Sunday, November 30, 2008
I swear my phone confirmed the post, but I didn't check the blog page––that has happened once before, so I should have. Whatever.
UPDATE: The post mysteriously showed up, after floating around the ether for over 24 hours. Bizarre.
Happy NaBloPoMo everyone.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
as Batman, so naturally, Dash wanted to dress up in a batman costume.
While I was out shopping with Rosie yesterday, I saw a costume section
in a store. There was a really nice-looking cape right there, so I
picked it up for him. Rosie has a new dress. It's always a good idea to
get something for both kids when you're shopping, anyway, right? So
neither feel left out?
Good parenting or rationalizing, you tell me in the comments. He looks
awfully cute and has been wearing the cape non-stop (bedtime was an
exception) since yesterday.
Friday, November 28, 2008
She has some birthday $ from her grandparents & wants to spend it on
something! Don't worry, we're staying far, far away from black-Friday
mega-sales. I'm looking for a smaller neighborhood gift store. Rosie is
packing her own purse, wallet and MetroCard, so is feeling very grown up
out with me. Good times!
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Traditionally, most of us travel on the third Thursday in November to reunite with family members, share food as a potluck, and eat mass quantities. The thanks part may often get pushed aside in all the giving, which brings me to a piece of this holiday that sometimes needs emphasizing: wherever you are in your life, there are some people out there who helped you along; your parents who raised you, your siblings who supported or challenged you, your friends who enjoy your company and help you when you're in need, your children who give you hope for the future, and lastly, teachers and mentors who have taught you and shown you the way. Give thanks for them all. Whether it's aloud in a pronoucement at your dinner today or a silent prayer, it's important to acknowledge how you got to be the person you are today and thank the people who helped you put the food on your table.
The spirit of Thanksgiving is based solidly in worldwide mid-fall harvest festivals where communities gather together to celebrate the abundance of the growing season by having a communal feast. Americans have wrapped the festival up with a remembrance of a deliverance of English settlers by Native Americans after the brutal winter of 1620 at Plymouth, Massachusetts. From Wikipedia:
"Teaching the colonists how to farm corn, where and how to catch fish, and how to make other necessary items, [Tisquantum, or Squanto,] was instrumental in the survival of the [Plymouth] settlement for the first two years. Squanto and another guide sent by Massasoit in 1621, Hobomok, also helped Plymouth set up trading posts where the Pilgrims could trade Indians for furs and pay off the cost of establishing the colony. Chief Massasoit later formed a Peace Treaty with the Pilgrims. Upon growing a plentiful harvest in the fall of 1621, the Pilgrims gathered with Squanto, Samoset, Massasoit, and ninety other Wampanoag men in a celebration of food and feasting. This celebration is known today as the First Thanksgiving, and is still commemorated annually in downtown Plymouth with a parade and a reenactment. Since 1941, Thanksgiving has been observed as a federal holiday in the United States."While you have your family and friends around you (and I hope you do!) say a few words about how much you appreciate the lessons you've learned and share the year's abundance. I sure am grateful that my family is nearby and is so incredibly generous with their time and enjoy helping out with the kids. I'm incredibly grateful I have a wonderful support group in my friends--you all are the best & just ask me for help with anything, I'm there. I'm glad I have a great job where I get to use my training and skills for a challenging variety of projects and am respected by my coworkers. Most of all, I'm so thankful for my husband and my kids. They brighten my every day, and inspire everything I do.
Thanks everyone, and happy Thanksgiving!
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
And they look awesome, check it out.
Here's the cake I baked, almost destroyed, flipped around, and then covered up broken chasms with vast amounts of frosting. Turned out okay, if I do say so myself!
Everybody's favorite part of the party: getting all sugared up!! Mmmmmm.
Now that we're full of sugar, let's all go crazy on Rosie's bed!! AAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!
All within screaming distance, but separate enough to relax, the parents hang out in the kitchen. Monkeyrotica, Kelly, and Todd are pictured here.
Brian and Nestor stay close to the smoked pork shoulder.
Lovely Liz enjoys some snacks.
Even Weegee came out to join the party; he was so happy when I brought him out! Weegee used to be our party game before we had kids. We passed him around and showed off his "tricks" which are kind of lame, but funny when you're drunk. He made a new friend in Nestor.
But, hey, where was Dash? And Thea and Liam? Well, we made the mistake of having movies going during the party and the hypnotic glow was too alluring to some of our little movie-watchers.
