The Santa Myth

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We should never lie to our kids, lying to our kids is a bad thing. But for many children (including mine), believing in Santa is a normal and a healthy part of growing up.

The notion of a man who flies around the world in a sled drawn by flying reindeer,  entering our homes through our chimneys and delivering presents, all within the span of a single night, is highly improbable, to say the least. Yet the Santa Myth is a long-standing and powerful tradition for many families, and does indeed reinforce good values.

I don’t think it’s a bad thing for kids to believe in the myth of someone trying to make people happy if they’re behaving. Imagination is  normal and helps develop creative minds in my opinion.

The Santa myth is grounded in truth — after all, St. Nicholas is a real person. He became famous for giving gifts and money to the poor, and it’s those values that are important to continue teaching our children.  It’s a real story, it’s a real value and it’s something that inspires our children and us. That’s the spirit of Christmas…

Santa Claus is just one mythical figure many kids believe in, along with the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny and others. Our kids use their imaginations all the time, even if they know the characters they are creating are not real. When kids play cops and robbers, they know they aren’t really cops or robbers.

Christmas brings families together, and the Santa myth reinforces these bonds. Christmas also reinforces some positive habits, like writing letters to Santa. Lots of kids don’t like to write, but they’ll make the effort to write these letters won’t they?

But like many good things, the Santa story eventually comes to an end. Kids stop believing in Santa at different ages. Usually, a friend at school will break the news. I still hold on as long as I could with my daughter, even though I know that she is beginning to question it now. The Elf on the shelf has helped a bit, but even that will not last much longer.

She will soon try to figure it out for herself too, when she starts to notice that the story doesn’t quite add up. For example, she might stay up late trying to catch Santa delivering presents.

When children ask us whether Santa is real or not, we need to decide whether our child is ready to know the truth. I plan on telling my daughter the truth one day, but will always maintain that the spirit of Christmas is very real. I will tell her the story of St. Nicholas and how he delivered presents on his white horse to children in need.

Santa may be a Christmas tradition. But, the spirit of giving to the poor, and the spirit of family and being together — that is universal.

In Memory of Tia Angelita

One of my favorite pictures of my Aunt...
One of my favorite pictures of my Aunt…

In order to begin this story I must go back in time 50 years to the day I was born, August 9th, 1963. My mother and father lived in a small town outside of Buenos Aires in Argentina called Merlo. They lived in a relatively small house. I guess in Argentina in those days it was fairly common for someone from that town to be born in their home with the assistance of a midwife. I was no exception. I’ve been told stories that my mother was so large during her last months of pregnancy with me that people thought she may had been carrying twins.

My Mom went into labor that day and the midwife was called or brought to the house (in those days my parents didn’t have a phone). My aunt Angela was to be with my Mother for support so she also arrived at the house as well. When the midwife examined my mother she asked my Dad to go get the town doctor as she thought that my mother may have complications with the birth. So my Dad went off on his bicycle to get him while my mother remained in labor.

Well I didn’t wait for the town doctor to arrive, I decided to come out. I was born 14 pounds natural birth and my poor mother obviously needed tending. When the midwife took me out of the womb she handed me to my aunt Angela. The midwife then proceeded to tend to my mother. Meanwhile my aunt was welcoming me into this world. She bathed me, clothed me and prepared me to see my parents.

My Dad eventually returned with the doctor and saw me for the first time. I’m sure at that point the attention was all focused on my mother though, who was pale with loss of blood and not conscience. Blood transfusions were necessary from my Dad to keep her alive. She finally recovered a few days later to see me and her family. But it wasn’t without a scare. I’m sure my aunt helped tend to me while my mother recovered.

