Ama tu Cereal – Breakfast & Mamás Latinas

My youngest niño eating a bowl of cereal before school.

While I was at the Blogalicious conference, you may have seen me using the hashtag #amatucereal (love your cereal) on Twitter. Ironically the Blogalicious conference didn’t have cereal available for breakfast or else I would have been eating it.

Cereal is a staple at our house, and in most houses in the United States, for many reasons. For one, cereal is easy to prepare and many people don’t have the time or energy to cook a hot breakfast like frijoles molidos, tortillas, huevos revueltos, chorizo, platanos, etc. (though I do make that breakfast for the entire family on the weekend!)

You’ve heard breakfast is the most important meal of the day – and it’s true, so it’s good that we have cereal as an option to start the day. Not only is it fast, easy, affordable, and well-loved by even the pickiest niños – breakfast cereal with milk is the leading source of 10 nutrients important to growing bodies.

Here are some more interesting facts from a survey conducted by Kellogg’s:

  • Nutrition experts agree that breakfast in the morning helps children focus in the classroom.
  • 9 in 10 Latina mothers want their kids to eat breakfast every day.
  • Latina mothers are 20% more likely than mothers overall to get up early and prepare breakfast.

Want to learn more about the Kellogg’s survey? Visit

Disclosure: This is not a paid or sponsored post. Kellogg’s sponsored my attendance at the Blogalicious conference. All opinions are my own.

El Salvador – El dentista

Image source: Meredith Farmer

While brushing my teeth a week before we went to El Salvador, a filling broke off a back tooth. I won’t pretend it was the brushing that did it, as it was more likely the JuJuBes candy I had eaten a day or two before. Though I wasn’t happy, we had planned on going to a dentist in El Salvador anyway, so at least it was good timing.

The original plan had been to go to a dentist in Carlos’s neighborhood, but after all the drama that happened the first day, we decided we would have to find a different dentist somewhere else in San Salvador.

That may seem like an inconvenience but the good thing about El Salvador is that whatever you need, a random stranger will have connections to get it for you. In this case, our favorite taxi driver’s son turned out to be a dentist. He was too busy to schedule us in, but he referred us to a colleague of his.

So we went to the office that was recommended by the son of our taxi driver. The office we went to was clean and modern. Of course, clean and modern are very important when choosing a dentist. We knew it would cost a little more than maybe some other offices in El Salvador, but this is one thing you really don’t want to get the best deal on, ya sabes.

The receptionist, dental hygienist, and the dentist himself, were all very nice. The first day they only cleaned our teeth and said we should come back another day due to excessive bleeding and the need for the swelling to go down in our gums. This sounded very logical and professional, so although I wanted to get it all done, I was pleased that this guy definitely knew what he was doing. Two days later we would have to return a second time to have my filling repaired, take care of a new small cavity I didn’t even know I had – and as it turned out, Carlos had a broken crown which was very close to becoming a root canal which he needed fixed too.

After our first appointment, the dentist actually closed up shop and gave us a ride back to our hotel. How’s that for full service?

The second appointment was a little less fun and a little more painful – but nothing out of the ordinary. Towards the end of my time in the dental chair, I was feeling pretty proud of myself.

I went to a dentist appointment in El Salvador! I said to myself. I understood everything and the dentist understood me! I learned new words like “Enjuaguese” for “Rinse” and “Relleno” for “Filling” … I’m so clever! I smiled to myself as the dentist finished brushing some terrible tasting “flúor” (flouride) on my teeth and then started to walk away. My mouth was full of saliva but he hadn’t told me “Enjuaguese.” I wanted to spit it out! This stuff was nasty, it seemed like a dangerous idea to swallow it and I was ready to drool on myself.

“Doctor!” I managed to get out.

He turned and looked at me expectantly.

“Puedo… puedo…” My mind went blank.

The dentist cocked his head and waited patiently.

I pointed a finger from my mouth to the little sink.

“Puedo…” Argh! What was the word for spit?!


The dentist looked amused and perplexed, as he took off his gloves and smiled at me. Obviously he didn’t speak Spanglish.

Carlos sat in a chair in the next room through an open doorway. I called to him for help but by now I was definitely drooling.

“CARLOS!” I gurgled, “How you say spit?”

“Um… Tirar saliva?”

Maybe “tirar saliva” was perfectly fine to use, but my mind translated it literally to “throw saliva” and it seemed too rude and reckless so I rejected it immediately.

