Saturday, October 22, 2011

Before Kids or Just the Same

I am now home and I decided to not clean but prep dinner instead and just sit on the loveseat in my living room and remember what I did with myself before I had kids. The funny thing is I did just about the same thing except for the things that involve my kids. Funny how life sometimes REALLY doesn't change.


I remember shopping around town, bags in hand, cell phone a buzzing with text messages and phone calls. Various plans, appts and parties to attend. I also remember the quiet moments of just sitting at home relaxing on the sofa with the fireplace going, tv on and a nice cold glass of chardonnay. Sean, my love, would be in the same room and we would sit in the stillness of that moment and laugh, talk and comment on what we were watching. We didn't talk much because we knew what each was thinking at that moment. 


I can say that our home was still full of dogs. We had 5 total. They were all chihuahuas. There was Danni, Naiba, Lola, Max and Princess. They all got along. A home with no other disturbances is what our dogs were accustomed to. 


Now enter in our lives two lovely wonderful children that have enriched my life and the life of my partner. We have since lost two dogs. Danni died of a disease, possibly cancer. Princess got out of the back yard and for the first time ever crossed the street and was run over by a car. I was the one who picked her mangled still alive body from the street and hauled her into the house. Janette was home and she was trying to see what happened but I kept her at bay to avoid any traumatic memories for her. Jonathan was at school and Sean was at work. 


I remember calling Sean in a panic and a state of shock. I cried and mouthed that the dog was hit by a car and he thought Janette and I were hit, it had been raining for a few weeks on and off then. He rushed home and we took Princess to the vet. Sean took Janette and my car to pickup Jonathan from school and I went home in his car. I was mortified. This was a first for me. Princess was put down, she was paralyzed from the waist down and also had major internal injuries. 


Now I tell this story because I can remember in full detail what my son, my daughter and my partner were doing at the very moment this was all going on. Ask me about my schedule before kids and what I did etc etc and I can not seem to remember my life as detailed as this story is. 


My point is that my kids and my partner have sharpened my memory skills. In the event of an emergency where a 'Fight or Flight' situation arises I 'Fight' and take control. There have been two instances of this and each child was one of them. I can say without a doubt all my talents, skills, knowledge and love has been heightened with what my life is like now and what is demanded of me. 


I did not take notice of this nor did I even pat myself on the back for all the work I do until now. I do not expect anyone to praise me for what I do as a stay at home dad. I thoroughly enjoy it! I however am grateful everyday to my love Sean who affords me the opportunity to fulfill my dream of being a stay at home dad. I knew when he and I first spoke of having children and starting our process that I wanted to be a stay at home dad. My grandmother did the same for me when I was a child. 


This always leads me to the memory of when I was a child and noticed that my grandmother slowly returned to the workforce but still managed to make time to care for me. One night I was home awaiting her return and I asked my aunt where my grandma was. She told me that she was at work and will be home soon. In my child thinking brain I did not know that she had other work. I always thought it was her here at home cooking, cleaning, washing clothes and greeting me when I arrived home from school as her work. Funny right, without any explanation I already equivocated all that as her job/work. 


Well I sat at the window and waited for my grandma and there she was. However, she was dressed in what looked like muddy clothes, a large bandanna around her head and a hat large enough to cover half my small child body. It was not the grandma I was accustomed to seeing on a daily basis. She also walked differently too. No hop in her step and her face had a serious tone. One more serious that her 'church face' as I called it. What came next horrified me. 


She then began to take off some of her clothes. The large frumpy and muddy sweatshirt that covered her frame was removed so carefully. Then a long sleeve shirt was removed as well. Her dark muddy pants too were removed and then folded neatly and left at her side on the floor. I only then noticed that the pants she wore were once white. The last thing she took off were her shoes and socks, which were the most dirty. Clouds of dust flew from them when she pounded them against the sidewalk path that lead to our home. Wow, what did she do to get so dirty?! Why did she seem to move so slow and why was everything folded and put in a small pile aside her on the floor?!


 Well from her bag that she had been carrying she pulled out sandals, a pair of shorts and a different shirt that I had seen her wear many times before. But before she put any of that on she went to the garden hose and began to wash off her hands, feet and even her head. I know that cold water is the only thing that comes from that hose. So I was shocked that she was even using that cold water to wash herself with. Many times she told me to use warm water when I take a bath in order to be sure I am fully clean. I even remembered why hot water is used to wash the dishes. It was so that the germs were gone and clean plates were left so as to eat off of them again. This was something my grandma also told me because I always asked her questions about everything. 


