Create A Cafe At Home

I was feeling creative when I arranged a glass table and two chairs this way. I can sit and watch the children playing outside while I imagine myself to be in some cute, outdoor cafe.

What’s Needed for Your Cafe at Home

  • A small table. Preferably round.
  • Some strong coffee, which you can make anyway you like.
  • An interesting book. In my case, I’m reading The Power of Thought by John Algeo and Shirley J. Nicholson. It is quite intriguing.
  • Two chairs. I suppose they don’t have to match.
  • Your laptop or notebook if you’re working on something and don’t have time to read.

And that’s it! A space created.

In my cafe there are toddlers running around so I’m off to help a little one. Ciao.

House Cleaning With Two Toddlers: A How-To

Disclaimer: Its not actually possible to deep clean your home with two toddlers in tow. Therefore it is wise to do small things every day as part of a cleaning routine. However, if you are forced to clean up the whole house in one day here’s how I do it. (My kids make big messes every day so I’m always cleaning.)

  • First, I recommend taking a thirty minute break or so, just to mentally prepare yourself for task(s) ahead.
  • Set the kids up with some screen time if you allow it. I am trying to keep screen time to a minimum so I let them play in their mountain of toys until I’m ready to tackle that room, which is the living room and the main part of my house. It never looks like I’ve done anything until the absolute end. Ugh.
  • Change diapers and give snacks (no chips!! Those end up smashed into the carpet) right before beginning.
  • Turn on some music or use your headphones. Try listening to an ASMR video while cleaning. It might change your world.
  • Walk around a bit or stand amidst the mess and just marvel at it for a moment. The popcorn on the floor, the window that’s smeared with something, the sticky habdprints on the fridge door. Resist the urge to quit before you even start – sometimes the hardest part.
  • Follow this order to a degree: kitchen first (I usually wipe the kitchen down before bed so that its easier to clean up after breakfast. It doesn’t always get done though. Pick up all garbage and take it out. Wash dishes and put away. Start a load of laundry. Fold those clothes on your “clothing chair” (I know you have one). Put folded clothes away and dust. Change sheets after spraying shower and toilets with cleaner. Wash glass surfaces, wipe down and clean toilets/bathroom(s), and sweep. I also have to vacuum. Then, mop or swiffer.

Some Tips

  • Check on the kiddos often! While you scrub the toilet they could be coloring on your couch or something.
  • Keep them in the room with you if you can and encourage them to help with picking up their toys or dusting the coffee table.
  • Accomplish one task (or room) and give yourself a pat on the back. Take a cofee, tea, or Red Bull break and get back to work before you decide to give up.
  • Pro tip: always multi-task and never leave a room empty-handed!

Good luck! I’m off to vacuum up some of those chips I was talking about.

Lessening Screen Time With Sergio

Day 6 was a success! Sergio didn’t use the phone once, mainly because he didn’t have abuelita’s phone anymore. And also because I am loathe to give up my own phone so that he can look at YouTube.

Now, on day 7 we are making some real progress. The phone’s whereabouts have not been sought after and the hose is going full blast. (Indeed, a worm was just brought to me).

I’m not sure what the end goal will be for this trial. I’m not sure how much screen time my children will be allowed yet. And there are a lot of recommendations out there. I just want my children to have fun off the phone. I’m sure we’ll find a middle ground soon.

Or I hope so.

Lessening Screen Time With Sergio

Days 3 and 4 have been rough. I’ve won some battles and also lost a few. However, he had very little screen time on Day 3, even though when I awoke later than usual I found that my husband had already given him a phone.

Day 4 was full of arguments over the phone. By 9:00 a.m. Sergio was begging for the addictive device.

“It’s too early!” I told him.

Around 11:30 we went outside to play in the hose (an excellent tool for distracting children). Things went smoothly until the daily afternoon phone calls started coming in. Abuelita answered and tried speaking with a sibling of mine.

As my mother tried to speak on the phone Sergio became very loud, boisterous, and frankly, bratty. The phone call was cut short. Sergio asked for a cellphone. We caved.

Sergio promptly ran inside to sit on the couch with the phone, Marisol hot on his heels. Marisol likes to try and watch the phone with him but Sharing is not Sergio’s forte. I don’t mind that Sergio doesn’t share YouTube with Mari because she’s too young for it anyway. Soon she grew tired of Sergio’s stinginess and came back outside with myself and my mother.

While my mother, Marisol, and I gardened outside, Sergio watched his phone. We are always in and out eating snacks and such. Then, suddenly, at 7:15 p.m. (which is close to bedtime) Sergio came out onto the porch dancing and singing to a music video. Marisol carried a toy that sings Baby Shark (my. favorite. song.).

