Lucky 13

I am lucky. Today you turn 13.

Thirteen years ago today you made me the luckiest person on earth. Actually, 13 years ago today, you made me more than lucky,  you made me your mommy.

I was lucky,  not just because I became a mommy, but because I became your mommy.  I am lucky because for 13 years I have had the chance to raise you, watch you grow, and believe it or not, to learn from you. You remind me that life doesn’t always have to move so quickly. You remind me to appreciate our family, because I know that you do.  And even though it may not always seem like it, you remind me not to lose my temper. Your calm manner and sweetness remind me to let go of anger and pride when I am frustrated or impatient.

Someone once told me, “Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.” For the last 13 years I have been able to witness the process of an acorn becoming the oak tree. The little baby that you were– so happy, so calm, so easy going.  The toddler years were a joy even though I had some sad days because I had to learn what it meant to be a family with just the two of us. But we got through it, and we found a wonderful rhythm together. It seemed like you adapted easily, enjoying the time with your father, and then coming home for some time with Mommy. And when our family grew to include your sisters and brother and Juan, your generous loving heart, accepted our new family.

On your 4th birthday, you traveled with your dad to New Mexico to visit your Granny. I waited all day for you to come home but your plane was delayed. When your dad finally arrived I opened the door, and you were asleep in his arms.  It seemed like you had suddenly grown up. Your dad said, “I brought you back a 4 year-old.” He carried you inside  and put you in your little bed.  I looked at you sleeping there and wept with gratitude that you were home, and I was amazed that you seemed to grow up overnight.

It’s been 9 years since that night when you could still be carried in your father’s arms. It’s so hard to believe that you have grown as tall as me. Your voice has deepened and you no longer play with toys, unless you do it because your brother has bugged begged you to.  You told me you didn’t want any toys or games for your birthday this year. Instead you asked for money to save up for a computer. How responsible of you. How mature, how grown up.

I know you don’t like it when I worry about you and when I tell you how to do things. I can tell because sometimes I catch you rolling your eyes. But, then we exchange looks and we laugh because we can tell what we are each thinking. I know you probably don’t realize it, but I am happy to see you grow up. I do miss those days we shared together when it was just you and I, and those days  I would enjoy watching you play with your toys or invent some game with Erica or Olivia, but I don’t really want to go back to those days. I am happy for today. I feel lucky that I get to see you turn 13 and enter adolescence. I feel lucky that I get to see you grow up and become the kind-hearted, responsible, witty teenager that you are. I am lucky to see the acorn becoming an oak tree.

Happy birthday Nico. I love you.

Mommy Mom

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Top Reasons Why August and I Are Not Friends

It’s the final week of August and the end of a long summer in our house. I enjoy summer for many reasons, also because the days are a nice change of pace from the hectic schedule of the school year.  But this summer was different, and I find myself looking forward to a new season, even if it means another busy school year.  However, before  I can get started on the new school year, I have to get through August, and August is the month I hate most in summer.  August is the month when I scramble to find camps for the kids to fill in my big gap in day care; August is the month when summer temperatures heat up and relegate my already restless kids indoors; and August is the month when my temper and my kids’ tempers are as short as the days are long. Here’s a few other reasons why August is not my favorite month:

1) School Supply Shopping.

Beginning in August the kids start bugging to go shopping for school supplies. I try to put off this chore as long as possible, but not so long that the stores run out of supplies.  Usually in August, the kids’ schools send a list of school supplies they will need. It is usually very specific with things like, “College Ruled Spiral Notebook with Three Subjects and Pocket Dividers,” or 3 packages of 150 quantity 4×6 White Notecards, Unlined. Can you tell why I hate shopping for these supplies? Sometimes I feel like I am on a scavenger hunt, and when I am done running between at least 2 stores, hunting for everything on their list in triplicate, I have the pleasure of spending somewhere in the neighborhood of $250.00!

2) Summer Homework Torture

Nico, Erica and Olivia all go to schools which assign summer reading and math packets.  The reading assignment also includes an essay which must be turned in the first few days of school. For Olivia, she gets tested on her summer reading.  I know the kids should read throughout the summer anyway, but something about this assigned reading makes what I consider a pleasure, a pure hardship for them, and me.  In August I become a complete nag about their unfinished reading, essay writing, and math homework.  Sometime after the dismissal bell in June and the beginning of August, my kids’ brains turn to mush and they cannot write a complete paragraph without constantly  interrupting their work with bathroom breaks, trips to the refrigerator, or watching “5 minutes” of television. It is pure torture, watching them “write” the essays. It’s usually not until the final day before school that I can light a fire under their *&!$ and they can get their summer homework done.

