Where I'm From {poem}

I am from places that matter to no one and from names that mean nothing.

I am from a home with warm kitchens and lonely dinner tables.

I am from floors you can eat off of. And mouths spewing filth. 

I am from streets once flanked with Elms and a backyard where my mother planted marigolds and grew tomatoes. 

I am from hands that heal and words that hurt.

I am from "If only you lived up to your potential" and "never good enough."

I am from saints and sinners; the faithful and fearless. Where confessions are not forgotten, because forgiveness does not exist.

I'm from two islands: the island of inebriation and the island of noble Lords.

I am from arroz con gandules, arroz con pollo and arroz con habichuelas rosadas y salchichas - poor man's meals to keep a family full.

I am from a language I cannot speak but whose words I understand.

I am from reflections I can't stand to see and images I may never stand up to.

I am from rough hands, tough love, good food and sharp tongues.

I am from:
"I did not raise you to be a ____."
"You are just like your ____."
and "¡Qué jodienda coño!"

I am from capias and Woolworth family photos. I am from both parents but my father was hardly around.

I am from a small family with too many relatives.

I am from friends who've replaced family.

I am from names I should have never been called.

I am from poverty and prosperity. I am from places to be ashamed and from people I am proud of.

I am from contradictions and cliches.

I am from everything I was never meant to be.

Mama’s Losin’ It

1. Complete the “Where I’m From” poem. (template here)
2. Share a favorite holiday inspired recipe!
3. Create a list of must-have gifts you’ve got your eye on this Christmas.
4. Best or worst gift you ever received.
5. Describe how you would celebrate the holidays if it was totally up to you and money was not a factor.
6. Write a blog post inspired by the word: icy

35 Christmas Movies To Watch {Suggestions for Families, Girlfriends, Couples & Kids}

Tis the season to snuggle up and watch holiday movies.So if you're looking for a movie to watch over the next few weeks - here are some of my favorites. Not every movie on this list has to do with Christmas but all - at some point - are set during the Holiday season. I guarantee there is something on this list for everyone. 

Looking for a holiday movie everyone in the family can enjoy? From classics to cartoons here are 16 of must watch movies! Not all will appeal to kids but they can be watched with kids in the room. As a kid, It's a Wonderful Life never appealed to me. But my aunt always played it. The first time I watched it as an adult, I remembered it but saw it with a new appreciation. Now it's a must watch every year. And I hope Norrin will grow to love it too. 

It's a Wonderful Life
Miracle on 34th Street
The Bells of St. Mary's
The Santa Claus
White Christmas 
The Nightmare Before Christmas
A Charlie Brown Christmas
A Christmas Story
Home Alone
The Polar Express
Toy Story 
Lady & The Tramp
A Christmas Carol - the Disney version with Jim Carrey. 
Chronicles of Narnia 

Break out the wine, bring out the tissues and gather your besties! Or feel free to watch any of these alone. I love, love, love cheesy holiday romantic comedies - which all of these are except for Rent and Best Man Holiday. But all will make you ugly cry and feel good inside at the end.  

Love Actually 
Best Man Holiday
The Family Stone
When Harry Met Sally
While You Were Sleeping 
The Apartment 
The Holiday 
Holiday Engagement 

If your husband is anything like mine, he'll appreciate the movies on this list. These are all movies Joseph doesn't mind watching because they take place during the holidays BUT they don't revolve around the holidays. Which means they aren't sappy. So on nights when Norrin falls asleep early and I want to watch something Christmasy - I go to this list because it appeals to both me and Joseph. And honestly I do love all the movies on this list.   

The Long Kiss Goodnight 
Trading Places 
Die Hard 
Better Off Dead 
Batman Returns
Lethal Weapon 
Rocky 4 
LA Confidential

What's your favorite movie to watch during the holidays? 

How the Hispanic Scholarship Fund Helps Families Prepare for College

Disclaimer: This is part of a sponsored collaboration with Latina Mom Bloggers. All opinions are 100% mine.

