Blog Posts by La Vida as we know it

  • "Abuelita, Tell Me a Story": Holding on to the Cuentos of Our Childhood

    Caperucita Roja"Abuelita, tell me a story." This used to be a common request from the kids in my house; we loved to have our Abuela Rigo tell us fairy tales, because she had the gift of making them come to life. Her bag of cuentos seemed endless: we shrieked at the tale of Caperucita Roja (Red Riding Hood), swooned as Prince Charming kissed Blanca Nieves (Snow White) and cried when the Patito Feo (The Ugly Duckling) was rejected by his family for looking different from the rest. Our favorite stories, though, were those Latin American fables, whose characters seemed like they really lived in the mountains of a nearby country or right under abuela's house in Puerto Rico.



    The lucky fool, the "tooth fairy" mouse and the conceited cockroach

    La Cucarachita Martina (Ana López Escrivá)La Cucarachita Martina (Ana López Escrivá)We loved the story of a very clean and conceited little cockroach named La Cucarachita Martina, a folktale from Cuba. It's the tale of how Martina finds a coin as she sweeps her house and uses it to make herself beautiful. She sits on her front

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  • The Golden Age of the “Chancletazo”

    I'm minding my own business looking for shampoo at the local Walgreens when I hear a little girl whine: "Mami, but I want it!" The whine becomes louder by the minute, when finally the little girl throws herself to the floor, screaming at the top of her lungs, "I waaanntttt iiiitttt!!!" The mother doesn't even react; she finishes her shopping trip and the girl eventually follows her mother out still mid-tantrum. It made me think: WWPaMD (What would Papi and Mami Do)?
    To spank or not...that is the question (iStockphoto)To spank or not...that is the question (iStockphoto)
    They certainly wouldn't have left me on the floor making a scene. I know that Papi would have stopped the whining long before the tantrum started with a stern warning, and if that failed, he would have swiftly picked me up, exited the store and gotten to the bottom of the matter. And if that still didn't work, a good nalgadita or two would have been issued. Then I'm thinking, caray, well by that time there would have been enough correazos, chancletazos and nalgadas to ensure I'd never throw a tantrum in my life. As far as

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  • Things I Learned from My Father

    I'm one of the lucky ones. I have very loving and devoted parents, the best any child (actually, the best any four children) could ever have. And we couldn't love them more. When it comes to wisdom, affection and plain old silly-fun, my Daddy takes the prize. As I reflect on all that Papi has imparted on my life (and I have a list of over 50 items!), here are some of the best and sweetest things I've learned from my Dad.

    Build healthy relationships: Papi has always been about relating, communicating, interacting, looking at you straight in the eye, giving you a strong handshake and making you feel like you are the most important person in the world.

    • Make sure you let your Papi know that, no matter what, you love and appreciate him .Make sure you let your Papi know that, no matter what, you love and appreciate him .With his children: As a Dad, that meant that his kids were to listen to his advice (especially when they had misbehaved) whether they felt ready for it or not. Sometimes we wished he'd given us una buena nalgada (a good slap on the butt) than take the long way to the supermarket and back just so we could listen to his "how to
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  • Funny Things Our Mamis Say

    Our mamis' greatest hitsEvery culture has its sayings and refranes, but when they come out of our Mamis' mouths, don't they just sound hilarious? Add to that their way of saying things, plus the contradictions in their advice and you end up with a Molotov cocktail of plain, unadulterated funny. In my house, we call it "free entertainment."

    Here are some of the most frequently heard pearls of wisdom at my house (and maybe yours, too):

    On eating: We come from a long line of gorditos in my family, so having a mother, aunt or abuela tell me I was fat was definitely the pot calling the kettle black. Amazingly, the contradictions on the subject were customary. An exchange like this was an almost every day occurrence:

    -Nena, ¡te estás poniendo gorda! ¡Mira que pipa! (Girl, look at your belly! You're getting fat!)

    A few days later, Mami would serve me a plate so large, a football player could never finish eating it, because…

    -Nena, te veo muy flaca. ¡Tienes que comer más! (Girl, you're getting

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  • When the Going Got Tough, I Went Back Home

    A survival guide for living with Mami and Papi after losing your job

    It's been all over the news: young adults returning home to live under Mom and Dad's roof because of rampant unemployment. Recent college graduates who not able to find work and unemployed adult children in their 30's and 40's are going back to their parents' homes in droves, financially unable to live on their own. As a matter of fact, a recent Pew Research survey found that currently one out of five US adults, ages 18-34, now lives with his or her parents. The result: American parents and their adult kids are struggling to find physical and emotional space for relating to one another again.

