Saturday, December 18, 2010

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Motherhood, we watch our children grow and are amazed...

We celebrate our children, really as mom's that is something that is birthed in us along with the little bundle that pops out of us on her/his special birth day.  We remember all the little stories, and tell them again and again, until each story of accomplishment or cuteness is replaced by another, at least that is what I do.  I remember not so long ago, watching my sisters do the same thing with their little girls and boys.  I was not married, and had no clue about anything 'children', but determined to learn the art of listening and participating in the bragging, the discussion of 'the first steps', school awards, attending ballet recitals...and well you get the picture.  I had 10 nieces and nephews to practice with, and now I find I do exactly the same thing.

I am not brainless, nor thoughtless, I care about politics, the environment, and even how to make a company run well, but my child, ah, she seems to overwhelm my brain.  Perhaps it is due to the hormones of connection at birth, (which I can't remember their name right now) still coursing through my veins, even 6 years and 11 months after little Margo's birth. 

Ha, if I bragged, I could talk about her curiosity, and even thoughtfulness at such a young age.  She writes and publishes her own books, by hand, down to the detail of the book spine with the title and by, "Margo B", written upon the soon to be taped on strip of paper.  Oops I forgot to tell you she is also the illustrator of every book published thus far.  She knows how to add and subtract numbers, single digit, and reason out equations from stories.  In fact today, includes interviews with 4 friends, 2 adults, and 3 other kids in abstentia, tracking their favorite vegetables.  The choices: broccoli, carrots and lettuce.  Carrots are the clear favorite upon viewing the written graphs of her 1st Grade math project.

But I am most proud of her courage and perseverance.  Little Margo has no clue these attributes are becoming a forged part of her character.  Today, while taking her to the Pre-team swimming class, Margo started to talk about 'hating swimming'.  She continued on, with the problem of starting out second and then becoming the 4th position swimmer after the coach made some corrections to her swimming.  I let her talk more, (thank goodness I kept my mouth shut!) and soon heard her say, "when I am fourth, I can't hear what the coach is asking me to do for the next direction, because I am still swimming..." and then the tears start, and I respond, "oh that can be hard, perhaps you could watch what the swimmer ahead of you is doing?" 

We arrive at the pool, on time, and yes I thank God, because if we are late and they started swimming the possibility of a mini meltdown is extremely high!  (I can hear you mom's chuckling at that line too.  My daughter is curing me from my inherited lateness syndrome!)  Margo has a few minutes to sit with a few of the other girls of the class, her coach arrives and it becomes girls in one lane, boys in the other, and she is identified as swimmer number 2.  I am thankful, and proceed to the viewing area, to watch, and enjoy the moment.  Crap! more kids are coming, and those two lanes are now crowded, and there is Margo swimming through the turbulent water.  Oh no, another child arrives and now Margo is 3rd, oh no again, she is last.  To me the untrained swimmer of team drills, it looks like chaos!  Oh heck, it is chaos, and I see Margo keep swimming.  She waits at one end a little lost, and yells to the coach, "what am I to do now?"  She makes it back to the edge of the pool after the 8th or 10th lap of swimming, and her face is scrunched, and I see the beginning of the quivering lip, and I am thinking,"ok, you can do this, don't get too anxious..." and then I find myself praying for my daughter. 

I am not praying things like, "Ok, God, help her swim faster, get the strokes right, etc.. etc... etc..."  Oh no, my prayer is desperate, "please God help her finish and not give up, please, please, please send the Holy Spirit to enable her to just keep swimming and not emotionally fall apart."  I see her and give her the thumbs up, sign, but I can't tell if she see's me behind her blue colored goggles.  Eventually I begin to slowly relax, as I note she is relaxing.  Somehow, Margo has figured it out enough to enjoy her laps.  The desperate look is quickly disappearing.  I marvel at her ability to attempt the different drills, I rejoice watching her swimming on her back, only kicking, moving each shoulder out of the water by turning her torso without turning her head.  All I can tell you, is that she attempts every drill with success, and just keeps swimming. 

While she is still away from the edge of the pool, completing her last lap, I speak to her coach, about how anxious Margo looked during practice today.  Her coach responded, "Yeah I noticed, and she is doing so well too, I don't understand it."  And then I just blurted out, "It is difficult for Margo to hear you when you are addressing everyone differently.  She is not able yet to decipher what she needs to listen to, or what is important.  I think that is why she gets so anxious at practice, she really wants to follow your directions."  I only recently got an understanding of this issue, when I spoke to her doctor last week... and could articulate it in a way her coach could understand.  And yes a light went on with her coach, she had thought it was just her physical modalities, but her swim coach will now come up with a simple way to address Margo, so she knows what she needs to do.  This conversation took all of 15 seconds.  "Tell Margo she did a great job at practice today!"

Margo receives the high-five from her coach as she exits the pool, I greet her with a towel and flip-flops, and look her in the eye and let her know, how amazing it was to watch her swim all those laps, doing all those different drills.  "Oh yeah, your coach was telling me what a great job you did today too!"  She looks at me funny, and says, "mom, why were you looking so grouchy when I looked at you while swimming?"  "Darn, Darn," I am thinking, "she missed my big toothy smile and thumbs up sign."  You know she saw my anxious feelings hanging on my sleeve.  Basically I told her I was concentrating on something, and that is what happens to my face when I do that, which is true, I have quite the furrowed brow as evidence of that fact.  I said I would try and do better next time.  (Do you think Botox would work?) She relaxed some more, and could take in the compliments of her past hour, and all was well with Margo, and my world.

I am a mother, I am like most moms, we are concerned about the lives of our little ones.  I am just beginning to understand the phrase, "even when you are 30, you will always be my little girl."  And I am Margo's mom, so very proud of her courage and perseverance.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cards for the holidays . . . a few ideas

It is Christmas, or at least the holidays are quickly approaching, and it is time to get the card craze settled. Meaning, I am ruminating about what I want to send out. In fact, this year I might actually do it! I have been inspired by photo cards the past few years and have actually thought a bit, “what would I do?” Last year my friend Linsey sent a postcard, with a picture of her kids on the front, and on the back, the kids were holding their parents in the palm of their hands. Margo asks me all the time, “Mom, are L, B and A giants or did their parents shrink?” Now I am thinking, “hmmm, perhaps our kids really are our giants…” but that is a discussion to be had on the couch with a large glass of wine and my child is sleeping, not for blogging. So this year I want to take the plunge and start looking at the holiday card designs from the new Shutterfly holiday collection, Christmas cards

The cards I enjoy most are those which tell some type of story. No not a traditional story, but a story jumps out at you when you see the photo. For instance, my older sister always has a card with a wonderful photo of the family. But it is not a classic photo, one year Rosie, their family dog was featured in the arms of my god-daughter Clair wearing a pair of shades. One look at this photo, and I am flooded with memories of watching this family growing up over the years. I see the love and fun they have together, a definite joie de vivre, as expressed in a Christmas photo card. I have been browsing this web site, Christmas photo cards and may have discovered a format I can use for my current idea.