I made sure she didn't see me when she finally entered the house. She didn't bring in those dirty clothes from outside. She left them in a bucket of water outside on the back porch steps. I know this because later on that night I checked. I watched her go into her room and put on a warm jacket, applied some lotion to her face and hands and then she called for me. I hesitated so she wouldn't know that I was right there watching her. She told me she got me one of those Mexican sweet breads for me. The one in the shape of a pig. I loved those and still do.


Now I asked her where she was and she told me she was working in the fields. I asked what did that mean. She told me she had been out in the sun all day picking strawberries and making sure they were all good ones in order for them to be sold. She also told me that one of these days she would be buying some so she could make 'agua frescas' which is 'fresh water' but with fruit juice in it. In that moment I knew that my grandma was doing very hard work all day in the sun, bent over, covered in layers of clothing and digging through many fields to find usable strawberries. I knew that it was hard labor. I hugged her and said thank you grandma. 


In this stage of my life I thank my grandma for thinking of me after a long hard day of work. How she managed to have time to go to a Panaderia (Mexican Bakery) and get me my favorite pan dulce (sweet bread). How she went into that bakery looking all dirty and muddy in her work clothes. After being on her feet all day except for her lunch break that she went a bit off her home route to stop, do something for me and then go home and make time for me. I learned that the reason she washed herself off each night and left the dirty clothes outside was to avoid bringing in any chemicals into the house. 


Even when she was working and almost home she always thought of me and others. She always made sure to think of her family and tried to give us as much of herself as she could before going to bed and then returning to work in the fields the next day. 


So when I feel overwhelmed, tired, cranky and not in the mood to do anything. I think of my grandma. How she always managed to keep going and keep doing for herself and for others. She is a truly selfless person and I always strive to be like her. I strive to give my kids the best food possible. I involve them in the cooking and shopping process. I have taught my kids who are 4 and 6 to put their own clothes away after I have folded them. My son who is 6 even likes helping me fold them. I learned from her how to love your family and to love yourself. No one else is going to do that for you. 


This post is dedicated to my grandma, Maria Cipriana Mejia. Her spirit, strong willed character and love is unmatched. 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Fun and Farm

So in this day and age of everything being at the touch of a button (swipe of a finger for those touch screen folks). It is hard to imagine going to a farm, seeing livestock, having my kids experience the life of a farmer and picking/harvesting your own fruits and vegetables right.

Well that is what my kids and I experienced this past Friday. My friend Paul invited us along for a playdate with his two sons. We went to Underwood Family Farms in Moorpark, CA. Now I hadn't been there since I was 19 years old, which makes is 12 years ago. At that time I would frequent this farm almost everyday since I went to Moorpark College. Not to mention my route to school took me right passed it.

Anyhow, the farm has a lot to offer in the child entertainment department. Pony rides, tractor go carts, all terrain like bikes, a jumper, train, animal viewing and feeding areas, tunnels and hills and pick-your-own fruit/vegetable fields.

So the kids and I embarked on a pick-your-own produce adventure. We grabbed our red wagon supplied by the farm, containers and headed out into the fields. We got to see some real life farm machines, trekked through mud and arrived at the crop fields. We picked our own raspberries, which I had to explain to my kids how to tell if it was ripe for picking. I let them fill their own containers and I watched as they picked the ripest of ripe raspberries, listened to their amazed reactions and watched their smiles as they filled their pint containers. We also picked our own strawberries, romaine lettuce and bell peppers.

We did all this out in the hot sun of Moorpark, which is no joke. It does get hot hot hot there but it was a nice warm heat. All I could think about while we picked our own fruit and vegetables was how in the hell my grandmother did this for a living for 10 to 12 hours days. She would do this in such arduous (that is an understatement-she worked her A$$ off) working conditions and in the time of all those toxic harsh chemical pesticides. I definitely have a renewed gratitude and respect for her after we did this.

