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

My first Broadway musical: A Hamilton obsession timeline

September 29, 2015
Leonor emails the following to the Postbourgie listserve:

really excited to read this, Rembert!!

September 30, 2015
I reply to Leonor’s thread:

Has anyone seen it? I like musicals in theory but by the second act I’m getting restless and a little bored.

I saw something briefly about whether or not you should listen to the cast recording without seeing the musical. I listened anyway and had the songs stuck in my head.

This was all true. I’ve seen a few musicals at the Pantages in Hollywood. The most popular show was Wicked. I didn’t love it. You think being a band geek I’d love show tunes. Nope. I got a bit of my dad’s anti-musical attitude. He complains that they sing the same song for 20 minutes in The Sound of Music.

But the hype for Hamilton: An American Musical is irresistible. I blame the Postbourgie family and my Twitter feed which are not mutually exclusive.

Early October
During quiet moments at work, I listen to the Original Broadway Cast recording through NPR’s First Listen. I get around to reading the article on Grantland by Rembert Browne. I chat with our admin coordinator and a student worker who are both huge Lin-Manuel Miranda fans.

October 3
I drive students to Syracuse for a conference. One of the students was already a Hamilton fan. She had seen the show at the Public in previews or at the Richard Rodgers on Broadway earlier that summer/fall. She asks if we can play the album on the way home. I agree. She sings to many of the songs and I just follow along because I don’t have anything memorized. One other student riding with us is intrigued when we tell him the writer is Puerto Rican, just like him.

October
I become a little bit obsessed with listening to the album on Spotify, reading the notes on Genius, following Lin-Manuel Miranda on Twitter, etc. I play the album at home and have dance parties with Xavi.

October 21
I finally buy the Original Broadway Cast album on iTunes because I don’t have enough data on my phone to stream through Spotify all the time. I need full and constant access.

October 24


During a visit to Long Island, we take a trip in to the city. We enter the Hamilton lottery on Saturday. There’s no #ham4ham and it’s super crowded. Neither Sean nor I win, but just being there and seeing Xavi recognize the logo made me excited.

Late October
I consider dressing Xavi up as Daveed Diggs/Thomas Jefferson/Marquis de Lafayette for Halloween. I tweet about it and geek out when Daveed Diggs either likes it or retweets it. (I wish I could find the proof.)

Maybe Thomas Jefferson?

Ultimately, we don’t dress him up as Thomas Jefferson because finding a little purple coat for him proved difficult.

2016
I read more articles. I watch more televised Hamilton events like the cast performing at the White House (March) and the Tony’s (June), which shows the amazing choreography. I listen to podcasts. Another Round kills it with their interviews of Lin-Manuel Miranda and Daveed Diggs. In the summer and fall I start listening to The Room Where It’s Happening: A Hamilton Fan podcast. One of my favorite episodes features Alex Lacamoire, the music supervisor, arranger and orchestrator, discussing the nerdy and technical side of the music. It’s super informative. I admire Code Switch’s take which considers class and racial aspects of both the cast — primarily people of color — and the Broadway audience which is traditionally white and older.

I also try to tamper my jealousy when friends finally get to see the show. It’s a little like being back in graduate school and celebrating your friend’s dissertation defense. While you feel very happy, you’re also jealous and wonder when it’s going to happen for you.

February 14, 2016

April 7, 2016


I find a way to plug a Hamilton song, “That Would Be Enough” in to my pregnancy announcement on social media. Because of course I would.

April 12, 2016

Xavi the Hamiltot

The Hamiltome (or, Hamilton: A Revolution) is released and the copy Sean pre-ordered for my Mother’s Day gift arrives. I hug it. The book becomes part of our bedtime routine later in the spring and summer as Xavi loves looking at the pictures and pointing out Obama.

May 14, 2016

Sean, Xavi and I make another NYC trip. This time we are in Brooklyn for a baby shower for our good friends Derreck and Vanessa. We enter the online lottery again. No luck.  Womp womp.

July 15, 2016

In the Heights at the Hangar Theater

I get  to see a musical written by Lin-Manuel Miranda! In the Heights is playing at Ithaca’s Hangar Theater. My colleague organizes a trip for our summer research students and I get to chaperone. Sean stays home with Xavi because we don’t have babysitting. Our old Ithaca babysitter graduated and moved back to NYC.

