Mama’s Touch


I had an important presentation at work this week.  Of course, I had to stay late past my regular working hours; that is how the educational world rolls(two years ago, I did a major presentation after 11:30pm.  Te imaginas?) I had prepared my PowerPoint slides. I had practiced aloud. I had printed out notes. I brainstormed potential questions. Since I had planned to stay at the office, I worked on other pending items.   

Though she doesn’t yet have her own phone, M sometimes borrows her nana’s or grandma’s phone and sends me texts via WhatsApp. I look forward to these exchanges. They brighten my day. After all she is the reason I work as hard as I do. As part of getting ready for my late work night,  I had to make sure she had rides to and from dance class. I also reminded her to feed her dog and practice her piano. Imagine my dismay when she asked me if her dance shoes were at Grandma’s house. I had left my office and driven to a nearby shopping center to pick up some dinner for myself.  I turned around , looked in my backseat and saw her dance bag. I jumped out of the car to grab the bag. All the shoes that she needed were there. While I was annoyed, I didn’t hesitate to come up with a solution. I told her I would drive home to bring her shoes, possibly drive her to the dance studio and then drive back to my presentation. Because I’m her mom and that’s how I do.

I’m hard on myself on the way I parent. I believe all parents are. I have written in the past about how I question where and when I spend my time. I have reflected on the decisions I have made as a mom. I have questioned how my career and my passions affect my ability to be a truly engaged and compassionate parent. When M needs me, I will be there. An extra commute Is nothing. The thought of my daughter missing out on what she loves to do was something I didn’t want.  I can sacrifice the time. I’m usually rewarded with a big hug, smiles, and sweet words of gratitude. I love all that but I didn’t need it. What I needed to know was that I had provided for my child. I have done it before and I will do it again. I may make a sarcastic remark and maybe give some side eye. No matter what, I will always come through for M.

I did make it to my presentation on time. M made it to her class on time with the right shoes. That’s not the Midas touch; that’s the Mama’s touch.  

Ladybug among bees

I’m impressed by my 8 year old. She has a different take on other people and fitting in which is years ahead of where I was at twice her age. I’ve written about girl dynamics before (Girl drama); my daughter has learned to handle these situations.

M has been at her school for 5 years, since Pre-K.  She has been with the same group of children for that time with a few moves or transfers. M is her own person. Her dad and I appreciate that. and we also know it’s who we have shaped her to be. We are a non-traditional family so we have a non-traditional daughter. While she is experiencing anxiety and insecurity, M is independent. She is clear about how she likes to spend her time and what she likes to play or discuss. Things that would have hurt her feelings in the past don’t affect her in the same way.

She was recently part of a clique. I had trepidation because cliques have a tendency to exclude and/or break apart; these situations tend to get worse over time. Every day, we talk about who she sits with during snack and lunch and who she plays with during morning and lunch recess. I’m less interested in weekend events like sleepovers; I’ve outgrown my concern about that. In the past, I would feel heartbroken if she wasn’t invited to a birthday party or a sleepover. In part, that’s on us. We have a busy schedule. That hasn’t changed and won’t be changing any time soon. If she doesn’t get invited, I don’t dwell on it.  M is aware and honest about the social configurations. I directly asked her how she feels about the clique’s breakup. She was hurt when it first happened. She has noticed that part of the original group is hanging out with former rivals but that’s so typical of girl dynamics. First of all, those grudges aren’t as deep as we make them out to be. Secondly, we want so much to belong so we compromise. She’s gossipy or rude but she’s fun or she takes risks. We weigh the pros and cons of each person.


M is definitely more like K.C.(as portrayed by her idol Zendaya on the left)

My daughter is a cheerleader but she’s never been part of the A group. That may seem strange to admit as a parent but I’m comfortable with that fact. She has always been part of another group. Now that group has broken apart, she is hanging out with her best friend. M says it bothers her to see her other friends hanging out with different girls but she accepts that they are doing what they want. She shared with me what she has in common with her best friend and the ways in which they differ. Her explanation was mature and wise beyond her age. I reassured her that popularity is not everything. I told her I want her to be true to herself. I did tell her popularity is a reality that she will dealing with for at least 10 more years. I explained that it loses its importance in college for most. M asked if adults care about popularity. I wanted to laugh because those issues certainly come up in work or in social circles, even in my beloved dance communities. I said, “Unless you’re on a stage singing “Candy Girl”, popularity is not that important.” (Yes, I’m still talking about New Edition non-stop.)

