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10 … It’s A Moment

22 Jul

I saw him, still asleep in his Star Wars pant pajamas and green Pokemon shirt. His bedhead hair looking like the best Flock-of-Seagulls-Billy-Idol masterpiece in desperate need of a haircut. But as he puts it … I’m on vacation mom.

It had been a decade and I couldn’t believe it. I knew it was gonna happen, I mean with science and time and all that, I knew 10 would be coming. It comes for everyone if you’re lucky. Every birthday matters, but this one sat with me a little longer.

I was in the moment. I stopped and looked at him for a bit before his sister came in ready to hug and squeeze and squish the birthday boy until smiles and laughter filled the room.

I was trying to stop time with my Jedi mom mind powers. Just for a moment …

He woke up to hugs, smiles, and our annual birthday song, courtesy of the Beatles. The day had officially begun and years 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, were gone. He was in double digit territory now, but that didn’t mean the years were lost. They were still there sitting beneath the surface, nestled in his heart … 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 with all the memories they created.

The chocolate cakes with the chocolate frosting, the love for jumping in the pool and the power of the cannonball and it’s amazing splash potential, the fun in water slide adventures, the love for Word World, Wonder Pets, Sesame Street, and Mighty Machines, and how that turned into a love for America Ninja Warrior, Running Wild with Bear Grylls, Forged in Fire, Shark Week and anything involving STAR WARS, Superheros DC or Avengers. The enjoyment of those plastic golf clubs and baseball bats and how that developed into hockey, tennis, and anything where you get to hit a something.

10 brings up hundreds of books and night time reading favorites. 10 brings memories of his laughter that starts as a giggle and then turns into a full blown crack up. 10 brings memories of his early-riser pleasant nature, nothing grouchy about this kid in the morning, and his love of morning cartoons. 10 brings memories of meeting his baby sister in the hospital and being excited to see her. 10 brings memories of all the feel-good songs he used to get his day started and pump himself up, of the awesome dance moves that came with those songs. From One Direction, One Republic, Maroon 5, Cold Play, Michael Jackson and U2, to Aerosmith, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Earth, Wind and Fire, and The Beatles. 10 reminds me of all the Famous Amos and Oreo cookies gobbled up after pizza, pasta, tacos, or burritos, of the chocolate chip pancakes in the morning, and grilled cheese sandwiches or In-and-Out burgers at lunch. 10 reminds me that something special just happened and I better hold on to the rest of this ride … it’s gonna be an epic.

And we created a new memory, a Sandbucket List Adventure to celebrate double digits.

After morning celebrations and birthday present unwrapping, we headed off to the Go Kart race track where my speed machine revved his very first engine.

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Even though I was a little nervous seeing him up against teenagers and preteens and the speed in which they zigged and zagged, I didn’t have that crazy mom moment. I just smiled and said good luck, and remember the red lever is the brake. He only crashed four times on the hairpin turn in his first race but still managed to come in third place. His competitive nature propelled him forward in his other races. He inched his way to first place in his last two races. Four races in all and he felt awesome after each one.

And I was glad to have witnessed it.

Year 10 was filled with Go Kart Driving adventures, XBox challenges on NHL 17, and dinner at our favorite Italian place. Chocolate gelato included.

The birthday wish was saved for the chocolate cupcake at home. The birthday song was just like every year, loud and happy, but this chocolate frosting felt a little more chocolatey.

10 …. it’s a moment.

Buen Camino my friends!

 

 

 

 

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Celebrating With Napoleon-Dynamite-Soul-Train-Solid-Gold Dances on Cloudy Days

15 Jul

So I stood there with my chocolate cupcake and chocolate frosting stopping time. Thinking about a day filed with tropical fish, jelly fish, penguins and sharks thinking about the seven years this amazing person has been in my life, mixed in with the eight-year anniversary of an awesome person leaving.

My daughter’s 7th birthday and my Dad’s passing.

