Thursday, January 14, 2016

Monday evening

It was the end of a long Monday for both Ed and I. Noé had just done something that had created a huge mess. Something he definitely knew better than to do. Ed and I let our anger get the best of us. We both raised our voices at him and then sent him straight to bed so we could begin to deal with the cleanup.

Ed happened to walk by the boys' darkened bedroom and noticed a shadow climbing down from the top bunk. He peered into the room just in time to see Asher sit himself down on the lower bunk, next to a sad-faced Noé. Asher put his arms around his brother, an offering of comfort and love. Noé accepted the hug and they held each other for a few moments. Ed and I were both humbled to tears.

We continually learn how to love from this kid.

Saturday, January 2, 2016


My first baby is 13 now. All sharp edges, unruly thick dark hair, an ever-deepening voice. There is no hiding his autism from the world, not that I feel the need to do so. Even the regulars on our bus line, disheveled addicts and the mentally unstable who regularly pick fights with invisible bus passengers, take note of Noé and ask me if he has autism.

Between the autism and the teenagerism, he can be stubborn and difficult. He communicates well with his iPad, but on his own terms. It still takes a lot of energy and reinforcement (think skittles) for him to be cajoled into learning new things. We have to set a timer on his music, otherwise he will listen all-day and non-stop to his record and iPad music collections.  His OCD tendencies have increased in the past year. He spends his free time shutting or opening doors, and obsessively touching the points of objects and surfaces.

But we have these moments.  His eyes will catch mine. Often it is a quick flicker of happiness or engagement, a flame that I have to reach out and hold before it disappears. I try to be on the constant lookout for these moments, lest I miss an opportunity to be with him.  In these moments he is engaged and eager for interaction. We will talk and I know he is listening. We play simple games, we tickle, we dance together to his music.  He will let me hug him without pushing away.

Blessed moments with my first baby.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Favorite Facebook Posts - 2015

Feb 26
Easy Ed just informed me that my habit of double-spacing-between-sentences "dates" me. This is hard to ignore, with his job history of employment at certain highly pretentious newspapers. But. I. Can't. Stop! So thank you, Mrs. Carlson, freshman typing teacher, with your outdated electric typewriters and smart secretary suits and frosty permed hair and tragic blue eyeshadow.

May 7
Getting a quote for some home repair work this morning. I have this conversation every time we hire out work.
Spanish-speaking contractor: Where is your husband from?
Me: He's from LA, his family is from Mexico
Contractor: (Blank stare)
Me: He didn't get the home repair genes, ok?

July 26
So we've had an uptick in crime in our neighborhood so our neighbors banded together to create a FB page as a sort of neighborhood watch. Someone posted that there was a Hispanic male, 5'8 and wearing an LA Dodger's baseball cap, in his late 20s or 30s, casing our block yesterday.
I think I found him.

Aug 24
Noe has been playing Christmas music full blast in the house while I frantically get us ready for camping in the San Juans and slather sunscreen on everyone and everything. ‪#‎autism‬

Aug 27
Whenever we go to 7-11 for slurpees, my kids always insist on measuring their height on the front entrance door with the giant ruler they use to ID robbers. It's so embarrassing!

Sept 2
"I love waking up to the sound of traffic and looking out my window as the cars and bikes whiz by." -Asher ‪#‎truecitykid‬ ‪#‎futureurbanplanner‬

Sept 22
What's it like to be married to the son of Mexican immigrants you might wonder? Well, here is a small peek: Today we had lunch together at a neighborhood Greek restaurant. We spent the first half of the lunch waxing sentimental about our early years of marriage and the kids, and the second half predicting how and when we will die. Mexican sentimentality and fatalism apparently cross the border as well.

Sept 29
Poor Noé fell asleep on the toilet this morning. This early middle school schedule is hard on his little preteen body.

Oct 15
Poor Noé fell asleep (Part 2)….drinking his morning mug of chocolate milk. Standing up. Chocolate milk everywhere. The morning struggle is real for this kid.

Nov 2
Asher hid his Halloween candy from Noé the nightstand next to our bed. He obviously has a thing or two still to learn about his parents.

