Here’s me before having kids:
Sounds like a joke, but it’s not. We seriously considered taking a trip to Spain the year our daughter was born. We checked out hotels with cribs you can rent and planned day trips to a beach nearby.
We weren’t just naive. We were morons.
Our first trip with our daughter was stressful, but tolerable. We simply visited my mother in South Carolina and drove to see my Dad and his wife in North Carolina and then flew back home.
We weren’t anticipating conceiving our second child with so much ease, so that was the last relatively simple trip we will EVER take in our LIFE.
The next vacation was to Key West with the entire Cuban Cluster. (See previous post)
We figured if we just packed like champs, it would be a breeze. The Cluster drove. It’s just a short flight from St. Pete to the Keys. We figured that would be better than driving for several hours with screaming, miserable kids, right?
We found ourselves in the airport parking lot, what seems like miles from the terminal with two small children, two hulking car seats, one massive stroller and three big bags packed with all of the crap you could possibly need. What could you need during a four-day trip to Key West? Diapers, wipes, formula, sunscreen, tons of clothes because they will destroy them all with vomit, pee and poop, medicine, (because all children inevitably get sick the day before a vacation) books, toys and blankets. By the time we figured out the logistics of just checking in, which was nearly impossible, I was drenched in sweat, my blood pressure was through the roof and I just wanted to go back to work.
Even if your kids don’t scream and cry on the flight, they will wiggle, kick and even laugh too loudly. They will want food and milk and the one toy you forgot to pack.
Key West was sweltering and you have to walk everywhere. Slather the kids in sunscreen, walk a marathon and then you can’t even get blitzed because you’re with your whole family and oh, yeah … the kids are there. Nothing like watching the whole rest of the world have a blast on vacation while you suffer.
While middle-aged women with frosted hair are guzzling Mojitos, you’re in a muddy bathroom without A/C trying to change a diaper on the floor because restaurants just assume nobody would be stupid enough to bring a baby to Key West.
Our children simply can’t hang with the idea of sleeping somewhere different. My son was probably six months old at the time. If he could’ve talked he would’ve been saying, “This f&^ing Pack ‘N Play is a bunchabullshit.” He woke up every single hour. We took turns, but when it’s that frequent ain’t NOBODY sleepin’.
My daughter slept in bed with us, but only when we would sleep with her. It was an 8 p.m. curfew, the next two hours spent staring at the ceiling, getting kicked repeatedly and wondering why we ever had children.
Trips around town were strung together by a series of meltdowns. A store accused my daughter of breaking a maraca that probably cost .10 cents to make. My husband and I took turns consoling my hysterical son during dinner at a fancy restaurant. A lunch was ruined by my daughter screaming for no apparent reason.
My amazing mother-in-law did watch the kids for an afternoon, so the rest of us could go snorkeling. I had a blast, but my husband and sister-in-law nearly barfed on the ride back to shore.
But, that all didn’t stop us from trying to go on vacation with the kids again. And we decided to drive!
That’s a story for another time.
My dogs were relegated to second class citizens the very second we welcomed our daughter into the world.
What did we do with them while I was in labor? I don’t know.
In the days that followed? No clue.
Now that we have two children, the dogs are starting to look and act like dingos — or those
refuse-consuming street mutts in Chile.
They stare wild-eyed while we eat and cower nearby hoping someone will just touch them. And they attack each other viciously whenever anyone knocks at the door. Nobody will ever try to break in once they realize my dogs are so dang crazy they’ll kill each other along with an intruder.
My Boston has Addison’s Disease. He’s on medication, but it costs more than $1 a pill. He’s supposed to have three a day, but c’mon. That’s expensive. So, I’ve been skimping, giving him two and hoping for the best.
I should’ve realized something wasn’t right when he started urinating on every single fake tree in the entire house.
We moved all the expensive fake plants upstairs. Our downstairs is a barren desert. Our upstairs (beyond the dog-proof gates), a veritable rain forest.
And then, we woke up to find a shimmering, soggy pile of presents on Christmas morning. Ever try to peel a wet label off a bottle of beer? Now, try to do that to dozens of presents for your kids and throw in the fact that it smells like dog piss.
My dog must REALLY hate “Santa.”
Don’t get me wrong, our dogs are still living the high life. They have comfy dog beds (that haven’t been washed in ages). We feed them every day (when we remember). And they always have water. (With dog hair and slimy, mystery dog goop stuck to the sides of the bowl.)