When I was a senior in high school I didn't really think about going to college. While my mother stressed the importance of education, she also stressed the importance of working and being independent. Neither of my parents had gone to college. And there was no one to really guide me. I graduated high school, uncertain of what I wanted to do. So many of my friends seemed to have this plan. I didn't have a clue. 

I spent that summer working and hanging out. 

By the time August came around, I regretted the decision and registered for classes at the local community college but after a year, I decided it wasn't for me. And I quit to work full-time in a department store. 

Over the next few years I floated from job to job, often working two to three jobs at a time.

I returned to school because I was bored and needed something to fill the time. I struggled through most of my classes - especially math and science. I took classes in history, philosophy, business and psychology. The only classes that interested me were courses in literature, creative writing or journalism. I finally found something I was good at.
15 years (after graduating high school), 4 schools and too many jobs later, I finally graduated with a Bachelor's Degree from Lehman College. And 5 years later, I graduated with a Master's Degree from the City College of New York. It had taken me 20 years to obtain something most complete in less than 10 years. But I was a mother to a special needs child, a wife and I worked full-time the entire time.

And throughout my 20 year college experience, my parents were there for me. They didn't always understand why I worked so hard to finish school when I already had a good job. My mother didn't agree with my decision to continue with graduate school after Norrin was diagnosed with autism. But they still supported me - emotionally and sometimes financially. I couldn't have done it without their support. 
MFA Graduation - May 2013
Did you know that Hispanics account for 19% of all college students, ages 18-24? That’s a major increase, up from 12% in 2008. What’s more, 69% of Hispanic graduates are now going directly to college after graduating high school, a rate that is higher than that of the general population. 
But the surge in Hispanic college-bound students presents a greater need for more information about college and financial support. As all parents that have college bound students can attest, navigating the application process can be daunting. 

Parents are the support system that kids need to get to and through college, but parents need support and encouragement too. The Hispanic Scholarship Fund helps Hispanic parents access to the resources they need to help their children prepare, plan, and pay for college. 

HSF.net provides information on:   

1. Getting Ready For College
2. Financial Aid
3. Scholarships
4. DACA (
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) Students  
5. Programs / Outreach

To learn more visit: http://hsf.net/en/resources/parents/


Hispanic Barbie: A Barbie Doll Just For Me {Christmas Gifts I'll Always Remember}

I was five year old when I received my very first Barbie. It was a "My First Barbie" doll; she had long blond hair and blue eyes. She wore a yellow and turquoise body suit. And she came with a pair of matching yellow pants, a turquoise skirt and yellow mules. And while the Barbie is from 1980 - it's an outfit that's still relevant today (I would totally rock it). I loved her.

But I will never forget the day I saw Hispanic Barbie. It was a few weeks before Christmas and I was maybe 7 or 8 years old. I was shopping with my mother on Main Street. She had dark skin, brown eyes and long black hair. I loved everything about her. From her peasant blouse to her red skirt with black and gold trim to her red hoop earrings. (She looked like the woman on the soaps my mother kept her in dresser drawers. You know those soaps I'm talking about - they were wrapped in red tissue paper and smelled like musky perfume. I can't remember the name.) 

Hispanic Barbie didn't really look like me or like any woman in my family but there was something familiar about her. And it was the first doll that I had ever seen that that was Hispanic. Up until that point - dolls were either white or black.  

I told my mother I wanted her for Christmas. My mother kind of laughed. She picked it up, turning the box over and around - probably looking for the price. "We'll see," she said. My mother never said no or yes - she always said, "we'll see."

On Christmas morning my cousin Millie and her husband Andrew came over. She handed me the gift Santa had mistakenly left at her apartment. The tag said "from Santa" but even at a young age I recognized my cousin's large and loopy hand writing. When I ripped open the package, it was the Barbie I had wanted.

I knew it was my mom's doing. I knew she must have told Millie what I wanted. That was the thing about my mom. We didn't have much money. I didn't get spoiled with Christmas gifts. My mother always bought us the things that we needed but she always made sure we had one thing that we wanted. My mother created Christmas magic in her own way.                

