Thursday, September 24, 2009

Luka Gone Wild



Yesterday was Luka's first night in a big boy bed. We were so proud of him. It went great. He didn't cry and slept all night...until he woke up and came straight to my bed.

But the FUN happened at nap time. I guess he wasn't that tired. He totally faked falling asleep and everything was VERY quiet in his room. About 1.5 hours into his nap Elizabeth (our empregada) came to see me and said we should go check on him because she thought it was TOO quiet...well this is what we found.

He managed to take every book of his shelf, toys, clothes, shoes and baptize himself with the butt cream you see all over him. You know how greasy that stuff is....not easy to take off. Oh, and he also opened his bathroom and stuffed the toilet with paper.

Seriously, where does he get these ideas! I almost killed him...but it was really hard to keep a straight face.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Things that make you go hmmmmm...



Funny video that really didn't leave me laughing...check it out.

Living in a country like Mozambique has given me a different perspective on things happening back at home. It is totally insane that in the "most powerful" country in the world people go without doctors, medicine or procedures because they can't afford it or they can't fight their own insurance companies that don't want to cover things. We need a system that will help everyone meet their medical needs.

Mozambique is the 14th poorest country in the world and here you can walk into the central hospital and you will receive care. Okay, the care is bleak at best, but in this country you can't expect much. People, it is one of the poorest countries in the world. I am not arguing the quality of care...it sucks. But the fact is that you can get a $1 malaria test or free birth control pills, a chest x-ray if you need it. If you can make it to a health facility you are the right to be seen by a doctor. Again, I wouldn't want to be sick in a hospital here, but what i am trying to say is that even a country that has nothing knows that its citizens have a right to health care.

I don't get how in the "best" country in the world health care is not a given. You have to be able to afford it...the US is paying billions and billions of dollars in aid to meet the basic needs of the people in other countries, but back home it is a different story. Please someone explain this to me...

Okay, I am tired and it is time to go to bed, but I came across this video and I couldn't resist to share my thoughts.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Happy Birthday Moqui



Well little sis, you are officially into your thirties now. I can't believe my little sister is 31 today. Here we are with our boys about a year ago. She has a new addition to her family (Evan) not pictured here....so now the total is 3 boys in the family. When are the girls going to start arriving?!?!?

Sometimes I stop and think and I really can't believe that my little sister that was prone to every kind of accident (stitches all the time), had the bangs of all bangs (mom really didn't know how to cut bangs did she?) and had a pretty decent collection of Transformers.... is now an attorney, married and has two gorgeous kids. Where does the time go? Sorry to broadcast about your Transformers fetish, but at least now we know where Maxwell's obsession comes from. Like mother like son.

Moqui, I hope you have a great birthday today and celebrate all the wonderful things in your life. I know it would be even more wonderful if your big sis was in Miami, but for that we will have to wait. I hope to be there soon, but not quite in time to blow out the 31 birthday candles.

Frani's Pink Party


We had a great time at Frani's Pink Party. She turned 5 and although the weather was not ideal (darn wind) the kids had a great time. Luka also wanted to get his face painted for the first time. He asked for Spiderman. I have no idea where he learned about Spiderman. We have never seen it at home, but even at 2.5 kids manage to tell eachother what is cool and hip. Crazy huh!

But doesn't he look cute with Max. They had a good time posing in the pink photo booth. Oh, this photo captures my favorite smile...but I think it is time I cut his hair.


Here is Frani's personlized birthday banner.


And look at the candy bar. The kids were all over it and I think it lasted like 15 minutes and all the candies were gone.


Coloring never seems to disappoint. Kids of all ages were having fun coloring a page for Frani.



Frani and the rest of the Spear Family, thank you for a wonderful party!

You can see more photos from the party here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Our Buzzzzzzy Bee



I know I am being ridiculous at this point. But we are so proud of our little guy. You should see him when he arrives at home with his works of art. He loves to see them on the fridge, but with this one in particular he loves to grab it and buzz all around the house. By now the bee has lost a wing, but that is the great thing about scanning and "preserving" Luka's art work...it doesn't matter if the original gets damaged.

