Friday, March 30, 2007

Friday Two-fer Part Two: A Little Insight

Apparently, my father has just figured out how to forward emails. I've gotten like 8 forwarded pieces from him in the last week alone. His forwards are a combination of known urban legends that keep making the rounds; some Jesus talk; and stories, news, info and inspirational messages about Cuba.

But the other day I finally got one that hit home. I've seen a bunch of versions of this "You know you're Cuban-American when..." thing, but this one in particular was actually accurate (mostly) without devolving into stupidity. So I thought it'd be a fun public service to share with my non-Cuban friends and readers some of the finer points of a Cuban-American childhood. These things were true of my childhood, and I suspect other CAs would agree. (Note, I translated these from Spanish, ignored the uninteresting ones, and edited as needed for clarity).

In a Cuban household...
  • Milk with Cuban coffee (café con leche) and sugar was a perfectly acceptable breakfast.
  • But you weren't allowed to drink Cuban coffee by itself.
  • You learned to speak Spanish first.
  • You had to go to your school's Open House with your parents to serve as the translator.
  • There was no radio or TV on Good Friday.
  • You ate cod every Friday during Lent because other fish were too expensive (jeebus, I so hate bacalao!)
  • You ate pork (lechón) on Thanksgiving (instead of or in addition to the turkey).
  • Malanga (usually in puree form) and chamomile cured everything.
  • You shared a bedroom with your sibling(s) until you got married (or went away to college).
  • Sleepovers at friends' houses were not allowed (still not sure what was so wrong about them), but they could stay over at yours (this last part was not true of me but was of my friends).
  • During dinner or afterwards, all you watched were soaps (novelas).
  • The only thing the oven was used for was to store pans.
  • When money was tight the two staple meals were white rice and fried egg and rice cooked with Vienna sausages.
What did I miss? What truisms were part of your childhood?

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Posted by Tere @ 3/30/2007   | | | links to this post

Friday Two-fer

I'm gonna make an effort today to not be such a depressing little girl. I need a break from all the serious thoughts crammed in my head and could really go for some levity and laughter. How about you?

I've got something funny about life as a Cuban-American that will be up soon, but in the meantime, you must step up to your duties as faithful stalkers readers and HELP ME, HELP ME PLEASE solve this problem of mine that is threatening to take over my life.

My hair.

Is awful.

And I can't take it anymore.

I need help, people, and I need it quick. I've never had a knack for hair. Beyond telling you that I LOVE my hair long, I've got nothing else to say. I had long hair as a very little girl, and from what everyone says, I always had it in a ponytail, and I refused to let my mom take the rubber bands out and comb my hair. She handled this problem by cutting my hair short. Like a boy. An ugly little boy with crooked teeth. When my hair grew out, I brushed it all right, but no matter what I did, I always looked like shit. If I left it alone - dry, frizzy mess. If I got a perm (WTF, I got my first perm at eight, eight!) - curly, nasty poodle-head mess.

Blah, blah, blah - a lifetime of ugly hair and no clue how to style it properly. The only time I ever liked (never loved) my hair was in high school when it was loooong and deliciously curly (at around 14 it suddenly regained the curls I'd had as a toddler). In the fallout of breaking up with TFBIETL, which coincided with the time when Lilith Fair and Sarah McLachlan were all the rage, I cut it short, which I loved for one month and then hated. Still, I kept it that way for two years. From there, I let it grow long again, with sporadic moments of insanity where I've cut it into a bob. All the while, I either held it back with barrettes or kept it picked up. The times I've left it loose have been rare, if only because my hair does this thing where I look like a cocker spaniel with two big ears on the side of my face.

The last haircut was my postpartum, I'm-done-with-this-hair-shedding-bullshit moment of stupidity that I had a year ago. I cut into a chin-length bob, which is now thankfully shoulder-length hair. Behold:


I know, I totally need a trim, and therein lies problem #1: where can I get one? Where can I go and not pay the cost of a full haircut just to trim less than inch off? And where the people are not snobby assholes? But where they will retain the style? (Hard to believe, but yes, it has a style. I'd been getting my hair professionally cut all this time, but I no longer go where I used to go).

The bigger problem, though, is that while I've always had flyaways, they're crazy out of control now, like this:




And when I pick up my hair (which is, like, all the time), it's WAY worse:



So what the hell do I do, people? How do I fix this? I'm not one for hair products beyond some anti-frizz stuff, but I bought some gel and then some hairspray, and neither work. The hair pops back up. Which, I can handle some stray hair, I'm used to it, but that up there is ridiculous. I look disheveled and slightly imbalanced.

Tell me where to trim my hair. Also, tell me if I should so anything about the color. The ends still retain some color from some highlights I did soon after Max was born, but it's all mostly natural. And if I should have some color fun, what should it be? Because I now work in a creative field, I can be a little funky but not overly so. Also, I can tell you that I'm probably not going to maintain it, so I'd appreciate it if it's not something (i.e., platinum blond) that will look heinous growing out. And hey, if you have products you want to recommend, do that, too. Like I said, I just use some anti-frizz stuff on damp hair, or my absolute favorite, can't-live-without Coconut Hair Shine. Most products tend to build up on my hair and it just makes everything worse.

Please take a final look at my hair in its natural state. It's wavy (the curls from high school disappeared when the very short hair grew out), and the one nice thing about it is that it both straightens and curls very easily.


I'm charging you with a big responsibility, and I trust that you're up to this challenge. So please, please help me.

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Posted by Tere @ 3/30/2007   | | | links to this post

Thursday, March 29, 2007

State of the (Reproductive) Union

When we last left off, I was angsting over baby #2. Or rather, whether to even have said baby, or to just go forward with our adoption plans. There are updates to report.

On the adoption front: Between being worried about a couple of the new restrictions imposed by the CCAA and our really wanting to start the process later on this year, I decided to just get everything straight so we could figure out what we wanted to do. So I contacted the agency we had pretty much settled on and had a lengthy conversation with their Florida director about the new restrictions. It turns out we're fine. The one that worried us the most was not really going to be a problem, so basically, we could start the process as early April so that our dossier could be ready for China as soon as I turned 30 (assuming we moved along quickly on it).

And then, I began to feel incredibly pressured. I mean, to get our papers to China by summer would cost us about $7K. And that just seemed like so much money to come up with (our not-that-great savings were impacted by my maternity leave and an unexpected situation last summer that really hurt us financially). Plus, we were about to do an unplanned move that was costing us a bunch of money. So a figure like that, to be paid by August, just made me feel incredibly overwhelmed.

And then Ben and I talked and realized that the pressure was self-imposed. We didn't have to start in April and get our dossier to China in August. Had we not had the financial surprises that we'd faced in the last six months, we would've been able to do it. But shit happens and plans need to be adjusted accordingly. So we decided to chill out and continue saving and plan on starting the process at the end of this year.

But then, people, something crazy happened. I decided to get over all my anxiety and fear about a second pregnancy and having an infant all over again, and decided that I want to get pregnant again. Before the adoption. This year. NOW.

O.k., not exactly. I'm still scared as all hell about having another newborn. I've mentioned it a number of times, but I really can't stress how hard the first months after Max was born were for us. And not because of Max, because he was wonderful, but because of his reflux, my thrush/mastitis, the utter lack of sleep, my absolute fear of SIDS and basically the shock of it all. Everyone and their mother has told me that a second baby is way easier, but I still worry about being as available to that baby as I was for Max when I have Max himself to care for, too, and I worry about how our relationship with Max will change. And because I'm so friggin' exhausted 80% of the time, I worry that a second baby will send me over the edge and leave me unable to function.

Beyond that, there's the pregnancy and labor part. I had a wonderful pregnancy. Even though I felt crappy a lot, there wasn't a single complication. I was so lucky. And when I gave birth, it was so quick and in such a warm, loving environment that I still get teary-eyed when I think about it. Again, there wasn't a single complication, the labor progressed quickly, and I recovered very well. And I can't help but think that I won't be so lucky a second time. That never happens to me. I fear a "bad" pregnancy and a difficult, prolonged labor that will end with me on a cold operating table in a wretched hospital. And please, let's not even get into my fears about something being wrong with my baby.

And yet. I have all these conflicting feelings and still come back to feeling like I want this pregnancy and this baby. Even writing all these fears out hasn't freaked me out as much as it would have eight months ago. And even Ben, who basically swore we wouldn't ever have another newborn, is coming around. Our feelings about adopting haven't changed one bit, but the financial commitment is one we can't make right now, and we don't want to wait years to give Max a sibling.

Of course, you probably shouldn't hold us to this, because Lord knows it can all change in an instant, and this is not happening any time soon, but it's the direction we're leaning towards.

Now go buy us some cute baby outfits.

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Posted by Tere @ 3/29/2007   | | | links to this post

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Wednesdays are Beginning to Irritate Me

Max. Remember him? The part of my life that justifies the title of this blog? The one I haven't mentioned in like two weeks?

