Thursday, March 26, 2015

Snapshot: Giovanna

Name: Gigi

Current age: Just shy of 5

Current Interests: Fashion, "playing orphans" with Tutu, being read The Little House on the Prairie series, talking about possible themes for her 5th birthday party (so far she has come up with a blueberry theme, clown theme and a Marilyn Monroe theme), playing outside and getting dirty, jokes and silliness, sewing and drawing, peeling and cutting vegetables as a sous chef to whomever is making dinner, hearing us tell stories about our family, making other people laugh, and playing with Orion.

Current Fears: The draft.  She is concerned that the men in her life will be drafted into war.  I don't think this will last long, but it is definitely one of the times I wish I had held my tongue and not given her the "adult explanation".

Some recent gems...

Gigi sits down in the new little rocking chair...
Orion: Ooooo, can I sit?
Gigi: You got to do phone book this morning, and I didn't.  So I'm going to sit because you're not the center of the world.

Gigi, cleaning up the magnatiles in our bedroom...
Gigi: I'm cleaning up right now.  My heart doesn't want to but I am.

Talking about what people have said our family members look like...
Gigi: Well, if Papai is President Obama, then I am a nun.
Me: What?  I don't understand the connection.
Gigi: Remember, President Obama has two daughters and they are nuns?
Me: Are you thinking about Galileo?
Gigi: Oh, yes!  It's Galileo!

Me: And so and so is having a birthday party.  She is turning 5.
Gigi: Wait.  She's bigger than me?  I thought I was bigger than her.  Then why was she kicking and hitting my chair on Sunday?  She knows better.

Chatting in the kitchen...
Gigi: I'm too little to be in love with someone or have a girlfriend or boyfriend!

Gigi: Mom, I thought Bruno Mars got shot while he was doing his talk.
Me: I think you mean Martin Luther King Junior.
Gigi: Oh yeah!  Did some people not like that he said the color of your skin doesn't matter, but only your character?  Were they acting like teenagers?

At the dinner table...
Gigi: I better eat my food because I know Papai wants to go [to FHE at our friends' house] and it's illegal for an adult to leave a child all alone at home, right?

Gigi singing to herself, about the existential question that she grapples with the most...
Gigi: And they all joined hands and tried to go to Heaven because they thought Jesus could tell them how the dinosaurs died...  how the dinosaurs died....

Monday, March 16, 2015

Snapshot: Orion

I haven't captured the kids in a few months, so here goes!  

A friend set up a little Valentines backdrop a few weeks ago to take festive photos for Grandparents, and invited anyone to come and bring their littles, so we gave it a whirl.  I wish I were better at photography, but I like how they came out, because I love that little face.

Name: "Marcos OOOOOwion!"

Current Age: 2 and a few months

Current Strong Interests: the sock fuzz between his toes, friends and new toys, being defiant and ornery, balls, vehicles, puzzles, desserts, saying "I'm tired" and "I'm frustrated", building with legos/magnatiles/blocks, "tough time" with Papai, apologizing, helping out in the kitchen, potty talk with Gigi, talking all the time, the Temple Song, "Brazil songs", and being a big boy.

Things he says: 

Gigi, parenting Orion in the next room.
Gigi: Orion, go to timeout!  One...  Two... -
Orion: No!  You're not the office!

Pretty much every time he is busted and has to apologize.
Orion: I'm sorry for hitting you, Gigi.  Thank you for apologizing, I forgive you.
Gigi: No, I'm supposed to say that!

Asking to go outside last week.
Orion: Can I go outside and play with bubbles?  On the duck?  On the dick?  Out there?
Metta: Oh!  On the DECK.
Orion: Yeah, on the deck.

Orion washing his hands, to Gigi who was crowding him at the sink.
Orion: Give me space.  I'm washing my hands!

Orion, when some friends were over and their baby son was put to bed in Orion's crib.
Orion: I don't want baby Sam in my bed.  It make me upset!

Marcos: Orion, I just gave a talk at the Priesthood Meeting.
Orion: Wow!  That's awesome!

Metta: Orion, you did it!  You are becoming so independent!  Can you say "independent"?
Orion: No!  I don't want to!  I don't want to say independent!

