A Hairy Situation

It’s summer and around here that means it time for summer haircuts, for the boys. When Nico was younger, and before he had an opinion about his appearance, he would  get a buzz cut for the summer. This was a good solution since he has a head of hair that becomes a soggy mop after swimming, and a wool coat during our long, hot days.  Now that Nico is older,  he still gets a shorter cut but he does not like the shaved look, so he no longer gets a buzz cut.

However, since Diego is only 6 years-old, I figured that I could still have some say about his hair. Boy, I have never been more wrong about anything in my life. Maybe it’s the influence of his older siblings, or maybe it’s the Justin Bieber and Big Time Rush look, but Diego has definite ideas about his hair. He did not want a buzz cut. No way. I didn’t realize how much his hair meant to him, until this weekend.

Juan had to run some errands and decided to take Diego with him so they could stop and get a haircut.  First, they went to the pet store. The pet store had its usual weekend dog and cat adoption fair. And as usual, Juan sent me a text which read “Can we get her?” and attached a photo of one of the dogs.   Our dog,  Mischief , died last November, and our family has been missing a dog in our lives.  But right now? Life is really busy, we may travel on a vacation.  I texted Juan back. “Cute dog, but not now.”

Moving along, Juan’s next stop was Supercuts. Juan told the hairstylist that Diego needed a summer haircut. The hairstylist talked with Juan and another hairstylist and they agreed they would use the buzzers at a level 3, but somebody forgot to tell Diego. I am sure if they had,  he would have told them he didn’t want his hair short.  By the time the hairstylist began buzzing the top of Diego’s hair, it was too late. Diego was mortified. Juan thought it looked cute and smiled at him. This was absolutely the wrong reacation because Diego understood Juan’s smile to mean he was laughing at him. Then,  the meltdown started. Big, fat tears rolling down his face. Sobs so thick he choked on them. The hairstylist tried soothing him. Juan tried to calm him.  When he realized it was past the point of no return, he carried Diego out of there and drove home.  On the way, Juan called me in a panic. He warned me to tell the kids at home not to say a thing when they got home. I went outside and met them in the driveway. Diego’s eyes were swollen, and he was hiccupping from his sobs.  He refused to get out of the car, even though it was 90 degrees outside. I promised him he could go through the back door and bypass his sisters inside. We got him in the shower and he continued to cry,  curled up in a ball on the shower floor. I could not reason with him. Finally, I told him he had three choices:

1) Stay in the bathroom until his hair grew out.

2) Act like his haircut was not big deal and then  others would not think it was a big deal.

3) Wear a hat.

He considered number 1 but decided since he could not play x-Box in the bathroom, locking himself inside was not a viable option. He completely dismissed number 2.  He decided that number 3 was the best option, but only if he could wear his army hat.

Of course, I agreed and brought him the hat.  (He has not taken that hat off yet, even in church.)  Juan had also told Diego that he would take him back to the pet store and look again at the dog he had seen earlier. Juan promised to buy Diego ice cream too. (I know, it’s a lot. Don’t judge me.)  So, between the hat, and the promise of ice cream, we finally stopped the haircut meltdown. Oh, and  that return trip to the pet store? Well, let’s just say that even though I knew we’d eventually get another dog, I thought we should wait a little while longer. But, how could I have said “Not now” to this face:

And this face.

Meet Molly.

Punch Buggies, Invisability and Random Musings of 11 Year-old Boys

Punch Buggy Red! No punch back!

Image by Kevin Bedell via Flickr

I am missing my boy, who is on vacation this week with his dad. I am re-posting this, originally posted in July 2010.

Come home soon Nico!