I played with that Barbie all day. And over the years my Barbie collection grew but there was only one Hispanic Barbie. I changed their clothing often and created stories for each one. As became older, I cut their hair and used red pen to darken their lips, blue or purple for eyeshadow. When I grew too big for Barbie I tossed them all out.

I had forgotten all about my Barbie collection. 

Until I met Joseph. He introduced me to eBay and I was hooked. On eBay anything could be found and bought. He was a collector of toys and my love of Barbie returned. I started buying Barbie dolls again - keeping them in the box, obviously. As I started collected Barbie's, I thought of the Barbie that looked like me. I searched for her on eBay until I found her. I won't tell you how much I paid. It was before Norrin and I was much more carefree when it came to money.

When she arrived in the mail, all the memories of my childhood Christmas came back to me. 

I may have never wanted to be a mother, but I held on to my dolls hoping to pass them along to my daughter. When I got pregnant and found out I was having a boy, I packed up my dolls and put them away. They remain in their unopened boxes buried in my closet (today I rummaged through boxes until I found her). But every holiday, I get sentimental and think about that Christmas when Santa gave me my first Hispanic Barbie.

There are a handful of Christmas gifts from my childhood I remember. The ones that I remember mean something to me for different reasons.

{Part 1 of 3 - Christmas Gifts I'll Always Remember}

Be Photo Ready This Holiday Season with these 5 Healthy Essentials #Moms4JNJConsumer

This post is part of the HEALTHY ESSENTIALS® 2014 program by Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies, Inc. and The Motherhood, who sent me a box of products and compensated me for my time. Opinions, experiences and photos shared here are all my own, and I hope you enjoy them.
The Holiday Season is in full swing! There are parties, family gatherings and friendly get-togethers. I feel like my weekends have been packed since Thanksgiving. I don't mind really. It's the time of year where I love cooking for my family and friends. I don't go crazy buying extravagant gifts so cooking is my way of saying thank you for your time and friendship. And while I may be frantic cleaning, cooking and cleaning again - it's totally worth it to be among the people that mean the most to us. They are the holiday moments where memories are made and selfies are taken. 

But before I take that selfie, I make sure I'm picture ready. Being photo ready doesn't mean being high maintenance. I don't wear a lot of make up and I rarely get my hair done but there are other little ways to feel and look glam. It's what I do on the day to day that makes the difference. It's all about the Healthy Essentials. 

5 Healthy Essentials That Will Make You Picture Perfect

LISTERINE® ULTRACLEAN® Dental Floss. Shred-resistant dental floss stretches, flexes and slides easily between teeth. MICRO-GROOVES® Technology removes 2x more plaque than Glide® Mint Floss. 

Dental floss is something that can be easily tossed in your bag. Where there's a holiday party, there's food. Do you really want to take a picture with spinach dip in your teeth? I didn't think so.

LISTERINE® ULTRACLEAN™ MouthwashThe only leading mouthwash with an anti-tartar ingredient and new EVERFRESH™ Technology for a dentist clean feeling that lasts up to three times longer vs. brushing alone. 

Before getting ready to go out for an event and before I put on my make up, I always make sure to floss then rinse with mouthwash. I want to start the night with fresh breath and a bright smile.

CLEAN & CLEAR® Night Relaxing Deep Cleaning Face Wash. With deep sea minerals and sea kelp extract, this purifying cleanser cleans deep to effectively wash away daily build-up – like dirt, oil and impurities deep in pores. Oil-free. Won’t clog pores. Won’t over dry.

No matter what time I get home and no matter how tired I am, I always take off my make up and wash my face before going to bed. Taking care of my skin is on the top of my list of my beauty routine. Clean & Clear Night Relaxing Deep Cleaning Face Wash is perfect for the end of the night.  

NEUTROGENA® Healthy Volume® Mascara Waterproof. The Super-Sized Visible Volume Brush builds even the smallest lashes with rich, volume-building color with no clumps, smudges or flakes.

