Its the glow up for me! I first met this Dieffenbachia plant baby at an estate sale in 2017. It was potted in an Easter basket and just a puny lil thing. I paid no more than $5 for it. Then I created a whole fictional back story that the sweet old lady who used to live in that house chose me to raise her plant child. Totally legit and not at all weird.
I just wanna make my fairy plant mother proud! I shed real tears after a large chunk of the main stem/stalk snapped off. I placed it in some water and waited for it to either die or grow new roots. I am so glad this plant didn’t give up. Three years later and it is flourishing!! Her leaves are huge. I’m sure that sweet old lady would be happy.
Albuquerque’s art scene is truly one of the best! Factor in the recent Black Lives Matter protests, never ending COVID and arrival of Christmas, the nation’s current state of hope, anger and pain couldn’t be clearer.
Last night while cruising down Central, we ventured through picturesque, family-friendly Christmas decor in Nob Hill…to trendy, pop culture art in the University Area…on down to Downtown’s grungy back alleys. There ain’t no place like Route 66 baby! Where Pennywise dons a scull Santa hat and bomb ass murals pay tribute to Chadwick Boseman and Malcom X. A few aliens escaped Roswell to let there be Peace in Burque. Or maybe they were a creating a distraction from the T-Rex surrounded by little shop of horrors.
Let’s talk about the magic of Christmas. You know, Santa and his crew sliding down chimneys leaving presents for good little boys and girls and lumps of coal for those who have been naughty. Is it all a bunch of smoke? Is it fair to believe in Santa when so many families are struggling financially especially during COVID? I saw this post online and wanted to share my thoughts.
I am part of the guilty parents committee that still leaves presents from Santa for my kid. Last year, Santa delivered a hoverboard, an action camera, and a VR headset. Even though he’s 12 now, he chooses to still believe. Trust me, I have tried to convince him to let Santa come for the little ones but he looked me dead in the eyes and declared that Santa must come this year. Looks like Santa will be creeping through our sliding door again this year (our alternative entrance since we don’t have a chimney!). While writing this post, I asked my son what does Santa represent for him. He responded it’s the excitement of opening different gifts on Christmas morning. Gifts from Mom, aunties, uncles, grandparents…and Santa. It doesn’t matter if it’s one gift per person it’s the idea that he received love from so many people on this day and for an only child that’s major.
So let’s tackle the first sentence in ALL CAPS, might I add, from the post-Stop telling kids expensive gifts are from Santa. I understand that other kids aren’t as fortunate. Hell, I was that “other kid”. Growing up we knew Christmas as Jesus’ Birthday and that’s all. Gifts under the tree weren’t ever from Santa, but like many kids, we watched the Christmas Story and all the other sappy, make believe movies about Christmas magic. I remember one year getting jeans (ugh, getting clothes for Christmas as a kid is the absolute worst) and a used (it wasn’t even in a box) Easy Bake Oven when my sister and I already had one. It didn’t get any better when we later visited our cousins’ house and saw all the cool stuff they got for Christmas that we didn’t. Based on my memory, that was the worst Christmas ever. But we never blamed Santa, we blamed our circumstances. Our mom was raising four kids on her own and money was always tight. Truth is, when you’re poor the fantasy is that Santa always has more money than your parents! A gift from Santa is exactly what we needed as kids.
Of course, that doesn’t mean I go into debt on Christmas just to impress my kid. It does mean that I use all the resources I can to make this day as magical as possible, even when the gifts are donated, discounted, refurbished, or used. When I was making minimum wage, I received Toys for Tots donations to place under the tree from Santa. When I couldn’t afford a huge tree, I decorated a small tabletop tree from the thrift store. Even with the advancement of my career, I still buy refurbished electronics and shop for the best deals. The hoverboard last year was from his Granddad that agreed to say the gift was from Santa. More importantly, I remind my son of the true meaning of Christmas, as we watch Christmas movies together, bake cookies, drive around to see Christmas lights, and bond. I even leave a bit of “Santa dust”, where I sprinkle a trail of flour and glitter on the floor to show Santa was here. In my opinion, it’s the magic of Christmas that makes kids feel good enough. A $10 toy from Santa can feel like a million bucks in a warm and loving home. It doesn’t take a lot of expensive toys or a huge budget to create Christmas magic and it doesn’t hurt to say a really good gift that you worked hard for is from Santa.