My little Margo has become quite the illustrator this year for her ‘books’ which she publishes herself on the computer. Yes she has now ‘published’ three books:

Circles: I am not sure what this one is about because she only created the first page, but it is intriguing with the circles on the cover page.

The forest: is a wonderful story only a 6 year old can tell and illustrate, about a brother and sister deer born on the same day but at different times, learning to live and enjoy the forest. They have learned they can not marry each other so they go and find another deer to marry in the forest. It is all of 5 pages long and very engrossing.

The hanted house: (no that is not a spelling mistake; remember she is only in the first grade.) This is the classic haunted house story, with bats, and red eyeballs, spiders and pillars. Of course it is completely illustrated as well, by my one and only little Margo.

My idea is to use the page of each book as a photo and put these stories as part of our Christmas or New Years greeting. Margo so wants to be published and I think this is a great way to do it. My cards will tell a story, and let everyone know, what is important to our little 1st grader. And I think it will provide a smile on each one’s heart.  I think I have found more than a few cards that would work.  Rough Edge will work perfectly, I place the title page on the front, and then edit the layout inside to fit the rest of the pages and written story.

But now I have been inspired with another card style, “Ten Best Memories New year’s Card.” I could capture the year in photos, and I have a bunch of them from almost every month. So I forget Christmas and focus on New Year’s cards instead. Now that could be different, and it gives me an extra week or so…..hmmmm I am liking this already.  Or I keep it really simple, show off a bit of my french roots with the Noel Christmas Card.
Hey it has Noel in the title, and that is French enough for me, plus it is simple.

Do you want 50 free holiday cards from Shutterfly? Click here to go to Shutterfly for information on how you can get 50 free cards this holiday season, and make sure to select Clever 1000 as the referral source.

This post is part of a series sponsored by Shutterfly. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Missed our camping vacation, so now I am dreaming of the Ultimate family vacation!

Cheerios® is giving you the chance to win a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, your ultimate family vacation. As part of a paid promotion for their “Do What You Love” Sweepstakes, Cheerios® is sponsoring my post today about what my ultimate family vacation would be. Read mine, Enter the Sweepstakes for a chance to actually win your own fantasy family trip or one of a bunch of other great prizes.

We love adventures for our family vacations and you may have read a few of the simple yet satisfying vacations we have taken together, with little Margo.  In fact this past weekend was to be a superb treat, back at Mt. Tamilpais.  The weather was to be clear and warm, just right when hiking or visiting Stinson Beach, however, none of this came close to happening.  Our trip became a return visit to the car shop, because the alternator malfunctioned.  So Mark and little Margo, made a go of camping in the backyard, and I was in charge of kitchen duty and volunteered to watch the inside of the house.  While Mark slept out in the wilds of our 15' X 20' backyard, I dreamed of a better vacation for us; actually an ultimate family you want to come?

Prior to the birth of our daughter some years ago, Mark and I were avid bike riders.  We loved to go on a 40 mile trip in the spring and summer, more than once in a blue moon.  I always entertained the possibility of joining our two passions in one trip.  Wine and bikes, and no not here in California, but all the way in France.  We would ride our bikes during the day, stop at local wine makers along the way, and then eat to our hearts delight at the bistro or restaurant our host village provided.  I would visit the local cafe, order a rich cup-of-joe, with a baguette and cheese of the region trying out my french and being totally content!!!

I know now you are wondering, "but what about your little Margo, she does not drink wine, and who knows if she can ride a bike....."  Ah not to worry, she would love the castles, or chateaus, and the old cobblestone rodes.  There would be opportunities to "pet donkeys at the XVI century farm near the flower and vegetable gardens."  There even would be a hedge maze to try and not get lost in while looking for a path towards freedom.  Heck this is sounding way better than Gilroy Gardens....I mean we could explore the garden's of the kings!  I think we could catch a ride on a hot air balloon just outside Tours for another day adventure.  What 7-year old would want to miss an adventure like this.  And finally, I could bribe my little daughter with fresh chocolate, stinky cheese, and more chocolate, depending upon what village we happen to be visiting that day. 

There is an educational side to this trip too.  The art of the Renaissance period would be all about us at the Chateau de Chenonceau.  I would provide Margo, a drawing pad and pencils to create her own masterpieces for us to enjoy.  And you know what, that is something she would enjoy in every way.  Perhaps we could frame a few of her drawings and show them at a local cafe, just for the experience of her lifetime.  You know she always talks about drawing a picture for an art show...This is France, enjoy the people, the lay of the land, the wine, the creativity, the food, the wine, Oh I said that already.... But you get the idea, this trip would be fantastic.  Hmmm...perhaps I could invite Margo's god-mother and god-father along for the ride.  I love you want to come? 

Don't forget to enter the “Do What You Love” Sweepstakes, for a chance to win your own ultimate family vacation. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

Friday, October 1, 2010

ROOM, it makes you think about motherhood....

I started reading ROOM, and through the voice of 5 year old Jack, I pondered motherhood.  All kinds of questions flooded my mind, "would I be able to create a safe world for my daughter in an 11 X 11 foot room with a TV?"  Or would I just give up, and allow my child to die?  It was  interesting to watch the instinct or was it desire,  choose life as exhibited in the book ROOM.  I watched our heroine, establish order to everyday, from within her woodshed prison.  She was the picture of motherhood in action.  Some may have disagreed, but I didn't care.  She established a safe haven for her little son Jack, and in many ways for herself as she lived through the 7 years of being held kidnapped.

I talked to a friend who was from Germany, and she told me she thought Room was based on the story of a woman who was imprisoned in a basement for several years.  This captive bore seven children from the continuous abuse by her captor.  She too, as much as our heroine Ma, in ROOM, invented a world that excluded the outside so as to eliminate the claustrophobia, 4 walls created.  I do not know if the author, Emma Donoghue, intended ROOM to mimic true life stories so closely, but somehow it did.