My birthday became a moment in time that would eventually foster the relationship I’ve had with my aunt since. I can only imagine the meaning of that day to her, but I assume it was special. She was 24 years old then and she had just begun her life with my uncle Benedicto (Benny). Less than a year later they immigrated to New York and my parents and I followed soon after.  As I grew up both Angela and Benny played active roles in my life. I’ve always admired their relationship and the life they led. Role models to all of my cousins and I. They eventually moved out of New York in the early seventies and settled in Miami. We all kept in touch and frequently saw them during holidays or vacations. My family and I made several trips to visits to see them through my adolescent years.  My first trip to visit them without my parents in Miami was in 1980, I was 17. I went with two of my best friends from high school at the time. Three teenagers visiting the sunshine state on our own.  I remember that Angela would drive us to all the tourist attractions  each day and let us just hand out. Eventually she would pick us back up and take us home for a great dinner. They treated us like adults and we loved to be around them. Between her and uncle Benny, they took great care of us and offered awesome hospitality. I clearly remember my friends telling me how cool my aunt and uncle were, which of course always makes you feel good.  Through the years that followed, I visited Florida many times and always had a special connection and love for my Aunt and Uncle. They were indeed dear to me and continue to be.  My aunt was always soft-spoken, tender and full of joy. I don’t ever remember my aunt being mad.

Last year my Aunt Angelita was diagnosed with stage 4 Lymphoma. Aunt Angela would then begin a long struggle with cancer that she fought valiantly.  She remained positive through her treatments and  tried to battle it with all her will. In mid July 2013 the cancer had spread and she eventually passed away on August 5th, 2013. She was 74 years old.

I was traveling on business that morning and had just arrived in Toronto when my Dad left me a voicemail that my aunt had died.  I was devastated and struck with sadness that I had lost a person in my life that meant so much to me.. Later my Dad informed me that the funeral would be held on August 9th. Without hesitation I booked my flight to Miami.  I believe that everything happens for a reason and this is no exception.

My 50th Birthday now has a significance that will live with me forever. There is something very profound in being welcomed into this world by my aunt and then 50 years later to the day here I am saying goodbye to her as she leaves this world. Celebrating my birthday and celebrating my aunts life. My uncle Benny calls it  “Synchronicity”. I believe that it is entirely possible to have a connection to someone that transcends understanding. My aunt and I somehow have that connection. I can imagine on the day I die that she may be the first person to welcome me into that next world all over again.  As I write this I weep in sadness for the loss of my aunt but I take solace in knowing that she is no longer suffering and is finally at peace. I look forward to seeing her again one day.

Tia Angelita,
Thank you for being a wonderful person and for being there for me during moments in my life that mattered. Thank you for teaching me to love and respect. Thank you for being a role model to me that eventually helped me to become the person I am today. I will always cherish the moments we spent together in this world. I pray that you are now healthy, strong and smiling again and at peace with God.

I will always love you.
Hugo

This was my first solo trip to visit my Aunt, Uncle and Cousin.
This was my first solo trip to visit my Aunt, Uncle and Cousin. SCAN0004

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Does Safety Trump Privacy?

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The NSA has your phone records!

The Guardian published an article (click here) revealing that the NSA has been spying on Verizon wireless customers phone records. There’s a “Top Secret” court order from the FISC (Federal Intelligence surveillance Court) that was issued in April that required Verizon Wireless to hand-over phone records to the NSA, meaning the location of the phone, the time of the call, the duration of the call and other “Identifying Information” for the phone and the call.

The Obama administration has defended the NSA’s actions, but even the author of the Patriot Act says that they have overstepped their rights. Al Gore has come forward and condemned the Obama administration for supporting the actions of the NSA.

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Does our safety trump privacy? This allows the government to have the right to our communication records regardless of whether we are suspected of any wrongdoing. I have always been a believer that if someone wanted to find information on you, they would and will. But I used to believe that to be true of hackers and identity thieves, not our government. Although some would argue that the government is filled with thieves. So should we really be concerned about this issue? or is it better to give the government free rein on all our privacy being that they can obtain it anyway at anytime they want it?

Moral of the story is that if you have nothing to hide this is probably no big deal to you, but if you want to hide these days you’re probably shit out of luck!

 

Jerk of the Day!