We all clapped and danced. I stubbed out my last cigarette of the day and hauled my ducklings off to bed.

As I laid next to my children in bed I started looking through my own phone. Then, from the darkness, came a little voice telling me to turn it off.

I smiled and did so. I guess we all need a reminder to turn it off once in a while.

Lessening Screen Time with Sergio

Being in isolation (nothing new to me), the cell phones in my household have been in use quite often lately. Though we don’t watch very much TV and the baby is allowed no screen time, Sergio is an adept YouTube scroller. However, it needs to stop.

Against my better judgement we let Sergio start playing with a cellphone about a year and a half ago. Now there are some days where he is on it for hours. Call it bad mothering, call it what you will. I call it a little screen addiction.

Anyway. I have decided to begin the process of removing the phone from his clutches. Here’s how the first day went.

Day 1

Sergio asked for the phone around 9:30 a.m. I firmly told him no. He firmly told me no to breakfast. Ah well.

I gave Sergio the phone at ten a.m.

At 10:30 a.m. tornado sirens could still be heard from the living room (he loves tornado videos).

At 10:45 it was nice enough to go outside. We played with the hose, dirt, mud, sand, and the like.

Around noon we ate lunch and the two ducklings played quietly (side by side) in the living room. This was shortlived and we moved back outside for the remainder of the afternoon.

S. was on his way home so rigorous bathing was needed. After letting the two play in the tub (with many Hotwheels added in) I scrubbed their hair, ears, and hands. Screaming and crying ensued but they were especially dirty and muddy last night.

After drying off and getting cozy, dressed in PJs, it was bedtime. Sergio didn’t ask for the phone once during this time, which is rare.

Two sleeping babies later and Day 1 was a success. Let’s call it beginner’s luck for now 😉

Cuentos: The Color Black Rules — Bilingual Baby (Re-blog)

I wanted to share the review of this children’s book by Bilingual Baby. Black is one of Sergio’s favorite colors and the book speaks of color equality. Check it out on Bilingual Baby’s post.

There are definitely no pale princesses in this book, and kids are asked directly to rethink their own ideals in a tangible, easy-to-grasp way.

Cuentos: The Color Black Rules — Bilingual Baby

How I Promote Bilingual Literacy at Home

This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small amount from qualifying purchases. I try to only recommend items that I personally own or have used, and hope that they serve you well also, if you do decide to buy.

When I was in college in Minnesota, about five to seven years ago, I majored in Spanish Education with a minor in Teaching English as a Second Language. During my last semester, in 2015, I fell in love with my now husband and left the state. I was passionate about my studies and loved what I was learning. Now, I live it. Promoting literacy at home is essential in raising strong readers, and bilingual speakers have more success when literacy is valued and practiced in both languages. Literacy is a skill in itself, but for today I want to focus on the little ways you can increase your child’s awareness of and familiarity with letters and words, books and pencils, and whichever combination of languages you choose.

I dropped out of college and don’t have a degree, but I kept many of the textbooks and continue to conduct my own research. I observe my son closely and try new things. This is how I promote reading at any age, and in any two languages.

First of all, we speak two languages at home. We speak two languages in front of our children, to our children, and practice our second languages with our children. We talk about the importance of speaking, writing, and reading in two languages. We turn our Netflix shows on Spanish, watch movies in Spanish, and read to each other in Spanish. One of my favorite authors is Gabriél García Marquez and I let my children see me struggle to read his work in his native tongue. I ask my husband if he understands the vocabulary. Sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn’t. We are always talking in and about different languages. We find bilingualism and literacy important. Our children listen and hear this.

I like to write and can do so in Spanish because I have a good understanding of the vocabulary and am able to write well in English. My husband, who had a different childhood, does not like to write or read very much. He works hard and has little energy to spend on words. He likes me to read to him and I acquiesce. My preferred way of writing is to use pen and paper. I do this often, writing anything, and Sergio likes to copy me. I give him paper and pencil and he writes as well.

All parents have been told to read to their children. It is important. Reading is fun for children, and requires that you show them how to do it well. Ask questions, make guesses, summarize past plot events, point at the pictures, talk about the title, etc. If you and your family are bilingual, don’t just read in English. Even my husband has begun to read to my son, finding Spanish children’s books in our library one night. Try to ask questions and make guesses in your second language as well. If your level of proficiency at your second language is not high, read anyway, it can only help you, too.

