A Mother’s Task: Life Through the Eyes of My Child

A Mother’s Task: Life Through the Eyes of My Child

Easily one of the most important jobs I take on as a mother is to see life through the eyes of my child. I don’t know that I ever tried to walk in anyone else’s shoes before I met my husband. I’m not saying I was a bad person per se; I did a lot of good for a lot of people. I just didn’t spend a lot of time looking at things from other people’s perspectives. My idea of what was right and what was wrong was clear. I didn’t need to see through someone else’s eyes.

When I met Carlos, he was always soothing my self righteousness.

“I can’t believe she would do that!” I would say about some coworker or family member.

“Well,” he would begin calmly. “Imagine if you were her.”

And he would walk me down a road of deep empathy, the like I had never seen.Continue reading…    

And a Tear Fell: A Father Daughter Story

And a Tear Fell: A Father Daughter Story

We went into San Francisco today, watched a play at the Children’s Creativity Museum, had lunch at the Metreon, took a picture with Santa and bought some ornaments in Santa Land inside the Macy’s on Union Square, and finished our night off watching ice skaters in Union Square. I want to talk more in depth about trips into the city, but I’m tired. It’s been a long week, so I want to tell you a quick father daughter story and then take my ass to bed.

After a long day, Celaya was emotional from all the excitement, and we were headed over to watch ice skaters.

We came across a regular in this area at this time of year, a giant metallic rainbow colored angel. I have seen this guy dressed like this several times over the past few years, Carlos has chatted him up a few times, but Celaya has always been shy around this imposing figure.

Not This Year

This year, as she and Carlos began to walk past him, Celaya turned and walked right up to him. Continue reading…    

Laguna Beach: A Liberal Lost in Orange County

Laguna Beach: A Liberal Lost in Orange County

NorCal Girl in SoCal

When I was 16, my favorite aunt moved to Orange County, CA. I live in Northern California. Throughout my childhood we all, my whole raucous family of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, lived in Northern California. You see how northern has a capital N there? Northern California. Because Northern California is its own separate space. Northern California and Southern California are separate universes within the same galaxy. People not from California may not understand this, but we are very different, NorCal and SoCal. When my aunt, along with my grandmother, moved, they may as well have left the state. So how the hell did I, a native Northern Californian end up falling in love with Orange County? And how did I end up vacationing in Laguna Beach? Let me tell you.

I remember one visit to see my aunt when I was around 25. My hair is long, auburn, wild, and unruly. I wear very little makeup. A giant tattoo of a fairy in flames dances on my right shoulder blade. I was, even then, an outspoken progressive. That woman who throws her head back and laughs with her mouth wide open in the middle of a crowded bar or a quite cafe? Yea, that’s me.

Needless to say, I stuck out like a sore thumb.

The Beach

But the beaches are a different story. Dana Point, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, San Clemente, Ocean Beach, you name it. The beaches in Southern California are beautiful. I am most at home on the beach.Continue reading…    

Ambivalent About Disneyland: A Family Trip

Ambivalent About Disneyland: A Family Trip

Ambivalent About Disneyland

Let me begin by saying that I do not dislike Disneyland. I know that there has been controversy, especially in my (liberal feminist) circles, over princesses falling for the princes, the artificiality of happily ever, and the massive amounts of cultural appropriation and revisionist history, not to mention the blatant “fleecing” of customers. I get it. I’ve heard the message. And I remain actively ambivalent about Disneyland.

On the one hand, Disney is over the top with the happily-ever-after-every-moment-is-friggin-magical narrative. On the other hand, we can all use a little magic in our lives. I have a five year old, and we live in California. I feel, as an idealist/realist, that I would be doing her a cultural disservice by insisting she not enjoy Disney because <insert outrage here>.

To that end, I have slowly introduced the Disney movies I find appropriate for a small girl. She first watched Merida shoot arrows and change her fate when she was three. Then she sang along at the age of four to Elsa and Anna as they battled with self discovery and made sacrifices for love. Finally, at five, she fell in love with the bold and brown skinned Moana: “Mama!” She exclaimed, her eyes bright. “She looks just like me!”

Along the way she worried over Nemo’s fate, she flew to infinity and beyond with Buzz and Woody, and she still falls in love over and over again with the fairies in Neverland. But most of all, Winnie the Pooh has been a staple in our house from the very beginning. Our house still has A.A. Milne quotes on the wall in stencil from her third birthday party, almost three years ago.

