Making Kisstory: My Son’s First Rock Concert

This weekend was another milestone event for our family. Diego, now 10 years-old, went to his first ever rock concert. It wasn’t just any concert, it was a Kiss concert. Kiss, the band from the early 70’s, known for its Kabuki style make-up and theatrical effects including dripping blood, breathing fire, and exploding pyrotechnics, is my husband’s absolute favorite band.

Kiss fans like Juan, consider themselves members of the Kiss army and are as loyal to the band, as the band is loyal to fans. Juan has followed Kiss since he discovered them when he was Diego’s age, and has seen the band perform live over 25 times. Extreme? Maybe. I figure some men have really expensive, obsessive hobbies, like cars, golf, and fantasy football. One of my husband’s guilty pleasures is Kiss. Juan has shared his passion for Kiss with all of us in the family. I have gone to three concerts with Juan and he has attempted to recruit our kids into the Kiss army. Five years ago, Juan took the older kids to their first Kiss concert. The kids were good sports and put on full Kiss make-up. We even memorialized it in our Christmas card that year.

2009 Christmas card

2009 Christmas card

Juan was a proud papa, stopping with the kids to pose for pictures with other concert goers. The kids took it all in stride, even if Nico, then 11 years-old, fell asleep in the middle of the concert. Despite Juan’s efforts and the kids’ appreciation for Kiss, none of them joined the Kiss army.

The kids and Juan pose for pictures walking into the Kiss concert.

The kids and Juan pose for pictures walking into the Kiss concert.

A few months ago, Kiss announced that they would be performing at the Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas. Since Diego was too young to go with Juan and his siblings before, Juan figured it was now time for Diego to get inducted into the Kiss Army. Juan bought tickets for the Saturday night concert and I made travel arrangements.

We drove to Las Vegas and did a little sight-seeing on Friday night and Saturday afternoon, then made our way back to the hotel to rest up and get ready for the big show. Unfortunately, Diego has never been a good napper, even when he was a baby, so despite being up past midnight on Friday and waking up at 7:00 a.m on Saturday, Diego did not nap. Diego was never really enthused about wearing Kiss make-up to the concert, so he just decided to wear his newly purchased Kiss t-shirt instead. Juan was a little disappointed they would go without make-up but he was still excited about seeing his favorite band in concert, and sharing the experience with his own son.

When we arrived at the Hard Rock, the place was teaming with Kiss fans. Even though we were in Vegas, an adult playground, there were several kids attending the concert. Most of them were wearing Kiss t-shirts, and several adults were wearing both Kiss t-shirts and make-up. Juan and Diego found their seats among the nearly sold-out arena. Unfortunately, the seats themselves were a huge disappointment. They were in the second to last row. Diego’s view was obstructed by a catwalk, and and somebody’s head. Perhaps it was all the hype, his overblown expectation of what a rock concert is about, or maybe just the lack of sleep, but Diego fought to hold back his tears of disappointment. Juan’s feelings were hurt, and he felt guilty about not splurging and paying for better seats. Then he felt resentful that we had gone to such lengths to create an experience for Diego which he did not seem to appreciate. Juan tried to ease Diego’s disappointment but it didn’t seem to work. Finally, Juan just tried to enjoy himself. When Kiss started playing “I Love it Loud” about 30 minutes into the 90 minute concert. Juan looked over at Diego and saw that Diego had fallen asleep!

Both Diego and Juan were subdued as we returned to our hotel room. You never would have guessed they had just returned from a rock concert. Diego asked me what he could do to make it up to his dad. I told him that his dad just wanted Diego to appreciate the effort his dad made so that they could share this experience together. Diego seemed surprised that I would say such a thing, and said that of course he appreciated it! He told his us that on a scale of about 1 to 100 the concert was about an 80 and 70 of that was because he got to spend time with his dad. For Diego, the best part of the experience wasn’t seeing Kiss live, it was spending time with someone better than any other rock star, his dad.

Diego and his Rock Star Dad at the Hard Rock.

Diego and his Rock Star Dad at the Hard Rock.

Siri-ously Call Me Your Grace

Re-reading my last couple of blog posts, I think I need to lighten things up around here. I’m not all serious and gloom, even though I sometimes sound like it.  One of the great joys in my life is laughing at my husband Juan’s corny jokes and terrible puns.  His unique sense of humor is often evident in the titles to my blog posts. If my post has a corny title or a play on words, you can bet he suggested it, e.g. the titles to the last three posts.

Juan is also my tech guy.  If I ever have a question about anything tech related, I ask him. In fact, nearly everyone in my family calls him when they have a tech question especially if it has anything to do with Apple.  Yesterday he sent me a link about an article discussing how to make Siri, the Apple voice assistant, simplify my life. I looked at the article and just learning how to operate Siri was too complicated for me. Forget about it simplifying my life.

I am learning to use Siri little by little and thanks to Juan and his tech savvy, Siri is programmed to call me “Your Grace.” I didn’t program her this way but after watching several episodes of Game of Thrones, Juan thought it would be funny if she called me by a royal title.

Juan taught Nico how to program his Siri and now she calls our 15 year-old son,  “Supreme Overlord.”