3) The Birthday Season

In August I begin preparing for the birthday season. Beginning on August 1, we celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday. This is the kick-off event for the month of birthday celebrations which culminates in my father-in-law’s September birthday.  In the coming weeks I will have to plan no less than three of my kids’ birthday parties. I like to get the party planning  done before school starts so I don’t have that to contend with sending out invitations as I cover text books, shop for last-minute school supplies and fill out a seemingly unending stream of enrollment forms, medical clearances and notices of emergency contact information.

4) Summer Let Down

After I am done buying school supplies, nagging my kids about summer homework, and planning birthday parties, I can stop and reflect on the past couple of months. This is when I realize that summer has whizzed by and I feel like I haven’t really enjoyed it. Truth be told, even if I could spend my days enjoying all that summer offers, I would probably still be let down when August ends, because as an adult, summer just isn’t summer like I remember it. Summers used to be carefree, and fun, with nothing to do spend my days waking late, swimming in my parents’ pool, reading books that I chose, watching All My Children, and  hanging out with my friends. Sigh. How can I help but feel let down when August comes and, if I am lucky, I made it to the beach a few times, and maybe had a few barbecues.  The other day Diego reminded me of all that I am missing from the fun of summer.  Juan and I were headed out the door for work, and I suggested to our nanny that she take the kids to the local city pool or maybe a matinée to beat the heat. Diego asked, “Do you have to work everyday? Can’t you have summer vacation too?” August reminds me that I haven’t stopped enough in the business of the season to enjoy the fun of  summer.

So, now that I am wrapping up my summer, and the kids will all be back in school this week, I have planned one last hurrah. This Labor Day Weekend I’ll be hosting a barbecue, and I’ll be combining it with another birthday party.

The Day We Met

Seven years ago today I met you for the first time,  even though I knew you for some months before that. I knew you when I first felt you move inside me. I knew you when I saw your blurry image on an ultrasound.

Ultrasound at 21 weeks

Throughout those months when I carried you within me, I dreamt of you. Who would you look like? What would you be like? I couldn’t wait to meet you. Even though your daddy and I had only been married a short while, we were ready for you. Your brother and sisters were excited and happy at the thought of you. While you grew inside me, we remodeled our house so that it would be big enough for all of us to live comfortably.  Soon you grew so big, I couldn’t get comfortable.

Diego and our house under construction.

When the doctor said it was time, we scheduled the appointment so you could be born.  The night before you were born, daddy and I went out to dinner. We laughed how it would probably be one of the last dinners we could have alone in a while, but we didn’t care. We were so excited to meet you and we wondered what the next day would bring.  Early in the morning, before the sun came up, we drove to the hospital. I was so nervous and excited, my heart was racing.  The nurses were concerned, but then my doctor came in and said it was okay. Your abuela, “Lala, ” called me on the phone and said a prayer for me in Spanish. I could hardly understand her because I was so nervous  and I was crying.

When I went into the delivery room, the doctors joked with me and there was music playing. I was nervous that your daddy was not going to be able to stay with me, but he did. He stayed with me until they pulled you out and took you away to examine you. You checked out great!

Diego, minutes old.

They showed you to me, but I could not hold you  right away. When the doctors finished taking care of me, I went back to my room.  I was anxious to see you again and hold you. Finally, they brought you to my room. Somebody gave you to me to hold. When I held you and looked at you, I cried again. But this time, I didn’t cry because I was excited or nervous. I cried because I was happy. I was happy to see you. I was happy to hold you. I was happy to meet you. Daddy was there and together, we held you and said hello.

Grandma and Grandpa arrived and they were happy to see you too.

Later that day, Lolo and Lala arrived to say hello.

And, at last, Nico, Erica and Olivia got to meet their new brother!

Since that day, we have shared many things. The baby years were a happy blur. It was such a busy time for you to come into our lives. We were remodeling our house, your siblings were in grade school, there were soccer games, baseball games, all kinds of activities. But you were a trooper, going places with us, never complaining. Over the years we have watched you grow into the funny, spirited, loving boy that you are. You make me laugh more than you make me cry. I love how you have such a special bond with your siblings. How you make friends so quickly. I love the way you question things that don’t seem right to you, like why some people are homeless.  I love the way you accept other things so easily, like the magic of leprechauns.

I love the way that you have brought our family closer, just because you are here. I love that you help me to live a different life–a richer life.  I love that you remind me to be patient, to be kind, to find joy in small things. I know that sometimes it’s hard being the youngest one in the family, because you want to do things like your older brother and sisters. But, there will be time for all of that. I don’t want it to come too soon. I love each day I have with you and each birthday I celebrate with you. I am so glad to be your mommy, I am so glad to have met you,  seven years ago today. Happy Birthday, my sweet boy.

