Chalk Art from the Heart for the Heart

Meet the homie  and CDH Chalk Dad, Jose Frias II.

I came across his work on IG and knew I wanted to give him some shine.  He combines his street art with a heart for families who live through the challenges of congenital illnesses.

Check out our interview below and show some love by following his page.

1. Tell me about your family.

My family consist of my wife Liz, our two young boys Zechariah(2yo) and Luis(7yo) and our angel Mateo.

2. Where were you raised and how did that impact your worldview?

I was raised in the Bay, as well as San Diego CA. This was during the 80’s/early 90’s. The bay was a melting pot. There were filipinos, hispanics, Samoans, Chinese, Vietnamese, African Americans etc… at the same time I would visit my father, who lived in San Diego, for holidays. San Diego at that time was completely different then the Bay. San Diego was predominantly Hispanic and African American, and each group stayed separate. San Diego at this time was also the meth capital. It was interesting growing up this way. The Bay seemed to be a fairy land where families had no troubles. San Diego seemed to be a struggle. I would go through neighborhoods overran by crack houses. I remember a police officer getting beat in our alley behind our house, addicts passed out in the middle of the day on sidewalks, pimps beating their women nightly. It was a harsh reality for a child. Although life is beautiful there is also a very dark side to balance that beauty.

Life is what you make it. You are not a product of your environment. I could have easily gone down the path so many of my homies did but I chose not to. I believe some people just don’t know how to access or use the tools given by society for self improvement.

3. How did you become an artist?

I remember riding through hoods in San Diego and seeing hit ups on the walls and thinking “I want to do that but better!!” I started bombing abandoned buildings in my hood. My father lived on Menlo ave in East side San Diego at the time, so there were plenty of canvases to choose from.

 

4. How did becoming a Dad change your life.

Becoming a dad was/is the highlight of my life. All the partying had to stop. It was good because I wasn’t living the healthiest lifestyle. This was the reason I had been waiting for to shape up. In order for your children to be good hardworking, loving people they have to be shown. And if you don’t live it, you can’t practice it.

5. How did the chalk art start?

Started the Chalk Art a few months after we lost Mateo. I was angry and my wife was broken. We didn’t really communicate our feelings. She would withdraw into our room and I would escape to outside and just sit. Then one day it just hit me. We lived on a busy street in San Jose at the time. I went to the 99cent store down the street and bought some chalk.

I returned like a mad hatter, I remember just going at it on our driveway. My hands began to bleed but I didn’t feel any pain, just anger. I began to cry thinking of all the pain my son, Mateo, had gone through. I remember thinking of all the activities I would not be allowed to do with Mateo. When i finished that first mural I remember standing and feeling a heavy weight being lifted. It was as if this was my therapy. I then did a mural every weekend. Kids began to stop by, cars would stop in the middle of the road. People would take pictures. It was perfect My therapy was spreading a message to many people. I also began to enter chalk festivals. My murals/message would travel the world!!! it was/is a great feeling knowing our sons legacy lives on.

6. How did the skateboard project start? What’s the goal? How many do we have to sell?

CDHdecks was born from trying to find a new way to represent our son as well as CDH. There are other organizations who have shirts wrist bands etc… but none of these items seemed to be geared toward a younger audience. The kids are our future so I thought what better way to get them interested in CDH then playing into their likes. Maybe one of these kids will be so intrigued that they will become a physician with a passion to figure a better way to treat children with CDH. My goal is that everyone will be educated in the causes as well as the effects of CDH. We don’t have a monetary goal. We just want to educate and raise awareness. All funds are recycled back into the program to create more decks and provide meals for Mateo’s Meals.

7) How can people get involved?

There are organizations who have hospital packs which include basic toiletries, parking passes for the hospitals etc.. We ask that people research CDH organizations in their areas to see how they can personally help. There is Nayeli Faith Foundation, Breath Of Hope, Cherubs, and Project Sweet Pea to name a few. Each of these organizations helped us through our journey. For us we ask people to spread our cause. We ask people to share our story so our sons memory will live on.

3 Simple Ways To Support Your Kids’ Big Ideas For A More Fair World

Kids are often confused by the injustice they see in the world, and many of them have an impulse to do something about it. As responsible parents and engaged citizens, it’s our responsibility to support these big ideas by seizing, believing in and evangelizing our child’s BIG idea for a more just society.

 

This is something my wife Angie Covarrubias Aguilar and I learned while helping our 6 year old-daughter, Maya, start The Cozy Collection. The Cozy Collection is a project that gathers donated socks and blankets for the homeless in the San Gabriel Valley.

 

So, what counts as a “BIG” idea?

A BIG idea is one that tackles a global challenge at the local level. Focusing on BIG ideas helps your kid understand the connections between the larger world and her community.

Issues like poverty, access to water and jobs, clean energy and civil rights all have both local and global faces.

1. Seize

Listen for what excites and/or concerns your kid and then grab hold. Listening is passive but SEIZING AN IDEA requires a layer of attentiveness that prompts the listener (YOU) to ask questions.

