Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Today, they took two more steps away from us.

They showered on their own (mostly) and got themselves ready for bed last night with very little coaching.

They chose and helped lay out their clothes for the next morning with minimal guidance.

They woke up all on their own today -- and even forced themselves to wait in bed until 6-0-0, dressed and made beds without my ever even having to raise my voice once.

They helped pack their snacks and drew good-luck-on-your-first-day pictures on the paper bags for one another.

They donned their backpacks like warriors off to battle, walking tall and proud, saying hello to friends they remembered, and easily navigating their way through their respective rooms (which happen to be directly across from each other), right up to their desks, as if they'd always been here.

They were all smiles.  Ear-to-ear smiles. So excited for the school day to begin.  So ready for their new year. Yesterday, they were just peanuts, sonographic lima beans, floating around in my belly that still pangs in the middle of the night when I hear them whimper or cry out.

Today, they're second graders.

But there was no inkling of stress or insecurity or discomfort or hesitation.  They were ready. We were ready. And it was all so easy and comfortable and right.

And then it occurred to me... that this is the first year... the very first year... that they've ever been to the same school in the same town for two whole years in a row.

And that's just a hard truth to swallow for a gypsy.

Monday, August 30, 2010


You know, Chago loves his Yakult more than anyone I know, but this...this digestive system plush doll thingie is gonna give me nightmares for months!!!

Sunday, August 29, 2010


Blue-footed Bubi
On our way back from Costco. The kids arguing in the backseat over who knows what.

"Shhh...I'm on the phone with your Tia Sonia!" I whisper-yell with gritted teeth over my left shoulder, wagging a finger at them both.

"BUT SANTIAGO SMACKED ME WITH THE BOOBIE!!!" she screams in her defense.

"With the WHAT?!" says Mommy, both of us quickly jerking our heads around just in time to see Chago waving his stuffed Blue-footed Bubi bird, pointing at it excitedly, saying "boobie! boobie! boobie!" over the rest of our hysterics.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


I love, and I know I really shouldn't 'cause it's gonna annoy someone so terribly someday, their little internal editors.

I love that they can hear and automatically correct their tenses, their spelling, and their word choices when they're telling stories.

And I love that there's not a month that's gone by in two years that they don't find some children's book, factoid book, activity book, or coloring book that doesn't have at least one typo or error.

These are some of my proudest mama moments.  I'm thinking of buying them each a case of engraved 24k-gold red pens for their next birthday. ;P

Friday, August 27, 2010


"Morning, Brittany. Morning, Simon. Morning, Jesse," she says to her little stuffed chipmunks and her Toy Story cowgirl as she bounces out of bed today.

"Morning, Theodore," he says to his own little chipmunk.  "Morning, Bullseye."

"Chago, you're forgetting one," she says, pointing to the cowboy dangling from his bed post.

"Oh, of course," he says excitedly. "Morning, Woody!!"

[Oh, yeah. That's right.]

Thursday, August 26, 2010


[click, click]


[click, click]

[shuffle, shuffle]


"Yes, ma'm?"

"What are you doing?"

[click, shuffle]

"Nothing, Mama."

"Eyes closed. Head on pillow. Go. To. Sleep."

"Yes, ma'm."




[click, click]




"Santiago Gaèl, what are you doing?!"

"Mama! You scared me! Nothing!"

"What do you have there?"


"What do you have there that you shoved under the blankets with your left hand as soon as I walked in the door?"

"Oh, this? It's my flashlight."

"Hand it over."

"Yes, ma'm."

"And the book, too."

"Awww, Mom!"

[Yeah, no way to be mad about this one, I know.]

Monday, August 23, 2010


Suddenly back on a regular bedtime, wake time, homework time.

Suddenly back to checking off our To Do List for the Day on the chalkboard in the kitchen.

Suddenly back to expectations of clean bedrooms BEFORE coming downstairs and BEFORE getting ready for bed.

Suddenly re-establishing chore line-up and negotiating allowances.

Suddenly so much more time during the day to get things done, so much more organization, so much less aggravation, and so so so much less yelling.

I positively abhor being so structured.

But...suddenly...oh my God...my life just became a cherry pie.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Checked off our list of 3 million things to do today and made it home with enough time to drop off the last of the back-to-school shopping and head out to the theatre for movie night.

Kiddos chose Nanny McPhee Returns, of course. I, apparently, have absolutely no say so anymore in that regard.

And it was...eh, alright.

It wasn't nearly as good as the first one. The best thing about it were the bratty city kids, who just did an awesome job being total snots.