“No – that’s weird! I want a real verb!”

The dentist looked back forth between us.

“Escupir?” Carlos said.

“YES! Escupir! Doctor, puedo escupir?”

The dentist smiled kindly and said “No” – explaining that I needed to be patient and try to hang in there for a few more minutes. All that panic and drooling on my shirt for nothing. I closed my mouth full of spit until he gave me the okay.

After Carlos’s cleaning I went downstairs to wait with the boys in the other waiting room. While I waited, I noticed that several people who seemed to be friends of the receptionist, came in and sat down. I figured they were just waiting for her to get off work so they could go out together but lost interest in figuring it out when Carlos came downstairs.

We went to the counter to pay. For two cleanings, fluoride for both, one filling replaced, one new cavity filled, and one crown replaced, our total was less than $300.

I said something like “Wow! It would have been more than a thousand in the United States” and Carlos gave me ‘the look’ which means I said something I shouldn’t have. “Do you want them to charge us double next time?” he whispered.

So, we paid, called our ride to come pick us up, and went to wait outside the clinic because from what we understood, we were the last appointment of the day and we didn’t want to hold up the staff if they wanted to close up and go home.

We waited under the narrow awning as it rained but our ride didn’t arrive right away. The receptionist kept opening the door and begging us to come back in and wait comfortably inside. We turned her down twice. The third time, the dentist himself insisted we come back in and “enjoy the movie.”

As we followed him back into the clinic, I whispered to Carlos, “Did he say movie?”

Back in the waiting room, the office staff and friends of the receptionist had rearranged the chairs movie theater-style to face a TV in the corner of the room. We obediently sat down and waited as the dentist started the DVD and sat down to watch with us.

The boys kept looking at me but I avoided eye contact precisely because I knew they wanted to laugh and that they would make me laugh. It isn’t every day you get to watch a movie in the dentist’s office.

The movie was called, “Bosco: La historia de mi secuestro.” It seemed to be a documentary about a real life kidnapping that took place – in other words – very serious subject matter – Which is why I was horrified when I realized Carlos and the boys were shaking silently with laughter, trying to hold it in. Carlos literally had a hand clapped over our younger son’s mouth to keep him quiet. They weren’t laughing at the film, but at the fact that we were watching a movie at the dentist’s office. It was all very surreal and I wanted to laugh too. I needed to get out of there, because if Carlos was laughing, I definitely wasn’t going to be able to hold it in much longer. Thankfully I saw our ride pull up outside just in time and we excused ourselves.

On our ride back to the hotel I smiled at the irony of the situation. Here I had been lamenting the loss of a day at a dentist’s office – disappointed that we would be losing time in which we could have been experiencing something more uniquely Salvadoran. As it turns out, doing the most mundane tasks in El Salvador is always educational and culturally authentic – even going to the dentist.

Cellphone Fotos #2

My week in cellphone fotos:

A little carnival set up in a parking lot that we didn’t go to. I could smell the funnel cake tempting me, but I had a cart full of healthy groceries to take home.

See? These are just some of the fruits we brought home from the grocery store. We also bought strawberries, blueberries, grapes, and many varieties of vegetables.

I also bought a new hot pink hoodie jacket. I used to shy away from bright colors but this shade of pink has been calling to me – I don’t know why. As you can see, I’m also wearing my RPM Miami shirt. Who else is watching with me?

Speaking of RPM Miami – Carlos pulled into a car dealership to look at a car, (even though we can’t afford one right now.) … I usually don’t get excited about cars but this one caught my eye. Lo quiero! … I can imagine myself driving this green Camaro in carreras like on the show. Jijiji… And if you want to see how vastly different Carlos and I are, go check out the car he wanted.

Link: What’s On Your Phone Tuesdays

Barbara por Atras

I lack self-discipline, I’m a complete hedonist, I become intensely passionate about the things I love, and I’m impulsive. This spells trouble not just for my eating habits but it makes many aspects of my life challenging. Carlos, who is the complete opposite, has reformed me to some extent, and being a mother has forced me to change my ways, but it’s a daily fight.

Recently when I decided to get serious about my health, I reached out to mi amiga, Barbara to ask for guidance. She gave me a lot of encouragement and was also kind enough to send me a copy of her book, “…Barbara por Atras: A Latin Woman’s Guide to Fitness.”