He's fine. Still a pain in the ass sometimes, but fine. Actually, the one who's not so fine is me. It's only Wednesday and I'd give anything to have this week just end already. What is it with these last weeks dragging?

There's the loss of Zoë, of course. Today is the first day where I haven't broken into tears every half hour. I think it's because I spoke to her vet first thing this morning and his words have brought me a lot of comfort. He told me (based on my description of the events from start to finish) that it was definitely a heart attack, and that because she was so young, she was most likely born with a heart condition. I don't know why, but knowing that she most likely was never going to make it to old age makes me feel better.

The thing that broke my heart yesterday, though, was Max. Every day when we get home, he says "doggie" in reference to the dogs next door (whether or not he sees them, he just says it). So I say it back to him and ask him what noise doggies do, and he starts barking, which I repeat back at him. And then he goes "O-EE?" and looked towards our front door. Oh man, it killed me. He hadn't mentioned her since Sunday morning after I'd returned from the vet. At that time, he was leaning over the bed and looking for her and calling her as he would do every morning. I broke into tears, Ben distracted him, and that was that. Out of sight, out of mind.

So back in the car, it was kinda the same thing, except that while I broke into tears, I also had to distract him. Which I did, until a little later when we were rough-housing on the floor and he suddenly sat up and called "O-EE, O-EE, O-EE!!!!" as he looked around for her. Then I caught him staring at something and I realized what had reminded him of her: a picture we have on the bookshelf that I moved down so we could see it better. So, tears once again as I also had to continue playing with him.

One of the things that's been killing me is knowing that he's not going to remember her. I mean, he already doesn't. And practically speaking, this is a good thing. I don't want my son to be sad and depressed over this when he's just a year-and-a-half old. But on the other hand, it upsets me that he won't have any memory of how much he loved her and she him, and how much he played with her. It's a good thing I have so many pictures and video of those moments, then. I guess it just has to do with her memory being diminished somehow. I believe in honoring those you love by carrying them in your heart always, and he won't be able to do that with this sweet little dog that adored him as much as he adored her.

On top of that, I'm dealing with a lot of guilt over all the times I was an ass to her. Guilt is almost always the first and strongest emotion I feel whenever anything bad happens - it's so hardwired in me that nothing can save me from it. So in this case, the months following Max's birth plus weekly rough moments have been making me feel like I killed her. I know, I know. But I can't help it. Sure, every night we wound up with me giving her some love and affection and with each of us making up to the other all the crap we did to piss each other off during the day, but still. Had I known this was going to happen, I would've let her get on the damn brand-new couch so she could snuggle up against me; I would not have yelled at her so harshly and awfully for panting and crying and barking just because I was bathing Max and she was stuck on the other side of the fence; I would not have freaked out at her barking every 10 minutes after Max went down for the night; I would have been even more loving and affectionate than I was.

Damn. I have to stop this.

But dealing with all this plus being home alone with Max in the afternoons/evenings has basically made me irritable whenever he's behaved like a... well, like a one-and-a-half year-old. I'm letting him exasperate me and I'm not at all being fun. I'm snapping at him and getting worked up because he won't obey me. All this because I just wish I had some time and space alone to grieve. I've cried everywhere but in privacy. My thoughts are scattered because a hundred other things need my attention. Ben has been absolutely wonderful throughout this; he's been patient and kind and loving like I wish he'd be all the time, but he too is busy with work and parenting. As it is, he makes life very easy for me; there isn't much else he can do.

So I'm concluding that on the day-to-day, while I have a wonderful partner and while I try to approach life with a good dose of perspective and planning and balancing, now that I'm a mother, my personal emotional space is pretty much shot to hell. There's always a need to be met, something that has to get resolved, a worry greater than my own.

And I can accept it and get used to it, but basically, it sucks.

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Posted by Tere @ 3/28/2007   | | | links to this post

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Ex Files: Hello, Stranger

Sometimes, things happen in my life that are so coincidental that it makes me pause. Like, is God trying to send me a message? And what, exactly, is the message?

Late one night last week, I opened one of the four boxes left from the move that have been sitting outside my bedroom for two months now. It's the box that contains 20+ years' worth of my writing. I felt a twinge of nostalgia, randomly pulled a notebook out, and settled in to bed to read some old stuff.

It turns out that I had picked the notebook that contained a ton of poems about TFBIETL, including the almost-final copy of the book that's mainly about that relationship. Oh, fun.

Of course, I went ahead and read it. When I was done, I felt... weird. The events and feelings I described, however vividly my words brought them back to me, felt so distant, as if this was a whole other person's experience. I was partially worried that something (anger? sadness?) might be stirred in me, but nope. Didn't happen. I actually had more feelings about the writing. I have to say, I was kinda disappointed in myself. A lot of the poems were good, IMO - evocative, honest, full of pain and anger. But some were so weak. My use of some words; my phrasing - I don't know, I expected better of myself. If I ever decide to publish this book, I'm going to have to edit it all over again.

I hadn't thought about TFBIETL, and certainly not about our relationship, in ages. I mean, I'm aware of his existence, but I don't ever actively think about him or that time in my life. I used to dwell A LOT on the past (and not just him); I used to repeat and obsess over conversations in my mind to the point that I ignored my present life; I used to relive situations to the point that I would drive myself crazy. And it took a lot to get myself to stop doing that, to snap out of it and live the life I actually have as opposed to the one I could have had. After a lot of hard work on my part, I think I'm able to view the past with some perspective, and even when old feelings float up, I'm able to acknowledge them and then move on. Letting go and moving on - consider it my motto.

So after closing my tattered old notebook, I was able to peacefully go to sleep without another thought to TFBIETL. The next morning, I was busily typing away at work when a conversation window popped on my screen. Would you like to guess who it was?

First of all, that my MSN Messenger was on was a total fluke. I'm on Skype all day long and don't have any real use for Messenger unless I want to talk to two specific people, and he's not one of them. And that morning, before I closed Messenger, one of those two people wrote me, and we were in the middle of a conversation when TFBIETL appeared.

People, it's a good thing that this guy is completely unable to elicit any kind of emotion from me. Because if he could, I would have been insulted. And probably pissed, too. But I guess I didn't feel anything because 1) I went through a lot to make myself immune to him, and 2) He is so predictable and unaware of his own bullshit that it's almost hard to really get upset about it. It's more like you just accept him for what he is and then let whatever he has to say in one ear and out the other.

So anyway, I could've scripted his end of the conversation with my eyes closed and standing on my head, even if I were blind, deaf, mute and dumber than a log (did that even make any kind of sense?). Because any and every conversation I've had with TFBIETL over the last five or so years, however brief and few they've been, have played out exactly the same way on his end:

First, he's always surprised and thrilled to see (virtually or IRL) me. Then, he gushes about how much he's been thinking about me and how much he misses me. I've never known anyone who thinks about and misses a person as much as he thinks about and misses me and yet never checks to see if the person is even alive. Not that I want him to do that, but you would think, based on the level of enthusiasm and earnestness with which he says this, that he was constantly in touch with me or maybe even stalking me.

From there, there's an inevitable reference to the past. It's never anything inappropriate or depressing, just a statement that would indicate that he knows me, knows me better than anyone, that he remembers, that it all still has deep meaning for him. Which, please. It's just a way for him to feel some "ownership" over me despite the fact that I have built a pretty neat life with a whole other man.

By then, I'm pretty much done with pleasantries, and since I'm not joining him in the stroll down memory lane or giving him any real information about my life, the conversation is basically over. As we part ways (or log off), he repeats how much he misses me, how we have to keep in touch, how he loves me and always will. He doesn't say that in a romantic, I-was-wrong-to-give-you-up, I'm-such-a-fool, my-life-is-empty-without-you way; it's more like I'm an old friend for whom he has warm, lovely feelings. Which, he very well could, but I highly doubt it.

Don't get me wrong: TFBIETL is really a good person. He has some great qualities that make him an interesting, smart, kind, talented guy. He doesn't have a mean bone in his body. But he has an emotional wall up when it comes to women, and that wall prevents him from building real, honest, satisfying relationships. I take some blame for that, but it's ultimately his own doing, the result of the choices he's made.

And when it comes to me, the truth is that he doesn't know me. I'm not the same girl he once knew, and considering all the hurt, humiliation and anger I felt because of him, there's simply no way I could or would ever let him get close to me. Forget for a second that I'm happy with my husband and have no interest in having any of my exes in my life. I - me by myself - simply don't want that. He asked me to forgive him a long time ago (great story, I'll have to share it one day), and I did and meant it. I harbor no grudges from the past and wish him well and will happily play catch-up whenever our paths cross. But that doesn't mean that I didn't learn my lesson and that I can't help but keep my guard up. While I know that he sincerely cares about me, I also know that he just can't be real or honest - with me or any other woman (like, you know, his wife).

