Monday, December 9, 2013

Team Teenager

Today my Justice turns 13.  An official teenager, complete with eye rolling and under-her-breath-muttering.  I was 20 years old when we got pregnant with her. A college student not that far off from being a teenager myself.  Completely unaware of how this incredibly scary event would be the most pivotal occurrence of my life.  As a 21 year old mother, your birth was supposed to be a disability to me, but it is in fact because of you that everyday I am fueled to think and do big.  You were our first child, and you set us on our path.  I will always be grateful to you for motivating us to live such a blessed and meaningful life.  It was because of your birth that we all went from being individuals to being a united family.  It was because of the beauty and sweetness that emanated from you the second you were born that a village and community were formed.  This 6 lb. 11 oz little girl, born 2 weeks early with fur on her ears and too much yellow in her skin tone created Mamas, Papas, Sisters, Amas, Nonnos, Litos, Aunties, Uncles and Cousins, all with her first breath.
Despite your Mama and Papa's inexperience, and at times flat out stupidity, in caring for and raising you, you have turned out incredibly.  You survived all of our first-time-parent mistakes and exceeded all of my wildest dreams for the person you would become.  You get undoubtedly cooler with each year of your life.  As you become more responsible and independent, there is no denying what a gift to this world you are.  You are constantly showing me how kind you are and how seriously you take your role in the world.  Always an upstander, I have watched you be an ally and a leader amongst your peers.  Even at such a young age, you are a role model to everyone that meets you.  Whether its watching you walk into the batter's box as the only girl on the field and face a pitcher almost twice your size, getting your 4.0 report card in the mail, seeing you move with such grace and strength in ballet class, watching you bang your drum in the streets to represent and love your neighborhood, or hearing about how you helped organized "Sasha Day" at your school to raise awareness and support for Sasha Fleischman; no one can walk away from you without feeling inspired. 
As you make the transition from childhood to adolescence I see it at the time for you to impact the world the way you have impacted our family.  Now that you are old enough to be independent and out in the world, imagine all the positivity and change you will create as a big-bad 13 year old. 
I figure if you could live through all of our parenting fails and still be as great as you are, then it is time for us to trust you that we will make it out of your adolescence, and all the mistakes and fails that you are bound to make, and be okay on the other side.
I am sure that no matter how many hormones go pulsing through your body during these next 7 years, they can't take away your shine.  Happy Birthday Big Girl, here's to the next 13 years of Justice!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

To Do: Tell Justice She's Awesome

This weekend is probably the most busy, hectic, exciting, jam packed time for our family.  It is Carnaval time in SF and our whole family is involved in producing and performing in one of the largest contingents in the parade. Beyond my family's own involvement in the festivities, it is actually my "real job" as Executive Director of Loco Bloco to make Carnaval happen for about 300 other families. So, this week my to-do lists are as long as humanly possible and are filled with reminders of costumes pieces to buy, adornments to make, bills to pay, staff to coordinate and lots of other not-so-glamorous-behind-the-scenes tasks.  This morning I grabbed my list to review it and prepare for the crazy day ahead of me and I noticed an extra note scribbled on the side:
It was from Justice (12), reminding me to tell her she's awesome and it is the most important task on my long list.  In the middle of the storm of Carnaval I need to remember that my first priority is my family and that there is no costume, chreography or any other Carnaval emergency that needs my attention more than my kids. A simple, logical concept, but one that is not so easily practiced when we have our busy-life blinders on.
Thank you Justice for your wisdom and ability to put me back on track...and yes you are incredibly AWESOME!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Dear Mr. Alcantar