It’s not a fun thing to feel a twinge of sadness on a day marked for happiness. It helped to remember that he liked to celebrate life on birthdays. My Dad enjoyed the sweetness of chocolate cake and frosting. He battled depression, but enjoyed laughing and feeling good. He didn’t like sadness and wanted to feel good, so he did what he could to make that happen. And that hard. He had his ups and downs, but he tried and succeeded on most days. Any chance at smiling he took it.

And so … on my daughter’s 7th birthday I did just that.

Any chance for smile and I took it.

Turning seven … that was something to smile about. The adventures of this little Ninja Warrior take me beyond smiles and go deep into laughter. She’s been the Rainbow Brite of my life during cloudy days.

On the last day of being six she mastered the blue and green water slides at the pool and cannon-balled her way to the 4 1/2 feet section of the pool.

“You don’t need to catch me,” she says.

On the last day of being six I didn’t catch her. But on the first day of being seven, I gave her the squishiest hug and the funkiest dance as we listened to the Beatles sing Today is Your Birthday.

I celebrated her contagious laughter and her impromptu Napoleon-Dynamite-Soul-Train-Solid-Gold Dancer caliber happy dances after something good happens to her. I celebrated the awesome softball player she grew into. I celebrated the love she has for art, painting, drawing, coloring, and anything in the Bob Ross world. I celebrated her love for Multi-Grain Cheerios as her favorite breakfast meal, Mortadella and Salami sandwiches as her favorite snack, and black beans any time of day. I celebrate her enjoyment of baking cakes, cookies, and cupcakes, and laugh when she doesn’t want to eat them and just taste the frosting. I celebrated her adventurous spirit and willingness to give any kind of rollercoaster a try, as long as she meets the height requirement. I celebrated her love for hugs, that part I think was passed down to her from my Dad. I celebrated her love for the If You Give A Mouse a Cookie series of books and TV show. I celebrated her for being a caring sister who loves her brother so much that sometimes she bursts his personal space bubble. I celebrate her for being smart, strong, and sensitive at the same time. I celebrated her love for penguins at the aquarium and her first time touching baby sharks.

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We celebrated turning seven with a Napoleon-Dynamite-Soul-Train-Solid-Gold Dancer caliber happy dance and that made any twinge of sadness disappear. I laughed and felt joy and I knew if my Dad was watching that day he would be cracking up too and feeling joy. His spirit still lives in me and in his granddaughter.

 

Buen Camino my friends!

 

 

 

 

Hugs and Moments of Silence

10 Jun

He never knew who Michael Jordan was, but learned more about him this week.

You see, my son had to once again learn a life lesson, but this time it came through the world of sports.

Now not everyone is a superstar, but everyone has something to bring to the table. Some are offense, some defense. Everyone thrives in a different environment. But hearts can be broken no matter what side of the ball you’re on.

He loves hockey and baseball, and does really well in both. In fact, he often practices during the off-season, and while the big selection process took place this week, he’d been practicing his drills, skating, and watching videos online.

He was ready. He felt ready. He took the ice, just like Andre Agassi would take the court. A monster on defense. Now as a parent, I know many inflate their kids’ achievements and spread it on pretty thick. However, I know my kid. I know he’s not Wayne Gretzky  … he’s still a work in progress. But he falls in the upper levels of the spectrum there. So when he was not selected to the top shelf team and was chosen for what was considered the JV Squad, it was a serious burn. His spirit deflated, and his confidence crushed. He had worked so hard.

It was difficult to watch  …

I had to step up my parent game. This was when I needed my cape and superpowers in tact.

Keeping your head up when disappointment punches you in the stomach is hard. I’ve felt it plenty of times in life, so I knew what he was going through. I put my arm around his shoulder and we just sat there for a minute.

I had to bust out my best Friday Night Lights Coach Taylor Speech. But I waited until we  left.

I’m proud of you. I think you gave it everything you had and I saw it. Your old coach saw it. You saw it yourself. You walked off the ice knowing you had no regrets. And that’s how it should always be no matter what. You’re  a good hockey player.  And you’re an even more amazing person. Sometimes we just have to work a little harder because people don’t see what we see. They missed it. You know who Michael Jordan is, right? …”

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Everyone had this amazing picture made into a poster up on their wall … I was still  Magic Johnson fan. Always. But for the purposes of this story I needed Jordan.

