Category Archives: Familia

Working mom FOMO

Zoo time

This morning Sean and Xavi came with me to Syracuse. While I attended my meeting they visited the zoo, which was on all the lists of toddler friendly things to do in the city. I knew that was the plan but it didn’t even cross my mind to object because I’d be missing a first. It just seemed like a great activity. Plus, they needed to do something while I was in my meeting.

I didn’t realize until we met up for lunch after the meeting and we talked about the visit that I’d missed Xavi’s first visit to the zoo. I didn’t get to see his face the first time he saw an elephant (he was more interested in some kids and their wagon) and monkeys. I wasn’t there to make him roar at the tiger and try to wake it up. And I wasn’t there to buy some totally cute toy or stuffed animal — that he does not need — in the gift shop.

But Sean was there and he took pictures and told me stories over lunch and the drive home. Xavi had a good time too, which is more important than me being right next to him. We’ll have more opportunities for fun outings.

I’ve always known I’d miss some firsts, but outings like this didn’t cross my mind because up until a few months ago Sean and I were both working outside the home. We both missed his first steps. His babysitter and grandparents witnessed it and took video. A few hours later Sean and I came home from our respective jobs to the gleeful news from my mother-in-law. She was really hoping Xavi would begin walking during her visit. You can imagine her excitement and pride.

This zoo thing, though? It’s like when you see mutual friends hanging out and it bugs you even though you know that’s dumb because even if you were invited you wouldn’t be able to go.

I shouldn’t have any FOMO (fear of missing out — don’t worry I’d never heard of this until one of the students I work with mentioned it) about my husband and son doing fun stuff together. I should just be thankful we can get by with our current family work arrangements and that I have an awesome husband and Xavi has an amazing dad who also makes beautiful pictures and funny videos so I can feel like I was there.

Mini shopper

After lunch we visited the only Trader Joe’s in a 70 mile radius (*tear*). Xavi made a beeline for the mini shopping carts and immediately filled his with the bananas he picked out and my favorite cereal. He’s always fixated on other kids’ toy shopping carts so letting him push the real deal must’ve been exciting. At least I was there for that first and to make sure he didn’t knock down a display or run over anyone’s toes.

Looking for my friends

A couple weeks ago I sat down and looked at our recent spending to figure out if we could afford to enroll Xavi in preschool part-time. We hadn’t intended to sign him up this soon, but the school is close by and had a last-minute opening. After doing the numbers a few things were clear.

  1. I’m spending a lot on new work clothes. My new department only allows casual clothes on Fridays.
  2. We’re not spending much on gifts anymore.

The latter was just one more reminder of all the birthday parties, showers and weddings we are missing. Put another way, we have no social life. 

Friday comes and Sean asks, “What’s going on this weekend?” I used to be able to rattle off a few different options. Even if there wasn’t a formal party coming up, just spending a Saturday or Sunday afternoon at my mom’s house felt like a family gathering thanks to Papá Chepe’a visitor. (A positive side effect of the stroke. It’s brought our family even closer together.)
Now I might say there’s some event I need to do for work but otherwise it’s do chores and hang out as a threesome.

If I was in LA today I’d be in the middle of getting ready to attend my fourth wedding of the summer — pretty average for us — and second of the month. Today, Elizabeth and César will get married. I’ve known Elizabeth since she was a toddler and her family moved to our block. They quickly became close friends. We even visited them in Jalpa, Zacatecas one December and went to Elizabeth’s quinceañera. By chance, I got to see the proposal too. César threw a decoy party complete with delicious tacos and a mariachi. I’m definitely sad to miss this wedding (plus her family throws awesome parties).

Last week I missed David (it feels weird not to call him Oso) and Iris’s wedding. I checked out the photos taken by other friends I met through blogging. I wish it could’ve been like the Carlsbad blogger reunion of early 2012, but alas it’s tough to travel with a toddler cross country. 

Earlier in the summer I missed Diana and Carlos’s wedding. I’ve known Diana since 2002 and would’ve loved to spend a weekend in Santa Barbara celebrating with them. Unfortunately, their wedding was on the weekend right before I started my new job and we had already moved. 

