Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sam's 1st Snow Day

A couple of weeks ago on September 2nd Sam saw and played in snow for the first time.  We drove about 45 minutes from our house and landed in a Ski Resort area. Yes a ski resort 45 minutes from our house! Well the bad news...well there were a couple of things:

1. We didn't really dress for snow. Jeans = wet legs. Slippery shoes = falling all over the place, especially carrying a two year old. We are so from Miami!
2. We took our newly bought sleigh, but realized we couldn't use it on the slopes. Hello, we are such rookies, right.
3. It was the END of the snow season so the slow was slim pickings.

But wait it wasn't all bad...

1. We did get to snap a few pics in the snow.
2. We learned A LOT for the next time.
3. Sam saw snow...the boys were very excited to see it.
4. We got to borrow a snowman from a much more experienced for the snow Chilean Family

Then we drove down about 10 minutes and all the snow was gone...jackets came off and the boys were also happy to be back in the sunlight! We had a the best burger ever at a place called Burger, Beer & Boards (like snowboards). Really yummy!

Here are Luka and Sam enjoying being brothers...Yes, yes I need to stop dressing them alike. I only do this on occasion. I just like for people to know they are brothers...I think that is why I do it. But don't they look cute?

FYI. I used a new site I found to edit photos and make collages. Mostly I wanted to find an online service to make quick collages, but I messed around with the editing options. These photos have the "dusk" effect. They have tons of other features and VERY easy to use. It is called PicMonkey. You can try it here

PS Just in case you were wondering Luka saw snow for the 1st time when we went to Washington, DC for Obama's inauguration in 2009. Click here to reminisce.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Stress Free Quickie

Okay, get your mind out of the gutter...I am not talking about what you think I am talking about. I am talking about quickie art. This week I finally finished hanging up all the frames, photos and art around the house and I had a little problem...two spaces that needed something but I was fresh out of things to hang. I didn't want to put up a photo so today in about 7 minutes I came up with these. And two $5 USD matted frames and viola...

This is for my make me smile as I walk in everyday. I work alone, so I need someone or something to remind me how fabulous I am...even if I know it is a lie as I sit in the office with my robe with my hair in a pony tail.
(I can't take credit for this...I found online in one of my many blog binges. I saved the file, but not the source...sorry. But at least I am being honest)

And this is for the living go next to the prints I created a couple of weeks ago. Oh, I didn't post that...I thought I had, but I only put it up on Facebook. Let me find the photo.
(This I did in Word in a nano minute)

Here it is...Pretty cool, huh?
(This I did as well)

Well, that is all for now...told you it was a quickie!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Luka's KG4 Yearbook

Click here to view this photo book larger
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Today's project is COMPLETED. Yay! Just in case you were wondering...KG4 = Pre-Kindergarten.

Less Than One Month To Go!

In less than a month I will be walking and then walking a little more. I can't wait. And just in case you were curious about this crazy is a video to see what the event is like. This is my first AVON Walk but it is very similar to the three day walk I did last year.

It is truly empowering and an awesome experience.

I sat and watched this video with Luka and he asked me,"Mommy why are you crying?"

I don't know what it is but everytime I see these videos I cry, but it is always one of those cries that also make me smile. I get really emotional...

Luka thought the pink tents were really cool!

If you haven't donated already (thank you to those that have) you still have time to make a donation. Just click on this link:

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Where is home?

So Where's Home? A Film About Third Culture Kid Identity from Adrian Bautista on Vimeo.

Seems like an easy enough question, no? Well for our family this is super complicated? As we meet new people and make new friends all the time and first question that always comes up is "Where are you from?"

Let's see if they ask me..."I am from Miami, but my family is Cuban. My husband is from Holland. My 5 year old is from Mozambique and Sam, well he is from my belly, but born in South African, so we are from everywhere." But to me home is where JJ, Luka and Sam are.

A couple of weeks ago we had this great speaker come to Luka's school. The PTA sponsored her visit - Ruth E. van Reken. She is a fascinating woman who is a Third Culture Kid (TCK). Her talk made think long and hard about this question and about what it means to be raising two TCKs.

