What a trip

Sunday: family leaves the LA apartment together and begins nomad life by staying with my parents in Hacienda Heights

Monday before sunrise: Sean and my dad begin the drive to Ithaca

Monday evening: I finish cleaning out our apartment and turn in the keys

Thursday 12:35 pm: LAX to JFK (flight 1)

Friday 1:00 am: Reunite with Sean and my dad in Syracuse

***

I was a jumble of nerves the last few days in California. First, I was nervous for Sean and my dad as they traveled a few thousand miles. They sent regular updates and photos of pretty sites in Utah and Colorado. Still I was worried as that is a lot of miles. Second, I was worried because Xavi was still a bit feverish and I didn’t now if we’d need to make a trip to urgent care part of our to-do before we fly out list. Luckily, baby Motrin helped and he was better by Tuesday. Third, I was nervous about trying to fit everything in our suitcases and backpacks. I realized as I cleaned out the apartment that we were too disorganized and should have made better use of the moving truck. Xavi and I really didn’t need all the clothes we hadn’t packed in boxes. Fourth, I was nervous about saying goodbye to Papá Chepe, my siblings and mom. It’s one thing to leave your able-bodied siblings and parents. I know I can call/Sykpe/FaceTime. I know they can visit. But it’s different with my 95-year old grandfather. Even before the stroke, the trip would’ve been rough for him. Plus, I knew that in recent weeks he’d been sad when my mom or siblings brought up our move. (Yes, I felt guilty.) Fifth, I was worried about the flights to New York. We’ve traveled to NY twice with Xavi. The first time was when he was 9 months old and not yet walking. The second time was in March. He was okay on both trips, but those were direct flights with two parents. Even if he was an angelic toddler, I’d still need to consider the logistics of lugging around our bags plus the bulky jogging stroller.

Last what if, for some reason, we arrived in Syracuse before Sean? Who would pick us up at the airport?

***

Xavi's first drum circle

Rather than sit around feeling my stomach tie in to knots and as I freaked out, I kept busy with chores like laundry, eating my mom and aunts’ delicious food and finishing packing. Xavi played with all the toys his grandparents have spoiled with and splashed around in his kiddie pool to stay cool. We also went to the library for a kids’ program about drums of the world. Xavi wasn’t really in to it until he got to try out the drums like the other kids.

Pool time

On Wednesday night, Danny cooked a gourmet meal for us. I was crabby, hungry and rather rude as Danny took a few hours to prepare everything (sorry, brother). I was annoyed because ordering out would’ve been just fine and less work for all involved. Now I’m thankful that he went through the trouble since it’ll be a while before I get one of his gourmet, professionally plated meals.

***

On Wednesday night I finished stuffing our suitcases. I decided we’d gate check the stroller which would help free up an arm and would check the roller bag I usually use as a carry on. I needed my hands free.

The next morning I tried to keep cool as I said my goodbyes to Papá Chepe, Lori and Adrian (he wore sunglasses to hide the dust getting in his eyes). Danny loaded up the Jeep and drove my mom, me and Xavi to LAX. I’m usually okay to be dropped off at the curb, but this time I needed them with me all the way up until we were separated at security. Plus, I just wanted to delay the goodbye and the inevitable tears.

Outbound...

It was bittersweet. I missed Sean and wanted to see him again, but at the same time I knew that our move was tough on both my nuclear and extended family. We are super close both figuratively and literally. I felt the benefit of their nearness as we prepped for the move and I could count on them to come by to bring a meal, paint or entertain Xavi. My mom gave me and Xavi a blessing before we went through security and I choked back the tears. I needed to keep it together.

Flying makes me hungry

As soon as we got to our gate we took care of business (diaper change and getting lunch) and then it was time to board. Xavi and I were sitting in JetBlue’s Even More Space seats. They’re pricey, but well worth the extra space for toddler who doesn’t want to sit still. Even though Xavi still qualified as a lap infant, I knew he needed his own seat just for the space (and not to bug out neighbor). He fell asleep for a little bit and then played calmly. He even got a compliment from the man who was sitting in our aisle. We arrived on time to JFK and then waited for our next flight to Syracuse. Our flight was delayed and the delay ultimately took longer than the actual flight. Xavi had a good time running around the seating area at the gate and up and down the concourse but got fussy when I made him stop. He needed to sleep and nodded off even before our flight took off.

Last people at baggage claim

We arrived in Syracuse and met up with Sean and my dad. It was so good to see them. We were reunited and it felt so, so good.

Dad flew back to LA the next morning and then it was just me, Sean and Xavi hanging out in a hotel in Syracuse. On Sunday we drove south to Ithaca where we stayed in a new friend’s spare basement studio apartment. The next morning I started my new job.

We kept up the nomad/living out of a suitcase life for another week while we waited to move in to our new apartment (July 2nd) and have our things delivered by the moving company (July 4th).

A month later we’re pretty much moved in but still need to unpack some boxes of items we don’t use daily. I’ve settled in to my job and we’re getting to know our new town. More on that later.