All in all it was a wonderful fun new memory creating experience that day. I also enjoyed getting home, washing the fruit and vegetables with the kids. They were happy to help, taste and ask when we get to cook/eat the fruit and vegetables. It was fun teaching my kids the value of food and harvesting it yourself. In the car on the way home all the kids wanted to know was when we were coming back so they could do it again. Yeah! It also brought some tears of joy to my eye. Another full circle moment for me. Enjoy the pictures below.

Jonathan and Janette smiling with joy
after they just fed the goats

Janette in action using the crank conveyor belt to feed
the goats

Jonathan doing the same

The goat awaiting its food

Emus eating their food

The combine harvester which has a slide on the other side

Jonathan and Janette rushing to the slide I found

Janette enjoyed it

Jonathan all smiles after a fun slide 

My little man enjoying all the kid activities

Janette is relaxing in the wooden train

 The chicken coop and look a real farm fresh egg,
it smelled real fresh in there ;-) 

Look at those pretty squash, they weren't ripe though

A gorgeous huge white horse

Janette enjoying the cow bouncer

Jonathan looks like he is about to do something bad

Train ride and Janette is happy as a pig in pooh teehee!

Jonathan and his best friend Zachary,
drive the train boys!

Another huge stallion

The fruit and vegetables after washing and prepping them for
consumption

Monday, August 1, 2011

Ahoy there Y'all

So I know it has been a very long time since my last post. I didn't have anything to really say but alas now I do.

My daughter had her 4th birthday party and the theme was 'Princess & Prince' and it was a blast. Note to self, next time make more than 4 pitchers of sangria for the adults. Boy did these parents guzzle it down. Oh and the two types I made were a lemon lime orange white wine sangria and an orange white wine sangria. They were my first sangria making success. What I enjoyed the most about the party was the fact that Sean's (my partner) aunt Francine, who was here in business from South Carolina, made it to the party.

I did get to know some of my newer parent friends that day. My friend Andy, his son and my kids' godmother Annette went to dinner with us. A BIG THANK YOU to Paul Kuszynski who grilled the hot dogs and hamburgers for us. You rock!!!

I served my homemade spinach sour cream dip and hummus with french baguette, tortilla chips and veggies. I made a cilantro lime shrimp appetizer, bruschetta and a balsamic vinaigrette mixed greens salad. In my opinion the pièce de résistance were the fresh strawberries from my hometown of Oxnard, CA. My aunt and grandma brought it for me. It was local California grown and oh so delicious. No other strawberries taste like the ones from home. =-) The following day I took the kids to Barnum & Bailey Circus at The Staples Center. Sean got the tickets and they were suite tickets. It was better this time.

Here are some photos from the birthday party.

Princess Janette and her lovely pink fuzzy crown

she is ready for cake! 

She is serious about her cake. Janette chose the type of cake and filling. Love it! 

Here we all are.... Joël, Janette, Sean and Jonathan

Janette showing off her princess gifts

Jonathan and Janette enjoying each other

Now onto another topic. Food. My children and I were at a playdate the week of July 24th-30th and the situation pertains to food choices. So the options for a snack that my kids had were cheetos, doritos, lays and fresh cut watermelon. I observed the behavior from afar without Jonathan and Janette knowing. I watched each of their two eyeballs pour over each choice in front of them. They both settled on the fresh cut watermelon. Mind you the other kids and siblings had reached for the chips and had their 'hhmm' and 'aahhhs' while eating them. My two kids took their serving of watermelon and placed it on a plate and had a napkin in hand. They sat down at the outdoor sofa/table and ate their watermelon quietly and slowly. I could tell they were savoring each bite. Now in that moment I felt proud. I felt like I did something right. I felt like I leaped out of myself and gave myself a celebratory congratulation high five. I am not judging anyone else's child, parenting skills or their food choice. I was just proud of how my kids made their own choice and didn't adhere to the feeling of peer pressure or a 'monkey see monkey do' action. And all that was left was watermelon rind, satisfied tummies and happy faces. Woohoo!

As for any other events, fun with the kids, fun as a family and some random stuff too. I will let the pictures do that talking.

The kids and I enjoyed the Navy Band while we shopped/exchanged b-day gifts. They were good.

Jonathan and Janette at American Girl. She wanted to look around.
We ended up being there for 40 minutes. lol 

A close up of the kids posing again. 

Sean and I went to The Abbey before a kids bday party. We needed some Daddy's Milk. 

