Sunday, January 24, 2010

South American dreams

My first visit to a Spanish-speaking country was when I got on a plane by myself at age 18 and flew to Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia to be a Rotary exchange student. The year was 1991. I had graduated from high school two months before, and decided to take a gap year before going to the University of Miami. I had applied and deferred a scholarship to participate in the exchange. I was armed with 10 years of Spanish classes, 1 summer at the International Language Village for Spanish in Bemidji, Minnesota (where I bunked in a cabin with a girl from Rancho Santa Fe, California who actually knew Joaquin* Phoenix and his sisters Liberty and Rainbow and his brother River, whom I adored), and a letter from my host family which was accompanied by a shadowy picture of them standing in their backyard. It was tough to make out the individual faces in the picture but one thing was sure. There were a lot of them. I would have four sisters in my new family, two of whom were already married with babies and living in the same family home. When they met me at the airport on August 26 they greeted me with hugs and flowers and I instantly became "la quinta", the fifth daughter. Eighteen years later, my host family and I keep in contact. Two sisters live with their families in the Washington D.C. area and there are cousins here in California where I now live. The experience was half a lifetime ago for me, yet it has shaped every day since. Mostly because after four months of listening so much that my ears physically hurt at the end of the day, I learned Spanish there.

I have visited other Spanish speaking countries since then, including Mexico, Spain, and Costa Rica. I have been back to Bolivia twice, in 1994 and 1997. Now that I am making the effort to speak to my 7 1/2 month old son in Spanish, it is awakening memories and a desire to travel with my family back to Bolivia for a visit. So much has changed there, politically and economically. My husband has traveled to Argentina and Chile and would be game for a trip to Bolivia. I would love to see Argentina, Chile and maybe even Peru. His paternal grandfather, Joe, retired to Costa Rica a few years ago. My husband and I visited the Christmas we got married, in 2006. We plan to bring the baby for Christmas this year. Then we can start planning our South American odyssey. The more authentic language he hears, the better!

*During that time he went by the name Leaf.

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Saturday, January 2, 2010

Developing Children's Intuition

"Just go with your gut," is a popular phrase that refers to the intuitive guidance provided by our bodies. "I had a gut feeling" is another. If you've ever picked up the phone and just known who was on the other end (without the benefit of caller id, that is) then you've made use of your intuitive skills. Humans have so much untapped brain power and intuition is just a tiny sliver of it. There are many ways to have fun while developing intuitive skills with kids. Guessing games are great for developing and enhancing intuition. Here is a game that is fun with groups of three or more kids. (best for ages 5-10)

1. Put a colored stone (marbles or decorator glass pebbles work great) inside a small bag.
2. Pass the bag around, encouraging the child to take their time while holding the bag to get a "sense" of what the color might be.
3. Have each child predict what color the stone is before passing the bag to the next player.
4. After everyone has had a chance, reveal the stone.

Variations: To avoid "copycatting", change the stone for each player. -or- instead of using stones, have one player visualize a color and the others write down (or use a crayon if they do not write yet) their guesses. Have players take turns visualizing.

This game stimulates brain activity and can also be played by guessing almost anything. For example:

How many pieces of mail are in the mailbox?
Who will be the next person to call or email?
What animal, number, letter, or object am I thinking of?

Developing intuition is all about trusting your instincts; that inner knowing. People often second-guess their first feelings about something, but it can be highly beneficial to attune to the signals of this guidance. In some cases, it even saves lives. There are dozens of stories about people who followed a hunch to not board a plane that later crashed. By playing guessing games and helping children learn to trust themselves, they will be that much more prepared for all the decisions and demands required of them as they grow.

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Friday, January 1, 2010


Twinkle: verb (of a star or light, or a shiny object)* shine with a gleam that varies repeatedly between bright and faint
noun *a sparkle or gleam in a person's eyes
* a light that appears to continually grow fainter and brighter

Spanish: papadear (star, light) brillar (eyes)

Twinkle is my theme word for 2010. For the past three years, I have selected a word to focus on for the year. In 2008, it was "sparkle". In 2009, it was "bounce". I wanted to be more resilient. This year, I selected twinkle, mostly because it is a synonym for sparkle and I loved feeling sparkly all year. Looking for the glitter in life. I am looking for a balance between inner and outer focus, so twinkle seemed appropriate because it incorporates the brightness and the faint, quiet glow of each. What is your theme word for 2010?

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