Sunday, May 26, 2013


When I was in second and third grade, my teachers read us many, many books. I loved hearing their voices and the sounds of the pages being turned as we hung on their every word. It was a comfort, and was my favorite part of the day, where work was put away, our ears were perked up, and all we had to do was listen and use our imagination. Boy, did I use mine well. It went into overdrive as I listened to Bunnicula, The B.F.G., Superfudge, James and the Giant Peach, Frecklejuice, The Celery stalks at midnight, and Ramona Quimby age 8, just to name a few. I loved it, up until we were read The Witches. I dreaded story time, then. I remember my heart pounding and my palms sweat as the words dripped from her mouth. With my overactive imagination and terrible fear of the dark at that age, that book did not bode well, at all, and still to this day I shudder and shy away from that book, as if it could bite. That book really got under my skin. I have every book my teachers read me from those grades stocked in Gracie's bookcase ready for reading except that one. That may be a book she may never read. My childhood fear of it may very well keep it out of her bookcase.

Now that she is in the age of reading, I am eager to stack in front of her the books that I loved so much as a child. They took me places, made me feel like I had company on those nights the dark seemed so foreboding, and made me feel understood, and entertained. All it took was to open the book and let my eyes glide over the page. No electronics needed, just a good solid spine and some paper attached to it. I adored my books.

Somewhere, my love of reading took a nosedive. I had no time, too busy,  my attention span waned, there were/are a million excuses why I can't read. I haven't read a book in ages. I have them ready though. I religiously cruise through our local thrift store and find these gems, buy them, and stock them up for when the time comes when I can curl up with a good book. It seems like such a luxury. I love that thought. I must make it happen.

Years ago, at that local thrift shop, I found and bought all the Harry Potter books for Grace. The deal was, she would read the books, one at a time, then we would have a movie night after each book to celebrate. This week she finished the first book, and was over the moon excited to see her book become alive and dance on the big screen.

First things first. Pizza must be ordered. Pajamas must be donned. Curtains must be closed, and a lightning bolt must appear on your forehead.

Next, we must concoct a recipe to resemble Butterbeer. After cruising through recipes, we decide to just add stuff to the blender and call it good. A little of this, a dash of that, a little hocus pocus, and POOF, you have Butterbeer (which she said tastes a lot like fizzy egg nog).


                            1 Cup good quality cream soda

                            1 Tbsp. Butterscotch syrup

                            1/4 Cup vanilla ice cream

                             good pinch of ground nutmeg

                             good pinch of ground ginger

                             Whip cream

In a blender, blend up the cream soda, butterscotch syrup, vanilla ice cream, nutmeg and ginger. Pour into a frosty mug or glass and top with whip cream and some ground nutmeg. Mmmmmm. Fizzy eggnog.

Piping hot pizza is here, Butterbeer is made, now it's time to enjoy the movie. I keep asking Grace if people/parts in it is what she pictured in her head. I am surprised by the number of "no's", and badly want in her head to see what she was seeing as she read the book.

I am happy she is a reader. When I see the light on in her bedroom way past her bedtime and peek in, 99.9% of the time she has her nose stuck in a book. Instead of turning off the light as I should, I melt a little and say "5 more minutes, K?" and I let her read because I love seeing it.

Sweet Valley High. The Babysitters Club. The Thornbirds (guilty pleasure, yipes!). Black Beauty. Fear Street. All the Judy Bloom books. Island of the Blue Dolphins. Who put that hair in my toothbrush? V.C. Andrews books (!?! )  The Chronicles of Narnia. Little House on the Prairie. These are all books that took me far, far away.

Grace's bookcase has the ability to take her places, and I have waited a long time for those books to come alive. They are starting to, the arms are unfurling and grabbing her attention. One by one they are starting to march out, and I am excited for my little girl. My little bookworm. : )

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Staircase to the stars

Growing up, I had lots of hopes and dreams about what I would become when I grew up. I still do. A bakery owner, a fighter pilot (children of the 80's, you know what I am talking about), a teacher, a graphic artist, a nurse, a real estate agent, an astronaut, a vet, a marine biologist, an ultrasound tech, a farmer. These are all things I have wanted to be at different points in my life.

