Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Preparing for Our Gotcha Day...

A few days ago I was talking to Luka about his Adoption or Gotcha Day and our plans for the celebration. It is coming up on the 30th of November. I asked him if he wanted me to go to his class and read our favorite book about adoption, but he said something that worried me, "Mommy, I don't want to read the book about adoption because not all the kids in my class know what adoption means."

I could sense his hesitation and even though I explained to him that the reason we read the book is to celebrate the day, but more importantly to teach his classmates what adoption is all about...just like we did last year with the 6 Kindergarten classes. He said, "Okay, Mom." But that okay mom didn't leave me thinking he was convinced.

We love love this book - I Wished for You: An Adoption Story. It not only talks about adoption, but specifically interracial adoptions and deals with the topic of the birth mother...really an amazing book. But although we love the book...I thought Luka needed a new way to address the topic of adoption to his 1st grade class. You know there are "big" kids now and maybe a book with Bailey the Bear wasn't cool enough.

So off to Pinterest I went in search of some much needed inspiration....I can't believe I never thought of this angle before...some amazing super heroes are adopted!!!!! When I told Luka his face lit up and I knew he couldn't wait to share the news with his friends. "Mom, for real...like how...who adopted them...they were not in their mommy's belly...how did they become super heroes?"

This is the plan, we will read our book...it is our book after all and I rarely get through it without shedding tears and Luka always cuddles up next to me just as Bailey does in the book with his mom. It melts my heart every time. The book is also a great way to talk about many of the issues that surround adoption. 

But once we read the book, share our personal adoption story and talk about the first time I held Luka and he peed on me (he loves that). We will end with a POW...super hero style and ask the class if they know who else is adopted....Batman, Superman and Spiderman are...that's who!

We made these little cards to put in the goodie bags we will distribute to the class. The idea is that they take the card home and discuss what they heard in class with their families. The more they talk about adoption and get familiar with it the more "normal" it will become for them.

Luka goes to a HUGE school with not many children of color or adopted for that matter. My hopes is that we educate these kids one at a time and that at least his classmates can become mini ambassadors and if someone at recess says something about Luka's mom being white or about his skin color (which happens more often than what I would like) they will say, "Hey, don't mess with Luka...Did you know Superman was also also adopted! Luka has super powers." Okay, scratch the last part...but you get the idea.

But let's see how it goes. What do you guys think? Good or bad idea...Motherhood is trial and error, no?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Losing a Loved One from Far Away

I still remember the day in 4th grade when my dad picked me up at school to tell me my grandfather Evaristo had passed away. It was the first time I remember dealing with death in my immediate family. I was sad, but Yeyo Evaristo (like I used to call him) had been battling cancer for a long time and recently taken a turn for the worse.

My father NEVER picked me up at school...so I knew something was up. I was sad, but I was happy to go straight to my grandmother's house where I could give my abuela and mom a big hug. In times like this it is important to be a family and hold each other tight.

Last week Luka and Sam (although Sam is still very little) had to deal with the first death of a grandparent. Opa Johan (married to JJ's mom) passed away in his sleep. I had the job of telling Luka as daddy was in transit back to Chile, just to have to jump on a plain straight to Holland to get there as soon as possible to help his mother with all of the arrangements and be there for her.

After school I sat Luka at home and explained to him what had happened. At first he didn't get it. "You mean I won't get to see him again" and "Mommy I am sad" are things he said. After a little while he asked how he died, then he asked about his Oma and wanted to make sure no one else had died. He was really worried. Poor little baby. As the days have progressed he keeps asking questions and saying things like:

"Mom, I am sad about Opa Johan, but I can still feel him in my heart"

"I know he is in the clouds with Tia Georgina (my great aunt that passed away 2 years ago)."

"Mom, do you know where in the sky Opa Johan is? I want to know the exact place."

"Mom, don't you see him up there...I do."

He also has been a little down that he can't be with his Dutch family at this moment grieving for his Opa. Again, one of the major drawbacks of this life, but realistically it wasn't possible for all four of us to go at this time. He asked about what his Dad was doing there and why he had to be there so many days?

This is a milestone I didn't want to have with my boys so early in their life, but we can't pick these moments. They just come and we have to deal with them.

Last night they drew these masterpieces so that Opa Johan could "take" with him. Luka's is pretty self-explanatory. The Dutch line at the top reads "For My Grandpa...I Love You."

Sam was really funny. I asked him to draw a picture for Opa and he drew a airplane headed to Holland and asked for my help in drawing the four of us. His instinct was that we all had to be together.  Children are amazing!

Opa Johan. We will miss you! You were an amazing husband to Oma Joke (JJ's mother). Your love for her was evident every moment we shared with both of you during the summers and holidays. Your attention to detail was flawless...whether it was preparing the perfect dinner menu or chronicling family memories in a scrapbook (you know how much I loved that) you made everyone feel special. I loved scanning the books with the boys during our visits and seeing every photo and note we sent you displayed for everyone to see. Comfort comes with the fact that you passed away peacefully in your sleep and in one of your favorite places in the world - your house in France. Thank you for never letting us forget to enjoy life!

