Friday, December 30, 2011

Ocuppied With Children

I have been completely amazed and inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement and the Occupy Protests that have gone down in solidarity in other cities and countries.  The fact that people in this country are finally fed up with the ridiculously unequal distribution of wealth and resources and are realizing that if we are united the power can truly be with the people, is something I was almost convinced I would not get to witness in my lifetime.  I am humbled by those folks who have given up the comforts of their daily lives because they are so passionate about the need for change in our country.
Being socially responsible and standing up for justice and equality for all people are virtues that were installed in me by my own parents and are definitely some of the most important qualities I hope to pass on to my own girls.  The Occupy protests have stirred up intense emotions and internal conflict for me as I am torn between my desire to be an active participant in this movement and my responsibilities to my family.
How can I join in the protests when I have to pick up the girls from school?  How can I march in the streets when I have to take them to dance class, trumpet lessons and band practice?  As vital as these daily actions are, lately I have had to fight back feelings of guilt for conducting business as usual during these intense and volatile times.  But I have to ask myself if leaving my kids to join the protests is truly going to make the world a better place?  On one hand I want to set a good example for them, I want them to see their mama taking a stand against injustice so that they will grow up believing that they should always do something when there is a wrong being committed.  But on the other hand, I want to provide my girls with opportunities, support, caring and attention each day of their lives so that they grow up feeling safe, secure and loved.  Will more positive change come to the world from me joining the protesters to help intensify the strength of the 99% or from raising 3 confident, educated, happy girls?
I remember reading the biography of Ernesto "Che' Guevara, and learning that he left his kids when they were very young to continue to fight for revolutions in other countries.  He felt so strongly about changing the world that he was willing to give up being a father and raising his children (which seems to be a choice the majority of history's successful revolutionaries have had to make).  Did the impact he had on changing international laws, policies & social structures actually provide more for his children than anything he could have given them by staying at home with them?  Is it the seemingly small daily actions that truly have more profound impact than the large scale ones?  Can being there to tuck your kids into bed every night be a revolutionary act?  Is it even possible for someone to be both a parent and a revolutionary or does one have to give up one for the other?
Deep down I do believe that being present everyday of my kids' lives will have a profound impact on their healthy development but even if we are "Super Parents" our girls will never be able to lead truly successful and joyful lives if there continues to be such immense injustices and inequalities outside of our front door.  How bad does it have to get for other people's children before I am willing to sacrifice my relationship with my own children?  Maybe the key to ending all of this disparity and conflict is for the world to learn to love and care for everybody elses' children as deeply and unconditionally as we feel for our own.
At least then I would know someone was tucking my girls into bed while I was out Occupying...


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Daycare Blues: The Most Horrible Day of Rio's Life

Tomorrow at around 9:30am, my heart will be broken.  I am taking Rio to spend the morning at her new daycare where, starting in January when I return to working full time, she will be spending all day Monday-Friday.  The first day of daycare drop-off is a special kind of torture of an especially brutal kind.  I have gone through this exact scenario twice before but contrary to popular belief: IT DOES NOT GET ANY EASIER!  In fact, this time feels the worst of all...
Maybe it's because I know exactly what's coming to me.  There is no doubt in my mind that she will cry hysterically when I try to walk out of the room and I will physically have to unattach her from my body.  She has spent everyday of her entire life with me and she loves her Mama something fierce.  The first couple of months of her life she didn't even like being with her own Papa and it is only recently that she will calmly go to and stay with her Grandmas who live upstairs.  Now I am going to leave her alone with a complete stranger in a brand new place.  She is going to be miserable.
I am fully aware of what a blessing I received to be able to stay home with her for an entire year, which is the longest I stayed with any of the girls.  Maybe being with Rio for so long is why this round of daycare drop-off feels like the most painful ever.  We have had a blast.  I have deeply loved every minute of getting to play with her, cuddle her and care for her and honestly I am going to miss her even more than she will miss me.
It's only for 3 hours and she won't be able to remember it when she is older, but tomorrow will be one of the most monumental experiences of her life.  It is the moment when I send her out into the big, bad, beautiful world.  It will be her first bond and relationship that she forms with a person completely on her own.  She will learn all kinds of social norms and lessons and start to develop solid pieces of her identity.  I know in my hearts of hearts that me going to back to work and Rio going to daycare is truly what is best for her, for myself and for our entire family.  At 1 year old, her attachment to me is heartwarming and adorable but later in her life, that same attachment can very easily turn annoying and impeding.  Even though turning my back and walking away from the love of my life when she is in extreme distress goes against every fiber of my being, I know that having to do hard and painful things for the sake of my family is what earns me the coveted title of "Mama".  Hey, both Justice and Chuli flipped out on me the first day (or week, or month!) I left them at daycare, and now I am lucky if I can get a hurried good-bye from them as they leave me in the dust when they run into school.
Tomorrow morning will be rough.  I won't be able to cry and scream hysterically and I won't have someone to hold me and try everything they can to make me feel better but I can guarantee I will shed some serious tears and spend some time feeling like the most horrible Mama on the planet.  I can only hope that the incredible amount of work I am able to accomplish when I have no little ones demanding my attention will help cushion the blow a little.  That, and that these 3 hours past by quicker that any 3 hours in the history of time!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My Girls Got Kicks