    Mother and daughter/iStockphotoMother and daughter/iStockphoto

    How to make it work when college grads return home to live

    This was not my experience with mis papás, though; they were elated! You have to understand: I left home to go to college and never looked back. Of course, I came home for Navidad, and to this day I call my Mom every day…but living at home…with them…again?

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  • Lessons Learned from Having a Bilingual Dog

    Sometimes the way we treat our pets reveals more about our own human relationships.

    I'm a Latina (of the Boricua kind) through and through, but when I got a dog, I only spoke English to her. I had my first dog as a grown-up here in the US; I was already mainstreamed in the language and the culture, so when I got Blondie, the prettiest golden retriever mix you ever saw, I spoke to her in the language I used every day without realizing that my sweet doggie was being deprived of learning my birth language.

    A boy and his dog/iStockphotoA boy and his dog/iStockphoto

    One day we were going over formal and informal commands in Spanish class when one of my students asked, "Entonces, ¿usa usted 'mandatos informales' con su perro?" "Sí, ¡por supuesto!" I answered, but quickly realized that I'd just lied; I spoke no Spanish to my dog at all! As a matter of fact, if I were to take Blondie to visit the other members of my family, she wouldn't have understood anyone. But wait, it got worse. I realized that I did speak Spanish to my dog, but only

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  • Dating in the New World

    Ahhh, the good old days of dating! Boy sees girl, asks her to be his "novia", and she says "sí". That's how it was when my mom was allowed to have boyfriends. Then came the challenges: he visited her home, her father decided to read the paper in the living room with them; he took her out, and her little brother had to come along. It was the era of the "chaperonas", and as far she was concerned, this dating scenario was pretty revolutionary. In generations prior, mothers and aunts chaperoned the budding couple. How did people ever get married?

    iStockphotoiStockphoto

    5 ways to stay positive during the dating process

    By the time my sister started dating, her trials no longer involved nosy chaperones and were more cultural in nature. She met Mikey only a few months after we left Puerto Rico to live in the American South. She spoke little English; he spoke no Spanish. Instead of being novios, they were just dating. Their outings included football tailgates (people eat out of their cars?!?), mountain

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  • Quinceañeros: The Evolution of a Sweet 15s

    I always had big birthdays growing up in Puerto Rico; my mom and my grandma made sure I had lots of balloons, a nice cake with matching dress and lots of amiguitos. I still remember my fifth birthday party when my abuela had the neighborhood "cake lady" match the bizcocho to the exact blue of my dress.

    Planning the Perfect Quinceañero

    Of mothers and becoming a grown-up

    So, you can imagine what a big deal my Quinceañero was gearing up to be. It was supposed to be a small gathering at home to celebrate my turning 15, but this one was in my Mami's hands- literally. She was sewing my dress, her best friend was on stand-by to make a multi-tiered cake, and grandma kept adding dishes to the already stretched-out menu. Less than a week before the big event, I march into my mother's room, eyes moist, heavy breathing- just like your garden variety sufrida de telenovela- and tell her, "I'm sorry, but I don't want a Quinces birthday party." Nobody had even asked me if I wanted this

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  • Can Someone Tell Mis Papás that We Live in the U.S. Of A.?

    I'm sure it has happened to you. You're living your life, speaking English, having English-speaking friends, liking American music, food…but then, you get home. Everyone speaks Spanish, the novelas are on full blast, and as you go by the kitchen, there's an overwhelming smell of something cooking. Pozole, again? Ugh! Dating is a whole other story. My sister Lisandra had to be chaperoned at age 17 when going out with any suitors. Needless to say, her date never called her back.

    iStockphotoiStockphoto But, it's all par for the course when growing up Latino in the good U.S. of A. for many of us, especially during the tougher teenage years. Not only do you have to deal with parents that don't fully understand the language, but they may not get the culture either and consider it sinfully desastrosa.

    And what about our parents? They come to this country to find a better future for their children, but discover that as they grow, they want to look and behave less like their elders and more like the American kids

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