Eyes are the windows to your soul (look at me, quoting Shakespeare!) and I consider my eyes to be my best feature. Like I said, I don't wear a lot of make up but when going out I always wear mascara. A little mascara can go a long way. I like Neutrogena's Healthy Volume because it looks natural and it makes my eyes really stand out.    

JOHNSON’S® NO MORE TANGLES® Detangling Spray. Works to instantly unlock knots and tangles in wet or dry hair. Easy detangling and manageability. 

It doesn't take much to get Norrin photo ready - I just comb his hair. My kid has a lot of hair and it can get knotty and messy. But I follow a 3 step hair care regimen to maintain his hair so that it looks healthy and nourished. And I use the No More Tangles Detangling Spray daily. But I also have a confession to make. Sometimes I use the detangling spray on my own hair. It's great for quick hair fixes.    

Now is the perfect time to unwrap great savings on the HEALTHY ESSENTIALS® website! You can save up to $35 on some of your favorite products by visiting HealthyEssentials.com to download coupons in December.

From looking your best and baking tasty treats for holiday celebrations to staying healthy and taking care of yourself and your familia, you’ll find products for the holidays and every day.

Give the Gift of Manhood {#SmellcomeToManhood}

Disclaimer: This is part of a sponsored collaboration with Latina Mom Bloggers and Old Spice. All opinions are 100% mine.  

My dad is a vain man: well-dressed, pants perfectly pressed and always clean shaven. He'd wake up at 5 every morning to get ready for work. He'd iron his own pants, the crease was as sharp as a razor blade. And he'd shave his face until it was smooth. He applied so much aftershave and cologne that when I woke up for school hours later - the scent still lingered in the air. 

My dad is the easiest person to buy for at Christmas time. As a kid I remember walking with my mom up to 82nd street to the local drugstore. There we'd pick out my dad's Christmas gift: Old Spice soap-on-a-rope and a bottle of Old Spice aftershave. (I'm probably really dating myself by mentioning soap-on-a-rope.)

That was my first #SmellcomeToManhood.

My husband, Joseph, is so not like my dad. Although Joseph is just as vain, he rarely irons and has been known to go months without shaving his beard. Joseph didn't shave for the two months leading to New York Marathon. He said he needed his long hair and beard to keep him warm while running the 26 miles around New York City. But whether he's scruffy or shaven, Joseph knows to how "Scent Responsibly" with Old Spice. doesn't usually wear cologne or aftershaves but he often uses the Old Spice body wash, deodorant and body spray. 
Scruffy or Shaven - that's his freshly shaved smolder - Either way, I love him.
As our little boy Norrin is slowly approaching manhood, we work to teach him about the importance of personal hygiene. Norrin is at the age where he is eager to follow in Dad's footsteps. While Joseph is excited to pass along his manly wisdom to his son, I want nothing more than to keep Norrin a baby forever. (I am totally like the mom in the 'Dad Song.') But all boys grow up. In a few years Norrin will be using deodorant and Joseph will teach him how to shave. And I'll have one more man in life who can expect Old Spice at Christmas.

Old Spice products make for easy stocking stuffers. It's the gift that will keep giving throughout the year or until they run out. Be sure to stock up and save on your purchase by downloading this coupon - http://bit.ly/OldSpiceCoupon and enter to win our #SmellcomeToManhood Giveaway. 


Old Spice Re-fresh Body Spray – The gift that keeps on giving, one spray at a time. Be among the first to enjoy new Old Spice Timber – the best way to get that lumberjacky smell without working at a local tree lot.

Old Spice T-Shirt – The manliest chest tattoo on the planet without the regret when you turn 60.

Old Spice Branded Earbuds – Silence mom’s singing in the car. You’re welcome.

Bear Paws Meat Tool – Cutlery your dad, his friend Dave and Uncle John will be impressed with when you're given the reins to carve the holiday bird.

Duct Tape – Fix anything on the planet, except holiday lights, where only half the strand works.

Art of Manliness Book – Full of wisdom and New Year's Resolutions.

“Scent Responsibly” Instructions – Nothing will earn you grandma's fruitcake faster than overspraying. Thanks to Old Spice Re-fresh technology – where one spray lasts all day – you can smell like a man and not a middle school locker room.

