Author Archives: cindylu

A-Z Challenge by Title

Alternative title: What I read in the second half of the year.

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After getting through the A-Z author challenge I didn’t want to organize my reading in any way. I just wanted to find more great books by authors I enjoyed. No pressure. So that’s what I did in the second half of the year.

I put holds on Ruth L. Ozeki’s earlier novels, All Over Creation and My Year of Meats. I definitely think A Tale for the Time Being is her best work, but her previous novels entertained me and made me reconsider what I eat and also more aware of fertility issues.

Daniel Alarcón’s At Night We Walk in Circles was a great sophomore effort. I enjoyed it more than Lost City Radio (I was a little burnt out on the torture/disappeared topic). On the other hand, Meg Wolitzer’s previous novels, The Uncoupling and The Ten Year Nap didn’t captivate me like The Interestings. It might have just been too many white middle/upper middle class women in New York. I needed a change of scenery which I got by reading the oeuvre of both Rainbow Rowell and Gillian Flynn. Both popular writers set their novels in small towns or cities in the Midwest. That’s about all they have in common as Rowell writes young adult/romance novels that are quick “beach reads” and Gillian Flynn writes dark, disturbing suspense-filled novels. While I found Gone Girl overhyped, I was surprised that Flynn could come up with characters and plots that were even more messed up. Amy and Nick Dunne seemed like relatively normal people compared to those in Sharp Objects and Dark Places.

Some time late in the summer I decided I wanted to read more books set in Los Angeles or Southern California. That was the impetus behind adding The Magician’s Assistant (I also really liked Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto), The Madonna’s of Echo Park and The People of Paper. I wasn’t a fan of the last book and put it down a couple of times before finally completing it.

In November I started to play around with my reading spreadsheet — oh how I love anything that can be tracked via spreadsheet — to see how many letters I was missing for an A-Z challenge by title. I needed 10 or 11 books which seemed doable if I was strategic about my choices. I picked a few books by authors who were new to me in 2014 for ideas. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro and Interpreter of Maladies were my favorites read specifically to complete the challenge.

The J, K, X and Z books were okay but less enjoyable. I slogged through Xicano Duende, a poetry collection. Cherríe Moraga’s A Xicana Codex essay collection would’ve been a better choice, but it was checked out at the university libraries. I found Zen and the City of Angels rather silly. I need to find decent mystery novels where motives actually make sense.

My reading goals for 2015 include some challenges, but they’re not focused on the alphabet. I’ll touch on those later.

The full list of books read for the A-Z author challenge (or, what I read from July through December):
All Over Creation by Ruth L. Ozeki
At Night We Walk in Circles by Daniel Alarcón
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
The Commitments by Roddy Doyle
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
Devil’s Highway: A True Story by Luis Alberto Urrea
Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol by Ann Dowsett Johnson
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
The Guts by Roddy Doyle
How To Get Filthy Rich In Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Landline by Rainbow Rowell
The Lunch-box Chronicles: Notes from the Parenting Underground by Marion Winik
The Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse
The Magician’s Assistant by Ann Patchett
Marbles, Mania, Depression and Me by Ellen Forney
My Year of Meats by Ruth L. Ozeki
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The No Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
The People of Paper by Salvador Plascencia
Queen of America by Luis Alberto Urrea
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
The Ten Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer
The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala
Xicano Duende: A Selected Anthology by Alurista
Yes Please by Amy Poehler
Zen and the City of Angels by Elizabeth Cosin

Fifteen things you probably knew about me

And an excuse to post old photos and link back to previous entries.

Marie tagged me in this questionnaire. Her answers made me laugh so I decided to answer the questions too, albeit after Christmas. I was a little behind on my blog reading.

1) What is my current health related goal?

Exercise more and eat more veggies.

2) What is my biggest irrational fear?

Mice and rats really freak me out. I don’t even like fake versions that look realistic. I’m not scared of Fievel or Mickey though.

3) Do I enjoy wrapping presents?

No. I didn’t wrap any this Christmas. I did place a couple in bags. Sean did all the wrapping.

4) What is my favorite cross training activity?

Strength training and stairs, but not a stair climber. Basically a BHIP class (workouts are a mix of strength and conditioning, cardio tends to be Tabata/interval style).

5) If you came to visit me, what would we do?

I can't remember what this was called, but it was good

If Marie visited I’d imagine there would be some running (if she doesn’t mind slowing down for me), a play date with my boy and her girls, beer at Father’s Office and really delicious Mexican food. Maybe we’d go to “shoppertainment” center like the Grove for the snark value.

6) I have two weeks off work and two round trip plane tickets to anywhere. Where would I go and who would I take?

Jamaica or Mexico with Sean. We postponed our honeymoon and then never got around to it because I got pregnant and Sean had a new job. All our vacation time was saved up for maternity/paternity leave.

