Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Labels, Activities & a Desk...OH MY!

We arrived one year ago in Chile and Luka finally has a work space that I think will work for him. A couple of months back we made this DIY desk for Luka in my office. It was super simple. We bought a piece of melamine (i think that is what you call it) at the local hardware store and mounted it with extra long shelf brackets...add an $8 plastic stool that matches mommy's office and....viola. He was thrilled to have his own work space and would use it often, but it didn't have a lot of structure. 

We kept his readers in his bookcase in his room, his spelling words in his homework folder, library books in a canvas bag on a hook next to his book bag...everything had its place but it was all over the house. Lately Luka has lacked focus when it comes to completing tasks. I think it is the age, but since I also have challenges in this area I wanted to come up with something that would help him. I know I like to have everything organized and visually it has to have order before I can dive in and start working. 

Another thing that prompted me to come up with this "activity shelf" is the constant obsession with the tablet, iPad, iPhone and all things electronic. I know the apple doesn't fall far from the tree (I mean JJ and I have to work on this as well...seriously need to work on it) but I really wanted to give Luka a space with activities and choices that didn't involve electronics. Lately I always heard, "Mom, I have nothing to do" or "I NEED to use an electronic" or "I am bored." Oh, it was driving me crazy.

So this shelf was born. The most important thing about this activity shelf/homework station is that Luka sat with me to come up with the components and he made the labels. My little man took ownership of this project. Man, I love that he loves labels! I don't think there isn't anything I wouldn't label. He got so into the project...that's my boy!
So this is what we have on the shelf:
1. Learning Basket - Here we keep his library books, reading list for school, dry erase handwriting board, completed worksheets we do that week or anything else we can come up with at home, such as practice spelling tests, writing sentences, etc.

2. Math Games Tin - For now we have dominoes in this bin. I will change it up next week. But we will always keep a "math" activity in this one.

3. Books to Read - This wire basket holds all his Reader Books that are appropriate to his current reading level. He needs to read one of these books or his library books once a day.

4. Spelling Word Cup - This week Luka came home with this first list of spelling words. His teacher sends home these mini-flash cards

Here is a close-up of Luka's fabulous labels! I love to see things in his writing...he does too.
Here is our "Learning Basket" which is the name I came up with, but it really means "anything else that doesn't have its own bin."
There is Luka hard at work.
Sorry for the bad quality pics, but it was dark and I took them with my phone. It was right before bed time and didn't have time to get the DSLR out.

By the way Sam totally got into the project and he sat at my desk on an activity sheet I gave him. Once he was done he put his completed work in the basket along with Luka's...now I need to come up with a desk for him...but my office is teeny tiny. Let's see if I can work a little miracle....

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Happy Birthday Moqui

Well, little sis...are you done laughing yet? This photo is pretty hilarious or pathetic, but either way I wanted to make you laugh on this very special birthday! Never mind those crazy antennas on my head. My freaking shirt says "Flashdancer" and I think I might be flashing a little. And you wow you always sported some SERIOUS bangs. I could never pull those off, hence my super stylish part down the middle with goofy headband. Man, we needed a major fashion intervention. Okay, but fast forward to today.

Is my little sister really 35? Say it isn't so...that means I am OLDER. But this is about you, not me. I really hope you are having an amazing birthday and really the reason behind this silly photo is because when I realized that this was the 6th birthday in a row that I had missed I was a little sad. So I thought a little laughter was in order.

Even though I am not there to wish you a happy birthday in person and give you a big wet sloppy kiss (I know how much you love those) I want you to know that even though you are my little sister you are also my hero and damn girl you are a rock star!

Okay, so I am the big sister...and yes I criticize and may be a little bossy at times, but come on I have a rep to protect as the older sibling, but you know I love you right!

More importantly and I am uber proud of you and what you have accomplished. I really don't know how you do it, but maybe one day you can teach me. Every time you win a case I brag to my friends about it. Just yesterday I was Skyping with a friend in Miami and she was telling me how grateful she was that now her therapy for her autistic son was covered by the State of Florida. She said, "Someone went to court and now they pay for it." I almost exploded out of the computer, "YES YES, that was my sister that went to court to fight for your son." Wow, that was an amazing big sister moment there.

