By Cynthia Garza
on January 27, 2012
With 0 comments
By Dos Borreguitas
on August 17, 2011
With 1 comments
When we traveled down to Nicaragua and Honduras last year when the toddler was 9 months we left our regular stroller at home and instead took the Bjorn baby carrier and another baby sling I got from Target. It was an easy decision to make -- all I had to do was imagine the route from my husband's grandmother's house to his aunts' and uncles' houses about two blocks away. Okay, there are steps at the front door of abuela's house, a street that may have been paved at some point but that is now mostly dirt and rocks with charcos and perros callejeros crossing your path. I should probably also mention the pig tied up to the neighbor's fence -- which forces you to walk mid-street, just to be safe. Sidewalks? Ha, maybe there's one here and there but any sliver of concrete is basically a mirage that suddenly ends just as you're starting to enjoy its smoothness.
In other words, this is stroller HELL. Even a jogging stroller with its inflatable bicycle tires wouldn't last a day in these dusty streets. It would be an exercise in frustration managing it. So the Bjorn and my brazos were all we needed. And with so much family around to carry baby, who needed a stroller anyway?
I've mentioned it in this blog before, but the decision for me to use a baby carrier or sling when the toddler was a wee baby was always a practical matter -- because sometimes it just makes more sense to have the baby tied close to you when you need to have free hands and the ground underneath isn't compatible with a stroller. So it was pretty interesting to read this piece that aired on NPR's All Things Considered two weeks ago about Bolivia's younger generation rechazando the sling, or the aguayo, as they call it in Bolivia, in favor of the more western stroller. Here's a snippet. Lourdes Condori is a young woman they interviewed:
That's because in La Paz, carrying an aguayo marks people as indigenous — and Condori wants to be considered more Western, more "modern."
Condori proudly shows off the stroller — a secondhand blue canvas one. But the surrounding neighborhood is full of puddles and potholes, no sidewalks, and a lot of stray dogs — not good terrain for a stroller.
It takes almost 10 minutes just to get it out of Condori's house, with lots of lifting and some three-point-turns.
Condori's mother, Patricia, thinks strollers are ridiculous.
The line in there -- carrying an aguayo marks people as indigenous -- is interesting food for thought and me stop to think about who the baby-wearing set is here in the U.S. and in Latin America. What does a Bjorn mark its wearer's as? Stretchy slings? Or for that matter, Graco strollers? Jogging stroller? Maclaren stroller? Chicco stroller? What do they say about the parent? What does it say about you?
Let's face it, I see lots of slings at the farmer's market or the food co-op. Not so much at Wal-mart or Dollar Tree (where they don't know what BPA-free is). I've seen men wearing their children in slings here in the U.S. -- on just a few occasions, I might add -- but I'm pretty sure that's not a common thing in countries like Mexico. Or for that matter, not all Mexican women are walking around in Mexico with rebozos. I have an image from my childhood of the poor working mothers who sold their artesanias on the sides of the street in the border towns. Sometimes they had a baby held close to them in a sling. Sometimes their older children hawked Canel's chicle for a few cents a pack.
In any case, I wonder what other Latinas here in the U.S. think about baby-wearing. Are crunchy Latinas rare? If you look at the stats, most Latinas have their babies really young, and I wonder how much economics or even maturity plays into the decision to be a more attached parent. Or even cultural attachment, and by that I mean wearing a sling as a way to connect to our forebears. My mother didn't use a baby sling. Heck, she didn't use a car seat either. I'm not sure she even used many strollers because even after a hundred times of explaining to her how to close the stroller, she STILL would rather put it in the car unfolded. Aye mi mama.
Back to the NPR piece, I like the way it ends, and the way the young girl reconciles her decision on what to use is not too different from my own reasoning. We live in a world where both a sling AND a stroller have their place. And we can use both, and not be defined by either.
By Dos Borreguitas
on August 06, 2011
With 1 comments
I grew up with three brothers -- so that makes us four siblings, and we were all born with a 5 year 3 month window. Like nesting dolls. So growing up, that meant natural selection was in full effect at our house. Or better explained, if you weren't the first one to get to the box of Fruity Pebbles you were going to miss out because whoever got to it first would eat the whole box --just 'cos. Survival of the fittest. Of course, if another sibling wanted to challenge the pecking order there was always fighting that broke out -- and I don't mean whiny arguing. I mean duking it out, hair pulling, nail digging, chasing around the house, rolling on the floor kind of fights. As soon as my mom heard us or saw us fighting, she always said the same thing: Bola de animales! Stop fighting! And we would, eventually. Looking back I think two things -- how did she raise four kids that close in age and how are we all fairly normal people?
