Category Archives: Familia

Four weeks later

I was in Wal-Mart near my parents’ house when a man stopped me.

“Mija, how is your grandpa doing?”

I tried to place him. He wasn’t a neighbor. Could he have been someone my parents know from church? Maybe I did know him and just didn’t recognize him as he had aged. My parents go to weekly Mass with my grandparents and surely their friends at church knew about Papá Chepe’s condition.

I didn’t know what to say so I just said he was doing a little better, he was stable.

Still, it was weird.


It’s been 4 weeks since Papá Chepe’s stroke and heart attack. His condition has improved somewhat. After a week he was moved from the ICU to another floor where patients were in less critical condition. The following week he was moved to another hospital in the area and handled the move well. The group text message updates from my dad go from daily to once every few days as there’s less pressing news on his condition.

We try to visit on the weekends. Every visit feels like a mini family reunion which is bittersweet. For the past ten years, we’ve been gathering every last weekend in January to celebrate the grandparents’ sixty-somethingth anniversary. This year was 71.

Whenever we visit, there’s no shortage of aunts, uncles and cousins in the waiting room to watch Xavi as Sean and I go to visit my grandpa. He looks less startling than he did in those first few visits. His arms are no longer bruised from the IV needles and there are less machines humming and beeping around him. He still holds our hands and if awake, he’ll stir and acknowledge our presence. Last time, while showing him pictures of Xavi on my phone, he took the phone from me and then placed it against his chest.

Mom: Do you want to cry?
Me: Huh?
Mom: I was showing Papá Chepe the calendar and saying, “es muy bonito el niño, no?” (The boy is really cute, no?) And he would nod, “yes.” Then he took the calendar from my hands and brought it closer to his face so he could see better. Then he placed the calendar over his heart and left it there.

Sometimes he’s cuddling a “get well” teddy bear at his side and it reminds me of the stuffed snake and mongoose he used to place beneath the rear window of his old car. He liked his odd, creepy animals.



Mamá Toni is mainly in good spirits, especially when Xavi is around. She asks for him as soon as he wakes up and dances/bounces him until her arms tire.


Thanks to all who offered kind words, thoughts and prayers. We really appreciate it.

The calm before…

Papá Chepe

I keep thinking about that Monday afternoon. It was so normal, so nice, and yet I can’t recall what he said, what he wore, what I told him. I certainly didn’t say, “I love you, Papá Chepe.”

The next day Papá Chepe woke my parents at dawn telling them he was having trouble breathing. Soon, mom and dad were on the phone with a 911 operator. They thought he was having a heart attack. Mom followed their directions and took 30 seconds to frantically wake up Lori and inform her that she needed to corral the dogs in a room and open the door so the paramedics could enter when they arrived. Mamá Toni stood and watched even though dad told her she needed to sit. The paramedics showed up and took Papá Chepe to the ER. Dad rode along and woke up tío Chuy with the news, soon the rest of our extended family would know. It’d be a few more hours — around 9:30, coincidentally during my pumping break — before Lori called me. I knew from her first sentence that something had happened. “It was scary, you’re lucky you didn’t have to see it.” Dad called a few minutes after. I was the last of the kids to find out. “He’s in ICU room 101, bed 6,” he told me after giving me the hospital information.

That morning, Papá Chepe had a heart attack and a stroke.


Tuesday was scary, but Monday was normal, unremarkable and beautiful. I keep trying to remember that afternoon, but even though it was just 9 days ago it’s fuzzy.

I had the day off thanks to the MLK Jr holiday and decided to spend the afternoon in Hacienda Heights. My mom had the day off as did my sister and they were happy to have me — well, Xavi — visit.

I arrived around 12:30 pm with a sleeping Xavi in tow. Daisy barked like mad but she didn’t wake the baby. VR jumped excitedly as he always does when I arrive.

I followed my mom to the backyard where Papá Chepe and Mamá Toni were having lunch. They always have lunch — their largest meal of the day — around 1 or 2 pm. I remember coming home from elementary school to Papá Chepe picking the brains out of a slow-cooked cow’s head. The skull freaked me out and he liked to tease me by slowly eating the eyeball.