Xavi can come along too since he doesn’t actually need a plane ticket. And we could get babysitting in Mexico with family members. Maybe.

7) What’s the most embarrassing thing to happen to me during a run or a race?

Aztlan track club 5K

My most embarrassing running moments didn’t happen while racing. However, it did suck to be so slow during a trail 5K that I was still on the out and back course when the male racers started. The trail wasn’t very wide so I had to scoot to the side and literally was left running through the dust they kicked up.

8) Three best days of my life? Or at least the top three that come to mind.

The day Xavi was born.

The day Sean moved out to LA. We were bicoastal for the better part of the year. His move was delayed due do a snowstorm so it was really happy relieved when his flight was finally scheduled and I picked him up at LAX. Our wedding day was memorable and I was happy, but it was also a bit stressful.

The late March day in 1998 when I got my admittance letter from UCLA. I was so relieved that USC wasn’t my only option.

Cindy finished under four hours!

The 2012 LA Marathon was awesome too. I feel like someone else earned that sub-4 because I can’t see myself getting there again.

9) Okay, so I HAVE to eat a fast food
meal. Which restaurant would I choose and what do I order?

That's what a hamburger's all about

I’m like Marie and don’t have an aversion to fast food. I had In-n-Out less than a week ago. For lunch or dinner I’d go to In-n-Out (cheeseburger with all the toppings plus grilled onions, fries and a diet coke). For breakfast I’d get the sausage egg McMuffin from McDonald’s, hashbrowns and vanilla iced coffee. Damn, now I’m hungry.

10) Have I ever met a celebrity?

Destiny's Child

Yup, but I’m always super cool about it because that’s how us Angelenos act around celebs. I was in a Destiny’s Child video; you can play the Kevin Bacon game with me and Beyoncé.

Go Lakers!

I’ve met some basketball players (Magic Johnson!), The Simpsons voice actors and my favorite band Café Tacvba.

La Chica Banda

Sherman Alexie is one of my favorite writers

I’ve also met some of my favorite writers (Sherman Alexie and Sandra Cisneros), but I don’t know if book signings really count as meeting or if they are celebrities.

11) Share a pic of myself in non-workout clothes.

Thanksgiving family photo

Thanksgiving family photo. That was the picture that doesn’t look like my kid is trying to grab my breast.

12) If I could choose to have a “do over” and switch careers, what would I choose and why?

I like Marie’s answer:

Whatever job pays the most money for the least amount of work.

In college I had a high degree of contempt for selling out and basing your career on earning power. Now that I’m a mom and thinking of the cost of raising a kid, planning for retirement, etc I’m kicking 20-something year old me.

I’d likely pick something in the biomedical sciences because it’s been drilled in me that with a research background in the sciences so many career doors open up. I could do what I currently do, but at a higher level (with more money!) and still feel like I was making a difference in increasing educational attainment rates for Latinos.

13) If I won an Olympic Gold Medal, how do I think I would react?

Probably like Leo Manzano. I’d do a victory lap with both the US and Mexico flags.

14) What do I want for Christmas?

Christmas want list

Sean and I switched lists of potential items. Mine was above. I got the Girl With Curves t-shirt and sneakers. Sadly they’re too big despite being my size.

15) What skill do I lack?

Just one? I lack a lot of useful skills like applying eyeliner properly and sewing. But I don’t really miss those much. So, I’ll go with getting Xavi to sleep without relying on nursing and sleep training.

Tagging:
Julie
Laura
Melissa
Anel

Grading 2014 me

In my 2014 goal post I wrote:

For 2014, I want to do more:

Running. I miss it. I have a jogging stroller and mainly open weekend mornings so I should be able to get out there. It should also help me lose a little bit of weight without being restrictive about my diet — which I’ll have to do eventually if I want to get back to pre-pregnancy weight.

Reading. Inspired by Punk Rock Mom, I’m taking up an A-Z challenge to read at least one book by an author from every letter of the alphabet.

Writing. Let’s see if I can knock out two blog posts a week about more than just baby/new mom life. I know that’s not interesting to some people. And I do have thoughts about culture, politics, education, etc.

I got one out of three done.

Second half of the year in books. I still have a week to go, but I really like the perfect 6x6 grid. #goodreads #books

Reading Grade: A+
I read 72 books and did two A-Z challenges, one by author and one by title.

Running Grade: C-
I ran more in 2014, but not enough to give myself credit for that one. However, I did work on my fitness and get back to regular exercise when I took a free class through work. BHIP was overall pretty awesome. I made significant gains and even though it wasn’t running focused, I was able to actually run a mile after thanks to all the strength training and cardio. I’m sad it’s over and the class is no longer free. (Review/reflections to come.)