 

We sat on the bench, outside the pizza place, for a little while longer. He listened to Jordan’s origin story, and how when he was a kid he got cut from the team. He wasn’t even picked. But that didn’t stop him from making a monster comeback. He knew they had missed it.

There wasn’t much to say after that. Sometimes as a parent, I’ve learned that hugging works well during moments of silence.

Buen Camino my friends …

Finding A Way

3 Jun

It wasn’t intentional but it happened anyway. I stepped away for a minute.

Apparently I’d been carrying a heavy emotional workload and was unaware of this burden. It was emotionally draining and produced an unexpected writing sabbatical.

The last week of school happened and emotions were fully charged in everyone’s hearts.  Some fifth-grade moms in tears, some fourth-grade moms with emotional anxiety of what was to come next May. I overheard countless conversations about how these moms didn’t know how they were going to handle their kids graduating from elementary school, how their kids turned 10 this year and how fast that decade passed. This realization hit them as the school-year came to an end.

But this wasn’t something that made me sad.

The year hadn’t gone by fast at all. Our family had the power to stop time when life was good, with gratitude talks at night and notes in The Jar of Awesome. We also found a way to move ahead when life was crappy and things didn’t pan out the way we had hoped. The year moved at just the right roller-coaster speed.

But I was happy the school year had ended.

While it was an amazing year of triumph, growth, energy, and awesomeness for my daughter, it was a time of heartbreak, rough edges, disappointment, and life lessons for my son. This year was the most difficult for him and we haven’t even gotten to middle school.

That seemed to worry me.

I was happy for my daughter, but sad for my son. A tough spot to be in for a parent, but I imagine not the first time I’d be feeling this exact feeling. I imagine it happens often for parents. The ups and downs of family life.

And I know we’re supposed to go with the flow, but in truth I was relieved when the year ended. I was glad that my son didn’t have to deal with the harshness of friends who were no longer his friends, of eating alone during lunch because he didn’t know any of the kids in his new class, of kids who friends with him when they were in the same class, but who turned into acquaintances that sometimes said hello and sometimes didn’t because they no longer sat at the same table, or because he was into sports and they were into video games, or of being with a teacher who didn’t see his potential and wasn’t as inspirational as Stand and Deliver, but he still managed to find a way to get good grades make it to the end of the year.

The thing was he seemed all right. These social difficulties didn’t dent his spirit, as he’s always been independent. I’ve always tried to tell him not to follow the crowd, but to follow what makes him happy whether it lines up with what’s popular or not. He often played sports at lunch and got along well with the underclassmen. It was just difficult to see him have to find a way to get through the year instead of it just being a good year. It was the finding the way part … I thought that would happen when he was much older, but this lesson came early.

The year ended and relief set in and I had to take a moment.

As a parent I tend to worry a lot about what’s going on with my kid, is he doing all right, what happens at recess, how’s it going in science, why is this kid not your buddy anymore, how’s it going in class. All these questions pop up when I think about him, but when I was going to school, I don’t remember thinking any of these things myself as a student. I just went to school. I learned. I played tetherball and basketball. I studied. I don’t remember wanting to be cool or worrying about playing by myself. I always just played. I found a way to make it through school.

I had to remind myself of that. I had to remember that he’s a strong kid and that sometimes I worry more than I should about the ups and downs. And although there were times when chocolate ice cream and hugs needed to be there after school, most of the time fourth grade was all right. It wasn’t a spectacular year, but it was all right. He found a way, we found a way.

This year will still mark a decade of his life, but just part of it, the part filled with love of science and math, of playing America Ninja Warrior, soccer, and basketball at recess, of eating alone at lunch sometimes and being O.K. with it, of working on more book reports and oral presentations than any other class but being great at it, of knowing enjoying board games and Pokemon cards, of trips to the beach on Sundays, of watching Wild Kratts, Animal Planet, America Ninja Warrior, Star Wars, and Forged in Fire with his sister, of Boys Scouts, hockey games and baseball practice, of still letting me hug him before school and giving him my blessing, and of him charging me and hugging me tight everyday after school.