Nov 22
There has been a lot of excitement at Casa Guzman over the new Adele album. Wait, I don't think you quite understand. For the last four years, we have listened to Noé play '21' on his iPad daily… usually for several hours at a time. I think even Adele herself would agree it was a little much. I've been driven to the edge of Adele-induced hysteria for the past few weeks anticipating the new album and whether or not '25' would meet Noé's impossibly high (and extremely narrow) standards of acceptable iPad music.‪#‎Hello‬, I'm proud to report…it's been all '25' all weekend long. ‪#‎autism‬

Nov 27
Our foreign exchange student caught us eating pumpkin pie for breakfast this morning and it instantly confirmed all of her suspicions about Americans. I could see it in her eyes.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015


When he is a grown up, he will have a wife and two, maybe three kids ("I'll have to discuss that with my wife, " he says). He will live in the little orange and yellow house three blocks from our current home that he has eyed since we moved into the neighborhood ("so me and my two or three kids can see you every day!"). He will be an urban planner, the job he has wanted since he discovered there was an actual title to the thing that has drawn him in since age 2, when he started mapping out mini-cities and transportation systems with his Thomas the train sets.

When I was 11, I wanted to be an attorney and wear high-powered suits to work each day (it was the 1980's…picture giant shoulder pads). No kids and no husband ("that would ruin everything!") a big house and a really nice red sports car and a pool….all for myself.  Wow, my 11 year old self would be so disappointed with me!

Whatever Asher decides to do over the coming years, I know it will be done with the tenacity and compassion which has already become his trademark. And his father and I will continue to be so immensely proud of him.

Happy 11th Birthday, kiddo.

Sunday, December 6, 2015


Family photo: Redwoods, Damnation Trail

I am finally getting around to our awesome #guzmancaliadventure trip last summer. This trip was years in the making, the trickiest part was finding the time to make it happen. I remember dreaming about driving down the length of the PCH back when we lived in NYC! I am including our itinerary and a few links for anyone interested.

PCH Trip Itinerary

Days 1 and 2: Drove from Seattle to Mill Creek California State Park (Redwoods).  Lunch stop at Track Town in Eugene, quick tour of UO campus and I drooled over the new business building that was still in the planning phases when I attended MBA school there fifteen years ago. We also did a quick drive-by of my old Eugene apartment.  We arrived late afternoon and set up camp.  We stayed at Mill Creek, but spent a lot of time at Jedediah State Park.  Both were amazing and I've read that the Redwood state parks are actually better than the national park Redwood areas.  I'd never camped at a site with a bear box which was both convenient for food storage and comforting.  Our campsite was right among the big Redwood beauties and private. The nights were cool and the days were gorgeous. Two highlights: Stout Grove and Damnation Trail,  a challenging but fun seven mile hike through Redwood groves that ended at a remote beach. This hike was probably the biggest highlight (among many big ones) of my trip. Sharing it with my family was special.

More Redwood trip ideas here.

Noé, Stout Grove
Day 3: We did a farewell morning hike in the state park and packed up.  Most of the rest of the day was spent driving down to the Bay Area.  It was hot and our air conditioner broke.   We decided against taking Hwy 101 for this stretch to save ourselves some time. Around 5PM we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge into the City and the rest of the hot, crazy traffic, ac-less day was forgotten. Entering the City was definitely a high point of the trip for the kids. We arrived in Redwood City in time to have a Chinese take-out picnic in the backyard of our friends' house.    

Day 4:  We rode the CalTrain in for a day of exploring San Francisco.  Here is a fun SF tour if you have limited time and a car. We saw as much of the city as we could on foot in a day, focusing on places the kids would like, since Ed and I have visited the city many times. We walked the Embarcadero, stopped at the Ferry Building (ok, that was kind-of a "me" stop), had a pizza lunch and playground pit stop in the Little Italy of San Francisco, visited Chinatown, stopped in at the Fortune Cookie Factory to see how the cookies are made and to write our own fortunes for our cookies, rode a cable car, gazed at the Bay Bridge.  We needed another week in this beautiful city!  Everyone says with horror that Seattle is the new San Francisco.  I say bring it on!

