"What we do in this life, echoes in eternity."
Maximus, Gladiator
"Our creator would never have made such lovely days, and given us the deep hearts to enjoy them, above all thought, unless we were meant to be immortal."
Nathaniel Hawthorne

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Unraveled, A Tale of True Love book giveaway!!!!

Valentine's Day is just one day away, and what better way to celebrate than with books?  Everything is better when you celebrate with books, especially if the book is beautiful, magical, timeless love story.
If you're a guy, and you just groaned and reached to close this post, please, don't. Even Star Wars is a love story, everything a consequence of Anakin's love for Padme...

My favorite love stories are those that don't only present me with two people in love, but also introduce me to a fascinating time period, a sweeping setting, rich mythology , and yes, a brave heroine and a chivalrous hero that together are much more than they ever were on their own.

One such book is Unraveled, A Tale of True Love, by my friend and critique partner Julie Daines. It was released just a few days ago. I love this book!!!!

The story is about Bronwen, who after an illness that took most of her family, is crippled. One night, she and her mother receive the visit of a mountain witch, who leaves Bronwen a pair of enchanted shoes. When Bronwen puts them on, she's whole again. Thrilled with the possibility of living a normal life, and urged by her mother, Bronwen makes the trip to the King's Court to present herself as it's the custom with girls her age. There, Bronwen will find true friendship, the attention of the King's son, who falls in love with her beauty, and also the attention of the Head of the King's Guard, who knew her first, when she was just Bronwen. Most importantly, Bronwen will learn to love herself as she discovers that sometimes a pair of magic shoes can't solve all of her problems.

Seriously, read this book. It's thoroughly researched,  expertly crafted, and it will sweep you off your feet with its beauty. In celebration of love, I'll be giving away a copy of Unraveled to one lucky person. All you need to do is leave a comment and tell me about your favorite love story, in a book, movie or song.

Spread the word for extra good karma!!! I'll be announcing the winner on my post next week over at the Utah Children's Writers blog. Good luck and Happy Valentine's Day!!!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Sometimes it's okay to use white flour

Our Santa Lucia, or as Peach calls her, Santa Chulia

I love bread. That's the main reason I could never do a paleo or Arkins diet. I grew up in a family for whom a meal wasn't a meal without bread. Oh Argentine caserito and mignones, how much I miss you! There's nothing like you where I live! My favorite part of going To Puerto Rico? Pan sobao. The best of Barcelona and Paris? No, it's not cream Catalana or macaroons. It's the bread, of course. 

Bread and butter. There's nothing more delicious. 

When my third child developed a gluten intolerance, I had no choice but to go gluten free too. The whole family did.  It's easier to avoid an allergen if it's not in the house, right? But I missed my carbs-rich comfort food! I experimented with all kinds of grains, and little by little, I did get used to eating a variety of grains. Teff, quinoa, spelt. We all became friends. 

When my son's sensitivities decreased, I introduced wheat in our diet again. I continued using the grains I had discovered though, and most of the time, I make bread or cookies with whole wheat I grind in my beloved Nutrimill. 

Christmas is not Christmas without the baking and kneading, right? Especially in the northern hemisphere, where we are reaching the darkest day of the year. Today is the feat St Lucia. Sweden celebrates its midwinter Festival of Lights by honoring St Lucia. When I started introducing the Waldorf approach of raising a family, I found a lot of celebrations and traditions from all over the world that we adopted. St Lucia is one of them. My Princess Peach still calls it St Chulia's day (instead of Lucia) and I don't correct her because her mispronunciation is so darn cute! Well, according to tradition, a girl with a crown of candles wakes up the family, bringing the light with her. I'm usually the one waking up the family in the morning, and since I don't want to walk around with a crown of candles on my head, I make sure I at least bake saffron St Lucia buns every year. Yesterday my Princess Peach was home and she wanted to help make the buns. I was happy to have her help. I set out all the ingredients. Instead of white flour though, I used whole wheat. Well, the first time I scalded the yeast and had to start all over. I almost cried over the wasted saffron. I had used my very last envelope of powdered saffron I brought from Barcelona last February. I started again, taking care not to waste any more of the precious spice. By then I was very pressed for time. My writers group was meeting that night and I had just received a text from a friend reminding me that Princess Swan had Irish dance rehearsals--an hour away from home. I tried to hurry as much as I could. But in cooking there's no rushing the process. The dough was crumbly and heavy as a brick. The dough would not rise. I let it rest for HOURS, to Princess Peach's agony and despair. After writers group, and after I put the kids in bed, I rolled up the dough and baked it. The rolls smelled wonderful but they were super heavy. I remembered last year's rolls with such longing! 

This morning, determined to win the battle against whatever it was that was blocking my St Lucia's buns baking ability, I mixed the dough again. I took care not to scald the yeast. I used some more precious saffron, and ... White flour. They turned out okay this time. Because sometimes, even though white flour is basically a nonfood, it's still delicious and wonderful and comforting and light. 
Sometimes it's okay to use white flour. That's the lesson I learned today. 

Here's a picture of the wonderful white flour, sugar dusted buns and a sad looking, burned whole wheat bun. 

And here's a link that tells a little about St Lucia's festival:

Interested in making the rolls? Maybe you'll have better luck than me. Here's a link to the recipe. Saffron rolls are delicious! Even without raisins. 

What holiday traditions does your family have in preparation for Christmas? Share away! 

Friday, December 06, 2013

No half marathon but it's okay

Something that went well? PrincessSwan's comp in Cali
I always plan my blog posts, and sometimes, I follow the outline in my thoughts and I write an okay post. Other times, I just go with the wind, Argentine style, and end up with a stream of consciousness spew that when I read it later, I'm like, "who wrote this?"

This one is a combination of the two. I wanted to write a blog post the day after Thanksgiving and tell the world that although this year was brutal, I still did great things.

I did finish NaNoWriMo. And I did it in record time. 16 days of writing frenzy. Jeff was in Nepal and I had so much time to write! I don't really know why I had time. As I type this, I have a super clingy 17-month-old baby semi-asleep in my arms. He's even holding a strand of my long hair to make sure I NEVER put him down. And by never, I mean, NEVER. So I don't really know how I was able to write this book--which remains untitled. I'm thrilled about it. It's loosely based on Persuasion and it follows the story of a young, single mother and the boy whose heart she broke six years ago and who is now a world famous soccer player.

I'm putting that book away for now to finish edits on my Middle Grade book about a Latina Irish dancer who wants to go to the World Cup in spite of her anxiety problems.

I know. All my stories are so sad. They have good endings though :-)

What I didn't accomplish was the half marathon I trained all year for. I got sick the day before Thanksgiving, and although I wanted to run it, I couldn't even get up to cook Thanksgiving dinner, which we had to reschedule.