I’ve read a lot of books about health but this one connected in a way that other books couldn’t. With mentions of Celia Cruz, nalgas, and piropos as well as healthful ways to prepare arroz con frijoles, tostones con mojo, and flan – I feel like finally someone “gets” me! This book is the jump start I needed. I’m taking steps in the right direction – poco a poco, I’ll make it. Gracias, Barbara.

Disclosure: The book was provided to me at no cost. I did not receive any compensation for talking about the book. All opinions are my own.

“Dirty Latino” Stereotype? Chale!

“…results of a new study [by Univision] called “Why Latinos Look So Good”…revealed [that] 34% of Latino men shower twice a day vs. 16% of non-Latino men. Now, that statistic can be partly explained by the fact that Latinos predominantly live in warmer areas of the country (mainly the South and Southwest) or that their line of work may require a second shower in a day. But who cares why? All I hear is ka-ching! Calling all marketers of soap, body wash, deodorant, body lotion, after-shave, face cream, etc… ” – Chiqui Cartagena

My husband, Carlos, takes at least two showers a day – sometimes three, even in the winter time and even on weekends when he hasn’t gone to work. Our older son is the same… our youngest son is another story. He forgets to shower if we don’t remind him, but I think he’s just being a typical little boy at this point.

Carlos is also obsessive about his teeth. He’s a dental hygienist’s dream-come-true. Who else can honestly answer “yes” to the dreaded question, “Do you remember to floss daily?” – (Carlos does!) … The products he requires for regular maintenance may even out number mine; Soap, body wash, shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream, deodorant, body spray, body lotion, eye drops, hair gel, face lotion, foot cream, toothpaste, mouthwash… believe it or not, the list goes on.

Just a few of Carlos's products.

When women have complained to me in the past about how their husbands leave stinky socks lying around and such, I never knew how to respond. “Don’t you hate that?” they’d say – but I’m more likely to leave a pile of dirty laundry on the floor than Carlos is. His side of the closet? Neat and tidy – Even his T-shirts are on hangars. My side of the closet? A complete disaster – piles of clothing, not even folded properly. It’s the same story with shoes. Carlos has sneakers which are many years old but look brand new. He can’t understand how I manage to beat my shoes up the way I do… (I’m not so sure either to be honest.)

Carlos's side of the closet.

My side of the closet.

Carlos’s cleanliness extends beyond the home and to his vehicle. It may be the last $5 he has in his pocket, but if his car looks dirty, he brings it to the car wash. I remember when the kids were little they were scared to drop so much as a Cheerio in Daddy’s car. (My car on the other hand, probably still has a Cheerio or two crushed into the carpet from their toddler days. My kids are 12 and 9, by the way.)

Over the years I decided that maybe because Carlos came from an impoverished childhood, he just values his belongings more than I do. I also decided that he is just a perfectionist, which has its benefits. (Though the disadvantage is when he tries to force his standards of perfection on very imperfect, laid-back me!)

Now that I come upon this study, I wonder, is this obsessive grooming/cleanliness a Latino male thing? Is it cultural? What do you think?


Lately Suegra has been suffering from “empacho” … This illness has always confused and amused me – And Suegra is equally confused as to how it’s possible that gringos don’t believe in it, and usually have never even heard of it.

“Empacho” is a gastrointestinal illness that many people in El Salvador and other parts of Latin America believe can kill you. I decided to interview her about it for anthropological reasons because it doesn’t seem well documented.

Interview below, (in Spanish.)

Note: The use of the word “chibolitas” in Salvadoran Caliche means “little round objects” or “little balls.” (The word has other meanings in other parts of Latin America.)

(If interested in a translation to English, let me know in comments and I’ll see about transcribing it.)


Suegra está enferma. Ha pasado unas semanas así, tosiendo por todos lados. Después de verla en la cocina, con un gabinete abierto, tosiendo sobre todas las ollas y sartenes, no podía soportarlo más. No podía quedarme en silencio.

“Por favor, cúbrete la boca.”
“¿Cubrirme la boca?” ella repitió, un poco incrédula.
“Sí, por favor, cuando estés tosiendo, cúbrete la boca,” dije yo.

“¿Para qué?” Me preguntó con la cara toda confundida.

“Para que no riegues gérmenes por toda la casa. Nos vas a enfermar a todos,” dije yo, “No te enseñaron eso en la escuela cuándo era niña?”

