Children’s literature: Mom and Daughter Relive Costa Rica via Scrapbook

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“Mom, we have to find a picture for Daddy to paint– somewhere cool that I’ve been to!” Sophia exclaimed, the next morning.

Sophia’s little brother was still sleeping, so mom and daughter sat on the couch to look at the family scrapbooks.

Sophia goes through her baby pictures. “Am I still that cute, Mama?” she asks. “You are even more beautiful now.” her mama says.

Sophia reads a caption on the page: “I never tried to squeeze my baby’s feet into shoes before– her feet get stronger without them. But now that she’s walking outdoors, I emptied the bag of hand- me- down baby shoes that Karla gave us, and found two pairs that fit her. Here’s Sophia in her first shoes!

“Wait, Mama!” Sophia said. Karla gave us used baby shoes?”

“Yes, what’s wrong with that?” asked Mama.

“Karla the airline stewardess?! I got my shoes from someone who had traveled all over the world? No wonder I’ve been to so many places already– I’m wearing someone else’s shoes! I bet her daughter traveled with her in these shoes, and now I am traveling! See Mama, shoes do take you places!”

Mama just smiled. “Let’s look at your pictures in Costa Rica. You were only 1 and 1/2 years old then. Your first trip overseas.”

Turning the page, Sophia saw that Mama had embellished it with detailed journal entries. Now that she was old enough to read, Sophia found herself delighted at what she was learning!

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Here’s Sophia at 4:00 a.m. ready and waiting to go to Chicago O’Hare airport. minus 13 degrees outside– January in Chicago! Hard to believe Central America is only four hours away by plane!  It’s winter here, but Costa Rica will still be having their summer. Wonder how hot it will be and how many bugs? Part of our time we’ll be up in the mountains, so we’ll keep some sweaters and rain jackets, but leave most of this winter clothing behind once we get to the airport. Hard to believe Central America is only four hours away by plane! Costa Rica, here we come!

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When we first arrived, the sky was clear but the wind was blustery. We were told that the wind gusts were unusual and had to to with Mount Turrialba volcano having erupted on January 5, 2010– one week earlier. Vocanoes can send ash far up into the stratosphere and this can continue affecting weather for quite a while. High winds and even rain and thunder in the sky can result from a volcanic eruption. No one was hurt in the volcano that year, but everyone felt the high winds were very unusual for such a mild climate.

Our trip started and ended with San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica. San Jose is packed with cars. Only ten years ago, people mostly took buses or rode bicycles. But then people started being able to afford cars. There are so many cars that the city of San Jose made a law that people can only drive their car one day a week, and on the weekend. Some people may drive on Mondays, other people on Tuesdays, etc! So people still have to take buses or share their car with someone else. It did take us incredibly long to get to our hotel!

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In Costa Rica, coffee beans grow. They have the best tasting coffee in the world! And guess what? Mommy never cared for coffee before– until she had to start chasing little Sophia around! Yep, we had to put you on a little harness sometimes!

You ran all over in those little sandals. We put them on you in San Jose and you wore them the entire trip, until we returned to San Jose, and you lost one of them at a concert and cried for two days. We never found the missing sandal. It seems that it wanted to stay in Costa Rica. Funny to think of it, we got those sandals and summer clothes from a friend who had taken her kids to Puerto Rico. Her little girl is only a little older than you and they are part Peurto Rican– like you and Daddy. I think that sandal wanted to stay near the Carribean. I can’t blame it– sandals don’t like Chicago winters!

Children’s Literature, Picture Book Chapter 3: Scrapbook of Travel Adventures

Sophia and her Momma spent the next morning looking at their scrapbooks while Sophia’s little brother is slept.

“So this was my baby shower!” Sophia exclaimed. I thought you had baby showers before the baby came out?”

“All through my pregnancy, we were trying to sell our home,” said Momma. “It was very important, and very stressful on me. So we waited till you came into the world. That way all our friends and family would get to meet you!”

“How old was I then?” Sophia asked.

“You were only a month old in those pictures,” Momma said.

“What was my favorite present?” Sophia asked.”Did I get any shoes?”

“Well, yes. As a matter of fact, our friend gave you the little pair of white bunny slippers.”

“I remember those,” Sophia said. “I wore them in Idaho.”