August 8, 2016
I write about that immense feeling of pride when Xavi starts singing alone to “Dear Theodosia”.

August 29, 2016
Archie is born! I know the possibility of seeing the musical is on hold for a while because priorities. Also, newborns eat ALL. THE. TIME.

August 31, 2016

NYC Hamilton

My birthday present is Hamilton-themed.

November 11, 2016
New tracks are released from the Hamilton Mixtape. Immigrants (We Get the Job Done) makes me feel slightly less dejected in light of the election results. Kelly Clarkson’s version of “It’s Quiet Uptown” is there for me as I’m sad about Papa Chepe passing away.

December 14, 2016

A new mom friends get Archie his very own Hamilton gear in our mom group Secret Santa.

2017

I’m still in to Hamilton but I listen less often. I’ve put aside that I’ll be able to see the show any time soon. The cost, babysitting and needing to consider a baby who needs to eat every few hours are all part of it. Despite being close during our many visits to Long Island, we mainly stay out of Manhattan.

May
The possibility looms that we may be moving not locally. Read: out of New York and somewhere that would require a flight or really long road trip to make it back to NYC. But I have to wait to get news and that looms over all of May and in to early June. As we’re unsure of the future, Sean suggests I finally go see Hamilton.

June
We have weddings on back-to-back weddings in the NJ/NYC area. Sean suggests I go on my own on the day after Jon and Andrea’s wedding, which is on a Friday evening. We won’t have babysitting for Saturday, so it can only be one of us. I check out tickets on StubHub. It’s expensive, but since it’s just me, I’m not that shocked at the sticker price.

Still, it feels selfish and I can’t commit. I’d be going to see a musical Sean also likes during Father’s Day weekend.

June 16
On our way to the wedding we spot the billboards for Hamilton just ahead of the Midtown Tunnel.

Sean brings up the topics again. “Are you going to go see it tomorrow?”

“I don’t know.”

“You should.”

I look up tickets on StubHub again. The prices are similar to what I had seen and soon I’m purchasing one ticket for the rear mezzanine section, right, for Saturday’s matinee. I knew I probably wouldn’t be seeing the current lead, Javier Muñoz in the title role, but that was okay.

We have an amazing time at the wedding and tell our friends we can’t go to the post-wedding brunch because I have important plans.

On the way home after the wedding, we stop by a 24-hour FedEx Kinko’s to print out my electronic ticket. I print two copies just because.

June 17
We make plans in the morning. I’ll take the train shortly after 12 pm and that will allow enough time to get to the Richard Rodgers Theater for the 2:00 pm curtain time.

Shortly after 12, I say goodbye to Xavi and my brother-in-law, Kenton. Archie is fast asleep. Sean drives to the Hicksville Long Island Railroad Station five minutes away. I’ve taken the LIRR to/from Manhattan once. It was the first time I met Sean’s parents about seven years earlier. I ride the LIRR to Penn Station. I check my bag about fifty times to make sure I have the tickets.

At Penn Station I transfer to the A train and wait way too long. I get nervous, but know I gave myself plenty of time. The train is slow arriving, and I probably would’ve made it to Times Square faster if I walked. I make my way through Times Square towards 46th street. Despite the rain I still need to weave around slower tourists. The block or so around the theater is crowded like it was that first time we were there in October 2015. This time it’s easier to get through the crowds since I don’t have Xavi in a stroller. I stop outside the theater and quickly eat the snack I brought along, an apple before going in.

I hold my breath as I wait in line to enter. What if my ticket doesn’t work?

My worries were for naught, it’s all good. I wasn’t swindled. Inside, the lobby is abuzz with theatergoers trying to go to the bathroom or get a snack before the 2:00 pm curtain. I get to my seat about 10 minutes before the 2:00 pm curtain time and had enough time to flip through my Playbill and post the requisite photo to social media. I don’t quote “The Room Where It’s Happening. Cece Peniston’s “Finally” is more fitting.

Hamilton, finally!

As I wait, I look around. The mezzanine is full of people of all ages. Besides me a man sits with his tween-aged daughter.

A few minutes after two the house lights are turned down and the show starts.

