Saturday, March 25, 2017

Reinforcing Family Culture

Marcos and I were born into very different families of origin, with very different communication styles.  We have spent the past 10 years trying to distill the best aspects of each of our families, and create new patterns of communication that will serve this little family that we are raising.

Probably the best place for our family communication is at the dinner table.  We have chosen not to own a TV, and by design, our phones stay as far from the table as possible.  After some chit chat and catching up on our day, we have a family tradition of sharing Highlights. It's a time that we all look forward to, when we can share something that made our day really special.

Around the beginning of the year I was looking for something with which to supplement our dinner conversations, and I came across a document on the internet with questions written out in strips.  The purpose was to print out the questions, cut them apart, and fold them up in a jar on the dinner table, so that families could choose a question each evening and get to know each other better.  The questions were entertaining in the beginning, but ultimately we felt like we were wasting our time answering questions about things that were not personal, and didn't really matter.  I can't say who thought of it first, but both Marcos and I came to the realization that we could easily write questions ourselves, and by so doing, make sure that we were using that time to teach our children and reinforce the family culture that we are trying to create.  It took us a few evenings to work out the wording on all of the questions, because we had the engaging task of not only finding the questions and wording them just so, but the much bigger task of identifying the things that are important to our family culture in the first place.  You might be surprised at how difficult that can be!  If someone asks you, "What are you about?" would you have a good answer for them?  It definitely took us a few nights to flesh out the things most important to us as a family.

In the end, it has become a really meaningful way for us to talk about things that matter to our family.  After our round of Highlights at dinner each evening, we choose a question from the jar and allow the kids to answer.  We add to their comments, focusing on open, informal communication and trying to avoid lapsing into lectures.  It has been a great addition to our dinner conversations, and since we have already done the heavy lifting, I wanted to include these questions in a blog post in case any of you are interested.  These are questions tailored to the Prieto family: please alter to fit your needs!

Happy talking, happy teaching,

Metta



****
01)     What is our family motto? What does it mean to you? (“To Wonder at Beauty, Stand Guard Over Truth, Look Up to the Noble, Resolve on the Good”)
02)     What does it mean to “wonder at beauty”? What are some things that you find beautiful?
03)     What does it mean to “stand guard over truth”? Why do you think this is important for our family?
04)     What does it mean to “look up to the noble”? Who are some noble people? What are some noble actions?
05)     What does it mean to “resolve on the good”? What good deeds have you done recently?
06)     How is our family strong? How could our family be better?
07)     Prietos value diversity. What does that mean to you? What are ways that we can welcome diversity into our family?
08)     Prietos are good hosts. What are some good hosting practices? Who of our friends are also good hosts?  What do they do to make you feel welcomed?
09)     Prietos do hard things. Tell about a time that you did something even though it was hard. How did you feel about your accomplishment or your failure?
10)     Prietos believe in leaving a place cleaner than they found it. What is a place you could improve this week?
11)     Prietos are honest. What are different ways that we can be honest? Why is it sometimes hard to be honest?
12)     Prietos are helpful. Who in your life needs help and how can you help them?
13)     Prietos are loyal friends. How are you a loyal friend? Who do you consider to be a loyal friend?
14)     Prietos don’t do drugs. Why not?
15)     Addictions are powerful. What does it mean to be addicted? What kinds of things are addictive?
16)     All humans have a wide range of feelings. What are some feelings that you felt today? What can you do if you feel really sad? What can you do if you feel really angry?
17)     Life is not fair. What are some things other children might have that you do not have? What are some things YOU have that other children might not have?
18)     Your body is beautiful and powerful, and belongs only to you. How can we respect our bodies and other people’s bodies? 
19)     Prietos follow safety rules. What are some of the safety rules we follow?
20)     Prietos use their words. What are some powerful words that you use?
21)     Prietos are curious about the world. What is something that you want to learn more about?  What are different ways that you can learn more about this topic?
22)     Prietos have good sportsmanship. What does it mean to be a good sport?
23)     All human beings make mistakes. Why are mistakes important?
24)     Prietos are inclusive. What are some groups that are historically not included in mainstream society, and how can we reach out to include them?
25)     There are many religions in the world. What are some of the religions you have heard of? Why is religion important for some people?
26)     What is bullying? What can you do to prevent becoming a bully? What can you do if you are a bystander? What can you do if you are being bullied? 
27)     Prietos don’t give up. What is something that you were not good at in the beginning, but that you are getting better at because of practice. What does it mean to be consistent and diligent?
28)     Prietos are good at using money. What are good ways to spend money, and what are unwise ways to spend money? If you had $10, what would you do with it?
29)     One of our mottos is “many hands make light work”. What does this have to do with chores around the house? What is the value of having a clean house? 
30)     What are some of the happiest memories you have with your siblings? What are the challenges of having siblings? When you are all adults, what do you look forward to doing together?

31)     What are some Prieto Family house rules? Are there any new rules we should consider? Who benefits from having rules?