Leaving Los Angeles

I’d lived in apartment 3 on the 31st block of my street for many years before I called it “home.” I can’t tell you how many years it was. Maybe 7. Could’ve been 10. All I know is that it was well before Sean proposed in my bedroom (10+ years in) right next to the closet. It was before wedding supplies and gifts took over our living room (12 years in). And it was definitely before we brought home a tiny newborn Xavi from the hospital less than two miles away.

I do know that on the day I left it felt like home even though Sean wasn’t there and neither was Xavi.

We spent most of our last two weeks in a clutter of boxes, packing paper and stress. The Mosqueda side of the family came over to help pack, remove furniture we weren’t moving to Ithaca and watch Xavi. Meanwhile Sean worked out the logistics of driving cross country and we confirmed everything for our new apartment. As mentioned before, the movers picked up most of our belongings on June 18th. Our last day at work was the 19th. Over the weekend we rushed to finish packing up the items that would go in the car with Sean and my dad and would go in suitcases with me and Xavi.

Mosqueda Family 2015

We left as a family for the last time on Sunday to attend the Father’s Day/Papá Chepe early 95th birthday party. Sean dropped me and a feverish Xavi off at my mom’s house (home for the next few days) and turned around to finish packing. He didn’t really get to enjoy the party, but we did have time for a big family photo.

But on the Monday I finished packing up the apartment, I felt like I was leaving home. I was by myself as Sean had left early that morning to begin the cross country drive. Xavi stayed at my mom’s house since he wouldn’t be much help cleaning up the apartment.

When I returned to the almost empty apartment I found Sean had left me a note written with Scrabble cards. It read, “I love you Cindy.” I left the cards there while I cleaned out everything we had left for the last minute. Soon a family friend and his kids came to pick up the refrigerator and the kitchen table. Other friends stopped by for wine (still leftover from our wedding, a bookshelf or just to say hi).

I took a break to eat and go to my neighborhood Trader Joe’s (for the last time — the nearest one is an hour away) for a snack and some plants/flowers for the neighbors I’d miss the most and Xavi’s former babysitter. In the many years I lived in the building, there were only three neighbors who lived there longer than me. They all became friendly especially after Xavi was born. The lady upstairs was especially sweet. I swept through the apartment one more time making sure I didn’t forget anything [I did, I left the comal sitting in it’s usual spot on the stove], locked up and then turned in the keys.

Leaving LA

I took pictures after loading up the last things in my dad’s Jeep. It was nice to see the sun setting in a lovely way and reminding me of how it would look on those summer evenings when I would go for a run or Sean and Xavi would walk out to meet me at the bus stop.

I managed not to cry as I left my LA apartment, but I sure felt like it. I knew I probably wouldn’t be going back there, even if I keep in touch with some of our neighbors. When I go back to LA, I’ll be visiting family or friends who mainly live 20-40 minutes away from my old neighborhood.

Leaving LA

I think the best way to write a tribute to my first/only apartment is a by the numbers:

1 marriage proposal
2 former residents who were teachers (1 became a teacher after living there)
3 days, Xavi’s age when he came home from the hospital
4 original inhabitants, aka the Roomies (all still good friends I saw either shortly before moving or earlier in the spring)
5 years the longest roommate (besides me) stayed
6 the number of neighbor kids who regularly played in the driveway
7 former roommates I got along with
8 total former roommates
9 races I trained for by starting my run down this street;
10 minute walk to Downtown Culver City for a movie or a beer
15 (well 14.8) years living there
249 the difference between the original and final rent

Moving questions

I’ve answered the questions below a lot over the past few weeks.

Are you driving?
No, but Sean is driving. We’ve never been on a short road trip with Xavi. I can’t imagine making him sit in his car seat for 3-5 hour stretches and keeping him entertained.

When do you leave?
Sean leaves on Sunday night or Monday morning. [We opted for the latter with my dad as a second driver.]

Last day in the office

I fly out on Thursday with Xavi. Sean will pick us up at the airport.

Are you all packed up?
No. Depending on the point in the week this was anywhere from 30% to 95%. Sean is already on the road and I’m staying with my mom but I still need to finish clearing our stuff out of the apartment. (Note: I finished Monday evening and said goodbye to my neighbors.)

Boxes!

All our stuff is on this truck

Most of our stuff went on this truck and is currently somewhere between LA and Ithaca.

If I move again, I won’t make my last week at work coincide with the craziness of packing. That was dumb.

Are you excited? Nervous? Scared?
Yes. I hope Sean and my dad to have a safe drive. I also am worried because Xavi’s been feverish since Saturday. It’s been high enough to bother him and affect his behavior but not scary must rush to the hospital high.

Does Xavi know what’s going on?

Something's different here...

I’m not sure, but he definitely knows something is different. As the apartment emptied out, he liked all the open space and the echo.

Ithaca, New York? You know it snows, right?
Really?! I had no clue.

