The simple summer joy of looking for and catching fireflies- an entirely new experience for this California family.
The simple summer joy of looking for and catching fireflies- an entirely new experience for this California family.
A few weeks ago, we sent Big Boy to Lacrosse camp at the University of Notre Dame. We made a prior trip this past Spring and really enjoyed our time there. This was Big Boy’s first time away from home and he was so excited. In fact, he couldn’t wait to push us out of his dorm room. It really disturbed him that we hung out a little to observe the scene. He kept saying- “just go already!” He was more than ready for this.
From a parent standpoint, I found the most interesting thing about the camp to be NOT the lacrosse skills he acquired while there from the coaches who hailed from various universities across the country. Don’t get me wrong- he definitely improved upon his stick skills and learned some new tips on defensive moves.
What cracked me up and surprised me the most were the life skills he learned while he was there- basically how to barter and work with others in a free enterprise system. Turns out- prior campers had this whole camp thing figured out. Boys had came prepared ready to barter, sell and profit from exchanging goods and services such as snack treats, stringing other people’s lacrosse heads, lacrosse sticks, nets, skateboards, and scooters. Big Boy said he sold his bag of beef jerky for $3.00 to another player. I responded with a “What? I paid over $5 for that bag?!” To which he promptly responded – “Mom- I had already eaten some.” I was thinking why in the world would you sell it then but instead said nothing.
Big Boy’s biggest complaint on day 1 was that his feet were killing him because the coaches made them walk back and forth from the dorm rooms to the playing fields a couple times a day- adding up to several miles on top of the regular drills and games.
So Big Boy did what he had to- he “sold” access and use of the private bathroom he shared with his roommate in exchange for use of another player’s scooter so that he could scoot back and forth throughout the day. Turns out Big Boy and his roommate had a corner room so they were the only boys on that floor to have their own private bathroom. Big Boy quickly realized what an advantage he had and used what he had to get what he needed.
The other player got to have his own private bathroom to do his business in and Big Boy’s feet got to rest just a little bit. And I had been worried about him and his feet. Yeah, right.
She was born on June 22, 1926. Her father- Asuncion Espinoza came from a wealthy Mexican cattle ranching family. Her mother was named Librada. Her comfortable childhood was swept away from under her feet when her father decided to leave the family for another woman. He left them completely impoverished and desolate at a very troubled time in the world- the aftermath of the Mexican Revolution and the crisis of a depressed economy in both the U.S. and Mexico.
Consuelo or “Abuelita Chelo” as we have all come to call her was the little girl who was abandoned along with her siblings and her mother Librada. Abuelita Chelo is my grandmother and our family matriarch. She turned 90 years old this past week and on Sunday, we will celebrate her and her life. Abuelita never forgot how her life changed drastically from one day to the next when her father left the family and the extreme poverty that followed, living as a homeless family on the streets of Mexico, her and her siblings hustling to make money on the streets as shoe shiners and gum sellers- this childhood trauma followed her all the rest of her life and brought her tremendous sadness.
My grandmother is not the baking cookies type. Never was. Instead I remember her strength and fortitude. She taught me to work hard. Both her and Grandpa did. At age 11, my parents sent me on weekends to spend the night at their house so that I could help them sell at the swap meet. We’d wake up at 5:30 in the morning. The truck was on- rumbling low- coffee scents strong in the air and I’d be squeezed in between them in the front seat of the truck. It was still dark outside. We’d arrive at the swap meet, all of us like small ants in line formation in our trucks- all of us immigrants from other places (Mexico, China, Vietnam)- trying to scrape enough dollars and cents to feed our families.
My grandmother taught me how to talk to people- all kinds of people and she taught me how to sell just about anything to anybody. “You’ve got to call them in- like this Elizabeth, ask them what they need, how you might be able to help them, look for every angle- don’t give up. When you have some down time- organize things this way. Keep your eyes open for thieves- they act quick- look at hands and don’t get distracted.” She was also an unbelievably proud grandmother- to every friend that came by to say hello she would tell them- this is my granddaughter Elizabeth- daughter of Belia. She’d spoil me with doughnuts for breakfast, fresh cherries and plums and peaches during the summers and hamburgers for lunch. They were long days and she wanted to make sure I was well fed. I remember thinking that if you added up all the money she spent on me on food throughout the day- it would have been cheaper for her to hire someone else to help!
As a small child, I would sit at this little wooden island in her kitchen and eat pomegranates. She’d cover my clothes with a huge apron and then I went to town- red juice spilling all over my hands and mouth- never enough- there were never enough pomegranate seeds. Reader’s Digest magazines and newspapers were always scattered around her house. There was always pan dulce in the pastry dish and coffee on the kitchen counter top. Somebody was always stopping by to visit. There was always another relative I had never met before who was the cousin of so and so and then they’d go on and on about how they remembered me when I was just a small baby.
I miss those days. They were the longest days in the world and the best. I just didn’t know it then.
On Sunday- together with my parents, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews- all 150 of us- we will celebrate Abuelita Chelo and her 90 years, remember Abuelito Pedro. We will squeeze every single amount of life out of every minute of that day- we will eat, dance, sing, cry, remember and create new memories.
What a legacy she has created- one that is 90 years strong. Thank you Abuelita Chelo.
It’s been cra-zy around the house. Crazy with a capital “C.” Too much to go into today and will share more in a few weeks but suffice to say that with everything going on and the kids home and us traveling on the weekends all over Missouri, Indiana and Chicago, I have had very little time to write and update the blog. I have so much to share however and will in due time. Before leaving for another trip to Los Angeles to celebrate my last living grandparent- Abuelita Chelo- who turns 90- wanted to share some pictures from a trip we took to St. Louis’ Graffiti Wall.