I was thinking of my mom's favorite expression of "bola de animales" yesterday I took the toddler K to the National Zoo -- all by herself, no sibling competition. And the actual bola de animales we were going to see, well, these actually behave, probably because they don't have to fight for their food or shelter or even love, as even their mating is planned sometimes. The husband is sort of against zoos for that reason -- he hates the captivity part. But how else is the toddler supposed to learn about animals? I mean, when she saw a squirrel she said oso because she has no size perspective.
So yes, we're really into animals at our house right now, and the toddler K has most of the basic ones down. The only thing is I switch between English and Spanish all the time, which I guess isn't so bad because she knows most of them by their English and Spanish name. I cheat sometimes when I read books and will just say the name in Spanish. Like in Brown Bear book, I tend to say all the animal names in Spanish instead, but otherwise read the book in English. The toddler is also into making animal sounds, also in English and Spanish. As in guau guau to imitate a dog, instead of woof or ruff. Miau and meow are cognates, right? And a horsie neighs in English, but what does it do in Spanish? She hasn't learned kikiriki or cock-a-doodle-doo yet because we've actually never shown her a rooster in real life -- which is weird because growing up I distinctly remember hearing them in the morning when I slept at my guela's house -- not on a farm, the neighbor had them. Small town. They were sooooo ahead of the free-range and backyard chicken trend.
At the zoo, we got to see the pandas chowing down on their bamboo, and the sloth bear reminded me that I needed to cut the toddler's nails. The lions were out and playful. But of course, my favorite animals are the farm animals. Pandas are cute and all, but we're not allowed to pet the pandas like we can do with the burros and chivos in the Kids' Farm. I was actually trying to teach the toddler the sound the chivo made, and all I could think of were the poor chivos tied to a tree outside my grandmother's that were about to become cabrito guisado after a few hours. It was a total Clarice Starling moment, but instead of lambs I hear chivos. **shudder** Well, at least these zoo chivos have their own little playground.
Moving on to happy thoughts, as expected the burros made our day. Look at how cute and sweet. No wonder we've immortalized them in pinatas and entrusted them as keepers of the candy!
By Dos Borreguitas
on June 19, 2011
With 1 comments
The toddler isn't even two yet and she absolutely adores her papa. They're so close, she even feels it's okay to call him by his first name about 90 percent of the time.
To E, for all that you do every single day, for loving our little K con todo corazon y alma, for teaching her things I know nothing about, instilling in her a sense of wonder and curiosity about the world, for making her breakfast every single morning, for bath, reading and bedtimes, and for getting her a bottle at 6 a.m. when she cries, for teaching her to be a good person -- thank you. You're a terrific father, and that makes both me and K so lucky. xoxo.
By Dos Borreguitas
on May 08, 2011
With 7 comments
This Dia de las Madres was pretty great. Nothing extraordinary -- I mean, I did start out the day getting my own behind out of bed and making my own coffee. And that pretty much was how the day went, pretty routine. I actually prefer to keep the holidays -- any holiday -- low-key. We went out for lunch at my favorite Vietnamese restaurant in the DC-area, in Seven Corners in Virginia, and that alone made my week. It probably made my mother's week, too, because she loves to go get Vietnamese with me just to find the Com Chin Ga on the menu. The como chinga.
I actually got my Mother's Day gift last week after I got out of the hair salon. The husband and toddler met me outside when I was done, and the husband had a little bag with him. And I kept asking -- jodiendo -- what it was, who was it for until finally he was like, Okay, it's for you. I was like -- wow, you're a whole week early. He was like WTF why didn't the cashier tell me it was next week?! I guess if it ain't bought at the last minute it just don't feel right. It was a lovely necklace and earrings and I've been wearing them all week. Nothing fancy, but just my style.
