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Words on Wednesday

28 Jul

It’s not always easy celebrating someone’s life while at the same time remembering someone who passed away. It’s an anniversary you’d rather forget. 

July becomes a test of mental and emotional strength every year. Finding the right balance of happiness for kids getting older and reaching milestones and fighting back the sadness because grandpa’s gone and he’s missing out on life he would have enjoyed living. No advice on how to tackle that, how to feel happiness and joy, while sadness lingers in the back and creeps up on you when you don’t expect it. You just take it as it comes and give it what you got.

Finding the happiness in kids turning double digits.  That’s 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 10! Remembering Harold and The Purple Crayon and Goodnight Moon like it was last week. Play-Doh and bubbles. Pictures drawn in Crayola Crayons and paints that come in plastic jars. Rainbows, puppies, snakes, flowers, and smiling stick figures. Now she’s using colored pencils and practicing her best Bob Ross skills on sketch pads and easels with fancy paper. Hitting home runs, watching Bear Grylls, jumping off diving boards, and learning everything about penguins. That’s what happens when kids turn ten.

Then you get a kid turning 13. Yup. The teen begins. Random clerks at a store chuckling and shaking their head at you saying ‘oh, 13, that’s gonna be a fun year for you.’ Like they know something, a parent secret, but not telling you because you’re about to find out in a BIG way. 

13.

Sounds ominous.

I don’t remember it being that way.

But then again I was the 13-year old. Not the parent of one. 

Here we go. On a new roller coaster ride and I don’t know where the turns are, but they’re coming. 

Now no more TV shows with animated characters, they got shows with people and issues. Got my own Wonder Years experience going on here with questions about getting cell phones and driver’s permit. Hang on a second! This one is a to be continued … and those three dots right there, that’s what’s gonna make it interesting. 13 and in 8th grade. I imagine a lot of goings on will be going on. It’s puberty. It’s transition. It’s voice cracking, stinky socks, and peach fuzz on the upper lip about to become a full Magnum P.I. style mustache. It’s funny. But it’s not.

But at least sports is still a common denominator and I still rock as coach and trainer and they come to me for guidance and I can give advice and they’ll listen. Through sports I can still teach life lessons, even without them fully knowing it. It’ll sink it.

I hope. 

13 and 10.

I’ve become a life coach to kids in double digits. It happens to every parent, I know. I’m just realizing it’s happening to me while at the same time celebrating someone that would have been 73, but was taken away too soon.

I imagine a lot of untold stories went with him and I feel bad about that, about not hearing the rest of them, about the unfinished life he had and the years as a grandpa robbed from him. It’s sadness and joy. He probably had so many more memories and pieces of life to share with me, about when he was 10 or 13, or the parent of one. But now I can only hold onto what I got. That’s the tough part. Knowing he had more but we never got around to it because unexpected sickness happened and that sucked. 

From one day to the next. Celebrating your kids to grieving your dad. It’s a state of funk that’s difficult to navigate. But you get up and keep moving. That’s July for me. The world keeps moving even if you want it to stay still. It moves with or without you. 

So I found myself celebrating and being happy one day, sad the next, and bumping it up again the following week. 

No rules on how to do it, just finding ways to live through it.  So even though this writing hiatus was unplanned it was probably needed. Sometimes the words just don’t come out and it was probably for a reason. Settling in and coming off my own birthday as well, trying to turn the page and get the creativity going. I got another 365-day journey around the sun, so it’s a good time to start again. So I went off on an outdoor adventure, away from people, away from the city and tried something new.

Sometimes the Outdoors sprinkles a little magic and you feel different. Sometimes not. 

But luckily that day the cloud of funk lifted and the getaway brought perspective.

 

Buen Camino!

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Sunday Morning … Remembering Your Pops…

20 Jun

Most of the time he would not take the day off. My dad used to work seven days a week for months on end. Then years later he realized that was bad for his health.

Workaholic. Part of the working-class mentality is having that drive, that work ethic to do the hard labor, to show up and take pride in what you do, and provide for your family.

But every once in a while he’d take a vacation though. Day trip, road trip here and there. Take a plane to Guate to visit his mom. He’d call her all the time but didn’t make a regular yearly trip to see her until I was in college. After years and years of hard work he learned that taking a day off was good for his mental well-being.

