Thursday, December 31, 2009

Charles Dickens was clairvoyant (or a quick reflection on 2009)

I didn't read the whole thing, and according to Wikipedia it's about Paris and London and the plight of the peasantry or something -- but the first line of A Tale of Two Cities describes my 2009 to a T.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."

In July, I had a baby. He came with the sun on a Thursday morning and changed my life forever. It was the best of times.

In November, my father died. It was sudden and unexpected and, again, everything changed. It was the worst of times.

It's been a year of absolutes. Of black and white and hot and cold. And I, who had been living life in shades of gray and treading lukewarm water, will never be the same again.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

In which Luki carries on a family tradition

I come from a really healthy, long-lasting family. My great-aunt died a couple of months ago at the ripe old age of 102. My grandma is in her late eighties and still has the hand-eye coordination to put on a full face of make-up every morning. My dad only lived to 53, but that was a stupid accident; he was in better shape than most 35 year olds. And my mom -- she eats sugar in the raw by the cupful and gets an A+ on her blood work every time she goes to the doctor.

I say all this to say: I have some quality, Grade A genes.

And then I married a diabetic.

What can I say? Some women marry into money or property, or a family business; I married into chronic (albeit controlled) illness.

Still, as healthy as my side of the family may be, we still get the sporadic cold or flu. And it is a long standing, time honored tradition for the Jardines clan to get sick only during the most special of occasions.

When I was a kid, I would always break into a fever half an hour before heading out to a birthday party. It's like I literally made myself ill with excitement. My parents were the same way -- their defenses always shutting down hours before a big vacation or the giant dinner parties they were known for hosting.

Getting sick on a random Tuesday and watching talk shows all day? Absolutely out of the question.

So I wasn't even a little bit surprised when Luki got his first cold on Christmas Eve. "He's just really excited about baby Jesus' birthday," I thought.

Poor Luki, he was miserable throughout the entire holiday, coughing uncontrollably and then getting really mad at the phlegm that was lodged in the back of his throat. He kept making this really angry face that was all -- I'M JUST TRYING TO CHILL AND SUCK ON MY TOES, WHAT IS THIS AWFUL THING THAT KEEPS HAPPENING TO ME?? -- every time his lungs tried to make their way up his trachea.

When I offered him some boob and he turned his face away, I knew something was REALLY wrong. Because boob and crack are synonymous to my kid, and we haven't been able to afford to send him to rehab.

I took him to the doctor, and she explained that he wasn't eating because his nose was full of mucus, making it impossible for him to suck and breathe at the same time. It was my job to vacuum his nostrils with an aspirator three times a day.

Disgusting yet endearing side note: My mom says that in Cuba they didn't have aspirators, so my dad would suck the buggers out of my nose with his mouth. Gross! But also, wow, he loved me enough to eat my snot!

All it took was one look at the device I was going to insert in his little nose, and Luki started to scream and flail his limbs like a crazy person. However, after being restrained by his dad and grandma, I was able to clear out his nasal passageway making it possible for him to breathe again. He is feeling much better now, thanks for asking.

So, what did I learn from this experience?

1. To thank my lucky stars I now live in a country where aspirators are a dime a dozen.

And

2. To never underestimate the ability to blow my own nose.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas didn't suck as much as I thought it would

So it wasn't all spiked eggnog and chestnuts roasting on an open fire, and I missed my dad so much even my fingernails ached. But I survived. And at times, I even laughed and felt happy.

My mom says she gives herself a pep talk in order to complete the gargantuan task of getting out of bed every morning. She tells herself, "God took away my husband, but he did not take all that I have. He has put many more amazing people in my life."

That lady, she is so wise.

Because as much as I tried to be miserable and spend The First Christmas Without Daddy in the fetal position with my head between my knees, all the incredible people around me wouldn't let it go down that way.

Case in Point: My kick-ass husband Ton Ton who, despite my telling him many times that I had no Christmas spirit and did not want to give or receive any presents, bestowed me with a much needed brand new laptop computer on Christmas Eve. It made me happy. Happy because it's green and pretty and just the size I wanted, but mostly because he gave it to me. He gave it to me knowing full well I'd bought him a big fat case of nothing in return.

And that's how it was with everyone else. Family and friends putting on their best faces and making the most selfless of efforts in order for the holiday to be tolerable. Mom got out of bed and cooked a delicious meal so that we didn't have to resort to frozen pizza. My brother ran every errand, washed every dish, and smiled the whole time (just like dad would've done). A good friend brought cake and gossiped until past midnight.

On Christmas day, we went to Ton Ton's sister's house for lunch and she presented Luki with a stocking, his name written in glitter. Before I could remove any of its contents, my son, who has the aim of a professional baller, managed to projectile vomit inside it.



I thought to myself, "well, at least we now know how he feels about glitter" and right then, on my first Christmas day without a father, I laughed and laughed.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas time

Time has been acting funny since the tragic and life-altering event of November 28. My mom keeps saying that she wants the clock to tick faster. That she feels the hours and minutes leisurely strolling by, like tourists who don't want to miss a single site of nostalgia and sorrow. For me, on the other hand, the past three and a half weeks have flown by. I am still stranded in that hospital room. Every detail of that day remains engraved in my being -- the rhythmic noise of the ventilator; the way my dad didn't smell like himself; the look of disbelief on my mother's face when the doctors told us he was gone. It is as if it all happened five minutes ago.

I recently realized that Christmas is in three days, and that doesn't compute in my mind. I just had Thanksgiving dinner with my family. My dad was there. He praised my turkey. The next day he had an accident and was hospitalized. I'm stuck there. How did all these other days sneak in? When did it become December?

Christmas, as it's traditionally celebrated here, has never been a big deal for my family. Before we moved to the United States we didn't really know anything about Santa Claus or crowded malls. In Cuba, all we did was get together for a big meal on December 24 to observe Noche Buena. When we arrived to this country right smack in the middle of Holiday Season 1992, we thought people were crazy and tacky for having giant trees with flashing lights inside their houses.

My brother was still pretty young when we got here, so he bought into the whole Santa thing despite the fact that the fat man in the red suit had never visited him in Havana. So, for the first few years we put up a tree and opened presents Christmas morning. But when we got a little older, we stopped doing all that. The celebration was limited to a big feast on the 24th.

This year, Ton Ton and I wanted to play up the holiday for Luki. We planned to get a tree and put up lights, and envisioned dozens of presents to commemorate our baby's first Christmas.

And then the terrible thing happened. The terrible thing which has put all other things into perfect focus.

My father's sudden and unexpected death has made me realize that the most amazing gift I have is time. The time I spent with him, and the time I have left to spend with others.

When we asked my mom what she'd like to do for Noche Buena, she said she wanted to spend it in bed. So this December 24th, my brother, Ton Ton, Luki and I will be climbing in there with her. Wrapping up the present. Opening up the memories time has kindly left behind.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A SADwich

Here is a recent picture of Luki:

Hopefully the overwhelming cuteness will counteract the rest of this post, because I pretty much only feel like writing about depressing stuff. And I can't even figure out how to get all the sadness into one coherent message, so I'm just going to type up random bullets of despair. (Random Bullets of Despair, that'd make a good name for a rock band, eh?)
  • On my way to work every morning I often find it surprising that NPR makes no mention of my father's death in their morning newscast. How can the senate debate healthcare and snow be in the forecast for this weekend if my dad's not around? I realize this is completely irrational -- my dad was not a politician, a meteorologist, or a journalist for that matter, but it's so strange that the rest of the world is still spinning without him. Or maybe what's strange is that other people aren't aware of this immeasurable loss -- to me, it's so big, so overwhelming, that sometimes I just assume everyone else, even strangers, can sense it too. And so, every morning, as I listen to the news, I give myself the latest update on my father. The headline is always the same: No new developments, daddy's still dead.