Writing Grade: D
Maybe if I spent less time reading, I could’ve written more. I didn’t give myself an F because I wrote as much as I wanted to write. I’m not sure how to motivate myself to write more if I don’t feel like sharing my thoughts. For example, I have like 3-4 drafts about being a mom that are unfinished. I have my outlets and right now that’s okay for me.

Incomplete tamalada: On missing Mamá Toni

On the morning Mamá Toni passed away, I sat across the kitchen table from tío Beto. Oddly enough, food came to mind. Not just any food, Mamá Toni’s famous red chile pork tamales.

“Now who’s going to make you your tamales,” I asked my uncle, the eldest — and some might say favorite — of Mamá Toni’s sons.

He gave me a half smile and thumbed the folded up napkin in his hand.

“Pues, Chilo,” his big sister, my madrina (godmother) and the eldest of the Ureño Saldivar children.

By default, the little things Mamá Toni had done to take care of her son had been passed on to Madrina Chilo. Her tamales were just as delicious. She used the same unwritten recipe as Mamá Toni.

***

Mamá Toni and Santa Claus

Christmas in my family means tamaladas held a few days before Christmas Eve to prepare dozens of tamales. I used to help. As a kid, my job was to painstakingly remove the cornsilk from the cornhusks soaking in a tub of water. Inside, the women of the family would laugh and gossip while spreading the hojas with masa. Mamá Toni was in charge of spooning in the guiso, a stew-like red chile and pork filling. She also did the folding. Later, I’d get to join the crew with spreading the masa, but never doing any of the final steps. That was for the pros.

In recent years, Mamá Toni took more of a supervisory role in the tamaladas. Madrina Chilo was in charge. I tended to miss them thanks to work and school on the other side of town.

Nevertheless, I had no shame in partaking of the benefits. I ate my share of tamales, and then some. They were delicious and perfect in every way. The right size, the difficult balance of spiciness to add a kick without making you cry (important for a chile weakling like me), neither too try nor so moist that it crumbles as soon as unwrapped, and never stingy with the amount of meat in each individual tamal. They were best the next morning, heated up to a crisp on the comal.

I took those tamales for granted, but Sean didn’t. He had never eaten tamales before moving out to California and dating me. He loved Mamá Toni’s tamales and would gladly take leftovers of the pork. The compliments filled her with pride and she got a kick that he really liked Mexican food.

Christmas 2013 with Mamá Toni

I caught myself thinking that Mamá Toni would be at the tamalada this year. It’ll be the first Christmas without her. I don’t know if I’m ready for that.

***

Mamá Toni's altar

The day of Mamá Toni’s funeral everyone in the family wore purple, her favorite color. The pall bearers — the eldest sons of each family — wore the same eggplant shade. Everyone else wore something between lavender and violet. Xavi wore purple too. And I pulled out all the purple dresses in my closet that no longer fit me and lent them to my cousins and sister. Three people wore my dresses. I like purple a lot too.

There were flowers, lots and lots of flowers. I wondered, who will take care of these arrangements and make sure they last for days. Mamá Toni was a pro at keeping flower arrangements looking fresh longer than anyone I knew.

The Mass was celebrated by Mamá Toni’s Fr. Roberto. He’s currently assigned to a parish in Seattle, but fortunately he was able to be in town for the services as it coincided with a conference. As Mamá Toni’s nephew and godson, Padre Roberto added a very personal touch to his sermon. I don’t think anyone could suppress the tears when he spoke about how much good Mamá Toni did throughout her life, almost all in partnership with Papá Chepe. I wasn’t around at the time, but in the ’60s and ’70s, Mamá Toni helped her brother Mateo (Roberto’s father) emigrate. Her home in East LA was a temporary residence for many family members and friends immigrating. Most of my family is very removed from the immigrant experience either having never experiencing it or it being decades in the past. Fr. Roberto’s sermon was a nice reminder of how much Mamá Toni had done for her siblings and their families. After the burial and reception I told dad, “Your eulogy at the rosary was very nice, but Fr. Roberto’s was amazing. I know it’s not a competition.”

At the burial, I stood in the shade out of the hot sun next to dad, Lori and Danny. We reprised our Mosqueda mini-tradition of singing at the funerals of our loved ones. We did it for tío Joe, tío Johnny, our neighbor Dale and now Mamá Toni. My aunts, uncles and cousins let go of doves while we sang and others placed flowers on the casket. Later, dad would tell me likes singing and playing guitar during the funeral services because it keeps him busy and focused on the task rather than the grief. I know what he means because I do it too, but I also sing because it’s another way of showing my love, saying “goodbye” and finding comfort with my family as we sing together.

Following the burial, most of the family went back to the church hall for a reception. Sean and I went to my parents’ to allow Xavi to nap. Tía Josie and my cousin Patty were already there taking care of Papá Chepe. Later that evening more family came over to begin the novena. The final rosary on November 7th would be even more crowded with family and friends joining to pray for Mamá Toni’s soul.

