Wednesday, July 30, 2008
After training today, we headed on over to the world famous San Diego Zoo. I'd not been there since I was about 9 years old, so this was quite a treat! It was a weird feeling walking through the gates remembering bits and pieces of it. I wanted to go and see the koala bears, but we didn't get to make it. I was excited, however, that I remember the flamingos and sure enough, they were still there at the entrance like they'd been so long ago. It had me wondering how long a flamingo lived. It was a day of daring feats for me. I went to visit the gorilla area. Years before, I'd been terrified that it was going to grab me and take me away. Some of it probably could've been attributed to my sister telling me that they were going to kidnap me and keep me. There I go again, taking things too literally.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Monday, July 28, 2008
I know good still exists in this world.
I’m saddened to think that Mari will grow up in a world where respect and manners aren’t something taught from the very beginning. I assure you, though, in our household, they will be made a priority. She will not have a mother who is a homemaker. It is very real that it may be quite the contrary. But I will pledge to teach her the importance of homemade elegance. My grandmother taught me to sew, crochet, and embroider. My mother taught me to cook, but most importantly, she fueled that ever burning imagination. I promise to do my very, very best to tickle that young mind’s creativity. I believe it is so very important to be able to express one self. Sometimes I do it in writing, but most other times it comes out in what I create: greeting cards, hand painted dishware or pots, and yes, even hand sewn clothing.
On the way to work, I was listening to NPR, like I normally do. On it, they had a spotlight on a man who had emigrated from Iraq to Florida. He found himself without a job, but very skilled at computer programming. They’d featured his story and a man and his business partner in Billings, Montana mulled it over and wanted to reach out to help this man. They felt a calling towards him and immediately k,new they could offer him a better life. They contacted him and offered him a job. He took the position and shortly thereafter, found himself living in Montana; a far cry from the 7 million strong that he was familiar with in Baghdad. His new employer reached out to him like an older brother. They became fast friends and eventually, his mother and sister came to live with him. They were overwhelmed by everyone’s generosity. They had a paid family gym membership, donated furnishings, and when their story was featured on the local news, several gift cards to Wal-mart and Costco poured in. It warmed my heart to hear this story, especially to know that we all have it within ourselves to be generous and give of ourselves. So I asked myself, Bianca, do you live by this example?
Yesterday, I had a lengthy conversation with my father. I admire my father for the obvious reasons and for the not so obvious reasons, unless you grew up in the Valenciano household. Now that I’m older and a parent, I can appreciate the things he provided for us, but also for not GIVING us just anything. He instilled values in us that went unseen until now. My mother has an outward faith that is completely and totally incredible. She lives by the Word. We went to church every Sunday, without fail. We never missed Sunday school and we were actively involved in the youth group. There were times where I didn’t want to wake up to go to church. I didn’t feel like volunteering, but my mother or father were always there to give us a stern look to put us back in line. We recently met a young fabulous couple at our church. It was fanciful happenstance: There we were on the side of the Atrium where families with young children gather to fold little babies into their carriers. There is more room over there since there’s plenty of seating and surface area to balance the car seat, diaper bag, purse, stroller (you parents know what I mean). Anyway, we found ourselves over there and he made a friendly comment about it being the baby loading zone. We had a nice chuckle and for whatever reason, we commented back and lingered back to chat for about 20 minutes. Both Don and I are horrible with names, so we knew once we got back to the car, we’d forget their names. Sure enough, we did. A couple of weeks went by before we went back to that mass. We’d traveled out of town, and then we had other plans so we either had to go earlier or later, in any case we missed them. But during mass, I glanced back to look for her. She’d mentioned that she needed a nook to go nurse her darling daughter and I knew of just the place because it wasn’t so long ago that Mari was pretty much nursing on demand. Anyway, there they were and I was excited to talk to them. I guess you could say that I’d developed a mommy crush on this woman. [mommy crush-far from a romantic crush, it is a sort of fondness and appreciation for a person; a mother you’d like to get to know better.] After mass, once again we were chatting with them for another 30 minutes catching up and what not. They’d made the decision to baptize her daughter , so I politely asked for their names again (and it wasn’t awkward!) and wrote it down this time, along with the date.