  • Take my sadness, my devastating, sometimes paralyzing sadness, multiply it by 1000 decibels of grief, and you will still not understand how afflicted my mother is. One of my best friends said to me the other day that I may have lost my father, but that my mother lost her future. She was absolutely right. All of her plans and dreams of growing old together, of retiring and traveling the world, of having sleepovers with their grandkids, they were all thwarted on November 28. And my funny, intelligent, outspoken mother is disappearing behind a boulder of melancholy. I know she is doing the best she can. The fact that she gets out of bed and showers in the morning is a huge accomplishment. But I can't help but feel like I'm losing her, or at least pieces of her, as well.

  • I went to the doctor this week and found out I'm back below my pre-pregnancy weight. The grief diet. I would take the 45 pounds, swollen feet, and insatiable 4 a.m. appetite any day, over feeling like this. Hell, I would rather have Pitocin induced contractions and push out ten thousand babies with no drugs than be this heartbroken.

  • I am trying to keep my shit together for Luki. I don't want him to spend the first year of his life around a loser mom who cries every time she sees a Starbucks (my dad's only vice). It's hard, but this helps:


So there you have it. A bunch of sadness sandwiched in between the thing that has brought the most joy to my life. Right now the grief makes up the entire sandwich. Hopefully in time, it'll just be a condiment you can ask for on the side, like a pickle or some mayonnaise.

Monday, December 14, 2009

In the meantime...

This post is not about baby. If you're here to read about the contents of Luki's latest diaper, I am sorry to disappoint. Believe me, I wish I was in the mood to write about poop. I would give anything to go back to eighteen days ago, when poop was the worst of my problems -- silly, trivial, inconsequential, poop. But I can't talk about poop, not today. Because November 28 was The Worst Day of My Life and I'm still living in its shadows.

The Worst Day of My Life -- I wonder how many times I've used that phrase in the past because traffic was bad, or I left the house without an umbrella on a rainy day. It's amazing how a single event has completely sharpened my perspective. The worst thing that can happen is not getting laid off or missing my connecting flight. It's not seeing the perfect pair of shoes on sale, only to find out they're sold out in my size. It's not even having the republicans win every single election from now until the year 2175.

The worst thing that can happen is to stand in a hospital room while my father -- my young, vibrant, agile, father -- is pronounced dead by a team of doctors. Dead. As in, he will never fry plantains again, or hold my mother's hand, or check the air in my brother's car's tires before he heads back to college. Dead. As in, he will not see my son grow up, he will not be at his first birthday party or watch him ride a bicycle; he will not ever hear him say "abuelo."

Wrapping my head around the permanence of death has been one of the biggest challenges of the past eighteen days. It's so hard to comprehend that while I am on this earth, I will never see my father again. That I can't even call him for a second, just to ask him how much water I need to add to the pot in order to make his perfectly fluffy white rice.

But everything in the past couple of weeks has been challenging. I've felt a range of emotions as wide as the horizon my dad liked to stare at so much on our trips to the beach. In the same day, the same hour even, I can go from being calm and collected to feeling an urging need to punch a wall and scream until my voice is gone. I am convinced that my father is in a better place, that he is resting, that he is happier than ever, but at the same time I feel an irrational hatred for all the ladders in the world. I despise brain stems and hematomas and neurosurgeons who are trained to say, "there's nothing we can do" without expressing the slightest hint of emotion. And I know, I KNOW, that everyone dies. That we all have a beginning and an end. And I think about all the kids who have lost their fathers or who have never even met their fathers, and I feel lucky that I had the MOST AMAZING dad for 26 years. But then, I see the old men who live to be 90 and teach their great grandkids to play dominoes, and it just seems so unfair.

All of these thoughts and feelings are constantly speeding through the interstates inside my heart and mind.

One emotion has remained constant, however, and that is gratitude. The outpour of support from friends and relatives has been amazing. The family that got on the first flight down, just to hold our hands. The friends who drove to the funeral for the day, spending more time in the car than at their destination. All the people from near and far who sent bouquets of flowers. All the folk who showed up at our door with plates of food. And all the friends, some whom I haven't spoken with in years, who have kept us in their thoughts and prayers and wrote kind messages of support on this blog and on Facebook. I haven't been good about responding, but I've read all of them and I just want to say Thank You.

And thank YOU for reading this entry, despite it not being about the light-hearted and banal things I usually write. I have to believe that with your help, and with time, there will come the day when I can talk about poop again.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

It's our monthiversary! Part V

Dear Luki,

You are now five months old. I am writing this entry a couple of days late because the actual day of your monthiversary was also the day of your grandpa Uli's funeral. Your grandpa passed away. He fell off a ladder at work and hit his head very hard, so hard that his brain stopped working.

I want you to know that your grandpa loved you very much. He thought that everything you did was amazing. This past month you mastered the art of rolling over. The night before he had the accident, your grandpa kept putting you on your tummy to try to get you to sleep, and you kept flipping over and over. He thought it was hilarious.

This is also the month you discovered your feet and they are definitely your new favorite toy. You pretty much ignore every light-flashing and noise-making contraption we've purchased for you in favor of your big toe.

You were introduced to solid foods and learned to push out solid poops. You figured out that your index finger is a whole lot tastier than the pacifier I took away. You demonstrated that, when you put your mind to it, you can sleep through the night. And I don't mean 6 hours, I mean from 9:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m.

But the most incredible thing you did this month, Luki, was exist. Because even though my heart is breaking into a million pieces because you will not remember your grandpa, because he won't be able to take you for rides in his truck or teach you how to climb a tree, your presence has given everyone in the family solace. Taking care of you has helped us keep our sanity in the midst of this terrible tragedy.

You, the result of an unplanned and unexpected pregnancy, have helped me understand better than ever that God is in control and his plans are just. That having you was not a fluke. You were sent to light the way during the darkest, most troubled moment of my life.

And the only way I can think of to demonstrate how grateful I am to have you in my life, is by aspiring to be as good a parent to you as my father was to me.

I love you,

Mom

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thankful

I owe you guys a Thanksgiving post. I was going to write about the fabulous turkey I made without losing any fingers and the "Thankful for Mommy" pajamas we had Luki wear. But on Friday, in the blink of an eye, all of my plans changed. My father had a terrible accident and he passed away this morning. Our entire family is distraught.

But I owe you guys a Thanksgiving post.

So I want to say that I am so thankful for my father. For his laughter. For is never ending kindness. For his patience. For his strength. For all those qualities he transmitted to my brother and I which are making this moment bearable. Because I know that I will get through this because I am his daughter.

And I am thankful that I will see him again one day in heaven.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Squash with a side of finger

When I was pregnant, one of the first decisions I made about life with a baby was that he or she would wear cloth diapers. I did a lot of research on the subject and found out that in the 1950s, 95% of children were potty trained by 18 months. Today, only 10% of kids can pee and poop in a toilet by that age. The culprit? Disposables, of course. Plus, cloth is cheaper, better for the environment, and causes less diaper rash. I was sold before the end of my first trimester.

Oh how cute I was! How silly and naive! If I could, I would pinch my pregnant self on the cheek and say to her, "aw honey, bless your heart" in a thick southern accent. Because I'm pretty sure that the people who use cloth diapers successfully have a totally different philosophy around laundry than me. And by that I mean, they actually do it.

Needless to say, Luki wears disposables.

I feel pretty bad about killing the earth and raising a kid who'll probably poop his pants through high school, so today I'd like to announce that I've replaced the cloth diapers pipe dream with another of equal or lesser value: homemade baby food.

That's right! I've done all the research and making Luki's food is cheaper and healthier than the stuff at the store. After a few attempts at rice cereal with disastrous consequences, I set off on my culinary adventure over the weekend.

Knowing full well the extent of my limitations in the kitchen, I purchased the Beaba Babycook for this endeavor. Yes, I know that the same effect could be achieved with a pot and a blender, but a) this is so pretty; and b) we've never used the blender for anything non-alcoholic, and I don't want my next batch of margaritas to taste like peas and carrots.