It is also important to show your little ones that you like to read as well. Establish a respect for reading as a valuable past time and skill. Create a library in your home, no matter the size or style, and keep books around you. When a child is curious and plays with a book, they are becoming familiar with pages, letters, and words. They may not know what the writing says, but they begin to understand that it does speak. I often find my son in his room, playing with his books (many of which are from my own childhood), and pretending to read aloud to himself. Reading before bedtime is an important routine that we try hard to follow but it can occur at any time of the day.

Taking trips to the local library is also critical. The library is a good place to find books that may be written in your family’s second language. These books are free, as long as you bring them back! The library also inspires a love and awe of the books lined up all around you. Like-minded families can be found there as well. A bookstore is another great trip to take when your son or daughter is ready for it because the value of money and books can be discussed at once.

Cultural relevancy is important also, so don’t read a book about riding a bike if your little one can barely walk. Don’t read books about crafts if your family is more into outdoor adventures. If you live in the city, read about other people who live in cities. If cooking is a love of the family, peruse cookbooks in either language. It is also a good idea to read books that talk about the culture of your second language: where it’s spoken, who speaks it, how these people live and think.

This book is full of songs native to the Latin-American culture. Its pictures are beautiful.

There are many other ways to promote literacy as well: graphic novels, picture books, some video games (not those that are violent), music, and certainly, art. I love to promote literacy through art: using words and letters as part of the aesthetic. We like to create art around the alphabet, both the English and Spanish version.

Some quick and easy art involving letters.

If you and your little ones would like to start your own library at home, here are some of our favorite English and Spanish books.

I like to have books in hand, but there are ways to download books or listen to them now. If you are still learning Spanish, some of the above books are great for learning vocabulary and practicing comprehension in another language.

Continue to read with your children as they grow, in any language. There are many creative ways to get older children involved, such as book clubs at home, prizes for books read, writing and binding your own book, or creating artwork based on their favorite books. However you choose to promote literacy and include another language in your home, it is an ambitious but worthwhile goal. If one language is more your style, that’s okay too, as long as literacy is valued.

Wash That Baby’s Toys

This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small amount from qualifying purchases. I try to only recommend items that I personally own or have used, and hope that they serve you well also, if you do decide to buy.

Flu season is coming, whether we like it or not. This means that it will soon be time for flu shots, more consistent hand washing, and a scrub down of all the toys in the house. I like to wash toys twice a year, before flu season and after. There’s never a wrong time to do it, though. Especially if you have little boys or girls that like to leave food on the play table or dump milk into inconspicuous containers. Round up the toys, turn on the hot water, and grab some bleach or dish soap.

I clean up my kitchen, counters, and island before beginning. It’s a clean-up day, so expect to clean. If you don’t have as much counter space as I do, clear off a table and whatever counter you have. I lay out several linen dishcloths on the clean surfaces, and fill a plastic tub with hot water in the sink. I like to add about two capfuls of bleach, but I think dish soap works fine, too.

Throw some toys in. Make sure they are all at least covered with the water. Leave the toys in the hot water and soap/bleach for some time. I like to work on laundry or dust while Sergio’s toys are being cleaned. When I return to the toys, I pull them out and rinse them, finally laying them on the dishcloths to dry. This way takes some time because it usually must be done in several batches.

Make sure you are not adding battery-operated toys into the water without removing the batteries. Books and iPads should also be wiped off, and play-doh (one of my favorite toys but probably a trap for bacteria) should be tossed. Put some more play-doh on the Christmas list if it’s a bit hit with your family.

When the toys are dry, toss them into their designated baskets. At this point you can organize the toys, put some aside for future rotation, and toss out broken toys or sets that are missing crucial pieces. I love these baskets for toy storage because they are made from natural resources, are easy to wash and dry (I like to dry baskets in the sun), and are perfect for easy clean-up (just scoop everything into one basket if you want the floor picked up in a hurry).

No matter the kind of toys your child likes, they should be cleaned in some fashion a few times a year. Remember to use HOT water, and rinse well, especially if you are using bleach. Good luck this flu season!

Put Protective Eye Wear on Your New Baby Checklist

The title of this post is intended to be humorous, as well as a warning to new parents. When my son was about 10 months old, I almost lost my right eye (it felt like it anyway).

When my sister and I were babies, my sister poked my father in the eye with a toe, causing extreme pain and the need for an eye patch. It was a funny story in our family, but as a new parent I came to wish I had listened to its moral.

My husband and I have families that live five hours away from us, my family to the north, his to the south. We try to visit each at least once a year, and the travelling has really put us through the tests of parenthood (and marriage). Well, we were visiting my husband’s family in Mississippi, and upon returning to our hotel for the night, I placed Sergio on the bed and began to play with him. We were in a good mood, having spent time with people we care about, and I was cooing to the baby near his face.