Anyone who knows me, knows about my hard core sneaker addiction.  As far back as I can remember I was always concerned about keeping my feet looking flossy; from my first pair of British Knights High Tops in 3rd grade to my custom made Dunks I rocked for our wedding. 


Like the good addict that I am, I have successfully passed down my sneaker dependency on to my children.  I am now responsible for keeping 4 pairs of feet fitted in the freshest kicks; a task that is both time consuming and expensive considering 3 pairs of those feet change size almost every month!  

Chuli's newest pair: Adidas Toy Story Edition
Rio rocked her first pair f kicks before she could walk 

 While becoming a Mama of 3 has definitely forced me to downsize my own sneaker collection, seeing my girls strutting in a dope pair of kicks and getting super pumped about opening a new shoe box, makes every pair I have had to leave on the shoe store shelf completely worth it.  For me raising 3 little female sneaker-heads is about much more than just looking cute (although they definitely have the cute factor covered).  There is a sense of empowerment that comes from being a female sneaker head.  Our kicks get noticed and appreciated by men & women alike and let's the world know that my girls are always ready to run, play and get dirty (but not too dirty that they mess up the kicks!).  The right of pair of fresh kicks is the perfect symbol for my fabulously fierce tough little cookies!

A few years ago, I met an amazing lady named Lori Lobenstein who is the founder or femalesneakerfiend.com.  Justice, Chuli and I were invited to participate in a photo shoot for Lori's book Girls Got Kicks, "the first ever photo documentary of badass females, told from a unique angle: their passion for sneakers".   

This Thursday October 20, is the San Francisco book release party for Girls Got Kicks.  If you are in the Bay Area, put on your freshest pair of sneakers and come down to check out the book and find out what being a Female Sneaker Fiend is all about.  Me and my girls will be there...now I just have to go through the shoe racks to figure out which pairs we will be rocking!


To find out more about the Girls Got Kicks book and San Francisco Book Release Party check out:

And check out Lori Lobenstein's post about Mama Sneaker Fiends featuring Justice, Chuli & I on:

Monday, October 10, 2011

Rio Walks It Out

I knew this day was coming.  She's been standing up all on her own and cruising around on furniture so, it was apparent that pretty soon my little baby would be fully upright and walking around.  I was sure we had at least another month before the walking began but in true Rio style she amazed us all last night by suddenly walking half way across the room.  It was pretty much the cutest thing I have ever seen to watch her chunky, over-achieving thighs waddle across the floor.  And even though it ended in a face plant, it was glorious!  She even had the consideration to wait to do it when Mama & Papa where both in the room and we had the Flip Cam within reach.  Such manners!
It is a momentous occasion and I have decided instead of getting all emo about how quickly my little baby is growing up, to use this event as a chance to stop and reflect on all the amazing things Rio has in store for her.  Now that she has mastered the art of staying balanced & strong on her two little legs she will be ready to:

RUN!  Run towards adventure and excitement and opportunities.  Run around the bases after her first Homerun.  Run full of joy with her big sisters by your side.  Run away from negativity and hate, from things that oppress and try to tear her down and from things that are just too scary.