(I’m kicking myself now for not writing more about the services two months ago when they were fresher in my mind. The words were really beautiful.)

***

It’s been two months. It really doesn’t feel that long.

Mamá Toni, the matriarch

Lori, Mamá Toni, me

I heard a car idling outside at 4 am. Who idles at 4 am? I wondered. Was it my dad? No it couldn’t be. It was way too early even for my dad. I didn’t even bother looking at my phone. After a couple of minutes Sean stirred and eventually went to the door. It was my dad.

He was an hour early for his 5 am appointment. Two days before I had arranged for dad to give Sean a ride to the airport. On Tuesday morning Sean learned that his close friend of 12 years, Kevin, passed away suddenly. Sean booked a flight to NY to attend the services. Although I got to know Kevin too, I opted to stay home due to the expense. I enlisted my dad for a ride to the airport to save money on a cab or shuttle.

Sean got dressed and ready. He came back in to the room and said, “Your dad wants to talk to you.”

I walked slowly out to the living room and saw dad in the dark. He gave me a hug.

“Mija, I wanted to tell you. Mamá Toni is now in heaven. It just happened right now. At 3:05.” He drew me in closer. “She went away very peacefully. We were monitoring her.”

Oh. This was the second time in 48 hours I had been informed of a death after just waking up. Kevin was 36, his death was sudden and unexpected. Mamá Toni was 92 and for the past 8 months or so we knew she was quite ill. On Sunday when I saw her last, she stayed in bed all day and woke intermittently to greet the many family visitors who stopped by. We knew her death was imminent and the team of family nurses and caretakers (dad, mom, aunts, uncles and cousins) were working diligently to make sure she was as comfortable as possible.

“I wanted to tell you now, in case you want to come back with me after I take Sean. She’s still there, we haven’t called the nurse and mortuary yet.”

“Yeah, I think I’ll do that.”

I had already planned to take Xavi to spend a day or two at my mom’s while Sean was in New York. There’s more space for him to run around plus I could get a little help when I needed it. And there’s the bonus that he cheers up Papá Chepe and everyone else.

Oh. My heart sank. Papá Chepe.

Dad seemed to read my mind.

“He hasn’t woken up yet. We haven’t told him.”

I told dad we’d get ready and go back to Hacienda Heights with him. I wanted to let Xavi sleep a little longer. Sean hugged me tight and offered to cancel his trip but I told him no, he should go to Kevin’s funeral and see his friends. We would be okay and I wouldn’t be alone. I did ask him to pack up some things for Xavi.

Once dad and Sean left, I couldn’t go back to sleep. I lay with Xavi at my side going through all my Flickr photos tagged “mamatoni.”. There are over 200. Most are from the past 10 years when I first got a digital camera.

Tres generaciones

There are dozens at the January anniversary parties, birthdays, and holidays.

Dad and Mama Toní on Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters

Adrian finally gets a dance with Mamá Toni

And then there are the oddball ones of her riding Buzz Lightyear Astroblasters at Disneyland or Adrian dancing kinda crazy with her. (That one isn’t goofy, but I love their expressions.)

60th anniversary

And there are the heart melting ones of her kissing Papá Chepe or holding a newborn Xavi.

Mamá Toni and newborn Xavi

She adored Xavi.

Mamá Toni, the matriarch

My favorite is the one above, which I titled “matriarch” from Mother’s Day 2006. Her face is fuller, her hair shows no grays (she still insisted on dying), she’s in tan rather than her signature lavender. I love her “let me tell you” expression. And mainly, I like that she’s somewhat smiling. It wasn’t easy to get a photo of Mamá Toni smiling.

When dad returned I got ready. I drove my car and he followed behind. Xavi woke up in the transition from bed to car seat. I sang to him on the way to HH. “You Got A Friend In Me” was tough. I cried for Mamá Toni and Papá Chepe and for Kevin and Sean.

We got home to find several cars and aunts and uncles sitting soberly having coffee and donuts. The door to Papá Chepe and Mamá Toni’s room was closed.

When my aunts opened it, they told me they had just told Papá Chepe. I went in to the room. He was being consoled by my mom and her sisters.

Mamá Toni was in her bed at the other end of the room. I touched her head and gave her a kiss. She felt cool but just looked like she was peacefully sleeping.

Papá Chepe was crying in a low wail. Really, I think the word “llanto” is more fitting. Llanto implies utter heartbreak and loss. And that’s what I imagine he feels after losing his wife and partner of 71+ years.

Someone asked if he wanted to see Mamá Toni, to touch her. He nodded yes and soon their two beds were side by side. Mamá Toni was on Papá Chepe’s left side, the side he can still move freely. He held her hand.

