Author Archives: cindylu

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.


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.



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.



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.



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.


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.

Valentine’s Day cards by Xavi


My favorite part about Valentine’s Day has always been the opportunity to be creative and have fun with puns when making cards. Now I have Xavi to put on the cards — even if is tough to cut around his head of curls. He sure does make holidays more fun (or stressful depending on the holiday).


Click either card for the Flickr album with the rest of Xavi’s toddler-ific valentines. Some are written to his family.

Bookishness: Reading Goals for 2015

I found the alphabet challenges last year a fun way to find new authors. I don’t think I’ll do them again this year, but I do want to organize my reading in some way. Goodreads and my book spreadsheet aren’t enough. Enter goals and challenges:

75 books overall. This is a slight increase from 72. Unless something changes with my work, commute, Xavi’s schedule, this seems doable. The 75 total encompasses the challenge below.

10 books from my bookshelf. I have way too many books on my shelf that I’ve never read. It’s embarrassing. Once I read them I can decide whether I want to keep or donate them.


24 books fulfilling the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge criteria. The challenge focuses on diversity of authors, genre and topic. I don’t think it’ll be too hard. Based on last year’s reading, only a few of the topics will be out of my reading comfort zone.

6 books meeting the What’s in a Name Challenge criteria. The six books need to have the following in their titles:

  1. A word including ‘ing’ in it
  2. A color
  3. A familial relation
  4. A body of water
  5. A city
  6. An animal

Going through my to read list, the name challenge should be easy. I just need to find a book with an animal in the title; suggestions are welcomed. I already got #4 done:
First book read for the "what's in a name" challenge. Book with a body of water in the title. ✔️ It also has Sean's birthday in the title, but there's no challenge for that.

5 books from NPR’s 100 Must-Reads For Kids 9-14 list (as research for Xavi’s non-board book library).

Last, I hope to blog more mini-reviews about my favorite books. Maybe my first post will be an instructional post on how to do all the reading. (Not really.)

2014 Bookishness: Stats and Lists

I’m a little late with my book year in review. Oh well. It’s still on time for the lunar new year.

Total read:


This adds up to 22,352 pages. (I keep meticulous spreadsheets). The longest book was The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (771 pages). Shortest was Have You Seen Marie? by Sandra Cisneros (101 pages, it’s a picture book)


One book was by two authors. I read 3-4 books by a number of writers. The most read author was Rainbow Rowell. Most authors were new to me (84%) and several have become new favorites. I can’t wait to read more by them.


I read a pretty diverse group, which isn’t new for me.


I definitely read more books by women, but that’s probably because when I read multiple books by a writer, they tended to be by women (e.g., Rowell, Gillian Flynn, Ruth L. Ozeki, Jhumpa Lahiri, Meg Wolitzer, Ann Patchett).


I didn’t spend much on books. In fact, I didn’t buy any actual books and only bought e-books. I started reading a lot more when I took advantage of the e-book lending program through the LA Public Library. It also helps that the UCLA libraries are well stocked with both new and older fiction.

A plurality of the books I read were published in 2014 (9), 2013 (13) or 2012 (5). I didn’t read read anything older than me. The oldest, Of Love and Other Shadows by Isabel Allende, was published in 1984.


I read a lot of novels. I didn’t really break down the novels by type (e.g., suspense, literary fiction, speculative or science fiction), but I think literary fiction would’ve been the largest category.


I read a lot more later in the year. This is probably because I started reading more e-books which I read a little faster.


The graphic is wrong, but I’m too lazy to make a new one. 29 books got 3 stars. The average was 3 1/3 stars.


Fiction [alpha order] – Trimming this down from 20 to 15 and then to 10 was tough.
At Night We Walk in Circles by Daniel Alarcón
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth L. Ozeki
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
Lotería by Mario Alberto Zambrano

Favorite(s) I need to add to my library so I can read them over and over or look up favorite passages:
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Short story collection
No One Belongs Here More Than You: Stories by Miranda July
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B.J. Novak

The Death Class: A True Story About Life by Erika Hayasaki
All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior
Devil’s Highway: A True Story by Luis Alberto Urrea

What is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng: A Novel by Dave Eggers [“novel” is in the title, but it reads like a memoir]
Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A. by Luis J. Rodriguez

Graphic novels/memoir
Have You Seen Marie? by Sandra Cisneros [not sure if this counts, since it’s more like a picture book with a short essay at the end]
Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me by Ellen Forney

Favorite new (to me) authors:
Daniel Alarcón
Kazuo Ishiguro
Anthony Marra – best debut novel
Ruth L. Ozeki

Favorite covers

ZambranoLoteria UrreaQueen OzekiTaleTime

Book that lived up to the hype
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Most over-hyped
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt – I would’ve liked it more if it wasn’t 771 pages long
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Favorite quotes

I keep notes of my favorite quotes. I noticed that a number of my quotes related to being a parent and especially to motherhood. Below are some of my favorites that really hit me as I grappled with new mom life.

From All Over Creation by Ruth L. Ozeki (p. 405)

Time plays tricks on mothers. It teases you with breaks and brief caesuras, only to skip wildly forward, bringing breathtaking changes to your baby’s body. Only he wasn’t a baby anymore, and how often did I have to learn that? The lessons were painful.

From The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer (p. 320)

The minute you had children, you closed ranks. You didn’t plan this in advance, but it happened. Families were like individual, discrete, moated island nations. The little group of citizens on slabs of rock gathered together instinctively, almost defensively, and everyone who was outside the walls – even if you’d once been best friends – was now just that, outsiders. Families had their ways. You took note of how other people raised their kids, even other people you loved, and it seemed all wrong. The culture and practices of one’s own family were the only way, for better or worse.

From The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (p. 51)

Small children believe themselves to be gods, or some of them do, and they can only be satisfied when the rest of the world goes along with their way of seeing things.

From Landline by Rainbow Rowell (p. 220)

Having kids sent a tornado through your marriage, then made you happy for the devastation. Even if you could rebuild everything just the way it was before, you’d never want to.