Diego and his friend are in on the fun too. One of his 3rd grade buddies recently programed his mom’s iPhone to call her “Poop head.” (He changed it back before he got in trouble.)

Last month Juan spent the afternoon helping my dad buy and set up his iPhone. Juan programed Siri on my Dad’s iPhone and wanted to have her call him by the family nickname, “Chuy.” I vetoed that idea. Then he wanted to program her to call him by his given name,  “Jesus,” but in English. I vetoed that idea too. I think he finally programed her to call him “Jess.”

Juan used to have his Siri call him “Lord and Master.”  I guess he figured that would be the only time he’d ever have that title. Now, Juan has taught Siri to call him by his given name,  perfectly pronounced, with a throaty spanish “J” sound, kind of like Hwan. 

One of the ways I like to use Siri is to dial my cell phone when I can’t dial myself.  I will tell Siri, “Call Juan.” Siri will then respond, “Calling One.”

I think still have a lot to learn about using Siri.  I guess I also need to learn how to pronounce my husband’s name correctly.

Throwback Thursday

There’s a trend among social media users to post past photos  on Thursdays and tag it as Throwback Thursday, TBT or #TBT. I enjoy seeing some of my friends’ past pictures of them sporting big hair, bright makeup and leg warmers, and I am slightly amused by my own teens’ sense of nostalgia when they post photos from last school year and tag it as a throwback. When I think of TBT I am reminded of pictures of my kids when they were young and cute, or photos of me when I was younger and looked it.  Something like this:

Our first family photo, June 2001.

Our first family photo, June 2001.

This photo is in my office. Juan framed it for me and gave it to me as an anniversary gift.  The picture was taken in June, 2001. Olivia was 5, Erica was just 3,  Nico was still 2 1/2. Diego was just a glimmer in our eye. Actually, no. He wasn’t even a thought.  It was actually the first time Juan and I went out as a couple with our kids.  We had already known each other for several months and as single parents with kids of similar ages, we spent time together with our kids, taking them on outings.  But this date was different.

One week earlier, our friendship turned romantic.  All of a sudden I saw Juan in a different light and I realized I wanted us to be more than friends. He was more than willing. We spent nearly every day we could together until the weekend this photo was taken when our kids came back to us from their other parents.  That weekend in June we were invited to the birthday party of a co-worker’s daughter. The party was in the San Fernando Valley, on a sweltering day.  But, it was a perfect excuse to spend another day together with our kids, and a perfect opportunity to come out to our colleagues about our budding romance. Our friends were happy for us. I think our children were oblivious. They were getting their fill of birthday cake and ice cream. When the party ended, we did not want our day together to end.

Juan and I decided we wanted to do something else with the kids.  We wanted to escape the oppressive heat of the San Fernando Valley and decided to head south.  We drove to Anaheim to see if we could buy cheap tickets to a Los Angeles Angeles game.  After over an hour drive we were turned away because the game was sold out. Our kids were deteriorating. They were tired, hungry, sweaty and cranky. So was I.

But,  Juan sprang into action and suggested we head to Downtown Disney. The idea of anything Disney brought the kids to life. By the time we got to Downtown Disney it was dark and the temperature dropped.  Of course, no one had jackets, but we managed to scrounge through our cars and find some mismatched clothing. In this picture I am wearing Juan’s rain jacket Nico is wearing a too-small sweatshirt, and Olivia is wearing a pink velour long-sleeved shirt over yellow shorts. Erica and Juan are cold.  But we look happy. Because we were.

I remember laughing and having a good time watching the kids play in front of this fountain.  Juan began taking pictures of the kids. At that moment I remember feeling the possibility of something magical happening between us, and something special happening between the kids.  We must have projected those feelings because all of a sudden a stranger approached Juan and asked if we wanted him to take a picture of our family.  Juan looked at me as if to say, “What do you think?” I smiled at Juan, and without letting the stranger know that we weren’t really a family, (yet) we  both said “yes!”

That’s what I call Throwback Thursday.

 Do you like to post photos for Throwback Thursday?

 

Binging on Breaking Bad: How I Lost Two Weeks of My Life to a Television Series

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I am an addict. I am addicted to the AMC series, Breaking Bad. My husband Juan is the person responsible for hooking me up.  He is a huge fan of the show and repeatedly tried to get me to watch.  I vowed not to get sucked into another television series.  Besides I already had a few of my own must-see TV shows. I resisted Juan’s efforts but then, with mounting peer pressure from friends who were hosting a Breaking Bad finale party , I succumbed.

Two weeks ago we were at a party when the talk soon turned to our friends’ addiction to Breaking Bad. Our friend announced she was hosting a party for the finale and invited us. I was happy to be included in her plans, but I realized that I could not feel completely a part of things unless I started watching the show. If you can’t beat them, join them. I decided to give the show a chance so I started at the beginning, Season 1, Episode 1.  Netflix had all 4 seasons available. I began binge watching and soon I was hooked.