“We are here for you, your family is here and will continue being here,” my mom told Papá Chepe.

***

Over the rest of the morning more family members arrived. The funeral director and his assistant came a little after 9 to take Mamá Toni. And we paused to say the first of our goodbyes over the next week

***

Not sure how Adrian feels about Sean, the new brother in law

I’ve been at my parents’ house since Thursday morning. Family members and friends have come to offer condolences and others are busy planning the services for next Wednesday and Thursday.

It’s nice to be around my immediate and extended family at this time if only for the distraction. The house is far from being lonely, but Mamá Toni’s absence is impossible to miss.

Mamá Toni's health has been rapidly declining over the last few months. In August she was still moving around with her walker (which Xavi loved) and watching Xavi play. She hasn't been out of bed in 3 days, but is still greeting family members who come to

I don’t think that feeling will go away anytime soon. Mamá Toni and Papá Chepe have been part of my home since I was 9 years old and they were always part of family gatherings. It’s tough to think of home without Mamá Toni.

***

I’ve written about both my grandparents many times over the past 13 years of blogging. I know some of you will feel like you know Papá Chepe and Mamá Toni too. Or maybe you met them at some point.

Thank you for those who have prayed for my grandparents in these recent tough times. I deeply appreciate it. Please continue to keep us in your thoughts, especially Papá Chepe.

One year, two shifts

Family photo for my birthday

It’s been exactly one year since I returned to work after a 3 month maternity leave. It was a tough morning and the week leading up to my return was filled with anxiety.

I don’t cry when I leave to work anymore and there are no balloons in my office. I settled in to a new routine, pumping in my office stopped being awkward, and I liked commuting by bus because it gave me some time to myself to read or just stare out the window.

These days my schedule has changed due to my fitness class. I leave to work later, occasionally I’ll get some morning play time in with Xavi. Sometimes he doesn’t even wake up before I leave. And then there are the mornings where he cries a little as I leave. It’s not a full on meltdown, but it still makes me feel guilty. I feel better knowing he adores Lupe, his babysitter. (He runs to her when she arrives.)

New hairstyle

Aside from my schedule, the other big change is that I stopped pumping in September. I was down to one pump a day and was planning to stop after Xavi’s birthday but didn’t want to affect nursing at home. He shows no interest in weaning and I’m cool with that. Anyway, one day I just didn’t get around to pumping and felt okay. If I have an extra long day, I’ll still take the pump. (In that first month when breastfeeding felt like the hardest thing ever, I didn’t imagine that at almost 15 months I’d still be gladly breastfeeding.)

This is one Friday 4:30 pm meeting I'm happy to take.

I stay later on the days I workout to make up the time. Sean is typically home first and he brings Xavi out for a walk to meet me. It’s my favorite part of the day to see tiny Xavi walking with Sean toward me on the sidewalk. Sometimes they’re already on the corner and I can hear Xavi’s happy screaming when he spots me getting off the bus from across the street.

Once we are both home, Sean starts dinner while I nurse Xavi. Afterward, we sing (current favorites are “Puff the Magic Dragon” and “Little Black Raincloud”), read, play hide-and-seek, go out for walks to checkout the neighborhood dogs and play with his plethora of toys. I also do a lot of chasing to make sure he stays out of the kitchen. He moves surprisingly fast. At least he’s a noisy walker/runner so I know when I need to hustle.

Someone loves cheese

After dinner Sean takes care of bathing Xavi and I start cleaning up in the kitchen, making lunch with the leftovers or getting ready to put Xavi to bed.

Then we go to bed and I read a little before showering and getting my stuff ready for the next day.

***

Xavi OOTD: Polo pleated khakis (via grandma Eula), Yankees polo onesie, Stride Rite shoes.

I marked my anniversary of being a mom + full-time worker bee by staying home with the little guy. Lupe is visiting family in Houston so Sean and I are taking turns staying home. Today we went to the doctor for a checkup, had a long afternoon nap, walked around the neighborhood to check out Halloween decorations, practiced climbing the stairs and met up with Sean on his walk home.

The requisite body after baby post

Most new mom bloggers I read — at least those focused on fitness and running — seem to write the “body after baby” post almost as soon as they have the baby. I waited a while.

***

I wrote the following when I was 39/40 weeks pregnant.

40 Weeks & Counting

“Are you sure your due date is in a month?”

“You look like you’re ready to pop!”

“Wow, you’re getting big!”

“Are you sure you’re not having twins in there?”

I haven’t heard any of these comments, I’ve just read about them on blogs, message boards, and Facebook groups. Instead, I’ve heard comments from family, co-workers, nurses and others that I don’t look like I’m that far along or that I look small. One nurse asked if I was gaining enough weight. Family members commented on my lack of a large bump. My cousin Nancy even accused me of exaggerating it — she was half right. Although my doctor was never concerned about my weight gain or Meatball’s size, those comments made me wonder if he was growing okay.