Luka and Sam are TCKs..Luka is well sort of a 4th Culture or a TCK on yet another dimension since he is internationally adopted. But her talk/presentation showed me that really you can be a TCK even if you live in the same place your entire life.

Let's take Mavis. You see Mavis was the only African-American girl in my school pretty much from K to 12th grade. She went to school where it was 99% white cubans. She lived in Miami her whole life, but everyday at school she was part of a culture different from her own. Now being a mother of a little boy that for a third year in a row is the only or one of the few black people in an entire city I can really appreciate what Mavis had to go through...when I step into Luka's shoes.

I actually feel kind of guilty for never asking Mavis more about her family. I was part of this mono-culture society (Cuban-American community in Miami) and I guess in mind she was just like us. I think her family was from Ghana and shame on me for not knowing more.

My parents were also TCKs. They arrived from Cuba and had to be teenagers in an American high school all day and come home to a completely different culture.

The kids in Luka's school that are Chilean have chosen to attend an international school and immerse themselves and learn in a different language other than their own.

As I watched the video I posted above I started to think what Luka and Sam would say when they were in college and high school like the kids in the video. I wonder where they say they are from??? I work hard with Luka to make sure he never forgets where he is from and to be proud of being Mozambican, but I also want him to appreciate being part of a Cuban-American Dutch Family.

All this fascinates me...

Anyway, back to the present...this talk was truly enlightening.

JJ and I have picked a life for our boys that is very different from the norm. It comes with many struggles, challenges, but also with countless rewards. Through all this it is important to be aware what it means to be a TCK and live this nomadic lifestyle.

I am learning as I go, but Ruth van Reken's talk put it all in prospective and gave me a bit of homework to do:

1. Read her book, which I bought - Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds
2. Establish strong traditions that as a family we can have, no matter where we live...working on that one.
3. Keep up communication and ties with "home" (in our case that is Holland and Miami)
4. Learn to process the grief that comes with leaving your home and moving to a new city (when she said this it was an aha moment...of course grief...I never thought of it that way).
5. Understand that all your children are different and they will react differently to the move (I can see this so clearly with Luka and Sam and how they each adapted differently in Santiago).

Well, I can go on..but those are some of the main points. For those that are interested in the topic there are countless resources...just google Third Culture or Cross-Culture kids and you will have a sea of link to choose from. You can even read about our President Barack Obama and his TCK upbringing!

I will leave you with this poem that Ruth shared with us during her visit (written by a Missionary kid in 1991)

Colors by Whitni Thomas, MK (1991)

I grew up in a Yellow country

But my parents are Blue.

I'm Blue. 

Or at least, that is what they told me. 

But I play with the Yellows.

I went to school with the Yellows.

I spoke the Yellow language.

I even dressed and appeared to be Yellow.

Then I moved to the Blue land.

Now I go to school with the Blues.

I speak the Blue language.

I even dress and look Blue.

But deep down, inside me, something's Yellow.

I love the Blue country.

But my ways are tinted with Yellow.

When I am in the Blue land, I want to be Yellow.

When I am in the Yellow land,
I want to be Blue. 

Why can't I be both?

A place where I can be me.

A place where I can be green.

I just want to be green.

Luka's KG3 Yearbook

Click here to view this photo book larger
Click here to create your own Shutterfly photo book.

Last night I started and I have been working on it since then (minus some hours to sleep). But I am done. A whole school year for Luka in one neat book. I want to thank my husband for his patience...I get a little "disconnected" when I  get into my photo book mode. But I also want to send a BIG thank you to Mrs. Kirby and  Ms. Lucia (his teachers from 2010 - 2011) for sharing so many photos with me.

They prepared a CD of photos that really gave me a "bird's eye" view of what his typical school day was like. I had so many photos to choose from....THANK YOU.

I hope Luka likes the book!