As we reached a milestone I was reminded of his innocence and resilience, of his heart and of his strength. As life didn’t turn out the way we expected this year, he found a way, (well together we found a way) turn things around. Hope you’re finding your way …

 

Buen Camino, my friends …

 

 

What Matters Most

16 May

I’m not gonna lie … While everyone smiled and said things were good or great with enthusiasm and shared happy faces on social media, it was just all right for me.

Not a 24-hour marathon of spectacular. But I did have moments, and at the end of the day, when other people had tried to bring me down during the day, or made backhanded comments, or strangers were just rude, irritating, or projecting their negative attitude onto me, I still was able to remember those feel-good moments.

I settled in for the night and realized it wasn’t really a failure of a day, if I had moments like these.

You see most Mother’s Days are supposed to be stress free. They’re the one day you’re not supposed to do stuff. No dishes. No chores. No stress. All day something good, to know … Hey … I know what you do is hard and you’re appreciated. And at the end of the day when I found the cool side of my pillow, I realized the most important people in my life gave me moments like that, so it didn’t matter what other people said or did. My kids gave me something genuine and I stopped long enough to realize it, and that felt good.

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In the midst of things not falling into place this weekend and it not being a Facebook worthy adventure (even though I don’t post anything on there to begin with) I was grateful for the bowl of awesome Honey Nut Cheerios that was fixed up for me by my Nick Jr. Squad here. I was thankful for the cards created out of paper and crayon, written in their best fourth and first-grade writing. I was happy to see the ceramic purple and turquoise uneven masterpieces that melted my heart. I was glad it stopped sprinkling and the sun came out just as we got to the baseball field, just in time to enjoy Plan B and watch the players take the field.

These were the moments that I thought about at night. They might have seemed small to other people but turned out to be Big Time for me. I hope moms out there were able to find something in their day to hold onto, even if it was just one thing. It’s hard to find it sometimes, especially when you’re surrounded by everyone’s spectacular, amazing adventures caught online.

But don’t worry about what you see out there, sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes it’s just for show. It’s all flash and no substance. Thinking about what you’re grateful for and finding the moments that made you smile or pause throughout the day will be what fills you up. It will be what matters most, and what you remember.

So Buen Camino my friends! I hope all the moms out there had a good weekend.

 

 

How The Story Ended

18 Apr

It ended the way it was supposed to.

You see, when I got there, I took a moment. During the morning rush, chaos of leaving my kids, driving through traffic, and feeling overwhelmed and nervous with emotions, I stopped and took a moment. During the whole process of rising to the top, I took a moment when I saw the poster and I had it.

I had the something-bigger-than-myself emotion running through me. I had the gratitude and humility of the amazing kindness shown to me by my supporters who contributed to my cause. They helped me raise over $1000 for the American Lung Association in honor of my father, and they helped impact someone else’s life.

I had my dad’s spirit watching over me, knowing I haven’t forgotten him, knowing that he’s part of the reason I am who I am.

As the race began, I had the why in my heart and it helped my get through the how.

You see, there’s something that’s always certain about this race. It’s NOT easy. It never is, no matter how hard I train. It tests every muscle in my legs. It doesn’t make it easier to know what’s coming. I was still anxious and nervous. But I looked up to the sky and knew the reason why. So, I turned on the music, heard Los Polifaceticos bust out Camaron Pelao and took the first step. But never fear La Chona was track #3 and Footloose was on the horizon.

Then, right there on the eighth floor was a randomly placed poster of my father, there he was smiling, sitting next to me and my sister, with the title Why We Climb. There were posters of a lot of loved ones on the way to the top, and it tugged at my heart. The Rocky Balboa spirit surged.