Everybody had a blast!! Thanks friends! It was a great party and I wish you all could have been there.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
I think I didn't really have much focus; I was involved in so much at the outset, that I can almost define my experience by what was eliminated. When I started high school, I was taking classes in art, drama, band (clarinet), chorus, and piano, and also training in soccer, swim team, dance, and cycling. To her credit, my mom drove us around to all that! I can't imagine driving a child (actually two) to all those activities! My sister had just as much going on—we are close in age, so our parents normally just lumped us together in the same age group for sports.
The first things to go away were the sports. I didn't continue competitively with high school swimming and soccer teams, although I did get my lifeguard certificate and worked at a YMCA for a while as a guard and an aquatics instructor (and yes, with that hair). I did one parade in the marching band and decided that wasn't for me. I'd been in private acting courses throughout middle school, but only performed in one play in high school; I didn't stand out and abandoned it after a few auditions didn't land me any further parts.
What was left? Chorus? I was an alto and not that vocally talented. Piano lessons, which I dropped at age 16, when all the practicing (two hours a day) was hard to maintain with a heavy load of homework and remaining activities, mainly the dancing, clubbing, music, boys, friends, art, and bicycling. I loved, LOVED the dancing! I took jazz dancing lessons at a local ballet studio and was very responsible about making all of my classes; I even went all through the summer sessions. I rode my bicycle to class and adored the instructor, Mrs. Lang. Somehow, all the quitting and abandoning stuff backfired here, though. I chose to continue with dancing, but my parents pulled me out of it, because they thought I wasn't going to the classes.
I filled the gap by going dancing at nightclubs, focusing more on listening to music (industrial/punk/goth/club), buying albums, and going to shows in Chicago. The art part was easy! I expended little effort in classes and whatever I did, the teacher gave me an A. Sometimes I got triple or quadruple As, which was pretty ridiculous—hard to take seriously. I won a couple of competitions with my artwork and participated in art shows. The portfolio I developed really opened doors for college admissions! (BTW, this bizarre tree painting did NOT go in my portfolio, but was fun for display in public.)
Outside of the classwork, my most memorable high school moments were dancing at clubs with boys, wandering around Chicago with boys and friends (I was kinda boy-obsessed and dated a lot), and cycling trips with my family. We went bicycling almost every weekend! We travelled (by car) to go on week-long cycling tours in Vermont, Wisconsin, southern Illinois, Indiana. I
didn't have a car (though plenty of kids did), so bicycling got me where I needed to go.
What did I stick with? If you read my blog, you already know. My apologies for such a rambling post, but it's getting close to the midnight hour here & I've gotta get something up!
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
archives, wait as I blindfold myself, spin
around three times and rest my finger on...
At the full moon of Karttika (December),
at the end of the rainy season, Jain monks
and nuns abandon their retreats and resume
their wandering life. Before they leave, they
are thanked by their hosts for their company
and religious instructions. The occasion is a
lively one and the people celebrate it with
a Car Festival. A lavishly decorated wooden
vehicle, bearing the image of the Jina, is
pulled by hand through the streets, in the
manner of the Jagannath, accompanied by
a procession of monks and nuns and the
populace. A sermon is delivered in the park
at the end of the journey and an appeal is
made for gifts to support the temples,
hospitals, etc. The procession then returns
to the temple and merry-making follows.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
interviewing bloggers, so that we all can get to know each other better!
I was featured in the series today.
Go and check out the information we shared at
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
went very smoothly. She answered all the
doctor's questions herself (he directed them
all at her, with his back to me--OMG, she's
practically a tween!), with the exception of a
few when she needed my feedback. We talked
about chores and allowances withe helpful
answers; he highly recommends chores and
NOT tying allowances or cash reimbursement
to chores whatsoever. Children should
contribute to their household out of a sense
of belonging, not an expectation of payment,
like they're the help. I do agree with that
Her basic specs, for those of you keeping track:
Height: 45.5 ins, 70th percentile
Weight: 50 lbs, 75th percentile
Vision: 20/25 (with my new contacts acquired
yesterday, I could read for two lines below
where she stopped)
Hearing: perfect (although very tiny bees could
live comfortably in that waxy hive)
He advised that I make a separate appointment
to discuss some of the behavior issues that
have arisen since Rosie started Kindergarten.
Since our time had run short and her very
distracting, noisy and boisterous brother was
there, it would be better to have a thorough
chat at a quieter time.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Well, she's either making something or trying to swipe stuff.