The Cozy Collection was started after Maya noticed a homeless person at a freeway exit. She wanted to help by giving him the money she’d set aside for my birthday gift. Angie Covarrubias Aguilar seized the moment and asked Maya what she might do that would have a greater impact than a one time gift. Maya decided she wanted to help the homeless stay warm during Winter and The Cozy Collection was founded.

Our kids will surprise us with their kindness and concern for others. Let’s seize that.

2. Believe

True belief is an act of both mind and body, faith and works. In order to give your kids’ big ideas some legs, you’ll have to provide the foundational support. C’mon, they’re just kids after all.

You need to believe your work will have an impact. And you need to back that up with some action. So, your kid wants to start a project to clean up the pollution at his school. Now, it’s on you to put something together to keep the momentum. Don’t let it die with you, Dad. Who will you email? What goal can you set? What’s the deadline?

Our first order of business was to decide on a name and Maya jumped right in with The Cozy Collection. We found an organization that we could support with the donations, The Mercy House in Ontario and set a date for delivery.

We reached out to family, friends and local businesses. The Cozy Collection gathered over 1k pairs of socks in the first year, 3k pairs in the 2nd year and we’re hoping for 5k pairs this year.

Don’t let doubt ruin this opportunity to have a life long service project with your family.

3. Evangelize

Tell people what your family is up to. They want to help. Let them surprise you. Start an FB page, attend parenting conferences, tell the local AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization), tell your kids’ principals and teachers, neighbors and businesses.

Open your self up to the joy that a big idea can bring to your family.

This September, Maya received the Claremont Community Hero Award at the LA County Fair. And now her 5 year old brother, Joauqin, has joined the effort.

Joy, joy, joy.

Join along by starting a service project with your family.

And if you’re interested and able to help The Cozy Collection exceed it’s goal of 5k pairs of socks in 2017, you can contribute here:

https://www.gofundme.com/kedkv-help-keep-the-homeless-warm

Carlos Aguilar
Big Brown Dad

5 Things Brown Dads Must Change, Pronto!

HEY, BIG BROWN DAD!

You think you’re doing big things over there – -with your bloggy blog on fatherhood, starring you, Super Dad?

Big Brown Dads In Da Hood

Must be nice to have the time for hobbies like that.  I used to have hobbies  but then I became a mom!

Now, I’m so busy, I’m writing this on my lunch break via text on my cell as I pump my baby’s milk in the office closet! I don’t think you fully grasp the skill this takes – it takes that of a contortionist to hold bottles and pump parts with knees and elbows so as to free up the hands to hold the cell and fingers to text.

Don’t get me wrong, I would never go through all this trouble just to hate on you, Big Poppa. In fact, I’ll give props where they’re due: big ups to all the fathers out there holding it down, sticking around and being down for the cause.

I’m just saying, while you may see yourself like Father of the Year because from time to time you do a little bit of this:

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Your partner may see things more like this:

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The truth is, whenever we gather at the water cooler, or get together over a drinks, us MOMS end up complaining about you DADS.  These are 5 things Big Brown Dads must change today.

1. YOU CAN’T HEAR THE BABY CRY!

The week we brought home my 1st born, my family came over one day and insisted I take a nap.  So, right after I nursed him, I did! My stepma bathed, wrapped him, and then put him in his crib sound asleep. When they left, my boyfriend fell asleep on the couch. Somehow, even tho I was in my bedroom sleeping, with the door shut, I was the ONLY ONE  who heard my baby crying in his room. I yelled at my boyfriend something like, “WTF – how do you not hear him???” Little did I know, this would still be the case, two years and  another baby later; even when I strategically place the baby monitor next to his side of the bed with the volume on full blast!

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2.  YOU ACT LIKE MOMS HAVE SUPERPOWERS

When Baby #1 came, it took several weeks before Papa was comfortable changing his diapers and dressing the lil fragile child.  It was months before he could actually bathe him solo, so this Mama did EVERYTHING. On the RARE occasion that I left him alone with the baby, I HAD to feed, bathe, change, & put the baby to sleep first before leaving.

The few times I’ve gone out after work,  I’ve had to rush home because Papa’s texting me that my lil baby is somehow being BAD & my toddler is screaming for Mama. When I come home, the house is TORE UP, Papa’s in a bad mood, Baby #2 looks like he cried himself to sleep & Baby #1 is still awake, hours past his bedtime, tired & crabby!

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HOWEVER, when I am alone with BOTH of them, when Papa’s working late, or went out all day on the weekend with his friends –  I not only manage to feed them, take them out to the park, bathe them, and put them to sleep, but I also clean up any mess we make!

Which leads me to …

3. YOU’RE ALLERGIC TO CLEANING 

Pre-baby, I did all the cooking, cleaning, and  laundry.  It was never a problem. Post-babies, it’s a problem.  I’m the ONLY one that regularly cleans the bathroom, the kitchen, the bedrooms, the living room, et. al.

I used to throw down in the kitchen but now I hardly have time to cook and all I ever hear is how there’s nothing to eat. Sometimes I sound like my mother when I say, “There is, you just need to make it.”  If he actually attempts to cook, he makes a mess that I end up having to clean or we get in a stupid fight because I tell him not to use a metal utensil on the pan!

