Tag Archive: Family

December Flashback: Christmas Traditions and Pigging Out on New Year’s Eve

2014.

I don’t even know where to start. We are already over one week into the New Year and life is moving fast. The holidays came and went so quickly I didn’t have the time or will to blog.  I’ll do a quick recap here.

We spent the first part of December getting ready to get ready. Right after Thanksgiving Juan went into the attic and brought down our 12 crates of holiday decorations and the artificial tree we purchased last year.  I thought it would be a great idea to have an artificial tree so we could put it up early and enjoy it all month long.

The tree stood in the living room, and the boxes lined the hallway untouched for two full weeks. I kept wishing the tree would decorate itself and trying to find the motivation to hang a few decorations. My advent wreath was set out on the dining room table and the first two candles stayed unlit. Then Olivia came home from her first semester at college, Diego continued to ask about the decorations and I got tired of running into boxes in the hallway. Finally, mid-December we decorated and started our Christmas shopping. Bam! It was Christmas in my house!

The weekend before Christmas my family got together to make tamales. I grew up eating tamales at Christmas and for many years I would get together with my mom and grandma to make them.  Since my grandmother died two years ago we have not made tamales.  This year it was time to start our tradition again.  Olivia wanted to participate so we went to my mom’s house and learned the craft of tamale making while the men “helped” by drinking Coronas, watching football and taste testing. I guess some traditions die hard.

Spreading the masa.

My sister-in-law and I spread the masa.

Olivia earns her stripes with her first tamale making experience.

Olivia earns her stripes with her first tamale making experience.

Tamale Tasters? Traditions?

Tamale Tasters? Traditions?

Another one of our Christmas traditions involve debating how we will spend Christmas. Juan and I have celebrated a dozen Christmases together and I can safely say that we have probably spent three of them in our own house, waking up in our own bed.  That’s because every year when the kids were younger, we would have to share Christmas morning with the other parents and divide our family time between my extended family and Juan’s extended family.  That usually meant Christmas Eve dinner with my parents followed by a sleep-over at my sister-in-law’s house for Christmas morning and then driving back to our side of town for the custody exchange, mid-day. It was hectic but that became our routine. Now that the kids are older and there is more flexibility with the custody exchange we have been able to cut down on some of the Christmas day driving.

Every year I try to eliminate the Christmas Eve sleepover, and this year was no different. Juan and I wanted a nice, relaxing Christmas morning in our own house, but we were completely out-voted. The kids protested, arguing that part of the fun and “tradition” was staying up late and sleeping over to celebrate Christmas with their cousins. So, that’s what we did.  In our annual tradition, we went to an early Christmas Eve service and then returned home to hurriedly load our van with presents for both our families, and our kids, overnight clothes and sleeping bags and then drove to Orange County to celebrate Colombian style with my in-laws. The celebration involved a late night meal, dancing and a hilarious gift exchange where my mother-in-law was the big winner! The kids were right. It was really fun! I guess part of our tradition is that every year I have to complain about our “tradition.” At least this year I didn’t have to rush through Christmas Eve dinner with my parents since everyone in my family was willing to have that part of the celebration on Christmas day. Maybe that’s a new tradition.

Juan and I take a selfie in church while we wait for the Christmas Eve service to start.

Juan and I take a selfie in church while we wait for the Christmas Eve service to start.

Cousins at the annual Christmas sleepover.

Cousins at the annual Christmas sleepover.

Silliness and laughs for the White Elephant gift exchange.

Silliness and laughs for the White Elephant gift exchange.

My mother-in-law was the big winner with the knit cap and gloves. She added the pan-flute!

My mother-in-law was the big winner with the knit cap and gloves. She added the pan-flute!

Part of our Christmas eve is waiting until all the partying ends and the kids finally fall asleep so we can play Santa. Here, it's 3:30 a.m.

Part of our Christmas eve is waiting until all the partying ends and the kids finally fall asleep so we can play Santa. We’re still waiting and it’s 3:30 a.m!

Christmas day on the patio at my parent's house and relaxing family celebration.

Christmas day on the patio at my parent’s house and relaxing family celebration. Thank goodness.