Do you have a place to live?
Yes. We move in on July 1st. We will be hotel and AirBnb hopping from our arrival in upstate NY on the 25th until we can move in. We found a furnished apartment from a friend of a friend. A grad school friend introduced me to some of her fellow professors who teach at Ithaca College. One gave me his landlord’s info and I found out they had a vacancy that fit our needs and was within our price range. Plus it was furnished so we could leave some stuff behind and cut down moving costs. Although I didn’t visit before move in, I felt okay signing a lease since our contact was quite happy with his living situation and it’s <2 miles to my job.

When will you be back?
Not sure of the first date, but I know I’ll definitely be back for Adrian and Alexis’s wedding festivities. That’s in about 11 months.

You can’t take it with you

In my post announcing my new job and move to upstate New York I mentioned that I’ve never really moved. I’ve changed residences and gone from childhood home to dorm and then to an apartment with a few roommates. Then I didn’t leave because I was still working or going to school at  the same place. I even got an award highlighting my residency. 

Gag award from 2004 - kinda painfully true

That was only six years in Westwood. Eleven years later, I’m finally leaving and it’s not easy in any way, but I’ll focus on logistics.

Since I’ve been at apartment since 2000, I’ve accumulated a lot of stuff. I’ve done a couple of purges, the last being when Sean moved in and I wanted it to feel like our place rather than my place.

While I have lots of stuff, I don’t have much practical knowledge of how to move. I’ve been doing a lot of googling and bugging the company my job referred me to for relocation services. Sean did the cross country move once and he knew a couple of things:

1. It’s not cheap.

2. Purge, purge, purge. Because #1.

We are in the middle of #2 because we received our [discounted] move quote and had major sticker shock. I’m fairly certain our household goods cost less than the price of moving them.

We are discarding older furniture that isn’t worth moving and selling some of the stuff that is in better shape. Xavi gets to keep his furniture and is doing less purging.

Up for grabs

We are also trying to lighten our load by giving away or selling books. 

Up for grabs: mainly fiction. This list was longer but my teacher friends had first dibs.

Education and sociology: I bought a lot of books during grad school. I shudder to think of what was spent versus what I actually read. These aren’t all up for grabs as I’m keeping those focused on methodology and student development.

Chicana and Chicano Studies books: some of these are banned in Arizona schools!

Sean's up for grabs books

Sean pulled some books too, but they’re not on GoodReads.
If you’re local and want a couple of books or know of a good place to donate, let me know. 

Xavi gets baptized

Godparents and parents

Sean and I have a lot to do in before we leave LA. One of the things that seemed most urgent was getting Xavi baptized.

It was never a question that he would be baptized. Sean and I promised it a few times in preparation for a Catholic marriage. It’s customary to baptize children as infants. I was baptized before I was a month old. Mexicans throw big parties to celebrate this with food and “bolo.” The godparents throw out coins and there’s a mad scramble to pick them up. It’s like the piñata candy melee but more people join in because who doesn’t need some quarters to do laundry or to add to the piggy bank?

Proud grandparents

My mom kept bugging me about it and I shrugged off her exhortations because we hadn’t decided on godparents. It’s not an easy decision. Being a godparent means a lot of things, but I didn’t want it just to be an honorific. I wanted Xavi’s padrino and madrina to accept the responsibility to be co-guides of Xavi’s faith journey.

So, while I was helping a group of 17 teens prepare to be fully initiated Catholics – that’s when you’ve been baptized, and done the sacraments of Reconciliation, First Holy Communion and Confirmation – I was delaying the first step of that process for my own child. Oh, irony.

When leaving LA became a reality in early May we needed to make a decision.

Baptism style

Sean and I picked Danny and Lori to be Xavi’s padrinos. Xavi asked them on Mother’s Day with little notes saying, “will you be my padrino/madrina?” Of course they said yes, and almost cried. They’re both ecstatic just being uncle and aunt to their first nephew, now they get to do a little more.

We rushed through the process of selecting a church, picking a date and taking the preparation class. We were able to get in last minute at St. John Vianney in their parent and godparent preparation class. Sean and I go to mass at SJV about once a month and it still feels like home when I see lots of familiar faces. That happened during the class too. Two of the four couples leading small groups were friends’ parents.

Last Wednesday we took the course and I was reminded why I chose Danny and Lori and what I want Xavi to learn from them.

Trío Mosqueda Campbell

I was pretty shy as a kid but Danny was the opposite. He took on the trailblazer big brother role with gusto and I was grateful for it. I joined all the activities he did up through high school. I even chose trombone because Danny played trombone. Having him there made everything easier and less daunting, even if I was mainly known as Danny’s Little Sister. My big brother’s willingness to get involved extended to church activities like altar serving, choir and youth group (yup, did all three). He also made all the church ladies love him. So, from Padrino Danny I want Xavi to be willing to get involved and share his talents. I want him to get that first born sense of responsibility of being an example to your younger sibling(s) or cousins.

Madrina Lori and Padrino Danny

Xavi has three uncles, but only one tía, Lori. I know she relishes that role. As my only sister, we have a very close relationship and complement each other. Lori has a beautiful singing voice and we harmonize quite well together. We join dad and Danny in our small family choir at funerals for friends and family. Aside from offering up her voice, she also reminds me that prayer can take many forms. On her trail runs she prays for those who cannot run and reflects on the beauty in our surrounding environment. I want Xavi to learn from his Madrina Lori that it’s important to share your voice and other talents. Also, prayer can take many forms.