PS For those of you wondering what the heck KG3 is...this is pre-pre kindergarten. He started this class at the American School in La Paz. The following year he did PreK and now he is in Kindergarten in Santiago. So this is from TWO years ago.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sam's Selection for Our Art Gallery

As promised in my previous are the pieces of art we will be showcasing for Sammy on our new art wall.

Here is Sam's first drawing ever. He grabbed a post-it note at his Grandma's House in Holland and drew this all on his own last summer. I have to frame it, no? Looks kind of like a bunny to me.

Here are Sammy's hands and feet at six months...

Here are some of Sam's creations from LIVE...very artistic this boy of ours!

This one was done at home in La Paz...I love the yellow lined paper!

Artwork, Artwork & MORE Artwork

If you are a parent you know how much artwork I am talking about. Let's see Luka has now been to four different schools or daycares since we lived in Mozambique and we have collected many priceless pieces of art along the way. Now Sam, since last year, has started his own collection.

What do you do with all of it? Do you toss it? Save it? Keep a few? Well, I realized in this move (to Chile) that it is not really practical for us to keep so much of it. The refrigerator is only so big and all the drawers full of stuff just takes up too much space. I guess I felt a little guilty because growing up my mom would keep everything, but with our life as nomads this doesn't really work.

Back in Maputo I thought I had come up with a solution, scan the work and create a portfolio. Here are some sample pages of the book I created in iPhoto:

Okay, this seemed like a GREAT idea and I love the book, but then I found out a couple of things in the process:

1. We don't hang up the art and get to appreciate it as a family...only if you open the book.
2. As Luka has started "real" school it is nice to separate things by year and I found that I also had tons of photos to go along with his school moments. This portfolio was for all his art created while living in Mozambique.

What to do...

So this is what I decided. I know that most of you are hanging on the edge of your seat...ha ha.

1. Have a rolling art gallery wall for the boys next to the playroom area. With all the art framed in similar styles and I will use frames I can swap out as they bring new art work home. (I am working on the selection, frames and displaying this to come at the end of the week).

2. I will still scan our favorite pieces and make a Yearbook for them at the end of every school year. This will have photos of the boys in class and doing other school-related activities, but the back of the book will be a portfolio. Very similar to what I did for Sam here.

So problem solved...the boys will get to see their art hanging in the house and then we won't feel bad tossing those as new pieces come in to display because they are scanned and will go in the yearbook at the end of the school year.

So, let's see that means I will have to create 2 photo books/portfolios in May (one for Sam and one for Luka) and then 1 family yearbook in December. If you are thinking what is a family yearbook....well I decided that instead of trying to do photo books for all these different events, vacations, visits, new cities, etc...I will keep it simple. At the end of every calendar year I will create a van Herksen Family Yearbook with all the photos and special moments from that year. I got the idea from here. I love that family and their blog. I receive daily inspiration from Young House Love.

I was driving myself a little insane..I am OCD with photos and albums and I always had a photo book to do for this, or one to do for that event. I decided to simplify and came up with a solution I think works best. Three books a year...easy peasy!

I hope this post helps and inspires you to showcase your photos or art in some way.

Now here are some scans of Luka's art for the wall...

Here is one of Luka's earlier drawings from 2008. I think it is the first drawing he made...EVER.

Here are some from KG3 and 2011 in La Paz.

These are from KG4 in La Paz.

Now I have to scan Sam's collection...that post coming soon!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Finally...a book for SAM

Click here to create your own Shutterfly photo book.

While in Maputo I managed to make a couple of albums and portforlios for Luka from his first year with us and artwork from the schools he attended in town. Well Sam is two and until today I hadn't put anything together for him. Thank goodness I had a coupon for a FREE shutterfly book to put a deadline on it...but here it is. I made Sam a yearbook from his first school in La Paz. (I started at 9 pm tonight...pretty good).

All of us loved LIVE so much that I thought it was important to properly document his time there. I think he will like looking at all the photos and seeing all of his old friends and teachers.