At least I didn’t miss my cousin Vanny’s wedding in early June. I was lucky my new job was okay with me starting later than their target or I might’ve missed Vanny and Junior’s nuptials.

Of course, I knew I’d be missing events when I decided to move. That was part of the deal since I don’t have an unlimited travel budget and vacation days. 

What I didn’t expect was how difficult it is to make friends and how lonely weekends feel just us three. I know I need to give it time. I’ve only been here about 11 weeks and have actually  met a number of kind and friendly people. We say “yes” to the things we are invited to like a picnic for Latinos in the area. We’ve even been to a birthday party. 

But still on weekends like this and last I wish I could teleport the three of us to LA for a good party or BBQ, delicious food and amazing people. 


For now, you might just find me running around the Ithaca Commons skipping like Sid the Science Kid singing “I’m looking for my friends, I’m looking for you!” 

35 notes for my 35th birthday


Monday was my 35th birthday. To commemorate the start of another year of life, I’m giving 35 snippets on life, things I like, and whatever else is too short to really warrant a blog post.

The first card I received for my birthday was delivered last Wednesday. It was a butterfly painted in water colors by Papá Chepe. On the back he wrote “feliz cumpleaños” and signed his name. It was perfect. I might’ve cried. Following his stroke, he’s had to relearn to write with his left hand.

Sean got me a silly card about farting. Don’t worry, the romance is still there. We just share the same immature sense of humor.

Xavi’s card featured Thomas and Friends and had stickers. I let him keep the stickers.

For some reason he puts his stickers on his sock-covered feet. He’s silly like that.

Bubble time

Sean and Xavi gave me a comal. I forgot the old one on the stove back in LA. Sean said this one had the best reviews. All the other ones “got hot too fast” or “burned [owner’s] tortillas.” I’m baffled that a comal can get a bad review. These people have to be doing it wrong.

I used to be a big fan of taking the day off on my birthday and doing something like going to Disneyland. Not this year. It’s the second week of the semester and our office is still pretty busy with welcome events, orientations and the like. Plus, there’s no Disneyland nearby.

Family members in LA called to wish me a happy birthday. Again, Papá Chepe’s birthday greetings were most touching. He sang “Las Mañanitas” to me. It was beautiful. (The photo above is from the day we left LA.)

I’m a little bummed I wasn’t in LA for my birthday, but not upset to miss the triple-degree heat.

No one at work knew it was my birthday.

I ordered myself a necklace from MALA by Patty Rodriguez. It hasn’t arrived yet. I’m such a slacker on buying birthday gifts that even when I treat myself the gift is late.

Sean has started blogging again. He’s calling his posts about the stay-at-home-dad life S.A.H.D. State of Affairs. Don’t worry. He’s not really sad unless Xavi skips his nap.

We’ve started the process of trying to get Xavi in to speech therapy through early intervention. Since we’re in a new state, we basically have to start all over again. I have a lot of feelings about this, but the people we’re working with are quite kind.

I finally finished Late-Talking Children: A Symptom or a Stage? by Stephen M. Camarata. It’s a good guide for parents on how to navigate the system. It’s also simultaneously worrisome and reassuring. Of note: Camarata never mentions bilingualism. Thus supporting my doubt that bilingual kids are more likely to have speech delay as has been stated a few times when I’ve written about Xavi’s speech delay.

According to Goodreads I’m 4 books behind target to reach my goal (75). Boo. Must download more audiobooks. Or maybe I should count the books I read to Xavi. Note: I love that the librarians put together an easy list of books about trains for kids like Xavi who are obsessed.

I found out recently that LA Public Library cards can expire. That’s not cool. At least the university library has ebooks and audiobooks accessible through OverDrive. Yeah, plus one for being at an Ivy League institution!

I’ve had a few fish out of water moments. One: At a secondhand kids store I put down my name after purchasing a toddler bed and table for Xavi. I spelled out Mosqueda for the cashier. She tried to pronounce and I corrected her as I’ve done many, many times over my life. Her response to the correct pronunciation? “That’s beautiful.” Rather innocuous, but it was just so strange. I’ve never heard anyone describe my last name as beautiful.

