Monday, June 29, 2015

A Letter to my Daughter, Azcalxochitzin, on her 10th Birthday

Dear Azcal,

My wish for you is that you were greeted by this morning’s sun on your nose as you woke up next to your sister, Lola. It was important for you to spend your last moments as a 9-year-old with her…I get it. 

Last night while I was washing dishes you came into the kitchen to say goodnight to me. You said, “Mom, I need to give you one last hug before I go to bed because when I wake up I’m not only going to be 10, but I am also going to be different.” I hugged you and kissed you on the forehead and as I watched you walk away, it took every last bit of strength in my heart not to stop you and tell you that you have ALWAYS been different; waking up as a 10-year-old was not going to change you!

I remember when I was pregnant with you and we were given the due date of June 29th. I didn’t want that date and asked if we could have you one week earlier. We were so excited when Dr. Montoya said that although she would like for us to wait for you to be born on time, one week wouldn’t make much of a difference. Your daddy and I prepared everything for your arrival to happen on June 23rd. We had our bags packed, Lola and Hana were at your grandma’s house, and off we went to come home with a new baby. You weren’t ready. The doctors tried to make you arrive that day, but stubborn you were! After five hours of administering medication to get you to come into this world everyone gave up and sent me back home. “Come back in a week and we will try again if she doesn’t come sooner,” Dr. Montoya said to me and your daddy as we sadly walked away.  

We already knew from that day that you would be different.

June 29, 2005 was your due date. You came into this world at 11:57 pm with a shallow whimper and a head full of hair. When they placed you on my chest and you kept turning your head looking for daddy’s voice, I knew then that you were different. Your beautiful skin and your deep brown eyes were enough to calm my soul that night. Though it would be another 24 hours before I was able to see you again, you came to me in my dreams the night you were born. You were a teenager in my dream and were wearing long earrings and tall boots. I remember you asked me for permission to leave with friends to the mall and when I said you couldn’t, you argued with a million reasons why I should let you go. Even in my dream on the eve of your birth I knew you were different. 

As time went on and you began to form your personality, there was never any doubt in my mind that you were going to do things your way. I remember when you were three years old and we were changing the sheets on your bed. I told you that we needed to change the pillowcase first and then we would change the fitted and flat sheet. You said to me that it didn’t make any sense because if we were to change the pillowcase first and then put it on the ground while we change the sheets on the bed, that your head would sleep on a dirty pillow. Logic; in the times that it escaped me, even at your three years of life you had it in abundance. 

You are my third child, little one, and though I thought I knew it all before I had you (after all, your older sisters had already taught me all there was to know about motherhood, or so I thought!), you quickly showed me that I actually knew nothing. I thank you for showing me this. 

 I easily identified my siblings’ traits in your older sisters. When I would look for these traits in you, I struggled to find ways in which I could connect your traits and your idiosyncrasies to them. The more I looked and the deeper I would dig, the closer I got to the fact that you are MY daughter. I began to recognize so much of myself in you and though it scared me in the beginning, I secretly thanked Creator for making you different. I thanked Creator for taking fire and ice and compassion and GANAS and putting it all together to form this little dark child who would not be afraid to take on the world!

Azcal, being different is your biggest challenge and your biggest reward. You don’t look like other girls. You don’t run like other girls. You don’t sing and dance like other girls. You don’t think like other girls. But you know what? That’s what makes you different and that’s what makes you who you are. There have been times in your life that you have noticed these differences and you become upset. You wonder why you look the way you do or you wonder why you don’t think, run, dance, or sing like other girls. Well, my sweet Azcal, I am here to tell you that it’s ok to be different. Heck, it’s more than ok to be different. I ENCOURAGE YOU TO BE DIFFERENT. 

There will be many occasions in which you will not want to talk to me about these things because you feel like I might not understand. I hope you know that just because I don’t understand everything you go through does not mean that I am unwilling to listen to you or unwilling to help you get through it. And if you still feel that I am not the right person to talk to, I encourage you to call on the family who loves you so much and talk, cry, scream, and talk again. I promise they will listen.

Thank you, my sweet 10-year-old, for showing me how much power there is in being different. 

Thank you for loving life and making the most of each day we are given.

Thank you for never giving up on your goals even when the finish line seems so far away. 

Thank you for teaching me the lessons that I, as your mother, should be teaching you. 

Thank you for loving me fiercely and reminding me that even when I don’t get it right, it isn’t wrong.

You are valued. You are loved. You are different.

We wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Happy Birthday, Azcal. 


Your mom

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

A Letter to Sarina on the Day of her Graduation

Dear Animal,

I’m guessing that you probably woke up today the same as any other day; stretching away the sleepy feeling that lingers when you have an important event that prevented you from a full night’s rest.  Am I right?

I don’t often get the opportunity to wake up in the same house with you, but as the fates would allow it, this morning as I was leaving I noticed that you were sleeping on the couch. Should I? Shouldn’t I? I slowly walked to where you were sleeping. I made sure not to make any noise so that I wouldn’t wake you up. You were so bundled up in the blanket that it was hard to see your face. The way you were wrapped up reminded me of the blanket you had when you were a little girl. You wouldn’t go anywhere without that blanket…it was your security, your best friend, your EVERYTHING. And there you were on the couch bundled securely as though you knew that once that blanket came off, everything about your life would change..

Walking away with tears in my eyes, I began to reminisce on your childhood. 


It was after I got in my car that I realized that this was not going to be an ordinary day for any of us, because those of us who have been by your side throughout this journey know how hard you have worked and how many hours of sleep you have given up in order to walk in today’s ceremony. 