Honestly, I felt a little left out since it took a while for me to even get the occasional “Are you pregnant?/When are you due?” question from a stranger. In this case, the person was not a stranger, but a student I worked with. While my co-workers all knew early in the second trimester, I never actually told the 4 work-study students in our office or the dozens of students I coordinate in research programs. That just would be weird. In mid-May (30 weeks along), I got my first “are you expecting?” question. I was happy because finally I was starting to look pregnant rather than as if I’d just gained weight. When I told Sean, he replied, “Ah, youth. They haven’t learned to avoid that question at all costs.” I replied that I didn’t mind, plus the student got a pass because he’s in nursing and has done a nursing round in labor and delivery at a local hospital. One of our work-study students didn’t even know I was pregnant until June probably because I’m usually sitting at a desk.

The only other time I’ve received much attention about my body and weight gain/loss was four years ago when I was in the process of losing 60 pounds. In both cases, the comments about the changes came from friends, family, and co-workers. During weight loss there were more comments that made me feel uncomfortable and self conscious. Sure, I liked that my efforts were noticed, but for me there was a “right” way and time to acknowledge the differences. The same goes for pregnancy. I’ve been lucky that I work and am surrounded by people who are (a) just very sweet or (b) know what not to say.

***

Written in early 2014

I know that was a bit smug and humble-braggy, probably why I never felt it was ready to publish. And then Xavi was born and writing wasn’t a priority.

Now 4.5 months postpartum this has come back. I remember reading another mom blogger’s update about her newborn son’s 2nd week. At the end of it she made a comment about already being in her pre-pregnancy jeans. I felt pretty shitty reading that. For the first few weeks, I felt like a slug. Nothing fit and and I felt frumpy in everything. This wasn’t such an issue since I really didn’t have anywhere to go and could get away with wearing yoga pants and tank tops all day. If I needed to wear actual pants, I wore my maternity jeans. When I returned to work, I bought a couple new pairs of jeans with a gift card my aunt gave me (thanks, tía Nelly).

***

Written recently
chapulin8mos

Losing the weight I gained during pregnancy and the year before that hasn’t been a priority.

Five years ago, I worked really hard to get to my current weight. 165 was my driver’s license weight, that way low-balled number you put on the DMV forms. Sure, it was higher than what I was used to in recent years, but I was still 30 pounds away from where I had been at one point. It took me 5 months of meticulously tracking everything I ate to make sure I stayed within my points and running 4-5 times a week before I got to the 160s. I feel okay giving myself some leeway in the mad dash to lose the baby weight.

easter

I had other priorities besides getting in to a certain pair of jeans — spending time with Xavi and Sean, keeping up my breastmilk supply and getting a little more sleep. I did miss running, but when I tried to start again I’d get discouraged by being so out of shape. I do want to get back to running and being more fit especially since Xavi started walking (4 days after his first birthday) and I need to keep up with him.

June, pre BHIP

In August I began a free 12-week fitness class, Bruin Health Improvement Program’s (BHIP) On Ramp. The intro class is described as a “comprehensive strength and conditioning program.”

Working out at the track again

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but everyone I know who has taken the class highly recommends it. I would have signed up earlier, but was still pumping three times a day and wasn’t sure I’d have time to commit to an hour class three times a week. I still need to get work done.

So far, BHIP has been awesome. I’ve never stuck with a fitness class for more than 1 or 2 sessions. I preferred running on my own schedule. BHIP is different. Our class is tiny compared to the evening sessions. BHIP offers morning sessions too, but I’d rather sleep and have a little more Xavi time.

The workouts are crossfit style without the competitiveness or weird names. Since our class is usually 8 people, we get a lot of individual attention from the two instructors. They are also really motivating for those times when I just want to quit because it’s too damn hot out. It’s also nice to get out of my office and check out the campus I know and love. I’m the kind of person who eats lunch at my desk.

Drake Stadium stairs

I like being back at the track where I used to do speed workouts for marathon training. I didn’t know much about BHIP then because I wasn’t eligible for the program. Now I’m the one in a corner doing workouts and watching the very fit athletes — Olympians, pros and D1 athletes — who are on the track or stairs for their midday workouts. I even spotted Kevin Durant out there once.

KD at UCLA

For the first week or so I was very sore and felt in over my head. Maybe I should have taken the BHIP 0.5 class focused on weight loss for more sedentary folks. Nevertheless, I’m starting to see results. I still can’t do a proper pushup, but I am getting stronger. I’ve also lost a little bit of weight even though I’m not concentrating on the nutrition aspect. It could just be water weight since I sweat a lot with outdoor midday workouts. The main physical differences are probably my awkward tan lines.

