Latina, Latino culture, Latino family tradition, Parenting

A to Z Blogging Challenge: C is for Chancla

The flying chancla, this one is yellow, can be any color or size.

Hello to the third day of the A to Z Challenge. Today’s letter is C and C is for “CHANCLA.”

Chancla is the deadliest word of the alphabet for those who grew up in a Mexican or Latino household.

A chancla looks benign, especially when on the foot. The word means flip-flop or slipper or sandal. If the chancla can easily slip off,  fly in the air and hit a target in one swoop, it’s a chancla.

In our house, it was a one size fits all tool of discipline.

There were warnings before the removal and use of the chancla:

1-The narrowing of Mom’s eye’s as she spied one of us acting up. You could escape or stop misbehaving.

2-The slight bend of the body to the right which meant she was reaching for the chancla. You can still escape or say ‘okay, I’ll stop.’

3-The swift removal of the chancla, thumb on the heel, sometimes a twirl before a blur of chancla flew through the air and hit its target. Usually one’s head, shoulder, or back. You’re a world-class runner if you escape during the execution of the third step.

Everyone I knew had a chancla wielding mom or grandma and no one thought they were being abused. Most of the time a kid didn’t pass number two above, “the bend” before they stopped misbehaving.

The chancla brandished by a mom was preferable to what a dad would employ, another C word, the cinturon (belt).

To make it super easy for one to understand the power of the chancla, and its widespread fame here’s a video about La Chancla

Many younger Hispanic households do not endorse the use of the chancla, for the reasons listed here.

I don’t endorse or not endorse the chancla, it was a reality in my household and used sparingly. And by sparingly I mean I outran the flying chancla most of the time.

I can’t run like that anymore.

Parenting

A Daughter’s Birth Day

pexels-photo-302561.jpeg

Today, I’m reflecting on my daughters original birth day many years ago.

I came across the writing prompt “I remember…” and the memories came.

I remember focusing on the circle of light in the ceiling of the hospital room until finally, I felt a deep pressure and a tug.

I remember my baby in the arms of a nurse, a blur as she left my sight. An exhausted breath exhaled from my entire body, replaced by my tired smile.

I remember the gasps from my doctor. Seconds later another gasp from someone behind me.

I remember freezing in time.

“Oh my,” the doctor said and broke into laughter. A female voice giggled.

“What, what?!”

And then a chorus of “oohs” and “awws.”

Lowered into my arms was a healthy looking infant, rosy-cheeked, with a halo of just washed inky black hair standing on end. I couldn’t help tearing up and laughing at the same time.

Large eyes blinked, pink bow lips puckered.

I remember the moist baby scent of warmth; murmuring the words what a marvelous miracle.

baby girl with great grandparents
Daughter, four months old, with great-grandparents. Her hair is dampened down. http://www.alvaradofrazier.com

For months her full head of hair wowwed whoever saw her. They asked if they could touch her soft mane, fanned around her head like a fuzzy mohair hat.

Twenty-nine years later, my daughter’s hair is waist length, thick and beautiful. Today’s its emerald green.

 

 

 

Family, Latino culture, Latino Family Traditions, Parenting

How Tamales Make My World A Better Place

Ingredients for making 'Green' Tamales
Ingredients for making ‘Green’ Tamales

Every December, I write about making tamales, and this year is no different.  Our mother has made tamales for over seventy years, longer than her children have been alive. And her mother made tamales before she was born. And her mother, back to the days of maize and metates.

Something is wrong with my universe if our family stopped making Christmas Tamales. Our world can be is disarray, but we come together, three or four generations of our family and spend an entire day making tamales.

Keeping our tradition alive is like maintaining a bridge beginning in the past crossing to the present and spanning into our future. It’s family represented with food.

The name tamale comes from the Nahuatl (Aztec) word ‘tamalli,’ meaning ‘wrapped.’ The masa (maize) for the tamales come from our indigenous roots and have names from our ancestor’s primary language (Spanish/Nahuatl). Making tamales, for me, is maintaining our culture.

In the past, I’ve written about our Tamale Tactical Plan, The Five Important Ingredients for the Best Tamales, and the Tamales and Traditions post. Everything you wanted or didn’t want to know about tamales is in one of those posts.

This year four generations of our family donned our favorite aprons to make ‘green tamales’ or tamales de rajas. Right before Christmas we’ll make the ‘red tamales,’ or the red chile and pork tamales.

On our table, (picture above) in the twelve o’clock position is the masa preparada (prepared corn meal), at three o’clock, are strips of Ortega California green chile, at six o’clock, is more masa, at eight o’clock, is shredded Monterrey and Cheddar (a big mistake-use Monterrey only), at nine o’clock, is a pitcher of homemade chile, and in the center are the soaked corn husks, or ojas. We use a knife to spread the masa onto the oja; some people are adept with a spoon or a tamale spreader that looks like a cement masonry spreader. We are butterknife people.