New Year’s Eve was also the start of something different.  For a couple of years now I have spent New Year’s Day hosting an open house and serving black-eyed peas and posole. The black eyed peas are for good luck and the posole is because I like it.  This year we decided we wanted to host a party and switched it up for New Year’s Eve. We got together with another local family who are Colombian and combined forces. They brought over a 65 pound female pig to roast and 30 of their closest friends.

Part of our new tradition? A 65 pound pig to roast.

Part of our new tradition? A 65 pound pig to roast.

We supplied the house, the black beans, rice, platanos, along with a few other appetizers, a whole lot of left over alcohol from my 50th birthday party, and about 20 friends.  We danced, lit fireworks, and finally ate at 1:00 a.m! It was a good time for all!  So good that the party turned into a sleep-over and carried over the next day as we all sat around in my kitchen eating leftover tamales and the posole I made for New Year’s Day.

New Year's Rockin' Eve in my family room!

New Year’s Rockin’ Eve in my family room!

My mother-in-law and nephew getting ready to limbo. Who knew she was such a party animal?

My mother-in-law and nephew getting ready to limbo. Who knew she was such a party animal?

Several hours later and the pig is done. We ate at 1:30 a.m!

Several hours later and the pig is done. We ate at 1:30 a.m!

It may not be known for its curative effects for a hangover but it was still good!

Posole  may not be known for its curative effects for a hangover but it was still good!

I guess looking back at how busy we were for the the holidays, I can understand why I didn’t blog much. Remembering how wiped out I was after my New Year’s party, I can also forgive myself for waiting over a week into the New Year for my first blog post.  I have some intentions for this New Year which I hope to share with you in posts ahead.

In the meantime, I have some black-eyed peas I need to eat. Happy New Year!

A traditional New Year's food.

Our other traditional New Year’s food. 

Throwback Thursday

Today’s Throwback Thursday is inspired by yesterday’s Wordless Wednesday.

Erica 4, Nico, 3 and Oliva 6, exhausted after a weekend of roughing it.

Erica 4, Nico, 3 and Oliva 6, exhausted after a weekend of roughing it.

I am sorry the picture is so grainy but I couldn’t find the original and I had to use a copy of the photo. Besides, the photo was taken in early Spring 2002, long before I had a digital camera.  Juan and I were dating and things were getting serious. We were spending more and more time together and on those weekends that we had custody of the kids, we would take them to the zoo, the park, or other outings.  In this photo we were driving home from our very first camping trip with the kids. I use the term “camping” very loosely.  Juan never really camped before, while I grew up camping with my family, and had great memories of spending time outdoors.  I wanted our kids to experience the fun and adventure of the great outdoors, so I convinced Juan that we should take the kids camping one weekend.  As an introduction to “roughing it” I chose a campground about 2 hours north of us, in Solvang.

When we arrived I discovered that the “campground” was really an open meadow located a few blocks out of town.  The campground was accessible to restaurants and grocery stores.  It wasn’t quite the getaway I envisioned, but the campground had flush toilets, and showers, and with three young kids, I figured it would be a pretty safe introduction to camping.  The campground accommodated tent campers like us, and RV’s like everyone else there that weekend.

Instead of the wild call of nature, we heard the hum of generators.  Instead of campfires and marshmallows, our neighbors listened to their radios and watched their portable TV’s.  Even though it was not the camping experience I wanted for our kids, they thought it was a great adventure.  They ran around the meadow, dodging RV’s and trailers, while Juan and I struggled to pitch our tent.  After a take out pizza dinner we roasted marshmallows.  We tried to sleep but the noise of all the other campers did not make for a very restful night.  The next day we packed it all up drove to a nearby beach.  Between the sleepless night and a day at the beach, the kids were wiped out.  They slept all the way home and I took this picture.

Do you have any camping memories?

 

Tres Generaciones

In memory of my grandmother and in honor of my mother on this Mothers’ Day, I am re-posting this. I miss my grandmother everyday, especially today. I am mindful everyday, especially today, of how thankful I am for my mother for all her love, guidance and support throughout my life. Happy Mothers Day to all the mothers and  to all who act in mothering, nurturing ways.

My mother, my grandmother and I.

My mother, my grandmother and I.

This is a picture of my grandmother, my mother and I. My grandmother is 97 years-old and as you can tell from the spark in her eye, she is a firecracker. Lately, she is causing us some worry because she insists on living on her own.  She is independent, stubborn, resourceful and very loving. She has created many happy memories for me and her other 9 grandchildren. I think a lot of what my mother learned about being a mother, she learned from my grandmother.