I’m still far from getting to pre-pregnancy clothes, but that’s okay. At least my sister Lori will get some use out of them. I had a moment when I saw her in one of the dresses I wore at my goal weight. I expected my old clothes to fit her a little loose, but the dress fit perfectly. I couldn’t believe I was that small. I forgot that one of my weightloss goals was to fit in to Lori’s clothes.

The experience was a little unsettling to see how far away I am from my goal weight. But that’s okay, it’s also motivation to know what sticking to a plan and moving more can do for my body and mind.

My year of Meatball

Like a lot of other new parents, Sean and I take a lot of photos of our son. We’ve slowed down a little bit partly because Xavi has sped up — it’s tough when he’s always on the move! — and Sean is done with his one-a-day project. He committed to posting one photo a day on Facebook for the first year. I loved seeing the daily photos he would post. It was a nice treat to get to see each new photo, as if I didn’t see Xavi all the time. We also did monthly photo shoots. It’s fun to see how big he’s (and his hair) grown.

1month

Sean made each label and we reused the 99 Cents Store frames that held table numbers are our wedding.

2months

We used the same newborn size outfit for month and two to show the growth. He was so tiny!

3months

He was Robin for Halloween. Sean was Batman.

4months

Our in-laws came to visit in November. My MIL picked out several items at Baby GAP and even signed Xavi up for a card. She still sends him boxes of clothes.

5months

More GAP clothes.

6months

He has a lot of superhero clothes.

7months

You can’t see the back, but this is a Derek Jeter onesie (Sean’s favorite Yankee these days).

8months

It’s time for Dodger baseball!

9months

Spring gear.

10months

Ready for the World Cup!

11months

No contaban con mi astucia! Xavi represents Mexican pop culture figures too.

12months

Excited to be one!

Eight books for July

July felt like a really long month. Maybe it’s because I was counting down the days until Xavi’s first birthday, it was hot, or I was going through the job application/interview process.

I took advantage of those 31 days by sticking my head in a book. Or eight..

I read the first three books below as to finish off the A-Z challenge.

BreathEyesMemory

Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat
For several years, I’ve come across Edwidge Danticat on lists of women writers, young writers, people of color writers, etc. I knew I should read something by her, and wasn’t sure where to start. Her first novel seemed appropriate. Overall, I enjoyed the story of Sophie Caco coming to live with her mother, Martine, in NY after many years of living with her aunt and grandmother in Haiti. Of course, the relationship between mother and daughter (and the other women, niece/aunt) are quite complicated given that Sophie is the product of rape.

BilalsBread

Bilal’s Bread by Sulayman X
TRIGGER WARNING. Breath, Eyes, Memory was depressing in it’s exploration of rape and complicated or abusive family relationships. Bilal’s Bread topped that by adding in Kurdish refugee issues, marginalization of Muslim families, physical and sexual abuse/incest, and the coming out process. I’m not sure I’d recommend it since the depictions of physical and sexual are very graphic. However, it does explore homosexuality and Muslims — what does the Koran say vs. how followers interpret this — which was interesting.

BlackWidow

Black Widow’s Wardrobe by Lucha Corpi
I picked this up on a whim because I remembered reading Corpi’s poetry in a Chicana/o literature class. The best way to describe it would be a mystery novel for Chicana/o studies majors. Overall, it’s okay, but it wasn’t my favorite and I don’t think I’ll read Corpi’s other two novels following her heroine and PI, Gloria Damasco. Maybe I would’ve liked it more if I had read the other books in the miniseries? I don’t read many mystery novels, but in the few I read, the villain’s motivations are always quite flimsy. That was the case with Black Widow too. I did appreciate the tie-in to Mesoamerica and the brief lessons on Malintzin/Doña Marina/La Malinche. I’ve read at least one other historical fiction novel about Malintzin, but I like Corpi’s approach more.

***

I went a little crazy in the new fiction section at the library one day and picked up 4 of the following 5 books. (I read The Commitments via e-book.)

AtNight

At Night We Walk in Circles by Daniel Alarcón
Earlier this year I read Lost City Radio and didn’t love it as much as I expected. Part of what bugged me is that the sense of place was ambivalent. Peru is never mentioned, just like the word Chile is nowhere to be found in Isabel Allende’s The House of Spirits. Perhaps because I know a little more about Chile this didn’t bother me.

Despite never mentioning Peru in At Night We Walk in Circles, I didn’t feel annoyed or loss. There was a much stronger sense of place especially as Daniel Alarcón described the slow life in the provinces away from Lima.

This wasn’t a “can’t put down book,” for the first 3-4 parts (250+ pages). The set-up takes a while as the unnamed narrator tells us about Nelso and his family, the Diciembre theater troupe members, the revival of the troupe and ensuing tour in to the slow countryside.