Assembly line style, the five of us (four generations) spread the masa onto the oja and fill up every spot on the table. Two people stuff and fold the tamales. To get this important job you have to work your way up from tamale spreader to the stuffer.

This year, my eleven-year-old niece (representing the fourth generation) who graduated to tamale stuffer last year. You can see how proud she looks. She’s been helping since she was five years old. That’s her grandmother beside her (the second generation).

Corn husks with masa ready to be stuffed-www.alvaradofrazier.com
Corn husks with masa ready to be stuffed by the fourth generation-www.alvaradofrazier.com

I remember when her mother was five and helped spread masa on the corn husks. Truthfully, she spread more on the table than on the ojas, but that’s how you learn. This is a picture of her now (she’s the third generation).

spreading tamale masa
Tamale Time with the third generation. http://www.alvaradofrazier.com

This is how traditions are carried on through the years, from the parents to the children. It’s one of the touchstones that ground us to this world. For us, it’s part of parenting.

My portion of the tamales is in the freezer, ready to make the trip to Denver for a snowy white Christmas. While I’m there, I’ll make tamales and carry on the tradition, with a vegan twist, with my son and daughter.

Many of you are from different cultures and places in the world. I’d love to know what traditional food you make during this time of year. If you have a link to a post you’ve written about your tradition, please include it in the comment section so we can visit your home and kitchen.

Thank you and enjoy the holiday season.

 

Family, Parenting, Travel

An Amazing Family Time at Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park

To be 100% truthful, hiking is not my idea of a vacation nor is it my first thought on ‘where can I celebrate my birthday.’

The idea to spend my birthday vacation was a combination of visiting my kids in Denver and the news articles I’d read about the 100th birthday of the U.S. National Parks. Sounded like a good idea.

On the two-hour car ride from Denver through Boulder and up to Rocky Mountain National Park, we shared stories of other wilderness adventures, like the king snake in our tent at Refugio State Park, falling over unseen logs, being chased by Canadian geese and the family of deer we once spotted.

The story I didn’t think would come up, but did, was a result of this photo:

UFO Cloud Over Boulder, CO
UFO Cloud Over Boulder, CO. http://www.alvaradofrazier.com

This cloud shaped UFO, although much larger, closely resembled the ‘real’ UFO I saw when I was nine years old. My younger brother and some other kids saw an object hovering above our apartment complex. Not only was it us who saw the object but about twenty other people who were in their front yards, looking up into the sky. A grainy photo of the object made the newspapers, so at least my mom didn’t think I was crazy.

This story fascinated my kids. They’re fans of X-Files so it doesn’t take any convincing about my UFO story to have them believe that I saw what I saw.

Along the way up the mountain, we stopped to take in the gorgeous vista of pines, lakes, and mountains.

Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park

The kids scrambled up some rocks and waved to me to come up and see the chipmunks drinking water in the crevices of some boulders. I made my way up, rested a bit, heard birds singing, looked up and caught the silhouette of this mountain chickadee on a branch.

Bird on a branch
Chickadee On a Branch http://www.alvaradofrazier.com

Our hike on the Alpine Tundra up to the Mushroom Mountains, at approximately 11,500 feet was a little difficult.

The Mushroom Rocks at RMNP
The Mushroom Rocks at RMNP

The hike is short, maybe a mile, but the winds can be 150 miles per hour. On the day we hiked up there it was a temperate 55 degrees with winds at a manageable 50 miles per hour. You have to wear a hooded jacket. The altitude can be tough on people. The air feels so thin you can hardly take a full breath, but my daughter and I trudged step by step and arm in arm behind (way behind) my son who pretty much race walked up the steep trail. On the way down, we heard the whistle of the yellow-bellied marmot.

Marmot sunning on rocks
Marmot on the Rocks, RMNP

We went on to the highest point, the Alpine Visitor’s Center, at 11,725 feet. Way below the deck of the visitors center a group of elk grazed. We couldn’t get a decent photo on our cell phones at that height but at least we were able to see these beautiful animals, the males with massive antlers, through binoculars.

Elk Herd Rocky Mtn. National Park-creative commons photo
Elk Herd Rocky Mtn. National Park-creative commons photo

I felt a little bit of melancholy when I realized that this trip wasn’t about me ‘taking care’ of the family by planning the trip, reminding them to bring this or that, or watching them constantly. Instead, they were the ones who did the planning, encouraged me to keep climbing, and took my hand from time to time.

This is what happens on the long road of parenting. We move from one place and perspective to another. As long as it’s together it makes the trip so much more special.