Fast forward to yesterday and that was the day. I packed my camera to get the pictures for them, in the event that a member of their family wasn’t in the proper position. We were running late, of course! It wasn’t because we didn’t get up earlier either. The culprit, our air conditioning went out! I felt at a loss for words, but I said a small prayer and told the Lord that I knew we’d get through it. We recently discussed our finances and what we could do to get things in order, especially with childcare immediately around the corner. This expense was not something we had budgeted and we were a little hesitant. Worst case scenario, we’d have to buy a whole new unit, several thousands of dollars. We agreed that if quote repair came back at a certain number, we were going to wait and just run to Lowe’s or Home Depot to buy a portable a/c unit. Of course, the repairman would call while we were en route to mass. I told Don to turn around, to fix the a/c unit, but I’d go on ahead. By the time I arrived, mass had already begun and I had to wait in the atrium with Mari. SCORE! The front row by the baptismal font was empty. After the second reading, I went right on through to the first row and settled in. I made sure the camera was on and even took some test shots. I thank the Lord that Mari was very, very good. She only fussed slightly, but during the actual baptism, she became so fascinated by all the children who had gathered around (at our church it is a tradition to invite all of the children to sit close to watch it all, that way they aren’t craning their necks to see what is going on). I happily snapped a few pictures and enjoyed the rest of the mass. I prayed and reflected a lot.
I greeted our friends on the way out and congratulated them. I could tell they were so very happy. They invited us over to their house to celebrate. While I had another busy, busy day planned already, I made a mental note to make it a priority to head over there after the bridal shower. (Lucky that I was able to escape the shower a little early to go to their celebration.) Sure enough, we headed on over and thought that at most we’d spend an hour, maybe an hour and a half. Just over two hours later, we were saying our goodbyes.
It was then that I arrived home and lingered in the front yard to finish up my conversation with my father. I was thankful to him for teaching us about faith. Especially for him to make a priority to ALWAYS live the example, supporting it with anecdotes from our upbringing. God always has a plan in place for you. While you may not always agree with the path in which you get there, it is the bumps and detours along the way that not only build character, but create an appreciation that must be experienced firsthand. So now I know it is my job to encourage my daughter and teach her these values and the importance for practicing them. When she becomes of age, it will be up to her to make the ultimate decision where her path will lead her, but her decision will not be a forced or uneducated one.
That’s why I do what I do. I give back to the community where I can, when I can. In what ways do you give back, or better yet, in what ways are you the change you want to see in the world?
Friday, July 25, 2008
(forewarning: I'm a dope and forgot the memory card to my camera, so not the first time that's happened...sorry Brother for missing the graduation shot! Anyway, the card was at home in the computer's memory slot from the photo session earlier in day of me and my Beloved...and if you are lucky, I just might post my favorite photo here.)
