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...