There was one constant that I always knew I wanted to be, above all those hopes and dreams, and that was to be a mother. It was as if it was ingrained in my DNA, there was no question, I always wanted children, and I knew this even as a young child. The other wants and dreams just fell away, not far, but away, as I knew there was to be a break somewhere in my twenties, when I wanted to have babies. It didn't go as planned, not even close, but I took that break in my twenties, and have since, blessed be, have become a mother. Now, not all women are the same, and some stay home (I use this term loosely) to raise their babies, and some continue with their dreams, and have both. There is no right answer. I firmly believe in the beautiful choice that each mother is different, circumstances are different, and it is up to us to forgo judgement and back our mother sisters with their very personal choice.  Ladies, we need to back each other up. For reals. No smack talking each other.

That being said, I had the opportunity to raise my babies as my sole job, and I took it happily. When people ask me what I do,  the first thing I say is  "I am a mother" (which usually gets a blank stare that says, "ya...go on..."), and then I say my second job is a photographer, which seems to satisfy them. Sheesh.  I remember getting the questions as soon as I had Vanessa, "what do you do all day?" and the "when are you going back to work?" and I still get those questions from time to time. I am a mother. Isn't that enough? 'Nuff said, right moms? Wrong. I still get the disapproving look sometimes, like I have to prove that I am busy, or I have to prove that the way I spend my day is worth cash in my pocket. At first, I really felt the need to justify using the term "being a mom." Now, I let it totally roll off my back. I need to justify nothing, except for the fact that I am doing right by my girl, and that to me, is all that truly matters. Not making other people happy with my life choices.

We've had a rough couple weeks, Grace and I. Kinda like petting a tiger the wrong way, you know, against the way the fur lays. Being a parent stretches you to uncomfortable places and tests every part of you.  If each kid came with a manual specific to their personalities, it would be very, very helpful. What I've needed to do this week, is re examine how I am raising her, and how I talk to her. I do this internal shake up quietly, alone, and it leaves me feeling confused, slippery footed, and a bit black and blue inside. I can be very rough on myself, as mothers sometimes do. This week, I won no parenting awards. This week she won no exceptional behavior awards unless you include fit throwing. What we both know, is that we both have to do better. Learn. Love. Relax. It is amazing how parenting constantly evolves, morphs into completely different spaces as your kid gets older. I kept thinking as she was growing up, this is going to get easier, right? but it hasn't, and it doesn't. It just gets different, and as stubborn as I am, I need to learn that I have to morph and grow along with it, too.

Someone once told me having a child will be the "toughest job you will ever love." Yes. I completely agree. Someone also told me, actually, it was my supervisor from my hospital job, her parting words as I was waddling, very pregnant, out of the hospital from my very last day of work, " Get ready for the biggest love of your life. Get ready for your heart to totally split open."
Oh, dear God, has it ever, many, many times over.

My sister recently called me a "dreamer." I took offence to it at first, but now, I realize, she is right. I dream. They are building blocks, a staircase to the stars. Some of these dreams may live only in my head, and some may come to fruition with a solid plan and some hard work. The one staircase, the most beautiful one, that took every corner of my soul to built, that has every tear from my eyes swirled in, that has every ounce of my love inside, and holds all my deepest sorrow, stands the highest. There are pieces missing, large gaping holes in it, but it is still beautiful, and it is mine. I have built it.

That staircase, is my ultimate dream realized.

It is called: Motherhood.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Wishing you..

Wishing all you wonderful mothers out there a very happy Mother's Day, and a special shout out to the two mommies in my life Robin and Sue. I HEART YOU SO MUCH!!!!!

                                                              Happy Mother's Day!!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Mexican Leg

 So, I am Mexican-American. My mom is Caucasian, and my dad is from Mexico. I often get asked "what are you?" and the answer that always pops into my mind is " least I was last time I checked..."

Growing up, I really wasn't aware of being of mixed race until someone reminded me, and yes, sometimes people rudely did. I remember in grade school when we were doing an exercise about the awfulness of the Holocaust where the teacher physically divided us into two groups:

The people who would survive the Holocaust based on looks, and the people that wouldn't.

I was in the very small group that wouldn't.

It was the first time I was aware that I was considered different, and it confused me very much. I remember very well the large group of "survivors" eyeing us and the look of superiority that filled them. I felt equal to the them, and looked like them enough, but why was I considered different from them? Well, I suppose enough wasn't enough when it comes to race relations. It was a hard lesson to learn at that age, and it unfortunately spilled out onto the playground, now that differences were made aware of.

