"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

Friday, August 28, 2009

Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer

 Imagine, if you can, being a teenager, in Argentina during the political turbulence of the eighties and nineties. Those Argentine winters can seep into your soul, and if you love to read, like I did (and still do) it's almost natural that the melancholy words of Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer will become the echo of your soul. I don't remember when I read him for the first time, but ever since, and even though I don't especially love poetry, he became my favorite writer of all times. 
When I took a Spanish literature class at BYU, I wrote a report on him, and I said that dying young, and of tuberculosis, made him the epitome of the Romanticism man: desolate by unrequited love, poor, sick, romantic to the last fiber of his soul, and exceptionally talented in the arts.
Poor Gustavo; he had a harsh childhood, and was never happy with the woman he loved. Instead, the woman whom he married cheated on him, his brother and friend Valeriano died too, and it was natural that he would quickly follow. He was only 34 years old when Death took him.
Here are two of his most famous poems:
The dark swallows will return
their nests upon your balcony, to hang.
And again with their wings upon its windows,
Playing, they will call.
But those who used to slow their flight
your beauty and my happiness to watch,
Those, that learned our names,
Those... will never come back!
And then perhaps, his most renown poem:
What is poetry? you say as you fix
on my pupil your pupil in blue.
What is poetry! You're asking me?
Poetry is you.
When I am writing my novel, his words from his Leyendas are always in the back of my mind, especially "Green Eyes." When you read my book, you will know why.
I just barely bought my own copy of his Rimas y Leyendas (Rhymes and Legends), and even though my dear Gustavo was never famous in life, after death he became one of the most celebrated authors of the Spanish language. I hope not to share your fate Gus, but I thank you for the musicality of your words, for the feelings you put into paper, and that almost 200 hundred years later, still have the power to arise the same feelings in others. That is pure genius; that is true immortality.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Is Sea World Overrated?

When we were in TX, I was delighted to find out that there was a Sea World in San Antonio. At the beginning of the summer we had thought Jeff would stay in Orlando until August, so the kids already had plans of going to Disneyworld and Sea World every day. So, knowing we could still go to Sea World, albeit San Antonio, made the kids, and me, very happy.
San Antonio is about two and a half hours from Corpus Christi, so when it was time to return home, I booked the flight from SA so we could visit Sea World.
It was a 99+ degree day in SA, and it was crowded. Imagine a legion of tortured looking adults following their delighted offspring into Shamu land. An adult ticket was $56.99 plus tax, and a child's ticket $48.99 plus tax. So, do the math. For our family it was $309.94 plus tax, just for admission. Ah! I almost forgot! Parking was $25.00 for VIP, which meant you got to park in the first 5 parking rows. Of course, the only available spot we found was in row 5.
But we were going to have fun! We rented a double stroller for $15.00, and I'm so glad we did because it was so hot, and so crowded, the stroller was a life saver for me and the little ones.
As soon as we went in, there was a show. It was Viva! and it featured an MC clown, who was very funny, and aerialists and synchronized swimmers. It was a Cirque du Soleil kind of show--throw in a couple baby belugas and dolphins. The kids liked it, the venue was very nice (covered, a must in such weather), but VERY short. It was less than half an hour.
Then, we ran to catch the Shamu show. The walk was a torture, and if I was tanned before, by the end of the day I looked copper. We got some lemon sherbet to cool down a little, and it was $4 the pint. Water was $2. The Shamu show was very emotive. Those wonderful animals are majestic, and the kids shrieked with delight every time we got soaked when the whales splashed the audience. It was a cool show. Again, very short, about half an hour.
By the end of the show we were starving, so we went to a barbecue place inside the park, and when Jeff and the boys came back with the food, Swan and I looked at each other and rolled out eyes. That's what you get when you are a picky eater. And I had thought you couldn't go wrong with barbecue ... but the chicken was rawish, and I could not force myself to eat it. So I bought chocolate popsicles, at $4 each. That's $24 for our family.
After lunch the older kids wanted to go on a ride, so Jeff took them to Rio Loco. The little ones and I walked to the kiddy pool in the Lost Lagoon section. The babies loved playing in the water, and I tried not to think of the many un-diapered bottoms soaking in the innocent looking water. I walked over to the waves pool, but it was crowded like a can of sardines, and I was not looking forward to standing shoulder to shoulder with a million other people.