It’s absolutely incredible. For the next two and a half hours I laugh, cry (man, do I cry), tap my hands, try not to sing along and just enjoy the most amazing show. I try to catch it all, but there’s so much going on in every corner of the set.

Here’s the thing about Hamilton, I thought I knew the show. But I was all wrong. The cast album has almost every word spoken in the show, but there’s moments that are left out that hit me. Somehow, I hadn’t been spoiled despite all the articles and podcasts. Then there’s the choreography, the lighting, the really cool rotating stage, and excellent use of a sparse stage and props. Seeing new actors in roles that felt familiar was interesting too. Donald Webber, Jr. plays Hamilton. He’s excellent, but I’m thrown off that he doesn’t look like Lin-Manuel or Javier. James Monroe Iglehart plays Lafayette/Jefferson. He’s a bigger guy than Daveed Diggs and he’s bald. But he still has the same swagger. Both Webber and Iglehart are excellent actors and singers and do an amazing job.

Some other thoughts I shared with Leonor who asked me the questions below (I’ve edited to remove “spoilers”):

1. Who was your favorite before and did that change after seeing it?
Lafayette was my favorite before. Brian d’Arcy James as King George was the actor/role I loved so much more after seeing it.

2. Same question, but re: songs?
I love “Satisfied” and was so ready to be amazed by the staging and choreography which I’d heard was incredible. I don’t know if it wasn’t everything, if the woman who played Angelica was no Renee or if I was distracted because an usher was showing a woman to her seat during that song (and the seat was next to me!) or if I just expected something different.

“Dear Theodosia” surprised me and made me love it more. Same with “It’s Quiet Uptown.” It really hits at that point. I had all the tears.

3. Was there anything you were surprised by?
Yes! I was surprised to see more of King George. The comic value and the role as a whole comes through way more than on the cast album. I also didn’t expect for so much to be going on on stage the whole time. I liked the choreography at the end of “Right Hand Man” too.

Hamilton, finally!

It’s a month later and I still feel incredibly lucky and like I need to see it again. Maybe then I’ll be satisfied.

Adjusting two years later

May and June were a trip. Literally. Early in May, we went to NYC for Eric and Sandrine’s wedding. Sean and Eric grew up together and have been friends since first grade. Naturally, the wedding was full of old friends and tons of fun. A few weeks later we were back in New Jersey for Charlotte and Andy’s wedding. Again, we reunited with many good friends Sean met through and old job and on a football team in NYC.


Finally, on June 16th we attended Andrea and Jon’s wedding in Battery Park Gardens. There were great views of the Statue of Liberty and ferries. And again, more great friends we hadn’t seen in a while. Sean is a popular guy with lots of friends in NYC.

The weddings were all a ton of fun whether we had the boys with us or not, but a few things kept coming up:

a) There were a few friends who didn’t know we no longer lived in LA. This wouldn’t have happened if Sean and I hadn’t taken a hiatus from blogging. Right?

b) We kept having to try and answer the question “So, how do you like Ithaca?” without whining about missing friends and family.

I can deal with snow in April, humidity and rainstorms in the summer and a paucity of decent Mexico food. The distance from family and still not having many friends here makes it hard to say, “We love Ithaca!”

I miss out on a ton in LA. If you’ve read my blog for a while, you know I have un chingo of tías, tíos and primos. We are close too and in LA there was always something to celebrate (birthdays, anniversaries, baptisms, graduations, etc). Also, I’ve been missing out on the current baby boom despite adding my own 2016 baby. I’ve only met two babies from the 2016-17 crop. There are three I haven’t met. One (my niece!!!) is due in August.

I know I’m not the only one who misses California. Just a few days ago we surprised Xavi with a trip to the Sciencenter. On our way there he kept wanting to know if the surprise place was California where he’d see tía Lori, grandma Luz, grandpa Charlie and some friends. He loves the Sciencenter but I still felt guilty that we can’t take him to California more often. At least Archie is too tiny to unintentionally guilt trip me. I do enough of that when I think of how he hasn’t had the same interaction with grandparents, tías and tíos that Xavi had as a baby.


And then there’s just feeling bummed about our social life. In February, Sean got me the perfect Valentine’s Day gift. He knows me well. I was impressed and happy until I realized that in order to play Selena Lotería I’d need to go to a social activity or have friends over for a game night. And bright red MAC lipstick? I had no occasions at time for getting all fancy. Ni modo.