But 5 minutes into the movie, after NMP bangs her cane, resulting in a disturbing scene of pre-teen self-flagellation, she loses her first unsightly mole, the physical manifestation of no-good spoiled-rotten childish behavior. And Saia turned to me and said, "Ok, that was just way too fast."

And I agree.

The whole movie felt that way. Like it was initially just propelling us obligatorily through the first couple of lessons, but without a whole lot of substance.

They didn't LEARN not to fight with one another. They were magicked into hitting themselves until they surrendered.

They didn't LEARN to share. They were tricked into sleeping with animals (reserving comment on that one), and still forced to abdicate one half of their beds, but without a real lesson on choosing to share with one another.

And that was how it went. They were coerced and deceived. Deluded and misled. And no, it wasn't intentional. And yes, it was all in good fun. And yes, it was all under the guise of behavior modification, but that lesson, that you have to trick someone into doing what's right, is not really a lesson I want my children to learn.

The things the kids did learn weren't from NMP at all. They were from just being around each and spending time with one another and learning about each other's lives, which all would've happened with or without her meddling.

Alright, the teamwork lesson was cute, but only because how can you not be all sorts of cuteness with synchronized swimming piglets? I mean, come on.

But even the final leap of faith lesson, which was really moving in some parts, and totally allowed the bratty cousin to show off his acting chops as he evolved so gracefully into a truly awesome kid, was still not a great lesson for children. Particularly because it involved the possible death of a parent, and we are currently in a time of war. How many children, I wondered immediately, with a mother or father or aunt or uncle or brother or sister or cousin who won't be coming home from the Middle East, went home and just thought to themselves that all they really had to do was believe hard enough and "feel it in their bones," and their loved one would come walking over a hill, tall green grass swaying in the breeze, completely alive and well?

It just did not sit well with me. At all.

Friday, August 20, 2010


Went down for a walk by the lake yesterday with my friend Diana and her beautiful genius spawn, Sarah and Jordan.

The boys stopped to look at absolutely every little tiny possible thing that may or may not have just moved.

The girls held hands and chatted. And maybe taunted the boys now and again.

On the way back to the house, one pinky-sized newt, or salamander, or some such little squirmy crawly thing, who obviously did not get the emergency memo, forgot to scurry away (or is it scamper?), and got totally busted by the bug hunters.

Sarah stood, like an Irish pointer, perfectly still and focused on the prize. Saia did her very very best to sneak up on him, but she's much more of a tromper. And then...Santiago pounced. No, really. He literally pounced on the poor thing, snatched it right up. The whole moment was suspended in the quiet sounds of nature, a bird chirping up in the trees, the babbling brook...babbling, the wind softly rustling the leaves. And then you heard the music, the dun-da-RRRUN da-RRRUN-dun music from the Wizard of Oz, and it was all so eerily reminescent of the flying monkey scene when that first one with the creepy hat and the sparkly vest swoops down past the enchanted trees and snatches up Toto. And I know I could hear, although it may have been completely in my head, the teensy little terrified scream from their prey as he was gently, but firmly, shoved into Sarah's pocket for the remainder of the trip home because Jordan's were fully of berries. Or jelly. I forgot to check back in with Diana.

They named him Lewis, although our guests had suggested Lucifer, which I far preferred. But then today, Lewis became Lizzy, which then got shortened to just Liz. And as far as I know, there was no surgical procedure involved, but the monsters just decided he was no longer a boy. So...we are now the proud landlords of a transgendered lizard. We're very evolved out here, don'tcha know?

Update: Lewis/Liz finally decided it was time to go and fled her nest sometime between the hours of 7pm on 8/22 and 8am on 8/23. Reyna, the Chihuahua, may or may not have been licking her lips at the time.


As coincidence would have it, on the day we had planned to be cleaning out our closets and toyboxes for donation, the boy found this little tidbit at the bottom of his summer homework, and, well...expressed his silent protest before turning it in for me to check.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Chago had the vine dream again. Hundreds of vines, taking over his room, swallowing up his family, and covering the entire earth.

So we sat this morning and talked about what they could represent. We talked about dreams being metaphors. We talked about your subconscious brain trying to process the things you can't or won't always deal with when you're awake. And we talked about how to make it go away.

He was very clear on the things he thought the vines stood for, the things that were tugging at him and overtaking his world.

"I'm afraid to grow up," he said.

"I'm afraid of going to second grade, and of having to give away my toys and my stuffed animals, and of riding my bicycle like a big boy, and of doing more chores, and of doing more math."