Creating order to a place, creating order in our heart, and providing order to our children has become a mainstay of motherhood.  I never really thought of "order" as being so important to motherhood.  I knew I demanded order for my child's classroom, and yet had been struggling to create order in my own life.   I knew if I lived only in one room with such simple means, I would have created havoc.  My thinking postulated, why should I clean up, who cares, who is coming to visit except my torturer....However, now, my thinking has changed.  Why you might ask?  I had discovered I need order for me; not just for my daughter's sake.  So, I began organizing my house, bit by bit, these past three weeks, and I have gained insight about my house.   As I get rid of the clutter and establish some sense of order about me, I enjoywhere I am.  And surprise, surprise, my little Margo has begun to participate in the ordering process.  Some of her organizing activities were not even requested, but inspired by what has been happening downstairs in our house.  I even read this book, peacefully in my living room, because it was clean and ordered.

"Ma", creates an ordered world for Jack to grow up in, even though it is 11 X 11 feet.  Jack grew, and thinks for himself and developed as a little boy.  I have been  establishing order in my life and as a result I found, my heart is growing and developing, and exploring.  My little Margo, has enjoyed bringing her friends into our home to play.  No longer has my abode been left in disorder, but has experienced creative moments and activities.  Perhaps if we found ourselves imprisoned by our chaos, we could be set free by our acts of order.

I enjoyed reading Room, even though this story described such physcal and emotional hardship, because in the midst of it all, I saw the beauty of motherhood as love, expressing order and peace.

The book ROOM was provided by From Left to Write book club.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Old Fashioned Apple Pie and Gizdich Ranch

This is the classic "Old fashioned Apple Pie", according to my Farmer's Pie Book. This book is a benefit from my deceased mother-in-law Julie Bagoye. I do not know how often she used this book, I only know it was hers since the early 60's. I do not know if she ever went to Gizdich Ranch to pick her own strawberries and apples, but I do know, she was part of the Bagoye Ranch. Meaning at some point in time they too grew Apples, Peaches, Plums, and most recently walnuts. Did she make tasty fruit pies for Mark when he was young? Did Mark used to help her bake the pies?

According to Mark she made a few of these great fruit pies, so in the tradition of Grandma Bagoye, today we made an apple pie. The apples were all hand picked by Sophie, her friends and the two dad's, Mark and Te. (I think I picked a few apples myself, but not many according to Mark's observation.) So today, this very afternoon, Sophie, Mark and I conspired together, to follow the classic apple pie recipe from the farmers pie book, and you see the photo above. Yes the house was filled with the wonderful mix of aromas from the Cinnamon, apples and nutmeg since the baking began a few hours ago. We even purchased an old fashioned apple peeler, with hand crank, to prepare the perfect apples pieces. Mark organized the machine, and Sophie supplied the power. She mixed the ingredients together too, so this is really her pie.

Yesterday while at Gizdich Ranch, I purchased a berry and a dutch apple pie to eat after lunch with the kids. We thought we had convinced the group of first graders, to eat their lunch then go and play, and at some point, we would call them back and surprise them with the pies. Alas, even after they had agreed to the plan, about 15 minutes later, we heard the voices of an uprising! "We want pie! We want pie!" they all shouted in unison. We looked at the ugly mob, and noted each one held their plastic fork high in the air in the similar fashion of an old fashioned
demonstration from the '60's. Soon all eyes, from everyone around were focused on this small group of 5 and 6 year old demonstrating their desire for pie. We parents did feel a bit of pressure and found ourselves acquiescing to their demands. Does that mean we gave in...No! we call it a settled negotiation. Further conferences were held by the rebels to determine who received the first piece of pie. Sophie spoke up and said,"after negotiating, I get the first piece, then Soli, and Alexandra followed by Abygale and Enya." Peace returned to our group as each enjoyed their pie, as did I.

Back home we divided the 50 pounds of apples and 12 pounds of strawberries equally between the 5 children. That was when I decided we would make our pie this weekend. And so we did, today. Adventures and memory making at the Bagoye's, gotta love it!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Just keep swimming!

Dear Linsey,

I am having such a difficult time writing this post about Cowboy and Wills, by Monica Holloway.  I did enjoy reading the book, even though I cried while reading various chapters.  I could so relate to Monica, in her struggles to guide her son through autism spectrum disorder.  All the while I would think about Margo, and the struggles we have gone through as she pushes through her gross motor delay. 

For instance, I was reminded of the difficulty it had been for both Mark and I to come to grips with Margo's delay.  I am not sure what to call it, a disability, a special ed thing, a neurological disorder.....dyspraxia?  To the trained eye, it is obvious, something is off, to my friends they see nothing wrong with her.  To Mark and I, we celebrate her progress: for instance, this past summer, she was able to make it through the rigors and confusion of swim practice without crying.  A year ago, she cried almost every day at swim team practice, yes she was only 5 years old, and the coaches would yell at the other swimmers to get out of Margo's way.  Why? because if she was touched by someone in the water, it totally threw her off and she lost a sense of what she was doing, and it disrupted the sense of order she had established with her body and its movement.  This year, she would just keep on swimming.  That was our theme, keep on swimming, just like Dori in Finding Nemo.  We would celebrate each day she did not cry at practice, and the days she did, I would hold her and say that's ok.  But we celebrated her bravery!I learned from her OT, that Margo does not distinguish between competing sounds.  It's like being in a room, where everyone spoke with the same loudness and you had no clue who was the important person to listen to.  All of this to say, she was never quite sure what she was supposed to do in swimming practice.  So this year, Margo learned to ask the coach, and let them know if she did not hear what they said.  The coaches were very good about re-explaining the swim drills to Margo and she did her best at executing them.  Sometimes, she definitely took the directions literally and it would become the most interesting expression of a one armed swim drill any of us had ever seen.  Eventually, something would click and she would figure out what needed to be done.  By the end of the season, Mark and I realized we could not help her with the swimming, but just needed to let her work it out with the coaches.  In the end, she received a trophy for most improved over the course of the past two years.  It was not an improvement in time this year, but of form, and dedication, and always trying and not giving up.  That is what the coaches explained to all of as about Margo as they presented her the trophy at the end of the season dinner.

I think in the end, I am reminded as a mom, to a kid growing up highly uncoordinated, who just spent a day tripping in her new shoes, that I can't be a helicopter parent.  I have to let her fall down, scrape a knee, and mind you that does happen, as well as get herself back up.  As parents, Mark and I provide her opportunities to move her body with swimming, gymnastics, personal training and OT, and somehow, that develops confidence.  Margo has BFF's, and a great sense of humor.  She still looks like a deer in the headlights when part of a big group, but after a long while, figures out a few things she can do and then sticks to them.  This year Margo has started singing out loud and humming to herself.  She has started dancing to music, even with her friends.

