I have fun making these each year and thinking of the perfect message for each family member. This year, medical the non-personalized cards were train themed, because he loves his trains. Xavi even helped a little by “signing” the backs of each card.
75 books overall. CHECK.
10 books from my bookshelf. I read 7/10 in this category.
6 books meeting the What’s in a Name Challenge criteria: CHECK!
- -ing Word: Late-Talking Children: A Symptom or a Stage? by Stephen Camarata
- Color: Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer
- Familial relation: Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
- Body of water: Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson
- City: Still Water Saints by Alex Espinoza (got creative with this one as the fictional city in the book is Agua Mansa which translates to “still water”)
- Animal: 2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino
- A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle
- The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich
- Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
- Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
- Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl
52 books from Pop Sugar’s Reading Challenge. CHECK with tons of overlap.
Top ten favorite novels (alpha order):
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The Round House by Louise Erdrich
Still Water Saints by Luis Espinoza
The Turner House by Angela Flournoy
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
The Book of Unknown Americans by Christina Henríquez
China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kawn
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham
Young adult and middle grade novels:
The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
You and Me and Him by Kris Dinnison
Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson [poetry]
Short story collection:
Night at the Fiestas by Lisa Valdez Quade
We Live in Water by Jess Walter
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg
Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Gregory Boyle
Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free by Hector Tobar
Late-Talking Children: A Symptom or a Stage? by Stephen Camarata
Memoir or essay:
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan
Favorite new (to me) authors:
Angela Flournoy (best debut)
Lived up to the hype:
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
The Turner House by Angela Flournoy
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
All the Light We Cannot See had a neat sheen to the cover and even though I read The Buried Giant in ebook form, I still checked it out at a bookstore and it looked pretty.
I figure before the year ends I need to at least wrap up the last few months.
November seemed to go by quickly thanks to travel in the second half. I attended the American Indian Science and Engineering Society national conference in Phoenix for work. My job includes some recruitment for graduate and undergraduate admissions and student group advising. This trip combined those aspects.
When I got the travel schedule in the summer I immediately knew I wanted to make this an extended trip since the conference ended a few days before Thanksgiving. I worked it out so Sean and Xavi would come to Phoenix with me and we’d spend the days after the conference in LA. We got our first taste of long travel days from Ithaca to LA. Pro: Xavi loved the Detroit airport in-terminal tram (because trains). Con: including driving to/from the airports the trip from LA to Ithaca was 13 hours.
The conference itself was a great learning experience and I got to know some of our students better. The university sent 6 students to attend and/or present their research. Personally, it was the first time American Indians have asked me if I was a American Indian or what tribe I was from. It was weird saying “no, I’m not Indian, I’m Mexican,” because the only difference is the border as I’m indigenous to this continent too.
We arrived in Phoenix on Wednesday the 18th. My parents arrived the next morning. They couldn’t wait until we made it to LA after the conference. They did fun stuff like going to the children’s museum a few blocks away while I worked.
On a free Saturday morning I joined them on a short trip to Scottsdale and the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park. If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend visiting not only because it was affordable and not too crowded. Xavi loved it of course because he got to ride big and little trains. I also found it cool to walk through a Pullman car that had once carried U.S. presidents in the first half of the 20th century. I also was a fan of the model railroads. They reminded me of our neighbor, Mr. Dale, who had his own model town and railroad in the garage. These model trains were on a different scale though and included interactive options for kids (e.g., a drive-in theater where you’re the one on the screen). We got there in the middle of their Christmas prep which I imagine must look pretty neat all lit up.
The conference ended on Saturday night and we returned to LA on Sunday morning.
It was 80+ degrees in LA, warmer than Phoenix, and felt so good. The first afternoon we were home was full of several immediate and extended family members coming by to visit with Papá Chepe as usual. Xavi was spoiled by plenty of time with his grandparents and aunts and uncles.
In hindsight I feel like we should’ve done more during our trip but it was nice to just relax. Highlights:
Xavi doing chores like helping to pick up the leaves and walk Daisy and VR.
Getting pampered by my sister Lori. On Wednesday she took me to her stylist and I got a much needed haircut and dye job. The next day she did my makeup and we had a mini lesson on the basics. I typically just put moisturizer on my face. I relied on Lori to do my makeup for special events. Now that I’m across the country that’s not an option so Lori bought me a bunch of new makeup and gave me a mini lesson. I definitely felt cute for Thanksgiving with my hair and makeup done.
The food! We were spoiled by amazing homemade Mexican food like enchiladas, breakfast burritos from our favorite spot and pozole. Of course we had the requisite In-n-Out trip.
Meeting baby Alexander. Some close friends, Cain and Jessica, came by the house and I got to meet their newborn son, Alexander. I tried hard not to sing his name like in Hamilton. I’m still obsessed. It was also nice to see their older kids, Becka and Jordan. Other than seeing Cain and Jessica I didn’t see other LA friends (maybe for a longer trip). Sean did visit his former coworkers.
