Dialogue with Zoe: Let it Go

DSC05183Zoe and I are singing “Let it Go” at the top of our lungs.

– No right or wrong, no rules for me. I’m free!

– Mommy, it’s not like that. It’s not “free”. It’s “bree”.

– Hmmm, but she’s talking about how now she is finally free… and anyways, what is “bree”?

– It’s like this: “No right or wrong, no rules for me. It’s brie!” She’s talking about cheese.

Looks like Princess Elsa was letting go of her diet!

Clearly, in this house, we talk more about food than about freedom.

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Love at Second Sight


“After a death, there is always a birth,” my mother-in-law used to say.

A couple of weeks ago, our rabbit died. I won’t go into details. Suffice it to say that when you see a vulture perched on your fence staring at something on the grass, and your bunny is not in its cage, it is not a good sign.

After the initial shock, the request came in: “Can we have a dog now? Pleeeeeaaaase”

To my surprise, Jean-Marc said yes. He had been the one resisting the idea of a dog, worrying about the responsibility that a pet implies, what to do when we’re on vacation, who would walk him every day. Above all, he wanted to keep the house clean and smelling good. It’s not that he didn’t like dogs. He liked them as long as they were well behaved and didn’t stink.

We quickly agreed on adopting a dog from the Humane Society. We liked the idea of giving an adult dog a second chance, and we weren’t looking for a pet with a higher pedigree than our own.

The following Sunday after spending the afternoon at the beach, we stopped by the Broward Humane Society. I was not expecting what I saw. The place was spotless. A beautiful building with large, very clean kennels for the dogs. Dozens of volunteers petting the animals, offering to help. Two minutes after we walked in, the girls fell in love with Goofie, a 2 year old yellow lab mix, that licked their fingers through the door, ran from one end of his kennel to the other and jumped in excitement when they spoke to him.

One of employees informed us that Goofie was a good dog but a little bit rambuctious -which we had already figured out- and that he would need quite a bit of training and lots of exercise to burn all that energy.

We let the girls know that we were looking for a dog that was a little bit more calm.

“Look, mommy, this one is good for us. He doesn’t have a lot of energy,” said Zoe, pointing to a small dog that was sleeping in his kennel.

Then we walked into kennel #2 and I saw him. Maddox was a German-sheperd mix, with a beautiful brown, black and white face and somewhat of a comic expression. He was thought to be around 2 years old and had been transferred from a shelter in Mississippi. When we talked to him though the plastic doors, he seemed interested but not overly excited.

I inquired at the front desk but they barely had any information on him.

“If you’re interested in him, we can take him over to a room so you can interact with him,” the lady explained. “Only that it would have to be another day because we’re closing in 15 minutes.”

The following week I checked the Humane Society’s website every other day to make sure Maddox was still there. The more I looked at his picture, the more I liked him. He was around 45 pounds, perfect size, and seemed very friendly. I could picture myself going out for a morning jog with him. The girls had gotten over the Goofie dissappointment so by the time we were able to go back, we were ready to give Maddox a chance.

We waited in one of the private rooms while the lady went to get Maddox. He walked in the room, sniffed the wall, lifted his leg and marked his territory.

“Looks like he might need some training,” said the lady. “Let me take you to another room and clean up.”

In the next room, Maddox sniffed under the door, lifted his leg, and repeated his routine.  The lady cleaned up again. We offered him treats, which he quicky ate and proceeded to stare out the door, interested in everything going on around him – except us. We pet him and talked to him. He let us touch him but didn’t make eye contact.

“Do they usually react like this?” I asked the lady.

“I’ve shown him before,” she said, “and he seems particularly aloof today.”

Fifteen minutes later he was still ignoring us. I had to admit that love at first sight is overrated, as anybody who has watched the movie Frozen knows. Maddox was not the dog for us.

The second candidate was chosen by Julia. Kiki was an 11-month old female lab mix, almost as rambuctious as Goofie, only that taller and black (not the best choice for a house with white tile in the living area). The private room was not big enough for her to express her joy when she saw us, she tried to jump on us, on the bench, licking, turning, wagging her tail.

