About Me

Thanks for being here! I am a mom of three (two girls, 15 and 13, and one boy, 9) and a teacher of many (thousands during my more than 17 years teaching high school English and Spanish in Philadelphia). Forever a student, I love learning - whether through talking to others, reading, watching movies and documentaries, or traveling. I also love running (slowly), hiking, and practicing yoga!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


This past February my sister and I took our parents into Philadelphia to see a performance by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater for my Dad's birthday, which is January 6th. I was thinking about the amazing performance yesterday, because I found myself singing "Wade in the water,/Wade in the wa-a-ter./Wade in the water/... Rock a my soul in the bosom of Abraham" as I put Joseph to bed (not the signature bedtime fare, but he had been baptized the day before, so perhaps that's why). In any case, this is the song that ended the February show and also the performance that made Alvin Ailey Dance Theater famous to begin with. In February, there was a video before the dance where people talked about their memories of seeing this incredible choreography for the first time and how it had changed their lives. There were lots of young African American girls at the performance with their mothers, and I remember thinking how wonderful it would be to bring Grace (though not African American) some day. She would love this! I thought. I know she would.
Alvin Ailey Dance Theater performing "Wade in the Water" (http://southernperlo.wordpress.com/2011/02/19/decoding-wade-in-the-water/)
So when the Kimmel Center for Performing Arts catalog came today,  I was so excited to see a November performance by PHILADANCO, a high-energy group that promotes African American dance traditions. Even better, the show featured a world premiere from a current Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater member! Grace was lying on the floor, coloring. "Grace! How would you like to go see an amazing dance show with me this fall?" Just me and her, I thought. It was hard to get enough time one on one with each other. This would be great!

Grace didn't look up. "Um ... no thanks," she responded.

Perhaps she didn't understand. I explained further about the show and how great it would be. "Well, maybe," she humored me.

Joseph, in his baptism outfit, with Grace this past Sunday
This in first grade? She is still so sweet, playing pretend with her younger sister one moment and telling me she loves me the next, but I can see walking towards me, from a distance, a Grace who doesn't always want me by her side. The way that I was with my mother, and the way my mother was with hers, I'm sure. Grace, sweet Grace ... I'm booking the tickets tomorrow.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Welcome Summer!

Mimosa Lake after the rain. June 22nd, 2011.
The view from my sister's back yard. 
My last day at school was Wednesday, and as I packed up my belongings I came across a lovely little book called Drink Cultura: Chicanismo by José Antonio Burciaga. In it he writes short, entertaining essays on everything from jalapeño peppers to chicano heroes such as Cesar Chávez and Luis Valdez. One of my favorites is his essay on the Poinsettia flower, whose original Aztec name was cuetlaxochitl (coo-eht-la-soch-itl), or "flower that whithers, mortal flower that perishes like all that is pure." It was Ambassador to Mexico Joel Robert Poinsett from Charleston, South Carolina who introduced the flower to the United States in 1825, years after the Aztecs first cultivated it (Poinsett was chased out of Mexico in 1829 for meddling too much in the country's affairs, but that's another story). In any case, I wasn't thinking about Poinsett but rather the lovely definition of cuetlaxochitl as I began my summer by driving from Philadelphia to Mimosa Lakes in Medford, NJ, where my sister lives. My mom was there with Grace, Genevieve, and Joseph, as well as my sister's kids: Emma, 6, Eddie, 4 (almost 5, as he will tell you), and Tyson, 1. They are all best friends and were certainly not thinking about any withering flowers when I arrived, but rather joyfully splashing in the lake (everyone but Joseph).

It seems like most people I meet from South Jersey have a story about Medford, or Medford Lakes. My father in law remembers swimming clear across one of the larger lakes years ago, and my own father swam here as a boy as well, as the picture of him and his father, the grandfather I never met, attests to. My grandmother, Nana, the Grace Elizabeth that my daughter is named after (though my grandmother went by "Betty"), used to be a camp counselor on these lakes during the summer. Once she told me a story about a huge thunderstorm in the middle of the night, and how she had to run out in the rain to secure the tent. She still remembered the feeling of the rain soaking through to her skin, the lightning illuminating the night sky, more than 60 years later.