 

As I climbed, my breathing slowed down and my legs felt heavy, my body became acutely aware of the claustrophobic dynamics and inner architectural workings of staircases. Once again, they appeared to lack the free-flowing breeze of the outdoors, which apparently is extremely necessary to oxygenate my muscles. My Randy Macho Man Savage strength was severely tested by the time I hit the 14th floor and I knew … I knewwwwwwwwwwwwww I’d be using that CVS three-dollar coupon for a tube of BenGay and that ice packs would be my knees’ best friends. No amount of pre-or-post stretching would have helped. By the time I reached the 31st floor my calves were not happy. They were intensely screaming profanity at me … in Spanish. There were a lot of people feeling that wrath as I passed some of them on the stairs resting, sitting, hunched over, drinking water, or in need of an oxygen mask.

But I never stopped.

I kept my Dad on my mind, and in my heart, and when I saw floor 61, I sprinted up the stairs like Usain Bolt until I saw the sunlight and reached the roof.

I made it to the top … 15 minutes, 28 seconds.

15 minutes and 28 seconds of intensity, of hard work, of sweat, of emotion, of heart, and of will. 15 minutes and 28 seconds of honoring a man that sacrificed so much for me.

Buen Camino my friends!

 

But Why Do You Do It?

13 Apr

I always get a little nervous before it happens.

Anything can happen … and some people don’t make it.

I’m lucky.

Knock on wood. I don’t want to jinx myself.

But it’s an important day for me, may be not for my entire family, but definitely for me.

Well … why do you do it?  I mean I understand it’s a race and it’s for charity, but why do you do it? Why do you have to climb all those stairs?

No one had ever asked me that. They seemed to understand the why and the girl asking me also seemed to understand the why, it’s for my Dad. She was just confused as to the why of the location. Why scale 1,393 steps? Why go up 63 floors in the name of the American Lung Association?

It’s a metaphor, I thought.

It’s for all those people who couldn’t breathe, who felt the heaviness in their chest, the gasping for air, and the claustrophobic sense of not getting enough oxygen. It’s putting yourself in their position, in people like my dad, who died from Interstitial Lung Disease, or people with COPD, or lung cancer, or asthma. It’s putting yourself in their shoes and fighting your way past the challenges. It’s about feeling an ounce of what they feel and rising to the top, because they fight for every breath, just like we’d be doing.

It’s hard. But that’s probably why I do it, and why it makes me nervous. The difficulty level of it all. But it’s also the reason why I get the strength to go forward, because I got him in my heart. I got him on my shoulder. I got him and other supporters watching my back and cheering me on from a far. It’s hard but I got a good reason behind my motivation.

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For the sixth year in ‘ll be taking on the Fight for Air Climb this Saturday, racing 63 stories, 1,393 steps, in hopes of raising enough money to help others suffering from lung disease.

It’s 1,393 steps. And I feeeeeeeeeeeeeeeel them every single one of them when I climb. But I make it to the top, scared, nervous, or Gatorade-Commercial ready. I make it because I think of the  1,393 times my Dad was there for me, when I was in diapers, or the 1,393 times he was there for me when I was kid, or the 1,393 times he was there for me when I was away in school. He was there … the good, the bad, and the ugly he was there. And that’s not to say that we had our fair share of blowouts, we probably had 1,393 arguments, but he was still my Dad and still my friend. And that’s why I climb.

I climb to honor his memory, his hard-working life to provide a better future, his tireless days of clocking in and out of a job he may not have dreamed of, but showed up because it’s what helped keep us afloat.

So why do I do it?

I climb because everything I am I owe to him, and it’s the very least I could do.

Buen Camino my friends!!

 

 

 

I Found My Peace Among the Kitchen-Aid Mixer and Melted Chocolate … Happy 70th Birthday Dad

31 Jan

70 is a big birthday. It’s a time to reflect on your life, think about vacation plans, hobbies, or things you have yet to try, dreams you have yet make real. At least that’s what I imagine it to be … a big cake, surrounded by family and friends, some chaos of course, but making an awesome wish and blowing out the candles anyway.

This, of course, did not happen.

