Escuela, Parenting

School days

A few weeks ago we were watching Abbot Elementary. My older son loves the show. Some of the teachers remind them of the adults in his life either at school or his after-school program. Some are just silly. The episode was Fundraiser. In it, the kids sell chocolates to raise money to go to the Franklin Institute.

While watching, I realized that I have children in fourth and first grade and the concept of fundraising may be foreign to them. I’ve never taken a box of chocolates or a catalog of overpriced items to sell at work or share with friends and family. I remember SO. MANY. FUNDRAISERS. as a kid. Some were associated with Girl Scouts or our baseball teams, but mostly they were for school. They probably went to fund the extracurriculars like museum trips. I know we didn’t have great funding because I can recall at least once when our teachers picketed.

The kids have participated in fundraising events. They’ve helped out at bake sales and gladly bought items. The school has events like a winter fair or summer end of the year festival that doubles as a fundraiser for a fifth grade trip. We try to make those since it’s a fun thing to do and I like seeing them interact with their classmates since it’s rare.

But the kind of fundraising they did on Abbot Elementary? Nope.

Empty brick school on a sunny day. The blacktop play area is painted with blue and yellow for four square games. In the background are palm trees and low mountains.
This used to be my playground… really.

This brought to mind other things about their schools that are very different than my own experience:

  • Specials – I didn’t know about specials until I had friends with kids starting schools. They have dedicated music, art, and PE teachers. I remember doing all of these as a kid, but in elementary school I only had one teacher.
  • Orchestra – starting in third grade, children can sign up to learn a string instrument. In my experience, we could sign up for a wind instrument in third (maybe fourth?) grade for the concert band.
  • No letter grades – The kids get numbers that correspond to their progress, e.g., “4 = meets or exceeds grade level expectations”. I’m pretty sure I had letter grades and also had citizenship marks like O for outstanding, S for satisfactory and N for needs improvement.
  • Limited homework – now that X is in fourth grade, he has some math and reading assignments each day. Prior to this, he rarely brought home assignments. I can’t remember how much homework I had.
  • Enrichment activities – the school PTA offers after-school enrichment classes in things like learning about bugs or gaming club. There’s a cost, but the PTA subsides this activity. I don’t remember anything like this when I was a kid.
  • Bus – The kids have been riding the bus since pre-k. I lived a block away and never rode the bus to/from school. Even for the kids who lived further away, I’m not sure my district offered buses to our school and for middle and high school, I got a ride from my mom or another parent who was part of our carpool.
  • Class sizes – I remember having 30+ students in my classes. I don’t know how small my K-3 grade classes were, but the kids’ class sizes have always been under 20 students.
  • Water bottles – Each fall we get a list of things the students should be taking to school daily. The water bottle is always a part of this.

I’m not even getting into technology, dressing for the cold weather, COVID protocols, and lockdown drills because all of that seems obvious and a sign of the times.

Cuentos, Familia

Cry Now, Smile Later

When I was a junior in college I took a creative writing course called bilingual autobiography. We wrote daily in the class and I still have my journal. Some of the prompts were things like “describe the last time you heard a mariachi.” Our final story for the course was something that stemmed from the prompt, “write about something that you can laugh about now, but was tragic or very upsetting at the time.”

I wrote about getting caught cheating on a test in eighth grade. My co-conspirator was my crush. It had everything a YM Say Anything tale of woe and embarrassment was made of: humiliation in front of peers, a kinda scary authority figure, bad judgment, even worse luck, and a crush there to see the whole thing. In my case, my crush was also getting in trouble. I worked on my story all quarter and was very proud of the final draft. I still have it in a box put away somewhere.

The tragicomic story has been on my mind a lot lately. I grew up hearing my parents tell stories about their childhoods in ways that made us kids roar with laughter. When my dad’s family migrated from Guanajuato to the US they settled initially in Texas. There, my grandpa Bartolo was a ranch hand on a farm. My dad’s tales of the time involved busting up bales of hay to find snakes and going to a school where all the white kids talked about fun summer activities that were foreign to him. They didn’t stay in Texas too long. When they left my grandma’s brother came to help them move. My dad was forced to part with his beloved dog, Blue Boy. The dog didn’t fit in his uncle’s station wagon. The car was already full of the family of 8 people. Perhaps it was 9. I don’t remember if my dad’s youngest two sisters were born yet.