“Yes,” Momma said. “You cried every time you lost the ‘girl bunny’ or the ‘boy bunny! I’m not sure how you told them apart,” Momma smiled, “but when you asked where they were, I always told you ‘they went down the rabbit hole’ and then you’d find them under your sheets. But one time, you dropped the ‘girl bunny’ outside in the snow after preschool, and cried for three days till we found it! It was good that the snow in Idaho doesn’t stay all winter like it does here in Chicago!”

Sophia laughed. “I sure loved those bunny slippers. We still have them, right?”

(Painting of Momma and Sophia sitting together holding the scrapbook. Next to them are the tattered pair of bunny slippers.)

Did I get any other shoes?” asked Sophia.

Momma said, ” you did get a bag of shoes from Karla, the airline stewardess. They were her daughter’s old shoes.”

“Really,” Sophia said excitedly. “That means that those shoes came from someone who traveled! Karla traveled to different countries, right?”

“Yes,” Momma said, “She worked for an international company and went all over the world.”

“Wow!” exclaimed Sophia. “Are there any pictures of me in those shoes?”

“Those were the first shoes you wore outside. Here’s a picture of you in them at grandma and grandpa’s house.”

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“That must have been fun. But what about travel pictures, Mom?”

“Well, here is your first big trip. We went to Costa Rica with our friends.

(Art: next two pages show scrapbook up close with pictures of Costa Rica and captions of what was happening, ending with a little notation about how Sophia lost her sandal there at a church and cried.)

Children’s Literature: Picture Book– Chapter 2 (To Travel to the Places Our Ancestors Came From)

When Sophia thought of her birthday then, it  still seemed far away– in summer. She pictured Giovina taking off the boots and the rain shrinking them down to her size. She pictured Giovina having fun in Italy with Jack, and buying new boots, so she could give Sophia the old pair. She tried to picture herself as a more grown up girl, going to Italy for her birthday.

As Sophia glanced out the window, she could see green grass. It was nearing the end of April, but still chilly out. Jack and Giovina had already returned from Italy, Sophia was sure of it. “When will we see Jack and Giovina?” Sophia asked. “I miss them and I want to see their pictures. Will they be back before my birthday comes?”

“They should be back soon.” said Momma. “And you may invite them. So you want to start planning your birthday?”

“Boots!” answered Sophia.

“So you want boots like Giovina’s?” Momma asked. “I don’t remember her wearing fancy boots.”

“Oh yes, she does. They wear everything fancy in Italy. She told me that. Let me draw you a picture,” Sophia said, determined.

Momma smiled, “You’re a little artist, just like Daddy!” she said.

Daddy looked at the picture. “Those look fancy, Sophia. You know we don’t have money for new things, especially if they are meant just to look fancy.” Daddy chuckled, “I wear post office boots, Momma wears hiking boots, but our little Sophia wants boots all the way from Italy!”

“Boots are not just to look fancy,” she said, repeating her idea: “Shoes take you places.”

“Sophia, shoes don’t take you places. Giovina does wear nice clothes, but she’s probably had them a long time and kept them nice. She can go to Italy because she saves money to go, plus she has family there to stay with– and besides she and Jack are only two people traveling together, not a family of four like us.”

“Yes, but she invited us to go next time, and we are from Italy, and we should go!” Sophia exclaimed eagerly.

“We’re not from Italy sweetie…” Daddy started to say.

“I know, not us—our ancestors are from Italy, that is, Grandma Barb’s dad, right? And his last name was Scalzitti, which means shoe-maker. And Grandma Barb’s mom was German, and your dad was from Puerto Rico, and mom’s family was from England and Germany. I know all that. But I want to go to all the places that our families are from. Why can’t we go?”

“I’ve always wanted to go to Italy, too” Daddy said. “But it will take time to save up money.”

“I know– Daddy, if you start painting more and selling your paintings, maybe then we can go to Italy!” Sophia said.

“Well,” Daddy said, “I have to keep my day job. But why don’t I do a painting for you, for your birthday. Find me a picture of someplace you have been– like our trip to Costa Rica, for instance. I’ll do a painting of you in a place you’ve already been.”

“O.K.” Sophia said. “As long as I can paint with you, Daddy!”

“That’s a great idea,” Momma said. “That will help you to be thankful for the places you have been. We have traveled a lot you know. Let’s look in our scrapbook tomorrow, and you can find a good picture for Daddy to paint from.”