I spent the early morning running at the park as the sun peaked out for its daily appearance. I took some time to pause for a moment and wonder what he would have been up to or what conversations we would have had that day if he was still here. I imagine I would have woken him up to take a morning walk and then possibly taken him out to breakfast.

Nothing flashy, but just time well spent hearing stories I had yet to hear.

My Dad would have turned 70 years old yesterday and as it happens every year his presence is missed even more on this particular day. Father’s Day and Thanksgiving are big ones of course, but his birthday celebrates the day he was brought into this world and the day his journey, and ultimately mine, began.

Birthdays are times for celebration and remembering the best parts of the life cut short, but I couldn’t help feel that nagging twinge of pain, the kind that never goes away when you lose a parent, or loved one. The thing is you’re not supposed to be in mourning, you’re just not. But there is a moment of sadness that grips my heart because he’s not sharing the same sunshine.

And I tried not to let it hold onto me too long, because the sadness can linger all day or all week. You miss them. You just do and you’re always going to miss them because their presence was more powerful than the butterfly effect. It directly impacted your future and your kids’ future.

It wasn’t until I was alone in the kitchen mixing up Julia Child’s chocolate almond cake with hot cocoa almond frosting that a calmness settled in. I knew he wasn’t going to be there to enjoy a hearty slice or two with his cup of coffee. I knew there would be no stories and laughter at the table.

Then why do you celebrate someone who’s not there?

I celebrate because I remember when they were here and it mattered. His imprint and voice still effects how I live my life, and how I dream my dreams. I celebrate even though I’m sad. And even though I couldn’t hear his laughter that day and see him blow out his candles I knew my kids would.  I knew they would have a couple of slices and that there would be new stories at family dinner.

My Dad on his adventure

Not many people in my inner circle know how this pulls at me in different directions. I don’t speak much about my dad’s birthday with others when they ask, hey what are you doing today?

I don’t mention the cake, or balloons, or dinner of his favorite treats. I tell the kids, of course, but I keep it pretty hush-hush which is weird because I write about him and his birthday a lot. Don’t know if that happens to other people, but writing about it feels better than talking about it. At least to adults anyway. The kids just … they just seem to get it. They get that birthdays are important. It’s simple for them. Frosting is required when things are important.

And so …

I found my peace among the Kitchen-Aid Mixer, melted chocolate, butter, flour, the egg whites, and sugar. I remembered some of the stories of him playing soccer when he was 10, or of his dream of taking his mother back to Spain, I remember his affinity for corn-beef sandwiches on rye bread with a pickle for lunch, or his cup of coffee before bedtime, or his random call just to say hello. I remembered some of the stories yesterday and thought about him as the breeze blew and I felt the wind on my face as the sun shined.

I thought maybe that was his way of blowing out the candle, while we sang Happy Birthday.

But it could have been just the wind, like my kids said. And I needed to hurry up because the candle wax was dripping and it couldn’t melt on the cake … you know … because frosting is important.

 

Buen Camino my friends.

 

Princess Leia and Wonder Woman Unite

23 Jan

It was a different kind of powerful that day … a surge of hope and promise among so many attacks and so much destruction felt good.

It was different this time, though.

My kids were with me and the connections to the movement much stronger.

Recently watching some of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches and marches, encouraged them to come with me, which was a pleasant surprise. To march along with thousands of others at the Women’s March for the second year in a row this weekend and have them by my side pulled at my heart. I don’t know why I got so emotional marching with them and having them chant alongside me, marching for women’s rights, the environment, Dreamers, healthcare, people of color, education, and the First Amendment.

Everyone marched for different reasons, as every woman, and man, had different priorities. But everyone was there in solidarity because they all wanted one thing: change. Everyone united and willing to share their voices for a better future, and the fact that my kids were sharing their voices made me proud. Proud to the point where my heart felt it, the pit of my stomach felt it, the mom in me felt it. To know that they’ll look back upon it when they’re older and say, as a kid I did something to make my future better. I was part of something bigger than myself, I was part of something that helped register voters and make a difference for the better, I was part of history. That made me proud.