So 2013, I didn't reach all of my goals, but I will. The year isn't over yet. I might have to run it in the snow, with this clingy boy holding on to my hair, but I'll still do it. I'll even post a picture; I promise. It could have been worse, right? I could be RSL. *tears*

Thursday, October 31, 2013


For a long time I decided that I'd finish the re-write of my book at the end of September so I could read all through October. No writing, just preparing my mind for the writing fest of November. But the end of September came and my book wasn't finished. It took me an extra week. I plunged into reading right away, decided to enjoy October, my month of creative vacation. The reading was great. The running was feeling better and better every day. This year would be the year I'd decorate the whole house for Halloween, a christening of sorts for this new place. But the middle of October slapped me, and I never saw the hand coming.

Yaya's last Halloween
My mom had gallbladder surgery. A simple procedure. She was home the same day. I was grateful for my month off because I could go to her house every morning and stay with her until it was time for the kids to get home. Baby Hulk slept in her bed with her while I read. The three of us watched and old telenovela that we loved. We talked. I held her hand, thinking how cold it was and wanting her to get better.

Thursday morning, I arrived at her house and she was already up. She had cleaned the kitchen. She wanted to be doing things, like always. She didn't feel well though. I took her to the doctor who reassured us that she would be okay.

That night, already Friday morning, she passed away.

And today is Halloween, one of her favorite holidays. We won't have her delicious treats or her laughter as the kids pretend to scare her. The house isn't decorated. But we'll celebrate anyway because she loved it.

In October I learned that writing isn't the most important thing, but it helped me record those things that are vital, that I need to keep on going. The memories of the people I love most. Writing helps put my thoughts in order. To create from scrambled thoughts in my head.

Tomorrow, I'll start my new story, the one I've been planning since the summer. Now that I think about it, the overall story arc, it dawns on me that maybe I'm not up to par with the image of this story I have in my mind. I'll have to draw from my heart then, and that will hurt. But it will also heal. Words, beautiful words.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Back to WalMart

Desperate times call for desperate actions. I wanted a book so I went to WalMart.

House of Hades, by Rick Riordan, came out today. I don't think I ever recovered from the terrible cliffhanger at the end of The Mark of Athena. I know my oldest child never did. Like with most important books, I pre-ordered my copy from Amazon. Like it always happens, Amazon shipped out the book today. It won't even be here until Thursday. What are two more days after waiting a year in agony, you may ask? Two days are eternity and torture and cruelty. Snow at the end of September.

So like every year, I made my annual trip to WalMart. There are many things I hate about WalMart, but if I'm being fair, I have to acknowledge that in matters of life and death, as in, I have to have that book now, they've never disappointed. 

I arrived in the store and the first thing I saw was a display of House of Hades. Empty display. I frantically searched the store. All the displays were empty! Amidst the panic attack that was now choking me, I had the cheerful, ray-of-sunshine thought that all the empty shelves meant people read. People love books. Other people like me have to have the newest Percy Jackson right now. Still, I had no book and my trip to WalMart had been for nothing. I grabbed shampoo and a few other things, because I was there and I had a list. None of the things I grabbed were on my list. To make matters worse, there were two items I did have on my list that, of course, I didn't buy. 

I passed the electronics section and I got distracted for a second. There was a FIFA 14 display with a picture of Messi. The display was empty. All this means was that people also love video games. And Leo Messi, right? If they love Messi, they love Rosario, because, hey, he was born there. And so was I! Therefore, they love me. 
I felt loved then, but still panicky. 

Then I saw it: a little rackety display with copies and copies of House of Hades. I almost grabbed two. One for my son and one for me, until I remembered that hey, amazon already sent me my book. Right on queue, a text message came in, announcing that my book had been shipped and should arrive by Thursday at 8 PM. 
Really Amazon? Thursday by 8 PM? By then, you better send me the next book, because my son and I will already be weeping and gnashing our teeth over the cliffhanger that's sure to come!

Crazy WalMart trip. Baby Hulk learned how to climb out of the cart. 

Even he is so excited about the book! See also all the other stuff I got? None was on my list! 

Here Baby Hulk is learning WalMart is a "special" place. He wasn't sure about the meowing cats. At first, he wanted to hug one, because he's a hugger. But when the "kitten" moved its legs and pushed him away? I thought he was going to run away! Which would explain his climbing out of the cart, now that I think about it. Also, notice that cart is empty at this point. All this means is that all those empty displays? They were probably part of Walmart's  strategy to get people like me to buy stuff we don't need. Tricky, tricky, tricky WalMart! 

Monday, August 05, 2013

My first 5K and Renzo

Last Saturday I ran my first 5K ever. A few years ago, I wrote a list of things I wanted to do in my life, and although I have no idea where that list is, I clearly remember typing "running a 5K, a half-marathon, and a marathon." A while back I signed up for the Lehi13, a half-marathon on Thanksgiving Day. I've been running on and off for about 4 years now, but I'm a deadline incentivized person--I needed a goal. That's why I signed up. 

So on Saturday morning, I loaded up the car with 5 kids and headed to the first sporting event of my life! 

My dad was there, giving me all his last minute advise. 

My Cangri asked me if my goal was winning. I told him I wanted to ran the whole race, that was my only goal. I knew I could do it. I usually run more than 3 miles a day. There's something about an official race with other people though. Running out in public for the first time was such a big step for me. I always felt like a fraud. One of my crit partners, Jaime, is an amazing runner. She once twitted that no one should ever feel like a fraud. Jaime, those words meant a lot to me!

I ran the race, and I finished, and when I was done, I could've kept running, which means I could have run a little faster, but oh well, I know for next time.

The whole time I was running, I was thinking of Renzo, an Argentine baby, from the province of Corrientes who became an angel last Friday, August 2nd. Renzo was born with a heart problem, which became worse as the months and years went by. He was hooked to an artificial heart for seven months until last June 1st, he received a donor heart. When everyone thought he'd recover and get to grow and live a normal life, he had a heart attack from which he never recovered.

His story touched my heart, literally. I didn't use to even consider organ donation for some reason until him. I'm not the only whose attitude and opinion of the subject changed because of Renzo. The whole country, including those of us not living in Argentina anymore, cried his death. His life wasn't in vain. 

I'm forever grateful of my healthy body, my children's health. I love watching my boys run in a soccer pitch, my girls dance and twirl, my baby sleep peacefully in bed. 

I ran and Renzo's memory ran beside me. 

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Magical year

I've been thinking about this blogpost all year. There are so many things I want to share, so many ways I've phrased the words. The main feeling that keeps coming upfront though is gratitude. Since warm happy weather to me equals Christmas and celebrations (my biological calendar is still set on Southern hemisphere after all these years), I think it's only natural to feel this bittersweet emotion I always feel at Christmas time.