Ton Ton and I headed to the farmer's market early Saturday morning and purchased some locally grown fruits and vegetables. I cut up some squash, steamed and pureed it in the Beaba and voila! homemade baby food. Luki loved it, and his insides seemed to have an easier time digesting it than the cereal.

Great success!

Except for the part where I cut my finger while cleaning the blade. It hurt and bled a lot. And even though Ton Ton said he could barely see the wound, I'm pretty sure it required surgical intervention. Still, although my finger may be maimed, my culinary spirit remains intact and I shall persevere. I'm pretty sure the Food Network will be calling at any moment to offer me a show deal.

P.S. Luki's rave reviews of my puree de squash have inspired me to make this recipe for Thanksgiving. I'll be sure to blog about it.

P.P.S. Don't worry. We will be spending Thanksgiving at my mother's where there will be plenty of other things to eat should this experiment go awry.

P.P.P.S. If I don't blog about it, or ever again, you'll know it's because I lost both hands while chopping hazelnuts the Food Network called.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

You owe Google a big one, Luki

Today I had a free moment at work and used it to google "baby penis foreskin"

If the IT department keeps track of my Internet usage, they've probably now posted fliers with my picture on them that say, "NOTIFY THE AUTHORITIES IMMEDIATELY IF YOU SEE THIS WOMAN WITHIN 100 FEET OF A PLAYGROUND." But I promise you, I was not scouring the web for kiddie porn. It's just that, I've never owned a penis and needed to find out if I was taking proper care of my son's.

Poor Luki. He just gave me this look like, "First you talk about my issues with poop, now you're telling the entire Internet about my man parts?? ...And you have the gall to wonder why I sometimes cry inconsolably..."

Listen son, I'm doing this for your own good. And for the good of your penis.

But before I talk about the results of my query, I think it best to start this story with a bit of a controversial topic. Please put away all sharp and flammable objects.

Ready?

Ok. Here it goes...

Luki is not circumcised!

His father and I thought about this thoroughly when I was pregnant and, after lots of research and discussions with our doctor, decided to leave our son intact. We simply couldn't find any compelling evidence that upheld the benefits of circumcision, and almost every man in the family, including Ton Ton, still has his foreskin. (Hey Luki, does it make you feel any better that I just told the Internet about daddy's man parts?) Most of our relatives were born in Latin America, where the procedure is not routinely done and, also, we are not Jewish.

Those who favor circumcision often use hygiene as one of their reasons for supporting the practice. They claim that the uncircumcised penis is dirty and more susceptible to infection. In all our conversations with healthcare providers, they assured us that this was not the case. Dirty boys will get infections, whether they're circumcised or not. Our only job was to keep the area clean and dry.

The "How to not break your newborn" classes we took while pregnant, informed us that, if we decided not to circumcise, the penis did not need any special care. Just soap and water. At the hospital, after Luki was born, the nurses again explained that his genitals were to be cleaned just like the rest of his body. Easy enough, right?

Weeeell, things are never so easy when everybody is trying to raise your baby. Our families, who are always leery of "the way these Americans do things," have been telling us that we need to pull back the foreskin and wash under it.

So, at Luki's fourth month appointment I asked the pediatrician again, "Do we need to be doing anything to his penis?" And again we were told: Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, his foreskin will probably not retract until he is 5 or 6 years old.

Upon sharing this information with our families, the GASPS! were heard in both our homelands. Mamacita was particularly outraged, "I've never heard anything like that! With both my sons, my three grandsons, and my two great grandsons, we pulled back the skin to clean it. And NOTHING happened to them."

And that brings us to today and the inquiry I sent out to Google universe. The results were page after page of experts saying: Leave it alone.

I also found this little tidbit:

"In uncircumcised boys, forcibly ripping the foreskin from the glans in the name of hygiene can lead to pain, scarring and adhesions."

So no. Under no circumstances will we be pulling back his foreskin.

I wonder what Google has to say about "how to keep relatives away from my baby's man parts"

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A good gift

Back in May, when I was 7+ months pregnant and my feet had gotten so swollen they were applying to become U.S. territories, I found a shred of silver lining hiding behind the constant backache and the insatiable 4:00 a.m. hunger, namely: My first Mother's Day and the presents that entailed.

Ton Ton tried to insinuate that I "technically" wasn't a mom yet, but he quickly remembered that I could smother him with my belly and totally make it look like an accident.

"But officer I just rolled over, landed on his face, and he was trapped! No, I couldn't get back up by myself. Oh my God, I think I just had a contraction!"


They would never prosecute me while I was great with life.

So, just like I do on all other major holidays -- My Birthday and Christmas -- I put in my gift request. A CAMERA! A good camera that takes pictures really fast and makes the backgrounds blurry. As you can see, I have a depth of technical knowledge in the field of photography.

I did some research, talked to some photographer friends, and finally settled on the Canon Rebel XS. It wasn't cheap and, upon seeing the price tag, Ton Ton tried to use the whole, you-don't-know-anything-about-photography-babies-are-expensive angle to get out of buying it. But again, my pregnant belly did all the convincing for me. Never underestimate the power of the bump!

In the end, I got the camera and, of course, Ton Ton uses it twice as much as I do. "This thing is amazing," he is fond of saying. And I'm even more fond of replying, "I told you so!"

We got a new lens for it this weekend and I took these shots:


A picture in our poorly lit bathroom that didn't require the use of flash...


Don't mind the angry baby...check out that blurry background! Woo hoo!


The camera was fast enough to catch him before he toppled over...

I can't wait until my first "official" Mother's Day next year; my only concern is that I won't have a giant belly with which to negotiate my gift.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Solid food is no joke

Was it really a mere four months ago that I wrote on this here blog, "there was human feces on my finger, and I remained unfazed"?

Huh.

Did I also write, "shit has gone from being the most disgusting thing ever to eliciting laughter"?

Oh, how naive I was.

Because I can think of many adjectives to describe the contents of Luki's diaper two days ago - some of which would prompt my mother to wash my mouth with soap - but funny is certainly not one of them.

Warning! I am about to give a graphic and detailed description of my child's bowel movements. Not recommended for those who are pregnant, over 65, or in the middle of eating lunch. Proceed at your own risk.

For the first four months of his life, Luki was exclusively breastfed. That means that, although his poops were very frequent and shot out of his butt like missiles, they were not offensive in odor. The stuff looked like mustard mixed with cottage cheese and sort of smelled like yogurt... a certificate in handling radioactive material was not required in order to change his diaper.

Then, our son more than doubled his birth weight and grew to the 90th percentile in height (that's right, my kid has an A- in being tall!), so our pediatrician deemed him ready for solid food.

Excited about introducing him to something new, Ton Ton and I went to the store right away to buy rice cereal. We fed it to him with a spoon and he got the hang of it right away. Great Success! Right?



Wrong!

He ate the cereal a couple more times, but it made him constipated and he didn't poop for three days. When his intestines finally cooperated, the substance I encountered was so foul, so offensive, so repugnant, that I had to do a double take of Luki's face to make sure he hadn't morphed into a prehistoric creature that feeds off of animal carcasses and sewer water.

As I held my breath and cleaned excrement from my son's bottom, thighs, and back, all I kept thinking to myself was, "if this is what a few tablespoons of rice cereal smell and look like, what's gonna happen when he has his first bowl of beans?"

I am traumatized, as a matter of fact, I think I now have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and going through a similar experience again could seriously implicate my mental health. Fortunately, Ton Ton has agreed* to handle all poopy diapers from now on!

*By agreed, I mean I'm going to talk ad nauseam about the forty-five pounds I put on, the twelve hours of labor, and the stitches I had to endure in my vagina so that he can play with his son, until he marches over to the changing table.