The fact that my daughter was among so many signs encouraging women strength and diversity was promising. Her biggest connection was the Wonder Woman force appearing throughout the march. Beginning to sow the seed of empowerment, self-esteem, and strength at an early age was important. And the wave of Wonder Women provided an eye-opening experience.

 

 

My son’s connection came through the Star Wars theme of course. He was unaware of all the Princess Leia signs he would encounter. He made a point to let me know that she was a general in the Resistance and a good one at that. Seeing Princess Leia’s signs everywhere stating that a woman’s place was in the resistance helped him relate to the strength and importance of a woman’s voice, of his mom’s and his sister’s, as well as his own. He mentioned that Luke Skywalker was also there and played a huge role in taking down Darth Vader.

So in a unification of super heroes and intergalactic leaders from galaxies far, far, away  we cemented our hope for the future through this ever growing grass movement. And I’m happy to say that I saw hundreds of voter registration forms being filled out all morning long.

Everyone there was ready for change, in every avenue of our lives. The time has come to make things better. United we stand for a better future, marching toward equality and justice. Hope is there in 2018.

Buen Camino my friends!

Pockets and Swimming In it

2 Dec

Sometimes it’s hard to even breathe with all the disastrous efforts attacking the  substance of our very own existence. You get so angry and enraged that you can’t even form sentences without profanity.

But sometimes there are moments of zen that give you an opening for happiness during the dark times in our country. Small moments that happen in your family, community, or city that make you breathe easier. I cling to these pockets of happiness. They give me hope that even though on a national scale my country is plummeting into the depths of disgrace and lining the pockets of big business and the rich, there are moments that can still bring positivism and light.

I’m a big fan of The Arts, most writers by nature are, but sometimes it becomes difficult to expose your kids to the world of art and all its dynamics. With budget constraints schools become a limited resource for artistic mediums. Most of the time you have to do it on your own, go to museums, or sign up for classes, or become a poor imitation of the amazing Bob Ross.

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He was awesome.

I make it a point to instill the exploration of science and the creativity of the Arts on weekends with my kids. I feel I’ve got to take a proactive approach in their learning development. And they seem to get a kick out of all the side projects. They’re confident, outgoing and bold with their ideas and opinions. So it surprised me when my youngest was a little hesitant to enter her work in the National Reflections Campaign organized by the PTA at school. I had my own reservations … you know how I feel about the PTA Mommy-and-Me Mafia. But art is art and I introduced her to this opportunity. My daughter wasn’t fond of the idea of people judging her work. I can totally relate to that.

What if I come last? She asked.

That was her biggest fear.

I said I didn’t care whether she came in last, what mattered was whether she enjoyed the process, whether she tried her best and enjoyed creating. I explained to her that a little courage goes a long way. She just needed to take a small step. That’s it. Not everyone is strong enough to take a chance on themselves, to believe in themselves, to submit something. Not everyone has the opportunity, so if you’re given one … take it!

Just a little bit courage goes a long way.

My son needed an extra push too, but nothing major. He seemed on board after I told him he could create a Lego Movie under the Film Production category. Lego and Movie. That’s all it took for him to find his bravery.  My daughter chose the Visual Arts category, and submitted her painting. She said she had a good time and that the use of glitter was a “awesome”.

They both used this year’s theme, “Within Reach”, differently as my son explained through his piece that Justice is Always Within Reach … whenever Batman is around. While my daughter explored Kindness is Within Reach through a dinosaur painting that sparkled with just the right amount of glitter.

Fast forward like four weeks and I get an email, two emails, informing me that both of my kids won first place in their respective categories for the entire school. Now they’re both off to the District Level judging.

Pocket of happiness. Right there. Swimming in it.

I was happy for them, really happy. But even happier because my daughter found her strength. She was brave enough to take a chance on herself, and believe. She learned that trusting herself and being courageous is a good thing.

That’s a happy mom moment right there. A huge pocket of happiness … The kind that gets me through rough days in this world. I was so grateful for courage that day.

Buen Camino my friends!