Technically I have two last names, but the second is much easier to spell and for ease and not to confuse folks I keep it to Mosqueda. This way I can avoid folks thinking Mosqueda is my middle name and calling me Ms. Campbell. That sounds so weird!

Fish out of water moment two: The waitress at a Mexican restaurant in Ithaca was totally confused when Sean ordered mole. Yes, it was on the menu under the chicken dishes. Either she was new and didn’t know the menu very well or she thought it was pronounced like the animal.

The tortilla section at WalMart was full of Old El Paso taco shells, taco bowls and other products. There were NO corn tortillas. I nearly cried. I have a tortilla press and can get the masa to make my own, but I’m also kinda lazy.

I bought less than a pound of queso fresco for almost $7.50. It doesn’t even taste like queso fresco. Luckily, when my mom visited in late July she brought lots of supplies. I have some frozen queso fresco for emergencies.

When people find out I’m from LA they’re really curious about why I’d move to Ithaca. I know the winter is going to be rough, but I came here for the same reason they did, to advance my education/career.

They ask a lot about how I like Ithaca. Although I’ve been here two months I haven’t had much of a chance to explore. Plus, I can’t really assess the town when a sizeable chunk of the population was gone for the summer. Xavi and Sean have explored lots of parks and kids activities.

I do say that I’m surprised by the noisiness in our neighborhood from traffic and the neighbors across the street. My neighbors in LA were pretty noisy but by the evening it quieted down. Here we still have large trucks or emergency vehicles drive by (we are at a major intersection).

We went to a park that was 20 minutes away this weekend. I told Sean, “Oh, it’s far,” after I had mapped it out. Ithaca is messing with my sense of what is close and what is far.

I miss our old churches, both St. John Vianney and St. Augustine. I miss the option of an afternoon mass, air conditioning (at least at SJV) and the music.

I miss my favorite cereal and yogurt from Trader Joe’s. The nearest location is in Syracuse (which I learned is pronounced like Sara-cuse not Si-ra-cuse). I stocked up on items when we were in Long Island over Xavi’s birthday weekend. My old co-workers also sent me a care package with TJ’s snacks. I miss them too.

I missed family and LA most on the day my mom flew back to LA. She visited for ten days in late July and early August. In between flights I texted her that she should get some reast. She said she couldn’t even sleep because she was so sad to leave Xavi. Ugh.

While my mom was here we took advantage of the free babysitting. We watched Inside Out. It was entertaining, but nowhere near my favorite Pixar movie. It did make me wonder about Xavi’s core memories that are shaping his identity.

Speaking of no longer having access to free babysitting, I was surprised to see Ithaca as one of the top 10 most expensive cities to raise a family in the US. The list came from a report by the Economic Policy Institute on What Families Need to Get By. Here I thought I was moving to an area with a lower cost of living, but not so if you factor in taxes and child care. I recommend doing the side-by-side comparisons.

Any disjointed post or photo dump should include recent favorites. I won’t include things I pay for because I’m not about endorsing stuff. First: Super Mamás Podcast – Bricia and Paulina Lopez, two sister and new moms living in LA. Bricia’s little boy is about 4 months old and Paulina has two girls (about 1 and 4, I think). The two sisters speak about striking a balance between using the knowledge they might have gained from their traditional Mexican families along with newer or modern parenting approaches. They have great guests who discuss mom issues I hear less about in other parenting podcasts such as what it’s like to be a teen mom, a singly mom or being a full-time working mom who also has side hustles as an entrepreneur. The podcast is pretty new and they’re only 9 episodes in. However, I’ve already come to look forward to their new episodes. Coincidentally, both sisters delivered their babies at the same hospital where I delivered Xavi. So when they recounted their birth stories I could imagine the same maternity ward. Even better, most of their guests are from LA and they have that LA Chicana/Latina accent I miss.