It wasn’t easy to say no to the “Please, pleeeeease, pleeeeease”s that followed, but we weren’t ready for a pup.

Feeling hopeless, we went back to the kennels to take one last look.

“What about this one?” said Jean-Marc.

Catrina was a 2 year old brown labrador mix, with a pretty, rather sad expression in her dark eyes. She was lying down in her bed, and looked up when we talked to her. We were told she had arrived to Florida the day before, from a shelter in Georgia. They had no background information on her.

When they brought her to the private room, she sniffed us, refused the treats, and lied down with a sigh.

“She doesn’t seem very playful,” said Julia, although in Catrina’s defense I don’t think any dog would have seemed playful compared to Kiki.

“She’s probably confused; it’s been a big change for her,” the lady said.  A couple of minutes later, she rested her head on Julia’s lap and started wagging her tail.

“She’s so cute. I want her!” said Julia.

The next step in the process was to go out to a grass area, where Catrina did two things I loved. First, she immediately started playing with the girls, running after them from one end of the area to the other. Second, she walked over to the side of the grass area and did number 2.

Jean-Marc and I looked at each other.

“I think we have a dog,” he said to the lady.

After much deliberation, we settled on the name Muffy, a suggestion from Zoe based on a character from Arthur, her favorite TV show.

Muffy had to be spayed. When we picked her up she was drowsy and red-eyed and slept for hours. She’s still recovering from the surgery and from her overall condition. The vet told us to take it easy for a couple of months. She is heartworm positive (a disease that is being treated but can be fatal), she has an infection in her respiratory system (very common in shelter dogs), she’s malnourished and weak.

Even so, every day she warms up to us a little bit more.

She follows me around the house all the time. She wags her tail when I talk to her. In the street, she walks beside me and doesn’t seem threatened or scared when she hears other dogs barking. The only time she pulls on her leash is when she sees ducks but she backs off when I say “no”, and Zoe adds “Muffy, the ducks are your friends.”

She is very gentle with Zoe and hasn’t chewed on any toys or furniture. So far, she blends in very well with us. She loves to sleep (like me), and she clearly prefers the couch or a bed to the floor (also like me).  She’s not interested in food.  She’s starting to eat now but only out of my hand, not out of the bowl (like Zoe). She’s not much of a talker (we’ve never heard her bark, actually).

We still can’t give her a bath because of the surgery and as much as I love her I admit that she stinks.

But, what can I say?

In Princess Elsa’s words:

Let it go, let it go

That spotless house is gone

Here I stand

Muffy’s here to stay

Let the house smell bad

hair dog never bothered me anyway

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Dialogue with Zoe: Sunday Dialogues

– Zoe, what dress would you like to wear for church today?

(Zoe comes back with a princess costume)

– Hmmm… that’s very nice but it’s not really a dress. It’s a princess costume.

– But Mommy, I’m a princess that wants to go to church. Can’t princesses go to church?

(Driving to church with Zoe/Rapunzel).

– Mommy, I have a question.

– Yes Zoe..

– Who is bigger: Goliath or Big Bird?

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Dialogo con Zoe: Acerca de la Edad

– Mami, cuando vayamos a Buenos Aires yo voy a ir todos los días a Las Cumbres porque yo soy cinco.

– Yo TENGO cinco.

(Expresión confundida).

– No mami, vos no tenés cinco. Vos tenés mucho más que cinco.

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Dialogue with Zoe: The Lost Puppy

We’re riding in the car on the way to my sister Marcella’s house, and my aunt Mini proposes a game.

– Let’s make up a story. I’ll start and then each one of us will add to the story and we’ll make it up together.

– OK -we all say

Mini starts: Once upon a time there was a cute puppy, brown and black with long ears and dark eyes, and he left his house, and he got lost! … Now, Zoe, it’s your turn…

– So the puppy turned on the GPS and went back home.