This is the second year I celebrate Mother's Day as a mother, and tonight as I rocked the toddler K to sleep I was thinking how fast it's gone by -- and then thought, wow, this child is really getting too big to be rocked to sleep every night. Thing is, I really do enjoy rocking her to sleep. It's probably because after her bath and a few bedtime books, she's pretty much ready to pass out by 8 or 8:30-ish. No long drawn out night scenes where I'd need to reach for the final straw bedtime book Now Go the F*$k to Sleep. I'm sure at some point I'll need that book. But for now, she just melts into sleep in my arms, and I love smelling her freshly lotioned cuerpecito and holding her close to me because I know these moments will soon be gone ... unless I'm like the psycho mom in Love You Forever and drive to her dorm or house when she's married and take a ladder with me to climb in the window to rock her to sleep. Don't get me wrong, love the book. But it is total overbearing mama gallina. I'm giving it til she sleeps in a toddler bed, then she can fall asleep on her own.
Anyway, I hope all mother's out there had a wonderful day! And to all my mothers -- my mom, my step-mom, my grandma and my mother-in-law -- las amo a todas.
By Dos Borreguitas
on January 11, 2011
With 0 comments
So I've said before I haven't been too good about reading parenting books, but that's because I oversaturate my brain with what I read online. And here are two articles I've read this week that are food for thought for any mother:
*** Regrets of a Stay-at-Home Mom is an essay in Salon by a once-journalist who up and quit her job to raise her boys. She now has boys on the verge of college, an ex-husband and is "financially screwed." An honest take, and good read for anyone considering this, especially in this economy. A reality check: "Research shows that mothers earn 4 to 15 percent less than non-mothers with comparable jobs and qualifications, that as job candidates, mothers are perceived as less competent and committed than non-mothers (fathers, in contrast, rate higher than men without kids)."
*** So you can forget about No More Wire Hangers(!!!!) because there's a new whip-cracking, extreme (some might call dictator) parent with a book out -- and she's a Chinese mama. NOTE: THIS IS THE CHINESE PLAYBOOK TO RAISE SUCCESSFUL KIDS. Along that route, though, there will be no playdates, no sleepovers, nothing below an A, and oh yeah, NO WHINING! And your child must learn to play the piano and/or violin WELL!
Wet your palate by reading Amy Chua's essay in the Wall Street Journal called "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior." Then read the reviews about her just-out book "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother." Haven't read the book yet so I want to try to reserve my judgment. It's true, I really dislike the idea of playdates, and I want my toddler to eventually take up the piano, but I don't think I have it in me let my ambitions for my child trump my emotions.
And so this leads me to a Barbara Walter-ish question: If Chinese mothers are Tiger Mothers, what are Latina mothers? I don't know that there's a consistent cultural thread that runs through parenting style, so that's a tough one.
By Dos Borreguitas
on January 06, 2011
With 4 comments
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine and I took our toddlers to a "soft playroom" which is exactly what it sounds like -- a room where the mats, big blocks, slides, walls, EVERYTHING is cushiony soft. Like those Charmin bears. It's a place where you can let Toddler go wild, let them thrash and throw themselves around and not have to worry about them bumping their heads or breaking a bone in a fall. The whole time we were there I couldn't shake the image in my head of those rooms they keep people with straight-jackets in the asylum. I wanted to thrash myself around.
Other than the overt safeness of it all, the other thing I noticed was that parents outnumbered children. Or even if they didn't, they seemed like they did because they're bigger and they take up too much room in a place like that. I was so glad when the toddler K decided she didn't like the plastic ball pit area. Five parents were just sitting around soaking their feet in plastic balls, as if it needed more funk smell, while one child played in there. I'm not exactly the chat-em-up-with-random-parents-I-don't-know kind of mama (versus the husband, whom I call The Platicator). Not much into the playdates, either.
There was LOTS of hovering going on. LOTS. Me included, mostly because what kind of a parent would I be if I let her roam freely while I sat on the sidelines and read a magazine or did my nails or Facebooked-away on my iPhone? Uh, I'd have the mindset of an '80s or '70s or '60s or anything before that kind of parent. Actually, if that were really the case I probably would've been no where in sight or outside having a smoke or something '60s-ish.
In defense of myself, I sort of had an excuse to hover. The toddler is 17 months, and there were other kids in there who were like 4-years old. She's still a little on the babosita side, so I have to guide her. But soon as she's independent playerette, vamonos, you're on your own kiddo. At least that's what I hope.