Xavi gets baptized

As for the actual baptism, Xavi didn’t behave as well as he usually does in church. He was squirmy, “talked” a lot (he says ma-ma now!), sat on the floor and cried at different parts. We’ve heard kids scream “nooooo!” in the middle of being baptized, so at least it wasn’t that bad considering he was teething and we cut his nap short.

Not up for picture time

He was definitely the loudest (and oldest) of the six babies being baptized. He also had the most hair and was the only one who didn’t do the traditional baptismal gown. Do they even make those in 2T?

Proud grandparents

Adrian and Alexis

We kept the celebration small since the day before my parents had already hosted a party. My cousin Angelina threw a party with a King Taco truck and mariachi to celebrate her daughter Star’s confirmation and son David’s First Holy Communion.

Kisses for Xavi

We’re thankful Xavi so many strong examples, hopefully that shines through in Skype and FaceTime.

Los Angeles, I’m yours (for now)

“You need to leave California, Cindy… I know you don’t want to, but you’re going to need to, especially when you start looking for a job. There are no jobs here.”

I wasn’t thinking of my former advisor’s words when I decided to apply to a job in New York. Nor was I thinking of them in the video conference interview or day-long interview on site. And it didn’t come to mind as I waited to hear back from the review committee and weighed the pros and cons of a potential move. They came back to me after making my decision.

Five years after my advisor told me I needed to leave California and I pouted about it, I am finally leaving, now it’s with my little family.

On May 1st I made up my mind — like a lot of high school seniors waiting until the last minute to choose a college. Rather than submit a statement of intent to register I would soon sign an offer letter accepting a position at a university in New York.


I bought the hoodie after my interview. I figured even if I didn’t get the job, Xavi could build up his collegiate wardrobe. No need to only wear blue and gold.

It’s a big change for me and my family. We’ll be going from LA to an area with about 6% Latino population. I’ll no longer be in the land of 70 degree January days. My parents, siblings and most of my extended family won’t be a short drive away. I know they’re happy for me, but if Xavi was my grandson/nephew I’d be sad about no longer seeing him every other week.

Career wise it’s also a big change. I’ll go from a very selective public university that I’ve been at for 16+ years as either a student or staff member to a more selective Ivy League university that I’ll need to learn a lot about. I see myself carrying a map as I walk around campus, just like the tiny freshmen.

I’ll still be in STEM education for underrepresented minority and disadvantaged students, but with greater emphasis on the E in that acronym. My position will also come with more responsibility.


His face when he heard about the cold and snow.

I’m excited about this new opportunity but also fretting over the move. I don’t know anyone in Ithaca except my future co-workers. Sean, Xavi and I will leave an awesome support network (read: free babysitting from grandparents), extended family, lots of friends, co-workers and jobs we really like, our neighborhood and comfy apartment, and a church I’ve begun to feel at home at thanks to getting involved with the confirmation program.

I’ve only moved twice but I don’t think going from home to dorm and then dorm to apartment shared with college roommates really counts. It’s certainly much less daunting than a cross country move. While I’ve spent a lot of time in New York, it’s been in NYC or Long Island. Ithaca is 4-5 hours away from our New York City/LI friends and family. Last, we’ve been lucky to have the transition to parenthood smoothed out by having family nearby. I joked about the free babysitting, but that’s just one perk. It’s even better to see Xavi playing with his grandparents, aunts and uncles, and bringing a smile to Papá Chepe’s face with his silliness. On the bright side, Xavi will get to see his NY family more often.

I’m making a list of all the things I need to do (and eat!) in LA before we leave in June. We’ll certainly be busy, but mainly I want to spend the last few weeks at work leaving my boss, coworkers and replacement in a good position. At home, I want to make sure Xavi gets plenty of quality time with his LA family.

Confirmation Sunday

Desert retreat

Written March 23, 2015

On my way home from work today I trudged along the sidewalk. I looked down at my feet. I felt a little queasy from the bus ride and was only half paying attention to the podcast playing on my phone. I heard someone call, “Cindy!”

I looked up at the line of cars waiting for the light to change to see Andi*, one of the students I got to know during the retreat in the desert. She was sitting in the back seat of a car driven by a woman with pink hair. She waved and I waved back. Then she was gone.

And I was left with warm fuzzies at the not-so-random encounter — figures that the students who go to the church live in the nearby community — and memories from the weekend.

***

Spanish language children's choir at St John Vianney

I grew up in a Catholic family. My parents met as part of the youth group at Assumption Church in Boyle Heights. When they moved to Hacienda Heights and began attending St. John Vianney (SJV), they continued to be involved in the church. I’ve written before about how every one of the six members of my family was involved in one way or another.

Then I went off to college and through my 20s/early 30s I stopped being so involved. I barely went to Mass. That changed when Sean and I got engaged and began to prepare for the sacrament of marriage. After SJV was burned down by an arsonist I reflected on how important being part of that community was for me growing up.