Monday’s and holidays. Those were his days off, the days he’d sleep in, maybe go to the driving range and hit a few. Go to the movies with my cousin, call to hang out with me, visit my uncle at the cemetery. Eat fried fish at the Marisco place down the street, the one that unfortunately is no longer there. I think the owner sold it a few years back and now it’s just something called a bistro, and the last time I heard of one of those was when Jack Tripper opened up one of his own after working at Angelino’s.

He’d still work on Sunday’s though, even if it was Father’s Day. So if I wasn’t working, I’d make the drive just to hang for a bit at the shop. Told him I’d buy him a cup of coffee. Talk about life. He’d laugh at the thought of his daughter talking about life over a cup of coffee, seeing how I did t drink coffee. But I’d do it anyway.

I’d tell him I’d see him later for dinner, which usually involved a steak, sometimes Italian food, but most of the time steak followed by Lakers game, Dodgers game or HBO.

Today’s the day to think of that. To think about the conversations I had but can’t quite remember, but knew I had them. Time to remember his smile and the feeling of hanging out, to remember his laughter, the smell of his musk aftershave, white collared shirts, and butcher’s coat. Time to remember the times he didn’t wear white, like when we used to go to plays and talk during the intermission, to remember the hard times and the good times, because there were both. Time to remember that 11 years ago, Father’s Day was the last time I had a conversation with my friend in a hospital room, that last time he’d talk back. I remember leaving the television on and telling the nurses not to change the channel because the World Cup was on and he loved watching it. He might not have been able to see it, but maybe he’d be able to hear the famous GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL! GOOOOOOOOOL QUE GOLAZO!

Most definitely.

It’s the day to celebrate and remember your dads. The ones that you were born with, the ones that saw you in diapers, and the ones who acted like your dad, encouraged you and supported you even if you weren’t related, they were still family. To brothers and uncles that had your back, to teachers and coaches that helped you when you needed it.

It’s tough being a good dad. Pressures weigh heavily on the shoulders of a family man, and not everyone is strong enough to fill that role. Not everyone can handle that. Now with raising my own family, I realize that. So it’s important to highlight the ones that do. To the ones that pay the bills and show up to soccer practice, and basketball games before beer with the guys, to the ones that are there for Saturday morning cartoons, even if they’re just sleeping next to you on the couch, to the ones who read The Very Hungry Caterpillar and other bedtime stories, to the ones who teach you how to drive and change a flat tire, to the MacGyver’s and the remote control masters who cross wires and eventually fix the DVD-VCR-Cable connection, to the ones that high-five you when you succeed or pat you on the back when you don’t, to the ones who snore so loud they can inhale the wallpaper if you had any, to the ones that tell you to chase your dreams, to the ones who have a cup of coffee with their daughter and talk about life … today’s your day.

Happy Father’s Day

Buen Camino …

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Feel Good 5 Friday… Jalapeño Cornbread and Timeouts

28 May

Jalapeño Corn Bread.

That right there did it for me.

The week of frustration, headaches, couple migraines, Friday looked good to me. Crossed that finish line.

There I was winding down the week high-fiving myself as I managed both a 4th and 7th grade curriculum. Distance learning done! And we move on! Kids were happy, I was happy. Feeling like the strut of a Bee Gees music video.

After all the Zoom Meetings, attendance records, and extra everything going on this year I was so glad to have conquered it.

Check.

That’s when the Jalapeño Corn Bread just came into my life and made for such an amazing feeling. You know when the food is so good, that you pause, you just close your eyes and take a breath. You’re about to take a knee it’s so good but then you just dance with your stank face on. Just bust a move. It’s in your spirt.

That was me and the warm, crumbly, soft Jalapeño Cornbread.

First time I’ve ever tasted it and guaranteed it won’t be the last. I am on it. This southern comfort food place in the neighborhood that I’d never tried and the cornbread made me a fan.

Nothing like sitting in the peace and quiet of your car, picking up the food and peeking in the bag just for a minute to discover a warm goodness in its steamy container. This is the moment that you remember… hey the airplane people always say put your mask on first and then … THEN … put your child’s mask on. That’s what they say and so I did.