But that Monday’s lunch was simpler, healthier and less gross to adult or kid me. Mom made pasta salad with tuna on a bed of baby spinach and tomatoes. It was yummy.

Xavi woke up and mom grabbed him first. She sat next to Mamá Toni who held a cracker close to him.

“Don’t give it to him! He’ll definitely put it in his mouth. He tries to put everything in his mouth.”

I remembered what Lori had told me a few weeks ago. Mamá Toni doesn’t quite understand that Xavi doesn’t eat solids yet or that he doesn’t have teeth. “You’ll have to keep an eye on her,” she warned.


Papá Chepe just watched as Mamá Toni asked to hold — well, dance/bounce — Xavi. Ever since Thanksgiving, she’s been awed that Xavi always bounces when she holds him up. “Mira, José, el sólo está brincando,” she tells Papá Chepe as if to prove that she doesn’t make the little guy bounce. It’s true. Xavi does love bouncing. He’s got some strong little legs.

Mom obliged and handed him over but sat close by since she worries about Mamá Toni’s strength. I snapped photos to send to Sean at work.

Having a good time

“We’re having a good time!” I captioned the first photo.

Dancing Xavi

Next, “Mom doesn’t quite trust Mamá Toni’s strength.”

“Ti-lin-gi-lon-gi, ti-lin-gi-lon-gi, ti-lin-gi-lon-gi,” Mamá Toni sang just as she did when I was a baby.

After eating, I moved to the comfy porch swing and sat down next to Papá Chepe. We continued watching as Mamá Toni asked for Xavi every 5 minutes — “a ver… dámelo, traemlo aquí.” Mom would pass him over but sat close by for when Mamá Toni would tire after a few minutes. Eventually, I brought Xavi over to the swing.

I can’t tell you what Papá Chepe said or when he got up to take the dogs for a short walk or if that was before or after mom and I left to Costco.

I don’t remember if Papá Chepe said anything later as Lori and I showed Xavi the fish in his tank. I asked Xavi, “Do you remember when we went with Papá Chepe to pick out the fish?” I picked Papá Chepe in the family gift exchange but kept putting off buying the fish Mom suggested. Plus, I didn’t have a tank to store the fish and thought gift wrapping them would be risky. I always have excuses for my procrastination.


On Christmas Eve I gave him an IOU. On New Year’s Eve I kept my promise and took Papá Chepe to PetSmart to pick his Christmas presents. He only had one fish left in his tank at home. I took Xavi along. We waited for a while to be helped. The lone employee in the fish/amphibian section was busy with a couple of kids and their parents and barely looked our way. It didn’t take long for Papá Chepe to make up his mind. I kept Xavi entertained by looking at the fish in the tanks, but he was getting fussy. Xavi cried the whole way and I felt flustered. I tried to explain to Papá Chepe that the baby was just hungry. Nevertheless, he was happy with his fish and even insisted on paying me back $6 since we went over the gift exchange dollar amount. I stuffed the money in the diaper bag.

Back to Monday afternoon. Xavi, Lori and I played in the living room while Mamá Toni watched on. She asked for him again. Then it was feeding time. Xavi fell asleep, it was a little after 4.

“Right now that he’s sleeping, you should leave,” mom suggested knowing that Xavi wouldn’t fuss. I put Xavi in his carseat. Lori helped me with the Costco groceries. I said quick goodbyes to everyone including the grandparents. Mamá Toni asked why I was leaving so soon and I said I had to pick up Sean from work. I gave her a hug and a kiss and did the same with Papá Chepe.


Papá Chepe’s condition has improved slightly since last Tuesday morning, but there’s still many reasons to worry about the future. He battled pneumonia and a fever. The stroke left him unable to move his right side and his tongue. He was in ICU until Monday morning. Members of the extended family take shifts day and night in being by his side. It makes me happy that he’s not alone through this scary time.

Manos de un trabajador

Sean and I went on Thursday night to visit. Xavi stayed in the waiting room with my cousin Liz as Sean and I walked in to the room. The scene was sobering. Tío Beto made room for us to go to his left side where I could hold his hand. Papá Chepe gripped my hand and I spoke softly to him. After being there for a little while, tío Beto told me, “you have a good touch. His blood pressure has gone down since you’ve been here. It’s normal even.”