Join the discussion below. Do you think it’s not fair if Santa leaves some kids socks and others a hoverboard? Does it make a difference if the hoverboard was from a parent and the socks were from Santa?
Look who made Santa’s Helper list! Smokey is ready to help build toys and help feed the reindeers!
It’s the little elf hat for me! I love a good find and a cute pet costume…put them both together and DOUBLE SCORE! Doesn’t he look dashing in his Dollar Tree Elf costume? Yup, Dollar Tree! He’s a skinny thing under all that hair/fur so a size Large was a great fit! Stay tuned for his Santa outfit!
Comparison is the thief of joy. This also goes for when others compare you to the norm. For so long, I questioned why I wasn’t more a certain way. The answer is simple: life isn’t meant to be lived in a box.
For so long I questioned why I didn’t enjoy the monotone, barely there, beige is the new black-modern, minimalist decor aka be like the Kim Kardashian’s of the world. Fact is, I’m more of a Drew Barrymore. A wild flower that doesn’t want to be picked. The things I love most have a story to tell. That rug. Found buried under boxes at a garage sale. That lamp. Found at a thrift shop-surprised it actually works. That couch. Found sitting in a driveway and when it was too big to fit in my car, the owners loaded it in their vehicle and delivered it for free!
If everything is too new, too perfect, too perfectly placed, the space itself loses its soul. Treasured finds are constantly in rotation, drifting from room to room in search of the perfect home. And when I no longer feel a connection, I store them for a later inspiration or release them back into the universe. From thrift it came, to thrift it return.
This also reflects my philosophy on life. My closest friends are those who were drawn to me, where the bond was instant. When I feel a shift in energy, I pause to give it a chance to autocorrect and, if not, I give myself permission to walk away. I am incapable of making decisions too far in advance. I leave things up to chance and honor how I feel at the moment. I embrace small doses of chaos and the unknown, if everything is too perfectly still and predictable the normalcy drives my crazy.
I’ve learned to accept my oddities. Move that rug for the hundredth time unapologetically. Avoid accidents as I swerve across multiple lanes to follow an estate sale sign. I’ve learned to be more of ME and love every indecisive, need to get a grip, so what if this doesn’t match I’m wearing it, unrelenting, wild child minute. And although I may look back from time to time and wish I was more like the rest, I know no matter how hard I try, the box will never fit.
On August 4, 2017, my family and I welcomed an exchange student from Casablanca, Morocco into our home!
Arriving in America marked Zineb’s first trip out of the country without family and friends. Neither of us knew what to expect. In the first few days we learned about each other. As time passed, we learned from each other.
Here’s our story…
May 2017– Within days of filling out a host family application, I was told there was a possible match. We were swept in the world wind of meeting other exchange host families and parents and undergoing the screening process, all while frantically removing the piled junk in our spare bedroom that we had been using for storage. Although, we knew Zineb was our match, we couldn’t contact her for at least a month until she received official notice and approval in her home country. Oh, the anticipation!
July 2017– We received official notification of Zineb’s arrival date and we placed our very first call! I actually dialed the number in Morocco not even thinking about international call fees. We eventually figured out that talking through social media was…well much more practical! One more month and she will be here!
August 2017– I knew there was no turning back as my son and I stood at the airport with welcome signs and balloons in our hand, searching the sea of faces for Zineb. It took for-ev-errr but there she was! Suddenly it hit me…I have a teenager! What do you do with those?! I would soon find out!
Zineb shared gifts she brought from her home-a boys Moroccan outfit for my son and a traditional Moroccan dress/Kaftan for me with matching shoes. So cute watching her get settled in!