Also at some point when it gets to be too much paperwork I can toss the pieces and make a book or portfolio from the scanned images. Wow, I just came up with that one right now. But yeah, wouldn't that be great...better than having a box and having it all turn yellow by the time he is older and able to appreciate it.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Luka's Latest Additions to his Portfolio


As you know Luka started school a couple of weeks ago. They have been learning about insects and here are two of the art projects he brought home last Friday. I love the butterfly made out of his hand prints...so cute! He is crazy about bugs these days and loves to repeat the words fly, bee, ladybug and of course BUTTERFLY!

But as far as school goes I think his favorite thing (by far) is hanging out with his teacher. It might be his first official "school boy" crush. Everyday I pick him up and I ask him, "Luka, what did you do at school today?" and his response is always, "Ms. Rosa, Ms. Rosa." And if I ask him who are his friends at school Ms. Rosa is always first on the list followed by Amelia, Mario, DooDoo, Yannick (all names of his classmates).

Friday, September 11, 2009

Interview with Alcides


I am very curious to see this film now. So far I can't find any information about a screening in Maputo. Did he find his brother? Where is he now? What can I do to help? Maybe I will write to BYKids - the organization that help Alcides make this film. I will let you know what happens...

Maputo Through Their Eyes


In August 2007, children orphaned by AIDS living in Maputo, Mozambique spent time with American photographers and filmmakers to produce a body of work that documents the joys and challenges of daily life.

In this web video, experience highlights from the children's photographs. The images are set to a song performed by the kids, their friends, and their neighbors at a local community center on August 7. For more images and stories, visit the project website.

I wish I could say that I was part of this project, but I am just a big fan of This House is Small but the Welcome is Big. Today I came across it again on the internet and I wanted to share it with everyone. When you look at the photos keep in mind that they were taken by children who had never held a camera before in their lives. They were given this tool to communicate with the rest of the world and I believe the photos convey a powerful message.

If you like this video you should also check out this link to see a new documentary from one of the kids in this project. It has been accepted at numerous film festivals and won many prizes. The story is very touching and it gives you a glimpse into the life of an orphan in Mozambique. Oh, look I found the trailer on youtube....brilliant!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Happy Birthday Papi


Happy Birthday Papi....I think you must be around 7 years old in this photo (my dad is the one on the left). I really love this photo. You look really happy and it seems like you are celebrating something, so I thought it would be fitting to share it with you on your birthday.

It is now about 50 years from the time you took this photo (yes, folks my dad is 57 years young) and you still look almost the same....just a little taller and the belly is a little bigger. But more handsome than ever.

You know I was remembering today how crazy and silly you are....

When I was a teenager/young adult my dad always used to introduce himself as my brother. It used to drive me insane and he thought it was very funny because most of the time it worked. I thought, "How in the heck are these people going to believe he is my brother...I mean we are 22 years apart." Okay, dad I must admit that now that I am 34 and Luka is 2 I realized that I will NEVER be able to pass as his sister and I am a little jealous. I didn't realize what a blessing it was to grow up with such "young and cool" parents. I didn't think so at the time, but we did have a lot of fun.

I will leave you with another story of how my father liked to fool people...

When I was in 11th grade I went on a school trip to DC. We had roommates from other schools across the country. My roommate was from California. I noticed that all week she left everything locked up and was acting very paranoid when I was around. I just came to the conclusion that she thought all Cubans from Miami were thieves. Finally on one of the last days of the trip the phone rings and she says, "It is for you. He has been calling all week, but you haven't been here. It is your parole officer." No, I didn't have a record. It was my father trying to perpetuate the stereotype that if you are from Miami you must be a criminal. Now I laugh when I think of the story, but I don't remember laughing at the time.

Happy Birthday Dad and thank you for always being a great brother..I mean father.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Lazy Sunday at Laura's House


My friend Laura lives in Naamacha or close to it...right outside of Maputo. She has a nice and open house where the kids can run around and have a great time, while the adults relax and lounge around. A group of us spent our Sunday there. It was great to catch up with friends and eat...a lot. Lau, thanks for making my favorite guacamole dip. It was delicious.