Monday, November 17, 2008
while, I just noticed. To catch you all up,
I'm taking a modern & lyrical dance workshop
Thursday nights and I'm loving it! The other
students are lovely, positive ladies with
no attitude problems and we're just there
to learn and help each other.
Same as last year, there is a holiday performance
with all the advanced classes have a short
choreographed number to demonstrate to
the rest of the studio. All the parents are there,
there are snacks, and it's crowded and hot.
Wanna come? Rosie, my mom & sister came
to watch me last year with my jazz class; this
year, my modern class has a two-minute combo
to perform and we're learning it on Monday nights.
Got that? I'm dancing on Mondays and Thursdays,
Rosie dances ballet on Saturdays, we're throwing
Rosie's birthday party this Saturday afternoon,
and I'm going to a baby shower on Sunday.
Also, I've got two doctor's appointments tomorrow,
both kids have doctor's appointments on Wednesday
and I'm not sure how I'm going to fit any work in
(and I have major deadlines, Hi Ben!). Somehow
I'm open Friday evening. Guess I'll be cleaning.
You know, Monkeyrotica should go out and do
something fun on Friday! He always stays in and
stews in his own juices. Need to air that mess out,
Monkey. Anybody taking out the Monkey?
Sunday, November 16, 2008
2. "I See the Moon" What? That's a nursery rhyme, not a song, I hear you thinking. I came up with a tune for it a while back and I'm sticking to it.
3. "Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star" Well, once you sing a song about the moon, you've got to give the stars some props, too.
Good night to you all, and sweet dreams!
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Oh, heck, I was just beside myself at how awesome it was to be out in downtown DC, in the evening, dining and dancing with my beloved peeps. Monkey had to drag me out of there; I wanted to dance all night.
Friday, November 14, 2008
Most everything else though, hm? The way Monkeyrotica cooks, it's hard
to keep up with all the food in the fridge to make sure it's eaten
before it gets wasted. We try to label or list leftovers right after we
pack them away, or else they disappear to the back and are forgotten
before the next meal is stored.
Monkey does all the grocery shopping and all the cooking, and is very
skilled at both. I consider myself very lucky that he has the patience
(sometimes one shopping trip will take him to three separate
supermarkets) and the creativity to bring such wonderful meals to the
table! Until I set eyes on the disaster near the sink & over the stove,
and then I still say even louder, "I'm. Very. Lucky!"
I love you, Monkeyrotica! And I promise, those dishes will be done
by...at least tomorrow afternoon.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
When I woke up this morning and it dawned on me that it's my little girl's sixth birthday, I wanted to have something special planned. At six, she'll retain memories of this birthday, won't she? If I had given it a little more thought and had some time to spend on it I could have done something like "The Birthday Fairy" that Susan Lieberman suggests in her book, New Traditions:
Lucy tells her family, "While you are sleeping, waiting to wake up to a happy, happy, birthday, all my very good wishes for you give me magical energy to transform your room and deliver birthday presents." Then she brings the magic in the form of many balloons, large signs, streamers, and the child wakes up to a special day with a special breakfast.Hm. I wish it were that easy to get some magical energy.
Or I could have done what Meg Cox records in The Book of New Family Traditions:
Construct a "balloon tunnel" with helium balloons tied on the stair-rails. When the birthday girl awakes, she must be the first one to slide downstairs and pick up her wrapped present at the bottom.Okay, got it. Next year will be more about the balloons and lots of 'em.
What I did do for Rosie was to have a birthday card ready with a crisp $5 bill inside (next step is to get on money management with her, and maybe some regular allowances), I gave her a birthday-girl hug, we put birthday-girl ponytails in her hair, she wore a birthday-girl outfit to school and I gave her a special birthday-girl wave. Did you notice that everything here, excepting the card, is a regular-day thing, but calling it out as birthday-special made it so. Really! Maybe won't work at 7 and up, but maybe I'll have something else worked out by then.
Thanks to Grandma Sheila, Rosie had cupcakes to share at school. And the one other tradition that I almost forgot about, but the wall tells the tale that we've kept it up 3 years running: marking out her birthday height. In pencil, on the corner wall outside the basement office. I do Dash's at the same time, just to keep it balanced.
I still have time, although her party date is creeping up. One belief that I would like to instill is that birthdays shouldn't be necessarily all about receiving gifts; I think this will be the year to choose a charity to donate to together and give in her name. I'll start looking up some charities that would be good ones. Do you all have ones that you like for kids?
Do you all have birthday traditions with your kids? Tell me about them in the comments, I want to know!