Last year, on July 1st, I went into the hospital to be induced three whole weeks before my due date. Nothing in the pregnancy had gone as I had expected. For the first time, I had nausea pretty much the whole time. The dreaded cholestasis showed up in the first trimester, which led to my midwife "suggesting" we change plans from homebirth to hospital, complete with high risk doctor and three times a week checkups. I learned that the non-stress test is the worst named test in the history of forever. Stressed? Me? I was delirious with fear for my baby's life. Each non-stress was supposed to be 15 minutes. I was always there for a couple of hours because his heart-rate wouldn't accelerate when it had to. I remember looking at the heart monitor printout, trying to guess if the dips and the highs meant the baby was okay or why the nurse looked nervous and always ended up asking the doctor's opinion.

I went in on July 1st, and Valentino was born on the 3rd, just past midnight. We wouldn't leave the hospital until the 10th though. The first moment the cholestasis symptoms started, I had a feeling that something would happen that I hadn't experienced before. I tried to keep my thoughts positive. I listened to my hypnobabies tracks, I visualized happy things, I tried to imagine a bubble of wellness around me. But Valentino wasn't ready to be born, and he ended up spending a week in the NICU. I know some kids spend weeks, months, years in the hospital. I don't know how parents can endure it. By the time Valen was released, I practically ran from the hospital as if I were stealing my baby from the nurses, although they'd been so nice to us, so good to him. I hate hospitals, and even now, when I go down to Provo library, I make sure I don't drive by the it.

The thought that kept me going during those days was that in a year's time, we'd be celebrating the baby's birthday and all that painful stuff would be in the past. So tonight, I'm celebrating. The past is past, but it's also part of me. So I'm thanking God for life, for the miracle of holding a sleeping baby, my sleeping baby. For first smiles and first words. For how wonderful it is when they play with the siblings and try to walk. Tomorrow my baby will be officially a child. I'm grateful for this year in which I got to appreciate each of my children even more than I did before. They're all so different and wonderful and such a puzzle. Sometimes they'll say something, or do something, and I wonder who these people are and how I got so lucky to be their mother.

This year, I'm grateful for science, but also for motherly instinct that told me to relax more, to trust more. I'm grateful for life, my life and my children's and for how from hardship came such a blessing. Not a day goes by without a prayer of thanks for one more day to be a mom, to fight over messy rooms, to cheer at futbol games and dance competitions that take forever. Because forever is such a short time sometimes. And in the end, all that's left is the feeling and the memories.

Happy birthday, Valentino! You're so, so loved!

Finally the fantastic five!

The bili-lights at home. Harder than I ever imagined! Good thing our doctor said we didn't need them after the second day

So tired, but so happy!

Valen on his last night as a baby/first night as a toddler

Happy first birthday Valen!!!!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Preparedness makes me so nervous

Last Friday the kids had a Safety Drill at school. For me, it only meant that instead of picking the kids up at the bus stop, I actually had to go get them at the school. Parents needed to learn the protocol if "something" happened one day.
The night before we had my nephew's wedding, and on Friday I slept in. That day I let the three younger kids stay home, but my Gorgeous Boy had a test and couldn't miss it. He went to school, not too happily though.

During breakfast, my Princess Peach told me what they do during her kindergarten class Safety Drill. If there's a threat, the teacher leads the kids to the bathroom, where they file in in complete silence. They have to stay away from the sink because it has a motion sensor, and if there's a noise, the bad guy will know they're there. The teacher turns off the light, but she has a flashlight. If it's lunch time, the teacher has an emergency snack bucket.

While she was telling me all this, my hair was standing on end. I have a very vivid imagination. The images her whispering voice conjured gave me nightmares for nights. They still do.
In the afternoon, I picked up my son. It was my turn to practice the drill. All the parents parked by the basketball courts, following the directions of traffic helpers. All the school stuff wore reflective vests, and somehow, seeing all of them wearing those and a whistle around their neck, I felt this soberness in the air. This was something important.

I checked in at middle school desk that was set up outside. A person with a walkie-talkie called inside the school to ask if my son was still inside. There was a crackling of static. My heart pounded imagining that they would say, "No, he isn't here."

After a while they answered he was there, of course, and then I picked him up at a different table.
We walked away, hand in hand. He didn't try to shake it away, but he wanted to. Some girls were looking at him. We walked past a father who was patiently listening to his three daughters complain of how terrible it was they had to wait in the dark for hours, the whole sixth grade class.

As I drove away, I muttered a prayer of gratitude that this was just a drill, a practice in case something bad happens. A nightmare. A horror so terrible I can't even imagine. I hate that kids (and parents) have to do this. But boy am I grateful my kids will know what to do (hopefully) in case of an emergency!

As for me, I'd love to fly to a distant island, safe from tsunamis and hurricanes, and live away from monsters. And then I think of The Village, and I'm left with just a prayer of protection for my children, and every children. That's all I can do.
My Gorgeous Son teaching school in Ghana

Thursday, April 11, 2013

30 Days, 30 Stories: The River God

Utah Children's Writers: The River God: Back when the West was still a mystery, Hurakan had reigned supreme over the waters. He preferred the blue, warm waters that the C...

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

First chapter event in real life. And lost dog(s).

Last week we moved to another town. The fact it's only five minutes away from where we moved from didn't make the event any less stressful. I still had to pack for a family of five kids and two dogs. I had tons of help, and although there still are a million boxes to unpack, the kitchen and the bathroom are done, the address has been updated at the many places that need our current address and I already did laundry. Now that I finally did laundry, I feel we're home.

I told the kids we were on the first chapter of the next story in our lives. El Cangri, who struggles with abstracts, asked if our life was a real book that people are reading right now. I told him that maybe in the future someone will write a book about how awesome he is, and he was okay with that. Anyway, it seems like a lot of books, especially kids' books start with a move. We were all excited about meeting new friends and starting again.

I forgot to remind the dogs that this was an opportunity to start again and maybe learn a few things, like not running away.

Yesterday, not five minutes after the Invisible Fence guy left, Dandelion ran away. I was helping Coco who had gotten shocked by the collar when he tried to breach the perimeter (serious hunger Games mental vision), and saw her darting to the street from the corner of my eye. By the time I went to look for her, it was too late. She was gone.

I spent the next two hours looking for her. After the kids came home from school, we looked for her. I met a lot of new neighbors. I hope I made a good first impression. I tried not to sound too frantic while calling Dandi's name.

Nighttime came and still no sign of Dandi. By now there were a lot of teary kids. I've been reading Julia Kagawa's The Immortal Rules and I kept thinking of Dandi out in the night, alone, with who knows what roams at night (I know, I get a little too involved in books).

This morning I had a phone call that a neighbor had seen Dandi not far from our house. I dashed to the car and drove down the street. I didn't see her. I came back home and left Coco out in the yard. If Dandi heard him or saw him she would know where to go. And he was so terrified of getting shocked again, he surely wouldn't ... no, not at all.