You don’t hear much about this Graffiti Wall, at least I had not and I was so pleasantly surprised by how interesting it was. Every August/September, the wall is painted white and the city throws a huge paint party down by the riverfront, as that is where it is and graffiti artists paint huge murals with lots of powerful imagery.
Some tips if you go: The wall is down by the riverfront off of Chouteau and S Leonor K Sullivan Blvd. When you get off the freeway and follow your navigation, you might feel like you might be in a bad part of town but do not fear- it’s just industrial- not bad at all. Feel free to park anywhere close by the wall there are no parking spaces that are close by and I made the mistake of parking in the semi-parking lot on the left and then had to go back to get my car in the hot, humid weather. Go to the right and just park anywhere. If you go during the summer- go early as it gets really hot, very quickly. Enjoy and take lots of pictures!
With the end of the school year, I had the pleasure of reviewing all the kids’ artwork from their art classes. What a surprise I found- I love learning new things about my kids and the way they think. It makes me think about how the stuff we talk about at home impacts what they say and do out in the world.
All 3 are in summer camps this week, so I find myself with a few hours of spare time. Wouldn’t you know it- accompanied by a terrible head cold. I am so mad about it- going on day 5. Instead of enjoying the nice weather and going for a walk or yoga class, I find myself at home, sniffling, doped up on medicine and napping. It could be worse I suppose- I know. So, I’ll quit whining.
Back to the artwork. Second, Most Honorable Son drew the above piece. By itself it doesn’t say much. Accompanied by this caption- however – it speaks volumes.
The world is a whole place with diversity in it. Black, brown, white, yellow, tan, every color of the rainbow. Every color is needed and it is a beautiful thing. Words captured by a 10-year-old boy on how he views the world.
Here is Big Boy’s self-reflection pastel portrait. Loving it and so proud of my boys. They never fail to amaze me. This morning while watching CNN, a commercial for UNICEF came up with Alyssa Milano as the voice-over. As we heard about the “poor children who are starving and dying in the world because of lack of food,” I asked them- does this commercial make you think twice about throwing away your food and not eating it? No- they responded. “It makes us wonder why they only show black and brown children?” I was shocked. I had never thought about that commercial in that way. Despite seeing it or versions of it throughout the past 30 years of my life. Well said, my boys. Well said. In so many ways- through television, social media stories, throughout history and how it’s presented to us are we only shown part of the story, through a lens of bias, stereotypes and assumptions.
How many other things out there do I just dismiss and not think twice about how or what the message is that is being presented to me/us? There is much to think about here.
This week’s book is a bit different because I have spent the last three days attending graduations for my two sons- one for middle school and another for elementary school. Needless to say I have been a mixed bag of emotions. That is how I came across The Prophet– by a Lebanese poet named Kahil Gibran. It is a book of 26 poems published in 1923 that reflect all of life and the human condition- everything from love and marriage to friendship, life and death. I’ll admit to not fully reading it in its’ entirety- rather- I stumbled upon it just yesterday and plan to order it- but I am so touched by his words. His work is influenced by his religious upbringing as a Maronite Christian but also by other world religions and of course a reflection of the time period in which he lived in- war-torn Lebanon. An animated film based on the book was produced by Salma Hayek in 2015.
Yesterday morning- sitting in the 5th Grade promotion ceremony- the school principal read to us a poem by Kahil Gibran that really resonated with me. I listened and thought- yes- this is what I’ve been wanting- these are the words that somehow put how I’m feeling in perspective. Letting go is not letting go because they were never ours to begin with. Thinking of our children as they hit these milestones in life in this way makes the pain a little less.
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
Been living the St. Louis life the past couple of weeks. Trying to enjoy being present for myself, my husband, my kids. Focusing on gratitude instead of resentments or negativity. Some days it’s harder than others.
A few highlights:
Visit to Missouri History Museum’s “Little Black Dress” exhibit. Cousin Kristy who lives in Brooklyn, New York and is 20-something came to town so I felt I had to take her to a “cool” place. The exhibit takes you through a history of the little black dress- from the 1800’s mourning occasions to Coco Chanel’s 1960’s dress that launched a million little black dresses. Though the dresses on display were neat to see, I was drawn to a side exhibit- a wall of personalized little pieces of paper that allowed you to write a memory of your own favorite little black dress. In particular- I was drawn to this one. Powerful.
More BBQ but really, after having visited SugarFire Grill a few weeks back, I must say the best BBQ in St. Louis. Pappy’s Smokehouse. After standing in line for an hour, we chowed down on the best BBQ I have ever had. The restaurant has been recognized by the Food Network as the Best Ribs in America. So- go figure.
The Missouri Botanical Gardens– in the spring. Really quite fantastic. The last time I had been was last Fall and well- that’s just too long. I hope to visit much more over the next few months. The flowers were in full bloom and the fountains were sprouting blue for the BLUES hockey team (someone had to explain that one to me because I didn’t quite get it- not being a sports hockey fan and a St. Louis newbie).
Union Loafers. I have a food partner in crime and her name is Lisa- we attempt to eat at a different breakfast or lunch restaurant across different areas throughout St. Louis once a week. In fact, we have a whole list of places we’ve been to – we’ve been enjoying these adventures since last year and one of these days when I get around to it, I’m going to post them all here. So, we made it out to lunch on a rainy, spring day at a place called Union Loafers. We sat at the counter and although we did not indulge in the beer that everyone around us was partaking in, we did manage to have some fantastic food. I had the kale carrot ginger soup and a turkey sandwich on their freshly baked bread. The bread, I am not kidding you- to die for. I bought a loaf of their sourdough to share with the family for dinner that evening- truly magnificent. It makes me want to learn to bake my own bread. That is for another time I’m sure.
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