At least now they have a huge backyard to poop in. And boy, do they poop! If those piles were landmines, we’d all be dead ten times over at least.
When it’s about getting to work on time OR digging wrist-deep into a thin plastic bag that’s likely to rip the second you strain that poop away from the grass, I choose punctuality.
“You missed one.”
“There’s another one.”
“You missed one.”
“Look here, mama!!!”
My son has taken to soccer-kicking the dogs whenever they’re anywhere near him. No matter how many times we show him how to be gentle or sweet, he does the full wind-up and boots them in the face.
God bless ’em, they still haven’t bitten him.
My poor Boston is nearly blind in one eye and the other eye isn’t far behind. Yet, I still curse at HIM when I trip over him in the kitchen. I can see perfectly fine, so why I am such a dick?
You’ve probably heard the saying, “There aren’t bad dogs, just bad owners.”
Hey, that’s us! Look over here. Yeah — We’re horrible dog owners!
I adore my dog, and I will be crushed when his time comes.
I’ve just been too busy trying to keep two small human beings alive to be all that concerned about the hairy pieces of furniture that meander around the house hoovering crumbs.
It’s a kid-eat-dog world.
Anyone who can guess very specifically what this is that I’m cleaning up, while my daughter screams “Mommy!” (because she needs three toys, not two,) will win a bazzilliongazillion dollars:
To say marrying into a Cuban family was a culture shock would be an understatement.
I’m not making a blanket statement about all Cubans, just sharing what I’ve learned about MY Cubans.
Prepare yourself to be offended. Most topics that white people would consider gauche are not only acceptable topics for My Cubans, they are the preferred ones.
I was encouraged to breast feed in front of the family. “It’s natural,” they said. Maybe in Africa, the remote parts where they don’t have DOORS.
The other day during lunch at Chili’s, the first hot topic was foreskin. My poor teenage nephew looked like he was going to shrivel up and die in the pan of queso.
The second hot topic came about because I was being harassed again for refusing to eat Bacalao. (See previous post.) This led to an anecdotal reference to a Cuban song about a guy who smells something delicious cooking in the kitchen, which turns out to be women boiling their underwear.
My mother-in-law randomly told us the other day exactly how many times she had diarrhea. When you look at her in shock, she says, “What??”
Oversharing is considered casual conversation, which means I probably seem like a stick in the mud. In reality, us white folk are probably too hung up on what other people think about us. My Cubans are right. This is the real and quite literal crap that happens to all of us.
Now, let’s talk about kissing. I remember when I met my mother’s British friend in Miami at an outdoor market, and he leaned in to give me the customary South Florida kiss on the cheek. I stretched backwards like Keanu in the Matrix.
I have a very definite body buffer zone. Burst it and you shall die. What I didn’t know when I met my husband was that it’s actually a required kiss on the cheek every single time you meet and again when you say goodbye. Cuban families are not generally small and they tend to move in clusters. It’s a lot of kissing.
Which brings me to goodbyes. The world’s longest, most drawn-out goodbyes. Over the phone, in person … doesn’t matter. Goodbye will lead to discussion about the next time you’ll see them, what currently ails them, what the week will hold and how’s the weather.
I’ve learned that when my Cuban family yells, they’re just “passionate.”
When my children are behaving like brats, they just have “strong personalities.”
My Cubans will never let something go, like forcing a daughter-in-law to eat stinky fish.
But, they don’t hold grudges. Family is family forever, no matter how often they screw you over. They have what most consider an “indomitable spirit.” (Which has to come from living in a country where survival is dependent on being resourceful and resilient)
My mother-in-law told me about how the government only issues you one bucket in order to wash your newborn baby. One bucket per family. When they fled Cuba, they gave their bucket to a neighbor and the government took it back within days.
One thing you will never be in a Cuban family is bored. (Unless you’re my 15-year-old nephew, who thinks that almost everything is boring.) Or hungry. You’ll definitely never be hungry.
Like the school lunch room is prime real estate for bullying, the dinner table is the premiere choice for children misbehaving. In our house, very little of dinner time is actually spent consuming food.