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Where is your cell phone? desk
Where is your significant other? bed
Your hair color? sepia
Your mother? nearby
Your father? same
Your favorite thing? friendship
Your dream last night? evaluation
Your dream/goal? fulfillment
The room you’re in? home-office
Your hobby? jewelry
Your fear? separation
Where do you want to be in 6 years? half-way
Where were you last night? home
What you’re not? salacious
One of your wish-list items? vacation
Where you grew up? suburbs
The last thing you did? write
What are you wearing? pajamas
Your TV? projector
Your pet? parrot
Your computer? Mac
Your mood? chill
Missing someone? Nope
Your car? mini-SUV
Something you’re not wearing? socks
Favorite store? variety
Your summer? lively
Love someone? YES
Your favorite color? celadon
When is the last time you laughed? today (Yes, I kept Kelly's: belly-laugher-comments)
Last time you cried? today (If you didn't cry at this link, you are made of stone.)
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
1. We can host 85 people in our house, but that doesn't mean we should.
2. When you have 20 kids in your house under five, you really ought to have structure and planned activites.
3. If you have art as an activity, you need to protect your floors and furniture (and use washable paints)
4. Ask for help. While you're hosting/hostessing, helpers can assist with photography (I love the pics one dad took last year!), helping kids with activites, setting up materials, or keeping track of your own kids (for example, we don't want the birthday girl or boy in tears).
5. Don't let the goody bags get out of hand. One or two items inside is really plenty. I like a mini-notepad and a couple crayons.
This year I'm planning to have a theme (November's all about themes, eh?): Art Party! Rosie fancies herself an artist, and there are plenty of six-year-old friendly activities to set up for art. Here's a few I'm thinking will work.
I'll set up 4 or 5 stations for fingerpainting, chalkboard, clay or playdoh, watercolor (Rosie's favorite!) and then down in the basement, silhouettes! I'm totally excited about this last one! We'll move the screen out of the way and tack paper up on the wall, then I (or a helper) can trace the outline of the child's shadow & then we'll let them fill in the shape. Oh, and cupcake decorating, natch. With prizes for creativity!
If you all have some ideas, post them in the comments. I'd really appreciate your input.
UPDATE: For those of you who are looking for very cheap things to put in goody bags, I just found these $0.60 books of stickers on sale at Dover! There are several other books for the same price; poking around their site is worth it.
Monday, November 10, 2008
How to celebrate this holiday? If you know a veteran, call him or her up on the phone and THANK THEM for their service. If you bump into someone you know who has served in the military at work, while shopping, or happen to stand next to them on the bus, THANK THEM. Feeling a little awkward about it? Here's a script:
"Thank you for serving."
It's just that easy. And that simple phrase will really make a Soldier, Airman, Marine, or Seaman's day. It's a great sacrifice to serve in the military and we owe our rights and freedom to the forces that fight for the United States of America. It's not necessary for you to agree with a particular war that was fought, but you ought to honor those that protected your right to debate and have the option to speak freely about your own beliefs.
My thanks goes out to all veterans. I hope you survived the transition from the battlefield back to civilian life well and are prospering. My heart goes out to you and your families if you have struggled with your health or finances. I honor your service as a gift that I can never fully repay. Thank you for serving.
Sunday, November 09, 2008
Saturday, November 08, 2008
It feels so good to say that! I'm so glad we're here. We were all so devastated by the diagnosis (stomach cancer) and how the chemo almost wiped him out. It's been a rough ride for his sister that I wouldn't have wished on any single mom.
His entire family came over to our place this afternoon just to commemorate the occasion and show how happy we are that Alex is still with us, causing trouble. My mother-in-law presided over three huge sushi platters, we toasted Alex over hot sake, and really enjoyed a wonderful meal (including some of Mr. Monkey's smoked ribs & chicken wings).
All ate with the kind of gusto you can only have when stomach cancer isn't wracking your life.
Cheers to Alex! Dude, don't scare us like that again, Ever. Stay happy & healthy.
Friday, November 07, 2008
A family tradition can be something you do regularly to mark an occasion, anywhere from going on a beach vacation every year in the summer, to celebrating birthdays annually, to making snowmen together in the winter, to just plain having a special family dinner together every Sunday.
Rosie had a fabulous week at school! The behavior contract is really helping her stay accountable daily, even hourly. Our mini-tradition (or reward, if you will) for having a good week at school is a trip to her favorite park, the library, or swimming at the Rec Center. We all are feeling very proud of her!