Which, as far as I go, is perfectly fine; if I have a wall up against him, surely he can and should have one against me. The difference is that I prefer to keep conversations light and simple, while he makes references to our past and how much we once meant to each other and tries to be just a little too familiar with me. And sure, it was great when we had it, but way too much happened between us for him to actually think that he can make those references and that I'll feel a warm rush of nostalgia and miss him right back. Because that's not what happens. Whereas he has glossed over all the shit that happened after our break-up and clung to our relationship, the opposite is true for me: the relationship and all the meaning and memory it could have had has been practically obliterated by everything that happened after we broke up. I can't say that I really get why he does this or how he's able to be so comfortable and nonchalant about it, especially since I don't ask for it and it's all a bunch of empty words, but I long ago gave up trying to figure it out.

So there you have it: a rare, brief appearance by TFBIETL. Contrary to all his promises, he will not be thinking of me or keeping in touch. And that's fine with me.

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Posted by Tere @ 3/27/2007   | | | links to this post

Monday, March 26, 2007

I'm Useless to You Today

Sorry people, I'm not having a good day. I've broken down a number of times and would give anything to be anywhere but here (work).

I had written something about some other blogs I enjoy but never mention, and while I hate to tie that into my misery, this is probably a good time for me to send you elsewhere, as things here are going to be depressing for who knows how long.

Let me just say off the bat that I read, enjoy and recommend all the blogs on my blogroll. My not mentioning them in this particular post shouldn't be taken as a sign of anything negative, just that I have particular things to say about the ones I'm going to mention here.

All right, so let's start with the photographers in my life. Ben has always loved photography and has a knack for it, but like he himself indicates, he's an amateur working on improving his skills. You're going to find some great shots, especially of his mountain biking adventures. Pete, on the other hand, is a professional photographer, and he has an impressive collection of portraits and images from his travels, among others. He posts a picture a day, and they never fail to impress.

If you've never read Wide Lawns and Narrow Minds, you're missing out on the best narrative blog out there. Seriously, this blog is priceless. Subservient Worker words at the HOA of an ultra-exclusive golf and country club located in South Florida. The people who live here are among the richest and craziest in the world. As she puts it, they are "tasteless, demanding, tacky and unreasonable Rich White People". It's not just that she writes about the weird, crazy shit that happens at the club, it's how she writes it. She's a natural storyteller with a gift for vividly describing the residents and their predicaments with wonderful detail. Plus, Subservient Worker is an awesome person - I love talking to her and knowing her.

The Diva. What on earth would I do without her? She holds court over at Diva Knows Best, where all things pop culture are wittily and intelligently dissected. As she often states, she's from a very practical, Midwestern family, and this is where she is the ying to my yang. We balance each other well and one can always rely on the other to offer a different, much-needed perspective on things. We don't get to see each other every day anymore and have taken our co-dependency to the Internet. It's not unusual for one of us to send an email that starts with: "Talk me off the ledge" before plunging into a description of the latest drama. She brings her common sense, PR savvy and dry sense of humor to her Internet kingdom with great results.

Hope you enjoy my picks. Of course, if you want more, you can always help me earn my paycheck, since, you know, I need one and all.

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Posted by Tere @ 3/26/2007   | | | links to this post

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Zoë


February 23, 2003 - March 25, 2007

At about 5 a.m. this morning, I was awakened by a dull thud and the sound of fast, heavy breathing. I thought Zoë was having a dream and called to her to get her to wake up a bit and snap out of it. When that didn't immediately work (as it usually does), I knew in my gut something was wrong. I got up, turned on the light, and found her on the floor having some kind of attack or seizure. Her eyes were closed. I touched her and called her name, but nothing changed. I lifted her head and it was limp, what I imagine it would feel like if her neck were broken.

I woke Ben up and as he came over, the attack stopped and she lay still. Ben held her and turned her on her side. It didn't look like she was breathing; suddenly, though, either we noticed that she was or she started to breathe once again. Her eyes were now open, but off somehow. Her tongue was poking out of her mouth.

In a matter of five minutes, I called my father, dressed and was out the door with her, on the way to the emergency vet that's thankfully about two or three miles away. She lay on the seat next to me. She lifted her head a couple of times and allowed me to caress her. At one point, I bent down and kissed her nose.

When we arrived at the vet, my father lifted her out and held her as I rang the door. No one answered. I tried again. No answer. I called the emergency number posted on the door. During these precious minutes that we were wasting, Zoë lifted her head a couple more times. The girl finally buzzed us in and opened the door between the waiting room and exam area. In the few seconds it took to do this, my father mentioned that she had again lifted her head and had stretched her leg. As the tech opened the door, I said, "Something's wrong with my dog, please help her."

"That dog is dead," she said to me (very kind, right?), and as I looked at Zoë for the last time, I noticed that she was still and that her tongue was hanging out and was turning blue.

With that, they took her to the back, where they could not resuscitate her. My sweet, neurotic girl is dead.

My mind is a muddle, trying to figure out what happened to her. I'm still in shock. She was fine all day yesterday, up until the moment we went to sleep. The dull thud I heard was her falling out of her bed, which had a pool of drool on it. So she must have felt ill, gotten up, tried to walk, and fallen instead, where her seizure or attack (I don't even know what to call it) began. I had noticed, when my dad was lifting her out of the car, that she had peed on herself a little bit.

I know there's nothing I could have done to save her. I know the minutes we lost waiting for the vet to open the door weren't going to make much of a difference, but this brings me no comfort. To find the actual cause of death would set me back about $600, money that I can't spend on this when my budget is pretty tight. My family and I have all but concluded that she may have had an undetected heart condition and that she had a massive heart attack. We don't know what else it could be. It wasn't poison, as she didn't have those symptoms. She actually had no symptoms of any kind. The only health issue was that she was overweight. Although she was never a very active dog, her activity level definitely decreased after the baby was born and all I could do was take her out to relieve herself but not to play for a while. Still, she ate one meal a day, no human food, and had been back to getting longer walks and more playtime in the last few months. And yet, she remained unusually overweight. Was that a factor? Was the fact that she was overweight despite all this a sign that she had a problem? I'll never know.

I only know how much I'm going to miss her; how guilty I feel for my impatience with her extreme neurosis; how very faithfully she loved me; how she let my son hug her and tug on her hair without ever hurting him; how she was so sweet and loving and had the most soulful eyes I'd ever seen.

She came into my life during a very painful time and brought me some very necessary joy and companionship. When Max was born, between her constant barking and the stress of new motherhood, I was unkind to her, impatient and unloving. And it killed me, because I knew she didn't deserve it and that I was just too tired and weak to use rational discipline. Maybe my not being as affectionate and resorting to yelling caused permanent damage. By the time some months had passed and I was back to normal, I began making an effort to regain some calm and order - or at the very least, kindness and affection. It was hit or miss. Some days were better than others, but I made it a point to share my affection and praise. I'm thinking of these things now as I wonder if she could feel any of it, if she understood in any way that while her displays of anxiety were frustrating, she was still a very loved member of the family.

I just wish I knew what happened; I wish I could be assured that she didn't suffer, though I highly doubt it; I wish I had known she was taking her last breaths so I could have comforted her better or made her more comfortable; I wish I still had her.

My Zoë is gone, and this is going to hurt for a long, long time.

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Posted by Tere @ 3/25/2007   | | | links to this post

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Wherein I Need My Fellow Miamians to Offer Their 2 Cents

All right, my South Floridians: I got an email from Hyde Park Mama, who's moving to Miami and wants advice on where in the County they should settle down. I've given her the lowdown on areas like the Gables, the Grove, the Design District, mid and north Beach, and have told her that the 'burbs (i.e., Kendall) probably won't meet her particular needs. Take a look at her criteria:

"My husband just got a job offer from the U of Miami Coral Gables. We are looking at housing but I have no idea where to look. We now live in a cool university neighborhood in Chicago, Hyde Park. We've got (independent) bookstores, coffee shops, a public library branch, great parks & lake Michigan beaches. There are great public & private schools. Real community. We have 2 boys age 3 & 5. We walk & bike everywhere. Where is the cool neighborhood or equivilent? We're Jewish, so some Jewish community would be OK."

Please keep her criteria in mind, and share your thoughts with her. She's really looking for local input, so let's give her a hand. Personally, I think Coral Gables might be the best fit, or just outside it to the east.

Thanks guys!

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Posted by Tere @ 3/24/2007   | | | links to this post

Friday, March 23, 2007

Our Grand Swimming Pool

Of all the things I wanted as a child, what I wanted most was a swimming pool. I LOVE pools. I was lucky enough to have two best friends who had nice, big pools, but you know, it's not the same. I wanted to be able to get home from school, toss on a suit, and jump right in.

Of course, we never lived in a house with a pool. But that didn't mean my mom couldn't be supportive. After enough pleading on my end, she got us a pool. It cost $5 at the McCrory's that was in the shopping center on NW 37 Ave and 7 St. My God, I loved that pool. I would spend hours and hours (or as long as my mom would let me) "swimming" in it, pretending I was a mermaid.