There was the moment my daughter thought it would be funny to “hide her hands” underneath the placemat and dumped an entire cup of milk across the table. Or my son was banging a spoon drenched in Chef Boyardee sauce under the table repeatedly, spewing pseudo blood stains across the room. (Yeah, I feed him Chef Boyardee. I’ve considered graduating to Hamburger Helper, but it seems so… complicated)
Somehow my kids spend most of their time simply not eating. They poke food, chew a single bite for ten minutes and before you know it they say, “I’m done.”
I have no shame. I bribe them with promises of chocolate and Jell-O and that’s just to get them to eat a single piece of meatloaf or a single green bean. (My daughter thinks it qualifies if she removes a single bean from the pod and eats it.)
But, the real insult comes the moment I set their plates on the table and say, “dinner is ready.” I feel so proud that I created a meal that has a protein, a starch and a vegetable and still tastes good and the second my daughter walks up to the table she makes a stank face and says, “I don’t like that.” Even worse, she takes a bite and then says, “I don’t like that.”
Then my husband takes a bite and he doesn’t have to say anything. I can tell by the look on his face that he considers it barely edible.
My children prefer their daddy’s Cuban food. Picadillo, ropa vieja, beans and rice, breaded steak and homemade chicken nuggets. When it’s my turn it’s inevitably a failed experiment. It’s soul-crushing.
The dogs are the only ones in the house that enjoy dinnertime. The second one of the children tastes something and decides they don’t like it, they toss it to a dog. I’ve seen my dog scarf down things that couldn’t possibly fit down his gullet. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a Boston Terrier eat an English Muffin in one retching swallow.
My dad was a teacher, high school football coach and even the school bus driver to make ends meet. My mother stayed at home or worked part time. We went camping, took road trips and had family night every Sunday. We had what I refer to as the Christian Conversion Van; complete with blue shag carpeting for the interior, floor to ceiling. We didn’t have a lot of money. It wasn’t all Slip ‘N Slides and swimming pools. But, it’s safe to say I had the quintessential childhood.
Now, that I have my own children, I’m trying to figure out what makes my children’s childhood seem so vastly different.
Oh, wait I know.
I work full-time.
My husband works full-time.
My kids spend 8 to 11 hours a day with complete strangers. No wonder they don’t even vaguely resemble the children I spend a couple of hours a day trying to mold them into. By the time I get home, I’m too dang tired to be Supermom.
My mom was June Cleaver. I feel like Courtney Love.
My baking skills begin and end at banana bread. Woah, I can mix a bunch of crap in a bowl and hit “bake.” I dread the day my kidlets need help with a science project. I will probably just suggest that whole baking soda volcano thing EVERY YEAR. My mom actually made our playdough. My mom actually baked our birthday cakes. I stand in line at the Publix bakery for one and feel frazzled.
While most stay-at-home moms probably daydream about power suits, fatter bank accounts and adult conversation, I’m sitting around imagining what it would be like to rush the kids to soccer practice in sweatpants. I want to have playdough stuck in my finger nails, not Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. I want to smell like a campfire, not like long-day-at-work funk. I want to finger paint with my daughter and kick the ball around with my son. Instead, it’s a mad dash to feed them, bathe them and rush them into bed so they can sleep so we can wake them up and clothe them, feed them and rush them to school. Wash, rinse, repeat.
I’ve spent all of these years working overnight, working weekends and working holidays so I could give my children a better life than the one I had.
Now, I am slowly coming to the realization that less money and more time is what they need to have a childhood even a fraction as awesome as mine was. That and a Christian Conversion Van.
My daughter is 3, and simultaneously 16.
There are the obvious ways, like wanting to paint her nails every single day. We’ve told her that she can only do that for special occasions, but it doesn’t stop her from begging and whining EVERY SINGLE DAY. She’s already had two boyfriends. Xander was adorable, smart and sweet. Gus is cute, but more of a lackey, jumping up to get her bag for her every day and opening doors.
The less obvious ways are driving me insane!
Today, on the way to the zoo she said, “Turn the music off! I’m trying to rest!”
Tonight, she started screaming “Mommy, mommy, mommy!” from her room. (par for the course) I contemplate whether there is even a remote possibility that she’s gouged out one of her own eyeballs with a colored pencil and pray that she just has to pee.
In reality, she called me in there to say, “I want to play with the strings from the toy, not the toy.” I said, “That’s fine.” To which she responded with disdain, “Take the toy out of my bed, so I can sleep!”
I know this is the point in her life when I need to be “putting my foot down” and “laying down the law.” But, there’s the other part of me that happens to overhear her imitating my “angry voice” when talking to ME.