A fraction of José and Antonia's 27 grandchildren and 32 great grandchildren

We were there again on Saturday. Every chair in the small waiting room was filled with my aunts, uncles, cousins and my cousins’ kids. I guess that’s what happens when you have a big Mexican family (see above for a photo of some of the grandchildren and great grandchildren). It reminded me a little of the time he had open heart surgery ten years ago. I waited for my turn to visit in the cafeteria where another dozen or so family members were eating, doing homework, playing iPhone games.

Around 5:30, I went in to see Papá Chepe with my 17-year old cousin Star. It was her first time seeing Papá Chepe and she couldn’t hold back the tears upon seeing him with an oxygen mask over his mouth and nose. His forearms were bruised from the IV tube needles and machines around him whirred as they monitored his vitals. I comforted her and thought about how I was about her age when Grandpa Bartolo passed away from cancer. Curiously, Star was born just two days before Grandpa passed. When Star’s little brother, David, joined us, I pointed out a get well poster Alexis made featuring several family photos. “Papá Chepe has all these people and more praying for him,” I told them.

Later, Sean went in with me to see Papá Chepe when visiting hours resumed. This time, Papá Chepe was a little bit more alert and turned to me as I spoke. He held my hand and his eyes fluttered. I sang to him just as Lori asked me to, played a video of Xavi giggling, and talked about how even our babysitter and her prayer group are praying for him. I told him, “te quiero.”



I hate that I can’t remember more of that Monday. I should be okay with that, but I know that it might be the last Monday I see and hear the Papá Chepe I’ve known my whole life. Still, it was just one day in hundreds of great days I’ve spent with Papá Chepe and Mamá Toni. With Papá Chepe, I’ve had the chance to record his life stories through StoryCorps. On those days when I miss his voice, I can go back and listen to the CD or mp3 from our interview. On the days when I miss dancing to La Marcha de Zacatecas, I can watch our wedding video and recall how surprised he was when the emcee announced I was doing a granddaughter/grandfather dance. Papá Chepe hammed it up.



And on the days when I miss his smile, I can look at pictures from that Sunday afternoon in early August when Sean and I introduced him to Xavi, his 33rd great grandchild.


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

I don’t know what’s going to happen, but can only hope that Papá Chepe isn’t scared nor in great pain, that he has competent and caring doctors and nurses, that he knows his family is by his side and when we’re not, we’re thinking and praying for him. I hope he knows we’re taking care of Mamá Toni and will continue doing so. Most of all, I hope he knows just how much we love him.

Envy and perspective

Note: I wrote this a few weeks ago while still on maternity leave.

Years ago Lori told me about a conversation she had with our mom.

Mom: I want Cindy to hurry up, get married and have kids so I can quit my job and be her babysitter.
Lori: Do you only want to be Cindy’s babysitter? What about me?!
Mom: Oh, I didn’t think you’d want me to watch your kids because we clash a lot.
Lori: Of course I would. You raised us and did an awesome job.

Mom, me and a box of KFC

I don’t know if I was even seeing anyone at the time, but I remember thinking this arrangement would be awesome. I could work and still make sure my future child was with someone I trusted and was great with children. Not only had my mom been a stay at home mom and raised four children, she had also worked in primary education for several years with special needs children. Oh, and this was way, way, way before I even had a clue about childcare rates in Los Angeles.

As awesome as it would be for grandma to be the babysitter, I knew it was unlikely in my case. My parents need those benefits attached to my mom’s job. (Dad is self-employed.) My in-laws are both retired but live in New York, so that’s out of the question too.

Throughout pregnancy I kept thinking of that conversation. I was so envious of friends and cousins with this arrangement. As I prepare to go back to work and figure out our childcare plans, the green-eyed monster returned especially as I stared at our budget spreadsheet.

And then I thought about what I do have and what I am grateful for.

A healthy, happy Xavi.

An engaged and fully committed partner in parenting
It’d be too sappy to enumerate the many ways Sean is the partner I need. I have no doubt his love, support and help will ease the transition.

