"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, 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

October

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.