I read this article today and I must say that this is a clear example of how educated people can still be fucking idiots. How did this guy get a job title of high importance is beyond my comprehension. There is really nothing else I can say about it. Kaya has since complained that his remarks were taken out of context by reporters. That may be somewhat true (maybe), but I don’t think so. I think he is easily the “Jerk of the Day” in my book (or BLOG).

I have a few friends that have autistic children and this made me think about them today and how offensive this all may sound. The guy is an idiot!!

Here is the article:

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According to Fehmi Kaya, head of the Health and Education Associations for Autistic Children in Turkey, autistic children lack the part of the brain that instills faith.

Faith in God is what Fehmi Kaya is referring to, of course, since faith in humanity, your friends, family and parents doesn’t really count as “faith”. The Turkish head of the  Health and Education Associations for Autistic Children stated:

“Autistic children do not know believing in God because they do not have a section of faith in their brains. That is why they don’t know how to pray, how to believe in God. It is needed to create awareness in these children through methods of therapy.”

Kaya then added that autistic children should undergo treatment to create the areas of faith that their brain lacks. The infallible idea comes from research that links atheism and autistic children. Kaya even claimed that researchers in the US and Canada say that atheism is a different form of autism.

 

Dedicated to Boston…

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“It’s sad that our children will never feel the safety we felt when we were kids” – Tom Brokow

This quote resonated in my mind last night when I was watching the news about the tragedy in Boston. It’s such a simple but true statement. We can’t take our children to a sporting event, a parade, a show, or any public event without having fear of something tragic happening. It’s so sad that we live in one of the most powerful countries in the world and yet we are powerless to the evil around us.

Those of you that know me have heard me joke around about wanting to move back to Sydney, Australia where my family and I had the opportunity to live for 2 years. I seriously would move back there in a heartbeat if the opportunity arose. Not so much for me, but for my family. I am not saying that Sydney has no faults or is free of terror, but life there reminded me more of what it was like here when I was a kid. The safety I felt as a kid still resonates there and life is calmer and you get the sense of peace. It’s possible that the reason for this may be the fact that Australia’s total population is equal to the population of the state of Florida and terrorists have no interest in doing small damage to non-westerners. Nonetheless, peace and safety are still present there, not to mention the fact that it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.

I’m still a New Yorker at heart and always will be. I am resilient and I don’t want to give in to the evil terrorists and crazy people who perform these senseless crimes. I stand besides Boston today and feel their pain, pray for their victims and hope for recovery. Yesterday was a harsh reminder of 911 for me as well as many other NYers.

I believe that there is only so much our government and law enforcement can do to restore order. I believe that they do everything within their means to protect us. But I strongly believe that the problem we have in the world is the way we educate and bring up our children. The only way to restore peace is to teach our children to breakdown barriers between nations and religions. Teach them to love by demonstrating love to them each and every day. This must be a world effort and it most likely is a pipe dream but I do continue to have hope that one day the world can achieve that feat.

Lastly, one thing that I notice when tragedy occurs is the how quickly the world responds to help. Everyone forgets about the barriers between nations, the color of your skin, and the religion you follow. People rise and help each other and turn into heroes. Even weeks and months later, you’ll still see people displaying loving acts as simple as giving up a parking space for someone, or lending a helping hand to someone in need. If we could only harness that power and perform these acts everyday we would make this world a better place in an instant. So thank you to all the folks that acted yesterday to help the victims of Boston. I hope that you continue to be heroes every day.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King

My thoughts and prayers are with all of the families…

 

RIP Bubba…you will be missed!

This is Bubba about 2 weeks ago!
This is Bubba about 2 weeks ago!

Today is a sad day for the Estigarribia household. Abby lost her pet Betta fish Bubba today. He was over 4 years old (taking into account that when we got him he was almost a year old). Which in Betta fish land is a pretty good lifespan for a fish that is in a 1 gallon bowl with no filtration system.