While neither set of grandparents can be full-time caretakers, they have been immensely supportive and loving. My in-laws spoiled their first grandchild with several of the big ticket baby items. We’ll be seeing them soon too. My parents have been around at least once a week to visit Xavi as well as help Sean and I with things we don’t get to as new parents (household chores, bringing prepared meals). As soon as we’re ready to leave him, they’ll jump at the chance to babysit too.

I was lucky enough to get to know all four grandparents. Xavi has four grandparents and two great-grandparents. Lucky kid.

Siblings and extended family nearby
It was super nice to have my siblings drop by during maternity leave just to visit or help out with Xavi for a few hours. There’s no shortage of people who would jump at the chance to babysit him if we need a night out.

Science Poster Day 2013

A job
I like my job. I miss my co-workers and the students. I’ve seen them a couple of times since July at the closing dinner for one of the research programs and a staff appreciation bowling outing. My job is generally stress free and rewarding. More practically, I don’t work crazy hours and have a short commute (for LA). I can’t forget that I also have excellent benefits. Health insurance should be it’s own category.

Maternity leave
I’ve been off for the better part of three months. Most of my leave has been paid even though I wasn’t able to use my short-term disability insurance (I set it up wrong when I was hired in my current position). Fortunately, since I’ve been employed at the university at least part time since 2006, I had a lot of sick, vacation and comp time saved up. I could have taken off about another 6 weeks but we can’t afford to be a single income family that long.

A rent-controlled apartment
This is big. We have plenty of space for our little family and short commutes to our workplaces. While I sometimes complain about our neighbors, the neighborhood is nice, generally safe, walk/run-able, and is kid-friendly.

Jaclyn Day’s post on childcare and maternity leave really hit home.

They [46 million people in poverty] are the mothers and fathers who have few options and who can’t make the “hard” choices about breastfeeding, childcare and what elaborate decorations to have at their child’s first birthday party, because there may be no choices to be had.

Our budget might be tight, but we’re still quite privileged. I’ll keep that in perspective as I make another big transition.

All the days of my life

Team Sean and Cindy

I’m a day late on this anniversary post. I was too busy yesterday spending time with Sean and Xavier, catching up with friends visiting from NYC, and freaking out over Breaking Bad to do some writing.

The day after we got married, we checked out of the hotel, and went to my parents’ house for leftovers and to open up gifts. Later that afternoon, Sean took a nap and I stayed up to brainstorm the moments I never wanted to forget from our wedding day. I wrote a long list of details and moments that would not be captured by any photographer, videographer or guest. A year later, I re-read the list and am so glad I wrote those memories especially the one after the vows.


When it came for the rite of marriage, Sean and I followed Fr. Ricky’s directions. We stood, faced each other and held hands. Our guests looked on quietly — mostly — as we stated our intentions.

Yes, we had come freely and without reservation to give ourselves to each other in marriage. Yes, we would love and honor each other as man and wife for the rest of our lives. Yes, we would accept children lovingly from God and bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church.

The church was quiet except for a friend’s toddler asking “Where’s Buzz Lightyear?” I thought that was fitting since we had just pledged to accept children.

Saying our vows

Following the statement of intentions, it was time to give consent to marriage through our vows. Sean went first and repeated after Fr. Ricky that he promised to be true in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. His voiced cracked and tears welled up as he professed to love and honor me all the days of his life.

Nervously, I took my turn and repeated the same words Sean had just uttered. I, Cynthia, take you, Sean, to be my husband. As I continued, I tried my best to keep my voice steady and eyes dry but was only half successful. I couldn’t help tearing up as I saw the emotion in Sean’s face as I promised to love and honor him all the days of my life.

When I was done, Sean mouthed, “You won.”

I shook my head. No, we pretty much cried at the same time. The bet and bragging rights didn’t matter anyway.

A kiss to seal the deal

A year later after reading my notes, I realize that Sean was right. I did win, but it wasn’t a bet and the prize was better than bragging rights.

I got him. And Xavier too.

First anniversary

Happy anniversary, Sean.