DANCE!  She will bring us all many smiles and lots of laughter as she discovers the joy of rhythm and invents her own style of groovin'.  I can't wait for the first time she dances down 24th & Mission streets with Loco Bloco in Carnaval!  When she finally makes the move out of her stroller and shakes her little booty in her sparkly costume.  And the first time she takes the stage to perform and blow us all away as Justice and Chuli have done.  I promise to be there in the front row, cheering loudly for every releve, leap, spin, chasse and hip roll.

TRAVEL! Even though the girl already has some stamps on her passport, she can now take her own steps to discover the world.  She will not let borders contain her.  She will climb pyramids, stick her toes in all of the world's oceans, climb trees in the rain forests and leave her foot prints on every kind of soil our planet has to offer.

and last but definitely not least...we get to start her sneaker collection!  From her first pair of Js to collecting a pair of kicks in every color of the rainbow we will definitely have a blast keeping your walking-feet flossy.  

Of course there will be the times when she trips, falls down, walks down the wrong street and when her feet will be achy and tired.  During those moments Mama, Papa and big sisters will be there to pick her up and hold her hand when she needs a little support.

So Baby Girl, just keep on putting one foot in front of the other, we all can't wait to see the magic and power those cute pudgy toes contain!

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Saturday, October 1, 2011

Rio-Lize!!!

Baby Rio is pretty much my favorite human being and here are just a few reasons why:

She does this:


And she can do this on command:




And her newest trick is doing the "Dos Manitos" song:
video

Stay tuned for more reasons why Rio is the biggest Love-Bug ever!

Back Seat Bieber

video

For those who missed this one:

As you probably know by now Chuli, my 5 year old, has a full blown case of Bieber Fever.  Combine that with the fact that she has been a Performer (with a capital P!) since she came into this world and you end up with this...pretty much the most awesome thing I have ever witnessed.
What do you think, is she the next YouTube sensation?

My Rock Star Ballerina


You wouldn't know it from looking at her, or even spending some time with her, but my daughter Justice has a hidden talent.  A secret identity if you will.  By day she is a rough and tumble, self-identified "tomboy", who wouldn't touch a frilly princess with a 10 foot pool and who thinks "pink" is a cuss word.  But, at night (or really at 4pm) she transforms into a...wait for it...BALLERINA!  Complete with tights, leotard and even a bun.
Well, technically it's 1/2 a bun, since the whole left side of her head is shaved off...