Orion, asking me to put the Pentatonix Little Drummer Boy video on the computer.
Orion: I do the computer?
Metta: No...
Orion: My job is to sit on the sofa!

Orion: There's boogies in there!  I can't breathe very well!

Trying to teach Orion Portuguese.
Metta: "Ce-va-da".
Orion: I can't say that word.  It's kind of tricky for me.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Snow Days

We were having a really mild winter, until a few weeks ago.  In the past two weeks we've been snowed in multiple days, school has been cancelled and Marcos has even worked from home on a few occasions.  My favorite day was when we were all snowed in, and our internet was down all on the same day.  We were fortunate to have power (many in the Triangle were out), but it was new and refreshing to be completely disconnected from the internet.

The first big snow dump was a strange one.  The top had iced over, so although it looked soft and inviting, it was basically an ice skating rink right outside our door!  Here are some photos from that day.

First, the kids trying to get up the hill!  The neighbors across the street have a hill up to their home, and Gigi and Michael (our next door neighbor) had a difficult time crawling uphill on the icy snow.

My courageous girl, love her.

We brought out the sand toys for Orion to play with and it threw him off.  While we were outside he kept shoveling piles of snow and saying, "Look at my sand, Mommy!".  Almost, buddy, almost...

I love this one of Michael, Gigi and Orion.  Whenever we talk about someday possibly moving, Gigi is upset because she wants to live next door to Michael forever.

The next big snow dump the following week was your typical deep powdery snow - perfect for snowball fights and for making snowmen! 

Our collective snowman had such personality!  I think it was the eyebrows.

Michael, James and Jacqui, our beloved neighbors.  When you live in a duplex and share a wall with another family, it's very fortunate if you get along with each other!

Over the past week, we have had conversations with neighbors with whom we haven't exchanged a word in a year.  The snow really stopped life and allowed everyone to come out of their caves and connect with each other in this magical winter wonderland.  Warm weather also tends to do that around here, but I can't even remember what warm weather feels like.

Later that afternoon, Marcos took the kids out for a walk around the block.

They stumbled across a couple who had made an igloo, lit it with candles, and were eating a dinner of ice cream together!

But on that trip around the block, Gigi and Orion's socks had gotten soaked, and they returned home wet and freezing cold.  It was time to turn on the space heater and let the kids snuggle up!  Lots of hot cocoa, lots of snuggling and family time this week.  Thanks, winter weather!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


Part of it was due to the long stretch of the cold season which turned my usual warm greetings and moments of connection at Gigi's School into hasty hellos en route to the nearest heated car or building, and part of it was due to a holiday season full of family time but slim on friend time, and part of it is just a product of being a parent with small children and giving most of my best energy to my littles.

But for a short while in January I felt extremely lonely.

The feeling started to build over a number of weeks, and then there was one day when I went out on the town and said hello to everyone, and felt connected to absolutely nobody, and that was the deepest day of the year.  I went home and could not shake off the funk, until the evening when I dug out a heavy box full of relics from my mission to Japan, and found an old journal full of letters of love from old mission companions and friends.  The power of that affirmation even ten years later was so sustaining, and had the immediate effect of buoying my spirits.

But being a person who tries to be in tune with myself, I have spent the weeks since then trying to make time for meaningful connection.  My biggest therapy was my Valentines Gal's Night at the beginning of the month.  Marcos took the kids out on the town to give us space to kick off our party, and when he came home (with the kids asleep in the car, dear man) he saw the joy on my face and said that I looked so happy I should do these parties every other month, at least.  I agree.  The combination of close friends (with whom I was due for connection time), the great conversations that we had that evening, the collaboration of Valentines snacks, and making festive crafts together was balm to my soul.  I think that we all parted that evening with a new bounce in our step that came from having a boat load of fun with people we really liked.  It was the best.

How do YOU get out of a funk when the season is growing too dark and cold and long?