I also shared that I found being unpopular a blessing. It hurt in the moment but it gave me appreciation for myself, for my true friends, and it kept me from engaging in unsafe behaviors. M and I have open, though age-appropriate,  conversations about my concerns.

M went to school in a great mood. It’s important to tell her it’s ok to be different. I told her I was a weirdo and proud of it. I’m grateful for the sense I developed of myself as an artist and a person. It hurt at times.  The queen bee is always going to look at you funny because you’re a yellow jacket or a mayfly or a ladybug. You ask yourself if you’re doing the right thing but you have to be true to yourself. M gets it.  You got this, mija.


Like mother, like daughter: say it with your tee


4 Challenges in 40 Days

“Long have I waited

For your coming home to me

And living deeply our new lives…” “Hosea” by John Michael Talbot.


This Lent, I am taking on a 40 blogs for 40 days as part of the 4 Lenten challenges I will be completing.

One challenge is joining the now-viral  #40bagsin40days challenge to clear up clutter. This has been an ongoing challenge.  I have read Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which had an impact on my wardrobe. I have also read numerous blogs and articles on thrift shopping and capsule closets which changed how I purchase and keep clothing and shoes. However it is a work in progress as clutter continues to consistently affect our home and my office at work. Purging daily, whether it is paper clutter or material items I don’t need, will clear space.  I don’t need much. What I need is love, family, discipline, and positive outlets. I have those blessings in place. It’s a matter of clearing space, energy, and time to truly enjoy them.

Rather than completely fasting from Facebook, I will be reducing my presence on social media. If I’m doing a 40 day writing challenge, social media is the best way to share my work. I will use social media purposefully.  I will post images and links related to my Lenten challenges and reflections. Another reason to revisit this traditional practice of reducing my time online is my actual enjoyment of this fast. Fasting from social media has gotten easier.  I don’t want my Lenten challenges to feel as if they are not sacrifices such as “Oh I’m giving up chocolate.” I moved away from that type of material sacrifice years ago because it doesn’t change me from within. Giving up Facebook and not posting status updates or sharing memes does not make me any less petty. Usually I get back online Easter Sunday and I’m posting a blog about how fulano de tal ruined my Lent. It’s not pure pettiness; there is some reflection involved.  Being off line is no easy fix.  I will move past venting through my writing over the course of these 40 days.

A challenge I began in therapy and within my immediate family is my commitment to stop being a mean mommy.(Can-do attitude)M  has always been articulate in expressing her opinions and feelings. While she is outwardly not thin-skinned, she’s much more sensitive than when she was 7. When I  hear her say, “you’re mad at me”, “you’re mean to me”  or use negative self-talk like “it’s my fault that…”, I cringe.  I am responsible for prompting my child to second-guess herself. In these 40 days, I will make a conscious effort to hold my tongue, monitor my body language and facial expressions, and modulate my tone of voice. I will be firm and tough but do it in a way that is nurturing, not demoralizing. Given our family’s histories, M is prone to anxiety. I will not be an additional stressor in her life. I want M to look at our relationship as one that strengthens her.

Finally, I will pray more in these 40 days. M and I will be praying the rosary during our commutes again. Instead of listening to New Edition during my morning drive to work(I’m not swearing off NE for 40 days! That blog is forthcoming), I will listen to gospel music.I will do some spiritual reading. I will participate in Best Lent Ever through Dynamic Catholic. This program has changed the way I experience Lent. Lent has become a beloved season  which I anticipate yearly.  I love what Lent offers my family, my prayer life, what it does for my relationship with myself and ultimately my relationship with God. God bless.


To learn more about the #40bagsin40days, visit 40 bags in 40 days

To join Dynamic Catholic for the next 40 days, sign up at Best Lent Ever


Mothering a warrior

“…But in this country

there is war.”  Lorna Dee Cervantes, from Poem For The Young White Man Who Asked Me How I, An Intelligent, Well-Read Person Could Believe In The War Between The Races 

Within the hour, I will have to wake her.  Last night, her closing prayers were “Bless this mess. Fix it Jesus. Amen.”  My daughter asked, “Who won?” at 1 in the morning, and promptly rolled to her other side so that I could not answer her. Today, like so many other madres, I will have to answer to her and for her.

