Cultura, Música

Lindas Canciones

I was 7 or 8 when Mary came over and excitedly shared a must-listen new tape, Linda Ronstadt’s Canciones de mi Padre. I’d never heard of Linda Ronstadt and was a little confused by her name. Ronstadt didn’t sound Mexican. I soon came to learn that she was US-born and didn’t speak much Spanish. My parents didn’t care. Linda could sing the hell out of some rancheras and soon they were playing the tape constantly.

The music was as beautiful as the woman on the cover of the tape and I loved it. I already had been introduced to rancheras through José Alfredo Jiménez classics like “Volver, volver”, “El Rey,” and “Caminos de Guanajuato” thanks to my Guanajuato-born father. While Linda Ronstadt was not my introduction to mariachis or rancheras, she was the first woman I’d heard sing backed up by a mariachi. It would be many years until I found out about singers like Lola Beltrán or Chavela Vargas. Until then, Linda was the pinnacle of female rancheras songs in my eyes.


I wasn’t strong enough a singer to emulate her as a kid — or even as an adult — but Danny gave it a shot. He learned to sing “Y ándale”, a song about not caring that your fianceé´s parents will see you as a drunk when you come over to see he. Danny practiced with dad and gave his big performance at tía Nelly’s wedding backed by a full mariachi. His performance was a hit. Ironically, dad quit drinking soon after.

In college, I bought my own copy of Canciones on CD and listened to it countless times. I’ve learned the songs since then and sing along… or try to. Five years ago, I went to a concert at UCLA’s Royce Hall by Linda Ronstadt and Mariachi de Nati Cano on the bill. I was so excited to hear live versions of the songs I grew up listening to with my dad, but came away feeling confused and let down. Linda didn’t sound like the woman on the albums I’d come to love. It didn’t make sense how her voice could have changed so much as she aged.

Mexicanitos al grito de guerra

Now I understand that at the time she was already dealing with the onset of Parkinson’s, a disease her grandmother suffered from as well.

As the Parkinson’s news broke out last month, I realized I couldn’t name any of Ronstadt’s hits in English. All I knew was Canciones which I still sing on the regular. In fact, all I could think about was the songs I loved on the first album and the follow-up, Más Canciones.

I sing Hay Unos Ojos frequently to Xavier. I hold in my arms and sing as we walk around the apartment. He stares up at me with eyes that seem to get brighter and wider. When I got pregnant, I was a little sad that I never took the time to learn how to play the guitar. I wanted to be like my dad who would entertain us for hours with the guitar and a short list of pop and children’s songs. I may not have the guitar (for now), but I do have my voice and a love for singing. Hopefully Xavier will remember the songs I sing for him with the same fondness I think of songs like Cri Cri’s “Los Tres Cochinitos” or the Cascades’ “Listen to the Rhythm of the Falling Rain.”

If I had to list 10 albums that changed my life, Canciones would definitely be on it. I’m grateful Mary introduced my parents to Linda Ronstadt. They played the album and actively sang along. I don’t think dad ever expected that 25 years later I’d follow his example and would sing the same songs to my son.

Boda, Familia

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.


What I expected when I was expecting

“Is it everything you expected?” Isabel asked. I think it was Isabel, but it may have been one of my other former roommates at the mini-reunion lunch to celebrate 15 years of friendship.

I didn’t know how to answer because I couldn’t clearly list my expectations. Sure, I had an idea, but it was pretty vague. I tried my best and said stuff about being tired and not sleeping much. Now after thinking about it for a few days, I have more to add about the first month.

Yes, it is everything I expected and more. It’s been difficult in ways I didn’t expect and rewarding. However, each day it just gets better as Xavier grows, becomes more alert and I feel less inept.

Expectation: We’ll get the hang of breastfeeding pretty quickly. It’s natural, how hard can it be?

Reality: Breastfeeding is freaking hard, painful (at least for me) and time consuming.

I knew that breastfeeding was a skill that must be learned by mother and child, but I naively expected that it would come easy for us. It didn’t. I blame myself. I should have done more to prepare and been more realistic about the challenges.

I did prepare. Before delivery, I met with a lactation consultant and attended the breastfeeding with success class. After Xavier was born, I saw three separate lactation consultants 4 times, but only 2 had a chance to see me nurse. I think the biggest mistake I made was checking out before seeing the on-duty LC. I saw another LC in clinic on day 5 and 8. By day 8, I’d already cried in frustration and pain a few times and really needed her assistance.

It’s getting better. Xavier is latching on better (no pain!) as he grows and we try different positions. I know he is getting enough by his wet/dirty diaper count and growth. He may still be small, but the newborn clothes that looked huge on him initially are more fitted. And there are a lot of moments while I’m feeding him and just staring at his little face and cheeks feeling all warm and fuzzy.

I also didn’t expect breastfeeding to be a topic of conversation. I don’t mind the comments, mainly because they’re positive and pro-breastfeeding. It is weird to answer questions from neighbors about how it’s going, if my milk came in or if I have enough.

[We weighed him recently and his weight gain is right on track. That makes me feel so much better about breastfeeding.]

Expectation: I won’t get much sleep at night, but I’ll sleep when the baby sleeps to make up for it.

Reality: I sleep in short 2-3 hour stretches at night, but not much when he naps during the day.