(FYI, in case you don’t know better either – it scrapes the pan and then all the food you cook in the future will stick to the pan & suck).

While I think I’m being helpful (and saving my pans) by letting his cooking novice ass in on some insider knowledge, he interprets it as me being a bossy bitch!

I’m not a bitch! It’s just that…

4. YOU’RE ALLERGIC TO COMMON SENSE, AVERSE TO COMMON KNOWLEDGE

Many a fights have been had because I CANNOT STAND TO HEAR MY BABIES CRY.  This means when Papa’s got the baby, I have to insist he does what I KNOW will make the baby stop crying.  This PISSES Papa off because he thinks he’s doing me a favor by putting the baby to sleep and I’m over here bossing him around to do it “my way.”   I swear it is not about me – I am not a control freak.  But if baby is screaming his head off and you’re trying to put him to sleep by patting his back furiously instead of in a soothing rhythmic pattern like a heart-beat, the baby is not going to go to sleep!

Please don’t get mad, just appreciate the constructive criticism and try it out. If it doesn’t work, you get to rub it in Moms face and proceed to go about things your way.

5. YOU HAVE A SHORT TERM MEMORY

Assuming you’ve addressed issues #1-#4 and are worthy of some loving, don’t expect this:

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Expect this:

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And a little:

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YOU MUST REMEMBER SEX CAN RESULT IN ANOTHER PREGNANCY!

All jokes aside, I LOVE MY MAN – he IS a GREAT father because he is for my sons many things that I cannot be.  Are my kids really going to remember if the house was a little messy?  Will they even care? Probably not.  What they might remember is that Papa was FUN & always down to play with them, while Mama was too busy cleaning the kitchen; so maybe moms CAN learn a thing or two from the big brown dads…like how to catch some quick zzzzzz’s while on the job.

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Lucia Mascorro is the daughter of Chicano activists from the Southside of Chicago. She graduated from Occidental College and then Depaul with a Masters degree in International Studies .  When she’s not schooling big brown dads on getting their act right, she’s schooling students at Chicago City Colleges as a Latino Literature Instructor and Academic Advisor.

If you enjoyed this post, like the Big Brown Dad Facebook page and stay updated with humorous takes on parenting.

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Raising Brown Boys in America’s Deadliest City

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The three of us arrive at a family party. Our son, happy to see his primos, joins them and immediately gets lost in the sea of relatives.  My husband and I join the chorus of tios, tias, cousins with kisses and boisterous hellos and inside jokes.   Steam rises from the aluminum trays of arroz con gandules and lechon–the smell smacks of identity and tradition. I especially love the crispy pig skin and I make sure to get more than my share. The storm of salsa playing sways hips and nods heads. Family parties are an experiment in sensory overload.  Our love for each other is loud. The buoyancy we feel grows out from sharing common joys and struggles.

There are all kinds of family here.  Some primos have shaped a life of steady employment, some formal education, and are providing a stable home for their children. Other primos are still on the journey towards being able to do that—some have circled in and out of physical and emotional prisons and their ties to the darkside of the streets follow us all to this moment: cars pull up and an explosion of young men stop our celebration with their guns. Chaos, screams of desperation as we move to protect our children.  Nowhere to be found is my boy. My first born, Nano—the baby born to me at 19 who loved me to wholeness—cannot be found.  My being is floating, lost above the crowd at the thought of the light of my life suffering and afraid.

This is a nightmare. I shake myself awake. I cannot take the anguish. For as many times as I have had this nightmare the final fate of my son is never confirmed. I wake up relieved that Nano is in fact at home and alive, but disturbed that even in this fictional world I have no certainty of his fate.  I need this assurance because while this was a dream, this kind of violence and its randomness has been a part of my family’s experience since they migrated from Puerto Rico to Chicago in 1968. My father’s two teenage brothers Luis Angel and Wilson were killed in 1974 on the same night. Some say, once you bury your dead somewhere it becomes home. Chicago became our home a few times. Three decades later, my eighteen year old brother (with no gang ties) was ambushed with bullets on his way to work and thankfully survived. Funeral homes, hospitals and prisons were familiar settings of my childhood. The insecurity that violence produces in all its forms have shaped all aspects of how I move in the world including how I parent my children. How could it not?

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Luis Angel

My husband Jorge and I are raising our three sons in Chicago because this is where we have our family support and work that we love. What we’ve learned is that family is everything and that they can hold you up at times when you don’t know how to do it yourself.  So leaving is not an option we can afford.

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Birthday Wishing

A couple of days ago I posed the following question on my Facebook page: “How do you TRY to balance the trauma you carry of knowing urban tragedy first hand and giving your child the space to be free?” Many wise mothers and children who grew up In Chicago responded. Everyone agreed that “not worrying” is not an option. All spoke about how they kept their children and teenagers involved in sports and arts programming, which is what we do with our boys. They spoke of having networks of other positive and loving adults who can reach your children perhaps when you cannot. Faith and prayer were mentioned a lot too.