Monday, January 5, 2015

Christmas Tradition - Emerson Waldorf School Holiday Faire

Every year before Christmas we make a point to go to the Emerson Waldorf School Holiday Faire.  Typically we go for the spirit and magic of the event, and maybe meet up with a friend or two, but now that Gigi is a Kindergartener, this year we went as part of the Emerson community!  The Faire was held on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and the weather was absolutely perfect.  It was crisp in the morning, but by lunch time the sun warmed us up, outer layers were shed, and we enjoyed the company of so many friends under the food tent where we listened to live music and the kids played in the grass.

Being a part of the Emerson community now also means that we had a small part in the runnings of the show.  Since the summer, I have been gathering with a small group of Waldorf moms to craft a few Monday evenings a month, and make things to sell at the Holiday Faire.  For example, I painted a number of the wooden cars above, felted one of the hedgehogs and one of the gnome caves, and painted a lot of the knitting needle sets.  Our group raised about $1,000 for the school that day!  We all love the education that our kids are receiving, and this has been a very enjoyable way to give back.

It was also the express job of Kindergarten parents to bake items for the Sweet Shoppe, which was hosted and run by the 3rd grade parents.  After lunch we went in to buy some goodies, and the set up was so pretty.  Baskets and baskets of homemade sweets, wrapped so beautifully.  Marcos also signed up for a shift at the "dad gig" - the locale where they sold popcorn and peppy lemons, which Gigi is holding below.  We were all involved in some way this year.  

There are various craft and fun activities for children at the Faire, and each year we try to do a few new things.  This year Orion was old enough to fish for treasures in the fishing pond, and Gigi chose to do Gem Mining (sifting for crystals in bins of sand in a big dark cave).  

Our friends Angie and Edward have a little guy who is just one year old, but my friend Angie is already thinking about education options, and so they joined us in the afternoon.  We rode the horse-drawn carriage together, and did a mini-tour of the grade school, peeking into the beautiful rooms as the activities were shutting down.

Hi Scoot!  You are so handsome, small one...

And that was our day.  We were so tired on the way home, but it was so worth being out and about for such a festive holiday occasion.  And being part of the Emerson family this year was such a plus - it's a fine thing to be in a place with so many people you consider friends!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Christmas Traditions: Treats to the Firefighters!

One of our favorite Christmas Traditions is heading to our friends the Thaynes house to help the kids make treats to take to the firefighters at Carrboro Fire Station.  This year we arranged our party for the Tuesday before Christmas.  I'm pretty sure that I love it more than the kids, and they love it a lot, so that is saying something.

I love these treats because the kids can do nearly all of the work.  They can arrange the pretzels on the cookie sheets, and then can unwrap the candies and place them on top of the pretzels.  The whole endeavor comes out of the oven pretty hot, so Becca and I handled putting the m&ms on the top once the candies were melted soft.  Yum!

And here are Gigi, Livy and Orion at the Fire Station!  The best part of taking the treats to the firefighters is that we always get to say "yes, please!" when a firefighter on duty inevitably offers us a tour of the station.  This year we had the best tour yet, and Firefighter Miles was such a good sport answering all of our questions and offering so much information about being a firefighter.

Each year we do a few new things.  This year we had the chance to peek inside of an ambulance, learn about the magnetic exhaust vacuums in the bay, and check out Rescue Randy!  Rescue Randy is a 185-pound dummy that the firefighters use for training, and I told Firefighter Miles that my friend Becca works out, is extremely buff, and that she could easily throw Randy over her shoulders in a fireman carry.  He didn't believe me.  Then we nudged Rescue Randy a bit and he was really, really heavy.  Thank goodness for firefighters who find clever ways to drag people to safety!

Another awesome Christmas adventure at the Carrboro Fire Station.  Thank you for the tour, Firefighter Miles!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Prietos!

This year, for the second year in a row, the Prieto Christmas Card just did not create itself, so here I am to wish you peace, hope and prosperity for this season of joy, for 2015, and for always!  Your happiness is our happiness, so please keep us in your circle of connectedness as we journey throughout this New Year!