When I wrote about my sister yesterday, I left out the part about how she used to join me in the pool. I don't think she really cared all that much for the pool; it was more her being a good sport and indulging me. Still, while I have no specific memories of us in the pool, I have the memory of feeling happy and free, and of laughing a great deal.

I have every intention of buying a house with a pool; it's vital to my idea of "home". But I know it may not pan out that way, and if so, I'm ready to substitute somehow. It may not be exactly like our wonderful pool, but definitely something that my kids (and I!) can enjoy and use their imagination with.


The sad part isn't that I brought out the swim mask - its that I would use it all the time.

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Posted by Tere @ 3/23/2007   | | | links to this post

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Ode to Mari

(Note: this post was supposed to go up on March 12, my sister's birthday, but between her being in Paris and us not celebrating together, plus problems I was having scanning the picture, plus general flakiness on my part, it took me till now to get it all together).


Everything changed between us the day she informed me she would no longer be bathing with me. I couldn't believe it. Bathing together was like the funnest thing we did together, why would she want to stop? And what had I done to deserve that?

But the truth was that she was about 13, growing into womanhood, and it bothered her to have to be naked in front of me, to play with Barbies, to basically remain a child just to please me.

But I didn't get it. I felt rejected, and the three years that separated us now felt like 10. That's not to say that we had previously gotten along so swimmingly. We hadn't. The fact that we shared a bedroom, that I was always pestering her, and that our personalities are very different all assured us that there'd be a new drama just about every day. If ever there was a love-hate relationship, we had it. I hated how she was too good to play with me; how she had activities like ballet to keep her busy while I was left alone to entertain myself; how she was so selfish and unfair and mean. I hated that the night I confided that I knew about "the period" she made me get up and tell my mother.

And yet.

She's the only one who believed me when I told her about the visions I had, when I described the way I would see these translucent beings before me and how they would speak to me. And even if she didn't believe me, she didn't laugh or shrug it off. She's the only one who knew about the terror I felt every night at bedtime, the one who would let me crawl into her bed and hold me and tell me to imagine a big field of flowers with puppies and sunshine and a gentle breeze. She was the first one to ever apologize to me for being dismissive. I owe her money (I don't even remember how much anymore), and she never brings it up or makes me feel like shit for being such flake about it. (And yes, I still plan on paying her back!)

I don't know that we are yet equals, but we're closer than ever before.

And in true big-sister/little-sister fashion, I look up to her and admire her and wish I had her sense of style. I love how she loves my son and how very much a "cool" aunt she is with our nieces and nephew. I can't wait to welcome and love her own children.

So happy (belated) birthday, Charito. Your little sister loves you very much.



(More odes to follow as those I love most celebrate their birthdays.)

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Posted by Tere @ 3/22/2007   | | | links to this post

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

This is Turning Out to be a Looooong Week...

...so please bear with my random thoughts.

Things I Need To Know About Miami:

1. Where can I get batteries for about 6 watches and spend no more than $30?

2. Where can I get my hair trimmed and not have to pay $70 for it?

3. Why is Gilbert's Bakery considered *the* Cuban bakery when their stuff isn't as tasty or rich as the dozens other bakeries, and when they're kinda overpriced?

4. What new or newish restaurant (that's not Chinese or seafood) do I positively have to check out? I'm in the mood to discover something new.

General Points:

1. I will be forever grateful and will offer money, drinks, coffee, chocolate, dinner or whatever else they want to the person who can get Ben to put the friggin' toilet paper on the roll, throw out the garbage, clean up after himself in the bathroom and check the baby's diaper bag for notes or messages from the nanny and to make sure it has everything Max needs whenever he's the one who prepares the milk and snacks for the day.

2. It's so very against my nature, but I so badly wish I would wear this:


and this:


(but not together). It doesn't help that I would look like a biscuit can that's been popped open and all the dough is squeezing out the sides (there's no picture of this on teh internets!) in either one of these items, though. So it's definitely not gonna happen.

3. T-shirt bras are the best thing ever.

4. I need some pad thai right now.

5. I also need a day of shopping just for myself. Haven't had one of those in ages.

6. I'm on the hunt for the perfect pair of jeans. I doubt I'm going to find them.

7. We've gotten some great video footage of Max being... Max. Is it wise to post it up? I can't decide how I feel about this.

8. We're going out Saturday (more on this later). What should I wear? Also, I'm excited about it.

9. Something about my hair bugs me, but I'm not quite sure what it is.

10. Pad Thai. Now. PLEASE. Now.

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Posted by Tere @ 3/21/2007   | | | links to this post

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Read This if You Have a Baby/Child

Considering the last few nights I've had (though last night was better), I found this article incredibly encouraging and realistic. 'Course, this magazine falls very much in line with my way of thinking, and I'm very much against sleep training, so take that for whatever it's worth.

Now go read it.

And thanks to my sister Ana for the heads-up.


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Posted by Tere @ 3/20/2007   | | | links to this post

Monday, March 19, 2007

Real Moms

GingaJoy tagged me, and how could I refuse?

Real Moms sometimes have a sick sense of humor, because they need it in order to survive the frustration, exhaustion and boredom; and so sometimes, before they pick them up and comfort them and cover them with kisses, real moms take a picture:


(That's a tantrum, by the way; he wasn't physically hurt or anything like that)

Real moms: laughing at their children behind their backs since the dawn of time.

Instructions and origins here. I'm not much for tagging, so it's a free for all. If you wanna do it, do it!.

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Posted by Tere @ 3/19/2007   | | | links to this post

EL MOÑO VIRADO

Dudes. My life sucks this morning. I'm a wreck. My eyes hurt. I'd give anything to be able to crawl into bed and stay there for approximately 56 hours. ANYTHING.

These last two nights have been awful. Max - for whatever mysterious reason, although probably because he turned 18 months and decided it was time to go from fun baby to pain-in-the-ass baby - has not slept. At all. O.k., for a total of three hours between last night and the one before. And those hours he did sleep? Were spent with him right on top of my face.

Between no sleep, an infection in his mouth that's affected his appetite and his general desire to do the exact opposite of every single request I make, I'm a mess. These next few months are going to be just wonderful, I can already tell.

So why we've been discussing adding BOTH another dog and another child to our lives is beyond me. Must've been that wine we had on Friday night that made us think our current situation is, you know, no big deal.

Idiots.

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Posted by Tere @ 3/19/2007   | | | links to this post

Friday, March 16, 2007

TGIF

Well, after a week of serious, long-ass posts, I'm ready for something fun, aren't you?

Yours truly, 1981. Fierce then, fierce now.



Posted by Tere @ 3/16/2007   | | | links to this post

Thursday, March 15, 2007

To Be a Cuban-American Mami

Thinking some more about my previous post, I find myself drawn to the part about my being a Cuban-American mother and how that affects my place/feelings/attitudes about the mommy blogger community and my perception of motherhood as a whole.

First, I need to go back and do a mini-history lesson/commentary to explain why I define myself as being "Cuban-American" and not just "American", when I was born and raised in the United States. For those of you readers in So Fla, bear with me. You get it; you know why, but the folks outside here don't. (so feel free to add your take in the comments section).

The Cuban-American community was very insular back in the 60's, 70's and 80's. Those of us who are first-generation Cuban-Americans, that is, born in the U.S. to parents who left Cuba, were raised very differently than your garden variety American, and even differently than other children of immigrants, even those raised within tight cultural communities. From everything I've heard, other immigrant groups assimilate more easily and quicker than we Cuban-Amer. I think one major reason for this has to do with the fact that Cubans arrived in large numbers in this country as exiles, not immigrants. I mean, up until as late as 1980, many Cubans believed that their exile was temporary (I use 1980 semi-randomly, but I believe the Mariel boatlift did a lot to drive the point home that there was no going back. For some families, perhaps the "there's no going back" feeling hit earlier). I've read accounts of how those who came in the very early days of the Revolution brought and planned very little, because they believed it'd literally be a matter of two or three months.

Factor into all this the trauma that goes with exile. These were lives (in many cases, childhoods and early adulthoods) interrupted, families separated (by the time my father saw his father again - 20 years after he left - my grandfather was in the fog of Alzheimer's and didn't recognize him). These were people who otherwise would not have ended up in this country if it hadn't been for a brutal regime that was taking property, businesses, rights and lives in every corner of the country.

So when you concentrate all these folks into one area, what you get is a community that needs to keep its culture alive. Because of the sense of loss, because of the sadness, because exile can end at any moment. But then you have to factor in that Cubans are hard-working, enterprising people; and so while we waited for the end of exile, we hustled and got to work. You'll often hear Cubans say that Miami was a one-horse town before the Cubans got here, which annoys the Anglos but which is basically true. So while people like my parents set roots and flourished in Miami, they also retained a strong hold on their culture and traditions.

Enter my childhood. Beyond being so Cuba-centered that it wasn't even funny, it was basically how I would've been raised had I been born in Cuba. All my friends were CA like me; my school was the exile version of a Cuban one that Castro had shut down; and given that my mother had no familiarity with anything other than the simple life she'd led back home, she followed the traditions she grew up with.