Wow...that was quite a long-winded aside, huh? ANYWAY...the only downside (yeah, I know, we get invited to enjoy deliciously amazing fancy food and I'm the one who has to be the downer, my bad!) is that it was at 10PM. Normally, before Mari, that wouldn't have been quite an issue. See, before Mari, I normally went to bed somewhere between midnight and two. Before Mari, I didn't have fantasies of running for hours on end in a strange city in the middle of Autumn. Before Mari, I hadn't quite committed myself to many things (yes, yes, I know some of you readers out there...ahem, Trish...are shaking your heads thinking, "No way, Bianca! You're always on the go and you're always hella busy." But I would have to disagree because I'm actually about 3.3 times as busy as I was before Mari.) Soooo...with that said, I was giddy with excitement that I couldn't pause for a nap like I was supposed to. I couldn't even focus long enough on Big Love to finish the episode and it was a good one too! I just sat there bouncing around (probably had something to do with that espresso shot I had in the Vivanno from SBUX earlier). Don was out in the yard doing his man-chores [man-chore: any chore done by Don that I don't do, more specifically, anything having to do with the outdoors b/c I'm incredibly allergic to all things outdoor, as well as anything involving heights or sharp objects.], so I opted to go take Guapo for a walk. Yes, it was as hot outside! Mari was on the brink of a nap and I didn't want to have to balance the stroller and the leash, so I busted out my Moby. I've been doing the hip hold for the past week and so far no complaints. I put her in the sling and grabbed the leash and Guapo eagerly headed straight to the door for his walk. Mid-way in our 1 mile walk, Guapo turned his cute little head, tongue nearly dragging on the pavement, willing me to turn the corner to go home. I just shrugged my shoulders at him and said, "It's up to you, buddy. You're the one who hasn't pooped. If you want to turn the corner, you can." Seriously, he looked like he was going to roll his eyes at me, but snobbishly turned his head back and kept walking. Meanwhile, Mari just hung out in the Moby, petting my ribbed tank top. Poor baby was sweating, but I could see the droopy eyes starting to get heavier with each step. By the 3/4 mile mark, she was fast asleep and Guapo was in full on walk mode, focused to get home and rest on the cool concrete. He seemed happy enough, though. I was happy too. I really enjoy walking in the neighborhood, waving at neighbors, admiring their gardens as I tell myself, someday...someday.
When I got home, I snapped some pics of sleeping Mari in the Moby. I was using my fancy-schmancy, yeah, not really...ok, ok, my handy-dandy remote for my camera. It was fun! No more running to get in position for the timer! Woohoo! Don walked in and we set Mari in her crib to take a few shots of us. Ooooh! I LOVED how those shots came out. Very artistic and I just may blow one up to frame it in our bedroom. Anyway, we gingerly lazied around yapping about our day. I must say, I look forward to this time of day every day. I love waking up next to my Beloved. I love kissing Mari goodbye, especially when she's fast asleep and no telling what position I'll find her in. I love massaging Guapo in the morning as he stares back at me with those adorable brown eyes. I love coming home and being greeted by a huge kool-aid Mari smile when she sees me. But I really appreciate the dialogue that Don and I share day-in and day-out. I love that I can chat with him about everything and nothing. I rush to get everything out to him lest I forget any important details. But seriously, it is so very special to me that we make that time for one another.
Anyway, time flew by and off we were prepping to go to the Grand Buffet. When we arrived, I couldn't find Primo anywhere. So we inadvertently gave ourselves the grand tour of Le Cordon Bleu. It was an educating experience. Never before had I considered that a cooking school would be set up much like a traditional school. Duh, Bianca. School is school is school. Anyway, we just followed our noses, and the other people not in chef's jackets and hats, and found the proper room. In the room adjacent to that one, Simon was fast and furiously putting on the final touches to his vichyssoise and tabouli. He gave us a couple of samples and it was delicious. A bit on the heavy cream side, but then again, isn't that the way it was supposed to be?
The thing about his cooking is that he always adds that one special touch that you wouldn't expect from a dish and it makes it BETTER! His canape was on a regular piece of bread, with prosciutto and melon, but the marscapone had a hint of tobasco sauce and WOW!!! No really, wow was all I could say. One of his classmates had made these fabulous Rueben sandwiches. Those of you that know me well, know that I HEART Rueben sandwiches. The bar was set high on this for me and when I tasted his, I was in heaven. So much so that I not only went back for seconds, but I also had thirds. (yeah, yeah, that's gonna hurt the next time I run, but it was worth it!)
So as we were weaving through the buffet line, Mari was in total visual sensation overload. Baby must've been hungry, because she kept reaching out for everything I put on my plate. She successfully took hold of the vichyssoise and tabouli and immediately shoved the bits into her mouth. No funny faces, nope. She actually reached out for more. I had to quickly put my plate out of sight for her. Instead, I gathered up some avocados, mashed them, and finger fed them to her. She was totally into it! I gave her more and if there was a lapse in my timing of feeding her, she vocally showed her displeasure in a series of I-want-it-now-Mommy grunts, only to be satisfied with another serving of the green fruit. She was wearing her little black dress bib which was made to look like she was wearing a black dress with pearls on it. I thought it was cute! Oh, and there was dessert too! My favorite was this orange fruit tart. Mmm...the oranges were so plump and fresh and the crust was an absolute perfectly sweet compliment to the citrus.