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50/50 Friday – Week 3

Week Three of my 50 Things to Do Before 50 list and I made little progress, although I did manage to stay on track by trying out a new recipe.  This week was Father’s Day,  so in keeping with our hollandaise tradition I decided to make Eggs Benedict for Juan.  I mentioned before that this dish requires precision timing and coordination, and with me cooking solo, I needed to find a simple hollandaise sauce recipe. I looked online and found this one. I was not disappointed. The sauce was easy to make and it came out great. I added more lemon because I like my hollandaise tangy like that. I also halved the recipe so I would not have too much and it was a perfect amount for four eggs. Juan loved it. He especially liked the fact that I served it to him on a tray, in bed.

Diego was up early and crawled in bed with Juan so I brought Diego his own tray too.

Even though it's not his day, Diego gets breakfast in bed.

The thing about Eggs Benedict is that no matter how hard I try to clean my kitchen as I go, when I am done cooking, my kitchen ends up looking like this.

Number 36 on my list, “Get another dog,” has also gotten some attention this week. As I write this Juan is looking online at photos of adoptable dogs at the local animal shelters. I am not sure I am ready for another dog yet, but I may have little say in the matter. Juan seems to think a trip to an animal shelter in on our list of things to do this weekend. Check in next Friday for an update on my 50/50 list, and to see if we have a new addition to the family.

50/50 Friday – Week Two

This week was really busy, filled with several celebrations. Luckily, I am fairly good at multi-tasking, so in addition to celebrating, I accomplished a few more things on my 50/50 list.

My family got together to celebrate my parents 50th wedding anniversary this week, by going to an Italian restaurant.  The restaurant had a decent wine list but everything was priced pretty high. The restaurant also had a fairly cheap corkage fee, so my brother went to the wine store next to the restaurant and picked up a couple of bottles of nice wine. Even with the corkage fee, buying the wine and bringing it in was cheaper, than if we ordered from the restaurant’s wine list, and we enjoyed some pretty good wine.  We enjoyed the wine so much that after dinner Juan went back to the wine store and picked up a couple more bottles to enjoy at home.  The next day we opened up this bad boy and enjoyed a glass with dinner. Light, crisp, with hints of pear and grapefruit, it is a perfect summer wine. I give you Number 20 off my list:

On our wedding anniversary, Juan and I went out to see my all-time favorite musical.  Pre-kids and, consequently, when I had more disposable income, I used to be a theatre geek. I first saw a production of Les Miserables in the late 80’s. It has stayed with me all these years.  So when I heard the production was touring again, I knew I had to see it. Juan bought us tickets and we saw it this week. My husband, who has been known to bring a book to read at the theater, even enjoyed the show. I love the music, the story and the message of redemption in this play. It was a great way to celebrate my anniversary, and still check off Number 47 from my list.

The last thing I accomplished this week was trying out a new recipe from this cookbook.

It was not easy to find a new recipe to prepare this week. Between all the celebrations and my busy work week, I was all about convenience.  Tonight, I promised Diego I would make breakfast for dinner, so it looked like, unless I could find a new way to make pancakes, I wasn’t going to be able to work in a new recipe this week. But, pancakes for breakfast just didn’t sound good to me, I wanted something more, but something easy, and something like breakfast. So of course, I chose to make what any self-respecting Mexican mama would make, Chilaquiles.  I made Chilaquiles Veracruzanos. These are a little like enchiladas, but the tortillas are crispier and the sauce is usually lighter. They can be served with an egg on top and are usually great for an early breakfast after dancing all night. In fact, one of the most memorable plates of chilaquiles I ever enjoyed was at 3:00 am , following a wedding reception. The wedding ceremony took place on an Acapulco beach, followed by dinner and dancing all night. The happy couple then treated their guests to a Mexican breakfast of chilaquiles in the pre-dawn hours.  Somehow, every time I make chilaquiles I feel like I should be eating them as the sun comes up.  But,  tonight I had to be content with eating them for dinner. They were not as easy as I hoped, and I had to improvise some of the ingredients, but they were still really good. I will definitely make them again.

I used leftover chicken and cut some tomatoes. I didn't have a fresh ancho chili, so I used chipotle chilis. A bit spicier, but it had a nice smoky flavor.

Frying the tortillas took the most time, but makes all the difference in the texture and taste.

Chilaquiles topped with avocado. Buen Provecho!

I am Butter Pecan. You are Chocolate Chip? Or, Still Surprising Me After Eight Years Married.

Eight years ago today we were married. I woke up next to you on our wedding morning and you surprised me. You excitedly asked me, “Do you know what today is?” I thought, “Of Course!” It’s the day we will marry. It’s the day when you and I will become husband and wife. It’s the day when we will officially become a family.” But,  you were thinking of something else. You told me that the KISS/Aerosmith concert tickets went on sale that morning. Yes, you surprised me. And you made me laugh.

You surprised me later that day, before we were getting ready to walk down the aisle. When one is marrying a man who already has two young girls, and the bride has a young son of her own, the wedding isn’t just for the bride and groom, it is for everyone. It was a ceremony so we could formalize this thing called “blending a family.”