You are also an amazing mother to Maxwell and Evan and they are so lucky to have a smart lady like you as their mommy. But one of the things that I love about you, is that no matter how smart you are, you never lose your silly side. You know the one that sticks her foot in her mouth at best moments or the one that trips as she goes to accept an award (have you done that lately or just when you go to collect your 3rd place ice skating medal). 

I miss you sis and although I wouldn't trade my life for anything being away from my family is the hardest part of this very blessed life I lead.

Moqui, you are the best and I want to wish you a very Happy Birthday Little Sis.

PS Luka and Sam wanted to sing Happy Birthday to you on the phone, but I told them you weren't available until way after their bed time because you were at Disney. They were not amused at all and kind of upset you didn't invite them to your Mickey Birthday Party...ha ha ha. You got some "splaining" to do.

Lucky Year 7 & History of Our Blog

Can you believe that is has been 7 years since my first post? I first posted to this blog on September  5, 2006. You can see the post here. Okay, so I haven't been that consistent at times and honestly the content was a little more exciting before the arrival of the kiddos. But I amaze myself with the fact that I have kept up with something for seven years!

Growing up I always tried to keep a diary, then I called it a journal...but really what would happen I would crack open a brand new Hello Kitty Diary or later a beautiful suede journal and write in it for a couple of days and then NOTHING. I would forget about it...well until something horrible happened then I would write in it again.

What I found was a collection of unhappy moments and seriously over dramatized events so I decided I wasn't a journal type of girl.

Well, what this blog taught me is that I might be a "journal" type of girl...I just want everyone to read my journal. Okay, so I also learned I am a bit of an exhibitionist and maybe a little crazy, but aren't we all?

So this little blog...has had many faces and names. When we lived in Mozambique the header looked something like this...and I called it From Miami to Mozambique: The Diary of a Diplomat's Wife. I thought it had a nice ring to it and well I never thought I would have moved from Miami to Mozambique, but I did so why not tell the world, no?

Then we moved to Bolivia and I asked on facebook what I should call the blog and a very smart friend or maybe it was friends (our friends Edgar and Charles came up with the idea...but I think each like to take the credit) suggested Bloglivia: The Diary of a Diplomat's Wife. I thought it was perfect and very clever. So the blog header looked like this...

But a couple of weeks after we arrived I changed it to this photo since the photo above wasn't really mine...oops:

Then 1 year and 10 months later we were told we were moving to Chile. Then I sort of put the breaks on this whole changing the name thing because from a marketing standpoint (okay so I don't really market the blog, but I will always be a marketing/pr person at heart) this whole changing the name thing with every post wasn't doing anything for my "brand." Laughing a little as I type that...but yes, the van Herksen family brand. So the name was now One Country at a Time: The Diary of a Diplomat's Wife and the header looked like this...

Through every header change and all the titles the address was always www.vanherksen.com (doesn't work anymore) and really I never really liked that the blog address had our last name in it..so today I changed it and I think it will stay like this forever or until my little fingers are done typing posts for all the world to see (or at least just my family and friends). 

Another reason for the change in name is that Diary of a Diplomat's Wife was very misleading on many levels. At first glance you would think I would be sipping champagne and snacking on caviar and every social event in town. Not the case. Also, the hubby works for the Foreign Ministry of the Netherlands and technically (long explanation) he is not a diplomat in their books. Yes, we have diplomatic plates everywhere we go and he works at embassies but when you came down to the nuts and bolts that is not his title. And lastly the blog was really a collection of stories, photos and anecdotes from our life as a family. For those reasons and probably others I can't think of right now....drum roll please..........

The official name of the blog is Diary of an Expat Family: One Country at a Time. You can reach the blog by going to www.diaryofanexpatfamily.com or www.diaryofanexpatfamily.blogspot.com. I think it is much more appropriate and it will be fitting no matter where we live or where this crazy adventure takes us.

I hope to revamp the look of the site, but now the name will always travel with us wherever we go. 