I stayed in that parking lot and took some time. I smelled the sweet aroma, took a bite of that top edge and instantly knew this was gonna be a good evening. I sat back in the driver’s seat.

C’mon now, you better eat, girl. I turned up that Hall and Oates jam on the radio and the next six minutes of jams and tastiness made for an epic soundtrack of self-care. A timeout. Sometimes you just need a timeout, you need to tag someone in, but sometimes there is no someone, so you need a timeout, a brief moment to get back to Zen, to restore. Timeouts are important.

If you haven’t tried corn bread yet, jalapeño cornbread, I highly encourage it. Changes your good Friday into a great Friday! Reminds you to take a minute for yourself, a minute, and just enjoy something, you deserve it.

Buen Camino my friends!

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.Hall and Oates — You Make My Dreams

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Fania All Stars with Oscar De Leon, El Canario, Milly Quezada — Quitate Tu

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Chic — Good Times

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Billy Idol — Mony, Mony

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Glenn Frey — The Heat is On

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Monday Flashback: Gravity and Ice Packs

22 Mar

The last time I remember falling this hard was at a high school track and field competition, I mean I’ve fallen before, plenty of times in my adulthood and parenthood parts of my life, but you know there are those times that you remember, reeeeeeeeally remember. The ones that stick with you when you can picture what you were wearing, the time of day, who was there, the street you were on, if anyone saw you, and maybe the sting of the dirt or pebbles that broke your flesh open.

Yeah those stick with you. High-school track meet. 400-metter hurdles. Yeah that was a big one.

I added to that epic list this weekend and ice packs were necessary.

I didn’t break anything, I’m fine. But I was reminded that gravity is still a very powerful force. I find that potholes and long laces often contribute to these stumbles as well, but I can’t tell you how this actually happened. I had double knotted my shoes, but the laces were still pretty long, and I hadn’t tucked them, so can’t be sure what caused it but it happened.

I found it interesting that while my right knee and both hands were bleeding, I didn’t stop. I got up. Jogged for a bit to make sure the potential cars passing by had not witnessed this epic crash, which in fact no one did, unless they had video recording doorbell ringers that captured it for their amusement. But I doubt it, a lot of tall bushes and gates.

After a couple minutes of jogging, I walked for a bit. I pressed my shirt against the palms of my hand to try and stop the bleeding, and squeeze my hand to try and stop the throbbing painful sensation but it didn’t stop.

Then I had a flashback of my son at one of his first triathlons. Right after my race the kids race had begun and during the race he had take a tumble during the excitable and crowded field of SpongeBob-watching population. He winced a bit, got up, and kept going before I got a chance to ask him if he was OK. I had gone into mom mode immediately, but he waved me off and kept going. When he got to the finish line I was so proud of him for finishing the race. It was hard, an unexpected obstacle. But he persevered. Big smiles, big hugs, and high-fives at the finish line.

I remember taking our picture after the race, smiling with our medals and the pride he felt in himself. In getting up after that fall, not giving up, and the smile on his face when I saw him at the finish line. I remembered all this as I walked along my running route with my hands still bleeding. The marks of The Stumbler. The one who falls, and stumbles, but continues to get back up.

I smiled thinking of my son. I squeezed my hand, tried to make a fist, and finished the 3-mile run. Sometimes kids give you that extra push you need, even when they’re not there. And ice packs still feel good after Band-aids and Neosporin.

Beware … gravity is still very powerful.

Buen Camino my friends …

Feel Good 5 Friday … On a Saturday

12 Sep

Everybody needs a walk-up song, the one that drops its beat and you feeeeeeel it, The heart. The pit of the stomach. The I-got-this feeling.

We’ve been missing our songs lately. We’ve had morning songs sometimes, our feel good songs, but not our walk-up songs. Personally the Bee Gees and funk from the 70s gives me that vibe. Confidence, be walking like I got purpose.

We’ve been missing that without sports and teammates. Our songs. We came to the realization that my son would have had three games and a tournament by now, and my daughter a scrimmage.

