Holidays are never normal in my family.
I think it’s a safe bet that they’re never normal in ANY family.
My family celebrates holidays days after or sometimes before the actual holiday.
I work in news, my mother works in news, my brother and sister-in-law work for the TSA.
The news never stops and neither do travelers.
This year Thanksgiving was the day after Thanksgiving.
The drive to my brother’s place in Orlando was tolerable, despite the refrain “Are we there, yet?” (I eventually said, ‘yup, we’re there. We’re hugging everyone hello and sitting down on the sofa for a chat. CLEARLY, WE’RE NOT THERE YET.’)
My clan was the first to arrive, so I was unabashed in my dash to the kitchen to make a rum and Coke. My husband went for the moonshine.
This is not a euphemism. He brought a jar of moonshine. (smart man)
It wasn’t long before my mother arrived and launched herself head first into the kitchen, sweating off all her makeup and slaving over the hot stove.
Her boyfriend starts slamming moonshine with my husband, partners in crime.
Before the buzz wears off, I’m belting out Frozen songs to backup my niece when she forgets the lyrics.
I pile my plate high with carbs, a move I will regret when I see the pictures from the event later. (untag, untag, reevaluating ethical stance on lipo, untag)
My daughter gets two outside time outs in the span of an hour. During the latter of which, she inched dangerously close to the gator-infested lake and said, “I don’t want to be anywhere near you!” (I resisted the urge to reply, “The feeling is mutual, but alas, I can’t temporarily dispose of you.”)
Just when my buzz starts to wear off, someone sticks my four-month old niece on my lap and my holiday celebration is OVER.
Let me preface this by saying she is the sweetest, most relaxed infant ever. She’s a far cry from my babies, who were inclined to spontaneously toss their heads back and crash to the floor. She’s so strong she can stand for several minutes while you hold her hands. She holds up her head like a champ. She’s adorable… and the very last thing I want to be holding for over an hour on Thanksgiving.
There is the panicky feeling of being responsible for such a tiny human being that ISN’T mine.
There’s the horror of feeling like for only a moment, I once again have a newborn.
I will reiterate: I adored being pregnant. Childbirth was by no means “a blast”, but an experience I would suffer through again with enthusiasm. I would even consider having more children, if my current ones weren’t complete hellraising, demon seeds.
My niece is a peaceful little pile of cuteness.
My babies were belly-aching, crappy breastfeeding, perpetually crying, never napping monsters.
They had RSV, lactose Intolerance, cradle cap and mystery rashes.
As they grew older, it was MRSA and lice and fifth disease.
My son is about to turn 3 years old and he’s too terrified to poop in the potty.
His butt cheeks are like vice clamps.
If there is ever a day when I don’t have to wipe the crap out of that little muscle bum, I will throw a party.
Not kidding. An entire celebration dedicated to diaperless life. There will be confetti, shot out of a bum-shaped launcher.
After countless minutes bouncing this pleasant little girl on my lap, she starts to get wiggly and obviously hungry.
It’s my big break! I will be able to recapture my buzz with a quick stiff drink!
I report to my brother that his progeny is in need of sustenance, waiting for him to alert his wife that it’s time to secretly whip out a boob.
He hands me a bottle.
The holiday wraps up after my son lays a couple of noxious turds in his diaper, my grandparents massacre the bathroom with their own excrement and everybody is suddenly feeling painfully sober.
I hold my breath to give my (literally) stinking grandparents a hug goodbye, always wondering if it will be the last.
I don’t want my last memory of them to be clenching my teeth and plugging my nose. Instead, it would be my grandmother asking me twice what my daughter’s name is during a 5-minute conversation.
The drive home from Orlando is hell.
We hit bumper-to-bumper traffic because of an accident.
My son is sobbing for no apparent reason, which all but guarantees he has an ear infection.
Then a tree frog lands on my thigh, scaring the bejeesus out of me. (I can’t make this up.) I watch the dang thing wobble across the dashboard, dragging around one of Alma’s hairs, perching, poised to jump on my husband’s face causing the crash that will kill us all.
I was thankful for being back at home.
Oh, and for my husband, who still managed to provide much levity with his drunken shenanigans.
I suck at making friends. I suck way harder at keeping them.
My first best friend was a little Asian girl in kindergarten. She told me she had five dogs and ten brothers and six snakes. When I finally went to play at her house I learned she had no pets, one brother and quite an imagination.
We played in her father’s dentist office for hours.
I watched her at gymnastics practice.
For one year, she was my one and only friend. And then… she was gone.
I don’t know what happened. I am pretty sure we were still in the same school.
In middle school, I found a best friend I could be completely bizarre with.
We wore knee socks with Converse when everyone else was rocking Keds and pastel jeans.
We watched our first R-rated movie together, Pulp Fiction. I ended up with 2 copies of the soundtrack because her uber Christian parents weren’t too happy with the first lines of the first track. (Any of you f&^in’ pr&cks move and I’ll execute every motherf&^ing last one of you!”)
We were mall rats. We were dorks. We were AWESOME.