Day 5:  This was such a relaxed day with gorgeous weather, great views, and good friends. We spent the morning in Palo Alto on the Stanford campus with college friends, letting Ed wax nostalgic. We hung out at the main quad, the top of Hoover Tower, picnicked on the Oval before heading to the ocean. We spent the afternoon boogie boarding at Ed's favorite college beach on the north end of Half-Moon Bay. Truly one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever visited. Later we drove down to Santa Cruz for the night.

Day 6:  Asher hasn't stopped talking about the Santa Cruz boardwalk. I had hoped it would be more charming and less carni crowd, but we did have fun on the rides and stuffing ourselves with kettle corn while looking out at the ocean view.  We spent the whole afternoon and early evening at the boardwalk.  Earlier in the day, we found a state park beach just outside of Santa Cruz.  The fog didn't lift until almost 1PM, but we still had a great time out on the water. Beautiful, clean beach on the edge of orange and lemon groves. More boogie boarding, more frisbee, more sand castles.

Day 7: We headed to Monterrey for a day at the Monterrey Aquarium. We LOVED the aquarium, even though we aren't really science geeks. I highly recommend going as early as you can, if you are traveling during the summer months. Serious crowds.

After another picnic lunch against the backdrop of beautiful Monterrey, we then drove the scenic roller coaster length of the PCH between Monterrey and Pismo Beach, including the famous 17 mile drive. We only stopped to see Elephant Seal Vista Point near San Simeon. I think I was the only one fascinated by the seals. My travel buddies couldn't get past the stench.  There were other spots I would have loved to stop if time had permitted, including Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. We made it to Pismo Beach just before nightfall and set up camp.

Day 8:  I didn't love Pismo Beach (maybe I should have actually done some hard research on the place rather than going with a name that sounded like it should be a cool California beach). It was dry, not very scenic and a little trashy. Probably the highlight of our Pismo Beach stop  was eating at In-and-Out.

We spent the morning at the beach (I did enjoy the boogie boarding - the ocean was warm and the waves were perfect), and then continued on the final stretch to LA.  We did stop in Santa Barbara for the afternoon and visited the beautiful, flamingo-pink old California mission there.

LA Visit:  We were really tired of driving by the time we reached LA, so we ditched our car and mostly got around LA by light rail (yes, LA has a light rail!) There is a stop just a couple of blocks from Ed's parents house, so it is really convenient for us. We spent a day exploring downtown LA spots such as Chinatown and Olvera Street. We also rode the light rail out to Pasadena, which is probably my most favorite place in Southern California.  Another day we grabbed sandwiches from Phillipes and ate lunch in the empty stands of Dodger Stadium, which was really awesome. Otherwise, we spent time with family and friends, ate a lot of great Mexican food, let the kids wander through their Abuelo's compound in bare feet. We did very little for 4th of July, besides eat off the grill and light sparklers. It isn't safe to be outside after dark on a holiday in their neighborhood. Too many people shooting guns in all directions.

How we travel: We have established firm financial goals so that we can care for our oldest and survive the roller coaster ride that is the newspaper industry. But we highly value travel and time with family and friends. We started camping to save money, but found we really enjoy it (even Ed!), at least in short stints. This trip, we camped out several nights, stayed with generous friends in the Bay Area and then with Ed's parents in LA.  We ended up only paying for two nights of hotel in Santa Cruz. And those nights felt luxurious…a pool, a hot tub, free ice, free breakfast, cable television! We also spent little time in restaurants, mostly buying groceries and picnicking down the coast. There were exceptions (In-and-Out, Track Town), but we saved a ton of money and overall felt healthier throughout the trip. We based most of our play on the beach and outdoors, which is (mostly) free.  That is the most fun for me anyways. And picnicking on a beautiful beach is so much better than eating greasy food in a chain restaurant. There were things that were just plain expensive: Monterrey Aquarium.  San Francisco. Santa Cruz Boardwalk. But they were all worth the cost, and there was less guilt forking over the money knowing we were saving in other areas.

We left Santa Cruz Boardwalk with our heads
 and wallets feeling a bit lighter.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Almost 40

20 things I would love to go back and tell my 20 year old self … on my 40th birthday.

1. Skipping meals makes you fat.

2. Perfect families are boring families.

3. You actually make yourself wealthier and more powerful when you can do basic skills such as cooking, car repair, sewing, and cleaning. Ignore the gender implications, saving money when you're young matters more.