“No,” ella dijo con desdén. “En El Salvador no hay necesidad de cubrirse la boca. Allá los gérmenes no se quedan en las casas como aquí. Las casas allá están bien abiertas…y aquí todo cerrado…ay no,” suspiró.

Bueno, después de esta conversación, ella se puso un poco molesta conmigo. Cada vez que ella tosía y cubría su boca, me miraba con los ojos entreabiertos como si dijera: Mira! Mira la inconveniencia que me has obligado a hacer!

En la mesa durante la cena, aquella noche, ella continuó tosiendo y cubriendo su boca. Carlos le preguntó entre bocados, “¿Estás enferma todavía pues, madre?” (Como que si no fuera obvio.)

“Ojalá no me vaya a morir de esta gripe,” dijo Suegra, “Porque si me muero, tienes que mandar mi cuerpo a El Salvador.” Ella tosió, cubriéndose la boca, “Y Tracy,” me dijo, “si no acompañas mi cuerpo en el avión, no te voy a dejar en paz.”

Y después de decir eso, ella rió tanto que no dejaba de toser.


• Special thanks to mi comadre, Claudia. Carlos y yo tuvimos broncas last night so I had too much pride to ask him to double check my Spanish for errors. Claudia came to my rescue this week! Gracias, amiga!

• Partisipaste en Spanish Friday? Deja tu link en comentarios! Did you participate in Spanish Friday? Leave your link in comments!

English translation:

Suegra is sick. She’s been like this for a few weeks already, coughing all over the place. After I saw her in the kitchen coughing into an open cabinet full of pots and pan, I couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t stay silent.

“Please, cover your mouth.”
“Cover my mouth?” she repeated, a little incredulous.
“Yes, please, when you’re coughing, cover your mouth,” I said.
“For what?” she asked with a confused expression on her face.

“So that you don’t throw germs all over the house. You’re going to get everyone sick,” I said, “Didn’t they teach you that in school when you were little?”

“No,” she sniffed. “In El Salvador there is no need to cover your mouth. The germs don’t stick around like they do here. The houses there are wide open … and here they’re so closed up … ay no,” she sighed.

Well, after this conversation, she got a little upset with me. Every time she coughed and covered her mouth, she looked at me with narrowed eyes as if to say: Look! Look at this inconvenience which you’ve obligated me to do.

At the dinner table that night, she kept coughing and covering her mouth. Carlos asked between bites, “Are you still sick then, madre?” (As if it was not obvious.)

“Hopefully I will not die of the flu,” said Suegra, “If I die, you have to send my body back to El Salvador.”

She coughed, covering her mouth, “And Tracy,” she continued, “If you don’t accompany my body on the airplane, I will haunt you.”

And having said that, she laughed until she coughed and coughed.

Comida “Mexicana” – School Lunch Style

Hoy fuimos a comer almuerzo en la escuela con nuestro hijito. Es un privilegio que le dan a “El Estudiante de la Semana.”

En años pasados, comimos pizza porque el día cuando los padres son bienvenidos es viernes, y como todos saben, el viernes es “Pizza Day.” — Pero, por las regulaciones de salud que ha puesto el gobierno, ahora los niños sólo comen pizza de vez en cuando. Estoy de acuerdo con los almuerzos más saludables, pero no entiendo porque no pueden cambiar la pizza, pues? Pizza puede ser una comida bien saludable si es hecha de ingredientes de calidad. Si las hacen con la orilla de “whole grain”, queso bajo en grasa, salsa de tomate con menos azúcar, y verduras en vez de pepperoni – sera delicioso y saludable.

Ni modo, si no hay pizza, no hay pizza. Tengo que comer lo que tienen. Y sabes qué estaban sirviendo? Aquí es el menú:

Chicken Fajita
Spanish Rice
Fresh Fruit
Wheat Sugar Cookie

Y aquí es una foto de mi almuerzo:

Usualmente, me gustan los almuerzos de la escuela, pero esto era un poco horible. La galleta estaba deliciosa, aunque mi tazita de salsa se calló un poco encima de ella. La “fajita” le falta sal y Valentina hot sauce pero estaban bien más o menos. El arroz tenía la misma textura de pure de papas y no podría comerlo. Este almuerzo me pone a pensar en empacar los almuerzos de mis niños de aquí en adelante. Vamos a ver.

¿Participaste en Spanish Friday? Deja tu link en comentarios!

Go to the doctor? Nah. We have a bunch of guys from Veracruz, Mexico for medical advice.