Thank you Paty for taking this great photo of Luka. I love the antique look that you gave it. If you would like to see more of Paty's beautiful photos click here.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Evan's Naming Ceremony


It has been 8 days since Evan arrived and it was time for his Nigerian Naming Ceremony. Here is some information on the traditional ceremony:

The Yoruba people live in Nigeria in western Africa. In their culture a name is not just a name. It tells the circumstances under which a child was born. There are names for just about every situation. Sometimes a new named is even created. A name can also tell group or family history. It is always selected by family elders. Yoruba people always celebrate the naming ceremony when a child is seven days old. During their naming ceremony, the family and the community welcome a new child and accept joint responsibility for raising it. As part of the ceremony, items used in everyday life are presented to the child as symbolic gifts. The basic items are water, salt, honey, sugar, whole peppercorns, kola nuts, bitter kola, wine, dried catfish, and palm oil. These items may vary depending on the ethnic group and family preferences. The theme they share in common is that the birth of a child is a time of great joy and celebration for the entire family and community.

Evan's name is Evan Adebayo Pitan. I haven't consulted by brother-in-law on this but I am almost sure it means "For He was Happy" or "Born in a Joyful Time." It is also one of the names of Wole's father. I really wish I could have been there for this special occasion. Congratulations Wole, Moqui, Maxwell and Evan!

Since we are on the topic of names...just for fun here are the names of my immediate family members:

Monica Maria Vigues Pitan
Oluwole "Wole" Olushua Pitan (need to check the spelling on that)
Maxwell Oladipo Pitan
Isabel Ramona Reyes Vigues
Jose Antonio Vigues
Jan Jelle van Herksen
Luka Dario Tinhiko van Herksen

I am sure you didn't know we had so many names. It is funny how some of us are given names that hold special meaning or tradition and we only usually go by one name..or at least that is how it was in my family. So here it is...my entire name that my Grandmother Yeya Angelita always made sure that I knew:

Melissa Isabel Vigues Reyes Ripoll Flores (and now you can add van Herksen).

Here you can see Monica and Wole with Evan and the Nigerian Pastor during the ceremony.


My uncle Father Gabriel Vigues added a little Cuban Catholic spice to the celebration.



To see all the photos from the naming ceremony click here.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Who says Ikea has to be boring?



I am a big fan of Ikea and mixing and matching with other furniture lines. But I always think....how many other millions of people have this same armoire or bookcase? Well, today I was in one of my internet surfing moods and came across Grippiks. This company sells these great surface accents that you can peel, stick, take off and reposition if you would like...perfect to decorate those Ikea purchases. Genius right. I thought so...take a look here.

I think this would be perfect for a kid's room! Enjoy.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Beautiful Benthe



Lately all of the little boys in our family have been getting a lot of face time on the blog (Luka, Maxwell and the two new additions Olin & Evan).

Today my sister-in-law sent me this photo of our niece Benthe and I couldn't resist sharing it with the world. I am in love with this photo. By default she is the little princess of the group (being the only girl), but she is not a diva at all. She is such a good little girl and Luka loves to play with her when we visit on holiday. They even have been known to have their own conversations on Skype..all in Dutch so Luka could be saying god knows what about me...ha ha.

Benthe, we miss you and can't wait to see you again! Maybe one of these days there will be another little girl in the family.

We love you!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

i heart this camera


Okay, so it might not take as good photos as my Nikon D80, but isn't this the most precious camera. I have a weakness/obsession for wooden toys (my sister thinks I deprive Luka). But they are perfect and the best thing about it...no batteries.

Well, just wanted to share this find from one of my favorite blogs.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Luka's First Day of School


Today's was Luka's first day of school and we couldn't be prouder. He woke up at 6:15 am this morning yelling, "School Mami, School, School." I think he was very ready to start today. I was so nervous and it was all for nothing. Luka was practically sending JJ and I home when we arrived at the school this morning. When we said goodbye...he kissed us and kept waving "Bye, Bye," so that we would leave.

If I am being totally honest, I kind of wanted him to miss us a little bit. I didn't want a full on cry...but a little pout would have been nice. I am only joking. He was great!

Here are some photos from Luka's big day. Here is a going out the door, ready with backpack and all.


He was walking ahead of us and couldn't wait to get there.


This is taken inside the classroom. He started exploring some of the stations when we got there. We got there a little too early. We are such nerds...well, I am really.


Of course I was worried so I snuck in early and peaked through the window as they did the last activities of the day and lined up to leave. Luka rushed to the front of the line.