Stirring the pot, raising hell and rearing children in the Bay Area


Tree is Bare, Branches are Full

Posted on Nov 17, 2009 in Giving, Holidays, School |

The tree lighting ceremony drama –lighting up my frustration from here to Thomas Edison’s grave and back — continues. There are a million technicalities,  hurdles, economic downturn-rejections and red tape landmines everywhere I turn. All of this, of course, in two languages.  It’s sort of borderlining on panic.

But, there is also a fullness I’ve never really experienced before.

In my plea to local businesses to help us put lights on our holiday tree for our local community event, I found gems everywhere. There’s the lady from Discount Lift Rentals who calls me at 9 p.m. to tell me she’s going to call everyone she knows to give us help in finding a boom lift. Then she kindly explains to me the difference between the booms and the cherry pickers and the arms on the things. I’m pretty impressed the chick knows power equipment. That’s hot, in a Rosie ‘Yes We Can!” sort of way. There’s the friend who volunteers her husband and her vacation time to put up the lights — if only we had a way of getting in the tree. Then there’s the tough real estate agent who’s got a kinder than kind heart who offered to make calls on our behalf. And there’s the friend who’s gonna ask the neighbor if he can help. I’ve got a friend who runs a media site that’s willing to bullhorn our needs. And tonight, I’ve got several friends who know a friend who knows a friend…..  Everywhere there is help.

And in the strangest way, I feel the tree lighting up.

Don’t get me wrong. There ain’t enough kumbaya in the world to substitute for the dang tree being lit. But sometimes inspiration comes from the people who cannot say Yes, but not for a lack of trying. I love people who try, no matter the outcome.

So we wrote blind letters, cold called and begged every person in the book tonight to help us find a way to light our community tree. And someone, somehow will come through. I know it will happen. And when it does, it won’t just be the person who said Yes that gave the gift. It will be all those I was lucky enough to hear No from that would have if they could have.

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My Big Girl Reader

Posted on Nov 6, 2009 in School, Thing 2 |



My incredible daughter picked up a book the other day and started reading it aloud. I pulled the car over to the side of the road and just sat there looking at La Gringa in amazement.

My girl really didn’t want to read a word of English (she reads in Spanish) until she was good and ready. And until she knew she could do it. And do it well.

We sat there and listened to her read a whole book. From that moment on, she’s reading and reading and reading and writing. Words are coming together for her and the doors are opening up in her otherwise Spanish language world.

She spent a day going on errands with us, at every stop reading, “That says, ‘Enter'” or “Hey mom, that over there says ‘Sale.'” We never got sick of her reading everything she could get her eyes on.

Go girl, go get your read-on.

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Dia de los Muertos

Posted on Oct 23, 2009 in Food, Holidays, School |



Great school activity today when a mom came in to teach kids about Dia de los Muertos. I had always known the holiday to be one that was a bit scary, a bit morbid and I could never figure out why the skeletons were always dancing. The mom did a great job at explaining how the food was an offering of smells and favorite thing from family members who have passed on. Fresh fruit, flowers (marigolds), tamales, chocolate and “Pan Muerto,” translated literally to “dead bread” can be made with a family member’s name on it. Very cool tradition. It reminded me of when our family was invited to a Tet New Year celebration for the Vietnamese culture. The habits are so similar. It reminded me a bit of paganism with the concepts of calling the dead with smells and flavors and offerings.

Not scary at all and so beautiful to look at. What a great, and, surprisingly peaceful and celebratory holiday.

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Benching Myself

Posted on Oct 6, 2009 in Rants, School |



For two weeks, I’ve been benched, and I kind of like it. It started with a conflict that I know I have no power to resolve: The Hispanic moms on one side of the playground, the white moms on the other, all of us waiting for the school bell to ring where our kids come pouring out of the same damn classroom where they’ve been sitting side-by-side for seven hours.

How is it that our kids sit and work and communicate right next to each other day in and day out, but that we, as the grownps, can’t seem to muster the same humanitarianism for one another?

That’s where my experiment started a couple weeks ago. I began coming to school just a tad bit early, readying to stake out the bench that the moms would be waiting at. Most of the time the Latina moms sit at the benches farthest from the class, directly in the sun, but out of the way. The white folks stay in the shaded pavilion right beside the classrooms. I have rarely seen a cross-over.

I walk right into the middle of the Latina moms’ group, sit my ass down and smile. I’m friendly and nod and try my best to stumble through conversation in broken Spanish. At first I got big time started at. No one talked to me. I looked across the playground to my whitey friends who were chatting away. I refused to move.

This week I started asking questions of other moms. Today, we even had a laugh.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this yet, but I’m not giving up. I know that I won’t be able to change social structures, but it’s less about them and more about me. I’m just not sure I can live with myself if I don’t try to find a place where we can meet and commune. Are we not as wise as our 6-year-olds?

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Making a Break for It

Posted on Jan 30, 2009 in Family and Friends, School, Thing 1, Thing 2 |

Cost of two bottles of Children’s Advil : $18

Cost of new thermometer at 4:45 a.m.: $12

Cost of Urgent Care per child; $20 x 2

Cost of Prescriptions per child: $20 x 2

Cost of bottle of S2 wine to survive kids having Strep Throat: $27.95

Cost of escaping with kids to the beach to blow it all off: Priceless

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You Work Today?

Posted on Jan 7, 2009 in Family, Friends, Rants and Raves, School |

When we decided to put the kids in Two Way Bilingual Immersion (Spanish), we knew things would be different in some ways for our kids in Kindergarten. Most parents I respect in the neighborhood opposed the program at our school — it made me sad to challenge them with my own beliefs on my children receiving a bilingual education. I listened to every argument from my wise, experienced friends, and, in the end, still supported the program.

I knew, for example, that it was very likely that my children would not be taught to read English until 3rd Grade (Thing 1 is reading now in English on a 2nd grade level and reading Spanish 1 books); we knew that our kids would be put in class with the less fortunate kids; we knew our test scores wouldn’t help the school any. Hard decision, to say the least. We went for it.

What we were not expecting were lessons that have taught not just Thing 1 and Thing 2, but have taught me and LaGringa some lessons in humility and grace that everyone could use a shot of every now and again.

Every day when I drop the kids off, one mom asks me, “You Work Today?” and every day, I say, “No,” (slightly embarrassed). Every day she says, “Maee-bee-tomorrow,” encouraging me. I don’t have the nerve to tell her I don’t work by choice, that we can afford for me to not work, that I am occasionally “consulting” — WTF is consulting to her?

Every day I reply, “Are you working today?” And every day she tells me about her night. She cleans office buildings in the middle of the night while her child sleeps with a neighbor. She returns home in time to see him wake, make him breakfast, take him to school. After she drops him, she sleeps for 3 1/2 hours. Then she is there, at the gate waiting for him to get out of school. She walks. No car.

Today I peeled into the school parking lot to drop the Things a bit late. She saw my car and said, “You are working now! You have a CAR?!” Her sincerity brought me to tears. She had believed that because I walk the kids to school that I didn’t have a car and, she thought, like her, it was hard to get work with no car. She was thrilled for me.

I watched my girlfriends leave the lot in the Volvos, Lexus SUVs and the beloved Honda Odysseys, en route to the grocery store, gym, yoga, coffee with a girlfriend. This woman looked at me so kindly as she walked back toward home and said, “Now maybe you work today!”

I will work today. I will work on remembering how blessed I am.

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