Once I got to the end, I was surprised at how much I liked it and how well Alarcón set everything up. I remember thinking, “Whoa, I see what you did there. Cool.” Sophisticated, review, I know.

A few quotes that stuck out and are a good example of how great Alarcón is with language:

In response, Henry explained that heartbreak is like shattered glass: while it’s impossible that two pieces could splinter in precisely the same pattern, in the end, it doesn’t matter, because the effect is identical. [p. 223]

That morning, he was afraid of becoming old, and it was a very specific kind of old age he feared, one which has nothing to do with the number of years since your birth. He feared the premature old age of missed opportunities. [p. 262]

Commitments TheGuts

The Commitments and The Guts by Roddy Doyle

I picked up The Guts because I liked the cover. As I read the book jacket closer, I realized it was a follow-up to The Commitments so I downloaded that one first. The Commitments is the story of Jimmy Rabbitte and his friends trying to form a soul band in 1980s working class Dublin. It’s very short, but entertaining. I can see why it was made in to a film and musical. The Guts is a return to Rabbitte and some of his friends from his youth. Now he’s married, has four kids, and is still working in the music scene though not as a manager. He’s worried about his finances and health — rightfully so, he has colon cancer. I didn’t like The Guts much, mainly because I didn’t like Jimmy all that much. Also, reading a novella in Irish English is one thing, but the whole novel feels like a little too much. At least I learned new slang.

Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

I lived in books more than I lived anywhere else.

There’s a reason this is a NY Times bestseller. Just go read it. You can probably do it in one sitting, but you’ll regret it because you wished you had spent a little more time with it. That’s okay. You’ll do just as I did and re-read the prologue and first chapter. Then you’ll re-read the final chapter and epilogue. Maybe you’ll re-read everything because it’s the type of book that gets better with each new read. Then you’ll go re-read your favorite passages and quotes. There will be many. Then you’ll sadly return the book to the library, make your husband read it and promise to one day buy the lovely hardcover version. When you’re done, come back and tell me if you cried.

Uncoupling

The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer
I really enjoyed The Interestings and hoped The Uncoupling would be similar. Not really.

The premise is interesting. The local high school where Dory and Robby Lang teach puts on Aristophanes’ play “Lysistrata.” In the play, the women abstain from sex in protest of the Peloponnesian War. This spell overtakes the New Jersey town and all heterosexual women, from teens to those married for several years, are suddenly disinterested in sex. While I loved The Interestings as a character study, I wasn’t drawn to the men and women in Wolitzer’s Stellar Plains. They all sort of fell flat. Also, the protest of the actual war in Afghanistan felt like it was shoehorned in. Overall, it was okay, but nowhere nearly as memorable as The Interestings.

Little mornings for Xavi’s first birthday

Xavi 12 months

Xavi’s birthday was ten days ago. I’m still processing it. Not really, I’m just slow to write.

Getting emo listening to Las Mañanitas on Alt.Latino. Soon I’ll get to sing this to Xavi. Baby’s first mariachi serenade…

What I didn’t reveal in that tweet a few weeks ago is that I wasn’t just emotional. I was full on crying at my desk before the singer got to “el día en que tu naciste, nacieron todas las flores” (the day you were born/all the flowers were born — inspiration for the title of Xavi’s birth story).

Luckily I have tissues at my desk and no one seemed to notice that my eyes were a little red. I didn’t have to explain to anyone that I was crying because a certain number of days had passed and my tiny newborn was now a 50-something week old.

Xavi polo shirt

I’ve always been sentimental and one of those people who cries easily (see: Toy Story 3 — I wouldn’t even deign to see watch that now). Getting pregnant and having Xavi multiplied that at least five-fold. I lost whatever poker face I used to have. To be fair, the version Jasmine and Felix, the AltLatino hosts, played was one of the most beautiful recordings of “Las Mañanitas” I’ve heard.

And all I could think was how I’d be singing it for Xavi so very soon. I’d sing it as soon as he woke up for the morning, still groggy, smiling and looking up at me.

***

I sang “Las Mañanitas” to Xavi shortly after he woke up on his birthday. Sean was already gone for work. It was just us two (sort of, my in-laws were in the guest room) cuddling in bed on a warm summer morning. It wasn’t too unlike last August wwhen Xavi was still single-digit weeks old and Sean had already returned to work. Of course those days felt so long, so slow. The nights even more. At some point — probably when I went back to work — they just started to zoom by. Three, six, nine months. The firsts piled on faster than I could blog about them.

I don’t know if Xavi liked “Las Mañanitas.” He didn’t clap nor smile like he does when I sing his favorites (“All I want for Christmas,” “Part of Your World,” and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”).

Xavi versus the piñata

It’s okay if he’s not in to this tradition yet. At least he’s down with the piñata.