I believe we created one of the shortest stories ever.

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Dialogue with Zoe: About Traditions

– Zoe, today we’re going to the Book Fair! I’m happy because it’s one of my favorite traditions.

– What’s a tradition?

– A tradition is something you do regularly, like once a year, and it makes you happy. For example, every year we go to the Book Fair. That’s a tradition. Or, every year we go to Buenos Aires to visit our family. That’s a tradition. Or every Sunday we go to church..

– But that’s not every year.

– You’re right. But a tradition can be every week, like every Friday we have sushi, or a tradition can be something you do every day. For example, every night we read a book, then we pray, then daddy gives you a kiss and then you go to sleep. That’s a tradition. Can you think of a tradition?

Zoe thinks.

– Mommy, every morning I wake up and I go to the bathroom and I go pipi. That’s a tradition!

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Sophie’s Birth

 “You’re almost there. Push,” doctor Del Boca said, in the delivery room of Miami Baptist Hospital. 

I had arrived some hours earlier, after my water broke.  I chose to have an epidural and I was relaxed while the contractions grew closer and stronger.  The room was dimly lit and I could hear the baby’s heartbeat on the hospital’s monitor, a sound of galloping horses slowly rocking me to sleep. 

I wondered what she felt as she left what had been her warm cozy home for the past nine months. For so long I had wondered how the delivery would be, and at that point I realized that this was about her, not about me. 

After all, she was undergoing the most drastic change of her life.

“You’re doing great.  I’m so proud of you,” said Jean-Marc as he held my hand, his blue eyes looking into mine.  I squeezed his hand. 

I breathed in, I pushed and I saw the back of the baby’s little head, covered with hair, emerging from between my legs.  I was witnessing a miracle. 

Even before her body was out she started to cry loudly. A minute later she was out.

“Here’s your baby,” the doctor said, and placed her on my chest. 

A beautiful little face, with eyes as dark blue stones and a triangle-shaped mouth. I had spent months dreaming of her, wondering what she would like and dislike, if she would be shy or outgoing, if she would love books that way I do, but I had never imagined she would be that beautiful. 

Jean-Marc and I looked at her with amazement and the infinite, unconditional love you discover when you have a child. 

November 27, 2006, 3.46 a.m. The happiest moment of my life.

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Dialogue with Zoe: Thanksgiving

Overheard while volunteering in Zoe’s VPK class last week:

Teacher: Chidren, why is Miss Danielle wearing a hat with feathers?

Child 1: Because it’s Halloween!

Teacher: No, Halloween was last month…

Child 2: Because it’s Hannukah!

Teacher: No, that’s coming up soon but we don’t wear feathers. Because it’s Thanks…

Children: …giving!

Teacher: Yes! There were two groups of people that came together for Thanksgiving: the pilgrims and the Indians

Child, from India: Like me! I’m Indian

Teacher: Well, these were a different kind of Indians

Child: Were they from India?

Teacher: No, they were from America.

Child, confused: Oh.

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The Oceans in My Life


God named the dry ground “Land,” and he named the water “Ocean.” God looked at what he had done and saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:10)

There are two oceans in my life. 

The first one is the rough ocean, dangerous and unstoppable, with white waves crashing against the shores or beating the rocks of the cliffs. I can spend hours looking at it. 

It is the ocean of the cliffs on the Atlantic Ocean in Mar del Plata, and the ocean that was ours for 10 days on the Pacific Coast in Westport, California. It smells of salt and algae. It draws you in and spits you back. It is a never ending source of energy, fueled by furious forces hidden under its waves. 

This ocean reminds me of my grandmother Ita. We used to watch the majestic waters of the Acantilados in Mar del Plata, on the high cliffs where we were tempted and scared of getting a little bit closer to see better. It is in that land of wind, sun and salt that her ashes were scattered.   

Ita did not have an easy life. Her husband died when she was 23 years old, leaving her alone to raise my mom, who was 2 years old, and my uncle, who was 6 months old. She was very close to her family, who stood by her side and supported her emotionally and financially. 