My husband started having back pain the day after we picked Suegra up at the airport. I think he pulled something lifting her enormous suitcase into the car. When I mentioned this possibility, Suegra gave me la mirada that means she is cursing me inside her head, and she responded that if he hurt himself lifting then he is “más débil que yo” – and so therefore, it was his own fault.

Ni modo, back pain or no back pain, my husband has to work. The guys he supervises, (all from Veracruz, Mexico), eventually noticed that his back hurt and they asked him about it. They began trying to help him by asking some rather personal questions, which I think even our doctor has not asked my husband before. Ultimately they all agreed on a diagnosis. My husband has been instructed to stop having sex with the ceiling fan on. Apparently the cold air on his bare back while he’s…um… exerting himself… is not good for him.

Remedios (a guest post)

Mi gran amigo, Joe Ray, is back with another entertaining guest post. (You may remember his first guest post here on, “Spanglish…El bad boy de linguistics“.)

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!

El Remediosphere®
by Joe Ray

My mother was raised on a rancho in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. When you got sick, you had remedies that worked for everyone, you went to a sobadora or a curandera. And if things were really bad, you were taken into town.

This is old school. No pinche WebMD for research. If you wanted to know something, you asked your comadre about it. You were part of the Collective Comadre Network.

One common herbal remedio is yerba buena. Yerba buena’s great stuff, it’s used for everything from stomach ailments or flavoring mojitos. My mom also kept around a glass jar filled with rubbing alcohol that contained marijuana, which she would rub on her varicose veins. Aloe vera was always around as well.

Having asthma as a kid, my mom would rub Vicks (AKA vaporu, vivaporu, or el veex) all over my chest, usually along with other very nasty smelling herbs/weeds. Not yerba buena but my guess is that it was probably more along the lines of yerba mierda. After rubbing it on my chest, she’d make me put on a heating pad over my shirt and blanket. I can’t stand Vicks. I knew some kids ate the stuff. I like the smell of eucalyptus, which she would also boil leaves into a tea but I still find Vicks to be quite repulsive.

Growing up in Arizona, we were only 2 hours from the Mexican border, so we would go visit family, shop and so forth. I recall going to a yerberia for dried rattlesnake strips to eat daily in order to cure my asthma. Never having seen a snake cough, this made perfect sense to me. The meat tasted okay (like jerky), but didn’t really cure me.

Prior to that trip, Doña Yoya in San Luis once gave me a little black bunny. I think the rabbit was supposed to absorb the asthma and I’d be cured. She lived a couple of houses away from my aunt and was a curandera who had a bunch of animals. Anyway, that didn’t work. This rabbit was the first pet I ever had. The rabbit proved to be quite the trouble maker, and eventually we ate it

I also remember one family friend using bleach for everything from ant bites to other skin ailments. That always had a nasty smell to the rub. Every once in a while I smell bleach and think of that. But it still doesn’t repel me the way Vicks does.

I went online the other day and asked friends a little about what type of remedios they remember from their childhoods.

Here’s a small sampling of what I heard back:

Suzi: We all know what cures-VICKS and 7-UP!

Veronica: I thought all cures came from a lil shot of tequila

Tony: Lemon honey and tequila for coughs-Mexican Nyquil. Olive and castor oil after a hot bath in the winter.
Note- Tony also remembers his father using the pot in the alcohol for arthritis.

Celeste: Vaporu. That with some salpicot y una limpia con huevo and whatever weeds grew in the backyard. Santo remedio! Anything that was sting related had saliva in it: aver que te pongo ajo, con un poco de saliva.

Gennaro: Mi madre used to pull the skin on our back really hard to cure empacho, until today I don’t know wtf that was about.

Lonnie: Mentholatum smeared under the nose. My suegra would shove it up her nose. I think she used a couple of tablespoons.


Culturally, we have a lot of herbs, beliefs and rituals that we relate to. These range from lighting candles, to a limpia con huevo (go ask about that one), to rhymes. Think of that little kiddie healing rhyme:

“sana, sana,
colita de rana…”

Before the internet, before WebMD, there was the Collective Comadre Network, which will always be around. Many of us continue these healing traditions. They are part of who we are and where we come from. It’s all part of the Remediosphere®. What are some of the remedios you remember?

Author Bio: Joe Ray is a Latino painter and printmaker living in Scottsdale, Arizona, as well as Creative Director and President of Estudio Ray, a visual branding/marketing agency in Phoenix.