There’s a commercial on TV which shows people punching each other when a volkswagen automobile drives by.  If I did not have a 11 year-old son I think the significance of this commercial would have been lost on me. You see, right now one of Nico’s favorite pastimes is yelling out “Punch Buggy” and hitting any innocent bystander in the shoulder, whenever he spies a Volkswagen Beetle.  It really grows quite tiresome, especially when driving around with a 5 year-old Sponge who absorbs everything his older brother says, and another 12 year-old girl, who thinks she is way beyond her 8 month younger step-brother. The “Punch Buggy” game borders on downright dangerous when one is transporting a van full of 11 and 12 year-old boy scouts from camp, while negotiating hairpin turns down a single lane mountain road.
Still, once I had safely descended the mountain and was able to eavesdrop on the conversation going on I really began to appreciate how funny, and how fleeting these moments are. After Nico and his fellow scouts finished telling me the story of how they completely fooled another boy scout troop into believing that they were from New Zealand because they spoke in (really terrible) accents throughout the camp session, N and company began humming portions of soundtracks from Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Jaws. This, of course, was a nice segue into a conversation on Invisibility. It went something like this:
Nico: What if there was such a thing as complete invisibility?
Boy Scout 1: Well, how would we know if anything was invisible since we couldn’t see it?
Nico: Well, we could see it in the pre-invisibility stage and the post invisibility stage.
Boy Scout 2: But what if it was always invisible?
Boy Scout 3:…with an invisible skeleton.
Nico: I think we would have to use x-ray vision goggles.
All: Cool!
One of the great things about being a parent who carpools is catching glimpses of your child as he relates to his peers. Sometimes its disturbing. Sometimes it reminds you of your own lost youth. Sometimes, when the child you are transporting is a boy it makes you realize how different boys and girls are. I am pretty sure that I have never heard Erica or her friends talk about invisibility and punch buggies. Then again, maybe the absence of the Punch Buggy game between Erica and her friends is a good thing!

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.

My Father’s Story

This is my father when he was a boy.

He was born in an area near El Paso, Texas, called Smeltertown.  It was called Smeltertown because of the smelt from the nearby mines.  I don’t think the name of the town is very appealing,  but, when I was little I would hear stories of his childhood, and I would think that Smeltertown sounded like a fascinating place.

Sometimes my dad’s childhood stories were tales of his struggles growing up, being raised by his adoptive mother, and his adoptive grandmother. My dad’s mother died when he was just months old.  His mother’s cousin, and her mother, raised him in Smeltertown. They made their living, in part, selling masa to make tortillas.  My dad worked alongside his adoptive mother and grandmother.

My dad's mother, cousin, and aunts.

My father was raised by these two strong, independent women.  They loved him and cared for him, but  were strict disciplinarians with him.  The only male presence, my father’s step-father, was largely absent.  When my dad was a teen they came to California and settled in a pretty rough neighborhood in East Los Angeles.

Dad, circa 1950, Belmont High School, Los Angeles.

He stayed out of trouble and eventually joined the army, which gave him more discipline, and offered him greater opportunity.

Dad in the Panama Canal Zone, 1953

My dad got out of the army and lived the single life, until he met and married my mom. They started their family right away, with three kids born in just over 4 years.  When my dad became a father, he had very little personal exposure to what being a father in a nuclear family looked like. Nowadays, they call that “modeling.”

Family Dinner, circa 1978.

But the lack of “modeling” has not deterred my dad. He learned a lot along the way. We have learned a lot along the way together too. Sometimes the lessons were rough. But, always, we knew he loved us and took care of us. And always, along the way, we have built new memories and created our own stories.

He took us on family vacations.

Family vacation to Vancouver, Canada, circa 1977. (Dad's not pictured because he was the photographer!)

Many times these vacations involved one of his favorite activities, fishing.

Vacation at Mammoth Lakes, California. Circa 1970.

Another Mammoth Lakes vacation.

He sang us songs.

Canciones de mi padre.

He coached my brothers in sports.

He has become a devoted grandfather.

Dad and Nico and Diego all dressed up.

When I was little people would comment how much I looked like my dad. I would cry because I thought they meant I was chubby and had a mustache.

Dad and I at my college graduation, 1986

But, now I understand that they meant we had similar features. Today, I know that my dad and I are similar in ways beyond our physical appearance, and even beyond some of our similar behaviors.  My dad and I share a similar understanding, and appreciation for each other. We have struggled. We are flawed, but we love each other. He is my father. I am his daughter. We are familia.

Happy Fathers Day, Dad.

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.