With our celebrant, Fr. Ricky

Then we met with Fr. Ricky and he reaffirmed that we needed to attend Mass weekly as we prepared for the wedding. After trying out different churches in my area, we chose St. Augustine. I liked that they had a 5 pm service. The music was great and the pastor encouraged interaction in Mass. But it didn’t really feel like home in the way SJV did. At SJV I can go to any service and bump in to a number of people I’ve known for 15-20 years.

Shortly after we got married the church sponsored an activities fair and encouraged parishioners to get involved. I signed up to do lector training and confirmation. I heard from the latter and then proceeded to flake on the actual training. I forgot I signed up for the former until summer when I got an email from the pastor.

I answered the call and went to a preliminary meeting. As I introduced myself I shared that I was a new parishioner and had been involved in youth ministry when I was younger. I added that I was influenced by my parents’ example. As I prepared to become a parent, I wanted to show my son that I wasn’t just going to church on Sunday, but also contributing in other ways.

Being a confirmation catechist shouldn’t be so tough, right? After all, I work with students just a few years older.

***

I met my group in September of 2013 as I was coming up from the fog of life with a newborn. The first class I attended was also the first time I was away from Xavi for more than 45 minutes. For the next nine months, I’d see my group about twice a month. I got to know them a little and did my best to be a good teacher. 

Being a catechist wasn’t easy. I had to give up some of my time with my family and deal with teens who oftentimes didn’t want to be in class or church. Sometimes it was impossible to get them to join the discussion or do an activity.

I got to know the other catechists, a mix of people fresh out of college, professionals, and couples tag-teaming on their catechist responsibilities. One couple was a pair of doctors with two children, one a toddler. If they could give their time, surely I could to. The other catechists became friends and the director of religious education (a former daycare provider) was great with Xavi when I brought him with me to meetings.

After a summer away, I came back in September to most of the same students. While most are sophomores, a few were applying to colleges and worried about the next phase in their lives. The catechist group changed slightly too, but there was still a core group. As part of the two-year process, the students attend a weekend retreat. I did this as a teen but don’t remember much from my experience except that it was intense.

Desert retreat

Like some of my teens, I didn’t really want to go away for a weekend. It would be the first time I’d be a way from Xavi overnight. When I decided to go on the second retreat weekend, I did it because it would give me more time to ensure Xavi was sleeping through the night and (if not) Sean could also get him back to sleep.

Andi (not her name) was one of the four students assigned to my small group during the confirmation retreat. I got to know her and the three others in my group and also spent the meals sitting with my usual group. They saved me a seat.

When I returned home on Sunday afternoon I opened my mail bag and found some kind notes from my group.

I heard great things about the retreat from my students. It was good for me too as I got some time to think and pray about some things on my mind. I even opened up to the youth about some of these concerns.

***

My confirmation with Bishop Gabino Zavala

My students will be confirmed this afternoon. While I’ll miss seeing them every other Sunday for class, I’m excited to see how much they’ve grown and proud that they’re making this next step. Making my confirmation was a big deal for me and led to more opportunities for involvement at SJV. I hope my students see it the same way.

Use your words: Dealing with speech delay

Earlier this month I was sitting down to lunch with some people I had just met. One asked, “So, what do you do for fun?”

I waited to answer. Not only because I was in the middle of chewing, because a number of the things I do for fun, I no longer, well, do. I ran. I went to movies. I went to Dodger games and lots of concerts at awesome venues. I spend time with family.

Playground

I don’t do most of that stuff anymore because I’m engrossed in figuring out my new role, being a mom to Xavi. And yes, that is often fun.

So, I said, “Well I like spending time with my family. And I have a toddler so a lot of my ‘fun’ is playing with him.”

I was immediately asked follow-up questions.

“How old is he?”

“Twenty months.”

“Oh, that’s such a great age. The next couple of years are going to be so much fun,” said the second guy who I later learned is the father of toddler twins.

Sprinkler fun

“Is he a talker?” asked the first guy.

I paused (chewed) again.

“No. He actually doesn’t have many (well, any) words. We’re going to get him evaluated soon…”

Both told me about family members who had hearing issues or did not speak until five years of age. They assured me that everything worked itself out.

Easter Sunday

Xavi will be 21 months in a few days and his language is not where the it’s supposed to be. He doesn’t have the 5-10 words [or whatever it is, too lazy to look up something that’s going to turn up BabyCenter or WebMD — I’ve already seen those sites] considered normal for a toddler his age.

He babbles a ton. He says “dada”, but not to refer to Sean. He says “dis” (this) and points. He used to say “trash” as we would go to the diaper pail to throw out his dirty diapers. My mom and his former babysitter insisted that the “tinti” he said was actually Cindy. And he imitated me as I said his babysitter’s name. He doesn’t say mama.