I drove down the street and there she was. My beautiful teddy puppy wagging her invisible tail, ears perked up and smiling as big as she could. She was so happy and I must admit, so was I. Another teary moment. I couldn't wait to be home with my Dandi.

So I drove up our driveway and Coco didn't greet me, but I didn't worry. He must have gone out back like he had yesterday. I ran to show him I had found Dandi, and ... he wasn't there. He had ran away!!!!
I remember sometimes in a story when you get what you were looking for, you have to pay something back. But I didn't want to give up my Coco! I let Dandi inside and went back to the car. I wasn't going back home without Coco. We've been through similar things (running away) all over the place, even in Puerto Rico, when he disappeared in the mangrove swamp behind our house.

And then I heard a yelp. Coco was calling me. Another neighbor had found him and was going house to house trying to find Coco's family.

I hurried home, worried that this time Baby Hulk or Jeff would be missing. But whew! They were safe and sound waiting for me.

I'm excited for this story. I really hope chapters 2 and all the ones that will follow won't involve any missing dogs or kids. Or vampires.

Coco and Dandi patrolling the park

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The never ending dilemma of all women, or at least me

The other day I came across this article on Twitter. I know it's long. It's too long, but it reflects the endless, sempiternal questioning that rumbles in the back of my mind. Am I doing what I'm supposed to be doing in this life? Am I living up to my potential? I mean, what woman doesn't question if she should stay home with the kids, go out of the house and work, do both, do all, be all.

I love my children. I'm happiest when I'm with them, taking care of them, teaching them. Still, sometimes I found out high school friends are climbing Aconcagua and all I've climbed is the pile of laundry after "our" spring break vacation.

I know I'm good at creating a home, at nurturing and teaching. I just fear I'll lose my identity as ME if I give my all. The other day, Princess Swan gave me this letter.

It made my day. It made my life worth every second, even the ones I spent wiping vomit or driving back to school because a certain kid missed the bus. 

When I was in Barcelona, I was struck by the magic of that beautiful city: the Gaudi buildings, the cathedral, Santa Maria del Mar. The thing that touched my heart the most though was this statue of Mary in an alcove in the cathedral. It's entitled, Our Lady of Happiness. It doesn't depict Mary as the queen of angels, but as the Queen of her family. Mary, just holding her child. You can even catch a glimpse of a tiny smile on her, right? I don't intend to be a queen, although my Princess Peach made me feel like one. Maybe the feeling will remain with me always. The years do go by so fast, and I'm blessed beyond measure. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Blind Eye

This Valentine's Day feels like a mini-Thanksgiving for me. Maybe it's because I'm surrounded by so many wonderful people in my life that I thank Heavenly Father for them at all times. Jeff, the kids, my Baby Hulk, who's so healthy and peaceful and beautiful, my parents. I'm blessed with many friends that have enriched my life in one way or another. One of such friends is Julie Daines. We've known each other for a while, but it wasn't until we were together in our Writers' group, The Sharks and Pebbles, that we became friends. Let me tell you, when a person reads your first drafts and still encourages you to keep on writing, you hold on to that friend, okay? She, along with our other writer companions, has glimpsed into the depths of my soul and still wants to be my friend. How cool is that?

Julie's book, A Blind Eye, just came out a week ago and it's already sold out in Amazon. It's not only a great story of redemption and forgiveness, but it's also fun, engaging and so well written. I read an early draft of her book, and it was already awesome and flawless. I don't know how she comes up with these stories, but she's a genius.

A Blind Eye is about Christian, a snarky, good hearted boy, who's desperate for his father to notice him. He's so desperate he runs away from home, only to find a stowaway in her car. Pink haired, quick witted Scarlet is also running away--from someone who kidnapped her in London and wants to silence her about her premonitory dreams. She's blind, but she sees far more than what it's obvious to the eye. When she dreams about her own and Christian's death, the two race against the clock to find the reason behind her kidnapping and in the meantime, see the truth that is hidden in plain sight.

I'm giving away a signed copy of A Blind Eye to one lucky person. All you have to do is leave a comment before Saturday night at midnight. Spread the word as happy Valentine's day!!! 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Time Flies When You're Having Fun

Yesterday was El Cangri's gymnastics class. It's the third one he's been to, and I kid you not, for the last three weeks the only way we get through any school related thing, or anything at all, is because of the promise of one hour of uninterrupted jumping and fun in his class.

On the way back home, he sighed and said, "One week to my next class..." and then, looking out the window, he added, "I really tried not to have fun so the time would go slower. But no, it didn't work."

When I managed to have a coherent thought after his words, I thought that for me writing means the same thing gymnastics means to my son. I usually write my best at night, and all day long, I look forward to the time I'll finally be able to sit down and write a few words or edit a chapter. Most nights though, I'm so exhausted I can't wait to go to bed and have some well-deserved sleep. But for me, if I don't get a daily dose of something I love--writing--I don't feel satisfied, no matter how much sleep or chocolate. I commit to protect my writing time, be more flexible with when I write and for how long. After all, it doesn't matter if I have a two-hour block. By the time it's over, it feels like five minutes because I have so much fun doing it.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Best Gift of Christmas

Perhaps the most vivid Christmas memory of my childhood is the last one I shared with my grandfather.  I was five years old, and I was a precocious child. I talked nonstop about everything. I didn't know that would be the last Christmas I'd spend with him, but one thing I knew with all the certainty of my five year-old heart was that he loved me more than he loved any other person in the world. It was so hot that we set our table on the roof of the house. I don't remember what we had for dinner. I remember he made a makeshift bed on the floor, and I hugged him tight in that hot, hot Christmas night. He was shivering with cold although it probably was more than one-hundred degrees at midnight. We were watching the fireworks go out all over the neighborhood until he pointed a red light that never went out. In fact, it moved all over the sky, bobbing all over the star-peppered darkness. "That's Papa Noel," he said.

I think I must have always believed in Papa Noel, but from that night on, I've known he's real. I'll never forget that last Christmas with my Abuelo Ricardo. If I could wish for one thing it would be for one last conversation, so I could tell him how much I still miss him even though it's been thirty years since that last Christmas  and that I'm happy. That I have two little Yamiles he would have loved with all his heart, and that sometimes my three boys have a way of looking out into nothingness that reminds me so much of him.

Feliz Navidad, Abuelo! You're so loved!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

NaNoWriMo 2012

I've been out of the blogsphere all month, and this is why:

This month, I wrote my yearly novel, I set out to read The Book of Mormon (I'm a couple of days behind, but I will catch up!), and I started training for a 5K. I trained my mind, my spirit and my body, and I'm feeling so good! While I was gone some pretty awesome things happened in my life, and I'll be back with more details later, when I don't have a sleeping baby snoring in the baby sling.
I love this feeling of having achieved something important for me! I love it!