Smellcome to Manhood Certificate – A made-up diploma for the inside of your locker or to add to your LinkedIn profile.

Winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter. Winner must be a resident of the fifty (50) United States and be over 18 years old at time of entry. Enter by following the instructions below. Giveaway ends on December 15, 2014. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Not only does Old Spice want to give you the Gift of Manhood, they also have the desire to give back and urge you to do the same. Tis the season after all! The inaugural Old Spice HoliSPRAY Toy Donation Exchange runs from Dec. 3 through Dec. 15

We're excited to partner with Second Chance Toys and bring attention to a cause that is so important to helping today's youth. We couldn't think of a more fitting way to illustrate our message about a boy's transition to manhood than with a toy drive that rewards a simple act of kindness with the gift of manhood – Old Spice Re-fresh Body Spray. -- John Sebastian, Old Spice Brand Director at Procter & Gamble. 

Familia, Food, Gift Giving & Holiday Traditions {#LBCMoreMerry}

Disclosure: This is a compensated campaign in collaboration with Sears and Latina Bloggers Connect. All opinions, thoughts are my own and have not been influenced in any way. 

The holidays are a special time of year. It's a time for family, friends, food and traditions - old and new. It's a time to reflect and make memories. Having a family of my own, I continue some of the traditions I grew up with while establishing some of our own.

Old Traditions

A holiday tradition my husband and I grew up with is all about the food. Holidays are a time for family gathering around the table to enjoy a nice meal. And a typical Puerto Rican meal consists of pernil and arroz con gandules. Both of our mothers made this meal holiday after holiday. Looking back, hosting big family dinners was my mother's gift to all of us. It was a time to sit around the table, TVs turned off so that we could eat, talk and laugh. 

Now that I'm a mom, I find myself making the same meal to celebrate the holiday. When I'm in the kitchen cooking, the scents immediately bring me back to my childhood. I'm happy to introduce the same flavors to Norrin. And I welcome my family and friends to gather around our table.

New Traditions

Ever since Joseph and I have been together we've had a real tree at Christmas. Growing up, we always had an artificial tree. We both wanted the experience of having a real tree. I love the way it smells. And we love including Norrin in the process of picking up our tree.

Our new tradition has been Elf on the Shelf. Well, it's not so new. We've been doing it for three years. When Norrin was diagnosed with autism, Christmas was a difficult concept for him to understand. And we wanted him to feel the Christmas magic. Elf on the Shelf has helped us create it. Every morning - from December 1st until the 24th - the Elf is in a new place and Norrin has to find him. We tell him that Elf flies to and from the North Pole to report to Santa Claus. We also tell Norrin that the Elf is watching so he needs to be good. I love reading the bedtime story and watching the look on his face as he searches for Elf every morning.

On Gift Giving

Both Joseph and I came from single income homes and there wasn't much money for elaborate gifts. But we always got at least one thing we wanted in addition to the things we needed. 

My mother has always been the ultimate bargain shopper. Her gift giving philosophy was all about practicality and she searched for quality items that fit within her budget. I remember walking hand in hand with her in the cold to Sears. We could have taken a bus but my mother wasn't going to waste bus fare if she could walk. She loved shopping at Sears because she could find something for everyone on her list. 

Joseph and I both work full-time and we feel fortunate to be a dual-income household. But I am still my mother's daughter. I don't want to spend a lot of money. Norrin has quite the Christmas list (like every LEGO The LEGO Movie set) and he's a growing kid. He needs new pajamas, pants & long sleeved tees. I love that Sears has everything Norrin wants and needs. 

Looking back at my childhood Christmas' and comparing them with Norrin's - I cannot help but notice the differences and similarities. Every family does Christmas differently and that's okay. That only thing that matters is that we celebrate together.


Disclosure: This is a compensated campaign in collaboration with Sears and Latina Bloggers Connect. All opinions, thoughts are my own and have not been influenced in any way. 
Copyright © 2013 Atypical Familia