Seeing Papá Chepe. I see him on FaceTime calls but with his speech issues communication is easier in person.
We visited my mom’s classroom. Her students have heard so much about Xavi that when they found out he’d be visiting they asked if he could come to their Thanksgiving lunch. The high school students warmly welcomed Xavi and one boy even drew him a picture of a t-rex.
Thanksgiving! I don’t remember much now aside from being very full and seeing lots of aunts, uncles and cousins. We also took the photo we used for our holiday card.
This month seemed to zoom by too. After returning from a conference and vacation I had a lot of catch up to close out the semester. [I still feel weird using semester rather than quarter.] We also had several holiday parties at work. I’m used to a small gathering at my supervisor’s house. This year we had: graduate student holiday party hosted by our office (Xavi and Sean came); dean’s holiday party for staff in the college; office holiday party hosted by the professor we work with (Xavi and Sean came too); and student service staff party at a local restaurant. I thought it would feel like a lot or be a drag, but it was actually a lot of fun. Xavi also made us proud by dancing to Bel Biv Devoe’s “Poison” and ATCQ’s “Bonita Applebaum.” He was just happy that there was plenty of cheese and brownies.
Christmas was pretty low key. I’ve never been one to decorate my own place much and since moving had cut down on the few decorations I did have. We didn’t even buy a tree. Nevertheless, Xavi still got to see lights and a tree crowded with presents at my in-laws. My mother-in-law went all out with the decorations given that this was the first time her grandson spent Christmas in NY. He was spoiled by presents and still hasn’t taken half of them out of the box. I felt spoiled by the highs in the 60-70s. I know lots of people said this didn’t feel like winter of the Christmas they were used to, but I felt quite at home and appreciative that it hasn’t been oppressively cold yet.
The big hits were Matchbox Cars, a Duplo farm set (my feet are already crying), and a set of books featuring Mickey & Friends. All the gifts and our bags barely fit in our car.
I have Christmas through New Year’s off from work, but we returned on Monday for Xavi’s speech therapy on Tuesday morning. . The drive was the longest we’ve experienced since Xavi got sick twice. He really doesn’t look sick, does he? Must remember to keep a roll of paper towels in the car.
NYE is just as quiet as it was last year. This year we have the excuse that we don’t know too many people in Ithaca and don’t have a trusted babysitter yet. It’s fine with us, I needed to catch up on some blogging anyway.
Happy New Year!
[Mainly written on December 12th.]
I grew up celebrating Nuestra Señora la Virgen de Guadalupe’s feast day on December 12th at St. John Vianney. I sang, danced, prayed and ate. I loved the danzantes, the mariachi and the food at the party immediately after mass. Even in the years I rarely went to church I still observed this day. Guadalupano roots run deep.
I was worried I wouldn’t be able to celebrate in Ithaca. The churches here don’t have regular Spanish language masses. One church hosts a monthly mass in Spanish and that’s where I found out that there would be a mass for Our Lady of Guadalupe hosted by the Cornell Catholic Community . Andrea asked if anyone wanted to help sing and I volunteered.
Sean dropped us off at the chapel at 11:30. I was late for the mini choir rehearsal but it was still okay since the music was familiar. Xavi sat patiently and watched Andrea play the guitar and Anna play the piano. We practiced and the non Spanish speakers quickly learned the unfamiliar songs.
The chapel at Anabel Taylor Hall was more full than I expected with a lot of students. The service was a bit different than I’m used to. It was in Spanish, sure, but instead of a mariachi a small choir accompanied by piano and acoustic guitar sang the traditional songs like La Guadalupana and Las Mañanitas. There were no danzantes, kids dressed up as Juan Diego or in traditional Mexican clothing or an elaborate dedication of flowers in La Virgencita’s alcove. What wasn’t different was a gathering afterward with food. Xavi was happy with rice and tortilla chips and I tried to restrain myself when I saw students bring out tamales. They were delicious. Despite the differences and that I barely knew anyone at the service, it was the closest I’ve felt to home in our six months in Ithaca.
I’m glad Xavi got to experience a tradition I’ve grown up with. I can’t wait until he gets his own little Juan Diego outfit and sings along. He comes from a long line of Guadalupanos and I’m happy to continue this tradition in los cerros (hills) of Ithaca.
These days I’m missing California a lot. With festivals for Día de los Muertos, there’s always something to do in late October. Plus, I love Halloween and in recent years family members have thrown parties. Last year was tough with Mamá Toni’s recent passing, but even then it was still a time spent with family as we gathered for the traditional novena (nine evenings of praying the Rosary) and followed the prayer with tamales, pan dulce or pozole.
Nevertheless, I think this was one of the best weekend’s we’ve had in Ithaca even though half of it was spent doing chores.