The skyline view as we drove to sports for Jonathan today.
Look at those lovely fluffy white clouds!
My last item is some information on some family fun this summer at The Grove L.A. The first one is tomorrow. =-)

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Things To Do with Your Kids in Los Angeles

I stated that I wanted to be a resource to any and all parents. Well here is my first post of what to do with your kids in Los Angeles. Some of these things are free. (i.e. free admission, half off, two for one)

So here it is....

Giggles and Hugs in the Century City mall. They have free admission for ALL Mondays for the month of July. Their last one is this Monday July 25th. Children must be of the age of 3 years old and wear socks in the indoor play facility. It is a great place to play and have some fun.
http://www.gigglesnhugs.com/calendar-2/

A great museum for kids is Kidspace Children's Museum. A lot of fun daily activities during a regular visit which are Free with a paid general admission. They also have a FREE parking lot which is a plus, be sure to get there early for space. Check out their calendar.
http://www.kidspacemuseum.org/site/PageServer?pagename=index

The Natural History Museum has a lot to offer in the kids department. Dinosaurs and the Butterfly Pavilion are the two most frequented.
http://www.nhm.org/site/activities-programs

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) has a plethora of kids events, art and hands on paint brushing for your kids. They also have a free entrance program for kids through the NextGen program. Check out the many activities on their website.
http://www.lacma.org/education-programs#panel-panel2

L.A. Parent Magazine has a great online calendar that has a plethora of FREE kid activities and also other events, camps etc etc. This is a great resource. Oh and I have entered a lot of their contests via their Facebook page. Out of the five that I have entered with them, I have won 4 of them. So get on this wagon and maybe you can be a winner too!
http://losangeles.parenthood.com/directory/event/

The Hollywood Bowl has an amazing summer music program and art activity for kids and adults. Different themed music happens for two or more week blocks. Check it out. Totally fun and on the cheap.
http://www.hollywoodbowl.com/education/summersounds/index.cfm

The Grove L.A. has a lot of free kid activities during the week and weekend. There are even store events listed on their website. I have had some fun spur of the moment events there. Ricky Martin interview, Mario Lopez of Extra tapes episodes there (my son's head was on Extra once while we were there), free concert series and under the stars movies nights and again plenty of kids activities.
http://thegrovela.com/los_angeles/entertainment/calendar.php

The Century City Mall has a lot of kid/family friendly events as well. I stumbled on this today just by looking for information about Giggles and Hugs which is at that mall. Mac has free summer technology camps for kids ages 8-13. Wow right!!!! For those of us at West Hollywood Elementary with our Mac technology introduction this is a great resource.
http://www.westfield.com/centurycity/special-offers/summer-camp-at-microsoft-store
Playdate events at Century City Mall
http://www.westfield.com/centurycity/special-offers/saturday-play-dates-in-the-play-zone
Movies on the Terrace
http://www.westfield.com/centurycity/special-offers/movies-on-the-terrace-2011

Now for ALL us parents with time crunches and making healthy quick dinners for our family here is a food blog via my friend Peter Bedard of createyourhealth.com (excellent resource) which he posted on his Facebook page and on his website. I listed the direct link for the food blog below.
http://createyourhealth.com/simple-healthy-meals-in-less-time-5-tips/

I hope all of this is helpful to you folks.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Janette's New B-Day Beach Tradition

So as I stated in my previous post, I was going to provide some photos of our beach trip to celebrate my daughter turning 4 today. Janette had a blast and my son Jonathan made sure people knew it was his sister's  birthday. Sibling love is just the best. (aaww - tear) Wait until that wears off, lol.

We frolicked in the water, sand and then sat and sun bathed a little. For me being of a medium brown complexion I am not tan all over. I did get a great tan. Yeah! The beach we went to was very calm, not so busy and easy to get in and out of. If you want to know where I went just email me via my blog.  I can say that I will make this a yearly tradition for Janette. Her birthday falls in the summer and what a better way to spend the day.

Here are the photos. My bestie Andrew is in one of the photos. What a fun day!!!! Thank you to him for coming along. Memories were made today.....