All this to say that many, many times, I've felt like a stranger in my own country. While I was raised to be proud to be an American, to love this country, to follow my own American Dream, my family was a little short on actual experience on what it's like to be "American", and this became shockingly clear when I hooked up with an American boy you all know as Ben. Seriously, we're into our 9th year together, and I'm still constantly surprised at how much I don't know about American customs, habits, idiosyncrasies, colloquialisms, etc. (and by "American" I mean "white people", or "middle America" - the stuff most people can agree on). I'm embarrassed by this, but also understand that I would've never learned any of it unless I lived outside Miami (which I haven't) or traveled extensively (which I haven't) or knew a whole bunch of non-Hispanics (which I don't, but happily, I know more of them now than I did in my youth).

So now that I'm a mother, I realize that I'm mimicking a lot of the same stuff I experienced as a child (without my prompting - this is what's buried in my subconscious and is now coming out), and that I'm raising my son the "Cuban" way more than I am the "American" way. And it's kinda hard to explain exactly what that means, but an illustrative point is that Max gets a fever, and I wipe him down with alcohol (to Ben's horror, but whatever, it works). And the things like the nursery rhymes, songs, and sayings that sometimes don't even make sense? I'm saying them. I'm teaching my son to speak Spanish first because I know that once English enters his life, he won't want to speak Spanish anymore, and I insist that he have a foundation and basic knowledge of his mother's family's native tongue (and as it is, he's getting English from his dad, so while Spanish predominates, he's learning that language, too).

And since I've entered the blogging community, since I've begun to read more and more blogs by other mothers and exposed myself to what "regular, American" moms share about their lives, the more I've realized that the Cuban in me is the dominant force - in my personality, in the way I view life, in the way that I parent. It's a nuance that's hard to quantify, but it just is. Everything that made up my childhood buried itself somewhere deep inside me, and having my own child has brought it all back up.

Besides the obvious fact that my husband is American (though, as a Jew and as a white person raised in predominantly Cuban Miami, he certainly didn't have a "white America" upbringing either) and that through him Max will have a whole other set of traditions and customs to be raised by and to inherit, the difference between my experiences and my son's, I think, will be that I have the opportunity to take what is best from both cultures and create a beautiful mix of old and new, tradition and adopted customs.

And hopefully, I'll be able to do it in such a way that he doesn't feel the conflict I've felt my entire life.

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Posted by Tere @ 3/15/2007   | | | links to this post

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Mommy Blogger: Deconstructed

My brain hurts. Here I am, regularly bitching about the lack of mental stimulus in my life, and when I find a post that makes me feel like - finally! Mommies being all intellectual! - my brain fizzes, sparks, and does a little throbbing action, as if to really drive the point home that, dude, I really can't handle this.

But I insist on getting a handle on it, for I find this fascinating. Basically, some "mommy bloggers", along with the afore-linked-to GingaJoy, are going to be participating in a communications conference, and they will be presenting a panel called "Mommyblogging: Communal Activism or Self-Centered Blather?" The blog they've created specifically for this panel can be found here. It's really going to be a long-ass post if I describe what their panel is about, so here, go read about it. There are some really interesting thoughts about comments, rank and traffic that I keep going back and reading over again. (EDIT: Mad Hatter's not part of the panel, but you should go read her anyway).

To properly prepare for the panel, they're asking other mama bloggers to share their thoughts on the following questions. And since I never pass a chance to ruminate and pontificate (though that last one is actually Ben's area of expertise), and since my brain is aching for this kind of use, I'm more than happy to oblige.

1. Who are we? (Who is writing these "mommy" blogs?)

I don't know who "we" all are, but I can tell you who I am: 29-year-old Cuban-American (born in America to Cuban exiles, raised within a tight, insular community of other exiles); college-educated; working mother; writer. I since I think it would help the panel, I'm white and middle-class (now. I grew up poor and find that it still affects me on the day-today, but not in a traumatic way. O.k., not in an overly traumatic way).

As for who everyone else is, I agree with GingaJoy's assessment: white, with college degrees, and relatively privileged; mainly stay-at-home moms, although there are plenty of working moms, too. Save for about 5 or 6 other ladies (Amanda, Chantel, Jenny, forgive me anyone else I may have excluded) I've met via the "Miami's such small world" network, my take is that Hispanic women are in the minority, which sucks. What surprises me is that there aren't more Cuban-American female/mommy bloggers. From the standpoint that Cuban-Americans tend to be the most-educated and most-privileged among Hispanics, and assuming that the generalization of who mommy bloggers are is accurate, then I would think there'd be more of us. Of course, I know some pretty excellent Cubanitas who are not mommies, but are excellent bloggers.

And obviously, there are exceptions to these rules; these are just generalizations. But that said, it's obvious that many kinds of moms are left out of (or are unknown in) this community, and that says a lot to me. As it is, I myself am a minority in the mommy blogger world, and there are definitely times when I feel it. When I can't relate at all or think it's one big Anglo party. And the part of me that always wants everything to be fair feels that if I - who meet all the other presumed demographics with the exception of being Hispanic - feel this way, how must mothers who are poorer, less educated and racial/cultural minorities feel? And who will speak for them? They already face bias, judgment and exclusion in all other aspects of their lives - now in the blogging community too? This just says to me that even the Internet is not free of the same social issues that exist in the real world.

2. Who are we writing to? Who is our audience?

I'm not very clear on exactly who my audience is, which makes it very hard to write "to" an audience. So, I tend to just write about whatever's on my mind, and 90% of the time, I hit "publish" and hope someone out there will relate or like it or find themselves pondering my words of wisdom. I know other moms read me, some relatives, few friends, other So Fla bloggers and perfect strangers. Actually, I feel more connected to the So Fla blogging community than I do to the mommy blogger community. I stumbled upon some local blogs last year and realized there was a whole community of local writers/thinkers/cool people, and that I wanted in. I had actually never read a mom blog before I started this one, and I didn't set out to be a "mommy blogger" - it is what I became because I chose to write about my life, and my life is about my son and my experiences as a new mom,and so by default I am one, which is cool with me. Even so, I don't always stick to the "mom" theme, because there are other sides to me, and my goal is to successfully mesh whom I was pre-baby with the mother I've become, and then mesh all that with the woman I'm becoming. Also, I just like to write about different topics, and if I try to stick to any theme, that theme is "Tere: The Life, The Loves, The Legacy."

Actually, I would have to say that I don't feel like a "real" part of the mommy blogger community. With some exceptions, I haven't been able to connect to other mom bloggers the way I hoped I would, mainly because I feel like such a dork-ass just randomly e-mailing people. That, and the fact that when it comes to the mommy blogger community as a whole, I feel so much in the minority that it's incredibly hard to "fit in".

3. Why are we writing? What is our purpose?

Although this is true of a good number of mommy bloggers, I did not start this blog as a way to keep family posted on my son's progress. I started this blog because I wanted to write, period. I wanted an outlet to write about my life and explore a lot of the issues I'm dealing with, the path my life is taking, the random shit that floats in my head. I'm writing to be a better writer, to share something real about myself, to connect to other people on a more meaningful level. In that sense, I agree with GingaJoy's assessment and think I'm like other mommy bloggers: I want (need) a connection. I want to capture this time of my life because I've never been here before, and I'm in constant fascination with how I find myself and my life growing and expanding and evolving.

At the same time, I think a lot of the mom blogs I currently read didn't start out as mom blogs. These were women who were writing about their lives (perhaps to be better writers, for fun or to communicate with distant friends and relatives), and they became mommy bloggers as they had children and their lives naturally revolved around their kids and the experience of motherhood. I think that the proliferation of mommy blogs has led other women to start blogs when they become pregnant or have a child, because they too see the value in chronicling this incredible time of their lives.

4. What is the context for our writing? What are we saying? What is our message?

I think many of us are saying a lot of the same things: I am more than *just* a mother; I am exhausted; I want to feel like/be seen by others as an interesting woman; I have many challenges and struggles and yet my husband can't be bothered to put the toilet paper in the dispenser (er, wait, is that just me?); this mom thing is fucking hard; all the experts are wrong; why do I feel so guilty no matter what I do?; I want to be "me" again; I'm exhausted; why does motherhood obliterate any sex appeal/allure/attractiveness I may have ever had? (oh, is that just me again?); I still have a brain, you know; am I the only one going through this?; how do I juggle it all without failing?; and Jesus H. Christ, I'm exhausted.

I've seen these thoughts splayed out across hundreds of blogs now. We're trying to say that we feel the weight of the world on our shoulders and meanwhile, we look like shit.