Saw a few people at the park today and it reminded me of how important teammates, comradery, and the game became in our family. Not so much for winning, but for the sake of playing. Being part of a team gives a sense of community, of purpose, of belonging to something bigger than yourself. People counting on you, a sense of responsibility to them. Been playing for years. Been part of our routine.

Now we’re out of sorts. Everyone is really and so we look for communities where we can.

This realization tripped me out today. Even if we’re not on the ice or the field, kids still need to feel that sense. They need to hear their walk-up song. Regardless. They need that feeling, and I need to make it happen. Need to make it better than it was yesterday. That’s the goal. And you can’t get to the goal if you don’t have a good beginning. A good setup. A good walk-up. Just as everyone needs at least one standing ovation in their lifetime, everyone also needs a good walk-up in order to have a good set-up. Even if the fields and rinks are closed, you need to hit that play button.

And so until you find your walk-ups I share with you my kids’ songs. Every time we headed to a game these were part of the playlist … sending you sunshine and waves. Buen Camino!

Rebel Rebel — David Bowie

Dream on — Aerosmith

Levels — Avicii

I’m Still Standing — Elton John

Walk of Life — Dire Straights

Words on Wednesday …

26 Aug

Needing to escape the funk and keeping my vision board promise to myself I filled up the gas tank, packed the car, and went off on a RainMan road trip adventure with the kids.

Never been there before, but it was on the list, see this majestic being. And I stood there and soaked it in. From all angles I took my time to just sit there and appreciate it.

The Great Outdoors

The air. We just took a little extra that day and it filled me with peace.

But I guess a lot of people were looking for the same kind of wonder because for a middle-of-the-week escape there were quite a few people. Everyone was tying to get a nature makeover and Sequoia National Park was the place to make that happen.

We still enjoyed ourselves, masks and all. It was good to escape the city and make it all the way to the sequoias. Something about being in that giant tree forest helped me forget about all the excess, even if it was for a brief moment.

I was in it, I was present and I felt that reset button hitting itself. I was even more grateful that it happened for the kids too.

I was grateful I could give them the escape and views that helped rejuvenate their spirits. Being restricted by Covid has minimized our summer adventures but I was so appreciative for this one. Glad we got to see General Sherman and all of his awesome giantness. It was definitely worth the drive.

My jar of awesome got another note and our family spirit got that boost we needed before school started. Hoping you find yours …

Buen Camino!

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Weekend Moments on Wednesday

22 Jul

When I saw the crowds I thought this was a terrible mistake. We should have woken up earlier, we should have gone to some remote beach at daybreak.

But we wanted something different, something a little special. Nowadays little special somethings go a long way. The Great Outdoors has always afforded me an opportunity to do that, but because of the current pandemic situation, life has been limited.

Crowds are something that isn’t, unfortunately.

When you’re at a concert or game they’re great! You feel the vibe and energy. But when I was trying to find peace. Not so much. Even before the pandemic. Crowds burned me out. The beach. The Park. Morning runs. Lakes. I avoided them. Or at least tried.

So I was grateful for the long hike up the mountain, even though I wasn’t a fan of hiking, it proved to be a good step back, for a positive forward move. You see, not many people managed that. Most of the crowd walked a couple yards and stayed close to the road or parking. Half a football field, I guess. Their lack of exercise was my gain. As most people didn’t want to hike up the mountain and venture further up. The fact that they weren’t socially distancing or wearing masks was concerning. I thought this outing was going to be a disaster. But turns out the more we hiked the less people we found. The hidden nature escape appeared.

The Outdoors became the Kodak moment that made the day better. A recharging station for when your depleted spirit needed it most.

Something about nature turned it around. Especially when we discovered a surprise…

Waterfalls bring smiles. Especially on a 12th birthday.

The entire adventure helped bring about some wonderful firsts, like first time fishing in a river, first time losing the fishing pole and swimming against the current in the cold deep to retrieve it, first time hiking to a waterfall, and first time cooling off underneath it.

First time bucket list adventures with the kids stayed with me and granted us moments of gratitude that still linger.

Buen Camino, friends!

Too Many Words on Wednesday

15 Jul

I felt the weight of it.

Took 18 weeks, but I felt it.