I can't wait to see it in October. I mailed it to my friend in NYC and I will bring it back with me after the walk. Be patient Sammy...just a little longer.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Hanging Out with Sam

Hanging Out with Sam from Melissa van Herksen on Vimeo.

Last night was just a regular night...nothing special. As I was sitting on the bed with Sam enjoying our after bath/dinner quality time with my little baby...don't you love that time when they are clean, fed and relaxed and you know you are very close to having them sleep VERY soon. Yes, well as you can see it is my favorite time of day.

Well, back to my thought...I was sitting there talking to Sam and I realized I never post any videos of him (Second Child Curse, no?) I just opened my laptop and started talking with Sam and singing some of our usual tunes. Excuse my beautiful appearance but I was TIRED and the lighting was not very good, but Sam is cute and super scrumptious so that is what matters.

You can hear my little man's voice these days...enjoy!

Luka's First Family Tree

Luka just got home with his first family tree project. I think it was a quick activity they did in school today, but I love it and I couldn't wait to share it with the world. Seriously, he got home like 10 minutes ago on the bus. I think it is very interesting the people he chose to put on his tree:

1. Luka
2. Mom
3. Dad
4. Sam
5. Monica (my sister)
6. Wole (my brother-in-law, his uncle)
7. Ine (my aunt)
8. Sara (his friend from class, actually I think it is Zara, but he swears this is how you spell it)

I asked him why he put Zara in the tree...he said, "Mommy, she is my friend and I wanted to include her in the family tree." I said, "Okay."

I know that if he had more spaces he would have included a whole bunch of other people. He told me he didn't have space for his cousins or abuela or oma/opa...I told him it was okay and that we would work on a BIG family tree for the house.

Lately he always asks me about Ine, she is going through chemo/radiation and he is very worried about her and her "boobie cancer" like he calls it. So I think that is why he had the instinct to draw her...Wole, he loves his Uncle Wole and I know he is always excited to see him in photos. He always says, "Mom, I look like Tio Wole." For whatever reason this is the family tree he came up with today and I am looking forward on working on a big one with him at home so we can include the entire Vigues/van Herksen bunch.

Can you believe he didn't have any help with the names! Okay, so he had mispelled my name and we fixed that before scanning. But what a great job, no? I am so proud of my little Lukkie!

I love family trees. I don't remember doing one when I grew up. Do you?

Just for fun. Here a link to a post about a family tree I found online that I wrote about back in 2009. I really do love Family Trees...and no I don't have one up at home yet!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Luka Starts Taking the Bus

Since the school year started JJ has been asking me about bus service at Luka's new school and I have sort of just been ignoring him or nodding when he asks. As a Dutch father he thinks that taking the bus in the morning is a big step in the process of growing up and starting to feel independent as a little boy. Hello, I am Cuban and from Miami. I grew up with my parents dropping me off every morning. Bus was reserved for those kids that had parents that had to get to work very early. The first choice was always to have mom or dad drop you off. After school it was more common, but i don't think I ever took the big yellow bus home anyway.

It is definitely a culture thing...but the truth is that I didn't want my little baby to go on the big bad bus all by himself...and when would I talk to other moms and socialize at school, or more importantly have that contact with his teacher.

But my husband was very persistent and persuasive. We also started to notice that Luka had to work on his independence, so after weeks of brushing it aside I finally signed Luka up to take the bus.

On September 3rd he rode the bus to school for the first time. I cried when he drove away, but I could see he was one little proud 5-year old as he waited for the bus.

At the end of the day after he got home on the bus our conversation went something like this:

Me: Luki, how was the bus today?
Luka: Mom, nobody talks to me. I don't like it.
Me: Baby, in the morning people are tired and they don't talk. They are probably sleepy.
Luka: No, Mom! In the afternoon too. Nobody talked to me.
Me: Sweetie, it was your first day. You still don't know anyone...just wait a couple of days

Inside I was see...he is too young.