Last year the hubby decided to go to grad school to pursue a masters in education and administration credential with the goal of becoming a principal. This path has always seemed one he was destined to take as he has the experience, the skills and the nature to make a really kick-ass principal, but the timing of his decision and acceptance into the program was challenging, given that we had just had our third daughter 1 year prior and I had just gone back to work full time running a very demanding non-profit organization.  We all know in our hearts that this is a wonderful opportunity for my hubby, our family and our world but the truth is that this year has been one of our hardest yet.  We have tried our best to be supportive of each other in our roles professionally and within the family but we are all overworked, sleep deprived and stretched beyond our maximum capabilities.  All of this stress has made it very hard to play nice with each other and we have definitely not always been able to practice our best selves.  To sum it up, this year has sucked. Majorly.  While I know that this experience has always had a clear end date, the weight of it all has made it hard for me to connect with what is on the other side of this journey or remember "why" this is all worth it.
Until today.
I came home at 6:45pm alone with all 3 kids after a full day of unforgiving work, a baseball practice and a ballet presentation, needing to get the girls fed, bathed, homework done and to sleep in an hour's time, and found a one-page letter laying on the table.  It was a letter from the San Francisco Unified School District to my husband giving him official notice of his assignment to work summer school this year.  He has received a letter just like this for the past 5 years as summer school is a needed hustle for our family to pay the bills, but one thing was different about this letter.  This letter listed his position as "Assistant Principal".
When I read those two simple words, all of the stress, pain, resentment, anger and struggles of this past year came pouring out of my heart. I had to choke back tears as all of this weight left me and for the first time since his grad school began, there was nothing in my heart but pride for him.  One of the hardest parts of this year for me is not having the time or energy to give my husband the strong support I believe he needed and deserved.  With having take on the majority of the responsibility of our 3 kids and house, along with running an organization, I haven't had an ounce left for him.  I wish I could have been his biggest cheerleader through this process and lightened his heavy load as he struggled to stay on top of his school work, his students and his family.  I wish I could have meet him each night with happiness and a smile but the truth is most days I could barely hold myself together.  By the time he arrived home at 10pm I was either dead tired or hysterical trying to figure out how to meet tomorrow's needs.
Letters from the SFUSD have not always brought joy into our household but which ever central office administrator typed up this particular letter may be single-handedly responsible for putting my family back together again. Today it became real to me, that this amazing, loving, hard working man of mine is going to be a school administrator.  There was something about seeing that title typed on that letter in reference to my guy that finally made me realize how immense this is. Something changed for me today as I came face-to-face with the light at the end of the tunnel. The work is far from over.  There are still many days and nights I will be alone, he still has to write many papers and pass his classes and he still has to go out there and get hired by school for next year. But as we continue through these next challenging months I get to remember how proud I felt when I read that letter today. Proud not just him but of Rio, Chuli, Justice and myself for surviving this year and playing a role in creating a school administrator who is going to do some amazing things for our city. While my family has had its share of struggles this year, it is comforting to know that there are students and families out there whose own struggles will be lightened because of the hard work, commitment and love my hubby will bring to his new position.
It feels damn good to finally be able to see the positive of this situation and it is HELLA COOL to say that our Papa Bear is an Assistant Principal!

Friday, February 15, 2013

My Baby's 1st School Dance

As I write this my biggest baby is attending her 1st school dance.  The school hosted a Halloween Dance earlier this year but she was unable to attend because she was too busy riding on a float in the San Francisco Giants World Series Champion parade (good girl!).  But unfortunately for me there was no parade today to keep her from her away from this dance...So, here I sit conflicted - with my mama-bear instincts engaged in a heated battle with my brain.

I got an email last week that the school was looking for parent volunteers to chaperon and I got super excited about the possibility of being able to to witness the behavior of my tweener in her natural habitat, but as I was getting ready to reply to that email, the little angel popped on my shoulder and got all up in my ear about how being at the dance would be detrimental to Justice's ability to develop a strong sense of self and identity.  I ultimately decided against chaperoning because my desire to have her become more independent and confident outweighs my desire to be all up in her business.  Most parents of 12 year olds are scared of their babies growing up and experiencing all of the sex, drugs and rock n' roll that are associated with becoming an adolescent.  While, I'll admit that I shudder at the thought of my little girl twerking it on the dance floor, I think what scares me the most is that she will never get to experience the things that keep parents up at night.  Let's face it, our mistakes and stupid decisions are what make us interesting, and a person whose never gotten into a little trouble is just plain boring.  The ultimate outcome is to raise my children to be healthy, responsible, independent, happy adults and that means having to  give them the space to express their little pre-pubescent urges away from the watchful eyes of their parents. Because, keep it real, if I was at that dance tonight and saw my child or any child in a 10ft radius of my child acting foolish, I would break every rule in the "cool-mama" handbook.
Sometimes being the best mama means Backing-The-F-up.
I sure as heck know that some of my fondest memories of my child/teen-hood took place at my middle school dances and while I probably wouldn't approve of my daughter behaving the way I did  I can also accept that denying her the opportunity to behave the way I did would be the real danger.  Isn't that so evolved of me?  I better enjoy this moment of self-riotousness because I can't guarantee I can maintain it for anything more intense than a middle school dance...