Maybe this parenting thing is really about creating a space where our children explore who they are, and what they can do, or want to do.  Perhaps parenting is learning how to make the space larger as our child matures, till eventually it reaches their favorite number, infinite.  I think that is what I saw Monica do with Wills, Cowboy was a great part of the space.  I think I am doing this with Margo.  Yes I worry too much, but I still let go.  Gee parenting is hard!

Well thanks for providing me the book to read as part of  From Left to Write book club.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

'the stuff that never happened' .... good thing for me...

In a life we dream, fantasize and eventually live out what we believe or know to be true.  For some their life seems to be 'magical', others it is always hard and then there is Annabelle, the mother, soon to be grandmother, discovering she never left her lover from her past, until the two meet in her present reality.  I read the book, "The stuff that never happened," by Maddie Dawson, pretty much in one sitting, and yet I have been thinking about the ideas it has portrayed for the past few weeks. 

I have been thinking about the past and how it tries to push it's way into the present.  I know, it seems like a Zen thing to say, or maybe not....perhaps that is just reality.  How do I avoid my past determining my future, as so many pop-psychology books outline.  How do my husband and I, avoid being an 'old relationship' as our 14th anniversary sneaks up on us this year?  How do I parent my 6 year old daughter so she does not grow up to make the same mistakes as myself? 

Seems dramatic, I know, but I really did think about these concepts even in the midst of taking little Margo swimming, to art camp, grocery shopping, and all the other things mom's do when their child is 6 years old.  And what I discovered is that I have chosen to live and embrace the past and present.  I figure the past has worked its way into who I am, even the sad experiences of friendships made and lost, or pregnancies enjoyed and ended before their time.  I think that is a little secret to making an enriched life.  I do not separate my past from who I am, but create a patchwork quilt, of the choices and lifestyles I have lead, and find in that way, they have no power over me now. 

I and my husband have found it challenging, and engaging to talk about our relationship every so often during the past 14 years of marriage.  Some discussions have gone by the wayside, other's are looked upon with a smile and satisfaction.  Margo is 6 years old, and it gets a little more difficult to keep those heart to heart conversations coming throughout the weeks.  You know, too tired, or one of us is distracted by our 'attention starved' child.  But, we do work at it.  Really work at it, even if it means the conversation creates a temporary wrinkle in our relationship.  Learning to listen to each other, and continuing to discover about each other, is our key to not becoming an "old relationship" to each other.  I love to fix things, ha!!! I love to fix people too!!!  That can be dangerous, so I have to learn to listen, even when it feels uncomfortable. 

Upon occasion, I ask Mark, "honey what is it that bugs you about me?"  I know that can be a loaded question, but I was thinking I could work on changing that part a little bit.  So the list starts, "you fly by the seat of your pants when embarking on doing something new, ..." etc, etc, etc...  So when he ended his commentary, I took a deep breath and whispered, "So what do you like about me?"  And the list started again, "You fly by the seat of your stretch me and make me take risks...."  And we both realized, all the things he thought he didn't like about me were and are the things he likes about me in the first place.  Yes I drive my husband crazy at times, and he does the same for me, we are very very different from each other.  Perhaps that is what creates an adventure for our present and our future.  It is just good to be reminded of this every so often.  That keeps us young.

I have come to realize I cannot protect my daughter from everything, or even the ups and downs in life.  What I can do is help her learn how to process her feelings and the things that happen about her.   It can be very messy at times, especially when she just breaks down and cries and nothing seems to comfort her.  Those are the times I look her in the eye and just say, "ummhm, oh...that sounds hard..." and eventually she calms down, and we snuggle.  We try to provide her a host of experiences in her life, in the hopes these become a rich treasure chest from which to find answers to her own questions about living.  Yes I limit her T.V. and movies when at home, and I also find she is making choices about movies she thinks would be appropriate for her to watch or not watch.  She is actually self regulating, "Mom, that movie about ghost busters, has too many guns and it is too scary, so I do not want to see it."  She is regulating her world.  And I am guessing that is the best way to protect her.  She learns as we provide a bit of guidance rather than just control.

So yes, I indulged myself into some thinking after reading "the stuff that never happened" and have decided, I have a very happening life.

The book "the stuff that never happened," by Maddie Dawson, was provided free by the From Left to Write book club.

PS...I just read this to my husband and he now denies any knowledge of the list......I gotta love him and his humor.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

1st Day of Summer what is a mom to do?

She slept in and then it was off for bagels and bacon, followed by swim practice.  At first we were going to skip swim practice, but Margo told me she slept as long as she could and well that left room for swim practice.  Now we are at the library with her friend Aria.  We came to the Vineland branch, it has a great kids area, and special computers just for them.  Ok, this will cover half the day, but I have an open slot between library and gymnastics, what to do then?  Oh did I tell you I am trying to create TV Free Days.  Yes I am crazy to even think of such a thing, but I want to know if it is possible.  Do I have it in me to fill the day with creativity, quiet time, study time, play time and even cooking time?  I do not know, but today is the first day to try.

Do I have goals for summer with Margo?  Yes a big resounding yes!  Whatever they are and I will lay them out here, each must be surrounded by friends, adventure and fun, FAF, if you need a mnemonic of some sort.  FAF is a great way to start the first day of summer.  Margo's adventure starts with a bit of 'controlled chaos', by playing a game of sharks and minnows in the pool with the swim team.  Her coaches try to encourage her to catch someone, and she heads for them, then averts off towards the wall, wanting to get there first.  Eventually she will figure out the order of sharks and minnows.  There really is order in chaos, and eventually Margo will learn to understand that.  But right now, I put her in the middle of it all.  When she looks a bit confused the coach steps in and tells her that she is a shark now, or a minnow, and then all rights itself.  Next week, one of the coaches will join in the fun, and then she will learn a bit more about order and fun in chaos.

Today, the library is her choice destination to share with her friend Aria.  Right now they are on the kiddie computer playing games together.  I just hear them laughing, so that is a good thing.  Every day needs a large dose of laughter, not just for little Margo, but for me too.  Now what to do with the hours after lunch and before gymnastics?  hmmmm  I think we will cook together.  I  better find an interesting recipe for all the vegetables I have in the fridge.  I think 'stoup' is in order for dinner and weekend.  See you all next time as I continue the summer story.

One week later since I started this post, we were TV free until today.  Today she said she would not watch TV for the rest of the year if I let her watch Curious George today.  Knowing that going the rest of the year would be way too difficult, I could not stand the thought of all the requests with please, pretty please, pleeeeeasssee mommmmmmm...I suggested how about until another week passes by.  She thought that was a splendid idea.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Loosing the first tooth....Lots to learn!