Two hours went by, and when I started worrying about Jeff and the kids, I saw them coming and we miraculously met. Jeff didn't have his cell phone. Divine providence led us to each other. They waited in line for two hours for a seven minute ride.We could have bought the Quick Queue pass which costs $19.99 per person. We chose waiting.
We walked around the park, stopping by the dolphin pool and the Clysdale Hamlet. We terrorized Chubbers at the Sharks/Coral Reef, and by six o'clock we called it a day.
So we spent about $400.00 for a day at Sea World. I know in my kids' mind the day will become more and more magical as time goes by, but Jeff and I look at each other and wonder, "Was that it?" Total disappointment. Have you ever been to a major attraction like Sea World? What are your thoughts?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Read Bree

Read Bree

I just came across this blog, and I think this book will be amazing. Oh! She has a great contest going on, so go ahead and check it out!

Like a dream

This last week the kids went back to school. They were so excited they kept waking up all night to check I hadn't slept in. I also doubted myself, and I set up about three different alarm clocks in case one or two didn't work.
I got up on time to make a good warm breakfast, and the kids dressed in their uniforms. Smiles reaching from ear to ear.
I missed them a lot during the day, especially because the little ones were so utterly bored without the older siblings that they drove me crazy all week. The only good part is that I get to take a nap again because since we get up so early, after lunch the babies are exhausted (my babies who are almost 3 and 5. Pathetic!). By now, we have our little routine again. School, lunch, nap, futbol, or ballet (which starts next Tuesday), Irish dancing (starts tomorrow) and piano. There are also church related activities, like Scouts, and all of a sudden my calendar is full of colored little blocks. My main activity is driving, but things should get better once my assistant arrives next weekend (Jeff, that's you in case you didn't notice).
Swan also had a birthday this week, and she looks and acts so grownup my eyes tear up over anything (and that's apart from the allergies which are killing me this year). I found her listening to Keane on an ipod (it's a family one that she appropriated) and singing the melancholy "Atlantic" with a thread of voice (" ♪♬♫I Don't wanna be old!!!! ♪♬♫).
She told me, "I have this feeling inside me, and then I thought, and yeah! It's happiness!" My pint-sized teenage daughter!
We celebrated at my parents, and she had a blast. Her party won't be for a couple of weeks (she wanted Jeff to be here) and I'm dreading making a cake. She wants a mermaid, and after last year's dragon's success, I don't think I'll be able to top that.
Friday was the first futbol practice of the season, and with my BBF G. we have an unspoken understanding: she brings the mate, I bring the treats. She brings treats as well, but mainly she brings the mate because I drink it sweet. You are converting me though G. I've only been putting sugar to the first one and then to every other. That's better, huh?
Well, Friday we were running late, like always, and I debated between taking everybody along into the supermarket for a package of cookies or ... and then an idea came to mind. Gorgeous and Swan could go! So I parked by the store entrance, and gave them a $10 bill. You should've seen them, walking so proudly into the store, hand in hand. They came back running, with two packages of Keebler's chocolate chip and fudge sandwich, and a box of ice-cubes gum for me. Gorgeous was ready to pocket the change, but he gave it back promptly when I asked for it.
I remember going to don Luis' store when I was five (it wasn't a supermarket. Just the front room in some one's house), and I could read, but not my mom's handwriting. So I asked her to read it to me, and I memorized it, and then at the store I pretended I was reading, and the old man and his wife were so amazed it scared me for a minute.
How bittersweet that even though my kids have a much better childhood than I did, they won't have the memories of going to the kiosco for candy behind my back, or to the store for bread and "facturas" in the morning.
The kids are growing, and I feel like Enos in the Book of Mormon when he says, "life has passed us like a dream." The days are so short and packed with activities, and at night, when there's only silence interrupted by sleepy sighs, I wonder where my babies are, and who those big kids who look so much like Jeff and me when we were little are.