The room where we all waited before ceremony started, was filled with commotion. My parents, your parents, the kids, the photographer, the bridal coordinator. When I thought my head would explode with all the excitement, you surprised me again. You told everyone that you wanted us to be alone. The room cleared,  and it was just you and me, and the kids. You took charge of the room and took control of the moment. And me, the micro-managing control freak that I am, was happy, relieved to have you in charge. And then, you gathered us together, and we held hands in a small, family circle. You led us in a prayer together and asked God to bless us, bless our marriage and bless our family. That could have been our wedding right there, in that moment– I felt it was that special.

During the ceremony you surprised me again. We did not write our own vows, so I did not expect it when, in the middle of our ceremony, you asked for some time to speak to our guests, the small group of friends and family who joined us that day. I didn’t know it was coming, but you told them our proposal story. You told them how you proposed to me that night in New York in a carriage in Central Park. And then you read to them, as you had read to me, the poem you wrote, inspired by St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. I didn’t know you would do that during our wedding ceremony, and so, predictably, I wept. Predictably, you had your handkerchief ready to wipe my tears.

Later, I think we both surprised the kids when we asked them to join us in front of the altar,  and we gave them silver medallions that were in the shape of family circled in an embrace. I think we surprised our kids when I made promises to Olivia and Erica to care for them and support them, and when you promised the same for Nico.

That day, was filled with surprises, and laughter and love. But it was only the beginning. Last night, when we took the kids out for ice cream, you asked me if I could guess your favorite ice cream. I am embarrassed to say that I could not, even though you knew what I flavor I would order, before I even ordered it. I guess I was surprised you knew that I was Butter Pecan, but I was even more surprised to learn that you were not Pistachio, nor Coconut Pineapple, but Chocolate Chip. I like that I am still learning things about you. It makes our life together a little unexpected, even if it only is ice cream.

I know you joked that you wanted to start your own blog to write about the things your wife doesn’t know about you, but I hope that blog won’t have too many posts, because I think I do know you–at least the important things about you. Like the way you care for our family, how much you love us, the strength of your character, your goodness. Beyond these things, I hope we will still find new things in each other. I think it will keep things interesting. I look forward to many more years of love, laughter and surprise.

Happy Anniversary.


You might also like, Happy Un-Anniversary to Me.

A Birthday, a Graduation and an Anniversary*

We all went to church today and celebrated another special holiday in the church calendar.  It was Pentecost, the birthday of the Christian church.  So, in addition to our usual worship service, where the kids often assist as acolytes and I assist giving communion, the service had a festive flair.  There were flags during the procession, incense, and  birthday cake and a jazz trio on the lawn after the service.  Even the altar looked festive because it was  adorned in the color for Pentacost, which also happens to be my favorite color–red. Underneath our albs many of us wore red, including me.

Red shoes

With me and the older kids participating in the service, Juan and Diego sat by themselves in the pew.  Juan kept Diego entertained by letting Diego draw on  on pew cards. Diego drew the same thing he always draws:

A Christmas scene

When Juan asked him why he always draws a Christmas scene, Diego said he would draw something else. And he drew this:

Easter scene drawn by Diego

I guess he doesn’t know how to draw a Pentacost scene.


After church we had another celebration to attend, graduation.  Diego graduated in cub scouts today.  He graduated from a Tiger cub to a Wolf cub.  The ceremony is called “bridging” and marked by the boys from his pack crossing over a bridge. We took a picnic lunch to a local park and celebrated with the other families. How quckly time flies. I remember when we were at the same park watching Nico bridge as a cub scout. Now Nico is  a boy scout and working his way up in rank.


Diego goes from a Tiger cub to Wolf, and trades his orange scarf for a yellow one.

After all that you think we’d be done with our celebrating. But wait, there’s more. We all went out to dinner to celebrate my parents 50th wedding  anniversary.  Through their  50 years together my parents have managed to raise four kids, have 9 grandchildren and share some wonderful, and not so wonderful experiences. Through it all they have stayed comitted to each other and our family   We like to joke that my we don’t know how my mom managed to do it.  As if to prove our point, my dad told us his own joke tonight.  He said that my mom saw him crying on their anniversary. When my mom asked my dad why he was crying, he told her that  50 years ago my grandfather caught my dad and mom together and, with his shotgun aimed at my dad,  my grandfather asked him to either marry my mom or go to jail. My dad jokingly recounted how he chose to marry my mom.  Again, my mom asked him, why he was crying. My dad explained,  he was crying because he realized that if had chosen jail, he would be a free man now.


My parents on our recent trip to New York

*This post was inspired by the post, Blessings, Tonys and Zombies, in Accidental Stepmom. Check her out.