When Xavi was 18 months old, we brought up our concerns with our pediatrician, Dr. H. First he asked where the concerns were coming from. Are you comparing him with other kids? Are your families or friends bringing this up? Nope. It was all me and Sean. Then he asked some basic questions and concluded that given that Xavi has hit other development milestones and has been very healthy thus far, he saw no reason to be concerned. He said Xavi was “certainly not advanced with speech development, not that there is anything wrong with that.” He’d be concerned if Xavi was 30 months old and used so few words, but at 18 months he didn’t see cause for alarm. Dr. H assuaged our worries more by offering to refer us for an evaluation at the speech and language therapy department if we chose. “Just email me and I’ll send it.”

That made me feel better.

Wedding swag

Sean and I decided to take a wait and see approach. In the mean time we read about other parents’ experiences with speech delay and speech therapy.

Six weeks passed and nothing changed. Xavi stopped repeating me when I said we were taking his diaper to the trash and going to his babysitter’s house. I started to feel like I needed to do something. What if he really needs help? I’d read about the referral process and knew that it could be a couple months before he ever saw a speech therapist.

The evening after my lunch meeting I told Sean that I asked Dr. H for a referral. Dr. H complied and within a few hours the referral was in our HMO’s system. Sean made an appointment the next day. Within two weeks we were seeing the speech language pathologist for an evaluation. The sessions with the SLP lasted about 30 minutes and she asked a series of questions regarding Xavi’s expressive and receptive language. She confirmed that he is speech delayed and qualifies for speech therapy and another early intervention preschool/daycare program.

Grandpa made Xavi a desk

The evaluation was affirming. It’s hard to think that there might be something “wrong” with Xavi or that I could have done more to help him develop speech. I know that speech delay is very normal and that there is nothing actually wrong. I know that we are lucky to have access to resources to give Xavi a little nudge.

I felt so much better after leaving our session with the SLP. Hearing that he did qualify for services was nice, but it also made me realize a few things. Xavi does know a lot of words, even if he isn’t saying “mama, agua”. During the evaluation, the SLP pointed to pictures in a book and asked Xavi, “Where is the ball? Where is the bird?” I figured Xavi knew “ball” since we frequently throw various balls around the apartment, but was surprised when he correctly identified the bird. She also gave him a two-step instruction (e.g., get the train, take it to mommy) that he partially followed. When she saw our faces look a little bummed that he stopped partly through the direction, she said, “It’s okay. This is more advanced than his age.”

Second, simply watching the SLP’s interaction with Xavi made me realize there was more I could be doing to help him learn words. Sean and I both read to him daily and point to objects when we’re at home or out on a walk. I don’t put those together and realize I should be pointing more to the objects in his books. The SLP also advised us to draw attention to our mouths as we name objects. I’m sure I’ll learn more once Xavi has first session with the speech therapist.

First cornrows

For now, I know that his expressions and actions say more than I can understand. While Xavi learns words, I need to learn to better pick up on his non-verbal cues.

First Quarter Bookishness

I’ve spend the first few months of 2015 catching up with some books on the best of lists for 2014 and — when I can — checking off items on the challenges I’ve taken on for the year. I’m up to three. Below are late-ish sorta-reviews on some of the books I’ve read in the first quarter.

FIVE STAR BOOKS

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Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion (Gregory Boyle)

Not only does God think we’re firme, it is God’s joy to have us marinate in that. (p. 24)

The first time I heard Fr. Boyle speak last year I cried. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. I’ve known about Homeboy Industries and Fr. Boyle’s work for many years but his words really hit me then. Later that day he celebrated the youth focused Mass at Congress, a religious education conference. The room was full and I cried more.

Tattoos on the Heart reminded me of his talk and homily. In most of the chapters, Fr. Boyle illustrates different elements of God’s love through stories about the homies he works with. They will make you laugh and definitely cry. Oh man, will they make you cry.

As someone who has struggled a little with my faith in recent years, reading things like “God is just too busy loving us to have any time for disappointment” (p. 28) was quite affirming.

All the Light We Cannot See (Anthony Doerr)

I remember someone describing All the Light We Cannot See in a review or a forum as “the kind of book that wins awards.” No surprise that Doerr’s historical fiction novel set in Nazi Germany and occuppied France won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction this week.

I was a little worried that All the Light wouldn’t live up to the hype, but it definitely did. It’s just so beautifully written.

The Turner House (Angela Flournoy)

Not a review, just some thoughts upon finishing the novel. If you want an actual review, check out what Stacia wrote at Act Four.

I’d never even heard of the word “haint” (a southern type of ghost) prior to reading The Turner House but still found Angela Flournoy’s debut novel enjoyable. Although it’s very much the story of a large black family in Detroit (formerly from the south), the dynamics, history and issues they faced were relatable. I’ve seen alcoholism in my family and more recently have seen my mom and her siblings grapple with caring for their ailing parents.

Second, this is one of those books that benefits from a reread of the first chapter or two as it could be a little a difficult to keep all the Turners straight even though the main focus is on the eldest and youngest, Cha-Cha and Lelah.

Aside – man, does 18-month old Bobbie (Lelah’s grandson) have a lot of words.

I may be a little biased since Angela Flournoy is part of the PostBourgie collective and thanks to that connection I read an ARC a few months prior to the April 14th release date.