It was knocking on 11PM and I knew I was riding on "E" as far as energy level. I hugged Simon goodbye and we headed home. I kept chatting to stay awake and as soon as we got home, I hit the crash button. I stayed up long enough to notice that Mari was up and at 'em wanting to wrestle and play. So I humored her and played for five minutes. She was covering me with sloppy, drooly baby kisses and I loved it. I fell asleep with a fabulous smile on my face. Ahhh...midnight already. What a great start to Friday.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Oh well, it tasted pretty good. Not dry at all. I tried a new recipe for Classic French White cake. The batter was fantastic! When it came out of the oven it smelled heavenly. And then I had to go and ruin it all by attempting poorly to frost it. It's been more than 20 years since I've taken a cake decorating class and I think it is time that I do that...especially since I'll probably be making Mari's cakes as she grows up. Otherwise, I better start salting money away for those delicious Sprinkles cupcakes! I just hope my cake doesn't end up on this site.For those of you interested, this is the look I WAS going for. Ho hum...I guess cake decorating is NOT my forte. Primo, can you help me out???
Monday, July 21, 2008
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Thursday, July 17, 2008
It was more than a year ago that we first began to see the reports about the millions of toys recalled for toxic lead and other hazards. The news was shocking, and we weren't alone in calling on Congress to take swift action to protect our kids.
But more than a year later -- despite the outcry, despite the clear need for reform -- Congress hasn't delivered a bill to make toys safer.
And you won't believe what's holding it up now:
ExxonMobil, the world's richest oil company, is standing in the way. Why? The company wants to kill a provision that would ban toxic phthalates from plastic toys. ExxonMobil just happens to be one of the largest manufacturers of that chemical.
Please sign our letter to the congressional leadership. Tell them to stand up to ExxonMobil and deliver a toy safety bill that really protects our kids:
After 45 million children's products were pulled from store shelves in 2007, I can hardly believe that we're still waiting for Congress to act.
Earlier this year, both the House and Senate passed a version of a bill to improve toy safety. But now, as the final bill is being hammered out, ExxonMobil has joined forces with the toy industry and the chemical industry in an all out attempt to weaken this bill.
And with precious little time left to pass a strong bill -- Congress will recess in August -- ExxonMobil just might get its way. That is, unless we can keep the pressure on Congress to deliver the strong toy safety bill they've promised.
Help us make it happen. Please sign our letter to congressional leadership:
Then, send this message to a few friends and ask them to take action, too.
Let's make sure when it comes to toy safety, Congress sides with America's children, not with Exxon Mobil.
TexPIRG Citizen Outreach Director
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Lucky for me, my cousin was in town with some friends and they begrudingly became my victims. Ok, not really, they were actually pretty enthusiastic about it. He was here on his annual summer trip to visit us and he's always up for me taking his photo. Usually, his friends agree and I was so glad they didn't mind it. I love getting to know my camera and I'm glad they took my direction with ease. Here he is playing with the fountains in front of the Renaissance Hotel in Richardson.
I'd wanted to photograph someone there for a while, but never had the excuse. We went closer to dusk which I thought made for really great natural lighting. The only drawback is that it was dusk, so I couldn't face West for a better background. No worries, though. I didn't mind having random people in the shots. If you've never been, be sure to take a towel! It was a HOT, HOT day on Saturday and the water was really refreshing! I love how the fountains are synced with the drums, emulating a heartbeat.
Of course I'd have to get some pics of my baby too! Here she is:
Anyway, I hope you all had a fabulous weekend!