There was this other subtle yet profound thread of thought in the responses from my friends who are activists or involved in community building work. They also seemed to speak about being non-oppressive in our parenting and open to dialogue with our children. Fear is oppressive. It makes people shrink their world. It narrows what they believe is possible for themselves and from others.

I posed the question to my diverse and wise Facebook friends after one of those fights with my teenager about freedom. Now in Chicago July is the deadliest month of the year. My blunt response to my almost 18 year-old (as he reminds me often these days) when he asked if he can skip the family barbeque to hangout with friends was, “No, people get killed on the 4th of July.” Which I thought would immediately bring him back to his senses and realize that hanging out with his little brothers and his parents and grandparents was his best bet for survival.  Pero no.  He insisted and gave us the silent treatment. Nano is no wild child; he was kind of born old. As a small child he would rather have long conversations with adults about all kinds of things than play on the swing set where he could get hurt. So even though I totally trust him, I am paralyzed by the fact that violence can occur without provocation.

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Chitown Chill

What I was reminded about again by my friends’ responses is that one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is confidence in a broad sense of possibility for their future.  And that we can also teach problem solving and creating healthy boundaries in their exercise of freedom by processing decisions, consequences and our fears with them.  So, after 2 hours of the tense standoff with our teenage son it occurred to me that we as parents can technically be right but still lose by missing the opportunity to teach and learn a greater lesson about how to live in the world. I had to struggle to reroute my fearful thoughts and focus them on trying to find some solution that would respect Nano’s need to be with his friends and my husband’s and my need to keep him safe.  We all sat down and yelled and cried for a while—it’s called process, people—but eventually we were able to check our tone well enough so that we could actually hear each other’s needs and come to some agreements. “Yes, you can go out but only until 8pm when you will get on the bus back to the neighborhood and then you can hangout with Carlos your buddy across the street until midnight and check in.” We got through it. We were tired because it took so much energy to stick through the conversation but we did it and I’d like to think that for one night we kicked fear’s ass (nonviolently, of course).

Nano lived to tell his own version of this story but ten others were killed that weekend in Chicago. One of them was seven year old Amari Brown shot while watching fireworks on his front porch, sharing the fate of my uncles who were killed 41 years ago and whose death sparked so much pain in our own family.  While families grieve the death of loved ones may we also nurture a sober view of our children’s right to be free in an unjust and sometimes very scary world.  Because what the world needs are people who are free and can create new and more just ways of life for us all.  We desperately need that.

May all our children be well.

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Juliet de Jesus Alejandre is a hot mess of love and ideas about self/barrio transformation and healing. She is mama to 3 boys (Nano, and 4 year-old twins Mateo & Santiago) and partner to the best man she’s ever met (for real) Jorge Alejandre. She is Director of Youth Organizing at the Logan Square Neighborhood Association in Chicago. Check out her posts on cultura and passionately practicing Chingona-ism (it’s a real thing, I promise) at http://theslimmingdownofgordiflona.wordpress.com.

Brown Dad, White Kid

Big Brown Dad is a blog dedicated to providing parents the magical salve that makes most of this mayhem manageable: laughter.  If you’re not laughing at yourself (or, more enjoyably, other parents) then you’re doing it all wrong.  I’ve been laughing alongside today’s guest blogger, Manuel Montero, since we were both little boogers and today he proves being a Big Brown Dad can come with challenges, MOST of them surmountable.  Enjoy! 

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BROWN DAD, WHITE KID

It’s a tale as old as time. Brown guy meets white girl. Brown guy falls in love.  Brown guy gets married , fathers a white kid and gives white kid a very ethnic Spanish name.

I’m a first generation American with family from Mexico. I met my wife, Marissa, 11 years ago and we have been married for 5 years. We have a 3 year old son named Manuel.

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Note the complete lack of brown skin.

I knew that I had a challenge ahead of me.

At first I told myself that I was the household minority. We live in an upper middle class community, so, maybe I should just be more white. I watched episodes of Friends, Family Ties and hung out at Starbucks, taking notes. The results were less than acceptable.

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Dreaming Of A White Christmas

I had to come up with a plan, and it had to be soon! After careful consideration, some soul searching, and drinking, I found it!

This is my journey.

I had to start early! As soon as we were able, we introduced our son to his culture.

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No more awkward questions from strangers to my wife like, “His name is Manuel? Isn’t that a Hispanic name?” His estilo suave will speak for itself.

Lookin’ good. My mijo is on his way!

Now we need to get his Spanish up to speed.

We decided to send him to a Spanish speaking school and immerse him in the language.

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Nothing says “Soy Chicano” better than…well…“Soy Chicano.” Since I was never taught Spanish, I left it up to the professionals. At 3, my son has a larger spanish vocabulary than I do and his cussing is pretty impressive.

He now handles our banking at the liquor store, haggles with the vendors at the flea market and screens phone calls for bill collectors. So far, so good. He’s got the look, got the lingo, now he just needs more exposure at home.

So, I decided to set a better example at home.

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I can’t expect my son to adopt into something that isn’t displayed at home. Sure, I am of Mexican descent, but my days of Nike Cortez, wife beater shirts and beanies are long behind me. I decided that I needed to be an example. Unfortunately, the results were less acceptable than when I tried to be more white. I may have actually reversed some of my son’s progress by doing this. But, that’s for his therapist to sort out.

