Giving back: a global perspective

I remember the first time that I really ever saw poverty. It was 1989 and my family took a month to drive down to Mexico to visit our relatives. While we were by no means wealthy, we were comfortable in a very Midwestern fashion. We had a house. We had a garden. We had clothes, shoes and enough to eat. And as a child, this was the type of world that I assumed everyone lived in.


When we crossed into Juarez, Mexico, I was introduced to a different type of world. The distinctions were, to me, evident everywhere. The brightly colored houses made of plaster. There were children playing in the streets with their dogs in intense games of soccer. There were open corner markets full of candy and treats. And there were also people, in some cases maimed or physically handicapped, begging for money.

Poverty occurs everywhere, but this was the first time that I noticed it and I was still rather young. As an adult, I can detect people struggling in my own town. I see people asking for money on street corners in Chicago every day. But, one of the benefits of travel is that you look at the world around you with renewed interest because nothing is familiar. That feeling of wonder stuck with me, even after all these years.

For Lent, I told the girls that we are entering a period of service. I explained that this means that we try to do good deeds that help others. I told them that if they help with certain chores around the house or for the family, that I will give them money (they don’t currently receive an allowance) and that the money will go into their “Lenten Box.”

At the end of Lent, we would then donate all the money to help provide for those in need. They were very excited and asked to decorate their “Lenten Box” this morning.  They are brainstorming ideas on how to help people (and who to help) so that they can feed their frog.

I haven’t decided whether we will turn the money into our Parish or whether we will donate outright to a charity. If you have suggestions or volunteer with a worthy cause, please leave a comment! I’d love to hear about causes close to your hearts and whether or not we could donate to them!

En Español:

Recuerdo la primera vez que vi la pobreza. Era 1989 y mi familia tomó un mes para conducir a México para visitar a nuestros abuelos. Mientras no estábamos ricos, estábamos cómodos en una manera muy Americana. Teníamos una casa. Teníamos un jardín. Teníamos ropa, zapatos y suficiente para comer. Y cuando era niño, este era el tipo de mundo en el que asumí que todos vivían.

Cuando cruzamos a Juárez, México, me introdujeron en un mundo diferente. Las distinciones eran para mí evidentes en todas partes. Las casas de colores brillantes de yeso. Había niños jugando en las calles, con perros, jugando al fútbol. Había mercados de esquina abiertos llenos de dulces y golosinas. Y había gente, en algunos casos mutilada o físicamente discapacitada, pidiendo dinero.

La pobreza se produce en todas partes, pero esta fue la primera vez que me di cuenta y yo todavía era bastante joven. Como un adulto, puedo detectar a las personas que luchan en mi propia ciudad. Veo gente pidiendo dinero en las esquinas de las calles de Chicago todos los días. Pero, uno de los beneficios del viaje es que usted mira el mundo alrededor de usted con el interés renovado porque nada es familiar. Ese sentimiento de asombro se mantuvo conmigo, incluso después de todos estos años.

Para la Cuaresma, les dije a las chicas que estamos entrando en un período de servicio. Le expliqué que esto significa que tratamos de hacer buenas acciones que ayuden a otros. Les dije que si ayudan con ciertas tareas en la casa o con la familia, les doy dinero (no reciben actualmente una asignación) y que el dinero irá a su “Banco de Cuaresma”.

Al final de Cuaresma, entonces donaremos todo el dinero para ayudar a proveer para aquellos que lo necesitan. Estaban muy emocionados y pidieron que decoraran su “Cuaderno” esta mañana. Son ideas de lluvia de ideas sobre cómo ayudar a las personas (y que para ayudar) para que puedan alimentar a su rana.

No he decidido si invertiremos el dinero en nuestra parroquia o si donaremos directamente a una organización benéfica. Si usted tiene sugerencias o voluntarios con una causa digna, por favor deje un comentario! Me encantaría escuchar acerca de las causas cercanas a sus corazones y si o no podíamos donar a ellos!





Mardi Gras: a celebration

As a Latina, I’ve always celebrated holidays with friends and family. My grandmother always made it a point to make every holiday a little special for us. And now, my extended family always makes an effort to celebrate their traditions with the girls, ensuring the cultural significance gets passed down to the next generation.

Mardi Gras in a Latin-Catholic family is about shiny necklaces, sparkly masks made of paper and then the last sad goodbye to whatever treat or activity that you will give up for the Lenten season. In my husband’s Italian family, they tend to focus on amazing food, which just elevates the celebration!

This year, Mike just returned from a trip abroad and so we’ve been fortunate to ramp up for Mardi Gras with new masks from Italy:


The girls received buckets of beads while their cousin was attending Loyola in NOLA. Olivia is VERY excited to wear hers to school:

And finally, no celebration would be quite as sweet without the king cake!


We wish everyone a safe and happy Mardi Gras!

Multicultural appreciation

This is my daughter’s first year in real school, kindergarten. This means new rules for us as a family regarding when we can travel. It’s new for us and we’re adjusting, but we also have the opportunity to participate in interesting new events, such as International Appreciation Day at school.


Because my heritage is Latina/Chicana, I assumed that the girls would wear pretty dresses from Coyoacan, we’d bring some tacos and we’d all have a good time.

Then, I received an excited email from my husband, who is 1/4 Scottish. “I’m going to make Haggis for International fair!”

Oh. My. Goodness.

If you haven’t tried haggis, it’s spiced sheep pluck and you can usually find it at a local Highlands festival. It’s REALLY good and I encourage you to try it. I’m unsure how I feel about having it cooked in my home, but we’ll see.

I didn’t think much more about it until I came home and Mike said that we had an email update that there was going to be a PARADE for the festival and the kids could participate.

What does that mean exactly? In my house, it means BAGPIPES.
My husband unearthed his bagpipes from the depths of our basement and cleaned them up for my 5 year old to play in the school parade.

If you have heard bag pipes in real life, you know that they are a unique sound and can only imagine the delight that making these noises has brought to my child. So, if the purpose of International Appreciation was to interest your children in their heritage and open them to new ideas, then mission accomplished.

In the mean time, Bella and I will just be sitting here appreciating Olivia’s new musical talents.



Lunar New Year: home and abroad

We’re rapidly approaching the date for 2017 Lunar New Year, which is January 27th this year. Lunar New Year is celebrated in most of Asia and, fortunately for us, is celebrated locally in many American urban areas. However, if this holiday is a mysterious entry in your calendar, let’s discuss Lunar New Year!


We’ve been fortunate enough to spend Lunar New Year in Thailand and Australia prior to having our kids, so I can tell you that every country celebrates a bit differently, but Lunar New Year is celebrated for 7 days and is the traditional “start of spring” in many countries.

2017 is officially the Year of the Rooster in the Chinese Zodiac and people traditionally spend it by going back to their hometowns and spending time with their families. Prior to the holiday, people traditionally clean their homes to clear out the last year. Then, on the first morning of the year, people who are “Roosters” will visit families to bring luck to their homes by ushering in the “year of the rooster.” A party with food and the exchange of envelopes with money are given out to wish good fortune and wealth for the new year. We purchased envelopes for the girls to hand out to their friends in class.


Domestically, you can share in Lunar New Year celebrations in many major cities.  In Chicago, we have a series of events and our own lantern festival in the crystal gardens at Navy Pier. There is also a wonderful exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago celebrating the Lunar New Year. I encourage you to check out your local tourism boards to find out if something great is happening in a city near you!