P.S. The good thing about solid food? Luki's farts are now smelly, and I am totally blaming it on him next time I let one rip!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

In which I do what I said I'd never do

When it comes to my child-rearing philosophy, I've always said that I'd like to do things almost exactly like my parents. After all, they raised two functional, interesting, and, most importantly, HAPPY, individuals who still enjoy the company of their mom and dad -- especially around a dinner table laden with homemade Cuban food. In 25 years, if all it takes for Luki to want to hang out with me is fried plantains, I'll consider myself an award winning mom.

However, there is one thing my mother would occasionally do that I vowed to never subject my children to: Under no circumstances would I compare my kids to those of others.

Nothing bothered me more as a teenager than hearing Big E say, "Did you see so and so's room? She didn't have a single item of clothing strewn on the floor"; "Whatchamacallit doesn't walk around in her pajamas with a tangled mass of curls on top of her head all day;" or "I see you got a C in AP Calculus, what did what's her face get?"

And when I would counter with something like "You know who's mom lets her stay out until 1:00," she would just roll her eyes and answer, "Good for her! You better be back by 10."

Nope, I was resolved to never put my child through that. I was not going to use others as the standard by which to measure my offspring.

And then...a bunch of my friends got pregnant at around the same time as I did, and they ALL had the best behaved, quietest, most laid back babies I've ever seen.

At a get together last weekend, the unthinkable happened. I sat a SCREAMING Luki next to one of these angelic children and said to my son, "WHY CAN'T YOU BE MORE LIKE HIM??" He got quiet for a second, looked at me defiantly, and started wailing louder, as if to say, "MAYBE BECAUSE HIS MOTHER DOESN'T TEASE HIM WITH A GUITAR FOR THE SAKE OF AN ENTERTAINING YOUTUBE VIDEO!"

Ok, point taken.

Still, when Luki had his fourth month appointment a few days ago and delighted the entire pediatrician's office with his rendition of "You better keep bouncing me and don't even think about sitting down," it happened again. I had to ask, "Is it normal for him to act this way?...because all our friends have really chill babies."

The Dr. assured us that he's fine and suggested we get ready for the next eighteen years of dealing with his spirited personality. A personality that makes him unique and shouldn't be likened to anyone else's.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Yes, I realize how lucky I am

When I was a sophomore in college, my roommate got really sick early on and went home for the rest of the year. It's the only time in my life I've ever lived alone. Free from having to conform to another's lifestyle, I lived happily among piles of unfolded laundry, books, papers, and, my main staple during those four years, bags of gummy bears.

Despite, and probably as a result of, growing up with a mother who had everything in its proper place and would throw my clothes in the dew covered yard whenever I left them scattered on my bedroom floor, the domesticity gene skipped over me. I'd much rather be reading, watching tv, sleeping, or outside counting and cataloging blades of grass by shades of green, than emptying out the dishwasher.

Luckily, I married a man whose hobby it is to compare and contrast different types of hard wood floor cleaners. Tragedy struck our house the day Orange Glo came out with a new formula that left streaks, OH GOD NOT STREAKS!, on his precious floorboards. While Ton Ton obsessed over finding the new perfect product to clean the hardwood, I drank beer and watched TV.

As you can see, our house is the place where traditional gender roles came to retire. We've set up a couple lawn chairs for them and they bask in the sunshine drinking piƱa coladas all day. As soon as somebody figures out a way for men to lactate they (the gender roles, that is) will forever pass away to that better place in the sky.

In all fairness, I've been trying to be better about maintaining a tidy home, or as Ton Ton likes to call it: acting like a real human person, since Luki was born. I now realize that constantly buying new underwear is not the most fiscally responsible way to deal with laundry, and would like my son to learn so from an early age.

Still, it is my husband who captains the cleanliness ship. So, when he was sick all last week with "a cold that almost orphaned Luki" -- Ton Ton exaggerates almost as well as he dusts -- our Lysol powered Titanic hit an iceberg.

The thing is, I can't act like a real human person if Ton Ton is too high off Sudafed to remind me of it. Without his constant nagging helpful suggestions about picking up my shoes off the living room floor or hanging up my towel after I'm done using it, our house began to resemble my old college pad. Except this time, I wasn't happy in the squalor.

Yeap, it looks like Ton Ton's fervor for organization has started to rub off on me. It's not enough to motivate me to clean, but at least I'm no longer comfortable in a messy home. That's a step in the right direction, right?

Fortunately, Ton is feeling better and things have returned to their natural order:



That's me behind the camera in a pair of boxer shorts, a beer in hand.

Friday, November 6, 2009

It's Magic!

Have a inconsolable baby at home? Did you try feeding him? How about changing his diaper? Is he sleepy? Maybe it's gas, or reflux, or perhaps an ear infection...

...or maybe your baby just wants to ROCK!



It's as if Luki's saying: "Entertain me minions, or I'll unleash my wrath upon you."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

That's just the way they are

It all started the first day they met. Big E followed the muddy footprints on her white carpet to the exact place on the couch where Ton Ton was sitting. Her first words to him were "you better figure out a way to clean this up!" Ton Ton looked startled and said, "hi, nice to meet you," and I immediately resorted to my standard reaction in awkward situations -- hysterical laughter. Not wiping his feet was a MAJOR faux pas in a house where the Lysol bottle gets cleaned with 409, and vice versa.

That bumpy start marked the beginning of what has blossomed to become a mountainous relationship. There is a running joke in Big E's house that anybody can break or misplace whatever they want because, in the end, Ton Ton will get the blame. She even accused him of breaking the sugar bowl. The sugar bowl. Perhaps type I diabetic, insulin dependent Ton Ton decided he just couldn't take it anymore, tried to put himself in a hyperglycemic coma, and snapped off the handle on the bowl containing his poison in the process. Yea, that's totally what happened.

Now I know, based on my 26 years of experience with Big E, that her seemingly combative banter with my husband is all in good fun. That not so deep down in her heart, she actually likes him -- I'll even venture to say that she LOVES him. She makes snarky comments and blames him for everything because...well, because that's just the way she is. She doesn't really mean it.

Still, as much as I've tried to explain that she's joking, sometimes Ton Ton just doesn't see the humor in phrases like, "you led my daughter to a path of debauchery and alcoholism" or "thank God Luki looks nothing like you!"

Recently, I realized that he probably never will. But before I tell you about that, a related aside and piece of advice:

Single ladies, do not think that you've struck gold when you meet a man whose parents live abroad. When your in-laws live in a different country, they come to visit for many months at a time. I have done the math, and you actually end up spending more time with them than if they lived down the street and you saw them for a couple of hours every day. Your best bet is to marry someone whose parents live across the country. Far enough so that you won't have to see them every day, but not far enough to warrant extended visits. You'll thank me later.

As you may recall, Ton Ton's mother, Mamacita, has arrived from Venezuela and will be staying through January. Although I appreciate that she is much more reserved than my own mother, her lack of enthusiasm about everything, except, of course, her grandson, is often hard for me to swallow. As much as Ton Ton tells me that she is enjoying herself, I just don't see the cheerfulness behind her stern facade. "That's just the way she is!" he explains, echoing my reason for Big E's behavior all these years, "just because she doesn't smile all the time, doesn't mean she isn't happy to be here." And I believe him, even though it makes no sense to me whatsoever.

No, we'll probably never understand each other's mothers, but one thing sure is clear -- on my birthday, while Ton Ton and I partook in acts of "debauchery and alcoholism," both of Luki's grandmas were on hand to babysit -- we are lucky, lucky people to have them around.

Monday, November 2, 2009

It's our monthiversary! Part IV



Luki may be turning four months old today, but he's already got the dramatic flair of someone with a master's degree in theatre. His aptitude for thespian art is most notable when he hasn't eaten in a couple of hours and takes on the role of "starving boy". The tears and lamentations are so convincing that you would think he was one of those poor fly covered kids in the Feed the Children commercials who hasn't had a decent meal in weeks. And the drama is not just about food...he can go from laughing up a storm to screaming his guts out in one second flat; all it takes is for you to stop bouncing him, change his position, or, God forbid, sit down while he's in your arms. The interesting thing is that these theatrical productions hardly ever happen when the three of us are home alone; like any good actor, Luki likes to perform for an audience. 

