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  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 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!

Saturday, October 1, 2011


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:

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

Back Seat Bieber

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!