See?! I told you I was whiny.

But there are perks. We are driving distance to NYC and Long Island. This means that we were able to attend all three weddings for longtime friends. If we lived in LA we wouldn’t have been able to afford the back-to-back trips. Xavi and Archie do have a grandparent and a loving uncle nearby.


There’s a bittersweet silver lining. My father-in-law, Kenton, passed away in January after battling cancer for several years. When we lived in California he was well enough to travel, but that changed in recent years. Being a 5-6 hour road trip away meant we got to see him about once a month and thus he got to spend more time with Xavi and got to meet Archie.

So, I can’t whine but be thankful for the way things work out.

Why I haven’t given up blogging

Almost all of the runners

A few weeks ago I received an email from a longtime reader. She asked if I was done with blogging.

It was a fair question. I hadn’t updated in over six months. I had slowed down a lot in recent years but never just stopped for that long. Like La Profe Chicana, I had a few reasons for my hiatus. And like her, I’d married a blog reader (hi, Sean!) and now had two children.

Enter one of the reasons for the hiatus. Blogging is work, takes time, can be a technical headache (go away hackers!) and is much less easy to do one-handed while nursing a baby than scrolling through Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. I’ve also struggled with how to write about my new-ish identity as a mother while also respecting my children’s privacy.

Blogging didn’t always feel like such a chore. It was fun when I first started in the early-mid ’00s, before I ever even read the word (web)blog. I can relate to Xoloitzquintle who blogged a lot while also writing his dissertation. For me, blogging was a nice distraction from academics. I connected with amazing people and over the years have been lucky enough to meet many of them despite being scattered across the country and abroad in some cases. I’ve danced in Tijuana, run in Carlsbad and shopped at a cute store/coffee shop in Little Village.

I got a lot of validation from blogging and the communities I developed. I think I was good at it, and that mattered to a wannabe writer and someone trying to find a foothold in academe. The topics came easier and the technical stuff wasn’t a headache. People still read and commented and that was an incentive to keep posting. Other bloggers’ posts inspired new topics and so on. The community was still there but the blogs were largely inactive, rarely updated.

Now, the community is challenging me to get back to writing at least two times a week. The trial period is July. I’ve already faltered in the first week, but that’s okay. I can make it up.

Nos vemos en los comments.

Second two photos by Oso/David.

La Cuarentena, the first forty days

Earlier versions of this post were drafted in September-November 2016. Updated for clarity.

***
The day after Mamá Toni passed away almost two years ago my mom shared an idea with me.

“I was thinking that you, Sean and Xavi should move in to Mamá Toni’s old room.”

She had it all planned out and explained that what we would save on rent and childcare — Xavi would be cared for by a tag team of family members — could go towards a down payment for a house. And we could also have a second child. Possibly a girl.

I have to admit, in my grief, this idea didn’t seem half bad. Then I considered a move to Hacienda Heights would extend my commute at least an hour each way. I had never moved back home after going to college, and now I was considering doing so with a family. It was nuts.

When Sean arrived from his trip to New York to attend our friend Kevin’s funeral, I told him about the conversation. He laughed at the idea.

I never told him that for a moment it didn’t seem half bad.

Less than a year later, we had moved across the country so I could take a new job.

I thought about this a lot as I considered my immediate postpartum experience with Archie.

***
Newborn Archie

Archie was born on the afternoon of Monday, August 29th. On Tuesday evening, my parents arrived in Ithaca. My mom stayed for two weeks, my dad stayed for one. All my worries about how we would manage without our support network nearby subsided. While here, they took care of me, Sean, Xavi and Archie. We were spoiled with delicious food and time to rest while they took Xavi out for fun grandparent dates at the park, library and other places Xavi loves.

At the same time, our muscle memories kicked in and we got back to caring for a newborn. Friends have said it and now I believe it. The transition from one to two kids was definitely easier for us than going from none to one. Both boys were relatively easy newborns. The toughest aspect of newborn life with Xavi was learning to breastfeed and I avoided those issues with Archie by applying the lessons from my rough start with Xavi. It also helped that Archie was a great eater. Despite this we had more frequent appointments with the pediatrician to check weight since they considered him low for gestational age at birth. Through those and his output (read: diapers!), we’ve confirmed that he’s doing just fine.

