Modern Warfare

My son Diego is  ALL BOY.  He loves to run, jump and play. All the time. He often complains, and asks that I “unsign” him up from all his activities, just so he can have more play time. Don’t get me wrong. I am thrilled that he loves to play. I believe that playing should be a 6 year-old’s greatest occupation. However, it is what Diego likes to play most of the time that is beginning to trouble me…

A battle between minions and army guys.

Snipers in position on my family room mantle.

Casualties of the battle


An arsenal of light sabers for intergalactic battles.

An array of Nerf guns for more conventional warfare.

I try to round out his interests by exposing him to different things….

Tiger cub scouts…

Tae Kwan Do…

church choir…

I even encourage him in doing art…. Today he brought home a sculpture from school.

When I asked him what it was, he told me that it  is was supposed to be a porcupine. Then he changed his mind and told me it was a weapon.

I try to encourage reading. We have books all over the house.  He often sees Juan and I reading.  I read to him.  He even goes to the library weekly. The last time he went to the library, this is the book he checked out:

What’s a mom to do? We are a peace-loving family. I think I may need to negotiate an arms control treaty.


Date Night Without My Husband

Yesterday, I told you that my husband Juan took our son Diego to a sleepover at a local museum.  The girls, my step-daughters, were with their mother for the night. This is one of the challenges of having a blended family–keeping a master calendar on who’s where and which parent are they with. We have been at it for nearly 8 years now so we have our routine worked out, but it can become quite hectic when the other parents travel and we get off schedule, which happened this weekend. And which is why I happened to find myself alone with my 12 year-old son Nico on a Friday night.

One of the things I struggled with in my decision to remarry, was how it was going to affect my son. Nico was barely 2 years old when his dad and I divorced. For the next three years it was just Nico and I. And while the divorce was painful, and I struggled to make it as a single working mom and, Nico was the brightest spot in my life.  We did everything together. I got to a point where I felt really comfortable in my role as a single mom. Nico was my best date.

And then I met Juan. We dated, fell in love and decided to get married. Nico got two sisters in the deal and later his brother.  With each change to our family we talked about it. He is such a low-key kid, I have always been concerned that as our family grew and life became more hectic, Nico would fall off the radar.  When Nico was 6 years-old Diego was born. He was concerned that Diego would not be his brother. Erica had explained to him that because he and Diego did not have the same father, they would only be half-brothers. I assured him that yes, would be brothers. Today, they are not only brothers, but wonderful friends. Nico and his sisters also have a special bond, especially with Erica, since they are in the same grade, at the same school. So in this Brady Bunch type household, it’s rare that I can carve out an opportunity to recreate one-on-one time for Nico and I.

Nico noticed it too. A few days before he learned that we would be alone on Friday night. He told me, “Wow Mommy! (I love that he still calls me that.) We haven’t been alone since Juan took the girls to the Father/Daughter Dance, before Diego was born. What are we going to do?”  This night called for something special. We talked about what we wanted to do and of course, ice cream was at the top of his list. And a movie. We had a wonderful time.  He is a pre-teen, so I don’t know how much longer he’ll want to  go out with his mom for a movie and ice cream.  But for now, I’m happy to be his best date.

Nico and I on wedding day.

Another Reason Why I Love/Hate October

Have I mentioned that October is one of my favorite months?  October means that fall is definitely in full swing, even if we don’t get much of true fall color in Southern California. (Fall color being one of the other reasons I like October). Not only are October days shorter and cooler, they are busier. I am back in the rhythm of school days with homework, projects, after school events, and of course Nico and Erica’s school Fall Festival.

 At Nico and Erica’s catholic school the Fall Festival is a huge deal. It’s a great fundraiser for the school and there’s something for everyone.   There are all kinds of game booths, a cake walk, haunted and bounce houses, and of course, what would a Catholic festival be without Bingo?  This year, my friend Rosemary won a new IPad during one round of Bingo. When she told us that she won the IPad, Diego chimed in, “Well, I won two whoopee cushions!” See? I told you there was something for everyone. Ahh, the Fall Fest! The kids absolutely love it! Me? I have a love/hate relationship with the Fall Fest. 


The look of delight and joy as I see my kids and their classmates having the time of their lives as they tear with through their former school-yard-turned-carnival, playing games of chance and the opportunity to win an endless supply of stuffed animals, whoopee cushions, inflatable hammers, and SILLY STRING.


The fact that my kids and their classmates run wild through their former school-yard-turned-carnival, playing games of chance, and winning endless supplies of stuffed animals, whoopee cushions, inflatable hammers, and SILLY STRING.

 Silly String is fun. It is also sticky, messy, and requires WD-40 or paint thinner to remove it when it gets on clothing. After 8 years of consecutive Fall Festivals, I have had a lot of experience with Silly String.  I now know that my kids should wear caps to the Fall Fest, lest their hair become sprayed with the sticky stuff. Silly String also burns when it gets in the eye. SillyString can result in physical injury. Three Fall Festivals ago, Erica was being chased by a boy with an inflatable hammer. The school yard was filled with land mines of empty Silly String cans, tossed haphazardly by kids whose cans had run out of the sticky stream of fluorescent string.  As Erica ran from the boy with the hammer, she tripped over an abandoned empty Silly String can and sprained her wrist.  The evening’s festivities were cut short with a late night trip to the emergency room. This incident also resulted in me sending an email to the school festival committee proposing we abandon the Silly String altogether. Hah! Like that was going to happen! Nevertheless, the next year the festival committee came up with the cleaver idea that the kids bring three empty Silly String cans in exchange for one new can. The result was a school yard free of empty Silly String land mines, and a lesson in recycling. 