Today when she was exasperated and trying to explain her goal in putting a certain blanket on a certain doll in a certain way she said, “No, it goes like this. See how that works?”
That’s my phrase. That’s my “I’m so pissed off at right now I could spit blood in your pretty little blue eyes… you just threw food at me intentionally, more than once, you’re going to time out, see how that works?!?”
Do I really want to create a little monster version of myself?
(As I write this, she is screaming “Mommy” from her room right now. I am guessing a serial killer isn’t hovering over her bed watching her scream my “name” repeatedly)
There are ways in which her maturity is cute, almost endearing. She loves to “mother” her little brother. She comforts him by saying, “It’s okay, Huck.” She rewards him saying, “Good job, buddy!” Mostly though, she just sounds like everything I dreaded about eventually having a teenager. She already rolls her eyes. She already says, “Daddy is crazy.”
In five years that will be, “Daddy is stupid.” In 12 it will be, “My Dad is such a f&^ing retard.”
What happened to the sweet stage? I thought we were supposed to get past the Terrible Twos and into the whole glorious, brilliant and doting child stage. She sometimes tells me unsolicited that she loves me.
Then there’s the day recently when she said, “I love Daddy, you love me, but I don’t love you.” I asked her if she was confused and to repeat herself. She said it again, “I love Daddy, you love me, but I don’t love you.” Crushed by someone so small she can’t even put on her own shirt. Breaking my heart daily.
I know I need to grow a pair, but I’m afraid my daughter already beat me to it. She’s walking around with bowling balls. I’m just the unlucky pin that suffered through labor to bring her into this world.
Any day now, I fully expect her to walk down those stairs dressed in ripped jeans and a crop top and ask, “Can my boyfriend spend the night, I mean what’s the big f&*ing deal?”
Bacalao is the bane of my existence. When you think about in-laws, it probably conjures up thousands of other points of contention. But, you’re probably not married into a Cuban family. That makes it sound like they’re the mafia. Close enough.
So, if you don’t know what bacalao is, it’s basically codfish. The best way to describe it is going to be offensive. There’s no way around it. If you have small dogs, you’ll understand. If you don’t have their anal glands expressed, the result is what my husband refers to as “fish ass.” That’s what bacalao smells like. When I walk into my mother-in-law’s home on a Friday and that’s what she’s cooking, it’s like getting smacked in the face with a wall of fish ass.
I have politely turned down bacalao numerous times. I love tilapia, salmon and any kind of shellfish, but keep your anal gland, fish-ass bacalao away from me.
If you don’t know Cuban mothers, they don’t take no for an answer, especially when it comes to food.
The last time I turned down bacalao, I heard my mother-in-law “oooh” and “ahhh” over bacalao like it was some kind of aphrodisiac for an hour. She shouts (because when you’re Cuban, it’s all shouting) “Try it! You’ll love it! You don’t know if you don’t try it!”
When the other family members catch wind, it’s the same argument all over again from them. From my kid’s tia, abuelo … even my nephew chimed in recently.
My sister-in-law’s boyfriend made bacalao fritters. All I could think was, ‘Don’t try to hide fish ass inside breading like it’s some kind of crab cake. Don’t insult crab cakes like that!’
I feel compelled to say that my mother-in-law is a phenomenal cook. I’m not just saying this because she might see it, which she will. Her yellow rice, which is actually orange and made with Pabst Blue Ribbon, is one of the best meals I’ve ever had. It’s not far behind the lobster ravioli I had at some fancy schmancy restaurant in New Orleans. Her black beans and rice is only rivaled my husband’s. (He adds more vinegar, which is “white people” for AWESOME)
My kids prefer her to food to mine on any given night. In fact, if it weren’t for my mother-in-law, I am sure my children would literally never consume protein. But, seriously … I have never been so pressured to eat something I have no intention of eating.
I told them, “I’m like a vegetarian, except the only thing I won’t eat is bacalao.”
I just know I’m gonna get hosed. She’s gonna sneak that crap fish into some kind of lasagna, casserole or some other irresistible white people food, damn her! I will spend the rest of my life trying to sniff out fish ass in every single thing I eat at my mother-in-law’s.
If only there was some way to pay her back with some awful white people food.
But, really, what can you do with bologna and mayo that is so awesomely offensive?