Here, did you see the problem?  What once were nice straight baby teeth, were becoming crooked and displaced by an eager adult tooth's entrance and the lingering solid presence of the baby tooth.  What was a mother to do?

Call the dentist, and I did, eventually, about three weeks later.  At that visit, the dentist was quick to explain we only had about two more weeks to encourage the baby tooth to fall out on its own.  Otherwise, we were headed for desperate measures, according to me.  Well the two weeks past and then we were back at the dentist.  Thank goodness Dr. Ligh knew what he was doing.  However, I being the skittish type, had to learn to become a good hand holder for Little Margo.  The bravery a mother can conjure up on behalf of their child is amazing.  I suppose I should include a few more detailed photo's of the event. 

For instance, Margo entered the treatment room and jumped up onto the couch herself, distracted by the TV built into the ceiling.  She was outfitted with goggles, and earphones and actually looked relaxed.   I suppose she was trying to ignore what was about to happen, or most likely just enjoying the movie.

Next Dr. Ligh informed Margo to relax while he placed some medicine on her tooth, to make it go to sleep.  Ok, that was easy enough, or so I thought.  He waited a few minutes and then re-applied the medicine.  It was at this point she started to shudder or shake.  Something I would do at a moments notice, hard to believe I gave birth so bravely sometimes.  But there is just this thing about the dentist office, and the drilling, and the fillings,...well I have wondered away from our story.  So next she was outfitted with a special mask used to inhale that concoction of Nitrous Oxide/Oxygen gas.  Now she became quite relaxed in about three minutes. 

Yes it was time for that final shot, or shots.  The needle is still long, just like I remember it.  But thankfully she was watching the movie and not caring much about anything.  Dr. Ligh explained what would happen, that she would feel a little pinch, and that was that.  She did not move or cry or anything.  The best part  of the procedure thus far was her being so relaxed. 

Finally the pliers for extracting the tooth were applied to the stubborn incisor, and Dr. Ligh began to say, "Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle....out."  And that was it, the tooth was out.  It really was that quick and pain free.  I was amazed.  Margo was congratulated about her bravery, and a special tooth fairy pillow was provided.  I was beginning to enjoy this type of modern pediatric dentistry.  Who knows, perhaps I will make it to my dentist in the coming months for a check up.  I wonder if she has Nitrous Oxide for Adults?????

And here she is showing that new empty space for the adult tooth to move into.  Yeah Margo!!!!  (Still watching that movie.)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Raising an Enviro-Radical...or just Little Margo

I have been discussing environmental issues with Little Margo since...forever. Yes that's correct, she knows about environmental issues in her own world. For instance, "Mom, quick, pick up that paper on the ground, it hurts the earth!" So, I oblige and then she picks up the next one. "Mom, is the Earth our mother?" "Well sort of Margo, she does provide us all the things we need to live, sort of like I provide your food and love for you." Ok, that comment sort of flies over her head because now she is imagining the earth feeding her with a get it. Sharing environmental ideas with a 6 year old does have its challenges.

But in reality, little Margo really does get it. She gets that the air is not always clean and can cause her friends to need inhalers to breathe. She knows about allergies, and she knows about saving electricity because that helps the earth. "Mom, turn off the lights, you are wasting electricity," was her common word throughout last summer. Oh yes, she knows that some people put bad things in the water to make it undrinkable. I am trying to provide her understanding that not all families here in the US have safe water to drink. Did you know that? It is not just in some other country where the drinking water is contaminated with all sorts of chemicals from coal mining or some other industrial happens here. "Jennifer Hall-Massey knows not to drink the tap water in her home near Charleston, W.Va." (Ref New York Times, Toxic Waters a series about the worsening pollution in American waters and regulators' response)

An Enviro-Radical, that is what our little family is becoming, or at least trying to become. It starts with understanding the problem and then finding simple ways to participate in the solutions. I was recently provided a book by the Silicon Valley Mom's Blog book club called, Green Guide Families, The complete Reference for Eco-friendly parents, written by Catherine Zandonella. I quickly looked up the chapter about cloth diapers vs. disposable diapers to see if my choice of cloth was environmentally sound. Unfortunately, my choice to use a diaper service pretty much eliminated any of the environmental benefits for this choice. However, my daughter did not suffer from the diaper rashes she so readily had when using the disposable diapers. I just did not have it in me, to wash the diapers myself. So we were not "E-Radicals" in this choice.

On to food choices, I did purchase organic baby food in glass jars. Not because it was the healthiest choice, but it so happened to be a better financial deal...However, I have made up for this for buying organic fruits and vegetables where needed. For instance I know I should buy organic carrots, but not necessarily organic eggplants when it comes to pesticide exposure. Buying organic can be expensive so I pick and choose about what I buy. There is a great list as an ECO-TIP: Top Foods to Buy Organic published in the Green Guide Families, check out page 97. I also have been discussing with my husband about decreasing our power footprint. So this means I purchase local whenever possible. Sometimes it is a bit more expensive; however the benefit is the taste! (Ok, ok, I will admit it the health too!) Regarding organic milk and hormone fed to cows to keep them pumping, this has been a topsy turvy choice. Why, organic milk is so much more expensive! We live on a budget, so what to do? I have read articles with for and against the thoughts of milk and hormones and affecting the early development of our young girls. But right now there is nothing hard in facts regarding cause and effect of organic milk vs. regular milk. I know someone is going to write a comment and that is fine. Although I find the data conflicting I play safe and purchase the organic milk. According to the Green Guide Families, these hormones do pose a threat to the cows, to add reason to my choice. Actually the comment that best got me hooked on organic milk was made by a dairy farmer in Petaluma. He mentioned that most farmers do not use rBST anymore, because the cows don't handle it well, but they do use other hormones. Darn, now I need to buy milk that just says no hormones! So yes 90% of the time I buy organic milk, and feel better.

I think the best place to go in honor of the upcoming Earth Day is the Monterey Bay Aquarium to see the Hot Pink Flamingos Exhibit. It was amazing, and became a very impactful place for the two 6 year olds I brought along. It opens up looking at our own Monterey Bay and the problem of crustations, and coral becoming brittle. Eventually it is understood the pH of the bay water is becoming less alkaline and more acidic, causing the brittleness of shells, bones and coral. Acidity, that famous concept now associated with all kinds of disease in our own bodies. And how does the bay get affected by humanity? Margo and her friend Alexandra could tell you, Air Pollution! By the end of the exhibit, Alexandra is writing a pledge in her kindergarten spelling to skate more instead of riding in the car. Margo writes about how pollution hurts the earth and she will use less electricity or something to that effect. Me, well I did pledge to ride my bike to do the shopping, and yes I am slowly working to that effect, by riding the bike at the gym. Soon I will ride my bike to the gym for my workouts, and then on to grocery shopping.

