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Sleepless in San Leandro, the sequel

One night this past fall, I was up for two hours between 2 and 4am. M had told me she had misplaced her Moana TsumTsum.  She did not yet tell me it had been gone for weeks. M, like both of her parents, is a notorious pack rat so she struggles with clutter. I stayed up looking through things, recycling paper, throwing trash out, and adding to our donation bag. I hoped to find it.

I know I could have used that time in a different way. I could have worked; there are always emails to answer, agendas to craft, a newsletter to compose and translate into Spanish.  I could have worked creatively by posting to my blog.  I could have practiced one of my dance routines as there are now occasional gigs with my dance group. While I may know a routine, I can always work on technique and precision. That comes from lots of practice. Given my time management struggles, this does not consistently happen.

While I could have used those two hours differently, I sat and knelt in the dark, going through different drawers and boxes to find the missing toy. In the morning, M said I shouldn’t have wasted my time. When I saw how crestfallen she looked at the thought of not seeing this toy again, I knew she would be happy if it was found. She then told me it had been missing for a long time.  She decided to ask Santa for a new one. During another round of cleaning a month or so later, we found a bag of toys we had stored during the summer.  Moana was there.  We had several good laughs about that late night of cleaning.

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I do a lot for M because I would like her to feel good or better. When M was tiny, we spent hours up at night. We would play. I would chat with her. She didn’t sleep through the night until she was two years old. (Sleepless in San Leandro)I didn’t know what it was like to get several hours of sleep for a few years.  Despite the challenges, it was time well spent.   As a mom, I often question my commitment to dance, writing, and my career because of the time they take from M. Making a difference as an educator and as a writer are important to me. She is the person I want to make the most difference for in this life. M is my reason.

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A parent’s lament

I hate feeling and acting like a terrible parent. Yelling.   Making statements like “I’m not letting you go to the birthday party if you don’t do x, y, and z.” Being angry with my child. This Lent I challenged myself to work on my patience. I feel like I’ve failed. I have had great moments.  There are other times I feel I don’t communicate with M anymore.  I feel like a failure.

I’m grateful for my parents. But they made mistakes. It wasn’t easy for them. It’s not easy for me. I compare myself to other parents and think that they are doing it right.

Parents are responsible for so much. With each year that passes, it’s not easier. When they’re babies, they depend on you for everything. As toddlers, they fight for independence and often fight you about everything. But at the end of the day, toddlers love you. I know M loves me but I don’t know if she always understands me. With each passing year, communication becomes more challenging. The irony is that I’ve spent over 20 years working with teenagers yet I feel at a loss with my own child. I worry that I’m hurting her, letting her down, setting her up for future failure. I want so much for her to have a great life. I know it can’t be perfection but I hold myself to those high expectations.  On the other hand, I hear parents say “I was too nice. I did too much.”  So I’m often unsure of how to parent.

I don’t want M going to school sad, worried, upset, or confused. I don’t want her sitting there trying to concentrate on schoolwork while worrying that our relationship is at stake.   I’ve prayed for patience. I pray for her forgiveness. I want M to forgive my faults, my inability to take a deep breath and shut up. I want my silence to speak.  I wish there were a mother-child retreat when we could pray the Liturgy of the Hours and do Adoration together and pray for each other.

Earlier this week, I reflected on Holy Week being made holy by love(Love as key to holiness.) If only M could see how much I love her. If only I could show her my love instead of talking constantly. I’m at a loss.  This has been the most important and most difficult Lenten challenge. I pray for the ability to make changes for the sake of my child.

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St. Monica, pray for me and for us.

Parenting pains

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Benita Lopez was no June Cleaver

I went from happy mom to guilty mom within 24 hours. My goal this Lent was to be more patient, to yell and nag less, to be more kind in my tone and facial expressions. My inadequate time management has left me feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. My patience wears thin.

On a typical Monday night, we get to the house at 8pm. M may have two to four pages of math homework to complete with her after completing her weekly 90 minute dance class. I usually have two loads of laundry to fold, ironing that’s been neglected for weeks and a sinkful of dishes to wash. If I was more organized, I’d take care of the household chores and prepack lunches while M and Rambo complete homework. Instead I’m likely catching up with work email and getting the bath ready. Instead, my less than adequate solution is to get up in the middle of night to do laundry and talk with Rambo and sometimes watch one of our Netflix shows. I sleep in. I let M sleep in. Then we’re scrambling. We’re packing lunch, making breakfast, continuing to load laundry, catching up on dish washing, and trying to get out on time.  I need to manage my time better.

