34 monthiversary!


All Rights Reserved Clare Says

Dear Little Elephant,

Today you are two years and 10 months old. I know that every Mama says their child is the smartest and the brightest and the most beautiful and the most wonderful; but in my case, I am right. You are brilliant (and very verbally precocious) and kind and outgoing and wonderful in a million different ways.

Your creativity is growing by leaps and bounds. While lying in bed this morning, you looked at the curtains and showed me how it formed an elephant with a long long trunk. I might not have been able to see it; but to you it was clear as day. At work the other day, a friend was holding you in his arms and listening intently to your stories. He furrowed his brow with concentration. Delighted, you yelled “Mommy, snakes! Look, he has snakes on his head.” Sure enough, the furrowed brow rolled skin on his forehead which perfectly resembled a row of snakes.

You compose songs. It is amazing to hear everything thought going through your head. You sing about your friends, about what you see, about what you are holding, about what you are doing, about what others are doing. The other day, you and A&O stood on the table (a no-no), looking into the mirror, and you strummed the guitar on your t-shirt and sang out: “we are on the table! We are not supposed to stand on the table! It is dangerous! Yes! You say no! We standing on the tableeeee!”

I love our little dance parties. We almost always have music on in the house. Sometimes it is Sesame Street. Sometimes it is jazz. Sometimes it is Mommy’s music. But, we can dance to anything and everything. I love how you watch very very carefully and try and follow my moves. Uncle J came over and put on “What does the fox say?” (I am sure when you are older and reading this, you won’t remember this song— but right now it is the coolest thing since sliced bread). He realized you were mimicking him and his dance moves got bolder and more daring. When O wanted to be held and dance with her Daddy, you got a little blond baby doll so you could continue to match his every motion. And, as Uncle J says, “Little Elephant’s hips don’t lie”.

You still love going to school.  The school had a Mother’s Day concert.  I wasn’t sure if you would participate since you aren’t a fulltime student, but your teacher said it was up to us.  In the end, I brought you.  You proudly walked on stage with all your classmates and then, when your turn was done, refused to leave.  You stayed up through the performance of all the older classes as well, singing where you could and trying to follow along.  In addition, you love to do art. You paint. You made a turtle and a fish from plates. We went to Ice Cream with Jugera the other day and she brought you playdoh with cookie cutters to make animals and little googly eyes to stick in them. We made an elephant (of course!) and I put on one eye. “No, Mommy. Not like that” you scolded. “She needs two eyes, like us. One. Two.” You flipped her over and added an eye.

You brought home a little turtle this month, you had found her wandering in the grass. You so wanted to keep your little turtle. But after two days, and her not eating, you agreed to let her go home to her Mommy. Little ones need their Mommies, you told me. Little do you know, how much this Mommy needs her little one.

Everyday you are better at expressing and naming your feelings. You even are starting to recognize and respond to the feelings of others. When O was crying the other day (she was teething), you found it very disturbing. You tried to hug her. You tried to feed her. You talked about it for days, reporting to your Daddy via Skype that O has an owie on her teeth and it makes her grumpy.

I love you every day. I love you no matter what. I love you when I am mad and when I am too tired and when you wake me. You are my sunshine, even if you keep telling me that your true sunshine is Stefan.



A place I once called home


Photo: Leonardo Maldonado on Flicker


My heart just bleeds seeing the photos come through my facebook account.  I am so thankful that my family is safe although the idea of them throwing water on the roof to avoid ashes setting fire to the place is still terrifying.  Honestly, until it had slowed, I couldn’t even look at the photos.   I still can’t wrap my head around the devastation.



Sometimes I pick out my Wordless Wednesday photo beforehand as the week can get quite busy.  Today, while perusing old photos, I happened upon one from Chascona, a Pablo Neruda house in Santiago.  I have actually visited all three of the houses and loved them each in their own way.  I chose it.  Now, later, I thought I should write something about him.

Most people (particularly those not from Chile) think of Pablo Neruda, the poet.  In particular, they think of his love poems and, truly, he was gifted.  In High School, I was tasked with memorizing and reciting one of his poems.  I choose “Poem 15” from Twenty Poems of Love, and One Desperate Song.

“Me gustas cuando callas porque estás como ausente.
Distante y dolorosa como si hubieras muerto.
Una palabra entonces, una sonrisa bastan.
Y estoy alegre, alegre de que no sea cierto.”

And of course, 100 Sonnets of Love, written for Matilda who lived in La Chascona, is well known and utterly moving.  For me, highlights include, Number 17:

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep

But, having lived in Chile and being close to people touched by the dictatorship, when I think of Pablo Neruda, I think of his political poems and the impact he had on the left during the dictatorship.

So let no one be perturbed when
I seem to be alone and am not alone;
I am with no one and I speak for all.

Someone is hearing me without knowing it,
but those I sing of, whose who know,
go on being born and will overflow the world.

And, my favorite:

My heart has traveled
in the same pair of shoes,
and i have digested the thorns.
I had no rest where I was:
where I hit out, I was struck
where they murdered me I fell;
and I revived, as fresh as ever,
and then and then and then and then-
it all takes so long to tell.

I have nothing to add.

I came to live in this world.

I have a coffee table book, Pablo Neruda, Absence and Presence, I love the photos (including of his destroyed house that Matilda had taken before passing away) and the portraits.  I love the poems and the politics.  The simplicity of this book.  I have the book hidden away for now, lest it be destroyed by my toddler, but someday, perhaps, I will bring it out again to share.


A tale of friendship


The three as monsters for Halloween 2013.

Not long after arriving in Tirana, we went to a community get together.  Little Elephant was just a year old, we were still making friends, and I was keen to have more kid friends for her.  I heard that a Peace Corps couple had twins that were just perfect to be friends with my daughter.  Perfect! Twins and Peace Corps!  Given my history as a Returned Peace Corps volunteer and having had close friendships with the Peace Corps staff in every country I have lived— I was ecstatic.  Imagine my disappointment when they rolled in with two babies!  Only 5 months old!  How could their babies be friends with my budding little girl?  I can still remember the deep disappointment I felt.  Luckily, 20 months later, they are 2, Little Elephant is 2.5, and they are the best of friends.  In fact, given their way, I am pretty sure they would spend every waking moment together.  Us parents get along really well too.  It is a win all around.  Side note, their Mom doesn’t even remember our first meeting— it was still during the haze of babyness.