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)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014 - At the Jersey Shore

For those of you who are recent additions to the Prieto Family reading contingent, welcome to our Thanksgiving edition!  Many years ago (7 precisely) when we moved to the East Coast, we decided to make Thanksgiving in New Jersey with my dad and Emili a tradition, and each year it is a highlight of our holiday season.  We started many years ago celebrating with my Dad, Emili and her extended family, and at the beginning we were a small enough group to break bread on Thanksgiving night in the small Greenhouse in the yard behind my Dad and Emili's home.  We put twinkle lights all around and decorated the cozy space for our family, and we have lovely memories from that enchanted space.  Now, our two children have joined us, and more of Emili's family has started coming, and my Dad's friend from high school and his family have been coming up from DC, and this year a Chinese exchange student named Lavendar...  and so this year found us at a rental beach house in Spring Lake, at the Jersey Shore.  Four years ago we rented this very same house for Thanksgiving, and here we were again!  This time our group had grown to 21 people, so even on slow afternoons there was always someone up for a game or a good conversation.

We were only a block away from the Spring Lake boardwalk, and on Wednesday most of us bundled up and braved the cold weather and the wind for a refreshing afternoon walk on the beach.  Some jumped on bikes and rode ahead, and some broke off into walking groups, and we brought up the rear with our short-legged friends.  The kids loved collecting treasures at the shore line - their pockets were filled with big shells, and crab legs, and strands of seaweed.

Here is our little walking group: Sandra (my deceased Grandpa Jack's widow) who flew in from Austin, TX, my Dad, Lavendar the Chinese exchange student, and Monique, Evelyn and Mike, who came up from DC.  Mike and my dad met in high school in Hong Kong and are still close friends.

I don't actually have a lot of photos from this trip, but I am so glad that I took my camera to the beach when we went walking.  I think some of these are such classics.  Especially these few that capture the bond between Marcos and the kids.  They are lucky ducks to have such an amazing father.

My mom and Gigi, just about frozen at the end of our walk, in front of the beach house.  

And here is our crew right before we ate Thanksgiving dinner!  The kids and I are out of the photo, but otherwise everyone is included.  For the first time in... I think ever, the meat eaters might have outnumbered the vegetarians at the feast.  We always have tofurkey and celebration roasts, but this year I actually made two turkey breast pairs to make sure that we had enough meat.  I'm usually assigned turkey duty, but grumble because in my mind turkey is so miss and miss.  Always dry and always tasteless.  But not this year.  I used this recipe for crockpot turkey breasts with gravy (thanks to my friend Courtney Lieng who suggested it), and it received rave reviews.  My mom's kale salad, Mike's New York Times skillet cornbread recipe, Carol's spanakopita and Nathan's new from-scratch cherry pie were also hot topics during this year's Thanksgiving feast.  I am so hungry just thinking about how delicious the food was...

Other fun highlights of the trip?  Walking at dusk around Spring Lake with all of its beautiful lit bridges and exploring the village, the night five of us drove a half hour to the nearest Y and Emili's sister Carol and I jumped into a boxing class, all of the comments about what wonderful children we have ("oh stop, stop...  okay don't stop!"), 11-year old Evelyn teaching Gigi ballet in the kitchen, Sandra's stories about Grandpa Jack and her travels around the world, a guys day out to see the movie Interstellar in the theater, sweet toasts offered at Thanksgiving Dinner, and all of the down time we spent talking, eating and playing games.  With such a loving bunch, being thankful comes very easily!