Club Penguin’s Penguin Cup!

penguin-cup

I’m part of the Windows Champions Program. As a Windows Champion, I have been loaned a Surface Pro 2, a Venue 8 Pro, and, on occasion, Microsoft products such as software to assist me in developing content for my blog posts. All opinions are my own.

Everyone has soccer fever, and if your child plays Club Penguin, you may have heard that The Penguin Cup is coming up on June 19th to July 1st.

penguin-cup-magazine

http://www.kpopstarz.com/articles/93889/20140602/club-penguin-codes-2014-coins-spoiler-alert.htm

Some aspects of The Penguin Cup will be accessible only to those with paid membership, so if your child’s membership has lapsed, you may want to sign them back up. My 12 year old still plays Club Penguin (or Club Pingüino, as I like to call it) and he renewed his membership in anticipation. Club Penguin will have new gear to collect, a soccer stadium with games to watch, teams to cheer for, and more! This video gives a sneak peek, (and I love the Spanish-speaking penguin!)

My 12 year old likes to play Club Penguin on our Surface Pro 2 with Windows because he can use the mouse pad or touchscreen to select things and move around. I love to let him play this game because he often switches it to Spanish. It makes me proud to watch him navigate around en español without any problem.

soccer-penguin

Which games do your children play online in Spanish?

A Garden for la Virgen de Guadalupe

The garden before we fixed it up.

The garden before we fixed it up.

As a member of Lowe’s Creative Ideas Network I received gift cards from Lowe’s in order to purchase supplies to complete projects. All opinions are my own.

Many years ago my suegra brought a very large statue of the Virgen de Guadalupe into our household. At the time I wasn’t happy about it because it was extremely large and she expected us to display it in the middle of our small living room. We ended up putting the statue in a garden on the side of our house, and that’s where it’s been ever since.

Over the years Carlos and I both became fond of the statue, (although we’re happy with its outdoor location and don’t regret putting it there) and this year we decided we should give a little more care to the neglected garden we put her in.

virgin-garden-BEFORE-2

I spent hours at Lowe’s trying to decide what I wanted to plant in the garden. We knew we needed top soil, so that went onto the cart first, but then I took forever choosing flowers.

Roses seemed a logical choice because of the story of the Virgen de Guadalupe, but I was a little intimidated by the thought of caring for them. It’s been a couple months now since we planted the roses though, and I have to say, they really haven’t been difficult. If you’ve always wanted to plant roses but have been worried you’ll kill them, I recommend buying some and giving it a try.

Carlos says I have a “good hand” with the plants, (that’s a direct translation of “buena mano” in Spanish – which is like saying someone has a green thumb), but it isn’t true. I’m not a great gardener and I’ve had things die before – a lot of the time I think I just get lucky, but really, the roses haven’t been a challenge at all.

Besides the roses, I thought it would be nice to plant rosemary. I love the smell of rosemary and the way the herb looks – but planting the rosemary was also symbolic. During the Salvadoran civil war, there was a Catholic archbishop named Oscar Romero. He was an outspoken defender of the people and it ended up costing him his life. “Romero” is how you say “rosemary” in Spanish.

For added color I chose some heather and snapdragons. Finally! All done and ready to get to work, right? Not quite. As we were getting ready to head to the check-out, a big spiky plant caught my eye.

“This looks kind of like Flor de Izote,” I said, calling Carlos over. Carlos inspected it. “It is,” he said, “That’s Flor de Izote.”

Flor de Izote! The national flower of El Salvador.

Flor de Izote! The national flower of El Salvador.

I checked the tag on the plant, (carefully because the leaves are very sharp!) and it was labeled “Variegated Spanish Dagger.” A quick check of the internet via my smartphone, and I found that these most likely are the same plant, or at least are closely related. (Any botanists out there who can verify?)

Flor de Izote went onto the cart. Instead of planting the Flor de Izote directly in the ground, I thought it would be nice to have it in a pot. Luckily, I spotted these beautiful pots made in Mexico. We hurried out of Lowe’s before I bought enough plants to rival the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C.

pots-at-lowes-for-gardening

Back at home, we unloaded the supplies and got down to work.

lowes-garden-supplies

pullingoutplants-garden

I don’t have any fancy step-by-step directions this month. We pulled everything out of the garden besides a large bush and the statue itself, then added some fresh top soil. I set the plants out, (still in their pots), to see how they looked in different locations. When I settled on the layout I liked, we dug the holes and planted them.