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Holy Smokes, I Am The Mother Of A 12 Year Old!

Today my baby turned 12.  I have been walking around shell-shocked all day and I'm having a hard time connecting the strong, intelligent, beautiful young woman sitting before me today with the tiny, sweet little baby with those big blue eyes and squishy cheeks. 
She was my first baby, the one who made me a Mama, transformed us from individuals into a family and changed our lives forever and somewhere in the last 12 months my girl grew up.  Maybe it was the starting middle school, getting a stylish new haircut or her first cell phone.  Whatever it was, she is ending her 12th year of life as an independent, confident, responsible and caring young woman who is setting this world on fire.  Now that all the parties and celebrations have ended and everyone has gone home, I can reflect on how completely humbled I am to have given birth to such a special being and how immensely proud I am of who she is and what she means to this world.  We love you Justice, thank you for all you are, you make 12 years old look damn good!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Baby Rio Turns 2

At first mention I can't even wrap my mind around the fact that is has been exactly 2 years since my Baby Rio was born at 4:15pm (a true SF baby!) on November 21, 2010.  But then when I start to think about all the memories and milestones she already has under her belt, it is really hard to remember our lives without her.
Her second year has been joyful and inspiring.  She began the year with the most traumatizing experience of her life, having to go to daycare (read all about it here), and was able to overcome the horror and create strong and loving relationships with her caregivers and fellow "students" (not to mention that I now get kisses instead of shrieking, hyperventilating sobs during morning drop off).
The worries and fears I had last year about our family's ability to provide our third baby girl with all the attention and love she deserved while also trying to keep up with the demand of her two older sisters, have faded away as I have watched her develop into a strong, independent being who is overflowing with confidence and will never allow herself to be ignored.  She goes toe-to-toe with her big-bad sisters and they have quickly learned who the real boss of the playroom is.  She has independently discovered things about the world that bring her immense joy and there is nothing better than watching her "read" her favorite books, hug a favorite stuffy and dance with every inch of her body and soul when her favorite jam comes on.  As I look back and reflect on how much she has grown in the last year, it makes me realize that all of the fears and worries I am holding on to today about her will be utterly ridiculous when it comes time to celebrate her 3rd birthday.  By then she will be talking up a storm and have a vocabulary too large for us to handle, she will be able to do every single activity in her gymnastics class and there will be little ones following her around, she will learn patience and forgiveness when things don't go her way and she will be a generous, sharing friend.  One thing's for sure, she will keep all of us laughing as she continues on her way through the world!
She has brought a completion to our family that we didn't realize we even needed, and each and everyday she reminds all of us that this world is good and that we always have many reasons to smile. 
We started calling her our "World Champion Baby" because her birth in 2010 was within weeks of our SF Giants winning their first world series and her 2nd birthday is within weeks of our team securing their 2nd championship in 2 years (we have as many trophies and rings and she has years), but it has now become clear that her "World Championess" goes far beyond baseball.  This girl is destined to spread love and happiness to our world and there won't be a blog big enough to contain all the accomplishments and experiences we know she has ahead of her.
We love you Rio Bella and can't wait for year number 3!
it has become a tradition in our family to make a photo/video for the girls on each of their birthdays, here is Rio's 2nd Birthday video:

Sunday, October 28, 2012

My Ode To The San Francisco Giants: Because It's So Much More Than Baseball

Dear 2012 National League (Soon-To-Be-World) Champion San Francisco Giants:
These are very exciting times to be a San Francisco Giants Fan.  As of this minute, we lead the Detroit Tigers 3-0 in the 2012 World Series and we are showing no signs of slowing down our winningness anytime soon.  It is hard for anyone in the Bay not to get caught up in "Giants-Fever", and for a family like ours who are consumed with all things Giants even when they are losing regular season games, this kind of performance from our boys basically makes the world stop turning.  It has been a long season. All members of my family were present to witness the very first pitch of  your very first 2012 Spring Training Game in Scottsdale, the memory of which seems so far removed from where you are today that it is hard to believe it happened in this same season.  We have celebrated with you during all the good times:  being responsible for the NL win of the All Star game, winning our division, knocking the Dodgers out of the running for the wild card, Cain's perfect game, the Grand Slams and most recently becoming the National League Champs (again!).  We have stuck by you and commiserated during the yucky times: B-Weezy's season ending injury, Melky's steroid scandal, getting swept by the Dodgers, and Lincecum's fall from grace.  We have loved it all, the good and the bad, the wins and the losses and through it all you have made sure to keep it fun and joyous for us.

A good friend of ours recently questioned the amount of time, money and heart we put into the SF Giants and asked what is it exactly that the SF Giants do in return for us.  His "what-have-they-done-for-you-lately" approach got my wheels turning and upon realizing just what it really is the SF Giants have done for my family during the 2012 season, I wanted to make sure that I got a chance to express our gratitude before you go out there tonight and win (or possibly don't win) that last game, because you know what?  It doesn't even matter!  Of course I would love and cherish another World Series trophy finding a home in San Francisco and I have the utmost confidence and belief in your ability to become Champs again but the realizations I have come to about what exactly you have done for us this season have absolutely no dependence on whether or not you win this.

It has never really been about the game of baseball for me.  It is true that I live in house with a husband and 3 daughters who are ball players and I have learned to know and appreciate the game, but my love for the Giants doesn't come from that.  For me it is about the initials embroidered on their hats and the words sewn across their chests.  The SF, the San Francisco; my city.  Whether we like it or not, these guys go out there and represent our city every time they take the field.  Even though the vast majority of them are not Bay Area natives and despite the fact that they have allegiances to other cities, countries or even teams, when they put on that hat and that jersey they are playing for San Francisco.  And that's where my love of this 2012 team comes from, because this team has played the shit out of this season and they have done it all for San Francisco.  Besides the fact that Major League Baseball still operates in the dark ages when it comes to women and gender equality (just had to make sure I put that out there!), I couldn't ask for a better group of players to rep my city. Every time Zito strikes out a heavy hitter or Panda smashes a home run off an all-star pitcher, or they show a close up of B-Weezy's nail polish, stereotypes are defied.  They have broken all the rules about the size, age, appearance, background or record that a ball player has to have to be a World Champion.  And isn't that why we all love SF so much?  Because we break rules all the rules?  There is a undeniable swag that we have in The Bay and this team has embraced it, perfected it and then put it on a national screen for the whole world to see and appreciate.  Although having my city finally being recognized as the best of something is definitely has its perks, that is an external situation, and doesn't provide an answer to my friend's original question of what the SF Giants have ever done for me personally.
The short of it is that the SF Giant's 2012 season has allowed me to defy my own stereotypes and break my own rules.  In recent years, with all of the gentrification, hipsterization and loss of diversity in my city, it has become harder to maintain my normal levels of pride for my hometown.  While I will still rep my city until my last breath, I am not blind to the not-so-nice changes that have plagued my city in the last decade.  I have lost huge parts of my community due to ridiculously increasing cost of living and have had a hard time watching new people come in and commodify experiences, traditions and identities.  It has been a struggle for me to feel connected to and not suspicious of my fellow San Francisco residents.  This week though, has been filled with random high fives, fist pumps and smiles from strangers on the street.  I have felt a shared purpose and joy with everyone wearing their orange and black. It hasn't even mattered to me if they ride a fixie, just moved here, live in the Marina, evicted someone out of the over-priced house they just bought or even (gasp!) just became a Giants fan in 2010!  Right now all that matters is showing our love for those initials on that hat, those words on that jersey and that city we all call home.
So you see Giants, it doesn't matter if you win tonight because this season you have already given us all the memories and experiences we will need to carry on the tradition of repping our city and showing love for everything and everyone in it.  My kids will live their entire lives knowing that they are a part of something bigger than themselves and that all they have to do is throw on their orange and black hat and they will be shown love by other Giants fans anywhere they are in this world.

Gracias Gigantes, now go out there tonight and do this thing for our city!