Initially, the sleep deprivation didn’t feel that bad since it was pretty new and he was sleeping a lot. I feel more tired now as Xavier sleeps less during the day and the tiredness from the past few weeks sort of accumulates. He sleeps for intervals of about 3 hours between 9/10 pm and 9/10 am and 2 hours during the day. The night feedings have been getting easier to deal with if I keep him in bed with us rather than swaddled in the Pack n’ Play napper. Swaddling works best when Sean does it at night, during the day he breaks out of it. I don’t sleep much during the day since his naps are shorter then, he wants to be held and will wake if I put him down about 60% of the time, and I’m not a daytime napper in general. Plus, sometimes I’d rather shower, eat, or pump during his naps.

Expectation: The first few months are like the third trimester and babies need to be held a lot.

Reality: Xavier wants to be held all the time, even when sleeping.

I don’t have a problem with this since I’ve been waiting months to hold my son. However, there are times when I would like to take a shower or use the bathroom without worrying that he’ll wake up as soon as I place him in the napper. If Sean is home or we have visitors, I’ll feed Xavier and then get a little break to nap or do something else while someone else holds him during his nap.

Expectation: Going anywhere with a baby will be a production. You can’t just spontaneously pick up and go out.

Reality: I’m a little anxious about going out with him and have become a bit of a homebody.

In the first week home, I only went out for appointments with the doctor and lactation consultant. After a week of this and feeling like I was getting cabin fever, we finally got out for a short walk. After Sean returned to work, I’d take him out in the stroller to meet him on his walk home from the train station. I haven’t been out with him alone and still am working through the whole nursing in public issues.

Expectation: I’m going to need a lot of help from Sean and my family.

Reality: I needed the help and got it. Sean and my family have been the perfect support for this new mama.

I really haven’t done anything except care for Xavier in the first month. Everything else including cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, laundry has been taken care of by Sean, my mom or my sister. My mom comes over to bond with her chulo, but will also start cleaning around the apartment as soon as Xavier shows signs that he’s hungry. She and Lori have cooked several meals and done grocery shopping. My brother sends over food from the restaurant where he works. Even my neighbor, Maria, has helped out with meals by making me oatmeal or soup. [Sidenote: I’ve been living in the same place for 13 years. Maria and her husband have been my upstairs neighbors the entire time. We’ve always had a cordial relationship, but hadn’t interacted much until recently so it’s been a pleasant surprise that she’s been so helpful.]

Expectation: Sean will be a wonderful father and partner in adventures in parenting.

Reality: Xavi and I couldn’t ask for better.

Sean does everything I do with Xavi except nurse. He returned to work after the first 10 days at home, but he gets home pretty much at the time of day I need help the most. Not only is he great with his son, he’s also done everything possible to ease my recovery and encourage me as I struggled with breastfeeding.

He’s also responsible for all the great pictures.

Expectation: My physical recovery would take a few weeks.

Reality: My recovery has gone well. I feel back to normal physically and any lingering pain/soreness has gone away.

I hope to be cleared after my 6-week check-up to begin running [slowly] again. For now, short walks with the stroller are about all the exercise I’m getting. I hope to get a wrap so I can wear him out.

Expectation: There would be a lot of diapers and some blowouts.

Reality: There have been a lot of diapers and a couple of messes.

We’ve both been peed on and have discovered that some diapers don’t work for us (ew, leaks) and babies can be really forceful with bowel movements.

Expectation: I’d fall in love instantly with Xavier and would be awed. It’ll make the challenges worth it.

Reality: I’m totally in love. I stare at him all the time and study his cute features, tiny hands, feet, etc. And yeah, there are tough moments, but they pass as soon as I see his eyes light, his lips part in to a grin, and he snuggles up next to me content and satisfied after eating.

I love the faces he makes when I talk or sing to him or after he’s just finished eating. He really likes the singing and looks at me in wonder. I love seeing Sean cuddle and rock Xavi to sleep. He’s still small, but growing steadily. At the two-week check-up he had gained back what he lost in the first few days and surpassed his birth weight. He still looks goofy in some of his newborn clothes. I do get a little frustrated after a long day when it’s just us two and I need a nap or he’s in the middle of a cluster feed. But then Sean gets home or Xavi goes down for a nap or I finally get a chance to shower/eat/sleep and everything is better. I even look forward to doing it again the next day and seeing what’s new with Xavier.

Amigos, Bebe, Mememe


My birthday was pretty awesome.

Xavier was the first person to wake me up and wish me a happy birthday at 1 am. He gave me cuddles after his midnight snack. He did it again a few hours later, but didn’t sing “Las Mañanitas.” He left that up to Lori.

Pancakes at S&W

Sean and I went out for a first breakfast of pancakes at S & W Country Diner. Even at 8 am, the place was already busy. Xavi slept through the noise.

We relaxed at home for a little while before getting ready for a reunion lunch with college friends/former roommates. I met these women 15 years ago as freshmen and quickly became friends.

There have been many long MEChA meetings, late nights staying up writing papers, parties, happy hours, weddings, a few babies, and sadly some tears.

They treated me to lunch for my birthday and oohed over Xavi. I know babies are an attention getter, but didn’t expect so much attention from strangers.

Chilaquiles & black beans

I had my favorite Mexican/savory breakfast dish for lunch, chilaquiles.

I bumped in to my friend Diana and met her boyfriend as they were finishing up brunch at Homegirl Café. It was quite a nice surprise since she was only in LA for the long weekend.

I got birthday greetings from many friends and family members.

And then I relaxed at home with my favorite guys and tried to stay cool.