Suddenly, Sergio reached out and poked me in the eye with a tiny finger. I reeled back but the pain came a few minutes later. Something was wrong with my eye and I could not open it. It felt as if particles of sand and glass were rubbing across my eye when I moved it, even with eyelids shut.

The following 48 hours were pure hell. I could not sleep, I could not lift the baby and each scream seemed to stab into my eye. It was late at night, my husband had imbibed, and I was not interested in going to a hospital in Mississippi (I’m a total Yankee, sorry). So, we waited until the morning.

Nothing improved, so my sisters-in-law took me to an Urgent Care clinic, where I was told that my cornea, a thin layer across the surface of your eye, had been ripped in half, right across the middle of my pupil. They numbed it and patched my eye with gauze. I wish this had been the end of it.

The next day, a Sunday, I had to drive home. By myself. My husband is very serious about work and must travel many hours to job sites. I have a high pain tolerance, am often a martyr, and hate to complain. We parted at a gas station, my baby in the backseat of my car. Oh, I was mad, but I didn’t have any options.

The sun has never shone brighter than it did the day I drove home with one eye. Highway 55 was packed with crabby semi-truck drivers and impatient weekend-vacationers like myself. But I only had one eye! The pain, from the sun and my ripped cornea, was intense. I had to stop several times along the way, calling my mother and crying once or twice. A five and a half hour trip turned into a six and a half hour drive, a frustrated baby screaming in the back. It was get there or die (maybe not literally, but I still felt that it was dangerous).

My mother took me to an eye doctor the day after we returned home safely. He told me had to scrape off the broken cornea to allow a new one to grow (normally they completely replace themselves within 7 days). My cornea was so injured that it was just hanging there in shreds. The doctor pulled out a strange tool that looked like it had a small, circular saw blade at the end. My mother left the room. I gritted my teeth. He scraped my cornea off.

I can’t describe that feeling and I’m sure you don’t care to know it. It was stomach-turning. Thankfully, with the help of black-out sunglasses and many eye drops, my cornea recovered. However, that eye is much weaker now, twitches once in a while, and squints uncontrollably at the sun. I can still see fine, but something just feels different.

Be careful with those cute fingers and toes; they can cause a lot of damage. If you are going in for a close snuggle, close your eyes around flailing arms and legs. Also, don’t let your guard down; it has almost happened to me several more times.

It is difficult to imagine that my sweet, innocent son could cause me so much pain (way worse than labor) in such a short amount of time, but he did. Protective eye wear may not be a necessary item for parenthood, but two eyes on the road are always better than one.

Parenting Sex and Gender: It’s really none of your business

I have a son, Sergio, and a daughter, Marisol. I didn’t believe in the whole ‘gender’ thing, being one of many that was educated in Gender and Women Studies while in college. I thought gender roles to be an invention of patriarchy. Still, I am not an expert in the sexes or gender, and would never dare to make assumptions. I’ve only noticed a few things.

There are real physical differences in male and female children, but you can do your own research if you wish. There are huge differences in the personalities of my children, and I’ve recently stopped thinking about it altogether, unable to combine what I’ve learned in the classrooms with what I see in front of me. Gender, I still believe, is yours for the choosing. Each of our bodies are our own, and no one can, or should, tell us how to treat or view them. Sexuality would be an entirely distinct conversation, and is already happening. I have nothing new to say on the matter besides leave people alone.

What I have noticed is that my son truly is wild. He likes to play rough: boxing, throwing himself on the floor, pulling hair (NOT MINE) until it’s no longer funny. He also has a problem coping with the word “no,” and is just a tad needy (sound like any men you know? Sergio is three, however, and will learn what “no” means). He’s got incredible hand strength (already taking the tops off of everything!) and is a funny guy all around. I love him, but he surprises me with his masculinity.

Marisolita, on the other hand, is mostly quiet, very agreeable, and incredibly social (already laughing and smiling constantly at five months). Sergio is social too; they really are more similar than dissimilar. Also, I am not encouraging a gender-free environment, so maybe the little people of our home are already learning about our society. I do have rules about respecting gender, sexuality, and the like. I do not tolerate slurs or disparaging comments about any group of people under my roof. That goes for everyone. But there is a division of labor in our house, one that adheres to society’s current rules. None of us can do everything, so my husband and I agreed upon our terms and signed the contract at the courthouse.