Friday, July 11, 2008
- Date Night - I hope to have a date night maybe twice a month for parents who need to get out for a few hours. For a minimum of $25 donation, I will watch your child for 3 to 4 hours. As a parent, I understand the importance of making time for you and your significant other. My husband has graciously offered to help, so we'll open our home to those interested. I'll let you know of the dates!
- Photo Sessions - For a minimum of $50 donation, you will receive a photo session within 25 miles of where I live. You get a shared copyright of the images, a CD with the Hi-Res images so you can take them to get copied, and my undying thanks and gratitude.
There will be more ideas to come, but that's what's on the radar for now. Are these good ideas? Would this be something you'd be interested in?
For those of you interested in learning more about Robin Hood (the charity for which I'm raising funds) you can click here.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Monday, July 7, 2008
Saturday, July 5, 2008
Thursday, July 3, 2008
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Yesterday, when I got home (which was later than expected) he didn't mind that I'd been running late. He made it a point to eat a rushed dinner with me and had to jet off to go help my cousin and his wife move into their new place. Moving is hard work as it is, but doing so on a hot summer evening without any debate is something else. He's such a hard worker and I love that about him.
This morning I had to get up extra early (b/c I'm running at 6AM with one of my coworkers), but I was up 15 minutes ahead of schedule. I used that time to write my beloved a love note letting him know how much I appreciate him. I tucked it away so he'd find it later. I kissed him, Mari, and Guapo bye and headed out the door. I was getting melancholy thinking about how much I was going to miss them during the day and when I get to my car, there's this wonderful handmade card/note from him. He found the time to make that for me yesterday and it was so sweet. You know that just put me over the edge! I spent the better part of the morning commute tearing up. It took everything in me to not turn around and drive back. ::sigh::
So on a different note...
Like I said, I met up with my co-worker and a former worker here and we set off for our morning run. It was a lovely pace and I actually kept up with them for 99% of the run. The other part I lagged behind b/c I paused to drink water. Early on I'd attempted to drink and jog, but I nearly choked myself with water and some almost went up my nose. It wasn't pretty. Speaking of unpretty...I fell. Yes, again! I about scared these women too. Bless their hearts! Parents, if you have a clumsy child sign them up for ice skating lessons. If nothing else, they will learn how to fall properly. I'm always falling and I don't suffer as many scrapes, cuts, or bruises because I learned how to fall the right way. I bet many of you are scratching your heads, thinking, this woman is smoking crack because there's no such thing as proper falling. But no, I'd have to vehemently disagree. Let's take this morning's fall, for instance. I'd stepped in a puddle, so the bottom of my shoe was a bit damp. No worries, b/c even though it was very early, it is still pretty darn hot! We started on a descent and the pavement was uneven. Still not a big deal. But, I was focusing so much of my efforts on my new CONFIDENCE in RUNNING muscles that my legs must've relaxed more and I felt myself plummeting head first to the ground. A series of grunts and mild shrieks and I felt like I'd sufficiently warned my running partners to get out of the way. Instead of falling to my knees, I pushed off a little more and braced my palms for the heavy blow. I was in full on volleyball dive mode. I'd tossed my water bottle aside and caught myself, barely grazing my left knee as I quickly launched myself back up. Yes, I was embarrassed, but that's about all. I had a teeny tiny scrap on my knee and I successfully peeled off the top layer on my right palm (which I needed a manicure anyway!). My injured left wrist didn't feel any pain. No limping, just a quick jogging in place while my running partners looked on with worry. I tried to casually explain to them that this is a typical thing and after some convincing, their concern focused back to the running. And no, I didn't wet my pants which I was certain was going to happen! These exercises really are amazing.
I'm grateful for my body. It has done marvelous things and will continue to achieve pretty incredible feats. I fully intend to use it to the max too for as long as I can. I look at my mother for inspiration. There's a lot she can't do (like walk for distances greater than 10 feet), but that doesn't stop her. She and her little red scooter are headed to Europe in about a week. This will be her first visit there and I'm so proud of her for going across the pond. You're never too old to dream big and still follow your dreams. I'm grateful for my mom teaching me that.