I had my own recent situation that I could only laugh at because it’s too ridiculous to cry over. After finally rebooking some flights from last summer, I had to postpone a family trip to Disney World because of COVID. Coincidentally, the first cancellation for an LA trip in August 2021 was also due to COVID. After 2.5 years it finally got me in mid-September. I wasn’t too bummed although I had to spend my anniversary weekend isolated and feeling crummy. We were able to postpone a few weeks and save some money by altering our hotel plans.

As our trip approached, I started looking closely at the news about Hurricane Ian. Ultimately, we opted to cancel the trip. The kids understood, knowing that it was all out of our control and ultimately cancelling a trip is not a big deal when others are suffering the impact of the storm.

They’re clamoring for when we’ll reschedule this family vacation. I don’t know. Maybe the fourth time will finally be the charm we need.

For now, I’ll just make TikToks, laugh, and be thankful that although we didn’t take the trip(s) we’re safe and have recovered from mild bouts with COVID (yay for all being fully vaccinated and boosted!). I realized long ago that I need to be able to laugh in these situations to cope. It’s what my parents taught me.

Parenting, Sentimientos

It’s Not A Competition

One of the things I frequently do to speed up the kids is make a simple task into a game.

Who can put away their things from school the fastest? Who can get all their winter gear on first? Who will be the first to get ready for bed?

Sometimes it works and other times someone gets distracted and leaves a backpack strewn on the floor, como salero, as my mom would say.

And still other times the kids object and remind me, “It’s not a competition!”

That little phrase comes to mind frequently. On the playground or school hallways it makes sense. Teachers don’t want kids tripping over themselves or fighting.

To me it’s a good reminder that I’m on my own path. So are my kids. It’s okay if my comadre’s daughter is reading well beyond grade level and my child is still learning sight words. It’s okay if my younger brother bought a home before I did. And it’s okay if a good friend gets a well-deserved promotion. Their success and talents have nothing to do with my own efforts.

Still, saying “it’s not a competition” – and believing it – hasn’t come easy. In graduate school I struggled with this. I always said my congratulations when a friend achieved an important milestone, but I didn’t feel very congratulatory. At the same time they were ticking off their goals I was struggling with motivation. I was unsure if it was the right path for me. As I saw their announcements it felt like others were finishing the race and leaving me behind.

Then I started running. I came to understand races differently. Of course there was a winner, but most of the people in the race had different goals. We wanted to finish, PR, negative split, avoid injury, take fun race photos, or just enjoy the process.

These days I still struggle with feeling like I’m behind. I talk about it with my therapist and we work on it by focusing on my strengths, accomplishments, and resources. I also remind myself that I have amazing family and friends who will support me when and if I want to work on a goal.

It’s not a competition, but that doesn’t mean I’m not moving forward and meeting my own goals on my own time.


February and March Mini Book Reviews

I’m a few books behind to reach my overall goal of 60 books for 2022. I blame getting slowed down by books that felt like a chore to read. I’m hoping to get out of a rut in spring.

Seven Days in June by Tia Williams book cover

Seven Days in June by Tia Williams

Wow! Leonor recommended this in her newsletter and she didn’t let me down. Eva and Shane are at the center of this teen lovers reunited romance. As teens they were both misfits, but as adults they are successful literary fiction and fantasy/romance writers. While there are really heavy themes and topics (self-harm, addiction, generational trauma to name a few), Williams handles these with sensitivity, wit and humor. I also liked how she also poked fun at literary genres and divisions in publishing.

The Guest List by Lucy Foley book cover

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

I was hooked on this thriller/mystery from the beginning. I was reminded a bit of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies. Both books start with a dramatic murder at an event, but the victim isn’t clear. The timeline shifts to a few days before and multiple narrators share their perspectives. I liked the kinda supernatural elements (real or imagined) on the remote island, pacing and satisfying ending. I read some of the book, but mostly read via audiobook.