5. How does the medium of blogging affect all this?

Basically, I can't put it any better than GingaJoy did, so I'm just going to paste her answer - "the linkages I mention above could not take place. Neither could the comments. The blog as a medium is critical because knowledge and ideas emerge as a result of conversation and interaction. You can track how a topic is discussed, how the community interprets it, and the consensus (or lack thereof) about what it all means" - and add: despite my feeling like an outsider in this mommy blogger world, for me this remains about community, which can only exist through a medium such as a blog. I love it when I read other blogs and realize that moms halfway across the country, with backgrounds completely foreign to me, are going through the same thing. I love reading about moms with kids older than my son because it's like a preview of what's to come. I love it when I do make a connection with someone, whether it's because our sons are the same age or we both love The Soup on E! I think these connections make us feel less alone, and like we have a support system.

And although unrelated, I have to add that this feeling of partially belonging, partially never being able to belong seems to be part and parcel of being a Cuban-American. I've felt this my entire life: raised in one culture while living in another, and never fully able to belong to either one. So the fact that I feel the same way about the mommy blogger community doesn't surprise me.

I don't know if I was able to express my thoughts very well here - my brain is out of practice and considering that it's past midnight, I'm damn exhausted.

My best wishes to these moms as they put this panel together; you're doing a great, incredibly impressive thing.

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Posted by Tere @ 3/14/2007   | | | links to this post

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Downside of Attachment Parenting: I Can't Pee

My son's awesome. I don't need to say that, do I? Because I think I've done a decent job communicating his many virtues, yes?

All right, then. There's one problem with my precious bug of a boy: he won't let me pee.

Oh, I exaggerate. The truth is, he won't let me out of his sight or reach. For any reason whatsoever. If I step away - that is, cross to the other side any one of our four baby gates, all hell breaks loose. He goes from zero to heartbroken in 1.2 seconds: the tears flow with no prompting, the wailing is intense, and his cries for "mama, mama, maaaaaamaaaaaaaaa" just about drive a big, fat nail right through my heart.

I should feel somewhat happy, right? I should be telling you how pleased I am to see that my son is so attached to me, that I'm so vital to him that the sight of me moving to another part of the house is enough to induce tears, that all my efforts to build trust and security have yielded such an affectionate, well-adjusted child. Well, that's all true, but I don't give a whoop about any of it right now.

Because, people, my child won't let me pee. Seriously. If I forget to go before I leave work, I'm fucked until at least 7:30 p.m. Do you know what it's like to have to go really badly and not be able to because of the whiny mess you'll have to clean up when you come back? The repercussions if I decide to run to the bathroom are simply too great. My afternoons are too crowded with asking Max to wait 10 friggin' seconds while I stir the pasta or grab the cup he threw across the house, with my prying him off the dog and protecting his butt as he bounces uncontrollably on my brand-new leather couch. I don't get any breaks, people, and the catastrophic meltdown that awaits me if I disappear on him for a few seconds is not worth any relief my little bladder will feel.

I was really looking forward to Max being this age because I thought (like a damn, ignorant fool, and because that's what the book said) that he'd enjoy playing by himself for small periods of time, which would allow me to do things like clean, pee and sit still for 3 minutes. And while your precious angel may do just that, mine does not. At all. He seems to really enjoy playing with us, or at least having our attention even when he's doing his own thing. Case in point: I was bathing him yesterday, and he was having a blast smacking the water with his arms and playing with his toys. So I stand up and move a foot to the right to organize some stuff in a basket - and Max stops what he's doing, stands up, and practically climbs out of the tub as he tries to figure out what I'm doing. When I look over at him, he gestures that he wants me to come over, which I do, only for him to ignore me and resume his playing, content that he once again has my undivided attention.

O.k., let me get serious for a minute here. The closest I can come to describing the principles we're using to raise Max is attachment parenting. I'm not saying that we're strict adherents, or that we planned it this way - we're just raising him in the way that feels right to us, and it turns out to closely match this style. So I know that my son is perfectly normal and that this clingy-ness of his is good and normal and not at all a sign that he's spoiled or manipulative. I know that the only way he would not be this way at this age is if we had not allowed ourselves to become completely attached to him from the moment he came out, if we had put certain emotional barriers between us for the sake of our convenience. We decided early on that these first couple of years were not about our convenience, they were about creating a foundation of trust, love and stability. And creating that foundation takes a shitload of work, all of which we've been happy to do. In fact, I'm thankful that I carried him all the time, that he never cried it out, that I didn't dump him on anyone for extended periods of time, because those very things now allow me to go to work, to take time for myself and to focus on my continued growth without a shred of guilt. A direct result of the choices I made early on is that I totally know my son's cues, so I know when the need is real and when he's pushing buttons; and even more, I can trust myself as a mother, and feel like I'm navigating each stage with a decent amount of brains and instincts.

So basically, I know I signed up for this and have no right to bitch. I get it. This too shall pass and all that jazz. But I'm bitching. Because you know, it'd be really nice if I could pee every now and then without facing dire consequences. But! There is a saving grace in all this: when I do commit the sin of leaving Max's line of sight for more than 3 seconds, I get to come back and make it all better with dozens of kisses, for which I'm rewarded with an awesome set of sweet, strong hugs. I guess it all balances out.

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Posted by Tere @ 3/13/2007   | | | links to this post

Monday, March 12, 2007

This Mama Supports The International Breast Milk Project

The Sun-Sentinel has a story about The International Breast Milk Project, a group that sends breast milk from moms here to babies in Africa, where HIV/AIDS has left millions of babies orphaned or at greater risk of getting the disease from their mothers.

I commend this group for their work, as well as other milk banks that work to provide breast milk to babies who are sick or premature. Feeding a baby human breast milk has benefits that nothing else can replicate, and offering children who face higher risks for diseases and death a chance to receive these essential nutrients is a gift of love.

When I had Max, I produced an incredible amount of milk, and so I had planned to build a stash that I could donate if he never used it. Sadly, once I went back to work and starting pumping, my milk supply decreased considerably, and I couldn't keep more than 3 bags in the freezer as my emergency stash. I never had leftover milk to donate. But if I ever get pregnant again, I think I'll be smarter about some things and will hopefully be able to be a donor.

More about human milk banking here. Milk bank resources in the United States here.

- thanks to Bill at The Florida Masochist for the heads-up on this article. His post about it is here.

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Posted by Tere @ 3/12/2007   | | | links to this post

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Attention K-Mart Shoppers

My childhood wardrobe was all but completely provided by K-Mart. Twice a year, before Spring and before Fall, my mom would take the three of us to pick new outfits out, which she would put on layaway. We'd spend a couple of months in anticipation, and then finally one day my mom would take us to pick our new clothes up.

With the exception of a couple of years when my dad was a warehouse manager for Burdines - and we therefore had a sweet employee discount - it was K-Mart and not much else. Even during the Burdines years, our everyday clothes still came from KM. As I grew older, I would visit K-Mart from time to time, and I too would place items on layaway. Clothes, underwear, bed sheets, comforters, towels - things I wanted but couldn't afford on a part-time retail salary.

And then something changed. Was it them? Or was it me? I'm not sure. I just know I went one day and everything looked crappy to me. I mean, they had been in decline for a while, and the stores were always slightly messy. But now they were just awful. Things thrown everywhere, dirty floors - just unpleasant and creepy. And while I'd always known that K-Mart clothes weren't the hippest or best made, they were decent enough; and more importantly, they were what I could afford. Still, at the point where the store went to the crapper, the quality of their clothes (juniors, at least) took a nosedive. It was all just damn ugly.

At the same time, Target was springing up in So Fla. And Target, in my eyes, is a bargain shopper's heaven. I officially dumped K-Mart and practically moved in to Target. And basically, that was that.

But since we moved into this house, we've been to the nearby K-Mart a bunch of times. Mainly, it's been more convenient, because it's closer than any Target; but they've also had some stuff we've needed on sale. The store - the same one I patronized for many years - looks better, and many products are decent enough, but it really doesn't make for a wonderful shopping experience. Unless the stuff I'm buying is on sale, I don't feel like I'm getting a bargain. The store still looks and feels disheveled, and the layout just isn't snazzy and appealing.

Today was an all-K-Mart day for me. Ben and I want a patio dining set, but everything out there is just too expensive. We don't want anything badly enough to spend $500, just a simple, basic set that will allow us to enjoy our meals in our awesome backyard. Seriously - just a glass table and basic chairs. We found such a set in the K-Mart weekly ad, and it was within what we wanted to spend, so I went first thing this morning to buy it. Except that my local KM didn't have it, so after Max's morning nap, my mom and I went to the one out on SW 122 Ave. and 8 St. That KM, although extremely busy, didn't look as messy or cramped as my local one. I asked for some help in the patio furniture section, and the guy came over in less than 1 minute. And he was so incredibly helpful. I found the chairs and umbrella I needed, but no table. So he went to where they're all stored and checked for me before telling me they were out of stock and that I should ask for a rain check.

Honestly, everyone at both K-Marts was super helpful and friendly and provided great customer service. And being there with my mom was a total flashback for me, especially when she turned into the kids clothing section and started picking stuff out for her grandson.