Lazy Saturdays, sorta

“You know, this is likely our last lazy Saturday morning doing nothing in bed together,” Sean said as we watched cartoons (Adventure Time and Justice League) following a late breakfast.

The past few weekends have been low key since we’re not making many plans, but earlier in the summer and spring we were driving around Southern California for family events and preparing for Meatball’s arrival.


Meme sings "Aprovéchate"

Waiting for Café Tacvba @vureno902 @seanathan

Sean and I met up with the cousins for Café Tacuba at the Glass House in Pomona. I’ve seen Café Tacuba a few times with Rene, but this was the first time I’ve been to a concert with Vanny and Junior. Rene represented us in the pit while the rest of caught the show from further back. Even before pre-pregnancy I wasn’t up for the craziness of the pit. Rubén, Meme, Joselo and Quique put on a great show. I’m happy I got to see them perform songs from the new album (favorites are “Olita del Altamar” and “Aprovéchate”) as well as my old favorites. Unfortunately, I left during the encore because I started feeling lightheaded and had another one of my dizzy spells.

Getting the bebe's room ready. #nesting #thirdtrimester #watchingpaintdry

Sean on furniture assembly duty

Still a work in progress, but almost ready


After choosing a color, Sean and I painted the nursery. He took the lead on putting together the furniture and other baby items we bought or were gifted. We’d been using the closet for storage.
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Number 36

Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad! Thanks for giving me an excuse to post some more wedding photos.

The parents


I don’t know what song Fabiola is singing, but they seem to be enjoying it. In another photo, dad looks like he’s singing along. I bet he was.

Listening to the toast

Dad has the pose down.

Still no baby. Feeling fine.

Take me out to the baby shower

Proud first time grandparents

My parents and sister hosted a baseball-themed baby shower in honor of me, Sean and baby Meatball on June 22nd. It was a beautiful day filled with family, friends, good food, cute decorations and — of course — lots of adorable baby clothes.

Party planner extraordinaire

My family once again showed that they’re experts at party planning and hosting.

Dodgers and Yankees goodie bags

My mother-in-law, Eula, hosted her a baby shower in NY a few weeks before the California party. We tried to Skype in, but there were technical difficulties.

A blanket for Sean?

We’ve been very blessed by our families’ and friends’ generosity. I know it’s cheesy to proclaim “so blessed!” on social media, but I can’t help it.


It’s the truth.

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35 week update

35 week pansa. Glad my mom saved this dress from my pre-weight loss days (I had given it to her to donate).

I’m at 35 weeks now.

Our doctor took an estimate of Meatball’s current weight, size and position. He’s getting big and he’s in position ready to go.

I’m not sleeping as well and am a little more tired, but it’s not too bad. There were a couple of nights where I woke up every 2 hours, but most nights I only wake up twice. The only things about sleep that are annoying are trying to find a comfortable position to sleep in or waking up with a cramp in my leg or foot.

I’ve only had one sorta dizzy spell. Nausea is coming back with occasional vomiting. It makes me wary of taking the prenatal vitamin because it always makes it worse.

Sean and I have been taking several classes. So far, we’ve taken the four-session prepared childbirth (Lamaze) class. The class was pretty small with only about 10 couples and we did it in two Saturdays. Our teacher, Christina, seemed like a cross between a very knowledgeable labor & delivery nurse/lactation consultant and a stand-up comedian/your hilarious friend. She had the props, stories about family members (mainly her sister), stories about her fiancé, silly gestures/facial expressions and even had the timing down. It was a nice change of pace from the generic DVD we watched in between her bits.

We’ve also had Tuesday evening classes at the hospital where we’re delivering. Our teacher, Gwen, has the same qualifications as Christina but instead she’s an older Jamaican woman. She’s not as funny, but I still like her classes and responses to some of the odd questions she gets. So far, we’ve taken: labor and delivery, breast feeding with success, and newborn care basics.

I feel like I’ve learned a lot, but still have a bunch of questions. I also fear that I’ll miss some early signs of labor or forget what I’m supposed to do.

My baby shower is later today. My sister said she and mom stopped counting the RSVPs after 100 people.