The weariness of it.

After managing through distance learning with two kids and one computer, summer and the beginnings of a heat wave with no weekend beach trips, and the worst was yet to come. I felt the weight of it.

Coronavirus.

I’m not sick. I’m one of the lucky ones, but going through this finally got to me.

I was strong for about 18 weeks and just the foul mood of it all got to me and the day ended on a crappy note. I think it’s a matter of space. Being quarantined with your mother while trying to raise your kids and keep them on the positive tip, taxes every part of your being by dinner time. I have found that space is of the utmost importance.

Crucial.

Night time has become a welcomed friend to gather my thoughts or just rest from the anxiety of being with someone that’s not on the same page as you.

Yoga and meditation provide some needed Zen Moments when the goodness of the morning runs has worn off. But today it all got to me and I snapped. The headache came and my patience was lost as I yelled what all moms yell after a long day.

Go to bed!

And then some …

And so …

It was quiet and the guilt of yelling before bed hit me and of course I realized I needed more patience but had spent it all dealing with my mother and her ways.

So I remembered to breathe and allowed myself a little grace.

It was a rough beginning of the week, and it caught up with me on hump day.

Celebrating my daughter’s birthday, trying to find that special moment for her and all the vibrancy, creativeness, joy, and strength in her, while at the same time mourning my dad on the anniversary of his death makes for an epic emotional roller coaster weekend.

The mix of emotions spiraled.

And I knew it. I felt it.

I realized how fast my daughter was growing one day, trying to slow it down as I saw her smiling and how much I missed my father at the cemetery the next. Celebrating with S’mores Icebox cake, tide pool discoveries, unwrapping paints, canvases, sketch pads and a new bicycle with welcomed happiness and laughter one day, and then tears, heartbreak, and childhood memories the next.

Missing him on days like that weaken my spirit.

And then I realized why I snapped …

I know the days are one after the other. They’ve always been that way and I prepare myself but it just hit extra harder this year.

Having no space of my own makes an impact on emotional well-being.

But I was able to revisit a place that helped me find some Zen, some place to breathe.

Gonna be able to reset and do better tomorrow. Hope you do too.

Buen Camino my friends!

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This Mother’s Day Banking on Small Moments, No Chores, and Mixed Tape Soundtracks

9 May

Wishing so much to travel and be outdoors with nature this Mother’s Day Weekend, and not being able to is a bummer. Not devastating mind you, just a bummer. This is the one day out of 365 days where it’s all right to think of myself and not feel guilty.

One day.

24 hours.

Now granted I have to go on a cleaning marathon the day before with the bathrooms, the laundry, the vacuum, the mop, and the dishes, but at least that gives me a day of nothing on Sunday. Can’t say what’s waiting for me on Monday, but Sunday is clear.

24 hours.

I’ll take it.

Even if it’s indoors.

Usually I’m sitting at the ballpark cheering for my Boys in Blue hanging with my family, enjoying the sunny day and loving the little moments in between the Big League hits. The smiles of my kids as we finally reach our seats, the view of the field with newly cut grass cut in patterns, the high fives when home rubs make an appearance, the walk-up-to-the-plate songs, the bloopers on the Jumbotron, the seventh inning stretch, Clayton pitching, Justin swinging away, and Max making great plays.

But I know this isn’t for everyone.

I know some people go all out in their Sunday best with fancy church hats and heels to champagne brunch and that’s super great! Maybe I’ll do that one day.

But I’m good with jeans and a baseball cap, Dodgerdog, peanuts, and a special beverage. Simple things like that always made my day. They make me smile. Everything but the parking situation makes me smile. That’s just a whole lot of patience required after all the goodness … but it’s kind of like a regular mom day. Highs and lows.

But if my team wasn’t in town I’d drive down to the beach and spend the day with the waves, boogie boarding, feeling the ocean wash over my toes, and hanging out underneath my red Tommy Bahama umbrella. Soaking up the sun and feeling the magic that comes with living near an ocean is something that always makes me feel good Mother’s Day Weekend.

Either way I’d have a plan, and this time, even though I can’t enjoy the Great Outdoors, or cheer my Boys in Blue to celebrate my momness, I still have a plan, I guess. Just a little different this time around.

