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Alleke is 5 years old

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Not Suitable for Adults

I’ve watched so many episodes of Caillou in the last week while our family has been sick that I can’t get Caillou’s whiny little voice out of my head. I think I may have done some permanent damage.

I’ve decided they should come up with a TV rating for shows like Caillou called “Not Suitable for Adults.”

Best Friends Forever

Alleke’s teacher, Elena, and I stood at the classroom door and looked down the hallway. Alleke was sitting on a bench with her arms folded and a big lip, pretending not to notice us.

“This is the first time in months Alleke hasn’t wanted to go to school,” I said to Elena.

“I think I know why,” Elena said as we stepped into her classroom. “As you know, Alleke’s best friend, Amaya, left on vacation a few days ago. Every day since then Alleke has been sitting on a bench by herself during recess. Yesterday when I asked her to go play with the other kids, she got mad at me. She said she only wanted to play with her best friend Amaya.”


Fast forward a month and a few days. I was picking Alleke up from school when I saw Amaya’s mom, Vicky, for the first time since they returned from their vacation. I mentioned to Vicky my conversation with Elena about how Alleke didn’t want to play with the other kids while Amaya was gone. We both agreed that Amaya wouldn’t have reacted the same way if Alleke had been on vacation. Amaya likes playing with the other kids at school.

We parted ways, and I felt uncomfortable with the idea that Alleke seemed attached to her best friend in a way that her best friend was not attached to her. Probably because at that moment I remembered myself as that little insecure child that always followed his best friend around looking for approval. The truth is I didn’t want Alleke to have to deal with the same insecurity I dealt with as a kid. I wanted her to be strong…even stronger than I was.

It’s unfair to expect Alleke to be stronger than I was—or at least not without a little help. Hopefully as an adult I’ve done my work and dealt with my insecurities, so that when I see the same insecurities in my kids, I’m able to help them deal with them better than I did.

I want Mommy

Alleke was sick on the couch. I had been sitting next to her rubbing her face and legs, filling her sippy cup and making her toast with jam while she watched TV.

April was out with her parents getting a coffee, and as soon as Alleke heard the key in the front door, she rolled over and said, “I want Mommy.”

“Why do you want Mommy?” I asked. “What does Mommy do that I don’t do?”

“She does lots of better things that you don’t do.”

“Like what?”

Alleke sighed. “I don’t know.”

I’ve spent years trying to figure out why my kids prefer their mommy over me, and the result of all my research has never been that my kids end up liking me better. Instead, I end up making up reasons why my kids don’t like me based on the weaknesses I perceive in myself, and then wanting to give up on parenting completely because I’ve convinced myself that I’m not fit for the job.

In situations where my kids obviously prefer their mom to me, the one thing that keeps me going is reminding myself that my kids have exceptionally good taste. I prefer their mommy over everyone else too!

Where are you from?

“Where are you from?” the kid asked.

He had been watching Alleke since she hopped off my lap and announced to everyone in English that she was a flamenco dancer, and then proceeded to prance and twirl up and down the aisle of the train car. The other passengers didn’t seem to mind the impromptu on-board entertainment.

“I’m from Madrid,” Alleke said, twirling in front of the boy.

“You mean you’re on vacation in Madrid,” the boy clarified.

Alleke stopped and looked at the boy.

“No, I’m going on vacation to Granada with my Grandma and Papa,” she said.

“But where were you born?” the boy asked.

“Spain,” Alleke said.

The boy frowned. “Why do you speak English then?” he asked.

Alleke spread her arms again and hopped down the aisle. “Because my mom is from Iowa, and my dad is from Iowa,” she yelled, “and I pick sweet corn when I go to Iowa.”

The boy threw up his hands. “Oh, so you’re American,” he said.

Alleke tipped her head and looked at the boy, confused by his logic. Then she turned, lifted both arms over her head and began stomping the floor with her feet.

Also, just for fun, here’s a video of Alleke watching a flamenco dancer in a cave in Granada…

Diaper Change

Alleke meets Xavi (Behind the Scenes Footage with her Daddy)

Here’s some behind-the-scenes footage of Alleke’s reaction in the dressing room, waiting room, and in our hotel room soon after she met Xavi. Also, take a look at what Xavi wrote on Alleke’s Barça jersey…

Also, Alleke in the news:

Alleke meets Xavi

Alleke met Xavi Hernández on TV last night at the Catalonian Sports Awards Ceremony. April took this video from the waiting room while Alleke and I were in the TV studio. Thanks to the great folks at Televisió de Catalunya for helping make Alleke’s dream a reality. More behind the scenes videos and photos from the TV studio in the days to come!