It's funny how K-Mart was such a presence in my childhood and how, despite my having abandoned it, these recent visits have really brought up old memories and images. It no longer holds the place it once did, and it never again will, but still. It's like finding an old pair of shoes: comfy and familiar, and kinda safe.

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Posted by Tere @ 3/10/2007   | | | links to this post

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Party Life is a Hard Life

I've spent the last two nights partying. And I'm an utterly disheveled, exhausted mess.

The funny thing is that it wasn't work-related. At least, not that we had some concert or party that required my presence. Instead, it was birthday parties for people from work. And everyone's been working long hours on this massive project, so both parties got started later in the evening. Don't get me wrong - they've been fun, but damn, two nights of getting home at midnight (I know, total party girl, right?), and I'm a wreck. And that's with me popping in, staying a short while, and hightailing it to bed.

But this big project of ours wraps up on Sunday, since it's tied in to Calle Ocho, and I have to say, I can't friggin' wait! As it is, I haven't had as much work to do as the guys who have been filming and editing everything, but damn! We've gotten this thing up all by ourselves, from start to finish, and it's been a pretty big undertaking. We're all dying for it to be over, just so we can breathe again. It's been non-stop activity, especially in this last week, and with two nights of staying up late, I'm done. DONE.

I just have to make it through this crazy-busy weekend. And yet, my company is doing more and more parties, concerts and music-related events, and these are all at night. And I'm not required to be there, but I know I'm going to have to show up at some of them. So I'm going to have to find a way to be able to function after 9 p.m., which is currently all but impossible. You know, I never thought I'd end up dealing with partying issues at this point in my life, and it really seems quite absurd.

Oh, and if you want to get stalker-like and get the scoop on my job, I'm going to make it really easy for you: it's all spelled out here.



Posted by Tere @ 3/09/2007   | | | links to this post

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Vocabulary Lesson

Holy hell, people, my son is talking like crazy! In a matter of, like, 3 days, he went from a smattering of words to an even bigger smattering of words, sometimes two at a time! Dude, things are sinking in! He's learning! He can identify things! Ask for things!

OMG, he's fully human!

The problem, though, is that I don't always know what the F he's talking about. He has a thing for point up or out and going "Este?" ("this?") Which... is cute and all, but I don't ever know what he's pointing to or talking about. And of course, he keeps pointing and going "Este?", and I just nod along and eventually pick the most obvious item in the general direction at which he's pointing to, and launch into a relentless interview about it:

Me: La ventana? Vees la ventana? Y que mas vees? El arbol? Wow, mira ese arbol! Mira los mangos! Te gusta comer mangos? Ahora en unos meses, vamos a comer mangos - Maxi, mommy y daddy van a comer muchos mangos! (The window? You see the window? What else do you see? The tree? Wow, look at that tree! Look at the mangoes! Do you like mangoes? In a few months, we'll eat mangoes - Maxi, mommy and daddy will eat lots of mangoes!)

Him: Daddy?

Me: Yes, daddy! Donde está daddy? Trabajando? Daddy llegará luego, pero ya tú vas a estar durmiendo, asi que verás a daddy mañana. Y tú y daddy jugarán el día entero! (Where's daddy? Working? Daddy will be home later, but you'll be sleeping, so you'll see daddy tomorrow. And you and daddy will get to play all day long!)

Him: (Grins, points back in same general direction) Este?

And then, there's still that mysterious "Wa". Still haven't figured out what on earth that is, and it doesn't seem like he's going to clarify for me anytime soon. Whatever it is, though, it can only be asked for in an incredibly whiny tone, and failure to provide said "wa" results in immediate tantrum-throwing, complete with heaving sobs.

Otherwise, though, I'm really good at translating for my baby! I swear! Look, I've even figured out his latest vocabulary additions:

'gua has fully evolved to agua (water)
me (and he places both hands on his chest)
vamos (let's go)
night-night
leche (milk)
si (yes)
oye (hey)
Jeremy (pronounced "eh-eh-my", his daycare buddy)
doggie (for whatever reason, he pronounces it "dawgie", sounding like a total New Yorker)
papa (a meal, be it lunch or dinner. He calls for his "papa" when he seems one of us bustling around the kitchen)
cookie (any snack, be it Cheerios, goldfish, crackers or actual cookies)
banana (pronounced "ah-nah-nah")
pate (meaning, zapatos - shoes)
doti (Dora)
tio (uncle, which is what the kids call the nanny's husband)
nené (child)
mine (looooove this one - everything is "mine")
ouch
wow
whee
caca (poop, and he very hopefully and enthusiastically asks "caca?" whenever we open his diaper up to change it; I feel bad whenever I have to tell him there's no caca around)
O-EEE ya! (meaning, Zoë, you neurotic dog, stop that right now!)
O-EEE bajate! (pronounced "ah-ah-te" and meaning, Zoë, get down! We say this whenever she jumps on the couch)

(Are we noticing a pattern here about Zoë? And, how much must we be yelling these things for our kid to have picked it up so easily?)

I swear, the more he talks, the more adorable he is. I can't handle it.

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Posted by Tere @ 3/08/2007   | | | links to this post

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Tere's Wish List, Please Feel Free to FulFill It

We're a little over four months from my landmark 30th birthday. Landmark, mainly because I said so. And mainly because it's a perfectly good excuse for me to have a party and gets lots of wonderful gifts. I'm going all out this year and am asking for the things I really want, not the ones I say I want out of consideration for people's budgets and convenience. So, without further ado, I give you:

Tere's Ultimate Wish List

1. Private performance by the Indigo Girls at my party.

2. Private performance by The Samples at my party.

3. Diamonds. Here are some helpful suggestions.

4. This ridiculous symbol of indulgence and luxury.

5. A day at the spa (please, not this one)

6. I would look SO cute in this.

7. But I'll happily take this.

8. Gift certificates. I love me some gift certificates.

9. An entire day to myself that does not include any housework, baby care, husband care, family obligations or errand-running, but does include lots of me doing anything I please.

10. To be surrounded by my family, friends and those who truly care about me.

Simple enough, don't you think?

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Posted by Tere @ 3/07/2007   | | | links to this post

Breaking Britney Spears

O.k., people, I think we've officially reached The Ridiculous when it comes to the horrific public meltdown of the creature who was once Britney Spears. You thought it was the chooch-flashing? The puking all over herself? The head shaving? The in-and-out-and-in-and-out of rehab? The beat-down she gave some paparazzi's car? Well, it wasn't. It was this: a report from a "source" in rehab that she wrote "666" on her forehead, proclaimed herself the anti-Christ, and went off to attempt suicide.

People. Are you kidding me? We're supposed to believe this? And if we do, what do we make of that information? Celebrity train-wreck aside, from a psychological perspective, this is crazy-ass, fascinating shit. So allow me, then, to break it down for you, Miami-mama style.

It's only a handful of people/pundits/gossipers who have seriously considered that Spears is suffering from postpartum depression. I think this possibility bears some heavy consideration; however, I don't think it's the root of her behavior.

Here's the deal: a few months ago, my brother-in-law (the OB/GYN) informed me (and my sister, mother of three, agreed) that I suffered from PPD when Max was born, judging by how I was describing what those first months felt like. He shocked me, because I certainly didn't feel like I had suffered from PPD; in fact, I still don't. I thought I felt what every other first-time mother feels. I remember feeling incredibly overwhelmed, but not incapacitated. I remember the extreme, awful dread I faced around bedtime because I was so horrifically exhausted and Max just would not sleep. I remember my terror of SIDS and how I'd worry if he was quiet for too long, and how most nights I just wouldn't sleep so I could keep an eye in him. I remember feeling so bored it made me feel guilty. Overall, some days were fine; others were an utter nightmare. Ultimately, I don't know what the deal with me was. Maybe I had a mild case of PPD. I mean, I remember first feeling depressed when I was 7 years old, and from there it's been a regular battle, so you know, the deck's stacked against me on this. I tell you all this to explain that while it can be argued that I suffered from PPD, I didn't identify it as such, nor did I treat it as such, and so, I can't talk from the "I've been there" platform. I know there are tons of mom bloggers out there who have had some serious, major battles with PPD, and their take on this matter would be a great read.

As I was drafting this post (in my head, where everything gets drafted), I was planning on letting you all know that Brits suffered from postpartum psychosis. Because the combination of all those insane things she's done lately just scream "psychotic!" to me. However, as I was doing some research (oh yeah, kiddies, I do homework for you guys!), I realized that clinically speaking, it doesn't seem to be PPP, mainly because it's early onset, with symptoms appearing 3 to 14 days after giving birth. Considering that the downward spiral began when her baby was about three months old, PPP seems like less of a possibility. PPD, however, tends to be at its ugliest 4-to-6 months after birth, which would put Spears and her behavior right on target.

So in my opinion, yes, Britney Spears is indeed suffering from PPD, and that would explain a lot about her behavior recently.

However.