Food: A Love Story (Jim Gaffigan)

I listened to this audiobook mainly while cleaning and commuting. I probably looked like a dork laughing to myself, but I want to THIS! almost everything Jim Gaffigan says about food.

An Untamed State (Roxane Gay)

Girl children are not safe in a world where there are men.

Mireille is visiting her parents in Port-Au-Prince with her white husband and infant son. As they leave her parents’ secured compound for a day-trip to the beach, she is kidnapped by a violent gang. The gang leaves her husband and yet-to-be weaned infant son behind. Mireille is then held for ransoms for several days and goes through the worst things you can imagine. (And more.)

Roxane Gay is an amazing writer which is both a pro and con. Mireille’s kidnappers are vicious.

Also, I can’t help but think how horrible it would be to be taken from my infant son who is still being nursed.

The Book of Unknown Americans (Christina Henríquez)

English was such a dense, tight language. So many hard letters, like miniature walls. Not open with vowels the way Spanish was. Our throats open, our mouths open, our hearts open. In English, the sounds were closed. They thudded to the floor. And yet, there was something magnificent about it. (p. 23)

Alma and Arturo leave their home, families and thriving construction business in Michoacán, Mexico to go north to Delaware. Unlike many immigrants who leave to find better economic opportunities, Alma and Arturo come for a school that will help in their daughter Maribel’s rehabilitation from a tragic accident. They move in to an apartment complex filled with various other Latino immigrants. As the novel unfolds, we learn more about the accident that caused Maribel’s head injury, her parents’ guilt over it, and their struggles to acclimate to Delaware.

The novel is narrated primarily by Alma, the protective Mexican mother, and Mayor Toro, a fifteen year old Panamian smitten by the lovely Maribel. However, interspersed with these voices are those of the other residents of the apartment complex.

Everything I Never Told You (Celeste Ng)

Marilyn and James seem to have a nice life in Ohio. James, a Chinese-American history professor, seeks to blend in and be liked by his peers. Marilyn, his blonde wife who once aspired to be a doctor, wants to stand out. They pass on their wishes to their three children and no one feels this more than Lydia. Then Lydia is found dead in a lake near their home.

Through the rest of the novel, James, Marilyn and their other children try to figure out what happened.

I couldn’t put this down once I started and by the time it was over I was crying.

Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free (Héctor Tobar)

I remember hearing about the miners being saved in fall 2010 and the media circus that happened afterward. I was running a lot at the time and excited by the miner who ran the marathon shortly after being saved.

What I didn’t know was everything that happened before. How and why were the miners trapped in the San José mine? What did they do to survive those first few weeks without contact with the outside world? How did the rescuers reach them? Tobar does a great job answering these questions and more considering he had quite the difficult job of telling the stories of 33 miners and their families while also deftly describing all the technical aspects of the collapse and the rescue efforts.

I listened to the audiobook. It was okay, but I would have definitely preferred an actual book. There are so many people to keep straight that I ended up downloading a photo roster of the 33 miners for reference.

FOUR STARS

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Fourth of July Creek (Smith Henderson)

Smith Henderson’s novel about a social worker with issues (makes me think of Raylon Jennings from Justified) starts off a little slow. Soon you meet Pete Snow’s clients and Snow himself gets way too involved in their issues.

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass (Meg Medina)

Piddy starts a new school after she and her single mom move. Things are tough for her as she soon find out a bully has it out for her. This YA-book was much better written then others. Medina’s characters are complex and there’s even some compassion shown to Yaqui, the bully. I also like how Piddy is aware of her identity as a young Latina and looks to other women in her life for guidance. I’d definitely recommend it for teens or really anyone.

Seconds (Bryan Lee O’Malley)

I read the Scott Pilgrim comics in 2010 and was eager for this graphic novel. Katie is a young restaurateur and talented chef but lately things aren’t working out for her as she’d like both in her personal and professional life. She finds that her restaurant has a house spirit that offers her mushrooms. She can write down a mistake and eat a mushroom. The mistake is erased. Katie goes a little crazy with the mushrooms and hijinks ensue.

Silent Dancing: A Partial Remembrance of a Puerto Rican Childhood (Judith Ortiz Cofer)

Inspired by Virginia Wolfe, Judith Ortiz Cofer muses on the role of the memoir and the autobiography. Is it really just about exploring relationships with mothers? Probably. In Silent Dancing Ortiz Cofer focuses on her early life which was spent mainly in a one parent home as her father was in the navy. She goes back and forth from New Jersey to Puerto Rico and explores how this experience shaped her.

THREE STARS

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The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
I can see why it’s a modern classic, and it probably would’ve made a bigger impact on me if I was younger. But it highlights the mainstream (read: white, middle class) feminist concerns. Also, the technical aspects of the money and how women came to be second class citizens, basically chattel, are kinda hokey.

In the Woods (Tana French)
I’ve read a number of psychological thrillers recently and this was my least favorite. Rob Ryan grew up in a suburb outside of Dublin. When he was a pre-teen two of his best friends, a boy and girl, disappeared in the woods neighboring their homes. The kids were never found and Rob doesn’t remember anything of what happened that afternoon. Many years later he is a detective in Dublin and investigating a murder. The body of a young ballerina was found in the area and there some connections between the two incidents. It’s okay, but if you like neat endings and resolutions, you’ll find this frustrating.