Here's a video of Swan's birthday party (the unofficial one). I couldn't resist!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Perseid Meteor Shower

Night before last I stayed up until after 1 o'clock writing. I had a sudden rush of inspiration because I had been reading "How Green Was My Valley" from the uber-amazing Richard Llewellyn, and how can you not be inspired after reading such words? Well, the thing is that the night before, and all that night, every time I opened my Google page, I saw the Google "doodle" of the Perseid Meteor Shower. Every time I see something like that I think, "How cool it would be to go out and see this and that." But I NEVER do it. Wednesday night though, I went to wake Gorgeous Boy, who had fallen asleep reading the third Percy Jackson book. The book had landed open on his face. I thought, "How fitting!" because the Perseids are named after the Perseus constellation. Percy--Perseus, get it? Perseus is actually Percy's real name. OK, enough ranting. The thing is that my boy would not wake up, and instead Swan Princess opened her sleepy eyes, and looked at me hard, trying to make out if I was a dream (I hope not a nightmare) or if it was my real me. So I invited her to come along (you could not pay me enough to go out at night by myself!). She jumped from her bed, and grabbed the first stuffed animal she could, and followed me along the dark house.
We opened the door, and the world looked so different by the light of the silver moon shining from behind the house. I had brought along an over sized pillow ( a flat round cushion), and we lay waiting for the shooting stars a coupple of steps from the front porch. Our blankets kept us warm in spite of the wind that blew hard and chilly. Then, I heard her intake of breath, and we both said at the same time, "Look at that!" as the golden streak of light vanished into the darkness. Soon, there were too many shootings stars to count. And as it always is when you are watching the sky, out into infinity, she asked me that if God had made the stars and the worlds, then who made Him, and that Maker, and the next, forever and ever. I answered that I still get a headache when I think about that.
We saw several yellow shooting stars, and then with a "Whoosh!" a radiant blue that seemed burnt into my retina because when I close my eyes, I can still see it.
Sometimes the wind blew a certain way and moved the tree branches and the bushes, and I thought I saw things that weren't there at all, and my heart would jump without notice, and I would feel my cheeks burn by the adrenaline rush. But then, feeling her tiny, fragile hand in mine, I felt peace again, looking into the sky, and seeing the bits of light crossing above us.
"Mami, I love you." She said, and hugged me. That was the most miraculous thing all night. That united under the expanse, feeling our smallness, we could also feel so important in another's eyes. My daughter. My shining star. I hope her light never vanishes like the Perseids. I know she brightens my days with her ideas and the things she says, her knowing eyes, her simple smiles. That small little girl, with such a sensitive, perceptive soul.
It was but an hour in our lives, but it will remain in my heart forever.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The curse of the wasp

This picture was taken last night, after his visit to the ER. He's trying to smile ...

I had never been stung by a bee until about 5 years ago. I was at the park with Gorgeous and Swan; it was just the two of them back then, and they were having a blast in the playground. I was reading (what else?), and I felt something on my leg, inside my jeans. This was September, and the weather had already turned cooler. It was a wonderful early Autumn afternoon, and all of a sudden, I felt fire burning my knee. I knew, I don't know how, that a bee had gotten inside my jeans and had stung me. I bunched up my jeans to crush the bee, and then I rolled my pants. There it was, the black and yellow culprit all smashed up. I wasn't allergic to the bite, and ever since that time, every Summer I have an incident with either wasps or bees.

There was the one time the kids were playing in the backyard and Swan was viciously stung in her armpit (!) three times. That same week J., G's son, was playing at home and was stung by a wasp too. The only time in his life he's ever been stung.

Last Summer Chubbers was playing barefooted, and she stepped on a bee, which of course, stung her too.

Ah! But the best (or worst depending how you see it) was when the guy who does our yard was pruning the bushes which had grown "preternaturally" (like Anne Rice likes to say) and was stung by wasps all over his arm and ... I can't say it! INSIDE HIS NOSE. Ouch!

So, I'm a little paranoid about bees and wasps, but when El Cangri told me yesterday that a bee had stung him on his finger, I went to the medicine cabinet to get the homeopathic remedy for "bee stings" (Apis M.), and washed his hands. His little right pointer finger was stiff and swollen and red. A red hole was the evidence of the sting. I put some anti-inflammatory oil and went back to planting flowers. Yes, on a Sunday, but they were going to die if I waited one more day.

El Cangri started complaining that his face hurt, and when I turned around to look at him, I saw him riding his trike, his eyes a mere slit. He kept saying, "I want to go take a bath!" I took him inside to wash his face, and that's when I noticed the hives. It was like his skin was bubbling as it became covered by bright red welts. He even had hives on his scalp. I felt a distinct voice on my mind say, "Go to the hospital. NOW!!!!" I immediately called my awesome neighbors to see if the other kids could stay with them.