And believe it or not, she is pretty amazing.  She took her first ballet class because  she was basically forced to.  I will admit, it was completely my decision for her to enroll in Ballet 1 at ODC when she was 6 years old but back then it was pretty easy to convince her to do things. 
She really didn't enjoy it her first semester.  "It's boring" was a phrase heard many times and yes, when a beginning level Ballet class is sandwiched between Capoeira class and Afro-Brazilian drumming class, it is easy to see why she felt that way.  It moved slow, they spent hours pointing their toes, standing up straight and bending their knees.  She wasn't very inspired at all.  Then I got a job working at ODC and the girls' dance classes became completely free and there was no escaping the Ballet monster.  I stayed firm with her about staying in Ballet because of my own lack of dance technique.  Dance is a very important part of my life but not something I could ever do on a real professional level because I never took any technique classes.  I refused to stay in (or at times even try) any activities my mamas wanted me to do,  and let's just say that unlike Justice, I was not so easy to convince to do things...Anyways, in my old age I can now look back and regret all of the things I didn't allow myself to do and since I can't turn back the clock for me, I try to make sure my kids don't repeat those mistakes.
And in this case, I kinda feel like making Justice stick with it during that first year of "torture" was the right thing to do (dare I say it?!).  Once she got into Ballet 2, which even included an additional day each week of class, she started to enjoy it more.  It moved a little faster, she was making friends at the studio but, most importantly, it started to become very clear that she was pretty darn good at this whole Ballet thing.  The clean lines and flexibility came natural to her and with her long, lean legs she definitely looked the part of a full-fledged Ballerina.  She was so good that she even scored herself a coveted part in the Children's Chorus of ODC/Dance's Velveteen Rabbit production.  People definitely started noticing her and the truth is, no matter how old you are, it feels pretty awesome when people tell you that you are good at something.  She definitely deserved the praise she would get.  For the end of the year showcase for her Ballet 2 year (see video below), I was expecting your average 3 minute performance of which I had sat through many times before, but she stepped on that stage with a presence and elegance that I had never seen in her before.  She was so graceful and beautiful and seeing her dressed in all white with hair pulled back tightly was the first time I viewed my little girl as a young woman.  It was intense to say the least and turned me into a blubbering fool.  She was cast in very special roles for 3 consecutive years in the Velveteen Rabbit and advanced pretty quickly up the Ballet levels.  Last year, at 9-10 years old, Justice was in ODC's Ballet 3 class which meant she had class 3 times a week for a total of 5 hours a week.  She was loving Ballet more than ever and she had really started to embrace her "ballerinaness".  I would watch her running around at the playground or even playing video games and even in those "sloppy" situations she kept such a strong, elegant posture about her and it always brought a smile to my face especially when she wearing some dirty old sneakers and ripped up jeans.  But all of this wasn't without a price.  In 3rd grade she had to stop going to Salsa Band practice because it conflicted with her Ballet class schedule and in 4th grade she had to quit the soccer team she had been playing on since once again another day of Ballet had been added to her weekly schedule.  They were tough decisions for a young kid to make but there just weren't enough days in the week to do it all.
Finally, this summer, when it came time to start the tedious process of creating the girls' afterschool schedule of classes (which is an entire blog post in itself...coming soon!) it became apparent that it was either Ballet or nothing.  If she returned to her regular Ballet Class she would be going Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  That left no time to continue her Capoeira, no time to try new styles of dance she was interested in (Modern & Tap), no time for baseball and no time for drumming or trumpet lessons.  It suddenly became clear to me that Justice was going to only be a ballerina!  This is a SF girl, a raised in The Mission girl, who can throw a fast ball that will leave your hands red, do all kinds of crazy back flips and roll a sick Samba beat for hours.  The thought that she wouldn't be able to explore all of these other talents freaked me out.  
We deliberated for hours, days and weeks about which classes to take this year.  We tried to piece together all sorts of possible schedules, considered all the logistics, thought about what activities would help her get into the good high schools, the good colleges and even the good careers (yes, I am fully aware how bonkers it sounds that we are talking about a 10 year old here) but we finally decided that even though ODC offered us a generous scholarship, Justice would not take Ballet this year.  She instead would take 2 days modern rep classes as a part of Dance Mission's Jr. Grrrl Brigade, take 1 day of Ballet also at Dance Mission (a much different Ballet than what she is used to at ODC), go back to the youth Salsa Band she has played with (the amazing Los Chile Verdes), continue her Capoeira training (now in the "teen" level class) and take private trumpet lessons.  Whoo-Whee, I get tired even typing it all!  

I want to stop right here for a second to acknowledge that I am fully aware that this a problem of privilege and that I am grateful and appreciative that my daughters and I are even in the position to have to make these decisions.  All children deserve to have too many things that they love and are good at doing.

