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!

Choosing Skin Health with Neutrogena

Growing up in Southern California, I was exposed to the sun year round. Even though I preferred reading books to being outdoors, by the time I was a teenager and my parents had a pool put in our backyard, I figured out a way to combine my love of reading and my increasing interest in my appearance. I tanned while devouring my summer reading material.

In those dark ages, we called it suntan lotion, not sunscreen. Melanoma was something we read about, and it affected older people, certainly not us–pass the coccoa butter please. When summer ended and we returned to high school, the girls would often compare who had the best tans. One year a classmate returned to school with her fair Scandanavian skin burnished a rusty shade of orange. She had tanned herself using a homemade mixture of baby oil and iodine. What were we thinking?

Yes, the photo is old, but my skin was really that tan for the prom.

By the time I reached my twenties, I knew better. I knew to be careful to stay out of sun during the hours of 10-2, I knew that just because the beach was overcast, didn’t mean I shouldn’t wear suntan lotion– I should at least wear some kind of lotion with an SPF-maybe an 8? I figured that because I was Latina my olive complexion would allow me to be in the sun wearing minimal protection. This way I could brown my skin without burning. My bronzed complexion made me feel healthy and attractive. It was the late 80’s and the summer I went on a weekend cruise with my single girlfriends, I sported big hair, blue eyeshadow and brown skin. What was I thinking?

In the 80's, when tanned skin and big hair were the dress code for our weekend cruise.

Fast forward 20 years and now I really am thinking. I have been blessed with good genes. My grandmother lived to be 97. My mother at 78 years young, looks and acts youthful. I have just reached the last year in my 40’s and with any luck I still have a long life ahead of me.

My skin, with all its flaws–freckles, sun spots, laugh lines, is hanging in there. This is not due to any care I have taken in the past. In spite of my own reckless habits, my skin has still kind to me. Now, I know better and I try to treat my skin with the kindness it deserves. Of course, I cleanse and moisturize, and one thing I don’t skip on ever, is sunscreen. It’s a daily part of my ritual. Brush my teeth. Wash my face. Apply sunscreen. So, when I was approached by Nuetrogena to write a sponsored post for their Choose Skin Health campaign, I didn’t have to think twice. I already use Nuetrogena’s Age Shield Face Sunblock lotion everyday.  I no longer delude myself by thinking that just because I’m Latina, I can expose my skin to the sun without consequence.

It really is a part of my daily ritual.

The number of melanoma cases is increasing in the Latino community. Sun damage affects everyone. Now, not only do I use sunscreen daily, but I continuously re-apply sunscreen throughout the day. Last weekend we spent the day at my friend’s pool. Times have changed–I wore my sunscreen, big glasses and wide-brimmed hat. My friend slathered sunscreen on her Ethiopian adopted daughter’s beautiful, dark skin. My other friend applied and re-applied sunscreen to her own daughter’s fair, European complexion.

My best friends' daughters wear equal amounts of sunscreen.

Meanwhile, I made sure my own Colombian/Mexican son was covered in sunscreen too. Even though I can’t turn back the clock and undo all the damage I did to my skin in earlier days, I can prevent future damage and protect my own skin and my family’s skin while we are out in the summer sun.

Apply and reapply sunscreen throughout the day before jumping into play.

Want to learn more about your own skin health? Click here to find a sun screening station near you.

Learn more about choosing skin health when you “Like” Neutrogena on Facebook.

This is a compensated post in collaboration with Neutrogena and Latina Bloggers Connect.

Ending the School Year with Parenting Highs and Lows

The school year is just about over. With that comes all the year-end ceremonies, recitals, and our first ever prom. This year, the year-end festivities were filled with highs and lows. First, the highs:

The graduating 8th graders at Nico and Erica’s school were assigned to write an essay on Mary and what she means to them. (They go to Catholic school). The top 10 essay writers are selected to be readers as a special mass honoring Mary. Nico’s essay was selected and he did me proud reading from the church pulpit.


Doing a reading in front of a packed house.


On the day of the special Mary event, the 8th graders process into church all dressed up, and the girls wear crowns of flowers in their hair. Erica looked beautiful and Nico looked great.  They both looked so grown up.



Nico and Erica’s 8th grade graduating class performed a salsa dance at their Spring recital. The 8th graders rocked the house. 

Olivia was presented three awards at her high school awards night. As a top student in three subjects, she took home awards in Theology, Art History, and U.S. History.

Olivia with certificates in Art History, U.S. History and Theology


Olivia attended her junior prom. Not only is she bright, but she’s beautiful.

Ready for the prom.


Diego got his own chance to shine in his school’s musical production of Annie, Junior.


Diego in his school musical, Annie, Jr.