Another Round Podcast with Heben and Tracy – They just make Tuesdays better. I’ve “known” Tracy Clayton through and #thatsite for many years. I knew she was hilarious in written form, but her humor and stories are just as entertaining via podcast. Heben Nigatu is also a writer for BuzzFeed and together they make a great team. It probably helps that they have great guests such as Roxane Gay and Lianne La Havas. In the most recent episode they featured small children giving advice on how to be a big brother or sister. I might’ve cried thinking of (a) how awesome it is to have siblings and (b) how I want Xavi to have that experience.

Sherman Alexie’s Twitter feed is hilarious. I want to favorite every single tweet. He also started a podcast about a year ago with long-time friend and fellow writer, Jess Walter. On A Tiny Sense of Accomplishment they read works in progress, chat with other writers, answer listener questions about the process and discuss things such as the role of grief in their writing process.

OverDrive and public library memberships. OverDrive makes it easy to search for and download eBooks and audiobooks from various public library systems. I rarely buy books these days for myself (Xavi still gets new books) because I just don’t have much space. I borrow from OverDrive through the university and local library system.

Radio Ambulante is my favorite podcast in Spanish. Well, it’s the only podcast I listen to in Spanish. It’s hosted by writer Daniel Alarcón and features stores by journalist throughout the public radio world. I need more podcasts in Spanish, but for now Radio Ambulante will do.

Turning 35 years old means I’m now of advanced maternal age which could factor in when/if we try for another baby. I didn’t have a rough go of it the first time around at 32 years old, so I can only hope that a few years doesn’t make a big difference.

Xavi is two


Xavi is two years old*. That feels weird yet natural to write. It’s not the time that’s passed, but the way we measure it. We’re no longer saying his age in months when people ask.

My son has changed a lot since we first met him that sunny Thursday afternoon. He’s no longer the tiny newborn who nurses frequently and is swaddled to sleep. He’s a bright and silly toddler who says a lot without using many words. He’s obsessed with trains and freaks out when the train rolls by a block away.

And while he is bigger and more active, there is so much that doesn’t change. I still want to cuddle him even if he can wriggle free in two seconds flat. I stare at him while he sleeps amazed that Sean and I made such a beautiful creature. I still send poop emoji because dirty diapers are still an event. His hair still gets him lots of attention and comments and his smile and giggle are the best sounds ever. And he still loves my singing and listening to stories.


Ride On

We spent Xavi’s birthday at my in-laws’ house in Long Island. From a two-year-old’s standpoint, it might’ve been the best day ever as it was filled with his favorites and he was spoiled by 1.5 sets of grandparents (my mom was in town).

The word has spread that he’s a bit obsessed with Thomas and Friends and trains in general. My mother-in-law bought him a train he can ride on as well as an iPad. Xavi now officially has the newest iPad in the family. The big train and smaller trains joined Xavi’s collection of Thomases (Thomi?) that my mom helped grow by bringing some of the magnetic trains he left behind in LA and buying him new trains.

2nd birthday

After exploring the stairs at grandma’s we walked down the street for a block party. It was the perfect weather a neighborhood block party. Xavi had a good time trying to stay upright in the bouncy house and playing with water, two more favorites. I was a little squeamish about seeing him play with a water gun, but he’d rather just pour out water from a cup and splash water.

He also had a small birthday party. It was a low key affair compared to his first birthday bash. Eula invited over some friends from the neighborhood and church. She cooked up a bunch of delicious food and we played in the backyard and tried not to get eaten alive by mosquitoes. Xavi played bubbles and soccer with his grandpa. I don’t think he’s ready either for El Tri or the Reggae Boyz squads, but if there was a selección nacional team for chasing and popping bubbles Xavi would surely make the team.

And last there was cake! Who doesn’t love cake.

The perks of being a small toddler.

We returned to Ithaca on Sunday. Xavi had one last awesome experience. He got to sit on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle during a rest stop. The very kind bikers kept calling him a little girl — he gets that a lot thanks to the long hair — but the only thing that bothered him was when I took him away.

Oops. Sorry little guy.

*And a couple of weeks. I’m a little late in posting this.

What a trip

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Xavi's first drum circle

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

Pool time

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


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

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


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

Flying makes me hungry

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

Last people at baggage claim

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

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

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

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

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.

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.