Roasted Sea Monster




(on the walk home)

Hank: Mom, what’s for dinner?

Me: Sea monster.

Hank: What?

Me: Sea monster, roasted with olive oil, garlic and red wine and baked potatoes.





Hank: Are you serious?

Me: As a heart attack.

Hank: (literally scratching his head)

Me: Povo (octopus).

Hank: Ooooohhhh.

Me: We are having povo (octopus) and you hate povo.

Hank: I seriously do. I think it is because my body is just extremely sensitive to intense smells and when I smell the cozinheiras (lunch ladies) making arroz de povo (octopus rice) at my school I actually feel vomit in my breath.

Me: I totally understand. I think all people have one food they cannot stand the smell of and for me it is definitely boiling bratwurst.

Hank: Like that sausage?

Me: Yes. When you buy them fresh you boil them first and often times in beer. If I smell boiling bratwurst I too feel like I am going to puke which is why I buy the pre-cooked kind from the grocery. I like the taste, but goodness, the smell. (shutters)

Hank: When I have to eat arroz de povo (octopus rice) I don’t even really chew it. I just swallow it as fast as I can. I eat it first that way I can use my salad and fruit and bread to get rid of the taste.

Me: No one ever called you dumb.

Hank: Not one day!

Me: Right, tonight I am not making you a second dinner.

Hank: (disappointed harrumph thinking he is going to have to eat roasted sea monster)

Me: You are going to make your own dinner.

Hank: What?

Me: Since I just have to pop the sea monster and potatoes into the oven and the salad is already made I have the time to sit back and be there to jump in if you need me while you make yourself a British Fry Up, minus the sweet beans since I don’t have any and the black pudding because I also don’t have any of that either but I have mushrooms and tomatoes and egg and presunto (prosciutto) or as the British call it, Parma ham.

Hank: Really!? And I am making it by myself!? On the stove?

Me: You are ready.

Hank: Oh my goodness, I am so excited. I hope I don’t mess up!

Me: I have half a dozen eggs so you have six chances.

Hank: I am going to do my homework so fast so I can start chopping the vegetables. OH, can I put cheese on my egg?

Me: Yes, Chef.

Hank: Mama, you should make povo (octopus)… I mean, sea monster more often now that I can make my own dinner.

Me: Your father will be pleased.



Helping mama make soup, singing away!

Helping mama make soup, singing away!


Molly: (holding her fruit aloft) Clementina.

Me: That is right. That is a clementina, a clementine, a lovely little orange just your size and perfectly sweet.

Molly: Mama, queres? (Do you want, mama?)

Me: No, thank you, I am allergic.

Hank: You are allergic to clementinas, too? They aren’t oranges.

Me: Oranges, tangerines and clementinas, but no other fruits, just those. Although kiwi makes my throat itch.

Molly: Ruca e Clementina. Friends. (nodding shoving another clementine segment in her mouth)

Me: That is right. Ruca has a friend named Clementina. Clementina is both a fruit and a name. Just like joaninha is both a ladybug and a name.

Molly: (mouth full juice dripping down her chin) Joaninha (wiggling).

Me: There is also a song about a girl named Clementine in America.

Hank: There is?

Me: Oh my darlin’
Oh my darling’
Oh my darling Clementine.
You were lost and gone forever
Dreadful sorry Clementine.

Molly: Yah! (clapping)

Hank: I have a bad feeling about that song.

Me: I don’t remember the rest of the words.

Hank: Google it.

Me: (pivoting away from Molly, to my computer) Oh good lord.

Hank: I knew it was one of those creepy-sad American songs.

Me: Argh, it is so bad.

Hank: She’s dead, isn’t she.

Me: A gold rush Ophelia!

Hank: Sing it. I need to know. It’s gonna be bad. BUT skip parts if she is murdered. I hate murder.

Me: Roger, that. (clears throat)
In a cavern, In a canyon,
Excavating for a mine,
Dwelt a miner forty-niner,
And his daughter Clementine.

Hank: This isn’t going to end well.

Me: Light she was and like a fairy,
And her shoes were number nine;
Herring boxes, without topses,
Sandals were for Clementine.

Drove she ducklings to the water,
Every morning just at nine;
Hit her foot against a splinter,
Fell into the foaming brine.

Hank: Oh Gawd, (head in his hands afraid to look) don’t let anything happen to the ducklings!

Me: Ruby lips above the water,
Blowing bubbles, soft and fine;
But Alas! I was no swimmer,
So I lost my Clementine.

Hank: She drowned? American songs are so sad!

Me: When the miner forty-niner,
Soon began to peak and pine,
Thought he oughter “jine” his daughter,
Now he’s with his clementine.

Hank: He died, too!

Me: In a corner of the churchyard,
Where the myrtle boughs entwine,
Grow the roses in their poses,
Fertilized by Clementine.

Hank: Wait WHAT!?

Me: Well, (cringing) that is what happens when your journey is over and you are buried in the ground. You do fertil…

Hank: No. Nope. And people sing this song to kids?

Me: This is a camp fire song. And yes… But it get’s worse.

Hank: It can’t get worse.

Molly: Mama, canta (sing)!

Me: In my dreams she still doth haunt me,
Robed in garments soaked in brine.
Though in life I used to hug her,
Now she’s dead, I’ll draw the line.

Hank: Creepy!

Me: How I missed her, how I missed her
How I missed my Clementine.
So I kissed her little sister,
And forgot my Clementine.

Hank: I am gonna have nightmares of this song.

Me: HA!

Hank: How did you survive your childhood?