With Earth Day coming up this week, I plan on doing something with Margo to make another change in our family in our quest to minimize our family pollution to the earth. Margo will be happy, as will I, so will 'Mother Earth' and yes, I will continue to raise an Enviro-Radical!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Passing on hockey passion to the 4th generation....Little Margo

I love hockey, my mom, the first little Margo, loves hockey and she learned to be passionate about hockey from her mom, Grandmamma. (We always called her just Grandmamma, of course we did give her the nick name of 'young chick', but that is another story.)

Growing up we used to watch our mom yell and scream in French of course at the guys flying around on ice on the black and white TV. It was amazing to see the energy and voice come out of this little petite 5foot 1inch woman who weighed less than 110 lbs. Most persons found my mom to be sweet and kind, and yet when it was Stanley cup time, her hockey gloves were tossed and out came some of the loudest screams I ever heard leaving our house. She was engaging in her hockey passion and still is to this date!

All of my brother in laws and sister in laws have become fans of hockey because of my mom, Grandmamma Margo; I am hoping little Margo will grow a liking, or should I say passion for this very fun and crazy game. In fact, Grandmamma Margo's influence  reaches out to all of her grandchildren and even their boyfriend's regarding hockey and the teams to follow. You may have guessed her first and favorite team was and is the Montreal Canadians. She used to watch Henri Richard play hockey in their backyard every winter growing up. Her mom would have the kids flood the backyard from their garden hose to create the ice rink. At one point she provided the boards for the rink and then her dad got into the act by hanging a light so they could play in the dark. My mom would watch her brothers play along with Richard, and cheer them on to wins in the neighborhood. My mom was very quick to point out she learned her hockey passion from her mother, not her dad. I have learned my hockey passion from my mom, and not my dad. And soon, I hope little Margo will learn hockey passion from me.

Tonight was the beginning of exposing little Margo to hockey and her crazy mom, (that would be me), yelling along with the crowd at High Five, to encourage, our favorite team, the San Jose Sharks. No I do not own anything resembling a hockey jersey or hat, but I know what icing is, and the various penalties our players will create. Tonight I got a bit carried away with some encouraging phrases like: "Shoot the puck!", "Get in front of the net" and "Replace our goalie". My favorite phrase of the night was YES! You got it we scored 6 times. My next most used phrase was "Nooooo!” the Colorado Avalanche scored 5 times. And once to my chagrin I used the word "Idiot", in reference to Nabby when he went to push the puck from behind his net, when he should have remained at his position protecting the goal. The next thing you know, the Avs scored. However, it was pointed out by little Margo that "idiot", is not as bad as the "S" word, you know "stupid", and then she added that "DUMB" was king of all the bad words.  So, with the knowledge that my daughter was listening, I did not use any of those bad words for the rest of the evening.

When the San Jose Sharks scored, I would rise to my feet and raise my arms in triumph, and she would watch. When the other team scored, I would cry out "Nooooo!" and she would watch. She did realize that the Sharks were the home team, meaning, she learned something tonight, but I am not sure what else she learned.

Perhaps little Margo learned the fun of eating pizza and drinking Gaiter-aid at High Five restaurant, and that this happens when we watch hockey. So now you have my trick to introducing her to liking hockey, it is the pizza, and Gaiter-aid that goes with the show. Perhaps for now, that is what she will associate with hockey, but I am hoping, in the very near future, she too will understand the thrill of a goal, and the disappointment of a sloppy loss. Perhaps she too will agree with me and yell, "change the goalie!", or a simple "shoot the puck" will suffice as the beginning of her passion for hockey in the 4th generation.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cooking with the Margo and sometimes her friends too....

I am only now starting the adventure of cooking with little Margo on a more regular basis.  I know, I know, I have cooked cakes with her and her friends when she was but a three year old, we even made very pretty cookies, but now, I am looking to teaching her about cooking.  Really, really learning about cooking and measuring and learning the little tricks I know.  No, I most likely do not know a lot of tricks with cooking; I do improvise quite a bit, because I may not have everything I need.  Even when I go to the store with a list of ingredients in hand, I somehow forget to purchase something.  I have decided to chalk it up to those pre-menopausal losses of memory and organization.  (Ok, I added the organization part on my own; there is no loss of organization in this stage of life, for those of you who are organized!  But the memory part is true!) 

Our adventures in 'real' cooking started about a month ago, when I invited little Margo to help me prepare dinner.  She was quite excited about the prospect of making dinner, including the ceremonial washing of hands and wearing her own apron.  I was provided the chefs hat for that meal.  She explained to me, "Mom, you are the chef and I am the girl assistant, I learned this from Ratatouille."  I suppose being compared to Ratatouille was good, she was very clear to point out I was not the mean chef at all.  With that settled, Margo's job was to peel the potatoes and the carrots and the rutabaga, for the mashed side dish.  At first I helped her hold the potato and the peeler as she used them; I was rather concerned her lack of coordination would mean missing finger tips later tonight.  She did seem to master the peeling task as best a 6 year old can do.  Her favorite part was placing all the items together in the pot to be boiled into our family specialty.  The best part about this is that she ate this side dish with gusto! 

Today, we decided to tackle Krispie Fish "Fingers" with Lemon Mayo Dip,  and Handheld Apple Pies. Both Recipes can be found in Annabel karmel's, "Top 100 Finger Foods, 100 recipes for a healthy, happy child."  I had been perusing this book for the past two weeks, thinking it would be perfect to help Margo and I get into some new cooking styles.  I do not think I can make the dish look as beautiful as Annabel's presentations; however I knew I could cook.  It didn't matter I had never fried a breaded fish stick in my life, nor made little apple pie type of finger foods.  Heck today was my adventure day for cooking.  So yes, I made a list, went to the store, got home, cleaned the kitchen and put all the food away, then picked up Margo from school.  She watched Curious George on TV, while I gave the kitchen one last quick makeover.  It really was clean and organized when we started. 

Here is the photo of my kitchen after we completed making the Krispy Fish Fingers....I swear to you it was clean when we started, and no we had not been cooking for hours and hours...well I did mention my organization issues earlier on in this blog!