I have tried to embrace both parts of me, but I have to admit, it has created quite an identity crisis inside of me. I am not "this" enough, or I am not "that" enough. I often wonder what people see when they look at me. Do they see me? or are the wondering what I am? Mostly, people think I am Native American. I get that a lot. And those little bubbles that you fill in on those forms that need to know your ethnicity? They have the list of races for you to fill in the bubble of what you are and they say "choose ONE". Do I consider myself more American? or Hispanic? Screw that. I check them both.

What I am, is human. Female, next, and then, well, a little bit of this, and a little bit of that. But I can also say I am proud of what I am. I am proud that my mom and my dad proudly made me in a time when there was still blurry lines about the subject. I am proud to say I am Mexican, and I am proud to say I am American.

Grace is growing up in a time of more tolerance, thankfully. I pray she will never feel the sting of someone feeling superior just because of ethnicity. It hurts in a place you can't know unless you've been there, and I hope she never has to feel that.  She has my darker skin tone, and my brown eyes. Dark curly hair, too. When she was little, she overheard me saying I was Mexican-American, and wondered what I meant by that. I explained it to her, and she wondered what she was.

 "Well," I told her, "I suppose you would be 3/4 Caucasian, and 1/4 Mexican".

She looked at me puzzled. "What does a quarter mean?"

Hmmmm.... how do I explain this so she can understand...I took my finger and hovered it in a cross pattern in front of her body dividing it into four sections so she could see.

"There." I said, pointing to her right leg. "Right there. This part of you is Mexican. You have a Mexican Leg. You're a very lucky girl."

She was delighted. She talks a lot about her Mexican Leg. It dances better than the other one, and runs faster too, she tells me.

Gotta bring a little humor in, because that's how we roll around here. : )

Since it is Cinco De Mayo, here is a very, very, very dear tutorial. I grew up on these, and it is by far my favorite comfort food of all time:

                           Homemade Tortillas 

Here is what you will need:

  Masa (you can find a bag of it at a Mexican grocer or a well stocked grocery store) and a Tortilla press.

Put some Masa in a bowl. I have about 1 1/4 cup in the bowl above, and it made 6 tortillas. I never measure it, I always eyeball it depending on how many tortillas I am making. This here is a very small batch I am making, an after school snack for my girl.

To the Masa powder, very slowly add warm water, little bits at a time while stirring it with your hands to make a firm dough. Too dry, the dough will be crumbly and crack easily, too wet, it will be mushy, so it has to be just right. Once you have a firm dough, tear off parts of it and roll it between your palms to make a ball, not quite the size of a golf ball, just a little smaller.

Open your tortilla press and line it with plastic. A Ziploc bag works very well for this. Take a quart size Ziploc bag and cut the seams off of all four sides to make two separate pieces of plastic the same size. One will be for the bottom of the tortilla, and one will be for the top of the tortilla. Place a ball of dough on top of the plastic.

Make sure to put the other piece of plastic on top of the dough before you press it.  If you don't line the top and bottom of your dough, it will totally stick to your tortilla press which is a messy bummer.

        Press your tortilla press firmly (the fun part) until you see the tortilla squishing out from the sides.

            This is what your flattened tortilla will look like. Carefully peel away the top plastic off.

         Carefully transfer the tortilla to the palm of your hand and peel off the other piece of plastic.

Heat a griddle over medium heat. Once it's nice and heated, put your tortilla carefully on the griddle. It will steam as it cooks. They burn easily, so don't leave the stove. Peek at the underside, and when it is a little brown and pulling up at the sides, flip it like a pancake.

Cook the other side. They will bubble and puff up, and then it is ready to take off the heat. It takes a bit of trial and error to get the system down, so don't be discouraged by torn or burnt tortillas. You'll get the hang of it quickly. ; )

       And then, your tortilla is done! you can make tacos, taquitos, or anything else you like with them.

For a snack, our favorite thing to do is right after they are off the griddle and nice and hot, slather it with some butter, and sprinkle it with salt, roll it up, and eat it like that. Ultimate comfort food. The best.

So, I do hope you try these. They are worth the investment of a tortilla press and worth the fuss.

Happy Cinco De Mayo, Friends!!! XOXO