In my opinion, it is not our business, as parents, to worry about who our children will be in the realm of sexuality and gender. I don’t know how these things are chosen, I only know it’s not my choice.

We must, however, do our best to educate our children, to the best of our abilities. Sergio and Marisol with learn, at the appropriate times, about the realities of sex and gender: their importance as a biological process, the anatomy of intercourse, the necessity of consent, protection, and what “love” supposedly means. I hope to make my explanation so technical and boring that their little curiosities will be dispelled, until they are of the ages to care and choose for themselves with sufficient knowledge.

For now, I’m focusing on creating a great childhood for my children, and foundations for critically-thinking, healthy minds. I have some time to prepare for the awkward lecture, and Sergio and Marisol have a lot of growing still to do. Focus on observation without judgement, creating a loving bond with your children, and minding your own business when it comes to things that are out of your control.

Tips on Painting with Toddlers: Don’t Toss Out That Easel Just Yet

This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small amount from qualifying purchases. I try to only recommend items that I personally own or have used, and hope that they serve you well also, if you do decide to buy.

Sergio and I like to paint. Not every day, because you can imagine how messy and time-consuming that would be. But, on rainy days like today, we like to fire up our creativity with a few art projects. I am not a creative person when it comes to colors, paints, or anything visual. I’m still learning, I suppose. However, I am one of those stay-at-home moms with nothing better to do than cook up ideas for the kids. Painting is one of those ideas that always sounds fun. It can be frustrating for mom or dad though, so here are a few tips to keep it fun.

I am interested in researching how to recycle paint, and which paints are better for the environment. For now, we paint what we can (old jars, rocks, pieces of wood, and of course, paper) with what we have. This keeps the price for materials down (canvases look great, but are incredibly expensive).

Washable Crayola paint, watercolor palette, brushes, and a recycled jar to put rinsing water in

I love trays. This one is made from silicon (I think? It doesn’t say on the bottom) from Aldi. It has handles and is lightweight; Sergio can lift it also when helping to clean up. Trays tend to keep everything together, easy to reach, and this particular tray doesn’t mind a few spills. Other good options are available on Amazon.

Set up your area, including snacks, utensils and paints, mediums, and whatever else you want to add, before telling your son or daughter about the day’s activity. I have made this mistake many times, and am often followed frantically by an excited, chattering three-year-old on my quest for supplies.

Something else to consider is where you and your little artist will paint. I like to set up a spot outside, so that stubborn paint stains can be pressure-washed from concrete areas or, more ideally, absorbed by the grass and dirt underfoot. For me, painting can have calming effects, which are multiplied when practiced in the open air. I have a screened-in patio, so making a paint station outside is easy for us. If you have a few more obstacles in the way, think creatively, and hoard some cardboard or old linens to use for covering important spaces in your home.

Once your area is clean, covered with an old tablecloth or piece of cardboard, arrange your tools of creativity and make sure the child can reach everything. I also use this easel (I love that it is not made largely from plastic and is easy to carry from room to room) to give Sergio ample access to his work. This is not a fun activity for the children if you don’t allow them to explore and grab their own materials.

On this note, painting is an excellent way for toddlers to dabble in colors, shapes, and textures. It’s a good time to practice vocabulary, so don’t forget to talk about whatever they’re doing. (Today Sergio said the words “dark” and “star” while painting.)

I practice my own creative efforts while spending time with my son.

Mistakes and spills will happen, making supervision necessary. Young children are prone to tasting, smelling, and smearing things all over the place. While working with paints (washable or not) supervision is very important. While sitting next to Sergio, I looked away for one second, and turned back to see a blob of blue paint in the tin of rocks still to be colored. My son had opened a paint jar by himself, and dumped everything out; at least it wasn’t on the floor. Another good reason to use washable paint.

We quickly found a solution by simply painting the rest of the rocks blue. Painting is a nice way for children to explore their surroundings because accidents can turn into artwork.

Another tip is to slyly remove items or tools that are not currently interesting your child. Too many objects to use or things to do can be overwhelming for young ones, and you might have less mess to clean up if you secretly take away the less exciting stamps, stickers, or glitter. Please don’t let them catch you doing this, and remember: I am not liable for any tantrums that occur in your house.

Don’t forget to have fun and don’t worry about cleaning up: everything is much easier with a tray to toss it all into. If you and your artist made it outside, there should be even less to worry about cleaning. Stick your brushes in a jar of water (mineral spirits or paint thinner for acrylic and oil-based paints), and go take a break. You’ve earned it. Keep that easel for the days when you’re not sure what to do, or those times when inspiration strikes.

