Mom’s House, Dad’s House – When Back and Forth Doesn’t Work for Back to School

Today I have a post up at Huffington Post. You might want to check it out by clicking here.

But, put on your earmuffs if you don’t want to hear a lot of divorce bashing from the commenters. I am tempted to respond to all the ruckus, but honestly, I agree, a little. Divorce can hurt kids. It’s difficult, for everyone. Staying married in an unhealthy situation can hurt kids too. It’s difficult, for everyone. I used to think I would never get divorced, but here I am. And I am doing the best I can, as I think we all try to do with our kids, and our families. So, read the post if you want, and leave a comment if you are so inclined.

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.

A Change of Light in the Gloom of June

Around here I can usually tell it is June because of the gray skies,  known as June Gloom, the blossoming Jacaranda trees, and the inordinate amount of end of school year activities, family birthdays and anniversaries. This week I noticed the trees were filled with purple flowers, the cool,  grey mornings required a jacket, and there was nearly a daily occurrence of birthdays, school assemblies and a very special kind of anniversary

Ten years ago this week, Juan and I made plans to spend a Saturday afternoon at the beach with our kids. It seemed like it should have been summer already, but instead,  the overcast skies signaled the beginning of June Gloom. Still, we had young kids and wanted to keep them busy,  so Juan invited me to join him and the girls at  the beach.

Nico and I at a beach play date with Juan and the girls.

Juan and I had become friends through work . We supported each other through our sometimes messy and often painful divorces, and since our kids were close in age we would sometimes get together for weekend play dates. Juan had already asked me out for a date,  and even though I thought he was kind, funny and found his obsession with the rock band KISS to be a bit quirky,  I didn’t feel the romance, so I declined.  We agreed we should just remain friends.  But, something changed that cool, overcast June afternoon. I saw Juan in a different light. The way he played with his daughters; the way he flew kites with my son; and the spontaneity and lightness of the day made me see him in a new way, outside of being a serious lawyer. Perhaps if I had known that several months later he would show at my door looking like this, I would have changed my mind earlier.

He showed up looking like this one night, after attending a KISS record release event after work.

But I digress.  That evening, after we ended our afternoon beach play date with the kids, Juan and I spontaneously decided to go to a party given by one of our co-workers, at a Karaoke bar, in Koreatown. I think we both must have felt the desire to prolong our day, and not part each other’s company. Juan insisted on driving me to the karaoke bar.  When we got to the party, we drank something we now refer to as “Korean Lemonade.” Whatever it was, it was tasty, and strong. And it helped Juan lose some of his inhibition and get on the Karaoke stage with friends and sing. When I saw him up there singing, something clicked. (And, it was definitely not because he was a good singer.) I started to think, maybe, despite my injured heart, and his poor rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody, I should go out with this guy.

Really? Should I go out with him?

That Korean lemonade made Juan feel more than just brave–it also made him feel like couldn’t drive home.  I drove his car back to my house.  Juan must still have been feeling emboldened by that lemonade because he asked me for a kiss. I said yes. Was it the beach day, the Karaoke, the lemonade, or was it just a shift in my heart that allowed me to take a chance on this lawyer-dad-KISS-fan? Whatever it was, I am glad the sun came out in the midst of the June gloom, and the light changed enough for me to see Juan in a new way.

Tres Generaciones

This is a picture of my grandmother, my mother and I. My grandmother is 97 years-old and as you can tell from the spark in her eye, she is a firecracker. Lately, she is causing us some worry because she insists on living on her own.  She is independent, stubborn, resourceful and very loving. She has created many happy memories for me and her other 9 grandchildren. I think a lot of what my mother learned about being a mother, she learned from my grandmother.

This is my mother before she married my dad. My mom is the one who looks like she is 12 years-old and too young to be in Vegas with her girlfriends. She has always looked younger than her years.  When I was growing up I don’t think my mom ever weighed more than 110 pounds soaking wet.

In her late 20’s my mom met and married my dad. They started their family right away, with 3 kids  born 17 months apart. I don’t know how she did it. She says there was a time when my older brother, my younger sister and I were in diapers at the same time!  Eight years after my sister was born my dad said he wanted another boy. My mother agreed and 9 months later my younger brother was born. I don’t know how she did that! (Well, I do know how they did that, I just don’t like to think about it.)