The decision was anything but easy to make and was only made harder when the Ballet Director of ODC herself sent us an email expressing her sadness that Justice wouldn't be dancing there and telling us that they all felt that Justice was the most talented dancer in her age group and had the potential to go very far in her career as a dancer.  Talk about adding fuel to the fire!  Even though we are a month into these classes, and Justice is loving every minute of everything, I still ask myself every day if we made a major mistake taking her out of Ballet.  Is Ballet what she was put on this planet to do and is taking her out at this pivotal year going to destroy her chances of becoming a Prima Ballerina?  Right now Justice is just saying that she is just taking a "break" from Ballet and plans to return to her full Ballet regiment at ODC next school year, but seeing how much she is excelling and enjoying these other activities, I don't know how true that statement will be come time to register for classes.
I worry about Justice entering these pre-teen years because I am all to aware of what happens to girls and their confidence and self-image at this age.  I believe that being involved in an art or sport at an intense level is essential to her navigation of these tough times and her ability to come out healthy and successful on the other side.  I want her to be so good at something that it opens doors, provides opportunities and allows her to go and experience places and things I have only dreamed of.  Really I could care less what that "something" is as long as it is "something" she loves enough to stick with.  Ballet was providing her with those kind of amazing opportunities and self-confidence, and I am scared that I just took that away from her.  On the other hand, maybe it is going to be the Trumpet or Capoeira or Modern Dance that really provides all this for her.  At only 10 years old, she seemingly has all the time in the world to try out all kinds of things as she works on forming her sense of identity but every time I look at her, in all her 10 year old glory, beauty and all around amazingness, I think of the day she was born and how recently it was when she was a little lump snuggled in my arms who couldn't even walk, time sure does seem to be moving at light speed...
I am probably WAY over-thinking this thing and might be bordering on obsessiveness (at least I'm not as crazy as those wakadoos on Dance Moms!) but this is my first born daughter and I am already so proud of and humbled by who she is that with all my heart all I want is to do right by her.  
I will forever be grateful for the amazing teachers and curriculum of ODC's Ballet program for what they have provided her with and whatever path Justice ends up taking she will be FIERCE.   Even though this tough talking, rough neck girl who beats all the boys in her class at Tether Ball would probably deny if asked about it, I know she truly loves being a Ballerina.  One day on our way home from the theater after a Velveteen Rabbit dress rehearsal (she would die if she knew I was telling you this), she leaned over to me and whispered in my ear "Mama, I really do like dancing because when I see myself I feel beautiful".  As long as she continues to do things that makes her feel beautiful, we should all be okay...
Maybe she will invent a new ballet-capoeira-modern-baseball-trumpet-drumming fusion style and blow us all away! 
God, I love being this child's Mama!

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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Pencils, Paper & Pepper Spray

Yesterday when I picked Justice & Chuli up from school, we walked passed the uniformed Police Officer who is assigned to their school. I have been seeing him around campus in the afternoons and Chuli came home with those SFPD stickers the cops always give out to little kids so I have had the suspicion that Officer Brooks (whose name I learned when Justice high-fived & called him by name as we were leaving) is a permanent fixture at the girl's school. I know that the SFUSD has full fledged SFPD officers assigned to and present in schools (including some of those I attended), but I have only witnessed them inside of high schools and wasn't fully prepared for my own kids to experience this phenomenon as a Kindergartner and 5th grader. Now that their school (Buena Vista) has merged with Horace Mann Middle School to form a K-8 school, there are definitely older kids around and I guess that means tougher security is necessary (???). Now, just to be clear, this is an actual uniformed SFPD Police Officer with a gun, a badge, a baton and some pepper spray, not just a school security guard who are armed only with a walkie-talkie and their street-smarts. The police department calls them SROs (school resource officers) and this is how they are described on the SFPD website:
School Resource Officers of the SFPD are dedicated to working with the SFUSD to ensure a safer learning environment, provide valuable resources to school staff, teachers and youth to prevent and solve problems within the school and community and foster positive relationships between youth and police officers. 
SRO's are community police officers within specific schools who work to build trusting relationships with youth, school staff and the community to create safer schools.
 SRO Benefits include: Improved relationships with youth, parents, staff and community, Safer schools, Better collaboration and communication among law enforcement, students and staff, Positive access to youth in the role of a mentor, Enhanced learning environment, using law related educational curriculum
They go on to state that: "SROs have a profound impact on youth and their schools" because they: Provide home visits, Provide truancy prevention & intervention, Provide classroom safety education presentation, Provide support to students, Provide substance abuse and violence prevention education, Provide school site security survey, Refer students and families to community resources, Conduct professional development presentations for faculty and staff, Counsel students and facilitate conflict mediation, Participate in Student Assistance Program (SAP) meetings, Support counseling staff, Attend field trips
And they even provide this nifty little image to show how nice it is to have police around our kids:
Now, this all sounds nice & sweet and I'm all for having police officers take a pro-active involvement in their communities BUT I can't get pass the fact that there is a man with a gun and pepper spray walking around my daughters' school!!! 
Maybe I am being naive, but what danger is threatening my daughters as they sit in their brightly decorated classrooms learning el alphabeto and square roots? I know that our public school system is down and out but has it really gotten this bad? I don't even understand if his gun & pepper spray is supposed to keep the students protected from the neighborhood or the neighborhood protected from the students??? 
I realize that the reality of Officer Brooks' day does not consist of pulling out his weapon and handcuffing 3rd graders in the hallways and that he mostly spends his time shooing cars out of the school bus loading zone and making sure the 8th graders aren't trying to cut class, but his mere presence, dressed in that blue uniform with his holster around his waist, sends a very powerful message. I can't even imagine how Chuli's 5 year old little brain processes the site of him in her school. She knows enough to know that guns are used to shoot people and that police arrest people and send them to jail so, does she interpret his presence as meaning that there are people at her school that might need to be shot or go to jail? Is she now going to feel like her school is a dangerous place and if so, how can she feel comfortable learning, trying new things and especially making mistakes in such an environment?  I guess having an Officer patrolling my kids' school is supposed to make me feel safer but I think it is beginning to have the exact opposite effect.
I'm pretty sure that I am not ignorant to the dangers in our city and in our neighborhood and I know that my kids will probably experience a few of their own hard knocks as they grow up here but I cannot yet resign myself to believing that my kids need armored protection to be able to receive their education.  Police are a vital part of our society but not our schools.  If I am truly wrong about that then we are all in a much hotter mess than I can pretend to know what to do with...

