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.

Amada Irma Perez, Books, Latina writer, Latino culture, Writing

A Book’s Quinceñera

 

Traditional Quince Dress-flickr.com
Traditional Quince Dress-flickr.com

Leave it to my friend, Amada, to throw a Quinceñera for her first published book, “My Very Own Room/Mi PropioCuarito.She’s creative and fun like that.

The book, which teaches a valuable lesson about the strength of family and the importance of dreams, turns 15 in April 2015. Five children’s books later, Amada is still writing and teaching.

Fifteen years. That’s a lengthy publishing career and double long when you consider the years it takes before you’re published.

One must love to write more than anything to persevere as a writer, to endure sore wrists, critiques, missed events, questioning ourselves, and a mound of rejection letters. 

That’s why one must celebrate and what better way for a Latina to commemorate 15 years of publication, why a Quinceñera, of course.

There is a myth the traditions of quinceañeras originated in ancient Aztec culture when girls around the age of 15 were placed in the hands of elder women to teach them the duties of a wife.

On the day of marriage, this elder would carry the girl on her back while others lit the path, to the groom’s house. The bride wore a decorated cape, and when the bride and groom united, the two capes were tied together to signify the marriage bond.

Celebrations today vary significantly across Latin American countries, but the theme is the same. La Quinceañera recognizes a girl’s journey from childhood to maturity with a ceremony that highlights God, family, friends, music, a waltz, food, and dance.

En otra palabras, it’s a big ole’ party after the serious ceremony.

It is traditional for the Quinceañera to choose special friends to participate in what is called the Court of Honor. The females are called Damas. I’m excited to be in Amada’s court, especially since I never had a Quince myself. Hopefully, she’s not expecting us to learn the waltz. Knowing her, it would be a Tango, as she loves the dance.

The fun has already begun, with one of the damas posting her Quince dress online. A comment said it reminded her of the Portuguese Man O’War.

A Quince dress possibility.
A Quince dress possibility.

I don’t know about that choice, I’m partial to traditional gowns myself. But whatever we wear, I’m just happy to be at the Quince, celebrating friendship, family, and writing. And, of course, the big ole’ party.

 

Family, Latino culture, Latino Family Traditions, Mexican traditions, Parenting

The Importance of Cultural Traditions

At the Baptismal Font
At the Baptismal Font

This past Sunday my family and I attended a celebration that stirred memories of our young adult lives and childhood. We attended a “Bautismo” or baptism. It is one of the seven religious sacraments of the Catholic Church where an infant is initiated into the spiritual community of the Church.

It has been many moons since our own children were babies and now that several of our extended family are not Catholic (except for my mother) we don’t attend baptism’s as often as we did in our childhood and young adulthood.

Cultural traditions remind us of who we are and where we came from. That is why we were delighted that the young couple, college graduates, third generation Mexican American’s, followed the traditions of their culture and religion.

Mexican and Mexican American baptisms have their own baptism rituals. The parents select godparents, or compadres, who traditionally have the duty of raising the child if the child’s parents were to die. This isn’t a legally binding contract, but more of a moral obligation or promise to bring up the child as a Catholic.

After the pouring of the water on the baby’s head, the priest invites the parents to light a candle from the main candle at the altar. Prayers are said, the blessing of the oil takes place, and then the baby, parents and godparents are presented to the congregation.

The next ritual is the throwing of bolos. When we were children we lived in a predominately Mexican neighborhood, so bautismo’s and the ritual of the compadres throwing bolo was frequent. This is a gift of coins thrown to all the children attending the baptism. Bolo is said to symbolize prosperity and good luck for the infant.

photographer R. Ambriz
Photographer R. Ambriz, muralized

Usually bolo was done on the steps of the church after the baptism ceremony. Pennies, nickels and dimes rained upon the heads of children scrambling for coins. In those days you could buy nickel candy bars, so bolo was quite the event. You could imagine that children from all over, and some adults, frequented the church steps on Sunday late afternoons after baptism ceremonies. In our neighborhood, everyone knew that twenty something Petra, would be at every baptism. She was mentally disabled so she was given a pass. But now bolo is thrown at the reception party.

A party takes place after the baptism, usually a backyard barbecue, for the family and friends of the parents. This is an opportunity for the extended family to get together and bring each other up to date. For us, the ‘old parents’ it was a time to reminisce about the baptismal parties we threw, how the years fly by, and how glad we are that the traditions we grew up with have not died out.