Plans for a gallery of Sergio’s work are under way because displaying your toddler’s artwork is just as important as making it.

Tantrum in the Salon- How to Get Your Toddler’s Hair Cut

We cut our son, Sergio’s, hair for the first time almost two years ago. His father did it with an electric razor and Sergio was perfectly fine. I kept some hair. Some of the baby’s hair went around the base of my favorite garden member, helping the sickly hosta to grow strong and beautiful, with smooth, bright green leaves. That’s a totally different story, though. No, today I’m going to talk about the temper tantrum in the hair salon.

My son is a great kid, and I don’t mean to sound like all the other moms. Really, he’s way smarter than I am, more friendly, and overall more hilarious than I could ever be. However, he’s got some of my faults in him. He’s very cautious about trying things that could result in pain (maybe not a fault), he gets frustrated easily, and he cries or whines all the time, just like I did. He’s a hoot, and a wonder to me.

Like I said, he’s had a haircut before. Several, in fact. His papá is no hairdresser, however, so most recently, we took him to a local hair salon. My mother was referred to this hairdresser and she does a nice job. Referrals, as most of us probably know by now, are a great way to find your car mechanic, hairdresser, or next favorite book.

As a new mom, I think I know what I will need to bring. Half of the time I’ve got the basics. I forget one thing or another every time. So here’s my list of things to do or bring for the next haircut.

  1. Book your appointment. Duh. Call the salon. Make sure they can schedule your appointment for a time that works for you, (the salon might need notice, too) or ask if they accept walk-ins (not all do). Make sure they can cut children’s hair. After the tantrum I witnessed today, I’m surprised our lovely hairdresser didn’t just throw up her hands and kick us out. She had experience cutting children’s hair, but some may not.
  2. Ask a friend or family member to go with you. My grandmother also wanted a haircut, so she came along for the ride. I have two children now, and I think people often underestimate the difficulty of taking them places. If you have someone to go with you, ask ’em. At least you won’t be embarrassed alone.
  3. Charge your phone! It didn’t help this time, but it might have. Nothing is worse than a dying phone in the hands of a thoroughly entertained toddler.
  4. Pack your bag or purse with the stuff you will need: candy (yes, as a bribe), an extra diaper if the toddler is not potty-trained, (If your tot is potty-trained…well, aren’t you special), an extra T-shirt because there will be hair, a favorite snack (don’t rely on the stale stuff they may or may not have at the salon), and some water to cool everyone down after the fight. I also needed to bring the baby’s bottle, her diaper necessities, and an extra muslin blanket. She’s perfect so I didn’t need toys for her (she is interested in everything around her). If you have two (or more) rowdy babies with you, I’m sorry.
  5. Wash your hair. Or the child’s hair. Whoever is getting a haircut should have clean hair. You don’t want to be gossip for the next client.
  6. Prepare for the worst. I thought everything would go smoothly, since Sergio has done this before, but I was so wrong. He screamed and tried to push her hands away as she combed his hair. He almost wriggled out from my arms as she clipped and snipped. Afterward, he continued to scream and beg for candy. As previously stated, I always forget something.
  7. Don’t forget that this is something new for your son or daughter. Try not to get upset, it can only worsen the situation. As my son stood, yelling into my face in front of the surprised hairdresser, (“He’s got some lungs, don’t he?”) I wondered why I had even bothered. His dad could just do it. But I took Sergio outside, knelt and spoke to him at his level, and he calmed somewhat, better able to cope with the unknown situation. I have to remember, before everything else, to bring along my patience and look at things from Sergio’s point of view.
When all was said and done, he took to a hat.

An Avocado for My Toast

Have you tried it yet? No, not the famed avocado toast (its good, we know). Have you tried stabbing an avocado pit with toothpicks, setting it in a small glass jar, half-filled with water, and waiting impatiently for a sprout? You know I have, and I’ve had quite a bit of success! Sadly, I’m still buying avocados from the store. Here’s why.

Last year I saved three avocado pits (is that the technical name? Anyway, you know what I’m talking about) and set them each, facing upwards, in small glass jars filled halfway with tap water. A couple of toothpicks are necessary but those are easily found. I then set the jars (recycled baby food jars work perfectly) on a dark shelf of a bookcase in my dining room. The large bookcase sits on the same wall as the French doors that lead to my patio, so all light enters the room from behind the bookcase. I then left the pits alone for about….three to four months (it took a very long time). The water would need changing about every week, but other than that I didn’t pay them much mind.