He did, however show interest in helping with the yard work, so I considered that a win.

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Lawnmower? Check. Obnoxious leaf-blower? Check. Corona? Check.

 

Time to stand back and admire the product of my efforts.

I was so proud!

My son has the look, he speaks the language and was going to bring home his first girlfriend. I couldn’t wait to meet the lucky little Latina!

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And the cycle continues….

Manuel Montero is a husband, a father, and a self proclaimed BBQ Pit Master. He work as an IT professional in the San Francisco Bay Area and when he’s not busy making the pretentious soccer moms nervous at my sons preschool, he can be seen giving guest talks and motivational coaching with local inner city youth trying to get a leg up in the work force.  Take up Manuel’s offer to speak to kids in your area and  email him at mpmontero at gmail.com

Join the Big Brown Dad community at www.facebook.com/bigbrowndad and get access to more comedy.  

 

I’m So Exhaust…Nevr Min

My time at Occidental College was amongst the most formative experiences in my life, in no small part because the diverse community of students helped shape my worldview.  I met a gang of smart, funny, passionate people @ Oxy and through the power of Facebook, we’ve been able to stay connected.  

Today, BBD is excited pass the mic a fellow Oxy Tiger, San Gabriel Valley native, wife and mother of two, Melissa Ramon.  

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“Fight through the exhaustion.  It can’t win.  Who cares if I googled all the terrible things that sleep deprivation does to the human body and swear that they are all happening to me?”

My inner voice often has to soothe me these days.  She has to get me to claw my way through the day when I went to sleep at 1:45 a.m. and my 10 month old son got me up at 5:15 a.m. for the day.

I keep telling myself to suck it up!  There are women who’ve already showered and ran.   I can do this. The tiredness will wear off. My grandmother gave birth to 15 kids on a farm in the middle of El Salvador and somehow managed to make her family thrive.  The least I could do is make my son some damn organic baby food, but alas…I know I will just crack open the Earth’s Best pouch one more time!

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My struggle with being a mommy to the two most precious kids on earth, besides yours of course,  is the constant feeling of utter exhaustion.  As parents, I know we all go through our months of sleep deprivation but running after a 4 year old daughter and a 10 month old son has me seeing double. Everyone tells me that I am supposed to go to sleep by 10:00 p.m. at the latest.  Everyone reminds me that I need to have energy to keep up with them, but when do I get time for myself?  This may sound selfish, but I miss me!

This was Saturday morning:

5:15-5:30 a.m.: wake up with the baby, sing him a little good morning song, change him, try and open my eyes and walk down the stairs somehow.

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5:30-6:30 a.m.: feed my son, read Brown Bear, Brown Bear 4 times, make my husband some coffee (I don’t drink any caffeine but really wish I  did right about now) forget to drink water, or anything, for the next hour.

6:30-7:30 a.m.: set the baby down on the green foam mat I bought him (thinking I was being a good and safe mama) only to have him go anywhere but the mat for the next hour, remind myself to brush up on my baby proofing skills.

7:30-8:00 a.m.: give my poor husband the evil eye when he comes downstairs with our 4 year old, immediately feel guilty for doing this, yet decide to stick to my guns…realize I really do need to sleep more but quickly forget when I try to connect with my daughter who has been having some major morning grumpiness…wonder who she takes after?

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8:00-8:30 a.m.: feed myself finally (kind of)…actually start to clean up the oatmeal I was trying to have for breakfast.  Clean it from myself and the floor since my son has a new love for watching gravity’s effect on shiny red bowls of hot ass oatmeal
8:30-8:35 a.m.:-spend 5 minutes telling myself that it’s ok for snapping about silly shit and that my kids will really still love me when they get older…and that I am sure my husband will forgive me too, soon enough.

Am I really going to write out the rest of my day?  It’s only 9:00 a.m.?  I think not!  You’re too tired to read it.  I am too tired to write it. But I tell you what I will do right now at 10:55 p.m.  Instead of sleeping,  I will carve out some precious moments for me.  I will read a few pages from at least two of the six books I just bought on my kindle.  I will watch too many episodes of “Girls”. I will text all of my girlfriends and check in on their days. I will definitely eat some damn frosted flakes, gluten and all–even though I’ve been trying to detox my body and have sworn for the last 16 days in a row to turn on the dvr and do some pilates to fix this baby weight and then some!

As Dylan Thomas wrote: “Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” I will rage against these precious night time hours ending. I will tell myself that I am enough, that I did enough and that I love enough. I will continue to live in this state of Exhaustion just another day more.  The kids need me tomorrow but I need myself more right now.  

Born in Los Angeles and raised in El Monte, Melissa Ramon is a work at home, stay at home mom of two. She holds a Comparative Literature degree and teaching credential from Occidental College and a Master’s degree in English Literature from Cal State L.A. When she is not writing, she supports homeschooling families in LA and Orange County. She prefers her tamales cooked properly…banana leaf wrapped and bone in! 