When I was growing up my mother was in constant motion. Like many women of her day, she was a stay-at-home mom.  She made it look effortless. On our birthdays she organized parties for us and would invite the entire neighborhood.

We didn’t have bounce houses, clowns or magicians. We had my mom who would organize the games.

She was a soccer mom before there were soccer moms.

My mother didn’t just support my brother’s in their sports, she also supported me and my acting ambitions.  Here she is at one of my play productions, standing by while I sign autographs.

My mom wore many hats, including a barber hat.

Here she is in her laundress hat.

She rarely complained about her many household tasks, except when it came to do laundry. I didn’t understand why she disliked doing laundry for a family of 6. Now that I have my own family and my own endless pile of laundry, I understand.  But, at least I have a clothes dryer. Our family didn’t buy a clothes dryer until I was almost 13 years-old!

Something else happened when I was around 13 years-old, I suddenly knew everything there was to know about life.  Even though I still didn’t know how to do my own laundry, cook my own meals, or even pack my own school lunch, I knew more than anyone in my family, including my mother. Especially my mother. I would never stay home and raise children. I would work in show business, I would become a writer, or maybe even a lawyer. Thanks in part to my mom’s love and support,  I have had a turn doing all those things.  But wouldn’t you know it? I have also become a mom. Like my mom, I have two boys and two girls. Life has played a joke on me.  But my mom isn’t laughing. She is still here, supporting me, loving me and taking care of our family.  It’s something she learned from my grandmother, and something I hope I have learned from both of them. So, to my grandmother, and my mother…thank you and Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Un-Anniversary to Me

Divorce and remarriage have been on my mind more often lately. Maybe it’s because all the royal wedding buzz last week reminded me another April wedding, mine. All the talk of the royal nuptials may have reminded me that the date of what would have been my 15-year wedding anniversary to Nico’s dad was approaching. I knew it was coming, but then forgot about it until the day actually passed. I didn’t think about it, until I did.

Maybe divorce and remarriage been on my mind too because Nico, my son, our son, just got back from a wonderful week-long vacation with his dad for spring break. His dad took him to Kauai, Hawaii. That was the last place his dad and I traveled to as a family. We went the summer before Nico turned 2, when he was still a “lap child” and we didn’t have to pay for his seat. The 5 hour flight seemed to go on forever, as Nico, then 21 months preferred my cushy thighs to his dad’s bony legs. Once we landed though, we had a great time on our vacation.

Who knew that four months later our world would come crashing down and we would separate and then divorce? I was devastated. I felt like part of me died. After the initial trauma and grief I realized that eventually I would heal . For Nico, though, I wasn’t sure how he would get through it. Granted, he was only two-years old so he really couldn’t understand any of it, but his routine was upset. Even though I knew that I had given the marriage all I could, and I knew that I couldn’t do it any longer, I thought that maybe Nico deserved for us to keep trying. Was I being too selfish? I kept thinking what it would mean for him? How terrible would be for me to miss out on half his life, as he divided his time with weekly stays between two houses? I thought about how it would feel for him to have the two people who loved him the most, never be together again. What about the lost opportunity for him to have a brother or a sister?

My concerns were real then, but now that his dad and I don’t let the pain and sadness of our former marriage influence (too much) the way we treat each other; now that Nico and his dad’s relationship is closer than ever; now that I am in a happy, fulfilling marriage; now that Nico has a step-dad, siblings and an even larger circle of people who love him, I realize that while divorce can be difficult and sad, it doesn’t have to be tragic. While it is definitely the end of a marriage, the end of a familiar family structure, my divorce meant the beginning of a new way of life for me and it allowed me to create a new way of considering “family.” Nico’s dad and I have settled into an amicable co-parenting relationship, my marriage to Juan is more intimate and loving than I could ever have envisioned, and it has given Nico a brother and two sisters. This was certainly not the way I intended my marriage to Nico’s dad would go when I made those vows on an April date 15 years ago–there was no happily ever after fairy-tale ending. But, the life I am living and the family I am creating now, is its own unique story.

Another wedding

Fun Friday: Santa Barbara Overnight

Today is Juan’s birthday and we are in Santa Barbara for an adults only overnight.It’s one of those times where the planets aligned and all the kids are either with the other parents or with Grandma. The gods were especially smiling since I managed to secure a discounted price at a beachside hotel and a nice restaurant.

We are enjoying each other and some of our favorite things.

Happy birthday to the one who keeps my heart awhirl!