And when we added in the other things that he was worried about, the number one thing being that Mommy doesn't live with us anymore, followed very closely by Mama yelling too much to clean up his room and Saia not wanting to play with him all the time, it's no wonder he's been tossing and turning at night.

And it's always those moments of clarity, those glaringly clear, hit-you-upside-the-head moments of awareness that you think, how the hell could I have missed how all of this was affecting him, them, her, me, us? How could I possibly have thought we were all just getting through this unscathed?

The divorcement, as Saia refers to it, was not their choice. Was not their doing. And was not what any of us had ever planned. But working through this as a family is. No matter how afraid we all are to grow up.

Friday, August 13, 2010


"Mom, can you find on your computer the address for Mary Pope Osborne?" he says this morning after devouring yet another Magic Tree House book.

"Her address?" I say with a tinge of alarm. "Are you wanting to go visit her or something?"

"No, Mom!! I want to write her a note," he says.

"A loooooove note?" Saia teases.

"NO!" he yells. "A thank you note."

So I find and hand him the Random House care-of address on a post-it note, and he stares at it a while before saying, "But this isn't where she LIVES, Mom."

"Well, no, Bubba, but they don't really make those addresses available for the general population. I mean, I could probably find it for you with very little effort and $19.95, but I'm getting a little uncomfortable with the general direction of this request."

"But is she going to actually GET my letter? Because I really want for HER to read it."

"Well, I'm sure the publishing house ensures that she gets all of her fan mail. But why is it so important, babe?"

"Because when she reads my note she's gonna want to quote me at the back of her book, so I just wanna make sure she gets it in time for her next book."


Tuesday, August 10, 2010


"Saia, you're becoming more like a grown up," he says with disgust as she wipes down and re-inserts the DVD into the player, all the while giving him step-by-step instructions, careful to point out exactly what he did wrong and how she highly recommends he do it the next time.

"I'm just trying to be more responsible," she says, glancing sideways over to me -- because it's not gonna really be worth the stand if she can't impress someone, you see.

"I'm trying to get ready for second grade, Santiago," she puffs out, "And you should be, too."

But in classic Chago, he's long moved on to something else, oblivious to her pretentious brown-nosing display, and now just annoyed that the movie's not yet playing.

But she's not quite through. Oh, no.

"I still play with you like I used to, though, right?" and she throws in a little girly charm for good measure.

"Well..." he begins. "You've gotten a lot bossier lately." Immune, I tell you. Completely immune to the wily ways of women.


"And you're kinda mean," he continues.


"And you just don't listen to me very much anymore," he concludes, and gestures to the TV for added emphasis.

So, she pushes play, sits down, gives him the pouty puppy-eyes and he says, "So, can I have your toast and jelly if you're not gonna eat it?"

Sunday, August 08, 2010


What do Cali babies do when they pretend play outside in the ever-lovin', ever-lastin' summer of sunshine? Why, they pretend it's raining, of course! Goofballs!!

So then we made pink lemonade popsicles with fresh strawberries and mint leaves. It was like the most perfectly little chilled cocktail...on a stick...but without the vodka.

At least their's was.

Friday, August 06, 2010


Our daughter. Our beautiful, vivacious, brilliantly soulful daughter is cursed with my thighs and legs. Luckily she's blessed with the donor's height. So, basically, she's a goddess in the making, and I think I'm fine with that for now. Ask me again in 5 years.

However, she's also cursed with my hairy legs. Which, honestly, I didn't think I'd have to really worry about until she was in her early teens.

My mother didn't allow me to shave until I was 13. Thirteen. I'm pretty sure I must've been basically wolfmanish for years prior, though, because by then I was just covered. I remember distinctly the sheets of thick, dark, black hair. I remember how it was in such discord with my blanched skin.

I remember, kind of vaguely, more in the distant parts of my mind where I think I've buried all the bad shit that'll return to me on my deathbed and have me haunting so many of you like Flatliners, being teased relentlessly about it. And that's because there were primarily Latinos in my school, for crissakes.

But I'd made both the basketball team and the cheerleading squad in the summer just before 7th grade, and I just didn't think I could bear it -- all grizzly puns fully intended.

I can't really remember, because I'm pretty sure I must've blocked it out, how long and how hard I had to have lobbied and begged for that moment to finally happen. I can't even begin to imagine what those arguments sounded like, but the fact that my mother eventually did cave (and if you've ever been on the receiving end of an argument with me) should give you some idea.