What kind of mini-traditions does your family have?
Thursday, November 06, 2008
We did dress up and go out on October 11 for a black tie wedding and I got to wear the dress!! It was so fabulous, I forgot that going to somebody else's wedding doesn't really count as celebrating your own anniversary.
So (this list assumes you're in charge of your family budget), here are some notes, so you don't screw up like me for your anniversaries to come:
1. Months ahead, put some $$ aside just for your spouse's gift and dinner.
2. Set a date for your dinner, & if you have kids, book a sitter at least four weeks ahead (and put some $$ aside for that too).
3. Make a reservation at least two weeks ahead at a restaurant you both like or are wanting to try.
4. Set a fabulous outfit aside a couple of days ahead, with accessories (if, like me, you are hiding in the bathroom 15 minutes before you're supposed to be leaving while you are making custom jewelry for our outfit, your spouse will not appreciate it).
5. Check with the sitter the night before to confirm; confirm with the restaurant too, while you're at it. Couldn't hurt.
6. Leave enough time to get to the restaurant at a leisurely pace.
7. If you can view the restaurant's menu ahead of time, get an idea of what you'd like to order.
8. Whatever your meal tastes like, DON'T COMPLAIN! If your spouse is anything like Monkeyrotica, any complaining will ruin, RUIN the entire experience, done, game over, try again next time. If it's easily fixed, catch the waiter on your way to powder your nose. If it's really just not right, make up your calories with a fabulous dessert.
9. ABOVE ALL, enjoy being out with each other! If you don't have kids yet, savor your time alone and linger. If you do have kids, try to talk about other things. It's tough, I know. Imagine that you have other personal pursuits, life dreams and goals and focus on them. Listen to your spouse.
10. Pretend you're on a first date. Play footsie! Sit next to each other and neck a bit like teenagers. You deserve it and it's fun!
I'm thinking I'll be able to make this up to him in December, possibly January. I'm working on #1 and #2.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
HAPPY GUY FAWKES DAY!!
For those of you not familiar with Guy Fawkes, he's known to have conspired to blow up Parliament in London!
Okay, continuing: In 1605, Guy Fawkes et. al. tried to blow up Parliament and King James I of England by setting up a room in the basement and filling it with gunpowder. This attempt was foiled on November 5, 1605, and Mr. Fawkes and conspiritors were subsequently hanged, drawn, and quartered (and their heads were put on pikes).
And of course, the CELEBRATION! What do people do on Guy Fawkes Day?
"In the United Kingdom, celebrations take place in towns and villages across the country in the form of both private and civic events. They involve fireworks displays and the building of bonfires on which traditionally "guys" are burnt, although this practice is not always observed in modern times. These "guys" are traditionally effigies of Guy Fawkes, the most famous of the Gunpowder Plot conspirators. Although the night is celebrated in York (Fawkes' hometown) some there do not burn his effigy, most notably those from his old school. Before the fifth, children traditionally use the "guys" to request a "penny for the guy" in order to raise funds with which to buy fireworks.Awesome! So, to you all, go and light a fire tonight in the spirit of Guy Fawkes, or just toast to him, "The only man who entered Parliament with honest intent." If the spirits call, chant this verse:
In the United Kingdom, there are several foods that are traditionally consumed on Guy Fawkes Night:
Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I can think of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t'was his intent
To blow up the King and Parli'ment.
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England's overthrow;
By God's providence he was catch'd
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, let the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
It’s humanity’s need to create order out of chaos, and to create meaning where there is none. We are compelled to set markers, to check the passing of time, to look forward to what’s coming in our near or extended future. With traditions that have intervals, we can compare our growth from point to point and have a reference for tracking our and others’ lives.
Before Hallmark and other religious/secular holiday calendars, the main method of marking time was to follow the path of the moon and stars, tracking seasons and agricultural growth periods. (Monkeyrotica’s sidebar: did you know that ancient man used to think that the moon caused pregnancy? Women’s menstrual cycles coincide with lunar cycles, so why the hell not?) Humans celebrated when the first blooms appeared on trees to show the advent of spring (vernal equinox) and again when it was time to harvest (autumnal equinox). Just when we think we can’t take the long, hot, days of summer and the short, dark days of winter we look forward to the solstices, which are the shortest and longest days of the year.