In the end I burned the first test fish fingers while trying to fry them...did I tell you I rarely fry!  So for dinner, I baked them on a skillet in the BBQ.  It worked great, and I only used a little oil so we still had the Krispy affect.  Oh I must confess, I used Cod, (memory), Corn Flakes rather than Rice Krispy's, (again memory), I added some Flax seed (to help my memory) to the mix as well as the sesame seeds.  We all enjoyed them.  Yes I cleaned my kitchen one more time, to create those hand held apple pies.

Margo helped me here too, she not only buttered the filo dough, but created monster tracks on the dough as well.  No I did not yell when the track caused a hole in the dough...ok, I did get a little excited.  This was the first time I ever used filo dough correctly, with butter....lots of butter if the truth be told.  But in the end I baked these little cuties in the BBQ too.  It worked out great.

Humor must always accompany my cooking!  Why?  Come on look at that photo of my kitchen, I must have a sense of humor, or I would never cook again!  We completed the serving of the desert with our friend, "The rubber chicken", that was the final monster who wanted a taste of the tasty apple offering.  In the end, we both had a fun time cooking together, making real memories and learning a few lessons about cooking.

I am so glad my husband does the dishes!  At least he enjoyed his dinner, actually we all did!

I enjoyed this cookbook by Annabel Karmel, and was glad I received it free while being a part of Silicon Valley Mom's book club.

Bon Appetite;  Mommy Max, the French Mommy born in California.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Camping in the winter....

This past weekend, we took the plunge, and went camping at New Brighten Beach State Park, just outside of Santa Cruz, California.  For two weeks prior to the trip I had been watching the weather forcast.  Rain on Friday, and Saturday with a possibility of sunshine on Sunday.  I skipped the forcast watching on Friday, figuring if it rained or shined we were committed to go camping.

Mark took the day off, just to help both of us get ready.  Margo attended school and was relieved to know we would pack for her while she was at school.  We were set to meet up with friends somewhere around 4:00 PM at the campsight.  Of course we were just pulling out of San Jose at 3:45 PM, no we did not arrive at 4:00, but we did arrive only 3 minutes behind our friends.  Good thing they left late too!  Birds of a feather flock together I say.

Folks I mentioned our little adventure to, gave us more then double takes, more like the expression "what are you thinking, it is going to rain..."  Well we just decided it was time to learn to do things with or without the rain.  The weather was not going to dictate our life of adventure.  So off to New Brighten State Beach, we went.  Community and camping always seem to go together.  Our friends set up their camp in a matter of minutes.  They had the RV.  We on the other hand were totally retro, meaning, tents, camp stove, rain gear, etc... etc... etc...  Fortunately for us Brian and Kim were very helpful in the setting up of our camp.

Saturday morning found us walking the beach. It was beautiful. Margo was intent on building a sand man, so we provided the carrot for the nose and other items from the beach for the hat, (a rock), hair, (seaweed), and mouth, (twigs). She actually did a great job with the materials at hand. Next thing I know, she is lying on her back going through the exercise of making 'sand angels'. Now you might be thinking it sounds like snow adventures...but we really were at the beach. This just goes to show the imagination a child can have in tune with the winter season.

Were we prepared?  That was a good question, you tell me.  Lets see on Saturday you could have found me at Ross looking for a blanket to help us keep warm at night.  The sleeping bag was not warm enough...I swear it was freezing temperatures!  But no rain!!!!  I also needed my internet fix...I know, I know, nature needs to be enough, however I still had a few responsibilities to look after.  Thank goodness for Starbucks.  Yes I loved the coffee too!  Mark stayed back with Margo, the two spent the afternoon, folding and flying paper airplanes. 

Oh yes, I forgot to mention our supplies for Saturday dinner were eaten by the little bandits with the sharp claws.  We forgot about the hunger of our furry friends.  These little guys totally enjoyed our chocolate, marshmellows, tortilla soup, cheese and sour cream.  I am not sure what order they ate them in, although there was a trail of leftovers.  Good thing Kim had packed extra food...enough to last the weekend.

Both evenings were enjoyed eating good food around the camp fire.  Smores were the highlight for all of our sweet tooths.  The saturday night variety seemed so much tastier than the night before.  I wonder why, perhaps the chocolate was a little better, or we were all a bit more relaxed.  We loved the fires every night, morning and afternoon.  I did mention it was cold and sunny.  Right now, we are working through our smokey laundry.

All in all camping in the winter proved to be a fun adventure.  I think you just have to go with the right people.  Thank you Brian, Kim and Christopher!  We had a great time.

Friday, February 12, 2010

School Days in Togo, West Africa

The morning starts with a classroom filled to the brim. They place 63 students aged 6, 7 & 8 all together in their classroom.  There is one teacher!  There are no parent volunteers, because the parents are all working to literally put food on the table. 

Chalk dust is everywhere.  If you have such an allergy, school is no place for you.  There are rags to wipe clean the chalk boards, and there are many chalk boards.  The front of the classroom is lined in large black slate chalk boards, covered with words or numbers or whatever the lesson of the day happens to be.  The desks are covered with individual slates boards, the types we would by our children as a toy.  There are no pens and papers for this class right now.  It is better to write your answer on the slate and wipe it away prior to the next question.  This reminds me of class only imagined in Laura Ingles Little House on the Prairie.  But it is reality, here in Togo.

Uniforms?  Sure each child has at least one.  If they get it dirty, I was told the teacher tells them to turn it inside out for the rest of the day.  I personally find that to be a convenient way of stalling on the laundry.  I wonder if I could do that with Margo at school, or would I start seeing notes sent home about the appearance of my daughter. 

What else do I notice about both classrooms we visit?  There is order...yes order I say.  One teacher has been at her profession for three years, since she graduated from college herself.  I inquired as to issues of discipline in the classroom, her response.  "I have no problems."  I believe her.  The kids here seem to want to learn.  Yes it is crowded, yes it is hot, and I am guessing many have not eaten breakfast, But, their hands go up to get a chance to answer the question.  Or their hands go up to be chosen to review the French grammar on the front board.  There they go, holding a small plank of sorts as their pointer.  That chosen child is now directing the class for that moment, with their pointer and their answer.  With the correct answer, the teacher instructs the kids to give themselves a cheer.  It is a cheer of specific rhythmic clapping.  It is performed in unison with much vigor.  And its sound is beautiful to me.  Here in Lome, Togo, children enjoying learning even though they do not have the best of anything.
This is the successful story of one young teacher, dressed in a white blouse and long black skirt.  She is committed to these children, and they in kind respond back to her.