It’s not that M is sitting back and doing nothing to help. She packs up her lunch and packs up the car by lugging all the things we carry: purse, backpack, dance bags, piano books. She will empty the dryer. She fills my water bottle. All things considered, she’s becoming resilient and independent.

I need to be mindful of those moments when she’s helpful. My child helps out because she wants to be a contributing member of our household. I hate when I use that voice. I have to get myself out of that mental space. Thank God we pray in the morning; otherwise I’d be a terror at all times.

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Lois might have relatable but life is no sitcom

It’s painful when I realize I’m not doing my best as a mom. I remember how I felt when I was disciplined harshly or when I felt I couldn’t confide in my mother. I give my mom all credit for being an example of tough womanhood that was rare in my family and culture. Still, I was a sensitive child and I often felt alone. I work to be a mom who is also a confidant. I need to work on I-statements and giving encouragement. I don’t want to hurt my child’s heart. The world will do enough of that. I continue to pray for patience so I can be a better mom.

Motivated by motherhood

I had several moments in the last week when I broke my Lenten promise and lost my patience with M. Despite these challenges, M and I have a great relationship. I have fostered close communication. We are similar in sense of humor and in the way we articulate ourselves. People point out she’s your mini-me; she tries on my vocabulary and certain phrases and idioms. We can have relatively deep conversations about different subjects because she’s an observant critical thinker. I appreciate her how she perceives the world.  She jokes, “I’m much pettier than you are.” I replied, “No I’ve been petty for forty-four years.” She said, “I’ve been petty for millions of years.” She says that in fun because she has a better understanding of situations than many kids. I am confident that M will continue to evolve into a good woman because I deeply love her. She doesn’t always feel that. She sometimes says, “I don’t feel like you love me right now.” I am committed to mending our relationship and reassuring her that I will always provide support as her mom.

With the coming of spring, new life arrives. My best friend had her second child last week and one of my dance sisters had her firstborn child that week. I’m excited for my friends who are new moms.  It’s not easy to be a mom but it is motivating to know you have a person in your life who wants what’s best for you, of you, and from you.  The mother-child relationship is like no other.

I know of a fellow writer who publicly declared that her romantic love exceeded her mother love. I am still judging her for it. For the longest time, I was fixated on romantic love. My early blogs were focused on the search for romantic love and its challenges. Mother love is pure, infinite, and endures through many tests and trials. The way society has conceptualized and portrayed romantic love and the way we experience romantic love doesn’t measure up. Mother love is my greatest love.

M enriches my life in ways nobody else ever has. Of all the people in my life, my daughter has truly made me evolve into the best version of myself. I may have my bad moments. Motherhood motivates me and makes my world more beautiful every single day.
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4 Challenges in 40 Days

“Long have I waited

For your coming home to me

And living deeply our new lives…” “Hosea” by John Michael Talbot.

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This Lent, I am taking on a 40 blogs for 40 days as part of the 4 Lenten challenges I will be completing.

One challenge is joining the now-viral  #40bagsin40days challenge to clear up clutter. This has been an ongoing challenge.  I have read Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which had an impact on my wardrobe. I have also read numerous blogs and articles on thrift shopping and capsule closets which changed how I purchase and keep clothing and shoes. However it is a work in progress as clutter continues to consistently affect our home and my office at work. Purging daily, whether it is paper clutter or material items I don’t need, will clear space.  I don’t need much. What I need is love, family, discipline, and positive outlets. I have those blessings in place. It’s a matter of clearing space, energy, and time to truly enjoy them.

Rather than completely fasting from Facebook, I will be reducing my presence on social media. If I’m doing a 40 day writing challenge, social media is the best way to share my work. I will use social media purposefully.  I will post images and links related to my Lenten challenges and reflections. Another reason to revisit this traditional practice of reducing my time online is my actual enjoyment of this fast. Fasting from social media has gotten easier.  I don’t want my Lenten challenges to feel as if they are not sacrifices such as “Oh I’m giving up chocolate.” I moved away from that type of material sacrifice years ago because it doesn’t change me from within. Giving up Facebook and not posting status updates or sharing memes does not make me any less petty. Usually I get back online Easter Sunday and I’m posting a blog about how fulano de tal ruined my Lent. It’s not pure pettiness; there is some reflection involved.  Being off line is no easy fix.  I will move past venting through my writing over the course of these 40 days.