One thing I was still not satisfied with was the fact that you could see the ugly yellow gas line. Stacking some old cement patio pavers and putting the Flor de Izote on top helped, but Carlos ended up going back to Lowe’s and buying a white plastic lattice screen to help further disguise it.

virgin-garden-2

We’re really happy with how it turned out and we visit that side of the yard almost daily to check on things, water flowers if it hasn’t rained, (and sometimes fix things up. Our dog Chico has stepped on a few of the snapdragons and broken them. I also caught him trying to eat a rose one day.) If my suegra were here and she caught Chico in the garden, I can imagine her reaction and it makes me smile; she would chase him out of there, waving her hands as if to smack him, maybe with a chancla held high. She would almost certainly yell “¡Chhhhhht! Chucho condenado!” and then walk away muttering…”Ay, qué pecado…”

virgin-garden-3

Do you have a Virgen de Guadalupe garden? What did you plant in it?

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Atol de Avena

atol-de-avena-latinaish

When my suegra lived with us, she used to buy oatmeal, which she called by one name and one name only – “Quacker.” This used to make me crazy because “Quacker” sounds like a nickname for a duck, but it was her mispronunciation of the brand name “Quaker Oats” – and perhaps it’s a common mispronunciation in El Salvador, the same way Corn Flakes are called “Con Fleis” – I honestly don’t know if it was a suegra thing or a Salvadoran thing.

When my suegra would make oatmeal though, she didn’t even attempt to decipher the directions on the can; the result was more like soup than anything I previously recognized as the thick, lumpy oatmeal of my childhood. I told her many times that you aren’t supposed to add that much water or milk, but she would only look at me like I was stupid and sip her oatmeal out of her favorite cumbo.

It was only years later that I found out what “atol de avena” is – and realized that my suegra had never been attempting to make American-style oatmeal in the first place. So, here is a lesson in humility, a reminder that there isn’t always one right answer, and a recipe for “atol de avena” which I am sipping right now, suegra-style.

Atol de Avena

2 cups water
1 cinnamon stick (and/or ground cinnamon)
1 cup uncooked oatmeal (I use Quaker Oats 100% Natural Whole Grain Old Fashioned)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk (I used 2%)
4 packed tablespoons brown sugar or other sweetener (see directions below)

Directions:

1. In a medium pot over medium-high heat, bring 2 cups water, a cinnamon stick, salt, and oatmeal to a boil. (If you don’t have a cinnamon stick, you can add ground cinnamon to taste later.)

2. Reduce heat to a simmer. Stir continuously for about 3 minutes.

3. Add milk and stir until heated through. Remove from heat.

4. While still warm, you’ll want to add the sweetener. I usually use brown sugar, (4 packed tablespoons), but you can use piloncillo, dulce de atado, or dulce de panela. My suegra never would have added more sugar than this as she doesn’t like things overly sweet, but feel free to add more if you don’t find it sweet enough. You can also add ground cinnamon for more flavor as this recipe yields a very mild tasting atol de avena.

5. Serve warm. Makes about 4 cups.

12 Greeting Cards For Latinos That Don’t Exist (But Should)

12-latino-greeting-cards

I love greeting cards and will embrace any holiday, occasion, or event, to give them to friends and family. You know those “Just because” cards? Those were made for people like me, for those days we want to give cards but can’t think of any good reason to. If Carlos can’t find me in a store, he goes to the greeting card aisle – that’s usually where I am – just reading them for fun.

That being said, I’ve found that at times it’s difficult for me to find cards that say exactly what I need them to. As a bilingual, bicultural Latino-American family in the United States, we have our own unique culture, events, and language. The cards in English with Latin-flavor usually feature a donkey wearing a sombrero or some other tired theme. The cards in Spanish are limited, and usually only available for quinces and Día de las Madres. What’s a bicultural gringa to do? … Make my own cards, of course!