Anyone who has researched growing avocados from seed probably knows that an avocado bears fruit only after the avocado tree is mature enough to do so. I was prepared for the long haul and when I finally saw a taproot cracking through the seed to reach for the water, I was elated. Everyone in my family knew of the taproot’s progress and I soon had three taproots, growing at various rates (two shot out, the first was extremely reluctant to begin). I was extremely protective over them. Little green stems creapt out from the tops of the seeds. “Put it outside,” my husband, equally excited, would tell me.

“Not yet,” I would respond. “It needs to have some leaves first.”

Well, two of them started to grow a leaf. I still wouldn’t put them outside.

“When there are two leaves,” I said.

Finally, my plants had two leaves and I carefully planted them in their pots. The third plant soon ventured outside and all was well. Until my son, Sergio, became extremely interested in the spindly, would-be avocado trees.

The surviving avocado plant.

I have always allowed Sergio to water the plants and flowers. For me, it is a test in patience. For Sergio, a delightful experiment in one of Earth’s greatest elements (and he has learned a lot from this play but that’s another discussion). Well, there we were, gardening as a family. Sergio controlled the hose while I tended to other chores (probably composting). Papá was watching but apparently, not close enough. My three avocados were grouped together in their individual pots, a cluster in one corner of my raised garden beds.

Now, I had nurtured these seeds (pits) for about….SIX MONTHS. I had defended them from the dogs, from the intrigued toddler, even from curious family members (the most difficult foe at times). In about ten minutes, however, two of the three young trees were wiped out. I mean torn from the dirt, with leaves plucked off, skinny stems broken in half.

Sergio had moved on by the time we had noticed the destruction. I bounded across the yard when my husband called to me and asked what had happened to them.

“What did happen to them?!” I exclaimed. It was obvious what had happened to them but too late for any kind of action. I picked up the two pits and tried to replant them. Neither would go on to live. I moved the only survivor out of the hose’s path and to a more secluded spot of the garden.

Only I watered the avocado from then on. It survived that summer and almost all of the fall. I brought it in, placed it near a window and wrapped a rug around the pot (I guess to keep it warmer?). It was kept in our guest room. Unfortunately, I discovered its demise, once again via my husband’s questioning, some weeks into November. I threw up my hands and vowed to try again one day.

A fresh avocado pit, germinating in a bit of water.

So, I’m back to square one with another avocado seed. Let’s see if this one makes it and in several years from now, I just might have a homegrown avocado for that toast.

The Story About a Dog Named Fortuna

In February of 2018, I lost my beloved Bull Terrier named Isabella. She had come into my life when I was thirteen and left me when I was twenty-five, married with two kids. She had seen me through all of my milestones, had followed me to every new apartment in Minnesota, to the motel in Arkansas. She helped me welcome my firstborn. We were so close we breathed in sync sometimes. But at 12 years of age, tumors in her mammary glands were destroying her and she no longer had much will to continue living. We hired a local vet to come to our house and euthanize her. It was one of the most difficult moments of my life and some days I still don’t feel whole. I have her ashes now in a box in my closet. I am looking for the perfect urn for her. But that’s not my story today. This story is about the lucky dog that came after her. The lucky dog named Fortuna.

Bella was not my first dog, though she was the first dog that I handled and finished in conformation dog shows. I trained her with the help of several mentors in the dog world and she became Champion Crescent Silmaril’s Quixotic. As a small girl, I helped my mother raise and sell two litters of American Bulldogs. Right before I got Bella, as proof of my responsibility and resolve, I helped rehab a Cocker Spaniel, obedience and house training her so that she was able to move to a forever home. I have some experience with dogs. In fact, I’ve never lived without one. My mother’s Westie, Bella’s oldest friend, is sitting at my feet as I type. Working with dogs, I learned some important life skills: responsibility, professionalism, loyalty, compassion. But Fortuna taught me more than the rest of our old companions combined.

After Bella was gone, I grieved in a strange way. I drank a little too much, argued with my father, and gave up on my studies. Then, I convinced my husband and mother (she lives with us) to cough up money for a German Shepherd puppy that we’d spotted in the newspaper. “We need a new puppy in the house,” I claimed. “It will help me remember Bella.” Though my husband was not ready for another dog, he was enchanted by the idea of owning a German Shepherd. He likes the breed but has little knowledge of it. I thought I knew enough. So we got the puppy. We named her Fortuna.

She was a beautiful dog but was under socialized and awfully scared. We thought we could easily build her confidence by taking her to the dog park, travelling to see family with her, etc. Joey, the Westie, seemed to help her settle in. Everything was more difficult than we anticipated, however. Fortuna, named after the little girl from Spirit: Riding Free on Netflix, was acting very aggressive and scaring everyone in our neighborhood with her barking. I was terrified she would hurt someone. I soon found out I was pregnant with our second child. My son was only two years old. Fortuna made me nervous but I thought it was due to my own shortcomings.