Grace, Emma, Eddie, and Genevieve. 
My own children and nieces and nephews were ignorant of this history as they simply enjoyed the eternal pleasure of a cool lake on a hot afternoon, their shouts echoing across the lake, pine trees almost imperceptibly swaying in the slightest of breezes. They had already showered and dressed when the clouds rolled in and a sudden rainstorm began, announced by one year old Ty, who was standing at the front window keeping watch, with an excited "Woah!" Within minutes, even as it continued to rain, the sun came out brightly, and everyone ran to the back porch to see if there was a rainbow (there wasn't). Still, the kids couldn't resist grabbing their umbrellas and playing.

After an hour or so we came in for a pizza dinner on the screened porch, and then pajamas were put on for the long ride home. Summer is here, and though it can't last forever, I'm looking forward to the afternoons of swimming, the morning bike rides, the evenings catching fireflies, and the overall unhurried pace of life unscheduled that it provides.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Running Cooper River Park

This morning Joseph woke at 5. Everyone else in the house was still asleep, and Joseph, after nursing, was wide awake, so I decided to put him in the jog stroller and run the river loop. I'm not a morning person, so this is something I rarely do. Joseph settled in for the ride and sucked his thumb, looking at me occasionally and smiling, and I got a nice calm start to the day: rowers on the river, a few people out walking their dogs, families of geese feeding on the grass. Towards the end of the run Joseph had enough and needed to be carried. He snuggled in like a little bear cub, and I cooled down before getting home and showering for the day. Though I'll never be a morning person, I was reminded today of the pleasures of an early run on a summer day.

 The picture below is of Joseph with big sister Grace, taken today on our front lawn.

Below is a blog I originally wrote and posted on ourprayer.org when Grace turned 5 two years ago. How fast time goes!:

For my daughter Grace’s birthday a few weeks ago, my parents gave her a refurbished two-wheel bike complete with streamers, a basket, and an “I love my bike” bell. Now one of Grace’s favorite activities is riding around the four mile trail that begins right at the end of our block. I follow behind, pushing her younger sister Genevieve in a jog stroller (Genevieve inevitably hates this and screams to get out and run the whole time, but what can you do?). The trail runs along the Cooper River, popular among rowers, sailors, and kayakers, and it has a great view of the Philadelphia skyline. On the far side of the river there’s a playground, where we often stop for a few turns on the slides and swings. The park smells like honeysuckle and barbecue, and it sounds like salsa music and laughter. I’ve always loved it.

Grace must have inherited this love, because as we made our way around the park last weekend, she let out a little whoop of joy, and then a “Woohoo!” It was a beautiful evening, with the sun low in the sky over the city, and little wisps of white clouds scattered across a pale blue sky. The air was cool, and lots of people were out for an evening stroll. Even better for Grace, she was able to ride so fast on her new bike that I could barely keep up.

Suddenly, just as she reached the bridge to cross to the other side of Cooper River, Grace brought her bike to a screeching halt. As I caught up to her, huffing and puffing, she looked at me seriously. “Mommy,” she asked, “How long do I get to be five?”

“You get to be five for one year, just like every other age.”

“Only one year?” Grace exclaimed, truly shocked and dismayed, “Oh, man!” She thought for a moment more, still straddling her bike (Genevieve had fallen asleep in the stroller).

“How many months do I get to be five for?”

“Twelve,” I answered.

Grace opened her mouth in amazement.“Twelve whole months!” she shouted. “Yes!”

She thought for a moment more. “How many days?”

At this answer, 365, Grace was back in her glory. She sat on her bike again and started pedaling, a huge smile on her face. 365 days to be five! Could life be any better?

Life can be long, and life can be short, but, as Grace reminded me, living it day by day and moment by moment is always the best way to go.