PPD aside, this decline was written in the stars. I mean, what we're seeing now - this sick need to display herself for the paparazzi, behavior that indicates she is incredibly immature and bratty, and erratic behavior that seems like a sick exercise in pushing boundaries - has been a long time a-commin' and is to me the direct result of being a child star/performer who was raised to be a celebrity without any discipline. I think this is rooted in her childhood. I think something went terribly wrong somewhere along the way. And while it may seem unfair of me to ask, what I'm basically wondering, people, is, where was her mama? Physically, I know she was right by her side - I've seen her Behind the Music; but I'm looking at all this crazy shit and I have to wonder if her mother ever told her "no", ever forbid her from doing or having something, ever scared the shit out of her with a good dose of tough love. Because while Lynne Spears was always described as the quintessential stage mom, there seems to be a disconnect here. I mean, what was she (or anyone in Britney's inner circle) doing or not doing that she ended up like this?

She's an adult now, so I can't hold her parents responsible for what she's been doing lately, but I can't shake the feeling that something went wrong somewhere in her childhood. Was she indulged too much? Was too much smoke blown up her ass? Did they have so tight a grip on her that when she broke free she had no clue what to do with herself? Did they not teach her basic right and wrong? Did they make her feel like she was above accepted social norms? Did they not teach her basic survival skills?

Because now that I'm a mom, I find that I'm more sensitive when other people blame someone's awfulness on their parents; and yet, I still believe there's some truth to that line of thinking. If - G-d forbid - Max ended up being a criminal, an addict, or even just an asshole, I know I will feel guilty and responsible over it. I will drive myself crazy trying to figure out where and how his father and I went wrong so that something in him broke and set him on that path. And while part of me will also argue that he's his own person with the freewill to make his own decisions, the guilt will remain, because I was charged with creating and a raising a compassionate, intelligent, good human being and I failed.

Kids are a reflection of their parents. And at some point - maybe in the middle of the teen years, maybe just before or right at the start of puberty - the lines blur, and they begin to exert their will and make their own big decisions, and they either use all their parents taught them as a conscience/moral guide, or they don't. I mean, looking back at times when I was thisclose to doing something really stupid or reckless or dangerous (REALLY), I could never stray too far from the things my parents instilled in me. And during times when I was really too far gone to care even for those, there was still something lingering inside me that prevented me from causing permanent harm. And even with that, in some cases I did.

So, back to Britney. PPD? I believe so. Indulged celebrity? Most definitely. But there's something more and something deeper. Something that's rooted in her parents.

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Posted by Tere @ 3/07/2007   | | | links to this post

Monday, March 05, 2007

Someday Soon, I Won't be Able to Make Him Laugh This Easily

Maxi and his mother share some laughs. All it took was some funny noises on her part.




Posted by Tere @ 3/05/2007   | | | links to this post

This Post is Not About You

Someone I know is obsessed with my blogs and the fact that I'm a blogger. They have never read my blog, or any blog I contribute to (possibly have never read a blog, period), but there you have it, they're obsessed.

They seem to be perpetually concerned that I may be writing about them; but what they can't seem to understand or believe is that my favorite topic to write about is myself, so sorry, no room for other people's drama here. I kid, sort-of. My blog is not a gossip site, and within my own personal life, I try to respect other people's privacy and not write anything that might give me problems behind the scenes. Trust me, I wish I had enough balls to tell you all some of the shit that goes on in my life, but it'll all have to wait for my book deal.

Anyway. Lately, whenever I'm around, they get kinda panicky and ask me, after a conversation, if I'm going to blog about it. I always say no. But the other day I got them to admit that they WANT me to write about them. They want me to post their dirty business all up in my site.

So hey, I'm game, I'm willing to step down from my non-gossip, respect-other-people's-privacy soapbox. And face it, you guys could use a break from all things Tere.

The really interesting thing about this person so far is that their relationship with their significant other seems to be pretty full of drama. This whole "are you blogging about me?" thing actually started after they were telling me (and a few other people) about how they'd caught the SO snooping on their MySpace page. As in, they logged in and checked EVERY friend profile and EVERY e-mail message. The SO did not like a single thing they found, but what seemed to make matters worse was that they denied ever snooping. Which, in my opinion, is cowardly - and immature. This person told me the relationship got off to a bad start trust-wise, so I guess I'm not surprised. At least they were able to admit they are as bad about it as the SO; but they also panicked a bit when they realized they'd just spilled a lot of info about their relationship to the blogger, and thus I was admonished to not write about them. Heh.

(speaking of MySpace, I uploaded the picture of my son breastfeeding - let's see how long it lasts!)

I actually don't even know this person that well; we met a few months ago and haven't really spent any one-on-one, getting-to-know-you time together. I do know, though, that they have a really interesting sense of fashion and are very creative. Which is really cool; I admire that in people. Their sense of style, actually, will be covered in a whole other post. Yes, it merits its own post.

It's actually kinda hard to write about someone you barely know. All I've got now are my impressions of them, and unless I want to talk crazy shit about them, what good is that? I wish I had greater insight into the mad relationship drama or some more knowledge about their life story, but since I don't, this is as good as it gets. For now.

But they did get me wondering if other bloggers face similar situations in their lives, where people are disproportionately worried that said blogger is going to write about them and their personal life. Or rather, write about things they don't want made public, to the point that they watch their words and don't confide as much as they used to to the blogger. I don't think this is true in my life (and if it is, I'll know in like 3 minutes); but like I said, I make a conscious effort to respect my friends' and family's privacy.

I'm curious if others have any stories about this to share...

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Posted by Tere @ 3/05/2007   | | | links to this post

Friday, March 02, 2007

How It All Began

In the comments section of a recent post, Babygirl asked me this question: "How did you get into blogging and what inspired you to begin?"

I figured that the answer to her question deserved a post of its own, since I just know I'm going to be long-winded about this.

First of all, I began to write when I was about 10. I mean, I wrote everyday: poems, short stories, a diary, letters I never intended to send, except the one to the President Bush about world peace and how kids deserve a safe America. I was convinced I was going to write something big and meaningful that was going to change humanity. Trying to stick to what I knew best - myself and the things that made up my world - I wrote mainly from a first-person perspective, which tends to work best in poetry and essays. To this day, that is what I enjoy writing the most, and I consider these individual blog posts to be mini-essays. (By the way, my early poetry? Sucks so much that it's funny in a very sad way).

In 2000, I worked at a dot com. I was only there a few months, since they burned through their money and had to shut down, but in that time, I learned a bit of HTML and how to use basic design programs. I was feeling very restless because of the situation at work and because I just felt like I should be more of a writer than I was at that time. I was frustrated over not knowing how to get my writing out and over some rejection I'd received in the few attempts I'd made. So I decided I needed to cut out the middleman, created an account in Geocities (which had this super easy program), and through an alias, launched a website.

That first website was basically me ranting about whatever I wanted to: traffic in Miami, how much I hated J Lo and Abercrombie & Fitch, how much relationships either sucked or rocked. I also posted my poetry and outed people who pissed me off - basically, it was my own place to do whatever the hell I wanted, which is exactly what I wanted. My anonymity afforded me the luxury to be as honest and bitchy and revealing as I wanted to be, and I loved it.

By 2004, though, I knew I had to give the site up. For one thing, too many people who had turned out to be bad friends and crappy human beings knew about it and read it, and I just didn't want them to have that kind of access to my life. For another, I had discovered blogging and had started a new site that I could update as much as I wanted (the original site was tedious to update: I had to format each and every page and picture, and it would sometimes take me 3 hours just to get 2 pieces up - total pain in the ass). I actually maintained both sites for about a year, but that was a pain in the ass, too. By the time I was halfway into my pregnancy, I just abandoned the original site and kept the other. (That original site, by the way, is still live and floating around in the great world wide web. It just hasn't been updated since 2005).

At my first blog, I was also anonymous, also using the alias I'd had for 5 years. That, too, became a problem. I originally had an alias to protect my real life - I've worked, at one time or another, for high-profile people, in the public sector or in constant contact with the media, and I couldn't afford to lose my job over the site. There was absolutely nothing on that site that could be traced to me - no name, no picture, nothing, so I felt pretty safe. When I started my blog, I became careless, using my first name sometimes and posting some pictures (nothing questionable). I still worked with the media and in the public sector, but was in a job where I knew that - as long as I didn't write during work hours, and I never did - I could have my site and not lose my job. So although no one knew about it, I felt like it was less risky.

And then one day last year, I just got sick of the anonymity. I reached a point where two very strong feelings converged. First, I wanted to write, really write, and not just do silly posts about superficial shit that happened in my life (the first blog was more like an online journal and was not in any way interesting). I wanted to work on my writing, find my voice, and meet new people, and blogging seemed like the right thing. Second, I was done with anonymity. I mean, not completely, but I didn't want to be tied to an alias, and I wanted to be able to discuss my childhood or life as a mother, or everything that I think is wrong with South Florida - anything I wanted to, really - and just be Tere. Me. I wanted to be me and I wanted to write.

So, here I am and here it is.

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Posted by Tere @ 3/02/2007   | | | links to this post