Another big difference was my anxiety over going outside or nursing in public. With Xavi I was baffled about how this would work. I didn’t go to church for a month and our car trips were limited to appointments for doctor’s visits because he hated being in the car and LA traffic. This was a huge difference with Archie. On the Sunday after he was born, I was back in church. Nursing with a cover or without was no big deal. He did fine in the car for local trips and road-trips. I even was brave enough to fly cross country with both boys. Solo. I also helped that Archie was easygoing.

As expected, I was (am) tired. However, the sleep deprivation didn’t hit me as hard as the first time. This was likely because I was used to some sleep interruptions after Xavi and through waking up a lot during pregnancy.

The most challenging aspect was definitely parenting a newborn and trying to give Xavi the attention he needed. Xavi became more defiant and moody. I don’t know what part of it was being a three-year-old and what part was dealing with a tough transition. Despite being very excited to meet his little brother, he didn’t show much interest once Archie was home. He said things like, “Don’t hold baby Archie! [Anyone but mom] hold baby Archie.” And more than once he told Sean, “Tomorrow, we go to the hospital and take back baby Archie.”

Abuelos y nietos

Naturally, I worried about what would happen when my parents returned to LA. How would we transition to handling both boys and still doing things like cooking and cleaning? During the two weeks my mom was in Ithaca we didn’t really worry about that stuff as she spoiled us.

Then she left and we adapted, but life didn’t return to a new normal for long.

Mom left on September 13th and less than 2 weeks later I was on a flight to LA with both boys. In the weeks before Archie was born Papá Chepe had battled lung infections and been hospitalized. When Archie was born Papá Chepe had already improved and gone home. However, a week later he was ill again. My parents were honest with me and let me know that I should come visit while I could, while Papá Chepe was still alert enough to recognize me. It was a tough decision to make. The cost was one issue. Time wasn’t as I had the time thanks to maternity leave. However, Sean didn’t have time to take off from work. If I went, I’d be going alone with Archie (definitely) and Xavi (quite likely). Was it even safe to travel with an infant who was only a few weeks old? I called our pediatrician’s office and cleared it with the nurse on the advice line. Air travel wasn’t ideal, but they made exceptions for extenuating circumstances. She just recommended I used common sense approaches to keeping him away from sick people.

And so I went because I knew I would deeply regret not saying goodbye if I had the chance.

On September 25th I flew out from JFK with Archie and Xavi. We spent the next ten days in Hacienda Heights at my mom’s house. Friends and family lent us carseats and a travel crib to make the visit easier.

I was so happy to see Papá Chepe. By the time we visited his health had improved. He was alert, eating well and responsive. Papá Chepe got to meet Archie and see Xavi. During our visit I’d often put Archie in Papá Chepe’s bed so he could babysit. It was adorable, just as when he and Mamá Toni met a four-day old Xavi. Meanwhile, Xavi would play with the collection of toys Papá Chepe had available to help him regain skills he had lost after his stroke.

Chepe & Archie

My parents doted on me and the boys. I was spoiled once again and didn’t have to cook or do other chores. I had plenty of immediate and extended family members around to hold Archie if I needed to eat or shower. My mom invited family over on a weekend to see us and it was like our old Sunday gatherings. And once again my parents took advantage of having Xavi in town to do fun grandparent dates like go swimming at a friend’s pool or visiting the train park.

I realized afterward that this was the closest I would get to a traditional postpartum cuarentena. I was’t going to move in to my parents’ home for that period or longer like my mom had proposed in those first few days after Mamá Toni passed away. That just wasn’t practical or possible for anyone involved. But the visits were more than enough.


For most of those first forty days I was staying under the same roof as my mom. I was mothered by my her and it was exactly what I needed to recover well and be the best mom I could be for my own children. And because of the special circumstances of Papá Chepe’s declining health I got to go home and see him again. It was a bittersweet blessing.

***
July 6th marks eight months since Papá Chepe’s passing. A few days ago, I had a dance party in the kitchen with Archie and Xavi. We danced to La Marcha de Zacatecas and I couldn’t help but miss all our dances.