Bubba came to our family as a Hanukkah gift to Abby in December 2009. I think that Abby has learned quite a lot from this fish. Some of the experiences that I can remember talking to her about with regards to Bubba included mostly questions about life itself. Early on she questioned why Bubba lived alone in his tank and didn’t have friends. We had to explain to her that Betta fish are not fish that really enjoy each other’s company. She also questioned life itself. She asked us how long Bubba would live. We wanted to ensure we prepared her for the inevitable so we explained that the lifespan of a Betta fish is usually not more than 2-3 years. This prompting her to associate death with people and herself too. Which is not an easy subject to discuss with a 4 or 5-year-old, but it is part of life. I’m sure at the time she was a bit confused but over time she’s obviously getting a full understanding of the concept of death. She was sad about the fact that eventually Bubba would possibly die. But understood it.

As the years past we taught her the importance of keeping Bubba fed, his tank clean, and how he was her pet. Abby being very loving in nature accepted this responsibility and always kept on top of things. Over the last few months Ilyssa and I suspected that Bubba was getting old and would not make it through the summer. You could see that he was slowing down. So we started to talk to Abby about it and started to prepare her for what happened today.

Despite all the preparations, it was quite sad this morning when she discovered that Bubba was not moving. Tears rolled down her eyes as she came to me with the news. We held her and consoled her for a few moments and I promised her that when she got home from school later today that we would have a proper burial for him in our backyard. I’ll probably be tasked with doing the eulogy….what do you say about a fish? “Bubba was a good fish, he swam. He swam like no other fish…” Ok, that’s a good start!

I am sure that after a week or so we will go to the pet store to get another Betta fish for her. This is another thing we’ve told her throughout the years. A new friend will come into her room to keep her company for another 4-5  or longer years. Life will go on…but Bubba will always be remembered in our hearts.

Rest in Peace Bubba! 12/09 – 4/13.

 

Lets get the kids outside to play!

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A few weeks ago I posted “Educating our children…don’t take away their creativity” 

The weather got a bit nicer this week and my daughter was outside playing with her friends. It was nice to see them outside and it reminded me of the post I had about creativity and the role outdoor plays in providing it. So it inspired me to write this post today.

One of the things that I believe keeps kids creative is outdoor play. Today Kids don’t play outside much anymore. They are watching TV or playing video games. I think they are losing some great creativity. When I was a kid, I would come home from school, do my homework and go outside to play.

I guess there are many factors that have contributed to the demise of outdoor play over the years. Both parents working, more TV channels, video games, the internet, and safety for your children. Years ago, there were more stay at home Moms but we didn’t use that term back then, they were simply Moms that didn’t work. Kids could come home after school. They weren’t taken to childcare or after school care. Today more kids end up in after school childcare and don’t get home until after 6pm or later.

Regular TV consisted of a just a few channels like, ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX AND PBS. Kids could find TV shows to watch only during certain times of the day. No one offered children’s programming 24 hours a day. Now we have dozens of channels for kids to watch everyday, all day.

Kids are spending hours everyday, playing video games. They are glued to a screen. Thank goodness that some of the video games today require you to actually get up and move around. Before these existed they would just sit and play. This time spent indoors used to be outdoor time before.

The internet is the key to email, texting and Facebook. These things have sucked the life out of outside play, not to mention other social behaviors. There are 1st graders with iPhones these days. Kids under 14 years old should not be allowed to even have a Facebook account in my opinion.

This is a very sad factor today. Some kids live in neighborhoods that are not safe, so they can’t go outside to play. Back in the day, kids were able to play safely even in the worst neighborhoods.

Parents today tend to over schedule their kids as well. I’m not against the Karate, Dance and Instrument lessons, etc. But there needs to be a balance. Parents should reflect more on their own childhood and not deny their children the opportunity to have simple fun like they did. Take your kid outside to play dammit!

Kids need outside play time. It fosters creativity. Sometimes kids just want to play and not think. Maybe they just want to run around. Every kid should have some unstructured outside play time every week if the weather permits. And we as Parents need to make this happen!

What ever happened to hide and seek, freeze tag, catching fire flies, red light green light, jump rope, hope scotch, duck duck goose, tag, kick ball and the other games we used to play or just make up on the fly?