Mija, like so many little girls in this generation and those that came before her, her own mom included, idolizes Wonder Woman.  We are excited for the movie which premieres in June 2017.ew-ww-39

My daughter has Wonder Woman t-shirts, hats, headband, dolls, and books.  She identifies closely with this character, a woman who is brave, independent, and strong.

I am drawn to the character of Queen Hippolyta, Wonder Woman’s mother, and an amazing woman in her own right.


In the first movie trailer which debuted this past summer, Hippolyta tells Diana, aka Wonder Woman, “You have been my greatest love.”  In the most recent trailer which debuted last week, Hippolyta calls out “Be careful, Diana” as her daughter embarks on a mission to go to war. Those two soundbites speak to what I’m feeling.  How will I keep the person I love most safe in this world?  How will I protect her?  How will I prepare her to do battle?

The events surrounding the election are no surprise to me.  I have seen the old ways of thinking and hating fester and spread; they never stop doing so.


While I grieve the harsh truths the election reveals about many people in our nation, I accept reality.  One of the things I told my daughter last night was that now would be our time to fight for what is right. 14938157_1366372526736820_5038582823904846037_n

So our mission begins.

Carnavalesco mommyhood

I have sometimes questioned why I would become involved in a dance community while raising a small child. These doubts have occasionally been voiced by my spouse and my mother.  I am sure that there are other relatives and acquaintances who have kept those questions to themselves but who nevertheless look askance at photos I might share on social media. I joined Samba Funk when M was four. I changed jobs mid-year at the same time I prepared for my first Carnaval.
2013 Indie Awards candid
Somehow we made it work.
There are times when a dance class or meeting might run late or a party may not be all ages. But overall, M has been included in every part of the creative process that goes into Carnaval. She has attended registration kickoff parties, costume blinging sessions, and outdoor rehearsals.
M has benefited greatly from being included in the Samba Funk community from a young age. She has seen friendships form. She has cultivated relationships with several caring adults. She has been inspired by strong, beautiful dancers. Missed bedtimes seem a small inconvenience in comparison.
For the first time this year, M began to learn Afro-Brazilian choreography and took part in her first Carnaval. My daughter, already blessed with an innate love of life and confidence, has had a life-changing experience.
As I have already shared, Carnaval isn’t simply a parade or a festival. Lifestyle doesn’t even do it justice. Carnaval is a way of life.
To be a carnavalesco, you love life and the world and you express that love through dance, music, and art. I can’t think of a better place to raise my child.

My youngest dance teacher

When she steps out on the stage, she smiles widely and shows off her dimples. She looks out into the crowd with such joy and love that I often wonder if she can’t see her father or her grandparents through the stage lights or bright sunshine. She is dancing in the moment.

These past four months haven’t been easy for M. She has struggled with behavior issues at school. She has pushed back at home. Focusing and listening have been challenges.  As much as we have wanted to shield her, M has had to deal with the new normal in our household.  Most nights, she prays for Mommy to feel better. Though she nicknamed the Wound-Vac, she looks forward to its departure so she can give me a real bear hug.  It is both inspiring and heart-rending to watch her deal with these changes. She is one tough little girl.  I learn from her daily.  
I am grateful she shares my love for dance. She can forget her worries when she dances.  She deserves those moments.  

Back to School w M!

My daughter is not quite four. Next month, she will be but in the meantime she is the youngest child in her Pre-Kindergarten class at a Catholic school.  She had been eagerly anticipating this transition but got nervous in the days preceding her first day and tearful the night before.  Needless to say, I was worried as I accompanied her to her first assembly on the blacktop for prayer, flag salute, and announcements.  Gradually, she began to look less terrified and  more relaxed.  
By the time we returned to her classroom, she immediately began to play in one of  the learning centers.  I  have left jobs, schools, and relationships and no ending quite felt like it when my little girl looked me in the eyes and said, “Goodbye, mommy.”  It took strength to not burst into tears in front of her.  

After spending an hour at the parent mixer(I talked with a few parents and scored her a free plaid jumper), I headed home(yes I finally did cry on the drive) to comfort myself with some K-horror.  Because when the going gets tough, I will immerse myself in a movie, in this case an eerie Korean ghost story. Then my mom rejoined me and we went back for noon dismissal.  When we arrived, M was back to her old self: upbeat, confident, and light-hearted.  Of course, that first day of school popsicle given out by the staff didn’t hurt. 

M told me she would like to go to school every day.  And so begins the next phase of our exciting adventures together.