Diego’s open house at school gave us the chance to see how much progress he’s made reading. It made me feel good about our decision to retain him, since he is now right on track with reading and writing fluency.


Diego shows off some of his school work at his open house.


With all these highs, it’s hard to believe that I could still experience lows. But, I’m keeping it real on this blog, and that’s why I’m telling you that raising kids is no picnic. Sure the rewards can be great. (See above). Especially, when you see your kids accomplishing things, growing into interesting, bright, people, or when I witness how they interact with their teachers, other adults and even their peers. But, often when they interact with us, the parents, we experience the brunt of the downside of raising teens.

Our teens with their demanding school schedules, extra curricular activities and social lives keep us running around non-stop. Add to this crazy schedule, the feelings of entitlement that my teens can exhibit and it’s enough to make me feel resentful. When their schedules make them less than willing to help out around the house, my resentment gets fueled to the point of anger. It is not pretty. Anger and impatience led to some pretty heated discussions throughout these last couple of weeks. So, coupled with the highs, I had some pretty low lows.

It was enough to make me want to turn in my parenting card. And it was enough to make me forget about these moments when I was so proud of them for all their accomplishments. It was enough to make me forget that once upon a time they needed me and their dad, and as their parents we were the center of their world. It was enough to make me forget how sweet and loving they used to be. As I was feeling the resentment and picking up dirty laundry (again) from the floor in the boys’ room, I spied this:

Diego's latest entry from his "secret" diary.

Transcription: Today was a great day because I got to play on Club Penguin and today I got to make a volcano out of paper mache and like every day I have to go to church. Waaaaa. But the best part of today I got to spend time with my mom and dad. 

Yes, three of my kids are teens, and I have one who is 7 years old. In addition to being a consistent source of fun and laughter he also reminds me of the joy of parenting. He reminds me that I am enough for him. I don’t need to drive him to a movie, take him to a sports practice or stay up late quizzing him for an exam. He reminds me that even though I am in the midst of teen turmoil with the older kids, I also get a front row seat to watching them grow up. He reminds me to stop and enjoy those moments when the kids make me proud or show kindness and consideration.

Soon, as they find their own way, they will find their way back to me and their dad. When they do find their way back it will not as the dependent children they were, or the sometimes entitled teens they are, but as the independent, mature people adults they will become. In the meantime, I will try to stay focused on the prouder moments they give me, and when I feel like I am about to engage in a rant against their self-centered behavior, I will remember them when they looked like this:

Once upon a time...

50/50 Friday -Week 41

It’s been several weeks since my last 50/50 Friday update. I haven’t posted lately on this subject because, well, there hasn’t been much to say on the subject. Number 37, Cooking a New Recipe Once a Week, has fallen way off–I have been “cooking” a lot of ready-to-eat-meals. Trader Joes has become my sous chef. I can’t even get myself to make any progress on Number 20, Try a New Wine because I know one glass will knock me out before I am done doing the dishes, folding laundry, and managing the growing pile of mail that is taking over my entry table. With a little over one year before the big Five-OH, I have to jump start my plan. So, this past weekend Juan and I set out to accomplish something together–Number 16, Teach Diego to Ride a Bike.

Diego is 7 years-old. I don’t remember at what age I learned to ride a bike, but I do recall all the bumps, bruises and scratches that I got in the process. I do remember hanging onto a chain link fence while I tried to balance myself on the cool red and white bike that was a hand-me-down from my brother. I finally learned how to ride that bike and when I outgrew the red and white bike, and I passed it along to my sister. I rode my brother’s purple bike for a while until my 9th birthday, when I finally got my own bike. It was the hottest shade of pink, with a sparkly pink banana seat, sissy bar and pink and white basket. I rode that thing until my 13th birthday and it was too embarrassing to be seen on it any longer. I think I passed it along to my sister. But I digress.

Juan and I tried teaching Diego to ride a bike a couple of years ago, but he just wasn’t ready. Rather than force the issue we kept Nico’s outgrown bike in the garage, waiting for the day Diego would want to ride it. Meanwhile, Diego watched as the neighborhood kids, including the 4 year-old next door, rode to the neighborhood ice cream store on their bikes. Diego and I would sometimes ride together on the trail a bike attached to the back of my bike, but he didn’t always pedal and it was hard to enjoy a bike ride, dragging along and extra 80 pounds behind you. Meanwhile, he has become really good at riding his scooter, and I noticed that his balance and coordination was really improved. Last Sunday, it was a beautiful Spring-like day, and a perfect opportunity for a bike ride. We took out Nico’s old bike, removed the training wheels and pumped air into the tires. Diego got on and tried riding the bike on our street. He did okay, but seemed nervous due to the slight incline on our block and the narrow sidewalk. We decided to go to a nearby park with a nice wide, level bike path. That was all the confidence boost he needed. No sooner did we strap on his helmet, and guide him along, that he took off! I couldn’t keep up with him!