Me: I guess I never listened to the words. You listen. When you were three you asked me to stop singing you your lullaby. The lullaby I sang to you every night since you were born.

Hank: Is that that sunshine song?

Me: Yup.

Hank: That is the saddest song ever.

Me: Which I never noticed until you said something.

Molly: Mama? Canta (sing)!

Hank: Anything but Clementine!

Me: (riots of laughter)





A Lesson in Bragging


I was too busy laughing and enjoying our torrada (toast) with Nutella to snap a photo.  Sorry folks, you will just have to believe us when we say it was HUGE!

I was too busy laughing and enjoying our torrada (toast) with Nutella to snap a photo, but thanks to Trip Advisor you don’t have to believe us when we say it was HUGE! They have a photo to prove it!


Me: (under an umbrella in the school-pickup confusion)

Hank: (not under an umbrella spotting me first) MAMA!

Me: Hank! Where is your umbrella?

Hank: Don’t have one. I didn’t know it was going to rain and also mine broke, remember?

Me: (mother henning him under my umbrella) That’s right. We go through more umbrellas in one winter than most people in a life time.

Hank: We just don’t have good luck.

Me: We also buy super cheap umbrellas. (sigh)

Hank: When you make your millions we will buy unbreakable umbrellas.

Me: That we will eventually forget at a café or lavanderia (dry cleaner). It’s a cycle.

Hank: Can we go to the café today?

Me: Sure.

Hank: I want to go for two reasons: the first is because I have a question that has been on my mind and the second is that I want to get a torrada (toast) with Nutella. Silva (our favorite café) has the best, best torrada (toast).

Me: Who doesn’t like toast as thick as bricks slathered in Nutella? I still remember the first ever time I had Nutella. I was with my mother and grandmother in a gourmet grocery in Hudson, Ohio. Cute little town. Changed my life. Probably one of the main the reason I was fine with immigrating to Europe. A continent who eats spreadable hazelnut chocolate for breakfast is where I want to be! (Leaving our umbrella in the over loaded umbrella stand by the door, entering the café and grabbing a table, Hank ordering his toast at the counter)

Hank: So mama, I have a question.

Me: Shoot.

Hank: How do I talk about stuff without bragging?

Me: What’s this now?

Hank: Well, the kids in my school when they are excited about something it always comes out bragging and I don’t want to brag. I don’t like how it feels. How do I talk about stuff that we are going to do or things or presents without bragging?

Me: You make it about you and your feelings and not about stuff and showing off.

Hank: I don’t know how to do that.

Me: Let’s pretend. May I play you in this reenactment?

Hank: (nodding) Sure.

Me: And you pretend to be one of your friends at school, okay?

Hank: Okay.

Me: Oh my goodness, Clara, I had the best weekend ever!

Hank: What did you do, Henrique?

Me: My heart is so full with love. My Tia (aunt) came to visit me from London.

Hank: Oh, that is nice.

Me: I had such a wonderful time with her. I love her so much. She always makes me feel special. We spend a lot of time together just her and me. When she comes to visit in the summers with my Prima (cousin) my parents take me to be with her and I stay all by myself.

Hank: That sound fun.

Me: We have so much fun together, laughing and talking. When she came to visit last weekend she got a hotel room with two beds and asked me if I wanted to stay with her and it was so nice. We got breakfast together every morning and talked and talked. I can always talk to her. I showed her all around Guimarães. She said I was a good tour guide and she brought me some chocolate from England because she knows I love chocolate. She is so kind. She knows exactly the little things that I love. I am so lucky she is my Tia (aunt) and loves me so much! I love spending time with her.  -End Scene-

Hank: And that wasn’t bragging?

Me: Nope that was a story wrapped in feelings and gratitude. Now, lets do it all again, only this time I will brag. (adopting a totally different posture and tone of voice) OH my gosh, Clara you will not believe the weekend I had!

Hank: Was it nice?

Me: My Tia (aunt) came from London and brought me so much chocolate. Like, so much chocolate and kinds you can’t even get in Portugal.  I have never seen so much chocolate in my life. Like, a huge box of all different kinds just for Christmas and she bought me clothes, like this shirt I’m wearing, isn’t it nice and a GAP sweatshirt. You can’t buy this marca (brand) in Portugal.  And so much more and then we didn’t even stay at my house we stayed at a hotel. My tia (aunt) is so fancy she only stays in hotels. I had my own bed and the hotel was so nice and I had to check in and show ID just like an adult and it was just so fancy and every morning we went out for breakfast and I got to order whatever I wanted and the hotel had wifi and…

Hank: I hear the difference. I understand. That is exactly how my friends talk. I want to talk like the first one.

Me: I appreciate that you want to make a better choice.

(waitress brings, no lie, a double stack of thick cut toast six inches high with a side dish of nutella on a plate barely large enough to contain it all)

Me: Yo!

Hank: Yes. (diving in)

Me: Now sometimes in life things must be bragged about. This, for example, this is one of them.

Hank: I am so excited!

Me: If my nine year old self knew this torrada (toast) was a part of my future I would have been a totally different person! (returning to my bragging tone of voice) This is supercalifragilisticexpi-braggadocious.

Hank: (mouth full) Not (swallowing) That isn’t really a word, is it?

Me: (slathering nutella on a 2.5 inch thick piece of fresh baked, toasted white bread) Yah-Huh. (doing my best Alec Baldwin imitating President Trump) This toast, just by it’s sheer existence, is, braggadocious.

Hank: (giggling, imitating President Trump, including accordion hand gestures) America, have you had the torrada at Silva? It is huge! Huge!!

Me: (practically choking, riots of laughter)