Saturday, November 28, 2009


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.


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"?


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?


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.