October 2017– The first month was rough! From juggling early morning drop offs and afterschool pickups, to buying halal foods and cooking dinner every night, to explaining things I’ve never thought to explain before! Although Zineb speaks nearly-perfect English and has quickly adapted to our culture, I know the transition is difficult for her. Through all the excitement, I can still see the sadness from missing her family and friends.
November 2017– Zineb turns 16! We celebrated with a huge “Sweet Sixteen” party! Every day gets a bit easier…
My cousin visited for Thanksgiving and we cooked a feast! Zineb made Moroccan treats from scratch. As we all sat around the table and shared our blessings, I felt whole – as if Z’ was part of our family all along.
December 2017– This month marks Zineb’s very first Christmas. I never laughed so hard from trying to explain Christmas traditions, like why we leave out milk and cookies for Santa. I wasn’t laughing however when Zineb opened a UPS package of presents for under the Christmas tree (spoiler alert!). I’m quite sure my son had something to do with reassuring her it was okay to open them!
This month also marks our first family trip! We went sledding on the dunes at White Sands National Monument, an incredible experience. The sand really does look like snow. Then, we spent the night in El Paso, TX ( one hour drive away) and visited the shops and sights near the Mexico border the next morning. Driving back on Christmas Eve with hidden presents to wrap (what the kids hadn’t opened already) made for a very long night! Yet, nothing compared to watching my son and Zineb’s excitement on Christmas morning.
January 2018– I never imagined I would feel so fulfilled as a host mom. Since her arrival, Zineb has been patient with us as she shared her culture and traditions. We are still learning to be mindful of her prayer times and respectful of the foods she can not eat. This month also marks the halfway/mid year point.
February 2018– Viva Las Vegas! When your best friend is moving to Las Vegas, NV and invites your family along you DO it! Although much of our time was spent unpacking boxes than shopping and sightseeing, we had a ton of fun!
March 2018– Denver here we come! This time it was all work for me, having to attend a conference. I managed to skip a few sessions to explore downtown Denver with the kids. We made the most of the trip spending nearly 4 hours in IKEA and visiting my cousin and his family in Colorado Springs.
Spring Break– Zineb travelled to California to visit a fellow Moroccan exchange student living there with his host mom. So glad to have the support of other host families near and far!
April 2018– Prom anyone?!? Oh the reminders of a having an instant teenager! It was an all-day affair from hair appointments to doing her makeup. Zineb was absolutely stunning! I was a bit nervous as any mom would be on prom night. All’s well that ends well.
May 2018– Where did the time go? Last day of school is May 23rd. The exchange program’s pre-return orientation is May 26th. Everyone is a bit somber, trying not to think about the inevitable. My grandmother visiting us is a great distraction. Zineb told me she reminder her of her own grandmother-a gift to us all.
June 2018- 10 months gone-just. like. that. We survived something new and unfamiliar, yet we became so close that it was hard to let go. Zineb from Morocco had become “Z” my Moroccan daughter. I felt relieved (that I survived with minimal damage) and sad (because her presence felt so organic) at the same time.
On June 5th, we were back in the same airport, with the same signs. This time, or hearts and smiles were different. They both grew.
Today, Zineb is 17 and on track to graduate high school in Morocco by 2020. She plans on returning to the US to pursue college.
Zineb came to study in the U.S. through the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange & Study (YES) Abroad Program, hosted through AFS.
Welcome to the wild, wild west! Spring break led us to Durango, Colorado where we were surprised to find snow still on the ground and the historic downtown trapped in time.
Couldn’t leave without a taste and see of the local breweries! 2 thumbs all the way up for Ska Brewery Co.
A quick stop at the Animal Shelter was our final adventure. A kitten nipped at our hearts, so we decided she was the one and renamed her Durango! After filling out the paperwork, we were told we couldn’t adopt her. Durango hates other animals…and that includes a Schnauzer by the name of Smokey that we have at home! In the end, no animals were harmed…but my kid’s heart was left a bit broken after saying our last goodbyes to Durango.