She was a teacher and took several jobs to make ends meet. She had the energy of the brave ocean, always coming back for more. She did not remarry. She used to tell us that she was like the doves, that mate for life. 

She never had much because she spent every extra dollar she had on gifts. She definitely spent more than she should have on my sister and I, but our memories of her are not related to the gifts, but to the times we spent together.  Although she didn’t save a penny, she never lacked anything. Somehow the gifts that she made would come back in different and unexpected forms. 

She was one of the happiest people I’ve met. Being with her was always a party. When I slept over at her place, we would snuggle in bed and watch comedies and eat ice cream from the pot, because there is no doubt that it tastes better like that, until the TV transmission ended and vertical bars appeared on the screen.  

When I turned 15 she invited me to Iguazu Falls. The falls are breathtaking, but the highlights of the trip were around our adventures together. One night we had dinner at the fancy restaurant of the hotel. It must have been off-season because we were the only ones there, together with an army of waiters without much to do. Ita quickly realized that by the time her glass of water was half empty, a waiter would ceremoniously walk all the way from the other end of the restaurant to refill it. 

“Drink some water, let’s see if he comes again,” she told me. 

I did, and the man immediately started walking towards us at a slow, steady pace and refilled my glass with a very serious expression. 

“Let’s see what happens if I drink only 1/4 of the glass,” she said, once the waiter had reached his original waiting spot. 

She took a sip and looked in his direction. Sure enough, the waiter came promptly from the other end of the room to refill the glass. By the end of dinner we were laughing so hard one would have thought we were drinking vodka.  

Ita died of cancer 2 years later, at the age of 62. I’ve been told a couple of times that I look like her, and it makes me smile. I dream of her sometimes, and in my dreams I tell her about my life and I’m thrilled that she gets to attend my wedding and meet my daughters. 

The second ocean in my life is the placid ocean, the calm waters of the Caribbean Sea, of lakes and lagoons, where you can trace the small, gentle waves with the tip of your finger, and follow the ripples when you throw a pebble. 

It is the warm waters that your toes don’t want to leave, where you can soak in for hours and let yourself go, carried by a soft current, knowing that you are safe. 

This ocean is my Sophie, who did not yet have the energy to crash huge waves on a cliff.  It is the sea of beginnings, of discoveries, of unconditional love, where time is lost because there is only here and now. 

It is the calm waters of Matheson Hammock beach, where we scattered her ashes barely four months after she was born. 

It is the peaceful waters of Jenny Lake, in Grand Teton National Park, where I canoed with Julia while Zoe, who was too young to go on the canoe, played on the shore with Jean-Marc. It is the breathtaking Yellowstone Lake where we had a picnic and threw pebbles in the water until our arms were numb. 

It is the quiet waters of the lakes in Peru and the Gulf of Mexico, that turn into a mirror at night only to reflect the moonlight, our Luna bella shining through the darkness. Also gone too early but also here, forever. 

It is the gentle ocean so blue that you can’t tell where it ends and where the sky begins, and you realize it doesn’t really matter because it is all One. 

Over the past years we visited some of the most beautiful natural sceneries of the United States. We took a motorcycle tour to the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and Zion National Park. We traveled Shenandoah Valley. We spent 2 weeks in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. We drove through Utah and Colorado. I fell for the mountains, the redness of the land, the green valleys, the wonder of the desert flowers. 

Every time we visit a new region, I think about what it would be like if I lived there. As much as I enjoyed all of those places I know I could never call them home. 

I couldn’t live without the ocean. 

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Dialogo con Zoe: Explorando el mundo

– Amor, viste que Joshua y Abi y sus papas se van a vivir a Corea?

– Ay… donde queda Corea?

– Muy muy lejos, cerca de China.

– Mami, podemos buscar Corea en la carta.

– Si amor! En espanol se dice mapa.

– No mami, papi dice “la carte”. “La carte” es la carta. Suenan igual, ves?

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