I went to a high school in the ghetto, my parents got divorced and I lived in crappy brown house on an iffy street in a so-so neighborhood.
She went to a Christian school.
For a brief moment in time in middle school I was also incredibly close to a girl named Susan.
She was cooler than me, dressed better than me, was smarter than me, but for some reason we jived.
It was a brief friendmance, note sharing and bracelet exchanges.
I ran into her at a breakfast joint several years ago while I was there with my husband. She was still cooler than me, dressed better than me, was smarter than me and we still jived. There were mojitos, thai lunch dates and confessions.
Then she and her husband moved to Canada. Seriously, Canada.
My closest friend in high school couldn’t have been more different from me. Or more alike. I was closer to her than anyone for years.
There was a falling out our senior year, probably because I was a bit of a dick back then. Although we made up, the drifting had already begun.
In high school, I met a girl named Tori with long hair and an enormous heart.
It was in a tech class and we bonded over our love for oldies. Real oldies. Cecilia. Cathy’s Clown. American Pie.
We reconnected when I moved back to Tampa and she’s incredible.
She’s an amazing mom and sings in a blues band. She’s honest, kind, hilarious and… about to move to Colorado.
Notice a trend here?
When I was 14, my first boyfriend wanted to lend me a cassette tape on “How to Make Friends.”
Another boyfriend told me I should “make attractive friends.”
This reveals more than just the fact that I dated some real jackasses.
I can’t keep a friend to save my life.
Another moved to Phoenix.
Another moved to go to Yale. (which is apparently in Massachusetts or Connecticut or whatever, where the smart people live)
Another is busy with his new baby. (Only after I was super busy with mine, so I TOTALLY get it)
I could keep going.
As my last super good friend starts packing to move across the country, I feel like I am boxing up the last vestige of my solo identity.
Wonder if that cassette tape is still out there somewhere.
I’ve been thinking a lot about getting old. Because I am.
I’ve been thinking a lot about plastic surgery. Because I’d never do it.
I’ve always had the utmost respect for beautiful women who allow themselves to age gracefully, but it seems to be a process you don’t see very often anymore.
There’s Elizabeth Taylor who spent her final days looking like a clown and obsessing over Michael Jackson.
There’s Meg Ryan. America’s Sweetheart went from fresh-faced to freak show.
Oh, and the self-proclaimed “world’s first supermodel” Janice Dickinson whose hideous face is only rivaled by her foul demeanor.
I long for the days of old, when gorgeous Hollywood starlets embraced their wrinkles and graying hair.
We all grow old, God willing.
We all die.
So, here’s to the glamorous ladies who didn’t waste their later life waging the uphill battle to look like a teenager.
They didn’t all end up looking gorgeous, but that is the real beauty in how they lived.
The most commonly heard phrase in our household used to be “I love you.”
Now, it’s “Go to bed.”
Our children are trying to slowly destroy us with interrupted sleep.
In the middle of the night my daughter started horror movie shrieking from her bedroom. I rushed in to find her placidly playing with crayons. She calmly asked, “Can I have a glass of water please?”
Her screaming disturbed Huck, so within a few minutes as I am just about to drift off to sleep, he strolls into our room and says in an outside voice, “Daddy? Daddy? Daddy?”
For absolutely no reason.
My husband and I shout nearly in unison, “GO TO BED!”
I can only think of two things worse than being awoken by my children: A fire alarm or being waterboarded.
I love sleep. Why don’t my kids? Or maybe the better question is WHY DO OUR CHILDREN HATE US?
Why else would they refuse to sleep through the night when they are so far beyond infancy?
You know how in movies sometimes, it seems so sweet when the parents rushes to their child’s bedroom to calm their fears after a nightmare?
It’s not cute. It IS the nightmare.
And now my husband is harboring not so secret resentment toward me because I am a sound sleeper.
Oh, I am fully aware that the mumbled f-bombs and sh-bombs are for me.
Hey, if I were wearing ear plugs I’d be a bad parent. But, it’s not my fault that after 3 years of not getting enough sleep my subconscious has tuned out MEANINGLESS SHRIEKING.
Even if I do wake up, it takes me infinitely longer to get the kids back to sleep. I guess something about mommy screams “party time!”
But, I can’t just tell my husband at 4 a.m. “Honey, you’re so much BETTER at putting them back to sleep.”
Heaven forbid there is ever an actual emergency involving my kids. I will shoot out of bed like a zombie and shout, “GO TO BED!”
My parents would probably both kill me for posting these pictures, maybe for different reasons. I stumbled across these the other night in a box of old stuff that’s migrated from house to house to apartment to apartment, traveling across an entire lifetime.
My parents were married for 23 years. They’ve been divorced now for 19. While it could make me sad to see these old snapshots, it doesn’t. Here’s why: it serves as a reminder that every couple goes through major changes in their lives and there is always the chance they can drift apart. But, every married couple was once madly in love and ready to conquer the world.
We should all remember that time, if nothing else to remember there’s somewhere to get back to when things have fallen apart. Don’t kill me mom and dad.
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.