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 he is doing a kick ass solo:


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

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. " 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.