Keeping Traditions as an Expat

The holidays are around the corner and I have been thinking about establishing traditions for our family. As an expat family this can be challenging at times, not only have we lived on 3 continents and 5 houses in the last 8 years, but coming from different backgrounds (Dutch, Cuban, American, Mozambican) we also have different traditions to keep in mind. 

In Holland they celebrate Sinterklaas, in the US we have Santa Claus, in my house my parents also celebrated "Los Reyes." In Chile they have "El Ratoncito" (little mouse) instead of the tooth fairy. It makes it a little challenging to keep your story straight with the kids. Somehow it works and our boys are lucky enough to celebrate them all no matter what country we are living in.

Oh, the most confusing thing for me and something I am still not used to (even after almost 8 years) is celebrating Christmas in the summer!?!??!?!?

But one holiday tradition that was very important in my house growing up and specifically with my mom was HALLOWEEN. She always made sure I had the perfect costume and she always made the costume or had someone make it for me. Every year I looked forward to this very special time of preparing for Halloween. Whether it was Wonder Woman, Roger Rabbit, a ballerina, a genie...the costume was always perfect and I always felt like the princess at the ball, yes, even dressed up as Roger Rabbit!

This is one tradition that belongs to me...the American...and my kids love it. Honestly my husband doesn't really get into it. Although Halloween is slowly lurking into every corner of the world it is still a fairly new "holiday" in countries outside of North America.  But Luka and Sam love dressing up and coming up with ideas for costumes even more!

Above you can see a celebration of our Halloween costumes over the past 6 years. I must confess...Yes, we have costume changes every year. At least the boys do. Luka and Sam love to play dress up on a regular basis (that box gets the most use in my house) but to have it officially be a day to be in costume and go outside into the real world like that...well this is heaven for them. Sometimes I dress up with them. As Luka has grown up he has asked me to participate and be part of the costume...who am I to disagree?

I hope other expat families also have traditions they keep alive overseas.

This holiday season I will be working on starting some new traditions as well as keeping some old ones  alive:

- Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner
- Celebrating Sinterklaas
- Writing Letters to Santa
- Leaving Cookies for Santa
- New Christmas PJs for the whole family
- Noche Buena Dinner....Cuban Style
- 2nd Christmas Day...Yes, in Holland they keep Christmas going and the 26th is also a Holiday
- Visiting a charity or doing some type of volunteer work on or around Christmas Day (we started this last year)
- Los Reyes
- Christmas Book Countdown...this will be a new one. We will unwrap and read a different book everyday until Christmas. This is a good year to start since Luka can read many of the books to us.Here is the link to the idea.

I also have a homework assignment this Christmas season: Trying to incorporate a Mozambican tradition into our repertoire of holiday activities. Maybe a recipe, activity, book, song....to all my friends that had the joy of living in Mozambique with me...any ideas? 

Okay... Happy Holiday and lets start making memories!

Oh, here is one photo I forgot to include in the collage. I love this costume for the boys, but honestly Luka wasn't too excited with it...good thing he was also Prince Charming that year.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

20 Years...Say It Isn't So!

Wow, has it really been 20 years since my High School graduation from St. Brendan High School. A few weeks ago I was able to travel to Miami and back in time for this momentous occasion. Luckily I have stayed in contact with quite a few of my friends from high school, even with so many miles between us. I left Miami 8 years ago but Facebook, the blog and email has made it easy to stay in touch with lots of folks. But there were sooo many other people I hadn't see and it was amazing to reconnect.

I was honored to be on the planning committee along with fellow classmates Javi, Dunia, Ivette, Esther and Rosy. We had numerous conference calls, emails and managed to plan it all while we each were all over the place. But I have to give a HUGE thanks to the school. Recently they made a big commitment to their Alumni Program and hired a dynamite coordinator...the weekend was a success and it could have been possible without them.

Unfortunately I went stag..my hubby was at home taking care of the boys. It was a little expensive for all of us to go to Miami just for the weekend. The funny thing is that I went alone to my 10-year reunion...never had a date for high dances and finally when I get to "show off" my wonderful husband and beautiful boys I end up going alone..oh well. I did have plenty of photos on hand to gush about Sam and Luka. Although going alone did let me be the social butterfly and chat with everyone. Here is a photo of the girls that went solo to the reunion. Who needs a date anyway? Don't we look good?
That's me and Barbie...one of my BFFs. We have been friends since we were 5!!! 

Little did I know that when I went to St. B with Isa that we would be sorority sisters in college. GO KAPPA KAPPA GAMMA...small world. 

I have to say that most of the folks at the party looked amazing and we all looked much better than at our 10-year reunion...I guess age has agreed with us. But there were some people that "wow" they must be taking anti-aging pills...they looked INCREDIBLE. I need their secrets.

Guess what...this mommy went out clubbing after the party. I think it had been like 5 years since I had stepped foot inside of a club. It isn't something I would like to do on a regular basis, but it is always fun to step out of your comfort zone and "party like its 1999" (I guess that reference doesn't work anymore).

Here we are at Fifty. You know the club has to be rocking if a tequila shot is $20 USD.
Well, here is looking to the 25-year reunion!