The cards I created below (which you should feel free to share in social media or print for personal use!) represent some real themes we’ve dealt with in our familia – maybe you’ll relate. Which greeting card have you needed that doesn’t exist?

imperfect-nuera-card-latinaish
(Not much that can be done about that, but at least a greeting card softens the blow?)

pan-dulce-apology-card-latinaish
(Kind of one of those “Sorry, not sorry” moments.)

difficult-time-card-latinaish
(Salvadorans, you know what I mean… At least we’ve got the playera team.)

sapo-verde-to-you-card-latinaish
(We don’t say “Happy birthday” in this house.)

buen-viaje-card-latinaish
(This would come in handy for all your encargo requests for traveling family members.)

belated-spanish-bday-card-latinaish
(A whole line of greeting cards with “Chavito del 8″ references would sell like pan caliente.)

felicidades-card-latinaish
(We’ve got some unique milestones that you don’t really find anywhere in the greeting card aisle!)

love-you-spanish-card-latinaish
(Cute enough for a kid, but could be exchanged between adults too.)

misunderstanding-card-latinaish
(We would probably need to exchange this card at least once a week.)

not-mexican-salvadoran-card-latinaish
(My kids are half Salvadoran and my older son in particular is constantly mistaken for Mexican. Thought I should explain that one!)

get-well-latino-card-latinaish
(Who needs a “Get Well” card when there’s Vicks?)

mothers-day-spanish-card-latinaish
(Día de las Madres was always a dangerous day for Carlos.)

Geografía

estadosmexico1

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

Yo estaba muy sorprendida pero contenta ver que mi hijo mayor estaba aprendiendo los estados de México en la escuela.

estadosmexico2

Mi hijo está en las clases avanzadas. Desafortunadamente, no creo que enseñen esto en la clase regular, pero me gustaría que lo hicieran. Mientras estoy deseando, también me gustaría que les enseñaran los departamentos de El Salvador, pero supongo que tendremos que hacer eso en casa.

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

I was really surprised but pleased to see that my older son was learning the Mexican states at school. My son is in advanced classes. Unfortunately, I don’t think they’re teaching this to the regular classes, but I wish they would. While I’m wishing, I also wish they would teach the departments of El Salvador, but I guess that’s something we’ll have to do at home.

Do-it-Yourself Love Song Pillow for Día de San Valentín

love-song-lyric-pillow-1

As a member of Lowe’s Creative Ideas Network I received gift cards from Lowe’s in order to purchase supplies to complete projects. All opinions are my own.

Text on pillows and other home décor is hot right now, but as someone who loves language and typography, it will always be in style at my house.

Here’s how you can make your own custom pillow featuring the lyrics of “your song” to gift to your valentine on Valentine’s Day. (I gave Carlos this pillow featuring lyrics from Ricardo Arjona’s “Te Encontraré” which is our song.)

Do-it-Yourself Love Song Pillow

You need:

4 x 5 ft. Blue Hawk canvas drop cloth, cut into two squares slightly larger than 19 x 19 in. each
(For cutting the drop cloth: pencil, ruler, scissors)
allen + roth 19 x 19 in. white square decorative pillow
1 clear, plastic, rectangular storage container with lid
LED lights with batteries
a large sewing needle (not available at Lowe’s)
size 10 crochet thread in desired color (not available at Lowe’s)
permanent marker
clear package tape
printer with ink and paper

Directions:

Before you begin: If you’re not fond of the scent of the drop cloth, you can launder it just as you do with your clothes in the washer and dryer with whichever detergent you have on hand.

1. Cut two squares of the drop cloth to slightly larger than 19 x 19 inches.

2. Choose a few lines of lyrics from your love song, and then print them in a large font of your choosing on a regular piece of white 8.5 x 11 inch printer paper. (You may find that this works best in “landscape” rather than “portrait.”)

3.. Build your lightbox: Put the lid of the storage container on the floor or table surface with the LED lights on top of it. Turn the LED lights on and place the storage container on top so that the LED lights are sealed inside and the storage container is upside down.

lightbox

4. On the bottom of the closed storage container, tape down the paper with your printed song lyrics, then position one square of the drop cloth fabric over the paper. You should be able to see the lyrics through the fabric. Make sure the lyrics are aligned as you like and then tape down the fabric. (You may be tempted to skip the taping part but if you want a neat result, I recommend doing it so nothing gets shifted while you work.)

5. Use a permanent marker to trace the letters through the fabric.

trace-letters

traced-letters-closeup

6. Remove the fabric from the “lightbox.” Optional: Lightly iron the fabric with a hot iron. This will help “set” the ink and help prevent it from bleeding later should it get wet or need washing.

7. Now, you have several options for sewing your pillow. The traditional way with a hidden seam would require a sewing machine to sew the two squares together, closing three sides, (with the traced letters flipped to the wrong side as you use the sewing machine.) You would then reach inside and turn the pillow case inside-out so now the text looks correct, stuff the pillow inside and sew the fourth side closed by hand using small stitches and a thread that matches the fabric color.