Funny Girl (Nick Hornby)
I feel like Nick Hornby is best when his characters are obsessed with music (High Fidelity and About A Boy). In Funny Girl he goes back to pop culture, but this time it’s 1960s comedy programming on the BBC. He follows Barbara/Sophie’s rise from northern England reluctant beauty queen to comedy it girl. I really liked Barbara/Sophie and how she asserts herself in the male dominated comedy television world. However, like a lot of sitcoms, the beginning is much more fun and exciting. One thing I found interesting was Hornby’s inclusion of actual photos from the comedies that inspired his novel.

California (Edan Lepucki)
I really wanted to like this more considering it’s a dystopian novel that follows Cal and Frida, a young couple out of Los Angeles in to the forests of California trying to survive. They’re all by themselves until Frida insists on finding out what is in the beyond and they encounter a community. There are lots of secrets and big reveals, but I just wasn’t that invested in the characters or their fates. Also, I’m probably tapped out on the dystopian/post-apocalyptic novel.

What Alice Forgot (Liane Moriarty)
Alice has a head injury at spin class and wakes up to find out that she can’t remember anything that has occurred in the last ten years. This includes her marriage falling apart, her relationship with her sister devolving, having three kids and becoming super mum. The premise is interesting but Moriarty takes forever to get to the good stuff. For the marriage issue to be so huge, one would think the estranged husband would make an entrance earlier.

Jackaby (William Ritter)
I heard this was a cross between Dr. Who and Sherlock Holmes and probably didn’t enjoy it that much because I don’t get the appeal of Dr. Who.

Disgruntled (Asali Solomon)
I heard an interviews with Asali Solomon that piqued my interest. What would it be like to grow up with black (or in my case) Chicano nationalist parents? What if those parents’ actions were full of contradictions that undermined their activist leanings? Kenya goes through that and more. She’s 11 or 12 when he parents split because her dad impregnates a woman in their black nationalist group, the Seven Days. Sheila goes to live with her mom and thanks to money from her grandmother goes to a private school in the Philadelphia suburbs. It’s subtly funny and it also made me want to listen to early 90s hip hop.

The Martian (Andy Weir)
Within five minutes of starting The Martian, you know astronaut Mark Watney is fucked. He’s just been left behind on Mars as the other members of his crew evacuate in an emergency. They think he’s dead because of the bio-meter on his space suit. Mark survives and through the rest of the The Martian Andy Weir goes in to a lot of detail about the ingenious ways he continues trying to survive his hopeless situation. For instance, Mark has to figure out how to grow food in his hab on the surface of Mars and communicate with NASA. Weir gets really technical and sometimes my eyes glazed over reading about how Mark solves each arising problem. Overall, it was a fun read and I’m looking forward to the movie.

TWO STARS

Shine, Shine, Shine (Lydia Netzer)
It was okay, but I never connected with Sunny. I found her too weird and a little annoying.

We Were Liars (E. Lockhart)
The only reason this didn’t get one star is because it was short and thus the annoying writing and plot twists didn’t make me want to throw the book (well, my iPad). I don’t know why this is so highly ranked.

Mornings with Xavi

In late January Lupe, Xavi’s nanny informed us that she would be taking a trip to Colorado where her daughters live. She also said she might not return. This wasn’t the first time Lupe took a well-earned vacation. However when she went to Texas in October to visit family she didn’t plan to move. We worked out her last day and started calling around for some new childcare options. Lupe even referred a few people but we settled on an in-home day care in our neighborhood we could walk to. Proximity was key since we have one car which Sean drives to work 20 miles away and I handle the mornings.

The change worried me. I knew Xavi would have a tough time, that drop-offs would involve tears and clinging. But I knew he would adjust. More selfishly, I knew my adjustment would be more difficult.

With Lupe our mornings were much different. Basically, I was spoiled and oftentimes she’d take over as soon as he woke up. All I had to do was get myself dressed. Lupe handled Xavi’s diaper change and sat him down for breakfast. Typically I’d leave and he’d be content munching on some banana and eggs. There were never any tears when I left.

New morning routine means more Xavi smiles

Sean would get home first and begin dinner. Sometimes Sean would even put Xavi to sleep at an early bedtime or he’d fall asleep as soon I got home. It bummed me out to spend such little time with him during the weekdays.

Now at about 6 weeks in to our new arrangement and knowing that Lupe’s move is permanent we’ve adjusted to the changes. And I like it.

Sure, there were tears on those first few drop-offs and pick-ups — I think Xavi just gets attached to his caretakers. But he’s adjusted to the new routine and there’s no more crying.

And yes, the colds — yes, he’s has two so for — Xavi managed to avoid all winter finally got him. And yes, I’ve had to adjust my work hours to come in a little later and leave a little later. And yes we do miss Lupe.

Giggle fit

But now we have time for playing in the morning.

And that’s awesome.