Xavi’s Fantastic Fourth Birthday

On ring bearer duty

On Monday night, just a few hours before his fourth birthday, I rocked Xavi in my arms like he was still a baby. His long, tanned legs and arms reaching well over my lap. He was crying softly and I had no clue why. We had done our normal bedtime routine. We brushed our teeth together, I read to him a bit (lately it’s been a few chapters of the Baby-Sitters Club graphic novels), we said prayers, had a little bit of water and gave each other bedtime hugs and kisses. I don’t know what made him so sad as he couldn’t really speak through the tears to tell me. All I knew was that I couldn’t console him as I had when I was a baby with nursing, rocking, songs and shushes. It almost made me cry.

Break from dancing (his favorite) for a picture

I couldn’t help but think how fitting, that on the eve of his fourth birthday he let me hold him like a baby again. This isn’t rare though, since Archie arrived, Xavi acts like a baby and jumps in to my lap a few times a week. But this was different. The tears and emotion weren’t faked.

Thomas hats for all the pre-schoolers

In the morning, the tears were gone and Xavi was back to his energetic self. He was super excited too because after talking about it for weeks, it was finally his birthday. He was four!

They see me rolling

Despite the momentous occasion, our Tuesday didn’t change much. Xavi and Archie still went to daycare. Xavi wore the same 3T birthday shirt he wore last year. He’s definitely grown, but more in height than overall weight. We took some mini cupcakes and party hats to share with his friends. After work, we came home and had dinner. We FaceTimed with my mom and Lori so they could watch him open some presents (train related, of course). He opened up some Cars toys from me and Sean. And then got the big gift, a new bike from my mother-in-law, Eula. He’s already taken the bike out a few times and I know he’ll make the most of the remaining months of nice weather riding in our new neighborhood.

***

Mixtape cover (November 2016)

As Xavi has grown from baby to toddler to pre-schooler, I keep coming back to this quote that struck me when I read Ruth L. Ozeki’s All Over Creation in 2014:

Time plays tricks on mothers. It teases you with breaks and brief caesuras, only to skip wildly forward, bringing breathtaking changes to your baby’s body. Only he wasn’t a baby anymore, and how often did I have to learn that? The lessons were painful.

I don’t think it’s ever going to stop feeling incredibly relevant.

Celebrating Xavi’s fourth birthday didn’t leave me with that same melancholy of the first, second or third birthdays.  I may miss baby Xavi, but I also have a very active and mobile Archie — still a baby, at least for four more weeks — to keep me on my toes. I’m also excited to see Xavi make friends in our new neighborhood, learn to ride his bike, starting school and keep meeting more milestones.

Archie cameo!

After Kenton’s funeral, Xavi wanted to play with the soccer ball that Kenton got specifically to play with him.

What made me emotional was looking at the photos from previous birthday celebrations and thinking about who we have lost in such a short amount of time. This is the first birthday where my father-in-law, Kenton wasn’t there to celebrate with us. For the first birthday, they came to LA to visit us, and we celebrated the second and third birthdays in Long Island at their home.

Blowing bubbles for Grandpa Kenton at the cemetery

So, yeah… I guess those lessons of watching your baby go from tiny newborn to little boy can be painful. Lately, it’s not the child growing, but what is changing around him that hurts.

Still, I can’t be too sad. I have a healthy, happy little boy who surprises me every single day with how much he’s learning.

Happy birthday, Xavi. I love who you are right now, but also can’t wait to see the breathtaking changes to come.

Downtown to the Northeast

Six weeks ago I posted the following on Facebook with a link to a story about a shooting at the gas station kitty corner to our apartment:

Two years ago if you told me I’d hear more gunshots in Ithaca than I ever heard in 15 years living in LA (Palms) I wouldn’t have believed you. Now, helicopters? Definitely not hearing those here.

I was awake when the shooting happened and the noise woke up Xavi. He asked “what’s that noise?!” before going back to sleep.

I truly wasn’t exaggerating. Palms isn’t the safest area of LA and more than once I saw LAPD on my block. One time they wouldn’t let me back on to my street as they searched for a suspect. I had to sleep somewhere that night, so I crashed at my friend Alfred’s couch. Another time on my way back from a run an officer stopped me and once again I had to wait. I could see and hear the helicopters overhead. I remember the homicide of a teenaged girl walking home from the high school around the corner.

I knew LA, though. I felt safe enough in my neighborhood to go for runs after 10 pm. 

No accidents on this side

But Ithaca threw me for a loop. I should’ve done my homework.

When we were planning our move we didn’t have a chance to visit to look for an apartment. Instead, we relied on some new contacts to share leads and info about the neighborhoods. One guy, P, told us he’d ask his landlord if they had any vacancies coming up and shared info on where he lived. The location was just six blocks from the Commons. It was 1.5 miles away from Cornell and close to several bus lines. It was in our budget, furnished (a plus so we could cut down on the furniture we needed to move and thus save some money), rather newly built, had parking, no snow shoveling required, and best of all P didn’t have any concerns about the apartments or the landlords. 

Sign us up!

It was fine until I realized we were three floors up without an elevator, the windows didn’t have bars and we were at a major intersection near the ambulance dispatch place and the railroad tracks (a plus for Xavi). 

This is a diesel. I want to see a steam engine.

That summer when people asked how we were settling in, I brought up the noise. If it wasn’t the emergency vehicles, it was motorcycles, trucks and speedsters.

Our second year we got used to the noise and kept the windows closed more often. It was cooler that way and they blocked a lot of the noise. That didn’t help the crazy though. There were a couple of shootings, a stabbing and several car accidents. One collision sent an SUV in to the heavy wood planters surrounding the main door. That’s the same door I’d take on my way to the bus stop or to walk the six blocks to the Commons. The people involved in the accidents we heard were all okay.