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Read Banned Books, or Not

Today I'm over at the Children's Writers Blog talking about Banned Books Week and what it was like for me to be born and raised under a totalitarian government, or the famous dystopian society we seem to love reading about. There's even a new TV show about it.

I lived in a country where there still is a need for freedom. Sometimes I wonder why I write in English and not Spanish, which is my first language. I think it's because I want my stories to be known to all, and English, like it or not, is the universal language.

Join the discussion about the importance, or not, of giving everyone freedom to think.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Backyard paradise

I always say that if I could stay inside my house always, I'd be totally content. Which isn't true, of course. In an attempt to protect Baby Hulk from the outbreak of flus, cold and germs in general I've been home most of the time, but let me tell you, there wasnt a happier person in the world than me last week when I HAD to go to the school to talk with El Cangri's teacher.

For weeks Jeff has been urging me to go up to the canyon with him and the kids. "It's so beautiful out there," he'd say every time he came back from a ride on his RZR (four wheeler kind of thingie).

I always had an excuse. Until this weekend. The weather was perfect. I was tired of the endless list of chores. And it was my dad's birthday. So we went up American Fork Canyon. The colors are unbelievable. So many shades of green, red and yellow. The clean, fresh air and the smell of pine. The sound of a babbling brook. Nature.
While on the ride, I had this great idea for a children's story pop into my head. I came back refreshed, energized, happy. Who would have thought that a quick ride in the mountains could do so much for me?

I loved it. Loved the lack of Internet, of phones, of the washer machine's beckoning me to get ahead of the laundry elves and do one more load of laundry.

What are your favorite ways to disconnect of the world? What are your favorite spots to recharge?

PS: I'm typing this post on my phone. It's the first time I'm blogging on the phone and I'm anxious to see how it turned out. :-).

Thursday, September 20, 2012

First book, first love

Today I'm at The Utah Children's Writers blog talking about first loves and--what else?-- books.

Stop by to share yours.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Making Sense of the Nonsense

The other day, during lunch, El Cangri was unusually quiet. 
“What are you thinking?” I asked him.
He didn’t answer right away. After several seconds, he asked, “What happened with the parents in Madagascar?”
Madagascar? My train of thought snaked through the archives in my mind as I tried to figure out what he was talking about. It was the movie, Madagascar 3, which we watched months ago.
“Oh, Alex’s parents?” I asked.
He chewed his sandwich and said, “How come in the second movie they’re so happy to be together and then in the next one they’re not even there. And then, Alex wants to go back to the zoo? It just doesn’t make any sense.”
Keep in mind that we were talking about a cartoon about zoo animals--talking zoo animals I should add--that miss New York so bad they make their way from Africa to their beloved city as members of a traveling circus, all the while a vicious French detective woman with more animal traits than the animals themselves tries to capture them.
And he said the fact that the parents aren’t even in the story doesn’t make any sense? What about the whole traveling circus thing, or the part in which the giraffe is in love with the hippo?
Still, the thing that stood out the most to him was the inconsistencies in the story and the characters’ motivations. 
Where am I going with all of this? 
That even if we’re writing the most outlandish fantasy, there has to be a connection to reality for the reader to empathize with the characters and their goals. 
I’ve never been a gigantic blue alien, but I could totally identify with Avatar’s character as they tried to save their civilization from greedy people.
I’ve never been to Neverland, but in my happiest moments as a child, I wished I could stay little forever.
My father wasn’t a soldier for the Union army during the Civil War, but how I wished I had three sisters and a best friend, just like in Little Women.
You get the point. In fiction, the writer creates a world where the reader can lose track of time and space for as long as the story lasts. Character traits, dialog, plot, and voice are all tools to give credibility to the story.
If I’m reading a YA book and the main character doesn’t sound like a teenager at all, the spell of the story is broken and the reader is pulled away from it. The same thing if the characters’ actions aren’t congruent with their motivations. 
What are some things that pull you out of the story as a reader? As a writer, how do you keep reality in your story?

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Stupid Parents on Kids' TV Shows

The other day I was changing channels (probably looking for the Barcelona game), when I stumbled upon an old episode of Dora the Explorer. I never thought I would say this, but I have missed little Dora, her cousin Diego, abuelo and the baby twins. Dora's mother was always a benevolent, smiling figure, sending her strong daughter out into the world.

My kids have outgrown Dora and the other Nick Jr shows with the only exception of The Backyardigans, who by the way, absolutely rock! Literally. Their music is awesome.

Even though my two older children are tweens are the other two are in early elementary school, they have moved from fun, educational shows (did I just type fun and educational together? Yes, because I'm a nerd) to the other "trademark" Disney Channel shows. I'm talking about Good Luck Charlie, A.N.T. Farm, Austin and Ally and Shake it Up, to name just the more popular ones.

I never payed a ton of attention to them. The kids would watch TV in the family room while I did whatever I was doing. When I was a kid, I loved Blossom (who didn't?), and I have watched high School Musical and Lemonade Mouth (my favorite Disney movie for TV. Awesome writing).

It wasn't until my mom said something about Good Luck Charlie being a fun, cute show that I started watching it with the kids. And watching opened my ears, my eyes and my understanding.

Good luck Charlie is a fun, cute show.

Teddy, the older sister, is absolutely adorable, as is little Charlie. My kids are fascinated with the show because they have the same boy-girl-boy-girl-boy pattern as our family. Hey! They even just had a baby boy, Toby, exactly like us! The show is actually pretty funny.

What's not funny is how the parents act. They're absolute idiots. I was a kid once. I know that most times, kids reach an age when they think parents ARE idiots. I remember thinking my parents didn't know anything. Years, experience, and motherhood taught me that I knew nothing, and boy do I worship the ground my sainted mother walks on! But that is now.

As a parent, I know I'm not always right. I make mistakes every day! But the decisions I make are out of love and concern. My kids are, after all, my life, the reason I wake up every morning and for which I do all I do. They're my everything!

That's why it bothered me so much to see Teddy's mother acting like a teenager and getting into stupid situations to which the kids usually have to rescue her from. Teddy is the one who imparts the advice and sets limits on the mother! They usually compete over who's better than who. The mother is constantly talking about how beautiful she is, how clever and funny and amazing.

The dad is a funny, blabbering idiot. He's forever avoiding anything that would antagonize the wife, and being okay with everything as long as the family leaves him alone.

In the show, the parents are buddies with the kids, who are such brats, by the way.

I know that TV shows are for entertaining not educating. But, as I've heard a million times and experienced myself, kids are sponges. It doesn't take long for them to start imitating the behavior they see on TV.

When a character makes fun of the mom, the fake audience laughs and we all laugh. Right?