Fast forward to Friday in the afternoon:

Luka: (running inside) Mom, Mom...Someone spoke to me on the bus today. I have a friend.
Me: Really, that is awesome!
Luka: Yes, he got on the bus and said, "Hey Buddy" and we talked all the way home.

I really worry way too much.

The bus has proved to be very successful and efficient:

1. Luka loves it
2. I don't have to rush Sam in the morning so we are all out of the house by 7:10 am
3. Sam gets to sleep longer
4. I get to actually shower and get ready for the day.
5. My Dutch husband is very proud of his son...we are all proud of him.
6. I still get to pick him up at school twice a week for after-school activities
7. Did I mention Luka loves it!

So that was the bus drama going on in my house recently, which turns out it wasn't that much of a drama at all. I guess it was just drama from this mama.

Here is Luka boarding the bus on that first day.
Here he is after he is all buckled in.

We've Moved...Officially

Okay, by now you know we are living in Santiago, Chile but I had yet to send out our new mailing address. You know the "official" announcement people usually send out.

We don't really get a lot of mail around these parts (hint hint to all my friends and family out there). But if you feel the need to stick a stamp on an envelope and send to us in South America here is the address. Go crazy people!

I also included our US phone line. Call us whenever you want!

The address is in the Netherlands, but it will get to us here...I promise. Have a great day.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Recycled Passport Photo Art Project

Unlike most people we have to get numerous passport photos and often for visas, diplomatic ids, passports, foreign driver's licenses, etc. So we collect quite a few awful photos and I felt bad throwing them just today looking at an empty frame I decided what to do...

And thus my super artsy passport collage was born!

I don't know how you feel, but I think that passport photos have an interesting type of mystic, sort of like school photos. No matter how terrible they are there is something that draws me to them. And most of all they remind us of all the places we have been!

I also love seeing how much the boys have changed. And HELLO I really should have given Luka a haircut in that middle photo and doesn't Sammy look a little like Benjamin Button....I am not mean...he was days old in that photo and so squishy. He really looks like a completely different little boy. 

Too bad I gave away all the "good" passport photos while we were in Holland, the boys came out really cute in those. 

But I like my reject recycled passport art project. It makes me smile. I think that over the next couple of years I will have a couple of these collages to hang side by side in the house and compare. I hope Ikea doesn't stop production on the Ribba frame.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Happy Birthday Papi

Dear Papi,

So today you turn 60, huh? I know you can't believe it, but I can't believe it either...time most certainly passes by very quickly and having you as a father has made life funnier, enjoyable, interesting...let's be honest you weren't the regular "cookie cutter" papi. 

I mean I don't know many other dad's that walked around Homecoming Week at their daughter's high school with a puppet..Where is Alfonso anyway? Most kids would have been embarrassed but that was the same week junior year (11th grade) I had the chicken pox and you went to tape my friends and activities going on so that I wouldn't miss a thing...I still remember this and many other thoughtful things you did just like this.

Mom and you were always there for Moqui and I, but your sense of humor in any situation, always made even the most embarrassing or not so fun things bearable. Now at 60 when I see you with Maxwell, Evan, Luka & Sam I almost forget your age and I still see the young father I grew up with (minus some hair and a few new gray ones). Okay, so you have NOT been super lucky in the health department, but despite all that your spirit and attitude has ALWAYS remained the same. Please teach me how you do that!

Today I am a little sad that I am so far away for this very momentous birthday, but you know how much we love you and miss you. No matter where we are living in this large world, we think of you everyday, but on your birthday a little more and send you extra cyber hugs and kisses.

We will be spending an extra long time in Miami this year and I am sure we will find MANY occasions to celebrate this birthday with you!


Meli, JJ, Luka & Sam

Thursday, September 06, 2012

What a Small World

(Photo: My Little Sis Monica and her son Maxwell)

I better than most people know what a small world we really live in. As I bounce around from country to country I always meet friends of friends and even once in a while find a Miami connection or friend across the globe.