So, now you have the whole story, whether you wanted to know or not.

PS Whew...thank goodness I saved those headers. I thought they were long gone, but it pays to be a digital pack rat.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Sam's Birthday: Chilean Style

Sam has been three for a couple of months now. He turned three on May 13th, but we weren't able to celebrate his birthday at his "jardin" until June 14th (yes I know it is September now....but better late than never). 

So when the school told me they only had June 14th available I thought it was going to be strange for Sam and celebrating a month later would be weird. They only do one birthday a day and only on Fridays...so we had to wait our turn. Well, as mommies sometimes are I was WRONG.

Sam knew exactly that we were going to celebrate his birthday even if it was a month later. He wanted to also have a Yo Gabba Gabba celebration and that was much easier for me since we had all the props from his party back in May

Birthday are a BIG deal at his school and the kids really look forward to it. Here is his class as they sit down for the snack.
Here is Sam with two of his best buds. He is acting like he is the "big man on campus," no? He was a superstar that day.
The cupcakes were a hit!
Sam never met a cupcake he didn't like. 
We played games and then it was time for the presents. This is most important part for the kids and I finally got why sending presents almost every Friday for birthday parties is so important to Sam. All of the kids sit in a circle and then one by one in a very orderly fashion they come up to Sam, give him a kiss and give him the present. Then the birthday boy, my Sammy in this case, takes his time opening the present and enjoying that moment. Finally saying thank you to his classmate for the gift. Really cute!
Here are one of those "kisses." 
Oh, there is Mei...his favorite girl in the class and one of his best buds! He is always talking about Mei
The party was a blast and now I see why the school only does one child per day. At first I was annoyed and thought...why can't we double up if the kids have a birthday the same week. But I get it now...it is the student's special day and they have their routine and rituals for the day and wouldn't work if you would double up and most importantly...When in Chile.....just celebrate it like a Chilean. The presents and kisses are great!

Father's Day in the Snow

Wow, this post is LONG overdue and there will be a couple like this in the next couple of days. It seems that since May life has been crazy busy and I have neglected to share some many photos and events with you. 

As stay-at-home but working mom I am finding it hard to find that balance that I felt I had in Mozambique and Bolivia. I think most of it comes from the fact that life in Santiago is very different for me.  I don't have the help and structure I had in our previous two posts, where we had multiple people working in the house and although I spent lots of time with the boys I also had time for my projects, photography, blog and work.

I am not complaining, well maybe I am...a little. But life is what it is and I have to get used to it and I have to work at finding that infamous work/life balance, which I think is VERY hard to do, almost impossible, when you work from home. 

Okay, I went off on a tangent there. What I really want to talk about is about PORTILLO. What a gorgeous place! A few days prior to Father's Day I saw a post from a friend on facebook that showed this beautiful lake surrounded by snow and mountains. I was smitten and thought it would be a fun place to try out our sleds and spend Father's Day.

I made reservations at Hotel Portillo for lunch and off we went. This time we were prepared for the snow (our first time in the show in Chile we were wearing jeans...big no no).
Portillo is about 2 hour drive from where we live, but the funny thing is that it is right on the border with Argentina and we literally passed it and crossed into Argentina...oops.
Here is the sign as we came back into Chile. How did we miss it? 

Well, we finally made it and it was C-O-L-D! First order of business was lunch. It was nice and toasty in the restaurant. The food was okay and a bit overpriced, but really you go there for the view and Hotel Portillo has a rich history when it comes to Chile's ski culture. Many Olympic teams have trained there and you could see many photos on the wall as you perused the hotel lobby.

After lunch we wanted to try out our sled. With all the snow you would think it was a perfect day to do it...but the snow was icy and very slippery. But my adventurous boys wanted to try anyway.

I was all smiles in the photos, but in reality I said a couple of ugly words and I might have screamed a couple of profanities. Imagine...the snow was slick, the winds were blowing hard...so hard that I thought Sam was going to fly away. Through all this my husband thought the sled was still a good idea. JJ took Luka and Sam down the hill, but I was a wreck. After hesitation and a PUSH from JJ I also went down with the sled, but I got this souvenir on the way down. 
The snow was so sharp it sliced some of my knuckles off. Needless to say this Cuban from Miami didn't have a fun "First Sledding" experience. Yes, I should have worn gloves I know, but I my husband pushed me so I didn't have time to put them on...thanks honey.