I was telling the social workers how impressed I was with this class.  And she quietly responded, it is possible this teacher is here just for today, because the government knew we would be coming.  I was a little doubtful, but when we entered the next classroom I found myself believing the story a little more.

This room still had order, but it seemed a little tighter.  The kids seemed more afraid than happy and joyful.  The teacher was male; he wore a Hawaian type shirt and a baseball cap.  He carried a piece of orange hose with him, anywhere he walked in the classroom.  He did not smile, not even once.  Yes this class room had order, but I wonder if it was missing the wonder in discovery?

Next Monsieur le teacher barked out his order for dictation.  "√©crivez, le numero dix," he said.  The children bent over their slates and wrote the answer.  Each would lift it up high over his head to show the answer.  Mister teacher would tap each slate and pronounce, "correct, or Pas correct".  By the way he was holding the piece of orange hose above his shoulder on the right and point to the child to answer the question with his left hand.  Yes if you are imagining a lion tamer that would be an apt description.
Moving on from the math lesson he went on to French grammar.  Again dictations would be pronounced and each child would diligently write the answer on the slate and raise it for their teacher's approval or disapproval.  He never smiled.  I was not sure if he was glad we were there.
We decided to sing a silly song to the kids, just as we had done in the classroom before.  It took a while before they started to laugh at our ridiculous gesturs.  Even the teacher lightened up for a minute or two.

Children in Togo do not speak French at home, but as soon as they enter kindergarten, their classes are taught in only French.  French becomes a language used to provide some sense of unity among a country with at least 32 different tribal peoples and distinct languages.  The problem is more children drop out of school before they have a chance to complete the course. Why?  Some need to work, others don't like it.  Would you like it if your teacher was the gardener? 

You see, the last teacher we saw, was the gardener for the school.  I applaud him for stepping up to the plate to give teaching a try.  I give thumbs down to the government for not paying its teachers, so the school had to hire the gardener.  I can understand why he had the piece of hose in his hand during the day.  It surely was an item of familiarity to him as much as a stick to the children.  And yes, I was told, he most likely hit a few of the kids with that hose upon occasion.  But this was not the case today. 

I reviewed some of the course work materials provided to the students.  They were little paper booklets with exercise sheets in them.  They looked similar to those my daughter gets in her school.  There were simple posters on the wall, describing the germination of a seed, and all its parts.  So yes there was a sense science was taught.  But in the end there were no brightly colored papers hanging on the walls, no letters of the alphabet or number lines hanging on the walls.  They were just walls.  Yet in at least one of the classrooms, there were children eager to learn.  These are children who laugh and enjoy the moment of silliness we provide.

These two classrooms are found in government schools.  Currently serious parents who appreciate education send their kids to private schools.  And if I understand correctly, there is a small voucher from the government of sorts to help with the cost.  Our kids are also provided funds through our giving with Compassion International, to help with attending a private school if that is the desire of the parent.  You never know what kind of education you will get at the public school.  A teacher or a gardener, it could be either one.

In some ways the public versus private school education discussion sounds all too familiar over here.  Over there the difference can be between a teacher and a gardener.  I wonder if our children like their schools?   I wonder if I will need to send Margo to a private school one day with all the cuts and politicking going on in our part of the world.  Will we see vouchers?  Would that mean our public schools would be abandoned?  I don't know the answers to any of these questions.  But I did just tell you what I observed in Togo.  I am just glad we have a school down the block to send little Margo.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

My first drives through Lome...what did I see? What did I learn?

My first drive into town from our hotel was an adventure of its own. It was early afternoon, we had time for a 30 minute nap, followed by a long lunch near the sea shore. Our mini bus pulled out onto the main road, and I immediately began to take pictures out the window. My thoughts were captured by the elegance of the women balancing their purchases or wares upon their heads. Each one, carried their load with strength, grace and confidence.

I noticed the smells, of once burning plastics, or was it oils, I was not sure. The grounds were covered with small fire embers, piled to the sides or in the middle of some of the smaller roads. I really did not notice piles of garbage, or the huge over crowding I found regularly in Calcutta, India, many years ago. I saw lots of goats; big goats, small goats, momma goats, the whole shebang. So though there was poverty, there did seem to be a sense of order about the town.

Why the goats? Why the little embers? Both these tools tackled the same problem...garbage. Yes, the people of Lome, burned the garbage in small piles every night; this accounted for the smokey smell about the city. The goats roamed free to take care of the remainder of the garbage. It was an interesting way to deal with an issue that could wreak havoc in a city where I saw no garbage collectors.
I also learned the basics of sales and store ownership through our minibus window. Have you noticed the picture of the outdoor lean-to with the hanging shoes? Yes you guessed it, the local shoe store. That store owner provided quite a display of his wares; other vendors had far fewer shoes to sell. Attaching items to poles, or letting them hang was the official style of display.

Would you like a little gas to run that motorcycle, or Moped for the day? How about a bottle of petrol? The roadside gas stop. It was a table with a variety of bottles filled with oil, or gasoline, or whatever made your engine go. It is sold in small alliquots, just what you need for the day. The new 'just-in-time' lifestyle. You purchased what you would have used for the day. This concept extended to everyday items of food and spices. In the opposite picture you see a stand, selling sugar by the cup or less, or even tablespoons of salt.  Note the pre-measured cans of charcoal, just the right amount for the days cooking. In reality, just-in-time becomes, just enough.

Shopping for a little food everyday, or if you happen to be among the poor, you are shopping only on the days you have a little money. It is a hard life here in Lome, Togo, for those with materially little. There is no refrigeration, nor running water at your home. Your home may only be a 6 by 8 foot steel shack with steel rooftop. Imagine that as your 'castle' for your family of six. Oh, did I mention the temperature was up to 95 degrees and the humidity was above 70%? The floor was pounded dirt, and a bench was hidden inside. The treasures of the family were stored neatly up the side of the walls inside your home. This was the picture of the simple steel shack you saw in this post. This really was the home of Liza, my sponsored child. Their reality, they will not have food every day, and her stove/oven was the size of bucket. In fact the clay oven was formed in a bucket, I could see the imprints of the bucket seams on the side. There was a tree just outside the front door, a place where the neighbors and family members would sit to keep out of the heat of the day. It was a house like this, and many others which were hidden behind the tall walls lining the streets of Lome. If we had never been behind the walls, I would not have known or seen this poverty. Lome, the city of 'poverty hidden'.

But within these hidden areas, there was also a richness and wonder to life, that did not escape my notice.  But for this next adventure, it really meant, getting out of the bus, moving beyond the window panes, and learning the 'more' lived out by those with so much less...all discovered when meeting my families in Africa.