I mean I can’t say I’m angry about it at all. I’m healthy, kids are healthy. We have each other, we have family. We have food, shelter, and what we need. We haven’t suffered a Covid-19 tragedy, we’ve been one of the lucky ones. Don’t live in epicenters like New York, but just in my city alone, not my state, but my city there’s been over 30,000 cases. I recently heard that someone I went to school with died from it. Age 44. Just like that.

So even though there’s no Mother’s Day celebration I’m grateful that we’ve been lucky. Being careful and following rules have helped us out, because sometimes even when you do the right thing, there are others that don’t, and it puts everyone at risk. Even the young healthy 44 year-old guys who have little daughters.

So the fact that I’ll have restrictions this Mother’s Day doesn’t necessarily burst my bubble. It’s not miserable. It’s an opportunity to make another good story. As in, you remember the time there was the Coronavirus and we were sheltering in place, but we still rocked that Mother’s Day?

Making stories is what keeps us going. When looking back most of the time they’re the more interesting or funny stories. Sometimes they’re sad, that’s true, but most times in retrospect they’re not. They bring smiles and laughter at how you can’t believe how you got through it all. Your resolve impresses you.

It’s a date on a calendar to be recognized, yes. But celebrations can wait until it’s safe. There will be so many celebrations when this is all over. But don’t get me wrong, there’s still life, and adventure just a different way of going about it.

There will be chocolate. Definitely. Chocolate and maybe a scenic drive where we can enjoy panoramic views from the highway while listening to our own soundtrack. This year, this Mother’s Day we’re banking on the little things, small moments, a mixed tape, and no chores done by me.

But until then I send you sunshine and waves from months and months ago 🙂

Buen Camino!

Finding The Moments Adds Space

25 Apr

So in all this togetherness I’m beginning to realize that there’s not a lot of space left. Space for a breather, space to take a minute. Like to exhale. That only comes at night when everyone else is asleep. But the sun is gone and the mosquitoes are out so there’s no outdoor anything happening, not even to the small patio.

I can’t imagine what a family of five must feel like. Not any one … A working-class family of five. Oof. Or maybe just three kids under the age of five. Dude.

Parents out there … I feel you. I feeeeeel you. You have to tag out sometimes just for sanity’s sake. But what if you have no partner? What if you can’t just leave when you need to?

That’s a rough one, that’s when the grays start popping up and you immediately try to remember how to take deep breaths so as to prevent a heart attack, because you feel it rising up inside of you. The frustrations of parenting in this tight environment gets to you. I mean it makes the small space you inhabit even smaller.

Quiet always feels good to parents after sustained chaos. But I also hear that loneliness takes its toll if you’re single and don’t have the loudness surrounding you 14 hours a day. Company and conversation are missed as you can only take so much alone time or online meetings. Connection is missed. And your space feels small.

Everyone’s struggle is different. Sometimes someone else’s plate looks better. But that’s for everyone.

Hang in there parents …

So you just try to find a moment … something that made you laugh or something that ended up right after a whole lot of wrong. Dude.

Listening to good poets slam their beats and touch a heart string to create a smile. That felt good, even if it was just a couple minutes while the kids played Legos. Finding a funny sign and it making you laugh, not just smile, but laugh.

Planting a garden from scratch for Earth Day felt like an accomplishment. It will be a while before I see any results but we still took steps in the right direction.

Talking to friends on the phone in a video chat gave a few of them a very needed outlet of expression and relief.

Finding the little moments add up at the end of the day, or week … Homeschooling distance learning week three went well as all work was finished by Friday and the kids continued to learn something new not just go through the motions. Sparta and Athens. Fractions and order of operations happen in real life, like when measuring and baking banana nut bread muffins, and step two needs to happen before step 4. Clouds have names, like cumulus, and they mean something to the weather. Learning to play the Star Wars theme song on your saxophone. Recycling old crayons was the best surprise moment as it was something new and in the process we created art for Earth Day.

Baseball was still the funnest lesson as Abbott and Costello informed them on who was on first.

Finding the moments helps expands your space.

Buen Camino my friends!

🙂