When my five year-old uses the same phrases on me, it's not funny at all. Not even a fake laugh over here to cue me in.

We're not huge TV watchers in this family, and by the time school starts in a few days, we won't watch it at all. With school and soccer and dance, there won't be any time left. I know the solution to avoid these shows' influence on my kids is simple: stop watching them.

The point is, why can't Disney portray family's in a funny way without denigrating parents? We talk about girl power, and I am glad about the strong female characters in movies and books that are coming out. What about family power? What is so wrong about supporting the family unit and the parents' role in educating the children?

The movie Brave, about Merida and her relationship with her mother is a good example too. The father is one more kid for the mother to discipline and control. He's in charge, but one look from his darling daughter is all it takes for him to melt into a puddle of goo. I loved the movie, but there is that tiny detail about the dad that portrayed parents as intellectual inferiors to clever, strong teenagers that bugged me to no end.

One of the reasons I love the movie Soul Surfer so much is because of the strong family that raised and supported such a strong girl, Bethany Hamilton.

I say, give us more like Soul Surfer. Give us funny and flawed, but not idiotic parents.

I used to complain (and I know I'm not the only one) that in Disney movies parents were always dead. But worse than a dead parent is an absent parent. A dis-empowered parent.

Can there be a balance between the authoritative parental figure and the idiotic one? How do we reach that point?

Good luck finding it, parents.

Monday, August 13, 2012

World Breasfeeding Week

Memories are tricky things. Our minds distil events, and we're left with the essence.

When I was little, my three younger siblings and I never ventured far from our mom's side. She cleaned, sewed, knitted, cooked with a baby in her arms. One of my very first memories is of my dad driving my mom and all of us kids to answer a request he had heard on the radio. A newborn baby at a local hospital needed "maternal milk" (that's how they called it), and my mom, who at the time was nursing my little brother, had a plentiful milk supply.

To me, the fact that my mom would donate milk to a baby in need was the most natural thing in the world. When I was a baby, she would walk several blocks every three hours to nurse my baby cousin whose mom couldn't feed him. I have dozens of "milk brothers and sisters" all over the country.

So when I became a new mother, the thought of not breastfeeding my child never crossed my mind. I was very sick after my son was born, and I was depressed for a whole year post-partum. Knowing that I was able to nurse my son and that he was so healthy and beautiful was sometimes the only thing that gave me enough incentive to get out of bed every morning. Every month the scale showed how much my Gorgeous Boy was growing. I know numbers don't mean anything when it comes to babies and children--my Swan Princess is twenty pounds underweight according to the charts, but she's my healthiest kid. The numbers on the scale, however, were a source of pride for me that helped me out of the depression.

All of my kids were champion nursers. I know that some people will be horrified of knowing that Princess Peach was three and a half when she stopped nursing, but we both loved every moment of it. It's not true that if babies nurse into toddlerhood they will be clingy or insecure. My Princess Peach is so independent and full of confidence!

When Baby Hulk had to stay in the NICU after birth, I was terrified that I wouldn't be able to nurse him, even though I had done it four times before. During the first days, the only thing I could do for him was pumping every two or three hours. It was emotionally and physically taxing. But the first day he was fed my milk though the feeding tube, he looked so content all the efforts were worth it--for him.

Little by little, the nurses allowed me to nurse him. At first, he'd fall asleep, but he caught on really well. Each time he tried he did better and better, until he didn't need the feeding tube anymore and eventually he came home with me. We're both pros now. I don't count the minutes he nurses or how many times he swallows.

I don't take it for granted though.

I know many mothers aren't able to nurse their babies for one reason or another, and I love that I can choose how I want to nurture my baby. I'm grateful that I come from a culture that holds nursing mothers in such high esteem. There are no special nursing covers or rooms in Argentina (or there weren't when I lived there), but mothers and their babies were welcomed and respected everywhere.

During the years, many times I've seen my kids pretend-nurse their "babies" (from teddy bears to action figures). I hope their minds can also distill the essence from the memories: breastfeeding is not only natural, but also sacred. It saves lives.

In Princess Peach's room I have a painting of an angel holding a nursing mother. I've felt the embrace of angels many a night when comforting a baby.

Happy International Breastfeeding Week! Maybe one day we won't even need such a celebration. After all, how many "International Breathing Weeks" do we have?

Statue of Mary nuring Jesus

Monday, July 23, 2012

The New Wildthing in My Life

Many of you know that I was expecting a baby this summer, and even though I had planned on keeping the blog current to link to all kinds of awesome articles and sources for new moms, I let my blog go. Again. I had several reasons though. One of them is that I discovered that it's a completely different experience being pregnant for the first time, or while parenting toddlers, to being pregnant when all four of my kids had busier schedules than I ever did. I was exhausted. All the time! I hardly had time to write, but I made myself work on three different projects until the very end of the pregnancy. I read ferociously. I immersed myself in words to distract my mind from the atrocious itching I always get as a result of suffering from Intrahepatic Cholastasis of Pregnancy, also known as ICP or OC. I had it with all my kids, but when before symptoms didn't start until the third trimester, this time, they showed at 11 weeks.

If the itching weren't bad enough, the exhaustion and weakness (also a result of ICP) exacerbated the fear of losing this kid. You see, the main risk of ICP is a high incidence of stillbirth during the three last weeks of pregnancy. Needless to say, I was pretty much maniacal at the end.

My due date was yesterday, July 22nd, but my baby was born three weeks early. His birth was nothing like that of the other kids. I went from two idyllic homebirths to the NICU.

He spent a whole week in the NICU. A week that really made me understand the meaning of time stopping when things are bad. That week seemed like a lifetime. Looking back on it, I don't even know how I made it through it all, other than the fact that I felt myself and my fears and worries lifted by angels, heavenly and those here on Earth. 

I understood the real meaning of envy. Hot, acidic, pervading envy when another baby went home and mine didn't. I never knew that feeling existed. I hated it.

But I also felt gratitude and joy like never before. Freedom. Going back home with my baby felt like I had been set free.

I'm writing again. Yesterday I read a chapter I wrote weeks ago, and guess what? It wasn't horrible. In fact, I liked it so much, this morning I woke up looking forward to updating the blog. And writing. And new stories. I think I'm back to almost normal. Almost.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

A tribute to Max and the Wild Things

Sad but true: I rely on twitter for my news. This morning, I checked the trending topics and all sleepiness left me in a second. Most trending topics had to do with Maurice Sendak, Max, and the wild Things. Unlike many twitter deaths, this one was real. It might be that I'm over-emotional. Being in the last trimester of my fifth pregnancy gives me that right. The thing is that I've spent most of the morning mourning for someone I never met in real life, but oh! how much influence he's had in mine!