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Luca turns 1!

Luca just turned 1 on January 17th!  To celebrate his birthday, we invited our neighbors over for cake and ice cream, and it was the perfect gathering.  I made my best chocolate cake, and bought many flavors of ice cream to please the masses.  Luca was definitely satisfied with his slice of goodness, which he royally destroyed!  I remember that Gigi barely knew what to do with her cake at her 1st birthday, because as a first child she had not had much exposure to sugar.  This guy, on the other hand, dug in without pausing a second, because, as I like to say...  "third child"...  With two older siblings and plenty of their friend's birthday parties to attend, he has had plenty of cake before!



Luca Armand is a stunner, and I'm not sure if I think he's the most adorable Prieto, or if it's just because he's a baby with an oversized head and he doesn't talk back to me yet?  Probably the latter.  In any case, this boy started walking at about 11 months, he's always been a great sleeper and eater, and he now has 8 teeth, which he sometimes tries to sharpen on my shoulder!  He is into EVERYthing, and goes EVERYwhere, and I've been therapeutically talking to myself, and reminding myself that the next few months (until he starts to understand language) will be particularly tricky.  I have to admit, despite my adoration for the kid, whenever he goes down for a nap in the early afternoon I experience a wave of relief!  

But there is also that funny and exciting realization that as he passes through different developmental stages, this is our last time having a kid who is THERE in that spot.  He is our last kiddo, and he is bringing up the rear, so the closing of each chapter is the last of its sort.  Luckily, we could not ask for a better kiddo to end on.  We love this big bear.

Happy Birthday big boy!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Happy New Year from the Prietos!

Dearest Family and Friends,

This blog has been used precious few times this year as a way of tracking the comings and goings of our family, but hopefully it will serve its duty as a way to bring you warm New Years Greetings as we kick off 2017!  We did not make a Christmas card this year, but thank you to those who sent beautiful cards from your families.  We love to hear the updates, and see your happiness!  For those of you who will not make it to the end of this letter, I will wish you here a very Happy New Year!  So much love and happiness to you all in the coming year.  May it bring more joy than we can imagine!

I've read a lot of mixed reviews of 2016 as a whole, and I have to admit, around Election time our hearts were very heavy.  That blow was hard to shake!  However, I just looked through our photos of this year in order to choose a few to add to this letter, and in our very small sphere of the Prieto Family Living on Planet Earth, 2016 was full of happiness and joy and riches - not wealth, but riches in health, thriving kids, new experiences as a family, and challenges that brought growth, maturity and new understanding.  All in all, a lot for which to be thankful.

Happy New Year!  The Acorn Drop in Raleigh on New Years Eve.

As the very most special highlight of the year, in January we welcomed our new little baby boy - Luca Armand - into our family!  He is delicious, and provides us as parents with constant joy (and not a little anxiety with his climbing antics).  It's a good thing that Gigi and Orion adore him so much, because he truly does require a lot of work - from everybody!  Somebody grab Luca from the stairs!  Somebody clean up the toys that Luca threw all over the floor! Somebody take the marble out of his mouth!  Somebody stop him from getting to the toilet!  Somebody run and get me a diaper!  He is practicing his walking now, and can go about 12 steps before falling down.  He climbs the stairs in a heartbeat, and is the only one I can count on to always love my cooking.  He's a perfect 3rd child - easy, friendly, and always game for a nap on the go if that's what the day requires.








Another highlight of 2016 was our family trip to my homeland of Hawaii in May.  Since we live in North Carolina and Hawaii is so far away, the last time we went was 5 years ago.  However, my dear friends from high school had the idea last year to have a reunion in May of 2016.  So, we saved our pennies and we were able to take the whole family across the country and half way across the Pacific Ocean for a 2-week trip to paradise.  Somehow, we managed the miracle of balancing our time between my Uncle John and Aunty Lani and their crew over on the Big Island, my best sister friend Lindsay Gibson and her crew over on the North Shore of O'ahu, our dear friends TD and Gavin in my hometown of Kailua, and a solid weekend of enjoyable reunion events with school friends from my childhood.  I want to say "high school" friends, but many of us actually went from 1st grade through 12th grade together.  This trip brought so much happiness: it was the first time in Hawaii that I felt as... adult as I felt this year.  Going with children and seeing them play with their cousins, seeing the islands for the first time as a full-fledged parent, connecting with very long-time friends with the level of depth that we enjoyed...  it was really a special gift that we will treasure for a long time. Thank you to all of you who made that trip so enjoyable!








The house I grew up in!










In the world of the big kids, this year has been a year of family fun, loving learning, and getting used to what it means to be a student.  Orion amazes us with his focus and work ethic.  He often scopes out a place where adults are working on a project (raking the yard, painting the fence, spreading gravel, etc.) and then helps out until the job is finished.  His contribution may be small, but I can't tell you how many people have come up to us to tell us stories of how he saw a need, pitched in, and worked until the job was done.  A true mini-Marcos!  Lately he has been really interested in talking up older girls, riding his bike (which he learned this summer), building anything, playing games as a family and cooking with mom.  Here are some recent Orion-isms...