4. You may think you have figured out where you stand with your faith, but the struggle never really ends.

5. $10,000 is not a lot of money.

6.  College grades matter much less than experience and connections.

7. Make sure your moisturizer has SPF….and wear it every day.

8.  Hold your best friends tight.  It gets harder and harder to make true friends as you age.

9.  Motivation happens through action, not before.

10.  You look ridiculous riding a razor scooter with your kids when you are (almost) 40.  But do it anyways because it is fun.

11. Less stuff, less stress.

12.  Never waste an otherwise perfect day at the beach worrying about your back-thigh cellulite.

13.  You can't convince love.  So stop wasting your time and find the one who loves you with all of his heart. And (hint) he might be wearing nerdy glasses and a Stanford sweatshirt.

14.  Eat all the ice cream you can.  Because you might turn 40 and not be able to eat it anymore.

15.  Run all the miles you can.  Because you might turn 40 and it might become very painful.

16.  Don't change your name when you marry.  It doesn't make you less devoted to your husband or your family.  Yes, it is purely symbolic.  But symbols are important.

17.  Don't listen to any person or any institution who tells you how to dress or otherwise appear.  It is not okay.

18. The power of compounded interest over time is a real thing. There is nothing you think you need in your twenties that will be worth the compounded savings you will achieve in your forties and beyond.

19. Skinny jeans….not your best look.

20. Be patient with your siblings, they will someday be your very best friends.  For reals.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Duck Island

I'll never forget the day our offer was accepted on our current Seattle home. I was still in Reston, VA with the boys: working, packing up, and selling our NoVA house.  Ed was in Seattle, working a new job by day and running the real estate rat maze by evening, searching for that elusive block of cheese with a six-figure price tag.

Our new house was in a neighborhood that I had visited once and had never stopped thinking about, near a beautiful lake, with the Seattle cityscape rising in its background. I could barely believe that our offer had been accepted in the crazy gold mine that is currently Seattle Real Estate.  The honeymoon is now mostly over as far as my neighborhood is concerned, but it was a day full of possibility and wonder.

When the boys came home from school, I told them the news about the house. I hadn't yet mentioned the possibility of this house to them.  We are careful with our money and I didn't think we really had much of a shot with this particular house in the land of escalating clauses and offer review dates.  By some random stroke of luck, our offer had been accepted.  The boys and I looked at pictures of our new home and maps of the surrounding area. We marveled how close the lake and their school would be to our house. Asher immediately zeroed in on a fine detail from a map of the lake….a small mysterious island. Duck Island.

Duck Island continued to mystify and thrill eight-year-old Asher. Over the past two years, we have Asher has speculated about what kinds of things inhabited the island for many hours at a time….Buried treasure? A native people? Was it like Australia…where they sent all the criminals? (this was probably the most realistic theory, as it faced the Aurora Ave side of the lake).  We have walked around the lake with the island in full view, boated around the island, peeping into it's thick moat of greenery and trees with binoculars, all many many times.  Why I never thought to just dock our boat and go take a look on one of those occasions is it's own mystery.  It just seemed so….Forbidden.

Asher touching landfall
Last July, with Noé at summer school and two hours to kill before he returned, Asher and I kayaked on the lake.  And we did our usual loop around Duck Island.  Asher, once again, asked if we could stop.

Why not?

There wasn't an inviting place to dock our two-seat kayak, so I stayed anchored to the boat while Asher hopped onto land (kind-of reminiscent of Captain Cook setting foot on Hawaii for the first time…or maybe the opposite).  He was eager to claim this unchartered territory, exactly seventy blocks from downtown Seattle, as his own.  I said a quiet prayer that no island natives would tie him up and run him over a fire like a human shish kabob.

It didn't take long for Asher to run back to the boat after circling the island (it's not really a very big island).

He was out of breath, a glint of excitement in his eyes. "Mom, guess what?  I think NATIVE AMERICANS live on the island.  There's a teepee and everything!  I took pictures!" He had taken my iPhone on his island tour and began to click through photos.

the sacred site

He had either uncovered North American Indian artifacts worthy of a natural history museum or a hobo hangout.  All bets on the latter.

We rowed back to shore with smiles on our faces, heroic conquerors of tiny urban islands.