I didn't know about Max and the Wild Things when I was a kid (I know. I cry for little Yamile too), but my husband did. In fact, in his early childhood, Jeff thought he was THE Max. I have pictures and countless family stories to prove it. Jeff, the epitome of a business man, always busy and on the phone, was a Max.

This morning he was already busy on the phone, but when I told him the news, I caught a glimpse of the young boy he was, and what sad news this were for him. 

I read Where the Wild Things Are for the first time when my Handsome Boy was still a little baby. I loved it immediately. It wouldn't become our family's book until El Cangri came along, and he hit his crisis that lasted the good part of his first four years. With El Cangri, we read the book first thing in the morning, before nighttime, and before bedtime--in both, English and Spanish. El Cangri knew all the words. He still does. Every time we reached the page in which Max is chasing the poor dog with a fork, he'd ask if the dog was Coco (our Maltese), and I said yes. His eyes would get all shiny and bright as he whispered, "And that's me!" I'm sure he wondered how in the world he had ended up in the pages of a book. 

One Halloween, before I even knew the movie was coming out, I made a wolf costume for El Cangri, which is still our kids' favorite outfit :-) 
El Cangri during his Max stage

Now, my Princess Peach reminds me so much of Max, although in a different way. She's not mad (usually); she's just plain wild. I love her so much for it! The dogs are terrified of her though. The other day, Jeff spent a long time searching for Dandi, our Yorkie. He finally found her here:
Dandi, waiting for Papa to rescue her

I read through my twitter feed and was touched by the way thousands of people said their goodbyes to Maurice. Perhaps the one tribute that hit me the most was: "I hope someone kept supper warm for you."

There's a lovely article on The New York Times too. (Disclaimer: the comments made me cry more than the article itself. Just saying).

Have a lovely trip, Maurice, sailing the seas to where the wild things are, you King of them all!

Please share: What's your favorite Sandak book or any other kids' book? I'd love to have a discussion!

Monday, April 30, 2012

A True Gentleman

The last couple of weeks haven't been good for us, Barça fans. We lost the first game against Chelsea for the Champions League Semi-final; we lost El Clasico and almost all hopes for La Liga to Real Madrid, and we tied on the second game against Chelsea, losing our spot on the finals. Messi missed a penalty kick (he's human after all), and the tie left us a taste of defeat. Last Friday came the last straw, when I woke up to the sad news of Pep Guardiola's decision of resigning as the coach of the first team.

I could see it coming, but I'm a Saggitarious! I always keep a glimmer of hope (proof is, I still think we still have a shot at La Liga :-)

Pep cited exhaustion as the main reason behind his decision. He gave his all to the team in these last four wonderful years. He's empty now. He has nothing left to give. Like someone mentioned on twitter, the guy aged ten years in the last four!

I just wanted to say thank you, Pep, for the leadership. Thank you for the example of ultimate sportsmanship. I hope that throughout their lives, my children may have the priviledge of having leaders such as Guardiola, who respect their principles beyond any score or title, who never stop demanding but the best, who believe there's always one more goal to achieve.

Pep, you have inspired me beyond words. And I will miss you every weekend, directing and comandeering the best futbol team that has ever existed. Because of course, Barça without Xavi and Iniesta, Puyo and Messi would never be the same. Barcelona without Pep won't be the same, but life continues. The mark of the leader is more noticeable when they're gone. I know Pep's legacy will extend for years, if not ever. I'll certainly remember him always.

 Best Strategist Ever. He knew where the magic was needed. 

No, he's not a top model. He's The Gentleman of the most beautiful game of the world.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Tooth Gatherers

Like every April, the Utah Children's Writers Blog is featuring a new story each day: 30 stories, 30 days.

Today, my short story, The Tooth Gatherers, is featured on the blog, and I'd love for you to read it!

I wrote it for my Princess Peach (formerly known as Princess Chubbers). She's anxiously awaiting for her baby teeth to start falling off, but they just won't budge! I guess that after surviving so many blows by falls, being kicked by a child on a swing, and a toxic daily dose of sugar, they're not giving up easily!

I hope you enjoy it. Let me know your thoughts!