Our son's quickly emerging personality has definitely marked the most significant development of the past thirty days. Fortunately, it hasn't been all fits of rage and temper tantrums. Luki has revealed that he is a curious, engaged, clever boy, that loves to laugh... and the laughter is the most amazing milestone we've experienced thus far. Just yesterday, his grandpa Uli made him giggle for  20 whole minutes by jumping up and down in front of him -- Luki looked very happy, but grandpa was ecstatic and so proud, you'd think that eliciting those tee-hees from that baby was the greatest accomplishment of his life! Yeap, even bigger than escaping a communist regime, rebuilding his life from scratch, and sending his kids to some of the best universities in the country. 

Aside from getting an introduction into the sweets and sours of his temperament, this month has included the typical headways in motor skills for Luki's his age, most noteworthy, his ability to roll over. However, do not expect him to do so on cue, our little prima donna only rolls over between the hours of 2 am and 4 am. If he's going to do a trick, he wants it to be memorable enough for us to lose sleep over it!

We can't wait for what this next month will bring and are particularly excited about his introduction to solid foods and the solid poops that will entail. Stay tuned for all the yummy details.  

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween Rocks!

Ton Ton loves to rock, but he really misses Luki when he's playing out. Fortunately, we have found the solution:



Luki is adapting to his new role quite well, and has already made some friends:


Here he is chillin' with his amp:



And finally...here he is doing a kick ass solo:



HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A lesson in Halloween

I think Luki sneaked out of our hotel room in Atlanta to participate in some sort of Baby Labor Union conference because he has been on strike since we brought him home. My well-trained-to-fall-asleep-by-himself-and-stay-asleep-for-seven-plus-hours-at-a-time baby now screams bloody murder when placed in his crib and has shaved an hour off his sleep-length for every day we've been back. The first night he slept six hours, then five, four, and last night...three. Although I'm overzealous about the fact that he can count backwards at such a young age, I shudder at the thought of what awaits us tonight.

Coincidentally, this is also the first week Mamacita has been with us.

Number of gold stars I've received on her mental "I know she doesn't take care of my son, let's see how she does with my grandchild" chart: 0.

Needless to say, it hasn't been a good week. And so, when we went to three different stores yesterday in search of Luki's Halloween costume and they were all SOLD OUT, I couldn't help but ask myself...Is there such a thing as negative gold stars?

I guess you're wondering why I waited until the last 72 hours to look for a costume...

The truth? Because that's just how I roll; I was actually pretty proud of myself for not waiting until the night before, or Saturday morning.

The elaborate excuse I've prepared? Because this, in fact, is my first time celebrating Halloween and I didn't know what costume protocol was. You see, even though I had an AMAZING childhood, it had very little commonalities with those of my American peers. I was born in Castro's Cuba, where the major holidays are el 26 de julio and January 1st -- not New Year's Day, silly, the Triumph of the Revolution! My family immigrated to the U.S. when I was nine and we had so much to learn about Santa Claus, reindeer, Christmas trees, pilgrims, turkey, stuffing, fireworks, etc. that, by the time we got to Halloween, my brother and I were too old to dress up and trick or treat.

So there, I grew up in a repressive regime. Cut me some slack.

Plus, this story has a happy ending. In a last ditch effort, we walked into a fourth store fifteen minutes before closing and found the MOST PERFECTEST costume you can imagine! So magnificent is this get up that the thought of Luki's face 18 years from now when I embarrass him by showing his college roommate the pictures, made my bad week disappear.



WHOOOOPS! Did I forget to mention what this spectacular costume is? I guess you'll have to wait 'til Halloween to find out. Good thing it's less than 48 hours away...aren't you glad I'm such a procrastinator?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

And on this day WE were born...


Last year, God, in his infinite wisdom and with his remarkable sense of humor, decided that I should find out I was pregnant on my birthday. On the one day a year that's supposed to be all about me, I learned that my life, as I knew it, was over.

One year ago, after drinking half a bottle of wine at my birthday dinner, I summoned enough courage to pee on the stick and cried myself to sleep. Luki was not planned, and I was not ready to say goodbye to my freedom, my independence, and my wild ways.

After we told my parents I was expecting, Big E said to me that I couldn't have asked for a better birthday present. Last year, when I had to drink virgin margaritas at my party, it did not feel that way.

And yet, this morning, as Ton Ton sang Happy Birthday to me with Luki in his arms, I couldn't believe I'd spent so many October 24s without him. A year later, I am ready to accept him as the greatest present of my life.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Embarrassing times in the ATL

I realize that my very limited experience as Luki's slave a mom does not qualify me to dispense any parenting advise, however, as a general rule of thumb, and based on the events of this week, I can wholeheartedly assert the following: It is NOT a good idea to wean a three and half month old off his pacifier only to take him on a four night business trip to Atlanta a week later. Completely unarmed against his extensive repertoire of cries, screams, and wails, I came this close to sticking a barbecue rib in his mouth during dinner last night. I refrained…but only because the waitress had already given us so many dirty looks, she would have most definitely called Child Protective Services if she saw our toothless son nibbling on the nightly special.

Even though Luki orders the supersized combo at McBoob’s six to eight times a day, he refuses to sit idly by when it’s 
our dinnertime. At home, Ton Ton and I have gotten used to eating in shifts – one of us holds the screaming baby, while the other gobbles up whatever’s for dinner. Then we switch. Chewing is a luxury we cannot afford.

However, this procedure is much more unpleasant to execute in a restaurant full of patrons who are sneering and jeering at the world’s worst parents. And I know that’s what they were thinking because, had I seen such a spectacle a mere year ago, I would have whispered something like, “that baby belongs at home” or “they must have done
something for him to be screaming that loudly” in Ton Ton’s ear. I’ve learned my lesson, and, if it were possible to go back in time, I would say to my self from twelve months ago: “Self, why don’t you get your nose out of that family’s business and focus on savoring your meal because, after next year, you won’t have time to detect that hint of ginger in your salad for a few decades.”

Alas, our misadventures in Atlanta’s restaurants are just a drop in the bucket of embarrassing moments sponsored by our dear son this past week. I’d have to say that our ultimate low point happened in the Sheraton at around 11:00 p.m. one night. We had tried everything, short of dipping my nipple in Johnny Walker Black, to get Luki to sleep, but he just wasn’t interested. Instead, he opted for screaming as if we were testing  a new line of torture devices on his body. When our next door neighbor expressed his exasperation by banging on our wall, I was utterly and completely
mortified. 

And yet, call us crazy, but despite all the red in the face incidents, Ton Ton and I both agree that we would do it again in a heartbeat. You see, we decided to take this trip because it would allow us more time with our baby than if we spent the week at home going to our regular jobs. My conference was right in the hotel where we were staying, so I was able to breast feed and play with Luki during my breaks, and, when I was busy, Luki got to hang out and bond with his dad, instead of our nanny. In the end, that uninterrupted family time was worth all the sneers, jeers, and midnight wall bangs in the world.

I just hope he's old enough to enjoy the barbecue next time.




Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The results are in...

I don't usually wear jewelry, except my wedding ring, but I'm totally buying myself a locket and putting the picture of Baby 2 in it! Next time somebody tells me that Luki looks EXACTLY like his father, I'm busting out that picture of ME...that's right ladies and gentlemen, Baby 2 is me at 1 month old...and saying, DO YOU STILL THINK HE LOOKS JUST LIKE HIS DAD EH? EH? THAT'S WHAT I THOUGHT!

The votes were overwhelmingly in favor of Baby 2, as a matter of fact, only one person thought Luki looked more like Baby 1 -- that person must be delusional from a swine flu provoked fever.