On Friday I left work a little early so I could change in to my last-minute Frida Kahlao costume* and join Xavi and Sean for trick or treating in the Commons. Most businesses were passing out candy or other treats and it was full of kids and their parents in cute costumes.
We decided to play up Xavi’s love of trains rather than our love of Prince circa Purple Rain (why don’t costume shops make these) and my current obsession with all things Hamilton the musical. He could’ve been that other significant Thomas [Jefferson — as portrayed by Daveed Diggs].
He got a lot of compliments and was a champ at grabbing candy and placing it in his bucket. Last year he enjoyed knocking on doors and ringing doorbells, but this year he was all about choosing candy and
On Saturday we tried to check out the Wizarding Weekend downtown (er, 6 blocks away). It was crowded, but we still were impressed by Ithaca. The organizers transformed the area in to various sites in Hogsmeade, Hogwarts, and Diagon Alley. We missed Quidditich and didn’t get to taste butterbeer, but maybe when Xavi’s older we can all dress up as wizards.
After visiting Hogwarts we did more trick or treating until we were tired and kinda cold.
On Sunday I put the finishing touches on our altar. This is the first time I put together an altar. It felt important this year for Xavi to see it and to also remember family and friends since we’re so far from everyone.
We put up pictures of Sean’s Aunt Myrtle who passed away earlier this year, Kevin (2014), tío Joe (2010), Grandpa Bartolo (1997), Grandma Juana (2000), tío Johnny (2012) and Mamá Toni (2014). I made do with what I had on hand, could easily find. Rather than sugar skulls I colored calacas (Xavi helped) and put out cookies rather than pan de muerto. We also set out tamales (made Mamá Toni style), a ukulele (no guitar on hand) for my tío Johnny, pancakes and coffee for Grandpa and Grandma, and some more food. I didn’t have a needle and yarn for Mamá Toni, but did put up some of her handiwork. She knitted the pillow on the left.
Hope your Halloween was fun and safe. If you observe Día de los Muertos, I hope doing so was a nice remembrance of your loved ones’ lives.
*No unibrow because Frida is more than a unibrow, it’s barely visible in some photos. Plus, I don’t actually have an eyeliner pencil to draw it in.
On Sunday my dad called me. I knew what he was going to say before he said it. _____ passed away, mija.
There’s something about his voice that is hard to hide when he calls to share news about a family member or friend’s passing.
This time the name was Alicia. He didn’t even need a last name.
Alicia has always been just Alicia since I first got to know her in the early 1990s through church. Alicia was the primary organizer and benefactor of a ballet folkórico that formed at church. She did so much for us. She took time out of her schedule to organize the rehearsals, found places for us to perform and even helped pay for the fabric to make the dresses.
She showed us she cared and accomplished what she set out to do by starting the group. I don’t know when it happened, but when she was much younger, she lost a son to gang violence. As I recall, her son was no involved but he was an innocent victim. In her grief, Alicia tried to reach out to youth in gangs, but found that these youth may be too entrenched in the life. She needed to reach out to youth who weren’t involved yet.
Danny, Lori and I were all in elementary school when we started with the dance group and continued dancing for a few years. In those years we performed at the annual church carnival in the summer and for the Fiesta de la Virgen de Guadalupe. We performed at her son’s restaurant in San Juan Capistrano and were paid in delicious carne asada nachos. Those performances were always extra fun as it was a short road trip with my good friends in the group. She also set up shows for us at youth group homes and convalescent homes.
The performances at the restaurant were fun, but the most memorable time was when Alicia organized a trip to the Shrine Auditorium for a performance of the Ballet Folkórico de México de Amalia Hernández. I remember being starstruck as Doña Hernández left through the stage door.
Thank you Alicia for all you did for us. It’s been a long time since I’ve danced ballet folkórico, but the zapateado and lessons have always stayed with me. More importantly, thank you for showing the importance of being involved in your community and contributing in whatever way you can as a role model. You were the definition of that lady in the village who looked out for us kids.
Thank you to Angelita, the mom of two of the girls in the group, for sharing this picture with my dad.
I met Sean in 2002 but I didn’t get to know him until many years later. Enter our blogs. I read his blog, he read mine and we discovered we had a lot in common when it came to music, TV shows and the like. We’ve both been blogging so long that sometimes it feels like we’ve run out of topics, at least the ones we’re interested in sharing on a public blog. Parenting isn’t one of those topics.
As the child of two long time bloggers, it was only a matter of time before Xavi had his own blog (sorta).
Xavi Be Like is a collection of animated GIFs about toddler life and all the emotions it induces. Xavi’s an awesome kid, but he’s also a toddler who is, well, a toddler. There’s a reason “terrible twos” is a common — phrase not that it applies to our little angel. Nope.