What games did you and your friends play?

Balls of STEEL!

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I have a bit of a problem with heights. To be more precise, I have a fear of not being in control of the height. I have no problem with flying for instance because while I’m in the plane I feel safe that I won’t “Fall” out. But if you put me near an edge of a cliff or on a balcony of a tall building that doesn’t have a caged in fencing to protect me from falling off I get anxious and completely freaked out.

About 12 years ago a friend of mine lived on the upper east side and while at a party one night at his place he invited us to the rooftop. Pretty cool, we were having some cigars and having some fun. No problem. He asked me if I wanted to see a nice view of the city from the other side of the roof and I said sure. Well, what he didn’t tell me was that I had to swing over to the other side of the roof by dangling my feet over the edge of the roof and swing over to the other side. This required a very simple task really. You literally would sit down on the edge of the roof and flip your feet over to the adjacent corner of the roof. The building was about 50 stories high by the way. He of course did it by jumping up on the edge and swinging his whole body over in one swoop. I told him that there was no way I could do that. After a long debate and I guess because I was drinking a bit, I decided to go ahead and try this and luckily I am here to talk about it today. I sat on that edge and swung over to the other side. The view was nice, but I don’t know if it was worth the effort to see it. It was by far the most fearful thing I’ve ever done with regards to heights and my logic in doing it was purely to try to combat this problem I have. Well, it failed. I still have the fear and when I think about this story today I say to myself “what the hell was wrong with you that day, why did you even put yourself in a situation where you could have literally died”.

You ask why I’m even talking about this today? Well I saw a video yesterday that reminded me of that day and figured I’d blog about it and share that story, but more importantly wanted to share the video(s) I found on this russian kid. He calls himself Mustang-Wanted. To me he is completely crazy, but to him and many others that are fearless of things like this it must be somewhat normal or maybe even a rush. He says in one of his videos that he does feel fear, but he’s simply learned to overcome it. Simply for some I guess.

As for me, I can barely watch these videos without my hands getting clammy and my heart racing. I kind of envy people who have the ability to do this but I think he is completely nuts and has no regards for his life by doing what he does. One small mistake and its over.

Then again, who am I to judge right? I’m sure he enjoys this “Hobby” as much as I enjoy a round of golf.

Anyway, here are some links to some of the videos that I saw that literally made me queasy simply watching them.

He’s also on Facebook – Mustang-Wanted Facebook Page

How do you deal with heights? Anyone else have this fear?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSsWLiu1s00

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0lF56yEfkM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ajVurrUvELc

 

 

The “Sleepover” Story

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Ok, so my daughter had a sleepover last night at our neighbors house. It wasn’t her first sleepover, it was technically her third. The first time counts but not as much because it was at her Aunt Karen’s house. You know, familiar person and surroundings, etc. Although it was a very big step for both Abby and her crazy parents that can’t breathe without her.

The first “Real” sleepover was a few months ago at a neighbor’s house that literally lives 4 houses away. Ilyssa and I were waiting for that phone call at 9-10pm of a desperate little girl asking us to come get her so she can come home. But that phone call never came. My wife texting our neighbor periodically until bedtime to make sure she was safe and sound asleep. And even after that we still thought we would get a phone call at 1-2am….but we didn’t. We woke up the next morning to find out that she didn’t want to come home and she still wanted to stay and play a while. So the ice had been broken….she can handle staying over without Mom and Dad.

Is this the beginning of losing her? I can’t take it…..

The sleepover last night was at our neighbors house that is 2 houses away in our Cul-de-sac. The event was planned days in advance and leading up to it Abby was very excited. She was packed early that morning. While packing (5 bags mind you) her mom told her that she needed to downsize a bit. The biggest items are usually the stuffed animals that she “Needs” in order to sleep. Well, mom went shopping and gave daddy the instructions to help her pack 1 bag and get ready. So, we proceeded to do so. The dilemma came when we got to the stuffed animals. So we compromised with a lot of pain in between, but she was allowed to bring her unicorn, her panda and her puppy but needed to leave the rest home. She cried a bit and stormed out of her room with one of her favorite bears. She came back moments later (without the bear) and just a bit teary eyed. I asked what she was doing and she said “nothing, I’m ok now”. I left it alone and we finished packing.