Marina finally lost a tooth. She’s not the youngest in her kindergarten class, but she’s the last one to show off a gap in her impish smile.
Her friend Ashley is an expert on losing teeth. She lost the first one in preschool, two years ago. “Polish your tooth and put it under your pillow for the Tooth Fairy,” she advises in a grave voice. “That’s the only thing you have to do.” 
“The Tooth Fairy,” Marina says in awe.
The whole kindergarten class agrees that the Tooth Fairy comes at night and that just like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, she has special powers. No one has ever seen her or caught her. The cleaner and healthier the tooth is, the more money she brings!
Marina clasps her tooth in her hand and runs all the way home with her wonderful news. She presses her tongue in the gap where her tooth used to be. Her heart flutters with the promise of magic and a golden coin.
Abuelo is waiting for her at the door, like every day.
“I lost a tooth!” she screams, jumping into his arms that are still strong enough to make her fly in the air.
Abuelo beams at her. He’s an expert on losing teeth too, but losing them doesn’t make him happy at all.
“Now you can put it under your pillow. It’s so healthy and clean, I’m sure El Raton Perez will bring you a present,” he says and goes back inside the house to prepare her after-school snack.
El Raton Perez? Marina has never heard of this mouse before.
Could a whole classroom of friends be wrong? Who’s telling the truth? Who is the official Tooth Gatherer: The Tooth Fairy or El Raton Perez?
She decides to ask Mama. Mama knows everything.
But this time, Mama doesn’t answer the question right away. She thinks about it for a long time before she says, “Ill ask Papa.”
Mama and Papa talk for a long time. They call Abuelo. The three of them whisper in Spanish behind the office door. Marina’s heart beats so loudly she can’t hear a word they say.
The grownups look worried. Their worry is contagious. 
In opposite corners of the kitchen, like luchadores in a ring, the Tooth Fairy and El Raton Perez glare at each other. They shake their fists and mutter under their breath.
“This is my territory. This house has been in the Tooth Fairy Atlas since it was built decades ago!” the Tooth Fairy says, stomping a foot.
“And La Sociedad Internacional of El Raton Perez has served this family for generations! I remember Abuelo, Mama and Papa when they lost their own teeth! I’ve waited for years for this moment. I won’t forsake my stewardship!” El Raton Perez squeaks. Even his whiskers blush with indignation.  
They leave the house their separate ways, but with the same destination: straight to file a complaint at the Society for the Protection of Magical Childhood Companions.
Santa Claus presides the audience, assisted by The Three Kings. The Easter Bunny takes note of the proceedings.
“Your Honor,” says El Raton Perez with a flourish of his feathered hat, “I humbly beg for your assistance in preserving this young girl’s cultural patrimony.”
Santa Claus nods his head and directs his attention to the Tooth Fairy.
She curtsies and smiles. She doesn’t need any charming powders to make them all fall in love with her. “I understand Mr. Perez, the Mouse, has served this family for generations. Marina was born in this country though, and in this country, I have jurisdiction. Thank you.”
Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Three Kings deliberate and argue in hushed tones, sounding exactly like Mama, Papa and Abuelo in the office a few hours ago.
El Raton Perez clutches his hat in his hands to prevent himself from biting his nails. The Tooth Fairy fans herself with a rose petal. The courtroom, filled beyond capacity, bubbles with speculation. What’s more important? The place where the child is born or the culture of the family?
Finally, the Sandman calls everyone to attention. The judge has reached a verdict.
Santa Claus clears his voice before he says, “Which takes precedence? You two are not the first ones to come to this court with this concern. Why! Even my friends The Three Kings and I had a similar dispute centuries ago!”
“How did you fix it?” asks the Mouse.
“Who won?” asks the Tooth Fairy.
Santa Claus and the Three Kings smile, full of wisdom and experience.
“Who won? Why, the child of course! How did we fix it? Working together!”
The crowd mutters in approval.
“Let the child decide. Our mission is to make Marina happy and preserve the magic of childhood, which is more fragile than a crystal.”
The Tooth Fairy and El Raton Perez leave the courtroom in silence, but this time they stay together. The Tooth Fairy shakes flying powder on the mouse. El Raton Perez opens his green polka-dotted umbrella over the Tooth Fairy to protect her hair-do from the night dew.
They arrive to Marina’s house just in time for bedtime.
Abuelo sits on Marina’s bed, holding her hand.
“Abuelo, what should I do? Papa says El Raton Perez has been a friend of our family’s for always. What if he didn’t follow you and my parents to this country? What if he can’t get in? Does he need a passport?” Marina asks.
Abuelo listens in silence while Marina continues, “Mama says that since I was born in this country we have to adopt its customs. My friends have never heard of this mouse you and Papa talk about. What should I do?”
Marina opens her hand and shows Abuelo her white tooth.
The Tooth Fairy and El Raton Perez look at the gleaming tooth in ecstasy.
It would complete El Raton Perez’s family collection.
It would be the perfect jewel to start a new collection for the Tooth Fairy too.
“I’ll abide by her decision,” El Raton Perez says, although it takes much fortitude for him to pronounce the words.
“Whatever makes her happy,” says the Tooth Fairy, wiping a tear from her eyes.
Marina waits for Abuelo’s advise.
El Raton Perez and the Tooth Fairy hold hands in the shadows.
Finally, Abuelo says, “Our family comes from all the corners of the world. You’re both an American and a Latina girl. You were born in this beautiful place we now call home, but you also carry a beautiful heritage. You’re like a river that runs over many lands. You carry the best from all the places our family has loved.”
He kisses Marina on the forehead before he leaves the room.
Marina opens a pewter box with a fairy engraved on the lid. She polishes her baby tooth for the last time and carefully places it on a cotton pillow. Before she closes the lid, she also puts a silk flower for the Tooth Fairy and a piece of cheese for the mouse.
“You can both come to my house,” Marina whispers with closed eyes. “I am both a girl of this land and the land my family came from. Mama says sharing is important. You can both share me.”
The Tooth Fairy and El Raton Perez hug each other and promise to always work together and advise the other in every need. They will share Marina’s teeth.
The most important duty of being a Tooth Gatherer is the happiness of the child.
The next day, there isn’t a happier child than Marina. She holds a golden coin from the country she was born and a silver coin from the country her family came from. In her heart, she has the best present of all: the knowledge that she belongs to two cultures, and she is only richer for it.  

Friday, March 02, 2012

JIG, the movie

 Swan Princess at her last feis, in which she took 3 first place, 2 second place, and 2 third place medals

Contrary to many stereotypes about women, Latina women, and writers I LOVE sports and movies about sports. Yes, even American football. Remember the Titans is a favorite of mine. I'm not an athlete, but in my family we ate, breathed, talked and dreamed futbol. My husband was athlete of the year his senior year of high-school, so it was only natural that when our kids came along, they'd be in sports.

Swan Princess, my first daughter, tried T-ball and futbol. She didn't like it. She preferred ballet which has been a passion of hers since she was three years old. She's now the youngest in her class and has such a grace and pose that seeing her dance takes my breath away.

A few years ago, we went to our city's Summer festival, the Highland Fling, in which one of the performing groups was an Irish Dance group. Swan Princess was mesmerized, looking at the dancers with such admiration and longing that I still get chills when I remember that day she found her true love.

She's been an Irish dancer ever since. She attends The Shelley School of Irish Dance (we're so blessed to live just a few miles from one of Utah's best Irish dance instructors!). Unlike my boys, whom I have to bribe and beg to practice, Swan practices several hours a day. All on her own. She never walks. She leaps and hops and dances instead. When she can't dance, like at church or school, she goes over the steps with her fingers on her lap or the desk.

There are three major feiseana (competitions) here in Utah every year, and she's always preparing for them. Since she's now a preliminary champion, we'll have to start traveling for her to have more opportunities to compete. Last night, I saw JIG, a documentary about the greatest Irish Dance competition of all: The World Championships.

The documentary follows several children, both boys and girls, in their journey to the tournament. Some of these kids are only ten years old! They have such passion and determination, that at the end of the show I was in tears. I had a greater desire to pursue my dreams with more dedication, to write with more passion, to do my time at the computer every single day.

Jig is available on Netflix and on Amazon video. In fact, I rented it for $2.99 for a whole week! I bought the DVD too because now it's one of my favorite shows too.

What things inspire you? I hope this little trailer inspires you too :-)

Thursday, February 02, 2012


Last summer, I had the privilege of attending the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference (WIFYR) with the amazing Martine Leavitt. I learned so much during that week, that months later, I'm still processing all the wonderful information.

One of the things that impressed me the most was when Martine taught us the principle of "the object of desire." What does the main character want? Is it clear on the first page? On the first chapter at the very least?

Ever since, I haven't been able to read a book or watch a movie without looking for the main character's object of desire, or the dilemma.

My first grader brought home a story that he wrote at school.
I'm going to transcribe it here (misspellings and all) because I think it's a great example of showing the main character's dilemma.

If my mom and dad were snowpeople I would cook and do the dishes.
I would make a igloo for the snowpeople. 
If my mom cook she would melt.
If my dad stayed inside he would melt.
If I stayed with them I would be a snowman.
I am so sad.

First of all, allow me, AWWWW.  Isn't it cute?


Can you see the main character's dilemma? The parents would melt if they stayed with the boy, in the house. If the boy stayed with the parents, he would become a snowperson too.

I wish I learned this in first grade too :-)

What do you think? Do you think it's important to know the dilemma in the first pages? Why? Why not?