I started watching 2-3 episodes a night, getting my fix on Netflix until 1:00 in the morning.  When my alarm woke me 6:00 a.m. I cursed myself for staying up so late, only to repeat the pattern the next night. But I couldn’t help it. As the  day of the final episode and my friends finale party approached I began to panic. I was not even through Season 4. How was I going to get caught up in time for the finale party?

I began getting a fix at my lunch hour, watching on my iPhone while I caught the wifi from a nearby Starbucks. I watched the show while Juan drove us to visit family in Orange County, cursing when the dreaded words “Buffering” appeared instead of the video. I cooked dinner while Netflix streamed the show on the TV, but had to give up on that when my 9 year-old kept coming into the kitchen. With two nights to go before the finale, I realized I was never going to make it through the 12 episodes of Season 5.

On Sunday morning I woke up tired from watching an episode the night before. It was still early enough I didn’t need to get ready for church yet. I rolled over and grabbed the iPad to watch the last two episodes of Season 4. The adreneline rush from the show was both exhausting and exhilarating. I needed to keep watching.

I decided to skip church. I could hear the sound of my 15 year-old making breakfast. She surprised Juan and I by bringing us breakfast in bed. Perfect! I could watch more episodes from my bed.  At 10:00, tired from a morning of unsupervised videogames, my 9 year-old son came into my room and asked to go play next door. I said sure, barely checking to see if he changed out of his pajamas. He managed to put on shorts and a t-shirt, but no shoes.  Oh well, it’s still practically summer here. As I turned back to the show, he asked me what was for breakfast. Breakfast? How could he need breakfast now?  Didn’t he realize that Walt and Jessie had just plotted to get rid of Gus?  I suggested he find some yogurt and fruit, hoping the yogurt hadn’t had not reached its “use by” date, and the plums I bought had not turned into prunes.  As I settled into the start of Season 5  I caught Juan looking at me with a smirk on his face. He asked me if I was vying for Mother of the Year. I glared at him and turned back to the TV.

Despite my best efforts, I soon realized I was not going to be able to watch all of Season 5 before the finale.   Juan devised a plan for me and selected a ,  few episodes for me to watch, to get me current for the finale. I was anxious and didn’t like his suggestions. We bickered and I told him to let me watch the show my way! Resigned that I would not get to all Season 5‘s episodes  I decided to read the summaries on Wikipedia so at least I could know what was going on for the final episode.

We arrived at the party a little before the Finale. There was a lot of food and drink and good discussion speculating about what was going to happen. The host wore his Pollos Hermanos t-shirt and one guest wore a black hat, like Walt’s.  I told Juan we should have bought some yellow jumpsuits to wear to the party.

As the finale played and the episode came to its climatic ending, we all cheered. We all hung out long enough to watch the wrap up show and share our own thoughts and feelings. It felt like a support group as we all felt sad that the show was over.  We all wondered aloud what we were going to watch on Sunday nights. For some of us, it was encouraging to realize that a new season of  The Walking Dead premieres in two weeks. For me, I was anxious to get home to play the unwatched episodes of Breaking Bad which I had saved on my DVR.  Even though I know how the show ends and the series is over, I still wanted my fix.

 

 

Pottery, Leather or an Umbrella? The 9 Year Wedding Anniversary Gift

Today is my 9th wedding anniversary. The traditional gift for this anniversary is pottery. Maybe so you can throw it at your spouse? The modern gift for this anniversary is leather—hmm, much more interesting. I like what my step-daughter Erica said about this anniversary, “You’ve beat your high score!” As two people who have been married before, whose marriages did not make it much past the 7 year-itch, I know she is right on. I realize 9 years married is a drop in the bucket compared to our parents’ 51 and 47 year marriages, but I look forward to reaching those milestones with Juan. That means I will be 90 years old when I finally get the anniversary gift of gold.

When I think about the past 9 years, I am still astounded by all that we’ve shared together. I guess it really shouldn’t surprise me much, because when the groom has two daughters ages 5 and 7, and the bride has a 4 year-old,  the newlyweds have to hit the ground running. Well, forget about running, the bride and groom have to hit the ground sprinting. There’s very little time for even a water break.

In the first year of marriage alone, we began a major house remodel, living in our house as we added on 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a family room. Erica and Nico started kindergarten, and Olivia started in a new school. I became pregnant. We had to buy 2 cars, one a minivan (of course), and another when  I was in an accident that totaled my completely paid for Honda. It was a challenging year. We like to joke that the only thing we did not do was take up drinking to handle all the stress.

I’d like to say that over the next several years, it’s gotten easier and there are fewer worries, but I would be lying. I think that first year married probably set the tempo for our lives together. Life is still incredibly fast paced. The pressures of having a blended family are great. Dealing with three parenting households is very complicated. Still, I think that we have learned a lot in these years together, and while we occasionally forget we are on the same team, we are quick to remind each other. Sometimes, it feels like we have to endure so many challenges as a blended family, that the only way to get through it is to huddle close to each other, knowing that we are in it together—for the long haul.

I like what we heard at Nico and Erica’s graduation the other day, “We need to learn to dance in the rain.” Yes, we have bright, sunny days, and we have  rainy days. But, with Juan as my partner, I know that we will dance through the rain together.

Maybe I should give him an umbrella?

O Happy Day!