would have told them he didn’t want his hair short.  By the time the hairstylist began buzzing the top of Diego’s hair, it was too late. Diego was mortified. Juan thought it looked cute and smiled at him. This was absolutely the wrong reacation because Diego understood Juan’s smile to mean he was laughing at him. Then,  the meltdown started. Big, fat tears rolling down his face. Sobs so thick he choked on them. The hairstylist tried soothing him. Juan tried to calm him.  When he realized it was past the point of no return, he carried Diego out of there and drove home.  On the way, Juan called me in a panic. He warned me to tell the kids at home not to say a thing when they got home. I went outside and met them in the driveway. Diego’s eyes were swollen, and he was hiccupping from his sobs.  He refused to get out of the car, even though it was 90 degrees outside. I promised him he could go through the back door and bypass his sisters inside. We got him in the shower and he continued to cry,  curled up in a ball on the shower floor. I could not reason with him. Finally, I told him he had three choices:

1) Stay in the bathroom until his hair grew out.

2) Act like his haircut was not big deal and then  others would not think it was a big deal.

3) Wear a hat.

He considered number 1 but decided since he could not play x-Box in the bathroom, locking himself inside was not a viable option. He completely dismissed number 2.  He decided that number 3 was the best option, but only if he could wear his army hat.

Of course, I agreed and brought him the hat.  (He has not taken that hat off yet, even in church.)  Juan had also told Diego that he would take him back to the pet store and look again at the dog he had seen earlier. Juan promised to buy Diego ice cream too. (I know, it’s a lot. Don’t judge me.)  So, between the hat, and the promise of ice cream, we finally stopped the haircut meltdown. Oh, and  that return trip to the pet store? Well, let’s just say that even though I knew we’d eventually get another dog, I thought we should wait a little while longer. But, how could I have said “Not now” to this face:

And this face.

Meet Molly.

A Birthday, a Graduation and an Anniversary*

We all went to church today and celebrated another special holiday in the church calendar.  It was Pentecost, the birthday of the Christian church.  So, in addition to our usual worship service, where the kids often assist as acolytes and I assist giving communion, the service had a festive flair.  There were flags during the procession, incense, and  birthday cake and a jazz trio on the lawn after the service.  Even the altar looked festive because it was  adorned in the color for Pentacost, which also happens to be my favorite color–red. Underneath our albs many of us wore red, including me.

Red shoes

With me and the older kids participating in the service, Juan and Diego sat by themselves in the pew.  Juan kept Diego entertained by letting Diego draw on  on pew cards. Diego drew the same thing he always draws:

A Christmas scene

When Juan asked him why he always draws a Christmas scene, Diego said he would draw something else. And he drew this:

Easter scene drawn by Diego

I guess he doesn’t know how to draw a Pentacost scene.


After church we had another celebration to attend, graduation.  Diego graduated in cub scouts today.  He graduated from a Tiger cub to a Wolf cub.  The ceremony is called “bridging” and marked by the boys from his pack crossing over a bridge. We took a picnic lunch to a local park and celebrated with the other families. How quckly time flies. I remember when we were at the same park watching Nico bridge as a cub scout. Now Nico is  a boy scout and working his way up in rank.


Diego goes from a Tiger cub to Wolf, and trades his orange scarf for a yellow one.

After all that you think we’d be done with our celebrating. But wait, there’s more. We all went out to dinner to celebrate my parents 50th wedding  anniversary.  Through their  50 years together my parents have managed to raise four kids, have 9 grandchildren and share some wonderful, and not so wonderful experiences. Through it all they have stayed comitted to each other and our family   We like to joke that my we don’t know how my mom managed to do it.  As if to prove our point, my dad told us his own joke tonight.  He said that my mom saw him crying on their anniversary. When my mom asked my dad why he was crying, he told her that  50 years ago my grandfather caught my dad and mom together and, with his shotgun aimed at my dad,  my grandfather asked him to either marry my mom or go to jail. My dad jokingly recounted how he chose to marry my mom.  Again, my mom asked him, why he was crying. My dad explained,  he was crying because he realized that if had chosen jail, he would be a free man now.


My parents on our recent trip to New York

*This post was inspired by the post, Blessings, Tonys and Zombies, in Accidental Stepmom. Check her out.