But then I was obsessed. With not wanting anyone EVER to see even the teensiest bit of stubble (which, seriously, appears within an hour of a clean shave). With not wanting anyone to ever get too close, to see too much, to have to stop and convince themselves that it didn't matter.

And yes, of course, I love who I am. I love everything about being Latina. My dark wavy hair, my wide twin-bearing hips, my overly dramatic and hot-blooded temper, and my passion for, well, for passion. I love it all. But the hair. The hair has been a tough one to swallow. [ack!!]

And, yes, I have had my legs and face and even arms waxed (once). In fact, I tried a full-body waxing just before our vacation to Cancùn a few years ago. But once it grew back, and the unbelievably torturous itching stopped, I just couldn't ever do it again.

It wasn't really a maintenance thing. Or even a pain thing. In fact, I found the full-body waxing experience to be a whole lot like getting a tattoo. Kind of calming and numbing...and even a little sexy.

But despite comments I've actually received from friends and former lovers, and more than a reasonable number of fits with razors and waxing strips and hair removing foams, I really do embrace my body, my skin, my color, my hair, my whole Latina-ness. I can't say that I didn't love, for those glorious two weeks in Mexico, the hassle-free, smooth-as-silk, hairless dog experience. There were definitely some advantages.

But in the end, when all is said and done, this is who I am, and no amount of hair removal products or services can or should change that.

But I do still shave my legs and underarms. (I may live in Cali, but it ain't in Berkeley.) And I tweeze and occasionally wax my face and keep my eyebrows from Frida Kahlo-ing all over the place. But I'm not quite so self-conscious anymore, although, clearly, I still maintain.

So how do I get across to Saia, who is only 7, that even though she has more hair on her legs than her brother and Mommy combined, we're just not going to go there? Not yet. And not for a very long time. She's Latina. Just as her mother before her, and her grandmother before that. And although my maternal grandmother passed on the hairless Mexican Indian gene to my cousin Missy (whom I will NEVER EVER forgive), it is a trait that I associate very closely with my history, with my culture, with my family, and with my being. And I need her to feel that, too.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010


"And then she came to pick me up and brought me my cape of royalty," he says to Saia as they sit on the back porch surrounded by a conglomerate cast of plastic characters, people, animals, and aliens alike.

"Wait a minute...who, Chago?" she says, looking up at him completely confused with a modified version of Pocahontas in her hands. "Isn't this one your wife?"

"Oh, no," he says, "I was talking about my second wife."


Tuesday, August 03, 2010


Don't know what possessed them today, but they got themselves all gussied up and spritzed with smellgood, strapped on their respective bow tie and feather tiara, topped it off with jewelry and a fedora, and promptly demanded to be taken to our favorite Thai restaurant for lunch.

Really hard to argue with that kind of fashion logic.

Monday, August 02, 2010


"Mama? How do you always know whether someone is a girl or a boy?" she asks on our way to karate this evening.


"Well, because sometimes, you know, boys look like girls or girls look like boys," she says, waving her hands side to side to more clearly demonstrate her point. "Sometimes they have the same haircuts," she continues. "Or they wear the same clothes."

"Like Mommy," he interjects from behind his 489th Magic Treehouse book.

"And sometimes," she continues, "they even sound the same when they talk. So you can't always tell."

"No," I reply, "I guess you can't always tell right off. But does that really matter?"

"Well, it could," she responds, because she always has a response. "It could because what if what you're going to say to that person you can only say to a girl or only say to a boy?"

"Hmm...like what, for instance?" I ask.

"Wellllll, like...um...when is your baby coming?" she eeks out, which is honestly a very valid argument from a sociocommunicative perspective. But...

"I think you'll probably be able to tell by that point, Saia, don't you?"

"But then what's the difference, Mom?" he says, clearly emphasizing the d word.

"How can you really really reeeeeally tell all the time?" she adds.

And then, suddenly, when I see the little pico he makes with his lips in the rearview mirror, and I see her trying to contain her $6-million-dollar grin, theeeeeen I start to get it, where they're going with this, where they're taking me with this.

This isn't at all some microcosm of a grander social discourse that we as a nation should indeed be having. It's not some introspective analysis about gender and social norms, and the ever-changing roles of men and women in today's society. It's not, in fact, about the actual differences between boys and girls at all.

They just wanted to hear me say the words.

"Because girls have a vagina and boys have a penis," I monotone with an eyeroll.

And, yes, of course, they immediately then begin to cackle as Saia shouts out their now so obviously pre-rehearsed punchline, "But nobody just runs around with their pants down, Mom!!!!"