In my case, I can’t use a sewing machine to save my life and I wasn’t even going to attempt to hide my stitches. I decided to use my poor sewing skills to my benefit and make the stitches a visible part of the design. The crochet thread I chose was burgundy so it stood out nicely against the cream color of the drop cloth. The stitch I used is called a “blanket stitch” – Instructions can be found HERE, but here are step-by-step photos to help you.

blanket-stitch-howto

7. Once all four sides are stitched closed, your pillow is finished and ready for giving to your cariño!

love-song-text-pillow-2

Want more creative ideas?

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Raising Bilingual Teens & The 5 Stages of Grief

funny bilingual parenting comic by Latinaish.com

“Tenemos que hablar más …porque… tengo que pensar… por… cada… palabra,” my 15 year old son told me recently in halting Spanish as we walked around the international market. His Spanish is good but far from fluent.

Our 12 year old speaks even less than our 15 year old although he understands everything I say to him and voluntarily plays Club Penguin in Spanish, “just because.” He also switches to Spanish to get my attention. On a daily basis you can hear something like this in our house:

“Mommy, can I have a cookie?… Mommy… Hey, Mommy… Mamá, quiero una galleta.” — to which I finally answer him. Some parents do this on purpose so their children don’t speak English at home, but in my case, sometimes I’m just so focused on what I’m doing that I tune everyone out. Only the jolt of unexpected Spanish is what breaks my concentration.

Despite the fact that Spanish and Spanglish are still spoken on a daily basis in our household, we’ve begun to speak it less and less. I’ve said before that raising bilingual children “takes constant commitment and re-commitment” but it feels like we’ve been hitting pretty hard on the frequency and necessity of re-committing this past year.

You see, in my experience bilingual parenting, unlike most things you practice, does not get easier. In fact, I would argue that bilingual parenting only gets more and more difficult the older your children get.

Think about it – when your children are very young, one of the first questions they learn and repeat ad nauseam is, “What’s that?” … For parents raising bilingual children, even if the target language isn’t your native language, things start out pretty easy.

“What’s that?”
– Una manzana.
“What’s that?”
– El color verde.
“What’s that?”
– La luna.
“What’s that?”
– Un gato.

What a sense of accomplishment! You’re doing it! You’re really doing it! You’re raising a bilingual child!

Of course, the reality is that the older your child gets, the more complex his questions. Apple, green, moon, and cat are part of your vocabulary and now your child’s – no problem, but how do you answer:

“Where do babies come from?”
“What’s the difference between a Republican and a Democrat?”
“Why don’t birds get electrocuted when they sit on power lines?”
“How come it looks like the moon follows me when we drive in the car?”
“What’s endosymbiosis?”
“What exactly is a black hole?”
“What does ‘birth control’ mean?”
“Can you explain antidisestablishmentarianism?”
“If ‘X’ equals 32.4 and a train is traveling at 68 miles per hour…”

Nevermind answering those questions in Spanish – I may need Google’s help, (and a few aspirin) just to answer them in my native language! Apple, green, moon and cat will no longer be sufficient.

As a parent attempting to raise bilingual children, making mistakes along the way, and having setbacks, you often tell yourself, “It’s okay, there’s still time” – and yet, that time does run out, which is what you face as a parent of teenagers.

So, this is where we stand at the moment. We keep trying and will fight to the end to raise bilingual children, but I am at a point where I’m forced to accept that unless I drop them off in El Salvador for the next couple years, they most likely will not be native speaker fluent.

If your children are tweens or teens, you may be beginning to go through “the five stages of grief” if their Spanish isn’t as perfect as you had hoped. For me, it went something like this:

1. Denial – My kids are totally bilingual! They’re doing great!
2. Anger – Why aren’t they replying in Spanish! Whose fault is this?!
3. Bargaining – If they can just speak Spanish really well, not even perfectly, I’ll be happy.
4. Depression – This is my fault. I’m a failure as a parent.
5. Acceptance – I’ve done my best and will continue to try my hardest. All the effort has been worth it, and I’m okay with the result even if it falls short of perfection.

Just know that wherever you’re at on this bilingual parenting journey, you’re not alone, and like any other aspect of parenting, you’re not always going to get things exactly right.

Most importantly of all, don’t give up.

“There is no failure except in no longer trying.”
– Elbert Hubbard