Moments later, the neighbors were knocking on the door and was one her way.

Most parents would be excited about this and begin to rejoice the freedom and some peace and quite. But I usually get a little sad because I won’t have my little buddy around and of course I need to always be entertained like a 5-year-old. My wife was still out, but we decided that we would go out to dinner as we had this bit of freedom. So I proceeded to our bedroom to get dressed for our date when I stumbled across this on our bed.

In case you can’t read the purple writing on the tablet, it says “Mommy can you take care ove my teddy bear, Love Abby”

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I literally got teary eyed when I saw it. I think it may have been the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen Abby do on her own like that. When my wife saw it she felt the same way. Needless to say, Ilyssa slept with the bear that night. I was luckily not on the couch….

As for Abby, well while I sit here writing this post she is still at our neighbors house. It’s now after 11am and she just called us to ask if she can go to the mall with them this afternoon. I know it’s inevitable that your kids eventually begin to separate from you a bit and become independent, but no one ever said you have to like it. Although I am extremely proud of her and happy that she is having a good time, I still miss her dearly and can’t wait for her to come home later.

Are we getting sicker or is it just a coincidence?

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Is it me, or does it seem like sickness is worse this year than ever?

Every time you turn around there is someone either sick or getting sick. I know that this year the flu was a bit worse than other years but even common colds, sinus infections, ear infections, etc. have taken its toll on everyone. And every time you go to your doctor an antibiotic is normally prescribed.

Is it just coincidence or is there something happening?

I don’t remember this much sickness when I was a kid, and I certainly wasn’t sick as much as a kid as I am now (granted I am getting older, but still). Chicken pox back in the day meant several days spent at home in front of the T.V. wearing oven mitts on your hands and taking oatmeal baths. Now it means mothers rushing their feverish, itchy babies to the hospital. Getting the flu meant staying out of work, eating chicken soup and getting lots of rest. Now, you call your doctor and mention symptoms of a flu and you’re required to come in for blood work and a flu test, and end up with an antibiotic to boot (which will do nothing if the infection is viral).

One might blame the health and well-being of our country. Let’s face it, the fast foods and the lack of exercise doesn’t help matters much. And lets not forget the smoking, drinking and drug use either. However, are those things truly to blame for our illnesses? I mean, I’m sure they deserve at least an honorable mention, but is there another culprit out there?

Antibiotics are prescribed for almost every cold, sinus infection and other common ailment and as a result, our immune systems are becoming weaker and weaker. Our bodies no longer know how to fight diseases on our own. They rely on these antibiotics, which our bodies (and the diseases themselves) become immune to. Then each course of antibiotics must be stronger to achieve the desired results.

Doctors today hardly ever counsel you on how to get healthy again with natural treatments. There is no reason healthy people should be treated with antibiotics, steroids or dozens of other commonly prescribed meds for mild illnesses.

Or is there?

What if…by making us believe that we cannot get better on our own without the help of antibiotics, they create business. More people come in for doctor’s appointments, more people get lab tests and more people fill prescriptions. The meds seem to help or the illness runs its course, there’s really no telling, and then we attribute getting better to our recent doctor’s visit.

In turn, we become more reliant on our doctor and the prescribed medications to make us well again every time we are sick. The problem is that the antibiotics become necessary over time, because the immune system no longer knows what to do without them. I’ve been saying this for years but now it’s really starting to sink in more and more as the years go by.

So as we go on, doctors will continue to prescribe more and more antibiotics when natural remedies would work just fine, if not better, and our immune system becomes weaker. Then we continue to rely on the doctor every time we get sick, which in turn creates long-term residual income for the doctor in lab tests and appointment fees. Is this all just a coincidence? Or is the healthcare industry making us sicker (or at least not helping us to get better naturally) in order to turn a profit?