Riding his bike like a pro!

 Click Here to see Diego on a Bicycle

I did manage to make a new recipe this week, even though it took all night. I saw this great idea for St. Patrick’s Day cupcakes, and thought I’d like to try it. Our office had a bake sale to raise money for a victim’s fund, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to try using fondant. Let’s just say I won’t be making these again anytime soon. For someone who is too busy to cook her family a fresh meal, I wasted spent an inordinate amount of time making these cupcakes. I am glad they all sold out, priced at $3 each at the fundraising bake sale, but for all the work they took to make, next time I’ll just write a check.

Beer mug cupcakes

One last thing, I have been working on is Number 46 on my list, Complete Covenant 2. Let me explain. About 8 years ago I joined a membership class at my church, All Saints Pasadena. It was a really wonderful experience, writing our spiritual auto-biographies and exploring what spirituality meant to us. The subsequent class, Covenant 2 delves a lot more into the Episcopal religous traditions and each participant considers whether or not they wish to be confirmed at the end of the class. I have been participating in the class since January, and last weekend went on a retreat. I have been enjoying the classes and plan on being confirmed in May. Until then though, number 46 is still a work in progress…

I hope to make more progress on other items on my list. My pantry is so out of control, I hope to be able to check Number 3 from my list really soon.

Happy Friday!



Friday Funnies: A Play in One Act

This morning I still don’t have a 50/50 Friday post to update my list of 50 Things I Want to Do Before my 50th Birthday because, frankly, I’ve done nothing new. Life is moving too quickly right now for me to make much progress on my list. Instead, I thought I would post something quick today, something that made my morning, and which I will be sure to forget if I don’t write about it on my blog.  So, I give you a one-act play entitled Friday Funnies….


Scene: The kitchen in the morning. Unwashed breakfast dishes sit in the sink. A mother frantically finishes packing a lunch box as her 7 year-old son is playing on the breakfast bar with a toy. Mother grabs her keys and begins to walk out of the kitchen.

Mother: Let’s go. We are going to be late for school.

Diego: (looks nervous) Wait. I think I have to go potty.

Mother: (exasperated) Now? You have been sitting there all morning. (pause) Okay, go then. Number 1 or Number 2?

Diego: Number 2. Or a fart.   Pause. A noise comes from the boy’s direction.

Diego:  Oh. It was a fart. Let’s go.

(Exit stage left).  FADE OUT


Scene: Exterior in front of house. Beautiful Spring morning. Mother and son emerge from front door out of house. Mother carrying a coffee mug and big purse, nearly trips over a scooter that has been left directly on the porch outside the front door. Son trails behind and sheepishly looks on as his mother swears beneath her breath. Both proceed to get into a car parked in the driveway. The car is dirty, and school papers, and baseball equipment crowd the back seat as the son straps himself into a booster seat. Mother puts coffee mug in cup holder, climbs into the front seat and starts to drive away. Mother looks at son in rear-view mirror.

Mother: Wow. You look nice. Daddy did a good job combing your hair. I am glad we remembered it was picture day at school. Remember to button the shirt button before you take your picture. I’m glad you changed your shirt.

Son:  Yes, but I wish I could have changed my pants. These pants are getting short on me. I think I am growing.

Mother: You really are growing. You do need some new pants. I will try to buy you some this weekend. 

Son: These pants are a little tight too. When I grow taller, does my butt get bigger?

Mother: (Chokes on laugh. Spits out her coffee and it sprays on windshield)



Scene: it is noontime. Mother about to leave the office to enjoy a long awaited lunch with her husband. Cell phone rings. The caller id indicates it’s son’s school. The voice on the line is one mother doesn’t recognize.

Mother: Hello?

Caller:  Hello, this is Jeff from Diego’s school. Diego is here in the office with me. He has had an accident.

Mother: (beginning to panic thinking of all the playground accidents which could have occurred, or, even worse, perhaps Diego’s  fart wasn’t a fart after all?)  What kind of accident?

Caller: It’s his pants…

(Mother looks worried, her fears confirmed. Oh no, the fart?….)

Caller: …He’s ripped them.

Mother: (He’s ripped a fart in his pants?) OH NO!

Caller: Yes, he ripped his pants. In the seat.

Mother: (Relieved. Then, it begins to dawn on her what this means. Trying not to laugh, she is thankful she is not drinking coffee.) I will bring him a change of clothes as soon as I can.

Diego's pants after bending over in a game of kick ball.

What about you? Do your mornings look like comedies or tragedies?