But today I found out something really nephew Maxwell and I are now connected...his 1st grade teacher was my 2nd grade teacher...Ms. Norma Garcia. My sister told me today and it gave me a MAJOR reality check on how old I really was. This was 29 years ago people!!!! I haven't seen a photo of what she looks like now, but Moqui (my sister) says she looks the same. How is that possible?

Not the same school or anything. I went to school in the latin hood on the border of Little Havana...St. Michael the Archangel and Max goes to school in the Republic of Kendall (for my Miami folks) it is truly a coincidence. How cool is that??!?!?

Here are some yearbook pages from that year (St. Michael's 1983)...can you find Ms. Garcia and me? Some of you reading this might be on this page.....I know some of you are my Facebook friends.

For those of you wondering...yes, when I my sister told me today I went to fetch my yearbook. Yes, I travel the globe with literally everything I own...probably why it takes me over a month to unpack. I have a photo of me and Mrs. Garcia...but I haven't opened that box yet.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Eating Out with Our Boys

Going out to eat these days with the boys is definitely an experience. Luka is 5 and Sam is 2 and lets just say that it is interesting. But I guess all parents go through the same thing. How do you find that balance? How do you get your two year old to sit for more than 2 minutes...if you have the answer to that question I will pay you some SERIOUS cash!

So this is what is usually looks like. This is most of what I get to see of Luka until the food comes. If he doesn't get my iPhone he usually complains, pouts and whines...and to his defense we are so busy trying to keep Sam from lighting the restaurant on fire that we really can't "talk" and chat for more than a few minutes at a time. But with the iPhone he is always the best behaved 5-year old in the joint. Am I a bad parent?

Then we have Sam. He is pretty funny and sometimes I have to try really hard not to laugh out loud. But first he wants to pour all our drinks. Then he likes to sample all the condiments in the table and see how far he can squeeze them.
And the faces, oh the is his "Si, eto mio" with the teeth grinding action. 
Then after we tell him no countless times...this is not his "Ya (yes in Dutch), mio"...And this happens about a million times.
Then this is his "No, no...eto mio, mio"Do you see...his hair is a mess by now because we have been going round after round.
Usually JJ takes him for a walk until I call or call out to him that our food is here. I am not writing this post to complain, but simply to document what eating out means to us....and honestly it is a little fun to see Sammy squirm around to try and get his way. The kid is definitely persistent. We love you Sammy and always keep our lives interesting.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Day Trips from Santiago

We have not been able to do much traveling yet around Chile, but now that the boys are in schools...we have moved into our house...and on Monday our maid starts! We can finally get our routine down after three months of floating around we will finally have the mental capacity to travel again after being nomads for such a long time, but without really going anywhere.

But even in all this craziness we have managed to take a day trip to Viña del Mar (the beach) and we also visited el Cajon de Maipo.

Here are photos from the beautiful Cajon de Maipo about one hour from the city. It was a gorgeous day and the sun was shining through the trees and the boys were taking up the scenery and enjoying the outdoors.

We also had lunch at a Chilean Eco Lodge...can't remember the name, but everything was organic and the food was good, but not WOW. We were so hungry it really didn't matter. This photo doesn't really show a lot, but Sam took it and I really like it.

Look how cute the boys look! But don't let that smile fool you...Sam is really naughty these days.

Look at that view!
Our second road trip was to Viña del Mar. Click here for a New York Times article on this beach town. We were so happy to hang out on the beach again after two years of being landlocked in Bolivia. Now we have the beach less than two hours away. It was too cold to try the water, but the boys were happy to walk on the boardwalk, test all the playgrounds and play in the sand.
Such a beautiful day!
There is nothing like sand between your toes with my two favorite little guys.

This is a new look for Sammy.

We stopped for a Chilean pastry...yummy! I think it is a Palmita.
Last time we visited this beach back in Easter 2012 Luka was too scared to try the trampoline...not this time. He was a champ. In about two minutes he was doing back flips..literally.

Sam was adamant about following his little brother's example, but as soon as he was strapped in and they started to lift him up he kind of freaked out....maybe next time Sam.