Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Book Club

Someone was telling me last week that there is a new study out suggesting that being a Stay At Home Mom is the most stressful job there is - at least in part because it is the only job you don't really have the option of quitting.

So, as one of those Stay At Home Moms, there are things I do with my own time to counter the beautiful chaos that is raising children, and to feed my soul.  For the last year I have been moving my body, I socialize, I make things, I write, and lately, I have become an Audiobook Queen.  With moderation, audiobooks are the most wonderful invention in the world.  The physical pain of running and the tedium of washing dishes and cleaning a house are made sweet by the experience of listening to good literature as I work.

But literature + socializing may be the very best way to enjoy good writing.  Years ago I joined a book club with friends who are sometimes very alike, and sometimes very different than myself, and since we rotate assigning books each month, we have read things we might not have reached for on our own.  This month my friend Chelsea assigned "The School of Essential Ingredients" and, inspired by the book's story of a cooking school, she planned a night for us to cook and eat together, which we did, happily, until midnight.  Do you know the last time I had a meal that took three hours to get through, simply because I ate slowly, and conversed with friends, and savored the work and art of my hands?  All of us are moms and loved the pace of our meal together, so different from our day to day lives.

At the end of the night not one piece of Chelsea's grandmother's china had been broken, although a piece of stemware had toppled over (unhurt) when a sentence was punctuated with a wild gesticulation.  The book we discussed was about the power of food and senses, and the way that cooking together can create warmth and community, and as I drove away that night, I felt like we had achieved just that - such warmth and community.  In my life there are a few things that make me feel very rich, and these kind of evenings are richness of the best variety.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Flying Children

Marcos made a group of really wonderful friends as a student at UNC, and we've been having regular, if infrequent, potluck meals with them over the past year or so.  We had his friends over this past week for dinner and in the warm summer evening we decided to take a walk around the neighborhood.  Keith is a budding photographer and took some great photos of Marcos and the kids silhouetted against the darkening sky.

And then Shane got ahold of a few of the photos and decided to use his photoshop skills to make some tweaks.

But this one is by far the best.  Thanks for a laugh, Shane!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Birthday and Graduation Celebration

At the very beginning of May, on a Saturday a few weeks after Gigi turned 4 and a week before Marcos graduated from UNC, I threw a joint party to celebrate these two loves in my life and their special occasions.  Since I have become the queen of easy parties, this was actually enjoyable for me for every second except the hour running up to the party when the charcoal wasn't getting hot quickly enough, per usual.  The elements of our happy party were simply: sidewalk chalk for the kids to decorate a Happy Birthday Gigi sign and a rented pavilion adjacent to a super playground and park...

...lots of good potluck foods because I have gotten to the point in life where I would rather have people bring food than gifts (we grilled and provided the kosher dogs, buns, condiments, drinks and cupcakes)...

...we had about 80 of our friends and family (favorite neighbors, ward friends, Marcos' school buddies and work friends)...

...a few frisbees and bubbles...

...and of course, CUPCAKES!  

Of course, as the hostess there is always some background gopher work to be done and I never get to talk with people as much as I would like to, but the weather was prime and the troops looked happy.  My only disappointment with the day's festivities was that I never found the opportunity to give a little speech I had been planning to give - to a special little girl who makes her parents happy and proud every day, and to a husband who, despite kicking against the idea of going back to school for many years, finally did so and ended up bringing to his studies the same enthusiasm, hard work, love for the people around him and magnetic zeal that he brings to every aspect of his life.

Happy 4th Birthday, sweet Giovanna Vitoria, and Congratulations Babe, for graduating from UNC!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

4th of July Photo Shoot

For months I've been wanting to bring out the camera and try to do a little photo session of the kids, and finally yesterday it happened.  It was an all-hands-on-deck ordeal with me mainly behind the camera and Marcos mainly doling out smile-bribes and acting a goof to get the kid's attention.  And out of the 300+ photos we came home with, I think that a few are real keepers.  My main goal was not to stress out if things weren't going like I wanted them to, and considering that I was working with Mister Wiggle the 20-month old monkey, that was not an easy feat.

Gigi has always had for the camera what I call the "creepy smile" (head lolling to the side, teeth bared, eyes rolled sideways), but we were pleasantly surprised to find that once we had gotten through some cheesy grins, she was cooperative, relaxed and even ready to initiate some of her own poses.  Here is one of those early cheesy grins.  She was getting it out of her system.