It'll probably be okay because we're ensconced by safety, right?
Let me digress a little ... I'm always lamenting playgrounds of the past. We live right next to a park, and there's a street sign right by our house with a see saw on it, which means a hell yeah! playground. But the toddler will never know what it means because THERE IS NO SEE SAW HERE. Know where it is? Yeah, in the '80s, with all the other McDonald's and Burger King playground equipment. And along with super tall metal slides that burn the backs of your legs. Merry-go-rounds that spin so fast it makes you puke and stumble off it drunk on exhilaration. Monkey bars.
No, what's in our playground is one of those standard yellow and blue all-in-one playground pieces and a modern jungle gym that is cool, but safe, of course. And cushiony rubberized flooring everywhere!
It's not that this is bad playground equipment. It's nice-looking. And safety is important. But I don't think any of this stuff gets a kids (5 and up, I mean) heart pumping with adrenaline the way that little merry-go-round got ours. Maybe that's why they prefer to stay glued to a Nintendo DS? I'm not advocating we put high beams on the playground and let the kids leap off them into glass shards, but there's got to be a mid-point between old school playgrounds and soft playrooms, right?
I have three brothers, and none of us ever broke any bones growing up. And we played outside a ton WITHOUT parent supervision. And rode bikes without helmets. And we never wore sun block and got super dark by the end of summer. Of course, my little brother did take a bad fall from the top of the monkey bars in preschool and busted his face going down, until he hit the hard dirt floor. The teachers hadn't noticed until my mom got there to pick him up. And, the worst play accident to happen to me was when I was around 7, and I came up behind my older brother as he was practicing his Little League baseball swings with an aluminum Louiseville slugger bat. He didn't notice me and hit me right across the forehead. I fell flat on my feet, got a huge orange-sized bump on my head that receded to a little knot that I still have today. My parents didn't even take me to the doctor. I probably would have taken my child to get an MRI because that's how parents roll these days. That's how we roll, in a world of soft playrooms.
By Dos Borreguitas
on December 31, 2010
With 0 comments
It's becoming a New Year's Eve tradition in my house that my husband and I stay home, make a nice dinner, have some wine and decadent dessert -- then champagne and a dozen grapes at midnight -- then peace, lights out! We do the uvas thing -- or my husband does and I've adopted it now, too -- but I'm not wearing yellow underwear and I don't have new clothes on, or any other New Years-ish traditions. Champagne and grapes is enough.
It's T - 3 hours til midnight as I write, and the toddler K is already fast asleep in her room upstairs, so it's nice and quiet downstairs. No more child bouncing from couch to floor, throwing her toys over the baby gate into the kitchen, pulling the dogs' tails, banging on the laptop keys while she Skypes with the grandparents, taking food out of her mouth and handing it back to me all slobbery, telling me "no, no, no!!!" for every-friggin-thing. I miss her when she's asleep. But dinner will be good tonight ... no taking down bites between keeping the toddler K from feeding the dog from the high chair.
My husband made a pork loin with a grapefruit sauce, and I made an endive salad with dried cranberries and walnuts, and mashed potatoes with garlic, rosemary and brie, in lieu of butter. It smells delicioso :P
I've enjoyed these quiet evenings at home over the past three years. I'm sure it won't be this way forever. I mean, we sure do enjoy a good fiesta. But we have a toddler right now, so going out involves getting a sitter, etc., etc. Plus, we don't live too close to extended family and friends so if we went out it'd probably just be us two, anyway. So I'd rather stay at home and have some peace and quiet to think about all that's happened in the past year, and all that I hope for in the upcoming year. Many things, but I'll take it one day at a time.
Tomorrow we'll be going over to a friend's house in Philly for a New Year's Day lunch, which I'm sure will include black-eyed peas. Between the uvas and BEP's hopefully we'll have enough suerte to last us til next Dec. 31. Here's what Walter Mercado says we have in store. Always a good read.
I wish everyone a blessed, healthy and happy New Year! Y sobre todo, mucho, mucho amor!