Here are some of the moments we want to take with us from 2014:

In April Gigi turned 4!  And this is what we love about her: Gigi is inquisitive and independent, and her interests include art, hostessing, building very cool and generally symmetrical structures, improv dancing, singing and beat boxing, communicating and negotiating, and helping her brother (when they are not busy squabbling).  Since she started school this fall, she has learned to recite poetry with vigor, her imaginary world has come to life, and we have been able to see how she loves to play with everyone and is a silly, joyful friend.  In a few ways, however, this sweet little apple has fallen far from the Prieto tree: unlike Marcos and me, she is very entrepreneurial and is often working on a business plan, and very unlike Marcos and me, she is exceedingly adventurous when it comes to eating meat.  When we have pho with our friends the Liengs, she always requests the tripe (cow intestines) on her soup, and at a recent Annandag Jul party where a suckling pig was the center of the smorgasbord, she asked if she could have the pig eyeball, which she popped in her mouth and chewed until the final bits were too tough and she had to spit them out.  Believe me, the whole ordeal makes us queasy, but we try to smile and encourage her adventurous spirit even when it requires us to suppress our gag reflex.

But don't worry, she is also very normal and loves cake and cupcakes.

Another spring day to celebrate was Marcos' graduation from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  In May Marcos walked across the stage, and received a surprise award for Outstanding Service to the School, which I'm pretty sure was another way of saying You're the Awesomest Person We've Ever Seen.  He was a real asset to the school as a dedicated and innovative President of the Student Organization.  And, as I had always promised would happen if he just stopped working his good job, buckled down and finished the degree so that he could find another good job, he (very thankfully) received a number of good job offers. Because we have fallen in love with life here in Chapel Hill, we chose to stay exactly where we are and Marcos signed a contract with Fidelity Investments in Durham, NC.  Same home, same smell, same everything.

In May we also celebrated the warming weather with a day trip to the beach with our friends the Hill Family, as well as lake trips and camping trips with friends.

In the spring I read the book I Am Malala and told Gigi about this incredible young girl. Gigi decided to write her a letter, and in so doing wrote her first celebrity letter to Malala Yousafzai, who later in the year was the youngest person to ever win a Nobel Peace Prize.  Go Malala!

And when the weather got hot, hot, hot, we bought our very own mini-van and took a trip with Tutu to Washington, DC!  We loved being in the center of so much history and eye candy, but highlights of the trip were definitely meeting up with our friends the Coyne family, and my friend Katherine Spinney from graduate school.  We had hoped to take a very exotic family vacation to somewhere like Venice, or Sao Paulo, or Antarctica, but driving to Washington DC was where we were at this year.  (The purpose of this letter is to make you feel really good about yourself, and normal for having not actually achieved some of your goals or travel plans).

When we got back, Marcos started working at Fidelity.  I have been sworn not to divulge too many details on the internet, but after what turned out to be a... "long" (we'll just leave it at that) training period, Marcos is working now in the Personal Investment business unit in mobile development - something he has always been interested in.  There are some challenging things about working in corporate America, but we have been taking note of the way that Fidelity treats its employees.  Although the idea of someone working for only one company for his or her entire career seems like such an outdated concept, people stay at Fidelity for a long time, and we're starting to see why.  

And when Marcos is not at work, he is home building magnatile skyscrapers and having "tough time" with the kids, washing dishes in his happy world with a good audiobook, enjoying Guys Night Out at the local taco trucks, building furniture in his friend TJ's garage, organizing activities as the new Stake Young Men's President at church, or telling me how much he loves me and how beautiful I am.  But seriously... this year a number of our friends have been struggling in the marriage department and we keep getting the message to not ever take each other for granted.  So, we have been trying to be more mindful of each other and harp less on the nonessentials.  I am actually very talented at harping on the nonessentials, but even more than that I really think this guy is the whole chimichanga - dashing, kind, serviceable, devoted, hard-working, a peace maker and a freaking genius at whatever he does at work!  I love you, I love you, I love you... I love you, I love you...  You're totally worth keeping around.

And then in August Giovanna started her first of two years of Kindergarten at the Emerson Waldorf School here in Chapel Hill, and all of our dreams to send our kids to a Waldorf School came true.  Gigi is a young 4-year old in a class of mixed 4, 5, and 6 year olds, and we have noticed that during playtime she tends to be a happy follower of the older kids.  At home we talk about the qualities that make a good leader so that she is well prepared to take on more of that role next year as one of the older children in the class.