This is Fortuna as a young dog, sitting in one of my garden boxes. She had to be chained because she would leap over and out of the yard to run after squirrels.
This is Fortuna as a young dog, sitting in one of my garden boxes. She had to be chained because she would leap over and out of the yard to run after squirrels.

Indeed, I was not doing my best for Fortuna. I was tired in my first trimester. Extremely so. I didn’t walk her like I should have. I didn’t get the training done. This is not to say that Fortuna was not well cared for. We loved her and wanted her to be a part of the family. So we contacted some training professionals and sought their help. They explained that she was fearful and possessive; not a good combo. We started working on some small obedience tasks. I had the baby and Fortuna seemed to improve. I was feeling pretty good.

Fortuna soon decided her own fortune.

As I was standing in my laundry room, sorting laundry, my son talking a mix of Spanish and English to me at my side, Fortuna sidled in. Now in my house, for a time, there was a rule about being in the laundry room with Fortuna at the same time. The door could not be closed, the baby could not be in the room, and food could not be out. Fortuna would freak out in that room, we don’t know why. I broke my own damn rule. Fortuna freaked out. At my son. She growled and snapped at him. I grabbed her throat and shoved her backward out of the room. I walked her right to the kennel and slammed the door behind her. My baby was crying. I chalked it up to my irresponsibility and tried to be more vigilant until I could speak to my mother face to face. I knew we had a problem. My mother arrived back home some days later.

The night my mother arrived at my house, we sat on the porch, catching up. We talked about the dogs, the kids, and the garden. I held Fortuna’s leash firmly at my side, occasionally correcting her with her pincher collar. Suddenly, the French door swung open upon my dining room and Sergio burst out onto the porch. Before he could shout “¡Abue!” Fortuna leaped into the air growling towards my son. If she had been loose….well, I try not to think “What if?”.

I kept Fortuna in the kennel for a while thereafter except for walks or feeding times. When she was outside, no one else was allowed outside. I called the professionals the next day. They offered me a few names of shelters but all were full. I called the Humane Society and they said I could bring her in. I wanted rid of her. I couldn’t look at her the same and it was beyond irresponsible to keep her at this point. She was dangerous.

When I took her to the Humane Society I was turned away. She scared the volunteers working that day and I would have to wait until someone with more experience was there to bring her in. They didn’t have high hopes for her and I was sobbing when I left. I called another number they gave me. A voicemail was all I got.

I felt like a failure when I brought that dog home. I had failed my children by having a dangerous dog in the house. I had failed the dog by letting her confidence issues get out of control. And I had literally failed at getting rid of her. So I would wait another two days, I thought. I walked Fortuna and put her in the kennel for the night. She looked at me like I was a traitor.

The next morning went as usual. Everyone was kept at a safe distance from each other. I was on high alert. Until I received a text from a girl that said she worked at the professional boarding and training facility that I had sought advice from. She wanted to give Fortuna a chance but already owned a male dog. I said I would give her some money towards the spaying. We agreed to meet at 3:00 p.m. that day. I readied Fortuna’s things and her food. The girl arrived.

“Thank you so much. I’m so glad she’s going to someone who will know exactly what she needs,” I said after we had talked about Fortuna and she had introduced herself (with some barking and growling on the part of the German Shepherd) to the dog. She was not afraid and knew what she was doing. She took control immediately of Fortuna and led her to her car where she left her in her kennel with the car’s hatch open. We stood and talked some more.

“Do you want to know the main reason I was so interested in Fortuna?” she asked.

“Sure.”

“Well, do you know what Fortuna means?”

“Oh yeah,” I replied and explained that we speak Spanish at home and that my son loved the show on Netflix about the girl and her horse.

“Well, one side of my family is Italian. And in Italian Fortuna means lucky too. That part of my family also raised German Shepherds and the craziest part is their last name is Fortuna!”

I couldn’t believe it. But it saved her life. And it taught me to follow your rules. “No big dogs around little faces,” my mother says. It also taught me to do your due diligence but know when to throw in the towel. I thought I knew enough but you can never know enough.

This experience even taught me the importance of properly grieving for someone you’ve lost. I never should have tried to replace Isabella because she is irreplaceable. Each dog is unique in personality and needs. I’ve also learned that dogs are great but kids ALWAYS come first.

Ironically, I learned, above all, the power of a good, lucky name.