Alleke will meet Xavi tomorrow on TV

Alleke will be meeting Xavi Hernández tomorrow (Monday) night on TV3 (Televisió de Catalunya) at the Catalonian Sports Awards Ceremony at 8pm (Spain time). I’m hoping the ceremony will be broadcast online at this link:

Who’s Xavi anyway?



The landlord had recently retired. His paper store was for sale, but for the time being he still had his office in the back, so he invited us to come by to sign the contract. While he talked April and I through the pages of legal jargon, Alleke lay on the floor drawing pictures on her magna doodle.

We signed the contract, and even though it wouldn’t be legally binding for another week, the landlord agreed to give us the keys so we could paint the new apartment. He pulled a metal box out of one of the drawers in his desk, unlocked it, and dumped the contents onto the desk in front of him. He untangled each key from the pile and examined it closely, then asked if we could walk over to the apartment building to make sure he had the right keys.

I glanced at Alleke playing on the floor, concentrating so hard on drawing a princess that her tongue was sticking out of her mouth. “Sure, let’s go,” I said to the landlord. I figured Alleke was in her own world, and if I didn’t say anything, she wouldn’t even notice what was going on around her.

April and I had decided not to tell Alleke we would be moving to a new apartment until after we had signed the contract. We had spent a considerable amount of effort deciding how and when we would tell Alleke about the move because we wanted her to feel as safe and secure as possible through the transition. April and I had even gotten in the habit of discussing the move around the kids by spelling out our words. For example, the night before over supper I had asked April, “Are we going to ask Gloria to help us pee-aye-eye-en-tee the new ayche-oh-you-ess-eee?”

The landlord fiddled in his pocket for the keys and put one in the lock. The door clicked open. “There you go,” he said with a smile and handed me the keys.

Alleke, who was in my arms, turned and looked at me. “When are we going to paint our new house?” she asked.

“What do you mean?” I asked, pretending I didn’t have any idea what she was talking about.

Alleke cocked her and frowned. She seemed disappointed in me. “Daddy,” she scolded me. “You know what I mean. Last night at supper you were talking with Mama about painting our new house with Gloria,” Alleke said.

Floor Plan

April sat on the floor stacking blocks with Teo in her lap while I sat hunched over the table with a ruler and a pencil and a piece of paper. I made measurements, drew lines, cut out shapes and arranged them in different ways on the paper, until finally I pushed back my chair, stood up, and announced, “I’ve got a floor plan!”

In the last nine days I had seen an apartment for rent in our neighborhood, negotiated a contract with the landlord, made a down payment, wrote up a to-do list, set up another appointment to see the apartment and taken measurements of every surface in the apartment, and now I had just finished a hand-drawn floor plan of the new apartment perfectly to scale with our current furniture cut out of paper and put neatly into place.

Meanwhile, April summarized her involvement in the moving process quite well when she looked at my nifty floor plan, sighed, and said, “I’m in denial.” I hadn’t realized until that very moment that April was absolutely right—I was actually moving our family alone. I had gone into task mode, and I was chasing after our moving day like a greyhound after a stuffed bunny. April had seen the apartment and agreed to move, but beyond that, she had continued to go on with her life as if nothing had happened, as if we weren’t actually moving.

The truth is April and I complement each other well. I become the taskmaster, and I’ll make sure everything is in boxes by moving day. But you can count on me being distracted if you ask me anything that doesn’t have to do with the move. April, on the other hand, ignores the situation and keeps life as normal as possible for all of us. Without April, our kids would have to feed themselves and put themselves to bed for the next few weeks. They would live like street children. Without me, we wouldn’t move. April and I need each other. We’re two sides of the same galleta María.

The problem is when April and I are in crisis mode, we both head to opposite ends of the spectrum, and we find ourselves in very different places emotionally. I’m excited and motivated. She’s sad and tired. We walk around the same house, but it’s like we’re living in separate realities. As a result, we’ve ended up walking some of the most difficult experiences in our lives on our own, not together.

Later that night as we sat on the couch watching TV on my laptop, April turned to me and said, “I don’t want to be in denial. What should I do?”

Nothing occurred to me for the longest time because even though under normal circumstances empathy comes easily to me, at that moment I couldn’t understand my life outside of moving day. Any part of my life that wasn’t somehow connected to the move had been metaphorically boxed up and taped shut to be opened again after we had moved.

Finally I said, “If I act a little bit more like you, and you act a little bit more like me, I think we’ll be okay.”

For more, read about the last time we moved and the post I wrote called, “Three Week Plan to Ruin Your Child’s Life (Tested and Approved)”…

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