As soon as he starts to sprout curls, which I am 100% confident will happen, you won't be able to tell us apart!

Thanks for playing y'all!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Match that Baby!

Mamacita has arrived! And she brought with her the missing piece of a little game I'd like to call, "MATCH THAT BABY!"

As you already know, this is Luki:



Now, who does he look more like? Baby #1:



or Baby #2:



Please leave your thoughts in the comments, and I'll be back in a couple of days to tell you who is who.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Meeting Mamacita

I have a turbulent love affair with Netflix. It's like he's the really nice, smart, funny guy, who drives a Prius and wears trendy eyeglasses, but I always end up cheating on him with the spontaneous, leather clad, motorcycle racing Redbox. After a few months, I realize that Redbox and I have nothing in common, and beg Netflix to take me back. He always does.

When Luki was born, I vowed to be faithful to Netflix; after all, we don't have room for any more spontaneity in our lives. I promised him that things would be different this time, and we started out fresh with a brand new queue. The first film I added was Away We Go -- the movie Ton Ton and I were heading out to see the night my water broke.

It's a cute flick about a pregnant couple that’s trying to find the perfect place to raise their daughter; and, there's a particular scene that I can't seem to get out of my head today. In it, the protagonist talks to her sister about how the baby she’s about to birth will bring certain pieces of their deceased parents back. The dialogue struck a chord because, the more I get to know Luki, the more I see different family members in him. It’s not just a physical thing; sometimes it’s the way he stares, or smiles, or scrunches his eyebrows when he’s about to start wailing.

As we get ready for Luki to meet his paternal grandmother for the first time, I can’t help but think about Ton Ton’s dad, el viejo, who passed away two years ago. He was already quite ill when I met him, but that did not stop him from inspiring me with his overwhelming kindness and hospitality. It would have been a privilege for our son to have known him.

When he died, the entire family was distraught, but, understandably, no one was more saddened than his wife and partner of forty four years. When she meets Luki in a few hours, I hope with all my heart that she catches a glimpse of el viejo in him.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Somebody hand me a spatula!


Ton Ton was very busy this weekend organizing and executing the local Latin American Festival, a magnificent cultural extravaganza that attracted over 25,000 people on Sunday…so, I had the equally burdensome task of taking Luki to the event BY MYSELF. While my husband juggled food vendors, musical performers, dozens of sponsors, and hundreds of volunteers, I had to figure out how to eat an empanada while holding Luki in his Baby Bjorn without spilling hot grease on his head. Clearly, we were both under similar levels of stress. Thank God I ran into some friends who offered to hold the baby while I scarfed down deliciousness.  Phew!

The rest of the day was spent walking around trying to keep complete strangers from touching my son. Yes, I realize I was having another “Big E-esque” moment (they seem to come with increasing frequency these days), but, before you judge, hear me out…

I don’t mind when our friends and relatives hold and play with the baby; heck, if they want to take him for a long weekend to Vegas that is o.k. with me (as long as he doesn’t come back married to a stripper). However, if I don’t know you and my baby doesn’t know you, then you have no business putting your hands on him. How would you feel if I randomly came up to you, STRANGER, and started pinching your cheeks?  I’m talking about the ones on your face, so go ahead and get your mind out of the gutter.  

And the cheek pinching wasn't even the worst part. It was the grabbing, and touching, and caressing of his hands, the same hands he now constantly sucks on as if they were laced with heroin. Yeap, that is his new drug of choice. He used to be addicted to boob crack, but now speeds through feedings just so that he can free up his mouth in order to suck on his hands.

Just as he was enjoying the taste of both his hands at the same time, one of his many festival admirers said to me, "oh wow, he is definitely teething!" Now, I already knew that the hand sucking and the drooling mean that the teeth are imminent, but in that moment, I understood what that implies. Perhaps it was the wonderful smell of Latin food permeating the air the thing which triggered my realization:

Teething, as in, Luki is going to start getting teeth with which he will  be able to eat regular people food. This is not good, and not just because I don't like to share my empanadas. You see, so far, I have been able to provide my son his favorite snack without any real effort on my part -- making breastmilk doesn't require any culinary talent. But once those teeth bust through his gums, I'll have to start cooking his food, and I can't even fry an egg without setting off the smoke detector.

The thing is, I desperately want to be the kind of mom whose kids would rather eat at home than anywhere else. A mom who is always making tasty, nutritious dishes, and coming up with creative ways to get her children to try new foods. That's the kind of mother I grew up with. When I found out I was pregnant, I put "learn to cook" on my "To Do" list, but it just sat there gathering dust along with "exercise daily" and "clean out the closets".

As I stood at the festival, nibbling on a shredded beef arepa, and facing the challenge of completely learning my way around a kitchen in the next few months, keeping strangers at bay suddenly seemed like the least of my problems.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Insulin pumps are sexxy!

A few years ago, Ton Ton called me up from Target as he was buying a birthday present for his friend's kid. He said, "I think the whole party is themed around that yellow tooth cartoon, so I'm going to buy a puzzle with his picture on it." Having never heard of this "yellow tooth cartoon," I inquired more, thinking that perhaps it was a foreign animation. "Yea...you know, I think his name is Spongy Bob or something," replied Ton Ton.

The man thought Sponge Bob was a yellow tooth! How he managed to live completely oblivious to the annoying, pineapple-dwelling-underwater-creature for so many years, I'll never understand. But that's how Ton Ton rolls. Just recently, we had a conversation in which I explained that Dora la Exploradora was not produced in Latin America.

And so, during my pregnancy, I would have daily freak outs about how clueless he was on the subject of children and the incompatibility of our lifestyle with a baby's. Ton Ton's response was to just hold me tight and very nonchalantly say, "don't worry, we'll adjust, we'll figure it out" and, when that proved futile, distract me with butter pecan ice cream.

He hasn't quite embraced the new generation of children's cartoons, but adjustments have certainly been made. And today, he took a huge step toward a more stable, family oriented life...Ton Ton got himself an insulin pump!

Have I mentioned that my husband has the Diabetes? No? Well, he does..he's had it for over 15 years. And for the past five or so, his doctor has been trying to convince him to get on the pump. But getting an insulin pump means having a medical device attached to your body 24 hours a day -- it's basically the equivalent of growing an extra arm. That did not mesh with Ton Ton and his rock 'n' roll ways.

So, imagine my surprise when he came home from a doctor's appointment a few weeks ago armed with three different pump brochures. He told me that, although his Diabetes is pretty well controlled, an insulin pump would yield much better glucose levels...and that he wants to be as healthy as he can for Luki.

After extensively researching the exciting world of pump therapy on Youtube, he settled on the Omnipod when he discovered that..."there's some really famous kid's band with a member who is diabetic and uses it."

Yes, Ton Ton, that would be THE JONAS BROTHERS!

Luki may be the only kid in school who listens to Guns 'n' Roses and watches Yogi Bear (in Spanish!), but at least he'll be doing those things with his daddy.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Bringing home the bacon (and the breastmilk)

If Ton Ton's ever fantasized about me working topless, I'm pretty sure a breast pump has never been part of the scenario. And yet...I took my shirt off at work three times today in order to extract Luki's precious boob elixir. Yes, today was my first day back, and I've never been more thankful for a windowless office with a locking door. Getting naked in the workplace was definitely the weirdest part of my day.

The saddest part? Leaning over the crib to kiss Luki goodbye, knowing that we would be apart for the longest period of time since he was born: nine entire hours.

The part that made it tolerable? NPR in the car and having conversations with other adults.

The scariest part? Realizing that my obsession with calling the nanny over and over was completely "Big E-esque." Our nanny has been coming to take care of Luki for the past two weeks and she has done an amazing job...but I still worry. I asked Ton Ton to call her a couple of times (just so that she wouldn't think I was crazy), and I've also got the neighbors spying on her. I am turning into my mother. Perhaps Luki will feel compelled to write a blog documenting my craziness when he grows up.