While driving down the road...
Orion: When we are driving fast and the windows are open and we are listening to this music my body feels like a party!

At the donut store while Gigi was at school...
Orion: Can we buy Gigi a donut?
Metta: No, it will melt in the car before we can pick her up.
Orion: But I want her to be happy!

Listening to Michael Jackson in the car...
Orion: Michael Jackson died, right?
Us: Yes...
Orion: It was because he took too much medicine, right?
Us: Yeah...
Orion: Which flavor do you think it was?  Cherry...?  Or maybe strawberry?

Orion: When I am a parent and have my own kids, I can make my own rules.

Orion turned 4 this year!

And played on his first soccer team with Coach Marcos!



This year Gigi started 1st grade at the Emerson Waldorf School, and we really hit the jackpot with Gigi's teacher, Ms. Ritz!  She is a class act, and will be Gigi's teacher for all 8 years of grade school if we remain in the area, since Waldorf teachers move up with their class each year.  Gigi is many things, but mainly a designer, artist (creating "art" out of our recyclables), builder, thinker and dreamer.  Personality-wise, we are differently paced, and I have to constantly remind myself to be patient because she is a brilliant day-dreamer type and I am often in what I like to call, "business mode".  She is much less extroverted than Marcos and me, but has really come into her own as a grade schooler.  She has a strong sense of self, and is happy to play alone or in small groups with friends.  She loves crafting, stories, playing outside, and jumping and balancing on things.  I'm thinking about signing her up for parkour.  For Christmas Marcos bought her the book "Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls" (a must read for every girl!), and she is in love with the book and all of the stories of girls and women who dared to be bold and change the world around them.  She comes across as rather unassuming, but watch out world: this girl is on fire!

On the first day of winter break...
Gigi: "I wish I didn't have break!"
Me: "Why is that?"
Gigi: "I really like Ms. Ritz!"

Listening to music in the car...
Gigi: I love Coldplay!  When you listen to them you feel like a movie star!

Gigi: Mom, I really want a pocket knife.
Me: Gigi, I just don't think that it's appropriate to get you a knife.  I don't feel good about giving a 6-year old a big blade.
Gigi: But mom, I would only use it for emergencies, like getting a balloon out of a tangle!  Plus, you can teach me how to handle a knife.

Gigi and Ms. Ritz!




My mom, "Tutu", still lives 10 minutes away and we get to see her a few times a week.  She is such a blessing, for us and the kids!


Gigi LOVES Luca.  I have hundreds of photos of her smothering him with love.



Gigi turned 6 this year!

And I guess that brings things around to us adults.  Let's start with Marcos.  Marcos is a great guy, but you already knew that!  Big things in Marcos-land this year were becoming an American Citizen in time to vote in the Presidential Elections, receiving a promotion at work, and a few short solo trips to visit his family in Utah and for a conference in Austin, TX.  He was also a great help to the Parent Organization at Gigi's School, and he coached Orion's little soccer team this fall.  Importantly, Marcos and I made the very difficult decision almost exactly one year ago to bow out of the Mormon Church after years of being really, really involved, so that has given us more time as a family, and more time with Marcos around on the weekends.  We have loved having the time to really center our lives around our family and explore things together - hiking, art exhibitions, neighboring towns, and Sunday brunch with friends!  Mmmm....


Marcos and his family in Utah




The newest American on the block!


Thanksgiving in Spring Lake, NJ.  A really great week spent with my dad and his clan! 


And finally, there's me, Metta.  I spend most of my time taking care of the kiddos and steering the HMS Prieto.  Although I find my family work satisfying, other things that have fed my soul this year are my ventures in hip-hop dance, the many thought-provoking books I have read, gal time with close friends who expand my world, and my leadership positions at the Emerson Waldorf School.  I am on the Board of Trustees again this year, and I am a co-coordinator of the school Parent Organization.  This year as a Board member I sit on the Diversity Committee and the Development Committee, and have enjoyed the stretching and learning that has come along with these roles.  In addition, with our departure from the Mormon church, this year has been a year of stepping more fully into my voice and embracing some of the beautiful mystery that is a part of living, it was a year of slightly shifting social worlds, of recognizing the power of dissent, and the courage of aligning our decisions with our true Moral North.  It has definitely been a year of pushing my evolutionary edge!  These kind of years make me extra thankful to have the love and support of my family and loyal friends.





Apparently I like to.... make cakes.


Ahhh... Botany Bay.  A magical side trip on my Gal's Weekend with friends in Charleston, SC.




And that's a look at 2016!  Thanks for being important to our family, and for the memories we have made together in the past.  Here's to many more for the future!  Happy 2017, and all of our best wishes for connection and joy with the people you love the most.

Lots of love, aloha and amor,

Metta and Marcos, Gigi, Orion and Luca Prieto