All this didn’t make us decide to move. I liked living close to all the things. We could easily walk to church, the library, a number of parks, playgrounds, waterfalls, work, and the Commons. But for a family of four, the two bedroom apartment was too small. Plus, I really wanted someplace where the kids could play outside close by. The park a block away was fine for bubbles and kicking around a soccer ball, but it could also be little sketch. I didn’t want Xavi asking “what’s that funny smell?” or “what’s he doing?” if we saw someone smoking weed.

Unsure about all this nature and bugs

A few days ago we traded downtown Ithaca life for what counts as the suburbs of Ithaca. 

Good thing it’s been a few years since I read Into the Woods

We’ve been here three days and have seen two deer, gotten a bunch of mosquito bites from being at the playground and local running/walking path, and met two boys close in age to Xavi. He’s complained about kids playing basketball outside and clamored for a bicycle.

It’s not bedtime yet, is it, daddy?

And you know what? I think it’s the perfect time.

Ninety-seven

Birthdays were always a big deal for Papá Chepe and late July meant celebrating in some way. There were the big parties just for him complete with the tamborazo. But he wasn’t above sharing the occasion and neither were we, his nietos and bisnietos. 

At my quinceañera in 1995 we celebrated his 75th birthday with a cake and a song. I actually stole his birthday, so it was only fitting. In 2014, At Xavi’s first birthday we had a cake and piñata for Papá Chepe. It was extra special that year as we were happy to have him survive the stroke and be recovering well at home. I wasn’t there for the 95th and 96th. I sang Las Mañanitas over the phone and sent gifts. Last year it was a polo with the university logo. My dad sent me a picture of Papá Chepe at the small gathering/party family they had planned wearing it. He looked nice. I didn’t know that would be my last chance.

Yesterday, July 29th, would’ve been his 97th birthday.

I spent most of the day amidst boxes as we are moving again (locally). But there were moments I spent outside under the trees and enjoyed the breeze on the steps of our new building. It reminded me of how much Papá Chepe and Mamá Toni enjoyed afternoons under la mora – the mulberry tree – in our front yard. The breeze and shade felt best there. If you were lucky you’d get to relax in the hammock and get a paleta when the paletero came by. He also would’ve smiled with amusement watching Xavi ride his Thomas train down the walkway. He definitely would’ve laughed when Xavi took the slight curve too fast and fell into the grass (he was okay).


I really wish my celebration included some of Papá Chepe’s favorites: la Marcha de Zacatecas, his omnipresent Tejana, a 40 oz bottle of Miller Lite High Life, and birria. But that can come later. For now, I’ll just recall all the amazing birthdays I got to celebrate with him. There were a lot. And for that I can only be grateful.

¡Feliz cumpleaños, Papá Chepe!

Little milestones

On Sunday, we went to church. Afterward, we went to the mall, also known as Target according to Xavi. That’s because we enter and exit through the store. He has a routine: jumping and running around at an inflatables place, lunch at the food court, and then desperately trying to convince us to buy him a new toy at Target before we leave. He wanted a new train.

To appease him we let him lead the way through Target with a big caveat. He could look at the toys but it would only be so we could find what he wanted to add to his birthday wishlist. He wouldn’t be getting anything because it wasn’t his birthday yet. But I’d tell tía Lori what he wanted since she asked.


Xavi took his time walking from the gift wrap and crafts section to the food. He tried to convince me we needed vanilla ice cream, it was hard to resist as it was on sale. In the book section he found yet another train book. Eventually we made or way to the Thomas and Friends aisle. He chose some crazy shark thing. It was on clearance and I sent the info to my sister.

When it was time to leave, Xavi had a mini meltdown because he “wanted something.” We explained again that he’d get something later for his birthday.

Xavi wasn’t the only one who left emptyhanded. I managed to avoid buying anything for myself which I’m not sure I’ve ever done.

It was a milestone for both of us.

***

I recently reflected on our move two years ago. I mentioned to a friend going through something quite similar (big city to a small town, toddler child) that perhaps Xavi’s speech delay made the move less difficult. He didn’t have the words to tell me he wanted to go home or that he wanted to see his grandparents or aunts and uncles. I knew I missed home, but I wasn’t unintentionally guilt tripped by my toddler.

That’s different now as Xavi has the vocabulary to tell you how he feels, what he wants, and who he wants to see. Tonight during bedtime prayers he said, “I pray for  grandma to come see me. And I pray for tía Lori to come see me. I love them.”

Gee kid, way to stick it to me.

Carlos & Luz: 40 years of making it look easy

july231977

I wasn’t there 40 years ago when my parents exchanged vows in front of their family, a huge wedding party, and many more friends. Their union was blessed in Assumption Church in Boyle Heights. The church itself had a role in bringing them together as they met as part of the active youth group.

2016 September

I didn’t hear them say the words that first time. I came around a few years later and since then, I’ve seen how they’ve lived those vows. And I took it for granted that they had a strong marriage. They made it look easy while also raising four children, taking care of their parents, maintaining relationships with family and friends, and being involved in school and church activities.

It’s not until I got married and then became a parent that I’ve really understood how hard they’ve been working at living those vows.

2016 October

So, on their ruby anniversary, I’d like to simply say congratulations and thank you. I must sound like a broken record, but I will never stop being grateful for getting you two as parents.

Happy 40th Anniversary!

Previous posts marking my parents’ anniversaries:

30
32: This one has a lot of photos I scanned including one of my favorite photos of Papá Chepe.
35
36: They looked SO glam at my wedding