A challenge I began in therapy and within my immediate family is my commitment to stop being a mean mommy.(Can-do attitude)M  has always been articulate in expressing her opinions and feelings. While she is outwardly not thin-skinned, she’s much more sensitive than when she was 7. When I  hear her say, “you’re mad at me”, “you’re mean to me”  or use negative self-talk like “it’s my fault that…”, I cringe.  I am responsible for prompting my child to second-guess herself. In these 40 days, I will make a conscious effort to hold my tongue, monitor my body language and facial expressions, and modulate my tone of voice. I will be firm and tough but do it in a way that is nurturing, not demoralizing. Given our family’s histories, M is prone to anxiety. I will not be an additional stressor in her life. I want M to look at our relationship as one that strengthens her.

Finally, I will pray more in these 40 days. M and I will be praying the rosary during our commutes again. Instead of listening to New Edition during my morning drive to work(I’m not swearing off NE for 40 days! That blog is forthcoming), I will listen to gospel music.I will do some spiritual reading. I will participate in Best Lent Ever through Dynamic Catholic. This program has changed the way I experience Lent. Lent has become a beloved season  which I anticipate yearly.  I love what Lent offers my family, my prayer life, what it does for my relationship with myself and ultimately my relationship with God. God bless.

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To learn more about the #40bagsin40days, visit 40 bags in 40 days

To join Dynamic Catholic for the next 40 days, sign up at Best Lent Ever

 

Mothering a warrior

“…But in this country

there is war.”  Lorna Dee Cervantes, from Poem For The Young White Man Who Asked Me How I, An Intelligent, Well-Read Person Could Believe In The War Between The Races 

Within the hour, I will have to wake her.  Last night, her closing prayers were “Bless this mess. Fix it Jesus. Amen.”  My daughter asked, “Who won?” at 1 in the morning, and promptly rolled to her other side so that I could not answer her. Today, like so many other madres, I will have to answer to her and for her.

Mija, like so many little girls in this generation and those that came before her, her own mom included, idolizes Wonder Woman.  We are excited for the movie which premieres in June 2017.ew-ww-39

My daughter has Wonder Woman t-shirts, hats, headband, dolls, and books.  She identifies closely with this character, a woman who is brave, independent, and strong.

I am drawn to the character of Queen Hippolyta, Wonder Woman’s mother, and an amazing woman in her own right.

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In the first movie trailer which debuted this past summer, Hippolyta tells Diana, aka Wonder Woman, “You have been my greatest love.”  In the most recent trailer which debuted last week, Hippolyta calls out “Be careful, Diana” as her daughter embarks on a mission to go to war. Those two soundbites speak to what I’m feeling.  How will I keep the person I love most safe in this world?  How will I protect her?  How will I prepare her to do battle?

The events surrounding the election are no surprise to me.  I have seen the old ways of thinking and hating fester and spread; they never stop doing so.

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While I grieve the harsh truths the election reveals about many people in our nation, I accept reality.  One of the things I told my daughter last night was that now would be our time to fight for what is right. 14938157_1366372526736820_5038582823904846037_n

So our mission begins.

Party girl

M turns 8 in two months but I’m already planning her party.  Actually, we started planning her party in April, a full five months in advance.  I have a list that breaks down guest list, location, and favors.  No, no soy one of those Pinterest moms.  My gluing skills are limited to dance and Carnaval costumes.  While I love to cook, this year we’ll be offering all-American burgers and chips.  Like every frazzled parent I know, I sigh and say I’m done with the big birthday parties every year.  Then the cycle starts anew. 
As a child, my parents always threw us huge parties. My dad’s entire soccer team and their families, my godparents and my brother’s godparents and their kids, and any relatives would come. There would be tons of Peruvian food, a giant sheet cake, a piñata for the kids, and dancing to salsa and merengue.  Because I was an introvert, I found all the people and activities overwhelming. But memories were made.  Like the time the big boys decided to tightrope walk around the fence in the backyard and were threatened by the mean next door neighbor  Or the time we realized we could Tarzan swing across the garage.  I especially like how happy my mom and dad always looked. And still look. Because you best believe mi mama isn’t letting a birthday go by without some sort of gathering. 
Celebrating my 44th. Notice the look on my mom’s face(she’s on my right). 
Unlike me, M doesn’t seem uncomfortable at her birthday parties. In fact, she says she loves the attention, the little diva. Ever the assertive leader, M has helped pick a theme for her celebration from the time she was 4.  They have been often been tied to a favorite TV show.  Lately they also incorporate her Halloween costume (yes, we are a family of planners.)
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Princess Costume Party 
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Wizard of Oz theme. Notice her tee. Her dance recital had the same theme. Why not stretch out a good theme? 
So while I may balk at the work and expense that goes into planning birthday parties, I do love the memories we’ve shared.  They are moments that remind us of what truly matters.