Jonathan is beach ready for sure...styling with that hat too!

the birthday girl Janette looking cute in her bathing suit

Uncle Andrew and Janette attempting to build a sand castle....Janette wasn't keen on it though,  a girl who
can make up her own mind. yeah!!! I have done something right. lol 

look at these two cutie pies!!! ready to rule the world or are just blown away
by the vastness of the ocean out in front of them...hhhmmmm I wonder

playing ball together...my heart is full seeing them enjoy each other

Janette threw the ball far right after I took this photo. go girl! 

they looked so happy! 

Today is my Baby Cakes' Birthday

Oh for the love of joy. Janette turns 4 years old today. I can not believe it! It seems like only yesterday my Little Man, Jonathan was turning 4. All day yesterday he kept telling his sister that her birthday is Tuesday July 19th. I was in shock and awe of how he can sometimes tell the date. Also this happened during dinner last night which I was not prepared for as a parent. (sigh)  I had a very emotional moment and it pertains to my discussion with my daughter today and how she is turning 4 years old tomorrow. I cried like a blubbering parent as the conversation my son and daughter were having about his first day or preschool, his day and what he did and didn't do that day. Then my daughter talks about going to preschool soon. Oh my has the time flown. My Baby Cakes is not a baby anymore. 


my now 6yr old son

my Baby Cakes now (a blissful 3yr old)

here she is as a true Baby Cakes


Janette's first self feeding with a spoon

Little Man at a ripe old age of 3

Jonathan's 4th birthday party...look at that cake!

sibling love when she was 1 and he was 3..wow time flies...I cried a little when I selected this photo

my soon to be 4yr old navigating her new scooter all by herself ( a proud daddy watched her with tears in his eye)

when did my Baby Cakes become an Independent Woman (lol) 

so this is the place where Janette made a list of her birthday presents...it is then that I knew she wasn't a baby anymore

As you can see time does fly. I feel so blessed and so lucky to be a stay at home dad. To be able to nurture and witness their growth. My partner Sean is the best partner ever for giving me this gift. A gift that is priceless. To be able to be home and take care of our household is just amazing. His hard work allows and affords this, so I am forever humbled and grateful to Sean. 

Today, this early morning all I could think about is how am I going to make today unique and special for Janette. Yes her very own birthday party is this Saturday but her actual birthday needs its own tradition.  Well I am taking her to the beach, her brother in tow and my (besty or bestie -spell check kept fighting this one) Andrew. We are headed to Northend Caffe (yep spelling of this establishment is correct) in Manhattan Beach, CA and then to the actual beach to sun bathe, chelax more like entertain the kids and have a good ol' time. I can't wait. I will post pictures and a brief message once I am home, cleaned up and kids are napping. 

One particular request that Janette had was for me to make her her favorite dinner. I asked and she said (in that ever so cute tone), "Daddy can you make me sloppy joes. It's my favorite." Now I had no idea she had a favorite dinner anything. Oh and since I have a 'from scratch' recipe for this I have made it before without any inkling of this being her favorite. I will post the recipe after the day's activities. =-)
Now you all know what is for dinner and I am in anxious anticipation for Baby Cakes to awake and start her day as a new 4yr old. Yeah!!! (still crying tears of joy over here) 

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Beginning

Here I am starting my very own blog. How long have blogs been available?! A long time. I felt the need to make/create/share/give/offer a place where any parent gay/lesbian, straight, bisexual, transgendered etc. etc. to have a resource. When I became a parent of two lovely wonderful beautiful happy lovely (I said that already-the list could go on and on and on but I won't do that) children September 22nd, 2008 (happiest day of my life up until that point); there wasn't any kind of resource for me to utilize as a new parent.

 Even with the vast amount of people in my life at that time; (agency, social workers, case workers etc. etc.) there was limited resources for me to help me with being a parent. I had to find this all on my own. An example of this was, I asked my agency contact person if she knew of a church that I could worship at as a family that is also gay friendly (mind you I later found out on my own that her best friend is the pastor of the church we go to now-which it never occurred to her to tell me oh and he happens to be gay), has examples of other same sex couples families and is child friendly. (sunday school hopefully)

Now I am not a person of vast knowledge but I have come to equip myself with resources, community groups, school booster clubs and parent relationships that I can offer this knowledge to. I am a self starter and a seeker of knowledge so I feel I have a lot to offer.

If you would like to follow me on this then I welcome you. I believe that I and you can offer each other a lot of knowledge sharing. =-)