Hip Hop Pops: Elias

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Elias wins Big Brown Dad’s “Cooler Than Coolio’s Polar Bear’s Toe Nails Award” with this one.

Hip Hop Pops is a series of interviews with Dads who’ve staked out careers in hip hop while raising their seed(s).

As you know, hip hop is heralded for its excesses.  Rappers are expected to flout convention, law, even common sense.  Parenting, though, involves restraint, restriction and reflection; managing that tension isn’t easy but some hip hop pops have found a way.  Today, BBD sits down with Elias Wallace, the LA based vocalist of the Copenhagen based hip hop group,  DaFuniks.

I met Elias many moons ago at The Foundation Funkollective open mic in the 909. We share a mutual interest in theology, social justice and wackness-aversion.

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 Tell us about your family.

My wife is named Monica. We have 3 children. One girl and two boys. My daughter is 11 and getting tall and long like her mother. She’s already 5’4″ and looking like a runway model. Scared son. I’ll avoid the sexist cliches about having a baseball bat or gun, but I will say I’m trying to raise a confident, strong woman who will make her own choices and choose the RIGHT kind of boy when she gets to that point. My 2 boys are 9 and 5. They are handsome, bright, and above average in everything. I know, all parents think this but it’s crazy, they excel in sports, music, and art and they are all social. All of my children are bilingual, speaking reading and writing Spanish and English. They are half Mexican and half American Caucasian hybrid–meaning they are Irish, Scottish, Dutch, Syrian, and Native American.  They also study Mandarin Chinese on Saturdays so they can add a non European language to their lexicon. I want them to have that Nas state of mind and think the world is theirs–but with the language skills to make it happen.

What does the ideal Sunday morning look like for the fam bam?

An ideal Sunday morning for my family consists of waking up, me making breakfast for everyone while my wife sleeps in. I’ll make sure everyone has eaten and gotten dressed for church. Then my wife will come out looking radiant and make sure the kids have put lotion on. “Si poniste crema?” shouts go out in 3 directions. The rest of the day is spent together and it doesn’t really matter what is being done. Being together and spending time with one another is a big part of our family’s happiness.     

Family Amusement Park Trip: Disneyland or Six Flags Magic Mountain?

Right now my kids are pretty small so Disneyland, as much as I personally abhor it, would be a better choice than Magic Mountain. Nothing worse than taking kids to a park where you have to drop down a couple days wages just to get in, and then have to tell your kids, you can’t ride that one and then do the parent relay games—you stay with this kid, I’ll stay with them, tag team at the ride exit in half an hour.

What would your kid’s say is the best dish you make?  How did you learn how to make it?

My kids would probably say my Carne Asada is great. It’s not healthy so I don’t make it too often but there are enough UFC fights and boxing matches on for me to have it every couple of weeks. My first time having carne asada was when I was 16. My future mother in law made it for me and I immediately fell in love. I figured if there was a God in heaven, there would be a taco man at the heavenly banquets. I plan to be standing with a Cerveza in my hand right by the taco man. Later I learned to love adobada, pastor, and many others but I prefer to grill up some Asada.

Did you ever consult a parenting book or website during the child rearing years? Or, was it more go with the flow and tradition?

I never consulted a parenting book or website but I have a BA in Education so I have read a lot of child psychology already. I do not rear my children in the same way that I was raised. My parents were great but my father was from the South and there is a lot of ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’ thinking there. I was whooped a lot. I don’t spank my own children and prefer positive reinforcement and cognitive coaching. I want my children to be sophisticated thinkers not resentful authoritarians. That isn’t to suggest that all people who were disciplined in this way turned out like that, I just think that you are trying to discipline and correct behavior not coerce behavior via threat of violence.

Favorite Hip Hop group?

Favorite hip hop group—wow. I don’t have one Favorite hip hop group honestly. Hip hop has a timeline and I’m on it. ATCQ was my favorite for a long time so I guess they could be there. Today I have so many different groups that I love. I really dig what Killer Mike and EL P do with Run the Jewels. I really like the Roots. In terms of most influential I see groups like Freestyle Fellowship and Organized Konfusion as really important. It really depends on my mood.

Favorite Hip Hop experience in France?

I have had a ton of amazing experiences on stage in France. I’ve toured there the last 3 years and met some amazing people, artists and fans. I’ll share a small show of about 300 at a place called Run ar Puns in Bretagne, France. It was a small ancient venue surrounded by beautiful countryside. The venue wasn’t much to look at and looked a bit worn out. In France, sometimes that is a great sign—it means people come there.  We played that night around 11 or so the crowd seemed pretty ‘iffy’ based on the really good band that went before us. They didn’t really seem ‘into it’. But when we got up to rock the whole place jumped off hardcore from intro to the constant screams for more songs. We played our whole set. They cheered for 5 minutes for extra. We played 15 minutes extra. They cheered for 10 minutes fore more. We came out and played even more. We just had to stop after that so that we wouldn’t make the promoter or venue operator mad at us but the crowd was off the chain.

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What’s the family up to this Summer?

We’re taking a tour van and driving to a bunch of national parks and camping. Pray for me…and them.