In the fall Gigi also played soccer for the first time, which was not necessarily her forte, but which she enjoyed enough to want to play again in the Spring.  Starting in March, Marcos will be jumping into soccer as well, as the assistant coach for her team.  Woohoo!  Go Sparkle Rocket Dragons! 

Fall is my favorite time of year, and there were so many ways to enjoy the season.  For the second year in a row we went with the Hills to the NC Hot Air Balloon Festival, which was magical as always.

We had a great Halloween with Iguana boy and Cowgirl...

...and in early November we celebrated Orion's 2nd Birthday!  Orion is a boy and as his mother, I pretty much want to eat him all of the time.  Maybe because Gigi is an older child, or a small woman, or something I can't put my finger on, I respect her and give her space.  But Orion?  I just want to eat him.  He is generally very agreeable ("Yeah, I will!", "Sure!"), quick to laugh, and he loves to play with Gigi, trucks, balls and trains.  He is this funny mixture of reserved and shy and frightened by loud noises or new people or small Darth Vader figurines and creepy masks, but he is also very independent.  He is not a kid to hide behind my legs for long - once he is comfortable, he is happy to walk around, explore, play with new friends and entertain himself.  He has a knack for communicating, and says pretty much... everything.  He loves slapstick humor, his "Papi", Pentatonix, asking permission for everything ("Can I hit you?"), and cuddling.  Since Gigi started school in August, I have had one-on-one time with him for the first time ever, and those hours are worth gold.  We are all so smitten with this little guy.

For Thanksgiving we traveled to Spring Lake on the Jersey Shore, where we spent a few days at a beach house with my Dad and Emili, and family and friends.  Great company, amazing food and salt breeze were easy reminders of all that we are thankful for!

And finally we're in the neighborhood of now (thanks for holding on).  Last week we celebrated Christmas with a Mary and Joseph dinner with friends, a surprisingly reverent portrayal of the nativity story, and all of the sweet things of the season - a few presents, good food and family.  

And while we're looking at me, let's you know, talk about me.  Well, Orion's 2nd birthday in November marked the 2 year point from which I stopped working at the UNC School of Social Work.  I was planning to possibly go crazy, and the verdict is still out on whether or not that has happened, but in general, this being at home thing is my work for this short chapter while my littles are so little, and I am happy here.  Did I read The Feminine Mystique recently and do I have ambition to jump back into meaningful employment? Yes and yes, but not for a while yet.  Right now, steering the Prieto ship and growing children well is my chosen job (THIS IS MARCOS - READ: SHE IS AN AMAZING, FANTASTIC, INCREDIBLE, TOP-NOTCH MOM AND PARTNER).  Other things that I have loved this year are oodles of audiobooks, being strong and continuing to exercise, connection time with girlfriends, making and consuming really good food, and learning how to needle felt.  I was also recently released from my church job of being the President of the Primary children's organization, so that has been a new transition, after a year and a half of being in that leadership role, and pouring myself into the kiddos.  And do you want to know something cool?  I just had my first million dollar idea!  If you get my card next year and our family actually made it to Antarctica, you will know that it all worked out...

And last but not least, we rang in the New Year Brazilian Style just two nights ago!  We ate Brazilian food up to our eyeballs, sang the New Years song in Portuguese, wore white like they do in Brazil, and then had the kids make wishes and jump over a pretend wave seven times, for good luck.  We celebrated on Rio time (9pm our time) and toasted to 2015 with our friends the Olsens and the Bruesekes!  Simple, and kid-friendly, and fun.  This week we have been making our resolutions for 2015 and we're full of hope and enthusiasm for this coming year.  Top of the list?  SLEEP MORE.  You know we need it.

Well, friends, the beauty and danger of making this a blog greeting was that I was not limited to a 5x7 card, and so the year's "summary" got a little out of hand!  For those of you who have fought the good fight and are still here at the end, feel very firmly squeezed.  We send the warmest greetings to you and your families, and wish you a powerful, meaningful and happy 2015!

Lots of Love,

The Prieto Family
Metta, Marcos, Giovanna (4.5) and Orion (2)