The most absurd part? Hearing the report on what Luki did today -- he slept, he ate, he pooped. Shocker!

The best part? Getting a big smile of recognition when I got home and appreciating it more than all the previous smiles.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

It's our monthiversary! Part III

Three months. One-fourth of a year. Ninety days. The average risk-free trial period. If Luki was a home appliance, today would be the last day to return him for a full refund. ...I wonder if the wreath of stretch marks around my belly button can count as a receipt...

I kid! We are definitely going to keep this baby...he didn't shart on us at all this month!

Before we start celebrating this wonderful milestone, I have some bad news. Remember how excited Luki was on his last monthiversary about the new hairs sprouting on his little noggin? Remember how I said, "my kid's a genius, he discovered the cure for baldness"? Weeell, apparently, it wasn't quite like that. He bought one of those "As Seen on TV" hair loss products, and the results are not pretty. Yes, hairs grew on top of his head, but the back side is a completely different story. I wish I could say he has a bald spot, a spot can be covered up, it can be combed over...but instead he has a whole bald line that runs from ear to ear. And under it, his hair is so long that it could be braided into a tiny baby rat tail. Poor Luki, you know how sensitive he is about his hair! It's a good thing he can pull off hats so well.

However, other than occasional moodiness over his -- let's call it unique -- hairstyle, Luki has had an amazing third month. He learned to drink out of a bottle, discovered that his hands are almost as good to suck on as the boob, moved into his own room, grabbed a couple of toys on his baby gym, fit into size 3-6 mos. outfits, and, according to Big E, said "abu." Oh, and last night, as a special monthiversary gift to his parents, he slept from 10:30 p.m. until 5:51 a.m.! That ladies and gentlemen is 7 hours and 21 minutes.

And there is so much more greatness to come! I feel pretty confident saying that October will be the most exciting month in Luki's life. We are taking him on a week long adventure to Atlanta, where he will stay in a hotel and spend some quality time with his uncle Ani. He will be celebrating his first Halloween. And, he will witness the epic battle of the abuelas. That's right, Ton Ton's mom, a.k.a. Mamacita, arrives in the U. S. on October 17. Which grandma will come out victorious? It's a tough call ... on the one hand, Big E is much younger and healthier, but, on the other, Mamacita has experience -- Luki is her 7th grandchild so she has already wiped out two grannies in the past. Things are about to get very interesting around here.

But, the most fantastic thing that will happen to Luki in October is that his mother will turn 26 years old on the 24th! Yeap, I just hijacked my own kid's monthiversary to talk about my birthday, the most important day of the year. I like to celebrate it the entire month of October. And let me tell you, this year's festivities will be grandiose...after all, I think I deserve it.

On that day, I'll be sure to have a drink in Luki's honor. Because, thanks to him, the last three months have been the most incredible of my life... and it just keeps getting better and better.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Luki's pad

Luki moved out of our room and into his own place a few weeks ago (oh, if we could all be so lucky to escape Ton Ton's snoring!). Here is a tour of his new pad:



We didn't know the sex of our baby until he came out and told us, so we tried to make the nursery as gender neutral as possible. Although, now that Luki lives here, it seems like the perfect room for a little boy. The All You Need is Love decal is from sayitwithstyle, and was purchased on Etsy. I discovered Etsy while I was pregnant and fell in love. The bunny mobile is Flensted, it was really hard to pick from the many, many, different designs they have.



The crib was a gift from Big E and Uli and, I am embarrassed to say, is from Walmart. You see, I really liked this crib, but the Walmart version was $600 cheaper -- so, I put away my ideals about labor rights and lifted the boycott against the big box store. I'm not proud, I know I sold out...but the crib, it's so pretty! Big E was willing to pay $900 for the original, but I wouldn't allow it -- that's just outrageous!

The bedding is called Bounce Dreamsicle by Nurseryworks We painted the bottom drawer yellow, because yellow rocks.

Here is the dresser/changer -- again, with the yellow accent.



This is what the other side of the room looks like. The rest of the furniture is from Ikea.



A close up of The Little Prince poster, my favorite thing in the whole room! I found it on Ebay.



We bought that set of flash cards very early in my pregnancy and didn't think twice about the big L on the box. I still can't believe we ever thought the baby in my belly could have been anyone else but Luki.
This is also where Luki keeps his piggy bank: Chanchito



This room used to have carpet in it. Thank God we put in floors! Wiping up poop missiles from wood is much easier than getting them out of carpet.



Finally, these awesome Rock 'n' Roll prints were designed by our incredibly talented friend Juan. Luki doesn't seem to ever get tired of staring at them.



So there you have it...I hope the place doesn't get too dirty after the keg party our son plans to host this weekend!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Welcome back, Saturday

When Ton Ton and I met and started going out, we would have "dates" that lasted entire Saturdays. He would pick me up at 7:00 a.m., and we'd go right back to bed and spend the day cuddling and watching cheesy chick flicks on cable like, Dirty Dancing or City of Angels (always his picks, not mine). Showering was optional, and food was of the fast and delivered variety.

A lot of things have changed since those first dates almost 7 years ago, but Saturday always remained a day of rest, relaxation, and few showers. Some Saturdays we stayed in bed just because we could, while on others we had to sleep in to recover from the events of the previous evening. One thing is for sure, you'd never, EVER, find us jogging in the park or at Home Depot on a Saturday morning.

And then Luki arrived.

The first weekend he was home, I didn't even realize it was Saturday until the day was almost over. It was no different from every other day he'd been with us -- a vicious cycle of crying, eating, and sharting, with an occasional break for sleeping. After a few weeks, Luki got on a more tolerable schedule...but our Saturdays have been spent at Sam's Club buying cases of diapers, or hosting well meaning friends and relatives who come by to ogle and talk in funny voices to the baby.

Until this weekend...

This past Saturday, with its several inches of rain, was my favorite day since our son arrived. We had no visitors, and running errands in a downpour with an 11-week-old would have been a logistical nightmare. Luki, who LOVES his parents more and more every day, slept until 6:30, had some boob, and didn't flinch again until 10:00. Then, we put him in bed with us, Ton Ton got his guitar, and the three of us rocked out to Andres Calamaro. In that moment, as I held Luki in my lap while he stared and smiled at his daddy, I envisioned the many Saturday mornings that are to come -- Luki, playing a tambourine; Ton Ton, continuing to scold me for singing out of tune; and I, feeling happier than I ever thought possible when we first started this adventure 7 years ago.

After wearing Luki out, we put him down for his nap and turned on the TV. Ton Ton used his special talent for finding the cheesiest, girliest, movie on at that moment, and the two of us curled up on the couch to watch Pretty Woman for the rest of the afternoon.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Getting an identity

Luki got his first piece of mail this week. Now, I know it's a federal offense to open someone else's correspondence, but he hasn't really figured out how to use his opposable thumbs yet... and it could have been time sensitive material, like a check from an anonymous benefactor a la Great Expectations. But, alas, no such luck -- it was his social security card.

My first thought upon opening the envelope containing the nine digits that will identify my son for the rest of his life was, "ALRIGHT! Now we can add him as a dependent and get us a tax break!"...but the party in my head only lasted a little while. As I tried to commit his SSN to memory, I realized, for the first time, that Luki will become an adult. Yes, I know I've talked about how much and how fast he's growing...but I always figured he would just turn into a gigantic baby, not an adult who needs a social security number to apply for a credit card, file taxes, or get a mortgage.

And, while putting his card away in the safe where we keep our birth certificates, car titles, and piles of cash from our money laundering business passports, I thought about my mother and the little tin box where she kept all of our important papers. And I remembered the day she handed over custody of my social security card to me. I had been away at college for a week and needed it for my work-study job, so she and my father drove up from Charlotte to DC for the day just to put it in my hands. I don't know if Big E, who packed my bags for college as if I was going to Siberia, genuinely forgot to include such an important document, or if she was just in emotional denial about letting go. I will say that, although I didn't realize it at the time, on that day I took a step closer to independence.