 

If you’re taking a road trip this Summer,  play music from Elias’ newest project, Otis Stacks.  Big Brown Dad is digging the West Coast vibe on this one.

BBD

When Dads Watch Their Kids…Don’t Call It Babysitting

In hip hop parlance, a cypher is a circle where emcees and b- boys display their skills, or lack thereof.   BET has co-opted the term to produce a series of rhyming sessions and, predictably, they’ve been hit and miss.

My favorite to watch, though, is the Mos Def, Black Thought and Eminem cypher of  ’12.  The cypher pitted 3 of the top lyricist of all time, one after another.

If you ask me, BT got it.  What’s undeniable, though, is the way the game was elevated by keeping the cypher fire. It’s in this spirit, BigBrownDad.com opens up the mic to fellow Big Brown Dad and Occidental alum, Ed.Word. 

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When Dads Watch Their Kids…Don’t Call It Babysitting 

When my wife isn’t around and I’m fortunate enough to spend quality time with my two beautiful children, things don’t always go by the book.

Before I get into specifics I want to be clear, I love my two sons, Xavier (2) and Lorenzo (1).

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Photo: Mom Stylist: Dad

Having two boys back to back is awesome, they’re fun, energetic, funny, cute little boys, but we are not yet at the stage where we can all three just sit in our underwear and binge watch SportsCenter episodes.  They’re at least 10 years away from allowing me to “take a nap”  while they play in the back yard, we aren’t playing catch yet, they’re too young to color without decorating the table, and frankly we can’t even have a real conversation that doesn’t involve one of us crying.  Basically, my job at this stage is to make sure they don’t die, slip, fall, poke out an eye or swallow a penny.  That’s a lot of pressure and if you want to see a Dad implode, do what my Wife did and add a ‘Baby Book’ into the mix.

In our house, the Baby Book is a detailed log similar to Capt. Kirk’s Star Gate log in which any and everything is recorded, annotated, and documented for accountability purposes.  How long did he nap, face down or on his side?Eat some Nilla Wafers? Write it down.  Drop a deuce? Write it down.  Choke on a celery stick, a possible allergen? Write it down.  How much did he eat? What color was the poop? Shape? Consistency? Lunacy?

Now don’t get me wrong when we started out with our first child and our first Dr. visits we were asked about quantity and quality of poop and food, and felt bad when we couldn’t provide exact answers, so naturally my wife being the excellent mother that she is, thought to take it a step further and just “play it safe”, so she started writing down… EVERY THANG! Every Dr. visit that followed opened up with a reading from THE book similar to a legal deposition.

So all that to say from the moment my wife clicks the garage door open to make her exit the first thing I grab is the Baby Book and start filling it out with a bunch of generic entries, fake info and erroneous timestamps, it’s very similar to my log at work which I also feel is a gross overreach by the powers that be to make me explain what I am doing when we all know I’m on Facebook reading BigBrownDad food reviews. If I speak with a colleague about the game last night that becomes “analyze data” with Bob from accounting.  If I surf the web for three hours that’s also known as troubleshooting a network issue with IT.

However, instead of rewording what actually happened as in my work entries, I fill in THE BOOK and paint a beautiful picture of what she would like to see: Breakfast at 9:00am -organic hand tossed pancakes with essence of shredded banana and freshly squeezed pear juice (a good source of fiber)  followed by a fresh diaper at 9:26:41am, walk around the neighborhood in my City Select jogger stroller (back at 9:57:22am), small snack of vanilla yogurt and fresh cut strawberries before nap time which includes contemporary jazz playing lightly in the back ground.

All this is recorded for my wife to see and believe me she needs to see it, if it isn’t written down it doesn’t exist, nope, never happened.

When my wife returns and sees us three playing with stuffed animals and giggling, she glances at THE Book and rests assured the day was filled with safe clean organic cage free fun.  What she doesn’t know is… and I will draw and quarter the Teddy Cam if he ever snitches…is for the six hours she was gone we all ate handfuls of plain Cheerios and watched TV in separate rooms.

Hey! Don’t judge, if you wanted top notch daycare you should’ve hired a nanny.  A Nanny has standards, a lesson plan, a grab bag of tricks and anecdotes.  A Nanny has a professional reputation to live up to, this is how she eats.

One bad yelp review and his/her career is over.

I’m a Dad, you can’t fire me, I’m here come hell or high water.   I’m a Dad- when we watch our own don’t call it babysitting- you’re setting the bar too high

Eddie Gorton is the lucky dad of Xavier and Lorenzo, the last two years have been filed with tears of joy and pain as his life is an array of endless daddy duties and sleepless nights.  Eddie, a two time “#1 Dad” award winner, is an Instructional Coach for LA unified, rocks a psychology degree from Occidental College and a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Cal State L.A.  He looks forward to the day when his two sons are old enough to wash the cars. 

Hip Hop Pops: Judah 1

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As the name implies, Hip Hop Pops is a series of interviews with Dads who’ve carved out careers in hip hop while raising a family.

That shit aint easy but some of us be bout it bout it. Peep my Hip Hop Pops interviews with Propaganda and Red Cloud, for examples.