Here are the boys as I was pulling them back to the hotel for some much deserved hot chocolate.  

I think I need to go again on a day when the snow isn't ice. The place is gorgeous and it was all worth it  ...especially for the view.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

"Following The Leader, The Leader"

I love my conversations with my boys...but this one tonight with Luka made me especially proud. Lately Luka is humming the tune from Peter Pan "Following the leader, the leader, the leader. Following the leader...wherever he may go." And today I think he finally got what that meant. Well, that was until his last comment (read below). 

Either way I am so proud of the little boy and the way he is able to talk to me. I know it won't last forever so it is important to documents these little conversations of "our history."

Luka: Mom, I have a problem. The kids in my class all want to play with me at centers and they follow me around at recess. And Mom I can't play with everyone.

Me: Luka, that is awesome, that means that your friends like you and they have fun when they play with you. Sweetie, that is going to come in handy when you are older. (So I asked him: You know who had people follow them when they were younger)

Luka: You? (Awww, he thinks people followed me)

Me: Well, sometimes maybe but no, not me. He is a great leader?...

Luka: Obama (I was so proud that he thought of him)

Me: Yes! When he was younger people followed him and look now he is president.

Luka: Mom, I want to be president...(Okay, this is not a good time to tell him he can't be president of the US or Holland because he wasn't born there...don't what to shatter his dreams)

Me: Exactly Luka...you CAN be president!

Luka: Luka Obama...that sounds good. Mom, I want to change my name?

Me: Really, you want to change your name to Obama? (I already have campaign slogans running through my head at this point)

Luka: No, I want to change my name to Michael.

Me: Huh...why Michael?

Luka: Because Mommy, I am the only Luka in my class. 

Okay, this whole lesson of being a leader and standing out just flew out the window...gotta love a six year old. I truly think he got it, but like any 6 year old he wants to be "like" his friends.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Our Little Huasos in Training

Today we were able to dive in, head first into a little bit of Chilean culture. It has taken us a little over one year to embrace Chile. It is about time, right? I mean it is our home for the time being. So when in Chile do as the Chileans do...or should I say as the huasos do! Huasos are Chilean cowboys sand after preparing for their Dieciocho (Independence Day) presentations at school the boys were excited about dressing up like "huasos." 

Fiesta Huasa was an amazing event. There were demonstrations with the horses, games for the kids, delicious food and I also heard the pisco sours were delicious...I wasn't able to sample these. With piscos it is hard to have just one and since this was a family event I thought I would behave.

To open the fiesta the huasos came in with the traditional "chicha. All of the school administrators sampled this traditional Chilean alcoholic beverage. 
Luka found some of his classmates and they had fun running around and playing with kites, also a very popular activity during September, which I was told was the month of kites, but they also go hand in hand with that national festivities this month...from what I can see.
Sam's favorite part of the day was riding the horses. The huasos were there giving complimentary horse rides to the children (only had to give them a tip). Sam even got to choose his horse. Can you see how happy he is. I might have a little cowboy in the making.
Luka was a bit more apprehensive. To his defense his horse was much larger and he didn't have a cowboy leading the horse, a fellow student pulled him along so I think he was a bit more nervous. Heck I was nervous, but after one walk around the area I realized that Luka also got the laziest horse of the bunch...he was soooo slow!
But don't my boys make the best huasos! Actually all the kids at the event that dressed up looked absolutely adorable and I think it is great for them to learn about, participate and celebrate in these patriotic activities for a country that is their temporary home....even if it is only for a couple of years.

Before we left we saw a Folkloric Dance Group performs traditional Mapuche dances. Very entertaining!
If you are in Chile I think you should put this Fiesta Huasa on your calendar of things to do for next year. The atmosphere was very family friendly and it was the perfect size crowd for this type of event.