 With this year’s Fall Fest in the can, (pun intended) I am both sad and happy. I am saddened by the fact that now that Nico and Erica are in the 7th grade, there will be only one more year with them at this school and at the Fall Fest. I am also happy that we only have one more year with Nico and Erica at this school and at the Fall Fest. Although, something tells me that I won’t be missing the Fall Fest for too long.  Diego is in 1st grade at a different school. This coming weekend Diego’s school is holding its own First Annual Fall Festival.

Latino Heritage

This past month has been a celebration of Latino heritage. Latino Heritage  Month technically runs from September 15 to October 15.  Being Latina is a big part of who I am.  During most of my childhood, I lived in a very diverse community near Los Angeles.  In my neighborhood there were Armenians, Japanese Americans, Anglos, and people who looked like me. It wasn’t until I moved to a predominately white suburb that I was aware that I was different. During my first days in the new school, my new classmates were naturally curious about the “new girl.”  They asked me “what I was.”  I wasn’t quite sure how to answer that question because I wasn’t really sure what they were asking, and I had never been asked that question before. I must have looked confused because the follow-up question was, “Are you Hawaiian…Italian… Indian?” Mexican wasn’t even an option.

I responded that I was Mexican, and then they asked if I was born in Mexico.

 Over the years I have been asked that question several more times, although it may not have been phrased the same way.   Depending on the circumstances I answered the questions in varying ways:

“I’m Mexican.”

“I’m Mexican American.”

“I’m Hispanic.”

“I’m  Latina.”

“I’m American, but of Mexican ancestry.”

“I was born in the U.S. but all of my grandparents were born in Mexico.”

Even though I wasn’t always certain what was the best way to answer that question, I still felt certain that I knew who I was and where my family was from. And I felt proud of my heritage.  My parents and family raised me with pride in our heritage, and culture. At family celebrations,  I would watch my mother dance  the Mexican folk dances she had learned as a young girl. I learned these dances too. I have had occasion to dance as an adult. 

I am so glad that some of these cultural lessons have been passed on to my children, my step-daughter Erica.

Diego, my youngest son, walked in the Latino Heritage parade last week. He marched with his classmates from his 1st grade Spanish immersion program. He wore the hat typical of his father’s native country, Colombia.

This is what Latino heritage is all about. A celebration of who we are and who are ancestors were. I hope that when my kids are asked the question, “What are you?” They will know how to answer, and they will answer with pride.

Signs of a Busy Life

Like many parents’ weekday mornings, mine is usually filled with the  last- minute panic and rushing out the door.  On those mornings when Juan has to be at an early meeting, and we cannot drive into work together, I am the lone parent trying to wake the dead as I go through the hallway flipping on lights and rushing to the kitchen to scramble a  breakfast, pack lunches, and finally, wrangle kids into the car.  It’s always a race against the clock.  Nico and Erica’s school charges the parents $5 a tardy, after the first 5 tardies. Diego’s school, the second stop on my route to work, begins at 7:45!  I ususally end up leaving the house with my coffee to go, and without make-up. (Yes, I am that woman. The one who puts on mascara during the morning stop and and go traffic).   I rush to drop off Nico or Erica at their school and then race across town to make it to Diego’s school before I have to stop in at the office and get “my ticket,”  otherwise known as a tardy slip.

So you can understand, why I am a little preoccupied during my morning dash  drive through my lovely hometown.  I hardly notice the beautiful Pasadena bridge and the sun rising over the Arroyo on the way to Diego’s school. Diego notices my distraction too. I dodge through traffic,  only half-listening to his 6 year-old ramblings and his unending loop of Guess What? It’s a little pre-occupation of his own. It goes like this:

“Guess What?”

“What?” I respond obligingly,  yet absently.

“CHICKEN BUTT!” ( I know, he shouldn’t be saying Butt.)

I always fall for it. Especially when I am driving. 

“Don’t say ‘Butt.'”  I correct him, narrowly missing a commuter bus as it pulls in front of me. 

Diego, he is a talker. His constant chatter from the backseat serves as my substitute for morning talk radio.   He tells me stories all the way to school .  His stories often illicit a “Umm” or “Uh-huh” response from me.  He tells me, “Mommy, when you say “Uh-huh” it means you are not listening.  Wow!  He’s perceptive that kid!

This probably helps explain why I didn’t understand Diego’s story about “No Hats,” which he would share with me on our way to school.  Whenever Diego and I turned onto the street near his school, he would tell me, “Mommy, No Hats! Why can’t  we wear hats to school? Maybe because it’s too windy and they will blow away?” 

“Mmm..Uh-huh,” I respond, as I negotiate a parking space near the school.  This went on for several days until it finally dawned on me to ask him what he was talking about. 

Diego sighed, as if he knew that I hadn’t been paying attention all these days. He was right.

Diego then explained, “The sign says, ‘No Hats’.  It says ‘Hats are not allowed.'”

I looked at him confused.  “What sign are you talking about?”   He said, this sign:

Maybe I should start paying closer attention. Or maybe Diego should learn to read.