And that is about the moment that I lost it. Seriously, Animal, I cried in my car for the entire time that it took me to get home. Then I cried at home while I showered. What a baby I am…but you know how the Ramirez women are—strong on the outside and MUSH on the inside.

My dear Animal. My first Godchild. My not-so-little niece. I love you to the moon and back and I am incredibly proud of the young lady you have grown to be. May your desire to be successful in all you do never die. May your path be filled with challenges that continue to help you grow.  May your cell phone always be charged with my number on speed dial. And May your heart be full of fire for education, because without fire we don’t find motivation. 

You are your mother’s daughter, Sarina. She is a champion and she is your greatest friend in life…I come a close second. Know that my love for you, though different than the love your mother has for you, is FIERCE and undying. You have witnessed it as long as you have lived, and have felt it since I first felt the kicks in your mommy’s tummy. 

You know that I always say that you are smart because I am smart (and you should be thankful that I passed those genes to you). You will undoubtedly make some of the same mistakes that we have made and you will undoubtedly learn the same lessons we did from those mistakes, but know that this family will ALWAYS support you in all you do and in every decision you make. We love you, Animal. I love you, Animal. 

I can’t wait to watch you graduate today. I will sit up there and watch you proudly grab that diploma, even though I know that it is a gateway for your new journey…a journey that will open up roads for you at UCSD. The places you will go, little girl, with that diploma and your tenacity will be the title of your future book. I can’t wait to read it!

No matter where you are, always remember that your Nina loves you more than life itself. I heard your roar the moment you were born and I knew you were destined for greatness at that precise moment. Go get ‘em, Animal!



Monday, June 15, 2015

On Azcal Defining her Gender and Wolfie Wearing Skirts...Tales from my Backseat Babies.

It started out like any normal conversation that I would have with Azcal and Wolfie on the way home from school. I asked Azcal how her day at school had gone and she shook her head and rolled her eyes. Knowing Azcal, this wasn’t enough for me to be alarmed. It was the conversation that followed that had me questioning my parenting skills. 

“So, mom, I wish for you to know that today I fought with a friend at school.”

“Ok, Azcal, but why are you fighting? You have four days left of school and you feel like you need to fight with your friends before summer vacation?”

“Well, for your information, her name is Ashley and she tried to tell me that I couldn’t stand in the line that I was standing in.”

Before I began to judge who was right and who was wrong, I asked Azcal if maybe she didn’t hear the directions that the teacher gave and maybe WAS standing in the wrong line. So I asked, “Do you think that Ashley was  just trying to tell you which line to be in so you didn’t get in trouble?”


“For your information, mother, I was standing in the boys line because it was shorter. The teacher put us in lines based on gender and I didn’t feel that I needed to define my gender to anyone. I chose the shorter line. That’s all.”

At this point I was driving on auto-pilot and missed my left turn. I know that I am a progressive mom and keep lines of communication open with my children, but this one blew me out of the water. I stayed quiet for about half a block because I was trying to get the right words together. I couldn’t even speak fast enough when Wolfie hits me with this one…

“I know what you mean, Azcal. It’s like when people say that girls can’t wear boy clothes or that boys can’t wear girl clothes. Why CAN’T I wear a skirt? Is there something wrong with that? I am proud of you, Azcal, for standing in the line.”

I just about lost my mind at that moment. I said, “No, Wolfie, you shouldn’t wear a skirt unless you will be playing the bagpipes. And maybe the teacher was trying to separate the class because the boys didn’t behave as well as the girls.”

Azcal said, “Mom, you have no idea what even happened. The teacher said there was a boys line and a girls line. The girls got in the girls line and the boys got in the boys line.”

“Ok, then it was clear. Why didn’t you get in the girls line?” I asked. (Because I don’t know any better, I guess!)

“And there you go, mom, trying to define my gender. UGH, you are just like my teacher. I am going to stand in the shortest line, ok, are you happy?”

At this point I knew that I couldn’t say anything right. It was easier to keep my mouth shut and let the two of them talk it out in the backseat. Wolfie and Azcal fight like dogs and cats half the time, and are fist-pumping allies the other half. This was definitely an ally moment for the pair. 

The conversation continued between them about the outfits that they can share from their closets. Wolfie promised Azcal that she could wear all of his Star Wars shirts AND his neckties, while Azcal was promising Wolfie that he can wear her leggings because they would look good with his cowboy boots. 

I must admit that I was a bit surprised by the way the conversation continued for over a mile and a half before we got to my mom’s house. Then all of a sudden Azcal whispers, “Ok, baby chubby, just remember that if anyone judges us, we have to tell them that we can be whoever we want to be.”
I dropped them off a few minutes later and sat alone in my car processing the conversation. I questioned both my response and the responses that I didn’t say out loud. 

·         Should I have told Azcal that it was rude not to follow the teacher’s instructions for the line she was supposed to stand in? 

·         Should I have told Wolfie that wearing a skirt will undoubtedly cause others to judge him…and to judge me? 

·         Should I have reminded Azcal that her gender is female and reminded her that her closet only reflects the girly-girl we all know she is?

·         Should I have started with the question to Wolfie about how his day went and possibly avoided this conversation with my children?

The answer to these questions is a resounding NO. So maybe I won’t be named the parent of the year by the Westboro Baptist Church. Maybe Azcal’s teachers will be calling me in the future to let me know she isn’t fitting into their prescribed boxes. Maybe there are days that Azcal feels like a boy more than she feels like a girl—who am I to determine that? And maybe, just maybe, I need to relax and not overthink the conversation. Right?

All I know is that I didn’t have these conversations with my mom when I was 9. I don’t even have these conversations with my mom at 43. But if you ask my sister, Claudia, if I believed I was a boy when I was younger, she will probably ask you which day of the week you are asking about…the apples do not fall far from the tree!