We celebrate with a prom or debutante ball to mark when young men and women in our community have come of age and are ready to enter society as adults. Marriage ceremonies are elaborate rituals celebrating couples who take vows of commitment, proclaim adherence to laws, and join their two families as a greater whole. Funeral customs honor, remember, and celebrate the lives of the dead and bring together loved ones to reflect on their own lives.
Without tradition, ceremonies, rituals, and festivals, there would be nothing to break the monotony of life. We need something to do while we are waiting to die, you know?
This week, I'm planning to focus on harvest festivals, as they are peculiar to this season and we'll actually hit a few specific ones during NaBloPoMo. Tomorrow, a harvest festival that's recently passed in 2008: China's Moon Festival.
Monday, November 03, 2008
That said, given the content of my last two day's posts and some historical
If you have a favorite holiday/festival that you'd like me to feature, add it into the comments; I'd totally love that!
Some background to this theme idea: years ago, after college—but before marriage and kids—it was just me and my fine arts degree in graphic design. My dad, ever looking ahead, found the perfect way for me to rake in a boatload of cash (a way that I mostly stonewalled). It was a brilliant idea, only it was a lot of work, required an entrepreneurial spirit, and wasn't the direction that I saw my career going.
The Idea: design, illustrate, write, produce, and sell greeting cards for non-Hallmark holidays. Or, not even non-Hallmark but particularly celestial holidays that focus on getting back to seasonal rhythms. For example, a celestial event that would be appropriate (and that coincidentally falls on or near my dad's birthday) is the Vernal or Autumnal Equinox. I bought a few books on the subject of celestial events at the time and even threw an equinox party one year, complete with planting sapling trees and a harvest feast. Anyway, details on those celebrations will be saved for another post. Suffice to say, this is a subject that has been floating in my periphery, though I have not actualized the greeting card concept.
For the world end of things, I have access (through work) to many international projects, holidays, travelers, and customs that I may feature when I'm searching for a good topic. I'm looking forward to this!
I leave you with a delightful image of Rosie, with her gorgeous paper flower that we made at the Smithsonian's Dia de los Muertos Festival.
Sunday, November 02, 2008
Saturday, November 01, 2008
Growing up in suburban Chicago, I knew nothing of Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. My friend Kelly, who has lived all over the place, really brought the holiday out of the periphery for me and showed me what a wondrously joyful tradition it is, shedding a bright light on places other cultures prefer to leave in the shadows, celebrating the lives of the dead.
"Many people believe that during the Day of the Dead, it is easier for the souls of the departed to visit the living. People will go to cemeteries to communicate with the souls of the departed, and will build private altars, containing the favorite foods and beverages, and photos and memorabilia, of the departed. The intent is to encourage visits by the souls, so that the souls will hear the prayers and the comments of the living directed to them. Celebrations can take a humorous tone, as celebrants remember funny events and anecdotes about the departed.
Plans for the festival are made throughout the year, including gathering the goods to be offered to the dead. During the period of November 1 and November 2, families usually clean and decorate graves; most visit the cemeteries where their loved ones are buried and decorate their graves with ofrendas, or offerings, which often include orange marigolds called "cempasúchitl" (originally named cempoalxochitl, Nahuatl for "twenty (i.e., many) flowers"). In modern Mexico this name is often replaced with the term "Flor de Muerto" ("Flower of the Dead"). These flowers are thought to attract souls of the dead to the offerings.
Toys are brought for dead children (los angelitos, or little angels), and bottles of tequila, mezcal, pulque or atole for adults. Families will also offer trinkets or the deceased's favorite candies on the grave. Ofrendas are also put in homes, usually with foods such as candied pumpkin, pan de muerto ("bread of the dead") or sugar skulls and beverages such as atole. The ofrendas are left out in the homes as a welcoming gesture for the deceased. Some people believe the spirits of the dead eat the "spiritual essence" of the ofrenda food, so even though the celebrators eat the food after the festivities, they believe it lacks nutritional value. Pillows and blankets are left out so that the deceased can rest after their long journey. In some parts of Mexico, such as the towns of Mixquic, Pátzcuaro and Janitzio, people spend all night beside the graves of their relatives."
Although Monkeyrotica has three relatives that are buried locally, his dad and his paternal grandparents, we have never celebrated this holiday in a cemetery. We've spent it with friends and have had quieter festivities, in a more "spiritual-essence-of-it-all" way.
Tomorrow, we're planning to head over to the National Museum of the American Indian, like we did last year. We'll be getting there early this time! Last year, we were late, missed all the demonstrations and dancing, but enjoyed ourselves anyway. The girls loved the paper flowers and wore them in their hair.