Before we moved from LA I requested my medical records and did the same for Xavi. It was pretty much all review except for the results of Xavi’s initial assessment with the speech language pathologist. I remember looking through PDF and seeing the raw score, the age equivalent and percentile ranking and feeling like I’d been sucker punched. I wanted to cry.
What I heard from the SLP was “Xavi should get one hour of speech therapy. He also qualifies for early intervention pre-school. Let’s set up the former and you can look into the latter.”
It was something like that. On paper the situation seemed more dire.
Xavi started speech therapy for an hour a week and attended for about six weeks before we moved. The location was close and convenient and Xavi liked playing with new-to-him toys and running around the indoor gym/playground. He was also starting to make some improvements.
In the midst of starting a new job, getting acclimated, and moving I dropped the ball when it came to continuity for Xavi’s speech therapy. I finally called the county early intervention office after his second birthday. I shouldn’t have waited so long. I assumed that with our medical records and Xavi’s initial assessment in April he’d be able to start therapy soon. Nope.
Since we’re in New York, we had to restart the process. I wanted to kick myself. I should’ve called as soon as my new insurance kicked in on my first day at the new job. As expected, it’s taken several weeks to get Xavi in speech therapy once again. In the mean time he’s taken to communicating through lots of pointing, pulling us along, nodding his head, signing and using a few words. I’d love to hear him say “‘Bye, mamá” when I leave for work, but right now a big hug, waving goodbye are enough to give me warm fuzzies.
Below is our timeline:
- August 3ish: Initial referral, I called the early intervention office
- August 8: Receive the early intervention parent handbook
- August 24: Intake session with coordinator
- September 14: Assessment with speech and occupational therapists; immediately get results which confirm that Xavi has a speech delay and qualifies for services. Devise a plan with the intake coordinator.
- Currently: Waiting for Xavi’s first appointment with his speech therapist in a week
Aside from waiting, the process has been pretty painless. After reading Late-Talking Children: A Symptom or a Stage? by Stephen Camarata I was worried that we’d have someone who would be pushing a diagnosis that didn’t fit or advocated something that could be harmful.
I started reading Late-Talking Children in the spring. I saw it a bookstore on campus and was intrigued enough to request it from the LA Public Library. I slacked on it and only got through the first couple of chapters. I bought the e-book and finished the second two-thirds a few weeks ago.
Late-Talking Children was exactly what I was looking for. It’s easy to go online and read some parenting magazine’s short post/article about speech delay or another parent’s experience, but I wanted evidenced-based info that was also accessible. Camarata lays out the current research and what is known about late-talking children while also including anecdotes seen through his clinic at Vanderbilt University.
While Late-Talking Children is very useful and reassuring, it also left me a bit worried and stressed. The first few chapters made me think that Xavi’s speech delay was a stage he’d grow out of rather than a symptom of something else typically linked to speech delay, particularly autism. This was probably why I got lazy and stopped reading initially. Plus, by that time Xavi was already in speech therapy and we were happy with the services he was receiving.
As I started reading more I got worried. Camarata writes about several cases where parents and their children didn’t receive the treatment they needed or clinicians/educators insisted on a certain diagnosis. He acknowledges that these instances are not the norm, but it’s still enough to make you think you’re going to need to go to battle every time you speak to a pediatrician, teacher, speech therapist or other professional who works with early intervention programs. Plus, I couldn’t help wondering about the socioeconomic aspect. I imagine it can be intimidating to argue about an IEP with teachers or clinicians if you’re not fluent in English or they talk down to you because you don’t have multiple degrees from fancy colleges or universities, not that this means everything will be easy as seen through Camarata’s personal experience. He and his wife, an experienced speech pathologist, faced challenges trying to get their late-talking son in a mainstream classroom. While they were both experts in this area, they still faced push back from the teachers and clinicians who were supposed to have his son’s best interest at heart. Yikes.
Thus far, I haven’t felt like I’m doing battle. It’s been the opposite as the only challenge has been waiting a pretty normal amount of time from referral to beginning speech therapy. The handbook we received from NY early intervention office clearly outlines parents’ rights such asking for a second evaluation or declining services. For instance, if the occupational therapist found that Xavi had issues with fine or gross motor skills and recommended occupational therapy, I could have declined this without affecting his right to have speech therapy.
Interesting thing to note: Camarata never mentions bilingualism as a possible cause for late-talking in his section on characteristics of late-talking children.
Overall, I recommend reading Late-Talking Children if you want to be better prepared to advocate for your child if he/she needs early intervention services.
Xavi’s review: I like this book because there’s a train on the cover. [Seriously, I had to hide the hardcover book when I had it because Xavi would take it away from me. He loves his trains and instantly likes a book more if it includes a picture of a train.]
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.
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.
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.
- I’m spending a lot on new work clothes. My new department only allows casual clothes on Fridays.
- 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!”