This is my mother before she married my dad. My mom is the one who looks like she is 12 years-old and too young to be in Vegas with her girlfriends. She has always looked younger than her years.  When I was growing up I don’t think my mom ever weighed more than 110 pounds soaking wet.

In her late 20′s my mom met and married my dad. They started their family right away, with 3 kids  born 17 months apart. I don’t know how she did it. She says there was a time when my older brother, my younger sister and I were in diapers at the same time!  Eight years after my sister was born my dad said he wanted another boy. My mother agreed and 9 months later my younger brother was born. I don’t know how she did that! (Well, I do know how they did that, I just don’t like to think about it.)

When I was growing up my mother was in constant motion. Like many women of her day, she was a stay-at-home mom.  She made it look effortless. On our birthdays she organized parties for us and would invite the entire neighborhood.

We didn’t have bounce houses, clowns or magicians. We had my mom who would organize the games.

She was a soccer mom before there were soccer moms.

My mother didn’t just support my brother’s in their sports, she also supported me and my acting ambitions.  Here she is at one of my play productions, standing by while I sign autographs.

My mom wore many hats, including a barber hat.

Here she is in her laundress hat.

She rarely complained about her many household tasks, except when it came to do laundry. I didn’t understand why she disliked doing laundry for a family of 6. Now that I have my own family and my own endless pile of laundry, I understand.  But, at least I have a clothes dryer. Our family didn’t buy a clothes dryer until I was almost 13 years-old!

Something else happened when I was around 13 years-old, I suddenly knew everything there was to know about life.  Even though I still didn’t know how to do my own laundry, cook my own meals, or even pack my own school lunch, I knew more than anyone in my family, including my mother. Especially my mother. I would never stay home and raise children. I would work in show business, I would become a writer, or maybe even a lawyer. Thanks in part to my mom’s love and support,  I have had a turn doing all those things.  But wouldn’t you know it? I have also become a mom. Like my mom, I have two boys and two girls. Life has played a joke on me.  But my mom isn’t laughing. She is still here, supporting me, loving me and taking care of our family.  It’s something she learned from my grandmother, and something I hope I have learned from both of them. So, to my grandmother, and my mother…thank you and Happy Mother’s Day!

Freak Out Friday

I called in sick from work today. It’s not that I don’t have anything going on at work. I have stacks of files to review, affidavits to draft. I just needed a day off from the usual. I hope my boss, who sometimes reads my blog, will understand. (Hi Jane!)  I had every intention of going into the office and plowing through my work. I rose at my usual 6:00 a.m, rallied the troops, packed lunches, and while I took my shower I started going through my mental checklist of Things to Do Today and Things to Do This Weekend. That is when I became aware that the one thing that I needed on my list was missing.

1. Take Care of Yourself

My eyes began to water and it occurred to me that it wasn’t shampoo in my eyes. I was wrung out. For the last few months I have been running. Summer whizzed by without me breaking my pace. I tried to carve out some time now and then, but often I would feel panicked when I slowed down, thinking of everything else I should be doing.  Today, when faced with another round of endless tasks, I lost it. That is when I realized I needed to stop. The kids are in school. Juan is at the office. The dirty breakfast dishes are in the sink and the clean laundry is in the dryer. Unfolded. Wrinkling as I write.

I decided right then–mid-shower– that I needed a mental health day. I checked in with my office. Dropped Diego at school and headed out. I know that if I go home there will be no relaxing for me. Too many unmade beds and scattered toys to ignore. So here I am. I am at a cafe lingering over breakfast and a pot of tea.  I left the house with my laptop, my gym clothes and a spa gift certificate I received on Mother’s Day. (Yes, Mothers Day.) I don’t know if I will actually make it to the gym, or if I will be able to get to the spa since I don’t have an appointment, but it doesn’t matter. I have the whole day to do what I want. Shop. Go out to lunch. Blog. Whatever. The most important thing is that I doing the number one thing on my list of Things to Do Today.

1. Take Care of Yourself.

Check. Got that.

A breakfast time-out for me and my blog.

Are you taking time out to take care of yourself? How do you manage to balance your life?

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...

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