Oh, Orion.  What a grumpy age of life.  But on the other hand, Gigi!  Bless you for being such a sport!  This photo below is so cute to me.  It just makes me wish I were more talented with editing, and photography, and could perfect the coloring and lighting.  Ah well.

I think this one above is my favorite of Orion.  Always on the go.

Before we left this morning I did a cram session read-up on how to make photo sessions with kids successful, and letting kids be kids and play and be natural made it to nearly all of the articles.  Some of my funner photos, like the above, were Gigi's brain children.  The photo below is rather unspectacular, except that it shows how completely edible our son is.  I want to capture the reason why I give him four thousand kisses a day.

In this photo Gigi is saying, "Mom, I'm DOOOONE!"  So we called it a wrap!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Mr. Jabber

I think that because Gigi was so verbal so early and Orion started walking at 9 months, we just assumed that he would be the "physical" one and she would be the "verbal" one.  Well, so much for finding a simple way to summarize the kids.  Orion, at 19 months, is really starting to communicate.  With communication come so many opinions to negotiate, but it is also so much fun.

Orion has a favorite knock knock joke that he made up.  It goes like this.

Orion: Knock knock.
Anybody: Who's there?
Orion: Wow wow (how he says "dog")
Anybody: Wow wow who?
Orion: Car.

And repeat, ad nauseam.

Orion is also starting to put things together, like "noise... loud", or "big truck".  Last week we took the kids to a pool with a twisty slide into the pool, and after getting dunked on the way down he kept pointing to the slide, saying, "I don't wannit, slide".  

But I think the sweetest little Orion-isms are his little voice saying "Thank you Mama (Papai/Gigi/Tutu)!" and him singing Colbie Caillat's "I do do do do do do do do....  love you".  We sure do love having this little monkey in our family!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Marcos Graduates from UNC

On Mother's Day (May 11th), Marcos graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Information Science from UNC.  What a happy day this was!  My dad came down from New Jersey for the weekend to celebrate with us, and there was so much to be pleased about.  Marcos felt for such a long time that stopping good work to get his degree would be a real disadvantage in that he would fall behind in the rapidly changing world of technology, but deep down we knew that it would be worth it.  And there were moments he regretted not being able to stay abreast of what was going on in the field, and some classes of which he hated every second.  However, during his two years at UNC, Marcos found mentors and friends he deeply loves, and he served as the President of the Student Organization at SILS (the School of Information and Library Sciences) where he worked to make positive change and left a legacy of renewed collaboration and energy and interest in student participation.  And fortunately, the vision and hope we had of him receiving job offers panned out and he ended his schooling with a contract signed at Fidelity Investments as a Quality Assurance Software Engineer.  It has been an important chapter, and yet we are ready for the next turning of the page...

Don't tell anyone, but you know what color I've never, ever liked?  Carolina Blue.  Unless it's on Marcos, in which case it looks very handsome.  Here are the hoards of undergrads at the general graduation ceremony on Sunday morning.  I am so glad Marcos was at the very back, and that I had brought our mega zoom lens, that cell phones are so easy to carry along, and that there just happened to be a group of balloons near where Marcos was sitting with his friends.  Otherwise, I might have missed him in the sea of blue, and missed those moments during the ceremony when we caught each other's eye from what felt like miles away, and just paused and beamed at each other thinking, "I can't believe we did it, we did it, it's over!"

Marcos with Shane, one of his best friends from school.  And then the monkeys, who both smiled and cooperated simultaneously - truly a graduation day miracle!

With my dad, who visited for the weekend from New Jersey and whose support has buoyed us countless times through our educational pursuits, and my mom, who is endlessly thoughtful and supportive and nice.

That afternoon, at the more intimate School of Information and Library Sciences graduation ceremony, Marcos was awarded the Outstanding Service to the School award.  He had been nominated by multiple professors, and I was so proud of him.  As a wife who was on the "suffering" end of his late nights hosting things at the school, it was a secret pleasure to see that they too recognized his love and dedication.  I love the saying that "you can get a lot of good done in the world if you don't care who gets the credit" but sometimes getting the credit is important too.  

With one of Marcos' best buds Josh, and my dad.

And the following favorites from Marcos' time at UNC. SILS Dean Gary Marchionini...

...Marcos' favorite professors Mohammad Jarrahi

...and Ron Bergquist.

Hooray Papai!  You DID IT!