So, if I was a cheesy and emotional mommy, I would end this post talking about how important it is to cherish every moment because "oh they grow up so fast". But that's Ton Ton's style, not mine...so I'll say this:

"Hey Luki! Now that you got a SSN, it's time for you to get a part-time job and start pulling your weight around here!"

Monday, September 21, 2009

Two weeks notice

I'm not going to lie, being home with Luki for the past 11+ weeks has been the most challenging, demanding, and exhausting job I've ever had. So, there is a minuscule part of me that is glad to be going back to work in two weeks. That same part is also very excited about the thought of going out into the world and having conversations in which the other party actually responds with words. Minuscule me can't wait to get back to my routine, to listen to NPR on the way to the office, read the news online, get back 'in the loop' about important things such as John and Kate's divorce the state of our nation's healthcare.

But the rest of me, the vast majority of my person, feels heartbroken, anxious, and...guilty. I just wish I had more time! Just when Luki's starting to act like an actual human baby (as opposed to the boobaholic ball of gas he was for his first 10 weeks of life), I have to abandon him for eight hours a day. It doesn't seem fair! …I've already gotten on my soap box about the lack of maternity leave at my job, so I'm not going to go there again.

However, I will say that this whole motherhood thing is a mosaic of so many damn emotions, I could plaster the walls of a freakin' cathedral. I feel guilty for leaving my baby and for looking forward to being out of the house. I feel anxious about the nanny we hired to take care of him...she seems like she will do a great job, but what if she doesn't? I'm happy Luki is exclusively breastfed, but hate the bovine aspect of having to pump milk. Add to all that the fact that, for some bizarre reason, and for the first time in my life, I'm starting to actually care about what other people think. Or what I imagine other people are thinking. I’ve convinced myself that I have a contingent of relatives and acquaintances who judge me and think I’m a terrible mother for going back to work…and, at the same time, there’s a whole other group who, should I decide to stay home, would think me bourgie, or be appalled that I, a loudmouthed supporter of gender equality, could take on such a traditional role. Oh, the PARANOIA that comes with childbirth….this must be what doing meth feels like.

I blame my father and his sperm containing the X chromosome for all this, because I really don’t think I’d be having these feelings if I was Luki’s daddy. My favorite Beatle said it best:



In the end, I have to have faith that things will turn out alright and be happy about my impending return to the workplace, because, as a friend said to me a few weeks ago, "a good mom is a happy one."

Monday, September 14, 2009

On umbilical phobias and hernias

My husband is afraid of belly buttons. Yes, it's as weird as it sounds (but not as weird as the fact that he still sleeps with his childhood blankie wrapped around his head!). He refuses to touch his own or anyone else's navel, and would really rather others not touch their navels in his presence. We don't know what deep cave in his psyche this phobia stems from, but one thing is for sure, the belly button sends cold shivers down his spine.

And now cue in Alanis' "Ironic," because the man who has been avoiding navels his entire life just begot a son with a belly button the size of Mount Everest. Ok, maybe Mount Everest is a stretch, but it would totally be the perfect ski resort for ants. Yes, Luki has an umbilical hernia, and as much as Ton Ton tries to cover it up and pretend it's not there, it simply cannot be overlooked, especially when the kid cries and the thing grows three times its size.

Now, I'm not really worried about the hernia...it's not a serious condition and should go away by the time Luki is a toddler (I had one and it went away on its own), but it has gotten me thinking about the kind of mother I'm going to be. You see, it's not just Ton Ton. Lots of people, upon seeing his protruding umbilicus, make comments like, "eww how weird", "it looks like it's about to pop" or "gross". And then I have to summon every ounce of self control in my body to keep from yelling "YOUR FACE IS GROSS YOU DOUCHEBAG, MY CHILD IS PERFECT!" And I want to lie to Luki and tell him that they're just jealous because his belly button is special, it's a real button that can actually be pushed in and gives him magical powers.

But that's not the kind of mom I want to be. You know, the mom who hides or ignores all her child's flaws, assures him that he is perfect in every way, and ends up raising a mediocre, pompous, jerk.

So, when Luki is old enough to understand and ask questions about the mountain growing out of his abdomen, I will simply tell him the truth. That it's an umbilical hernia. That it's not pretty, but it's also not that big a deal because it doesn't hurt him or prevent him from executing any of life's major functions. That it should go away with time. And that if it doesn't, there's a lot of money to be made in the ant tourism business!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Show me the money!

So it looks like our son may not have to get a part-time job after all. Recently, Ton Ton and I have noticed a remarkable and unprecedented change in our checking account: the numbers are black instead of red! How could this be, you may ask? After all, I recently popped out a money sucking machine baby. Well, Luki hasn't been that expensive yet. He eats for free at McBoob's, and our amazing friends and families are constantly showing up with new outfits and cases of diapers.

While we're on the subject of diapers, I'd like to take a moment of personal privilege to say: I got pooped on yesterday. No, not sharted on...full blown pooped on. It's like Luki said, "I mock you Pampers Swaddlers and your super absorbent diaper gel, you can't handle my poop bombs!" Yes, the missiles have been replaced by bombs and we are at war.

Anyway, as I was saying, the boob milk and free cases of diapers are fabulous, but that doesn't explain the extra cash in our account. Ton Ton and I have been scratching our heads about this for a few weeks, and we finally figured it out over lunch on Sunday. (We've been leaving Luki with his grandparents for a few hours on Sunday afternoons, in part to have some couple time, but mostly to give Big E and Uli some uniterrumpted time with their grandson with the hopes that it will limit their visitations. It hasn't worked. By Sunday evening they're already calling, asking if they can come over to see the baby...but that's a whole different blog post.)

Ok, we're at lunch, in a restaurant, where you have to pay for your food, and we realize that it had been a while since we'd participated in that kind of transaction. And then we thought about how we used to go to the movie theater twice a week, and that certainly hasn't happened since our son arrived. But our biggest savings come from another little habit we've had to let go of: afternoon cocktail hour. Now, we are not drunks, but we do enjoy a good beverage more often than not. Well, we did...right now we are so tired all the time that drinking would probably put us in a coma. And we were particular about our cocktails, Ton Ton won't touch anything that hasn't been aged for at least 12 years, and I refuse to drink domestics. Who would have tought that booze had been making us poor all these years?

We're rich!! Allow us to bask in our new wealth while it lasts, because once I start work and we have to pay for childcare, it's ramen noodles for Ton Ton and I, and straight to the sweatshop for Luki!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

It's our monthiversary! Part II


Yes, we are going to do this every month. Remember the annoying girl in high school who was always like "ohmigod my new boyfriend and I have been together for two whole months and we are so in love, we are totally going to be together forever, I got him this teddy bear holding a heart shaped box of chocolates to celebrate"...remember her? I am totally that girl and Luki is my high school boyfriend, except we really are going to be together forever.
Our son has made it through his second month of life! The premature baldness he was so upset about last month is a thing of the past, and there are new hairs sprouting on his little head. For years, men all over the world have been trying to find a cure for hair loss and my kid discovers it in a month. What can I say? I gave birth to a genius. He is currently negotiating a fair price for his hair growth secret with his grandpa Uli. A genius and a great businessman.
Other milestones from this month include: pulling mommy's hair, being full for more than two hours at a time, and discovering that those two things fluttering in front of his face are actually his hands. But his greatest accomplishment this month is his newfound ability to sleep 6-7 hours straight at night. Go Luki, Go Luki, Go! Don't stop 'til you get to 12!
Ton Ton and I also survived, and we barely got sharted on! We finally figured out that we should stand to his side when we change his diaper and not directly in front of the firing cannon (clearly, he gets the genius genes from us!).
So like ohmigod, I totally have a 2 month old! I've been doodling I heart Luki all over my notebooks...

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