The neighbors came running to help, and I. took the kids home so B. could come to the hospital with me. By then El Cangri was wheezing, and he couldn't see at all. I had given him one teaspoon of Claritin before we left, and I'm convinced he made it to the hospital because of the Claritin.

The ER was packed, of course! But they took him in right away. The doctor took a look at him, and he ordered an IV to be placed and a cocktail of medicine to go in it. My poor baby looked so small in his superman cape on that hospital bed! But, he's such a brave boy, he didn't even flinch when he felt the IV needle on his arm.

I'm so grateful B. was there with me. I felt I was having an out-of-body experience, and today I have been very weak. My body and mind respond to emergencies by blocking out things. I could hardly speak, in either English or Spanish. B. was there though, making sure everything was OK.

A while later, the swelling went down, and he was breathing well. His heart rate was stable, and they sent him home. We carry those miraculous epi-pens now, just in case. If this is how he reacted to a very first sting, I shudder to think of a future sting.

I took him to our doctor today, to discuss plans for the future, what treatments are available, what to do if there is a next time. When we went to the pharmacy for his medicine, he saw a little "kolala" (how he called it) bear, and it was love at first sight. He named him "Sting." I wonder what goes through his mind. What he thinks.

His face was still VERY swollen this morning, and I overheard him telling his older siblings, "Yes, I look different now, but everyone is different, right?" All day I caught him looking at himself on the mirror. My child; he's so vain. He loves his face. Today I saw his worried expression, and he asked me if he was ever going to be pretty again. Lump ... He's so tenderhearted and beautiful. I love him so much! Of course, my kid who LOVES bread is the one with the wheat allergies, and the one who loves to play outdoors is the one with wasp allergies. My sensitive little guy. What am I going to do with him?

What good will come out of this? For now, my appreciation for my rowdy four year old. For happy laughter coming from the trampoline and the swing set. The gift it is to be oblivious of insects when you are out in the yard, or taking a walk around the neighborhood. The blessing it is to have older siblings who love their little brother and cry, "The vaccine, the vaccine!" meaning the epi-pen because we were out having a tea-party and there were little bees outside.

I try not to think of El Cangri's starting kindergarten next year, or of scouts camps, or the mission. I know, there's still time! But it goes by so fast! I can't have him under my skirts (like they say in Argentina) 24/7; I have to educate him and then trust. Trust in him that he'll protect himself, in others that will remember his allergies, and in Heavenly Father, that He'll protect this boy who is the light of my life.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Monday, August 03, 2009

Not what she was expecting

Summertime is parade time here in Utah. We were lucky enough to return home in time for our city's festival which is called "Highland Fling." For the last 4 years I have had a kid in the baby contest, and this time was the first time that I didn't have a baby participating. Later I found out there was no baby contest this year after all, but oh well! I was still sad my baby-contest days are gone. Sniff, sniff.

Well, Last Saturday we were up early for the parade, and like every year we have a blast. The kids love eating cotton candy (the ONE time in the year they do),

Seeing the police officers with their motorcycles and standing by the curb for high-fives

And Cosmo!

BYU's mascot was there at the parade. My little Chubbers saw the kids go crazy with excitement (we are a truly blue city. We have the random Ute, but here we're mainly Cougars!) and she ran because she thought the truck must be throwing a TON of candy. I saw her running happily, ad then stop in her tracks to turn back frantically and ran back to me because she was terrified of Cosmo! My Gorgeous Boy and I couldn't stop laughing. We laughed so hard we were crying, and then maybe a few of those tears of mine were due to the fact that my boy is old enough to feel sympathy and look condescendingly on his siblings. He's my little friend. He tells me jokes, and we look at each other rolling our eyes when Swan says a random thing. When did he grow so fast? He's only 8, but since he's my oldest, he acts like he's much older. And then at Costco I have to take away a penny he was using to torment his sister, and I have to tell him off for speaking like Stitch, from Lilo and Stitch, because oh boy! How annoying!
Our Highland Fling. A day of summer that's become a marker in our lives. How long until Jeff can celebrate it with us again?