Monday, August 29, 2011

Mama's Night Out

I am a FIRM believer that a happy Mama makes happy kids.  There is no way I can be responsible for & nice to my kids when I'm stressed or grumpy due to lack of food, sleep or most importantly "Mama Time".  On most days, at most hours if you asked me what I want to be doing, I could truthfully answer that I want to be with my girls.  I love being a Mama and taking care of the family and doing things that make the girls happy.  As cheesy at it may sound, I enjoy hanging out at the park, being at disneyland, taking my girls to their various afterschool classes and yes (gasp!) even being forced to watch Justin Bieber's Never Say Never for the 25th time.  My family is honestly fun to be around and are genuinely my favorite people on earth.  BUT! Mama needs some Mama Time.  Some "nobody screaming or crying or fighting or whining or needing help or guidance or punishment" time.  Being glued to my kids 24/7 does not make me a better Mama, because I can't be a good Mama without being a good person first.
My favorite kind of Mama Time is when I get to go out with my girls.  Not my baby girls but my grown up girl-friends.  I happen to be blessed with some of the most amazing, inspirational, powerful, beautiful and hilarious girl-friends, most of who I have grown up with and known since we were in middle/high school.  With all the weight & responsibilities of being Mama there are times when Mama just needs a smoke, a drink and some serious shit talking!  It's just a little break, usually taken when the girls are asleep and always when they are being cared for by their Papa or Amas (grandma's) and woo-wee they sure do help me keep my mind right!  These nights help me to stay in touch with the parts of my identity that are not connected to my kids (yes there are some left) and remind me that I am an actual person not just a Mama.  It is a time where I can wear the cute clothes & shoes that are too dangerous or inappropriate to wear during my daily Mama duties, eat food I shouldn't be eating, say things I shouldn't be saying and basically enjoy not having little eyes observing, absorbing & learning from my every move.  We can't be perfect all of the time right???

In the spirit of what I like to call getting my "Grown & Sexy" on, the other night I got to go to the John Legend & Sade concert in San Jose with my BFFs Mia and Bernie.  The SADE, yes her, along with The John Legend, my favorite love-songer ever!

Thanks to my amazingly talented BFFs I got to get my nails done (http://superflynails.blogspot.com/)get all dressed up in a new outfit (http://www.yelp.com/biz/dun-up-boutique-san-francisco) and even get my make up done!
As if looking good while hanging out with my 2 favorite girls above the age of 25 wasn't enough, we got amazing seats to see 2 of the most awe-inspiring musicians of my generation sing to us all night.  John Legend was a dream come true.  He rocked out to all his best songs (including our wedding "first dance" song: Slow Dance) and did his job of reminding me why I am so in love with my hubby.

And then came Sade.  Homegirl Put-It-Down!  She came out to that knock-you-on-your-butt beat of Soldier of Love and basically was a "Gangsta of Love" for the rest of the night.  She did her job of reminding me why I am so in love with everything in the entire world.