Disney has its magic, and I have gradually revealed that magic to my daughter. And she has breathed it all in like pixie dust filled air. Folklore quotes Einstein as having once said that if you want children to be intelligent, read them fairytales, and if you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairytales. I am not sure if he actually said that, but I am sure it is true.Continue reading…    

Love the City of Hayward: Indoor Play Places

Love the City of Hayward: Indoor Play Places

If you’ve read anything else I’ve written, or if you know me at all, you know I homeschool. It is one of the first things that comes up in almost any conversation I have. Often it is because I have a five year old with me in the middle of the day. Which is odd. As a homeschooling mom, I need indoor play places. I would go insane if I had to spend weeks of rain or extreme heat locked inside with a cabin fever kid. So here is yet another reason I love the city of Hayward: we have great indoor play places.

City of Hayward

Why am I writing a piece on indoor play places in the city of Hayward in the fall, you ask? It is neither raining nor extremely hot. To be quite honest, I have a ton of other essays on my list to write, but two things happened. First, I was recently inspired to write about my city. I feel like it has gotten a bad reputation over the years.

When I was a kid growing up in Fremont just a few miles south, Hayward was “that scary place where the rougher kids lived.” What did I know? We were working class, usually broke, but we still lived in a house in the suburbs. Hayward and Oakland were the scary places. Now, I’ve lived here for 20 years, and I never want to leave.

Don’t get me wrong, we have our share of scary city stuff happen.Continue reading…    

Love the City of Hayward: San Felipe Park

Love the City of Hayward: San Felipe Park

Of all the parks in Hayward, California, San Felipe park is my favorite.

Many of you know I homeschool. Homeschooling is a joy and a pain. I know I am giving my child complete freedom to learn out of genuine curiosity, I know she is free from a harsh and rigid system I disagree with fundamentally, and I know that she will have a natural love of nature and being outside because we go outside A LOT.

The pain comes with the fact that she is in my care all day long every single day of the week. Sometimes mama needs a break. That break takes its form quite often in parks.Continue reading…    

Love the City of Hayward: Yogurt Hill

Love the City of Hayward: Yogurt Hill

Never Leaving the City of Hayward

I live just above the downtown area of the city of Hayward on the top floor of an apartment building overlooking the city and looking out to the hills. My husband and brother have been trying to convince me to move for years. “We could get a house,” they say. “The kids could have a yard,” they say.

“Find me something similar to what I have now, for a similar price, and I will move.” I always respond in the same way.

Especially now that I have children, location is incredibly important to me.

My daughter and I have been walking to our city library (We have a new library going up now, and we cannot wait to get in there!) since she could walk. It is less than a mile away. The hubby and I walk to the movie theater, which is seldom overcrowded, for date nights.  The theater is even closer than the library. I live in a secure building. My apartment has windows on three sides (I get to gaze at the horizon from my desk while I write), a balcony on the backside and a patio on the front, and we enjoy two thousand square feet of space.

No, I’m not leaving until I buy my dream house. (I have been getting more anxious for that recently. More on that later.)

But, I didn’t always live in this big place; we needed the space when my brother moved in after my daughter was born, and we lucked out when the only three bedroom apartment in my building became available. When I was 19, I moved into this building, into a one bedroom apartment on the fourth floor. Years later I moved into a two bedroom. Now we are here.

The Good with the Bad

The building is nothing to brag about. People throw trash in the elevator, vomit in the stairwells, and pee in the hallway. It can be pretty gross sometimes. Plus, our fabulous pool just happens to be located next to the dumpster. So, yea, that’s luxury living at its finest right there. But I understand also that I live just down the hill from my alma mater, California State University of East Bay (Hayward, really), and that college kids and their friends can be idiots. Also, some people never learned the “don’t poop where you eat” rule. Go figure.

But we have a great group of people here who wave to each other as we head out for the day. We make conversation in the elevator (over the vomit), and we ask after each other’s family. We also commiserate over the pee and the trash.