Midnight in Mexico by Alfredo Corchado book cover

Midnight in Mexico: A Reporter’s Journey Through a Country’s Descent Into Darkness by Alfredo Corchado

This book reminded me why I gravitate toward narrative non-fiction. Midnight in Mexico is part memoir, part history of the drug war in Mexico. Although he is a reporter, he becomes a character in his own story when a US investigator tells him there’s a contract on a US journalist and Corchado is on the short list of possible journalists. That wasn’t even the first time his life was threatened. Recommend this if you want to learn more about recent Mexican history and enjoy memoirs mixed with narrative non-fiction.

Book cover for L.A. Weather by Maria Amparo Escandon

L.A. Weather by María Amparo Escandón

I saw a description of this book as “fun and fast-paced.” Um, no. I was stressed from the very beginning when Escandón matter-of-factly describes how two three-year-olds fall into a backyard pool while under the care of their grandmother. Throughout the book, which is set over a year, we get to know the rest of the wealthy Alvarado family, Oscar, Keila, and their three daughters who are professionally successful and in seemingly stable relationships. The pacing is a bit slow and overall the book left me feeling stressed and uneasy. That said, reading this made me want to go back to and re-read Escandón’s previous novels which I liked at the time: Esperanza’s Box of Saints and Gonzalez & Daughter Trucking Co.

Loving Pedro Infante by Denise Chavez book cover

Loving Pedro Infante by Denise Chávez

It took me a while to read this and found myself getting bored and forgetting plot points. Ultimately, I found it okay. Tere is a single woman who lives with her mom in a town near El Paso. Her social life revolves around a Pedro Infante fan club, her best friend, and an ill-advised relationship with a married man. She’s messy and she knows it. I may have liked this more if I knew Mexican Cine de Oro better or was a Pedro Infante fan myself. Tere frequently recounts major plot points and analysis from Infante’s films and those sections were distracting without really advancing the story.

Song of the Shang by Jeffery Renard Allen book cover

Song of the Shank by Jeffery Renard Allen

When I first heard about this novel several years ago, I was intrigued. Allen tells the story of Thomas Green Wiggins, an enslaved man born in the nineteenth-century with prodigious musical skills. Once I started the nearly 600-page novel, I found it difficult to follow and the pace frustratingly slow. Allen writes from multiple perspectives from Tom’s parents to guardians and those profiting off his skills in a fictionalized US (which was weird, because Tom actually lived). If I had not listened to the audiobook, I probably would have abandoned the book. 


Reflecting On Reflections

A few weeks ago I rushed out on the way to work. I was running late and didn’t have time for makeup. At the time my workplace still required masks around others unless I was in my office. No one would see my face, I figured. The KN94 mask would cover the dark circles under my eyes from staying up too late to watch TV. I didn’t factor in Zoom meetings where I’d have my camera on. It was like sitting in front of a mirror for an hour.

I also didn’t account for Facebook memories which highlighted a photo from December 2011. In the photo I sat beside Sean at a friend’s birthday party. The golden hour light lit up our smiles. I wasn’t wearing any makeup, but I liked the way I looked.

It was such a stark contrast to how I looked and felt on that Monday.


I didn’t wear makeup on a daily basis until a few years after moving to Ithaca, an area that has as many cloudy days as Seattle. I don’t know if it was lack of sun, lack of sleep as a mother of two small children, or just age, but I started to feel like just moisturizer with SPF wasn’t enough. I began using the products my sister hooked me up with a few months after we moved. Since I couldn’t rely on her to do my makeup for special events, she gave me what I needed and added in a lesson. I got into the habit of a simple makeup routine and I liked the way I looked after applying some bronzer, blush and mascara.

A conversation came back to me later that day. In my twenties, I flippantly said I didn’t wear makeup because I didn’t need it. My tía Luisa heard me and kindly pointed out that my comment was rude and could be hurtful. Did I think she needed makeup, she asked? Of course not.

I’m not even sure I need makeup now, but I like it. And that’s enough.