It was a night for the history books, one that will be talked about and pictures looked when we are old ladies in our wheelchairs.  It was worth every penny (and there were definitely lots of pennies involved in a night like this) and every lost hour of sleep (Mama is hurting today since there in no calling in sick from Justice, Chuli & especially Rio) because it will keep me smiling through the next week or two as I clean, cook, break up fights and try to make a dollar out of 15 cents.  And one day I hope to be able to take Justice, Chuli & Rio to see John Legend & Sade live and have them fully appreciate the power and love of the experience 

It was an amazing time for sure but Justice hit it on the nail the next morning when she said "I'm glad our real mama is back, instead of that fancy lady".  Truthfully Justice, I'm glad she's back too...at least until the next time my sanity needs saving and I put back on my disguise of red lipstick and heels and escape back into the night...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

B-Weezy & The Biebs


Today both Justice & Chuli wore their favorite shirts, which each earned the coveted spot as the "favorite shirt" because of their connection to their respective role-models/heros/favorite person.

For Justice that person is Brian "B-Weezy" Wilson.  Mr. Fear The Beard himself.  The Champion, All-Star closing pitcher for the SF Giants and all around Gangsta.  While watching an episode of The Franchise, Justice spied Mr. Wilson wearing this little number and was on a hunt to find one for herself: She even cut of the sleeves just like Brian Wilson did, although I think his arms might be just a tad bigger than hers..

For Chuli, her heart belongs entirely to Justin Bieber.  Yes, I know its not too original of her, as she is competing with about 10,0000 other little girls for the attention of the Biebs but for reasons all her own (since no one else in this family wants anything to do with him) she is completely head over heels in love.  Being the good little "Beliber" that she is, she of course has seen his movie "Never Say Never", both in the theaters and on her own personal copy of the DVD, too many times to count.  Due to the many (and I do mean many!) times she has watched the movie, when we waked into the store she immediately saw this checkered. collared, button up and remembered the 2.3 seconds where J.B. talks about the fact that his bodyguard "Kenny" (yes she remembers his name) has got him wearing short sleeved, collared, button up shirts.  So of course she had to buy this one: This shirt is now known as the "Justin Bieber Shirt" and is in permanent rotation

So, you can't get much different than Justin Bieber and Brian Wilson and about the only thing these guys have in common is that they inspire the fashion choices of 2 little girls in San Francisco. 
  The appeal of these 2 guys to my daughters is a reflection of my girls' own personalities and I will commit to nurturing those personalities by buying them the shirts that make them feel good because Mama likes that my girls have interests & loves that are uniquely their own.
And it doesn't hurt that they both look so freaking adorable!

Monday, August 15, 2011

First Day of School

Today was the first day of school for the SFUSD.  For our family that means that Justice starts 5th grade, Chuli starts Kinder (yay!) and Papa goes back to work with his high schoolers.  Obviously there are a lot of emotions that arise on a first day of school especially since it is Chuli's very first day ever in "real school".  Now, I have had to do this whole 1st day of kinder once before and have since had loads (5 years) of practice with the first day of school thanks to Justice and the fact that I still have one squishy baby at home with me whose favorite place on earth is still in my arms, so I will admit that it's probably not as emotional for me as it is for first time parents.  But it is still a milestone and definitely a day for reflections.
It is always a little scary for me to witness the transition my girls make from the warm fuzzy, protective, nurturing bubble that is their amazing Pre-School (Buen Dia Family School) to the mean, institutional, spirit crushing CA public school system but, for me the pride I have in my girls helps sqaush all the fear.  Not just the basic pride mama's get when their kids grow up and become more independent but for me there is another special pride for the fact that my girls are diving head first into the CA Public education system and being the Tough Little Cookies they are, they are going to come out better on the other end.
My girls are city kids, to the core, just like their mama and papa were, and there are certain things that whether we like it or not, come with being a city kid and never is that more apparent then in our schools.  My girls are going to have to experience  over-worked, stressed out teachers, old buildings that are at times falling apart, there won't be enough paper and pencils for them, they will get about 1 hour a week of art instruction and maybe some PE (if they are lucky) and they will grow up thinking police inside of schools is a normal thing.  Yes, it sucks and you may be asking why I would ever allow my precious babies to experience such a thing.  My answer to that is 2 part:

1.) I am a product of the SFUSD (minus the one year spent at an all girls catholic school which my mom's thought would help re-introduce me to the wonders of academics) and the bottom line is that I turned out pretty good.  My knowledge of geography and world history might be lacking but I can safely say that I am (as are most of my peers) a positive, intelligent member of society who on some level, makes our world a better place.  I would argue that the not-so-nice parts of going to a public school were what helped me become this positive, productive member of society.  I remember making the decision to become a classroom teacher because of all crappy teachers I had as a student and wanting something better for our own children.  And there is no better way to learn about capitalism, racism, classism, imperialism and colonialism then spending a few years in a public school classroom.  I probably wouldn't care nearly as much about changing the world or being a good person (and raising my girls to be good people who change the world) if I wasn't exposed first hand to all the things that need fixing in this world.  Additionally, being surrounded by teachers, staff, families and students who were working their butts off to make lemon-aid out of half a rotting old lemon was nothing short of immensely inspiring and motivating.  I know that as SFUSD students, my girls will go out into life with their eyes WIDE open about the state of our world and (if I do my job right) a fire in their bellies to do something about it.

2.) The reality is, any conversation about our public schools is filled with complaints, whining and sad stories but although there is much to complain, whine and be sad about in our schools, I believe there is just as much to appreciate, celebrate and smile about.  Shoot, our school's motto is "La Escuela Mas Chevere" so there must be some celebrating going on, right?
What about the fact that I just dropped my 2 daughters off at a school and a building that I attended as a child? And that at that school, there is a security guard who watched over me when I was a knuckle-headed middle schooler, and is now looking over my own babies! Where else but in the SFUSD could you find that? And there are countless examples of that sense of community, from the school secretary who worked with Papa at summer school this year, to the Kindergarten teacher whose daughter dances with us in Carnaval every year, the vice-principal who taught with our Nono (grandpa),  the support staff who I tutored/mentored, the afterschool program run by the same woman who was in charge when I went there, the 5th grade teacher whose son takes capoeira with Chuli, etc, etc, need I go on???  The fact is my girls are going to be taken care of.  There will be eyes watching their every move who have Mama's and Papa's cell phone number on speed dial and can post on my FB wall about their activities.  While the "making sure my kids are not up to no good" factor is great, the benefit of having a real life connection with the teachers, staff & families that are in charge of my girls education, is a much deeper one.  That is a true definition of COMMUNITY.  We all know it takes a village but it is truly a beautiful thing to see it in action.

And how about the amazing diversity of our public schools? Yea, yea I am fully aware about the state of diversity in San Francisco but compared to most of the world my girl's classrooms are still on the forefront.  My girls will grow up with kids of all different colors, languages, families, $, countries and sexualities.  They will never be able to draw a picture of what a San Franciscan looks like because there is no one image that could represent all of the folks they know.  They will be able to travel the world without fear of things or people being different then they are and they will learn to seek out and celebrate new and unfamiliar things.

Besides all of the big, important life lessons, my girls will also get the simple pleasures that come from being an SFUSD student.  Such as:  they will be damn good kick ball players, they will enjoy many a paleta afterschool, they will have a blast in the back of a laidlaw bus, they will get to WALK to school everyday, they will have classmates that have been at the same school with them from pre-school to college, they will get school holidays to celebrate MLK, Indigenous people and Cesar Chavez (not to mention the extra 4 furlough days, wink wink), they will fall asleep at a boring symphony concert or ballet performance, there will be more afterschool programs for them then they know what to do with, they will dance in the Carnaval parade and lastly they will have earned the street-cred that comes with surviving the SFUSD!

Today is an exciting day for sure.  My babies are growing up and will have new challenges to overcome this year but they will also discover new talents and powers and become even more amazing human beings.
They will be fine, they will be fine, they will be fine....and in the meantime I will just hug Rio a little longer today

Besides the emotional, spiritual, intellectual parts of the first day of school, it is always important for my girls to look good!
 Chuli is rocking her new outfit from H&M kids (my favorite store for kids clothes!!!)

Justice picked out a polka dot skirt (I can hardly believe it, a skirt???) with a super cute black vest over a favorite t-shirt and her silver chucks