I am not going to throw the baby out with the bathwater, as they say, and I’ll tell you why.Continue reading…    

Why You Should Take Your Kids to CuriOdyssey

Why You Should Take Your Kids to CuriOdyssey

As an SF Bay Area parent, I have a ton of options for what to do with my kids. Celaya, my five year old daughter, has spent her weekday mornings in Bay Area parks since she could walk. We have the Exploratorium in San Francisco, the Children’s Discovery Museum in San Jose or Sausalito, the Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland, and many more play places and museums to choose from.  We also have hiking trails, lakes, the ocean only 30 miles west and the bay shoreline that we can access from many entry points. You can get anything you want in the Bay Area if you just know where to look. When you take your kids to CuriOdyssey, you get the best of all worlds.

Homeschool

The problem I am finding is that most of the parks in the mornings and early afternoons are empty except for very small children. School has begun, and I homeschool my children. This never mattered much until recently when Celaya reached “school age.” All of her friends and most other kids her age headed off to kindergarten. We now have to actively seek new groups of homeschoolers to meet with, and I have to actively seek ways to engage her growing mind.

Also, I don’t just homeschool, I unschool. I’ve got a whole separate piece coming on what that means, but for now just know that we do not sit down at a desk each day and do formal instruction for hours, not even for one hour. We do a lot of hands on learning. Somewhere around midmorning we head out into the world to engage with it. We meet new people, we enjoy nature, and we breathe fresh air. Or we hit a museum or play place where Celaya can socialize with other kids and learn about the world around her.

It Comes Down to Money

Museums cost money though, sometimes a lot of money. For most of them I buy annual memberships because they pay for themselves in two visits. For the rest, you’re looking at $20- $30 per person per visit. That’s a lot of money, and I only have one kid that costs. Once Matilda is old enough, that’s another kid to pay for, and ideally I’d like four kids. Game over. I can’t afford entrance fees for four kids at $25, plus parking, plus cafe snacks, plus plus plus.

The Solution

What I have learned to do is find the public parks, museums, and zoos that charge minimal membership fees. The other trick is to take advantage of reciprocal entrance fees. Continue reading…    

How to Just Let Go and Travel (To Lake Tahoe)

How to Just Let Go and Travel (To Lake Tahoe)

I’m on this new kick, as many of my friends know, to be always fierce and unafraid. Fiercely unafraid even. A couple of months ago I let it all go, all fear, all anxiety, all despair, and now live my life to the fullest every single day. Part of that involved booking the trips I said I was going to take. Hence, this “let go and travel,” piece.

Inspired, I booked my trip to Disneyland, with no money and no credit cards. My daughter’s fifth birthday had passed and I had been telling her we would go to Disneyland after she turned five. Damnit, we were going. Booked.

I also went online and booked another camping trip. My husband loves camping, my daughter loves camping, and I had only booked one group trip for the summer. It was kind of scary for me because I have an infant, but c’mon, let’s be real. We weren’t backpacking into the middle of nowhere. We were ten minutes off a major highway in the middle of fancy town wine country for our first trip.

This second trip I booked in South Lake Tahoe. Carlos and I had gone a couple times previously but never with our kids. We really like the area, both for summer and winter, and it is super kid and family friendly. I went online in July and found one (one!) spot left at Fallen Leaf campground. It had to be a fluke. Someone must have just cancelled it right as I went online.

Serendipitously, that’s how life has been since Iet it all go and decided to do all the things I have always wanted to do. The doors just open. I barely even knock sometimes, and the doors just open.Continue reading…    

The Comfort Zone: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Comfort Zone: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

*The links to the books in this piece will take you to Amazon to purchase them. If you click on the link and buy the book, or books, I will make a small commission, which means you will be supporting this site, and my writing. I never link to anything in my blogs that I do not highly recommend. So if you do buy something I recommend, thank you for your trust and support!
I read this book to my daughter, Nightsong, about the comfort zone. We picked it up in the Muir Woods bookstore. I like to buy books when we go places, and then I write an inscription on the inside, where we were, the date, what the experience meant to me. Often I have no idea what the book is about; I choose based on illustrations and a quick look at the language. Everytime we read this book, Celaya and I are both touched, in unique ways.

Nightsong

 
A mother bat tells her baby bat, Chiro, that it is time for him to go out on his own into the night, all the way to the pond where they feed.
He’s scared. “It’s so dark out there. How will I find my way?” She tells him to listen to his song. She tells him to trust his song, that as long as his song is true, he will find his way, and he will not get lost.
 
She cautions him, “‘but do not go farther than the pond, not unless your song is sure.’ And then, she let him go.”

Continue reading…