Although some might be tempted critique hip hop culture as morally negligent (if not worse), one of the first verses I committed to memory was 2 Pac’s poignant critique of sexual abuse and unintended pregnancy.  25 years later, this cut still hits hella hard:

“Brenda’s got a baby but Brenda’s barely got a brain/

damn shame the girl can’t even spell her name/

‘That’s not our problem, that’s up to Brenda’s family’/

But let me tell you how it affects our whole community”

After listening to this cut again, I forgot how much of an impact it had on me as a youngster.  It’s another example of the conscious hip hop that was taking root in the early 90’s.

Today’s Hip Hop Pops, Judah 1, is an extension of that early hip hop consciousness.

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Judah 1 hosts the monthly LionLike MindState in Downtown Pomona, CA and is re-releasing his second book, Child of the Sun and Man of the Moon.

Peep the divine science.

BBD: Tell us about the birth of your daughter.
Her crown was too heavy. We were at 3cm of dilation for 3 days. So, we opted to induce labor. We prayed, we were ready, we entered boldly, I think. Alas, Aariyah crown was too great so we delivered by C-Section. That when the most glorious scream happened. A star scream, truly. Bless God.
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BBD: How did you decide on a name? 
Until the day before the ultrasound we were convinced we were having a boy. We just knew it. She wanted to named him David Jr.  I wanted to name him “Amun” or “Djeli” “Jonah” “Judah” I had so many names. Me and her Mom argued. It was not joyous. The night before her Mom said, maybe she’s a girl…and that thought had been resonating in my Spirit. She said “If it’s a girl, let call her Oriyah” and I agreed but the name sounded familiar. Ariyah is a name of a Fela Kuti song. I suggested, “Aariyah,” in Hebrew “Ari” is Lion and “YAH” is God or the air.
BBD: What’s the best piece of advice your Mom/Dad gave you about parenting?
My father really didn’t have much to say. My mom proud I finally had a child and overwhelmed that it’s a girl. Just love her and make the time for her. They are both convinced I’ll be a great Father with good lessons.
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BBD: What’s your view on spanking? 
 
We will not spank our daughter because spanking is not necessary.  I’ve never had to hit anyone my entire life, my voice should be enough.
BBD:  What type of music does she like?
 I play classical for her and hip hop instrumentals and freestyle over them. She loves it. FELA! And her Mother plays Little Dragon for her.
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BBD: How has your poetry been impacted by Fatherhood?
 I have yet to find words to describe the joy in my heart. I sing to my daughter. She literally takes my words from my lungs. I couldn’t say much more than “Hey You” for the first 2 months. Literally can’t talk. Strange. But we sing. Her eyes cause such a stillness in my spirit. No words. We hum.
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Bobbing and Weaving

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I’ve never been keen on the notion that “Latinos” have fighting in their ‘blood.’  If anything, anecdotal data suggests we have eating in our blood, maybe even diabetes, but fighting?  Spare me the anti-scientific, racial mythologizing.

This doesn’t mean Latinos haven’t learned how to master the sweet science.  We’ve been doing work.

Peep my article that appeared on Univision’s Flama for proof.

 

Sorry, Mother.

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Warning: This post is not intended for the faint of heart.

I have to confess, I’ve been a terrible son. Although I love Mother Earth, I’ve done her wrong for too many years.

I’m Mexican-American, so you know my recycling-for-cash game is on lock.  I bought my first video game on the strength of redeemed soda and beer cans.  For 10-year-olds, few things scream ‘MONEY’ like the sound of an aluminum can getting crushed underfoot.

I wasn’t the only kid in my neighborhood to get hyped off recycling. I remember rumor prompting more than a few kids in Jr High to start collecting soda can tabs, as they were supposed to hold some added redemptive value.  Turns out that shit was Fugazi Fugaziano.

The late 80’s and early 90’s, though,  ushered in a new era of environmental consciousness and soon our municipal trash services began providing recycling specific trash bins.  Today, we have separate bins for green waste (a green can) and recyclables (a blue can).  The problem for me, and I suspect for YOU, is the recycling bin is seldom used.  All my redeemable recyclables (ie, plastic, aluminum and glass) have been diverted into an altogether different $ bin, often leaving the blue bin empty on trash day.  I’m sorry but I  love Mother Earth and can’t continue this way.

So, yesterday, I decided to take a 24 HOUR TOTAL RECYCLE CHALLENGE.  I’d place all the recyclable trash I’d normally throw in the general trash bin and toss it in the big blue bin instead.  How much trash would that amount to? You’re about to find out!

Now, it’s your turn.  How long will you continue to slap your Mother in the face with your unbridled waste? Take the 24 Hour Total Recycle Challenge and post pictures here!  Your Mother will love you for this.

Sincerely,

Big Brown Dad

How To Hack Your Snacks

At Big Brown Dad, we eat like our lives depend on it.

Did you know there’s a right and wrong way to re-heat your pizza?

Looking to turn your lukewarm soda into sweet, icy cold relief…in seconds?

Tired of dropping popcorn all over the place?!

Then you’ll want to watch the following clip, featuring the lil cuzzo and shot in Big Brown Dad’s test kitchen.

 

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