Confessions of a Tiger Mom in training

“Did He who made the lamb make thee?” William Blake
I didn’t want to be a Tiger Mom.  But I’m beginning to wonder if it’s too late. 
Tiger Mom refers to a style of parenting which was the focus of Amy Chua’s memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother(which I have not read) and its controversial Wall Street Journal excerpt, “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior”(which I have), and its many resulting responses. This style of parenting is typified by strict rules and high expectations.  As controversial as Chua’s recollections and reflections have been, they struck a chord with millions—including me. But unlike those who dismissed Chua as a monster, I saw her as just a mom—and one not unlike my own.
I could not wear makeup until I was fifteen and even then, foundation and eye shadow were out of the question. I was never allowed to host or attend sleepovers. I was told there would be no dating before I received a high school diploma.  (Despite my rebel streak, I never defied this rule.)  I was expected to earn A’s, was questioned for Bs(my mom recalls a parent meeting where she questioned one of my high school teachers about a B-; alas I have blocked it from my memory), and practically carried a cross for earning a C in Physical Education and Algebra II/Trig.  I was told that designer jeans (ahh the 80s) were out of the question and that I would need to work and pay for them myself if I really wanted them.  At the time, I thought my mother was a tyrant. In retrospect, these rules were reasonable and will likely be implemented in my household.
Still, there were challenges. I often wondered if I was good enough. I worried about cleaning my room to perfection. I worried about my penmanship. I worried about my weight.  I became a perfectionist and it made piano and dance recitals and creative writing less enjoyable at times.  I learned to fear a certain tone of voice. Those lectures hurt more than any physical punishment would have. My mom stopped spanking when I began to go to school but she wielded words like a samurai wields a sword. 
My daughter has begun to refer to that voice. She calls it “yucky and nasty and scary.” It is a voice that tells her to clean up or to not do this or not do that.  I can hear myself using it but it sometimes takes a while for me to take a breath and stop.  A few nights ago, I asked Blues to explicitly intervene and take over discipline if I can’t check myself in these moments of verbal aggression.  I’m grateful to say that last night he did step in and help make a situation which could have resulted in a teary toddler into a constructive moment for all of us.
I don’t want my daughter to fear me. I don’t want my daughter to change. I want her to be the feisty, willful rebel who dares. 
And I want to be a good mother.    

The first of many

My baby got into preschool!  Out of over 30 children for approximately 12 spots at a local Catholic preschool. I have experienced anxiety, worry, and doubt in the past two months of the application process.  We are thrilled and excited.

Can’t help but wonder how I will handle future admissions processes…

The 9 things I’ve already said to my child…and why my mama did all right by me

Positive Reinforcement – How to Talk So Kids Will Listen –

I did a lot of handwringing after I read this recent Parenting magazine article. As I read the nine statements, I realized I have said each one. My head filled with visions of me as the Latina version of Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford. Then I began talking to myself inside my head: “Ay Dios mio” and “pobrecita” as I pictured my little M’s sad face. I even bemoaned my lack of parenting ability out loud to my student teacher, the dreaded “I’m a terrible mother ” not because I was fishing for compliments, but as a “por mi culpa, por mi gran culpa” act of contrition. It was sackcloth and ashes for about ten minutes. Then I shook it off and brought myself back to reality. My mama didn’t raise no handwringer.

When I was an assistant principal, I became well-acquainted with a parenting type that I dubbed the Handwringer. Usually the Handwringer is nervous and anxious, especially about hurting her/his child’s feelings. Rather than set boundaries, guidelines, and consequences, the Handwringer frets. She/he is like Chicken Little in that they are always running about, unsure of themselves, convinced the sky is falling right on the precious head of their child. They make excuses, not decisions. They complain, cry, and sigh. They drive assistant principals, probation officers, police officers, sheriff’s deputies, and public defenders crazy. My mom was no handwringer.

I’ve spent years analyzing, discussing, and writing about my mother’s parenting. When all is said and done(and believe me, when I say “all”), Mom did all right. She raised two UC Berkeley graduates. She modeled lifelong learning by earning her associate of arts degrees years after my brother and I graduated college. She reflected on her past and reinvented herself both professionally and personally. She taught us to believe in Jesus, the American Dream, the power of family, and ourselves. She told us the truth and it sometimes hurt. Today, I told one of my classes the streets don’t play. Neither did my Mom. Perhaps that’s why the streets never got me. So I will be a softer, but not weaker, version of my mother for my M.