By Dos Borreguitas
on November 10, 2010
With 0 comments
The Wall Street Journal has an interesting essay and blog post that came out this past weekend on the Madness of Modern Motherhood -- a critical view of the phenomenon of mothers who spend every moment attached to their child. They breastfeed, sleep with them, wear them in slings, cover their tushes in cloth diapers, make homemade baby food and totally attune their own schedules to fit baby's needs. This is heralded by "The Baby Book" by William and Martha Sears, which I haven't read because, well, I'd rather read fiction than baby books. There, I said it.
So anyway, attached parenting? Yeah, that's not me, for the most part.
Reading this took me back to the beginning of it all, and I remember there was a point when the baby K was in the NICU (neo-natal intensive care unit) a few days after she was born and the lactation nurses came by for the third or fourth time to check in with me to make sure all systems were a go, that my "supply" had come in (Waiting for Spindletop? YES, it was waaaaay more painful than squeezing out a child). I remember one of the lactation nurses telling me several times over the course of these days to take a "baby vacation" when I got home -- to take a full day, or two or three and just lie with my baby in bed. To pack a lunch, or have my husband do it for me, and stay in my bedroom right by my baby at all times. To bond. To do lots of skin-to-skin. To attach.
Oh, silly lacatation evangelicals.
I ended up in lacatation hell, and could barely even hold my baby, let alone breastfeed. This is something said evangelicals never mentioned and actually glossed over it when I asked about it. Not to get into all the gory details but let's just say mastitis, shooting pain, 103 fever, ER, trauma. For starters. There were other complications over the course of the first month. I kept at it, but after three months I was done.
I really, really hoped to breastfeed as long as I could. I read the pamphlets, scoured the internet and even took a class while I was pregnant. But it just didn't happen for me.
So much for attaching to baby. Well, I made up for it -- at least in my mind -- by making homemade baby food. Okay, really, I made most of the baby K's baby food because I got the most awesome gift at one of my baby showers -- a Beaba Babycook, which steams and purees baby food in one little contraption. I was obsessed with using it because I thought it was cool and it was so easy, so I ended up giving my child almost no canned baby food.
And just like Zack Galifianakis in the Hangover, I've also done my share of baby-wearing in a sling, Bjorn and backpack. Very slimming ;) But I didn't do it because I wanted to be attached to my baby. I just thought it was more comfortable than holding a baby in your tired arms. It's a space-saver on the Metro. And it makes things sooooo much easier when breaking down a stroller, taking off shoes and jacket and running a baby bag through security at an airport. My baby-wearing is more pragmatic than anything else.
The essay by Erica Jong in the WSJ takes a critical view of attached parenting, but I say if it works for you and if you feel you can do it all, fine. If you want to wear a sling and let your child sleep in their own crib in their own room, that'll work too.
It's a personal matter and sometimes just a matter of convenience. The reality is that with work, commuting, keeping up house, home and pets, and doing things for yourself like working out or waxing your upper lip (I ask for time for small, but important things, really), sometimes there just aren't enough hours in a day to do it all and overthink it along the way. We just do.
It took me a while to figure this out, but I don't feel guilty about my choices. I do what I can, when I can. I do what feels right to me.
So, where do dads fit into all of this? I mean, the Bjorn works on a dad, but the sling is a bit weird, me thinks. In my house, we split up things pretty much down the middle.
And speaking of cool baby carriers, Babyhawk has one with calaveras print. Dia de Los Muertos every day!
By Dos Borreguitas
on November 05, 2010
With 1 comments
I'm away from home again, this time at a conference for work that is fully across the country -- actually, in the O.C. (Orange County). I always miss my little one terribly when I have to travel for work, but I know I am so, so, so, so, so soooooooo fortunate to have my mother take care of my daughter while the husband and I work, or travel for work.
See, my mom left her own home in South Texas to come stay with us aaaaaaaall the way up in DC when my maternity leave ended last year. I was in a bind -- the waiting lists for daycare in DC were totally insane. Like, I basically had to think about signing up for a daycare before I got pregnant because the waiting lists were over a year long (not to mention the cost that was as much as a mortgage payment). That kind of insanity. So I asked my mom, who is retired, if she could come up and take care of baby K for a few months. She said sure, and a year later and she hasn't left. She's here for good.
I never even followed up/pestered the daycare about where I was on the waiting list. Why? I have no issues with sending babies and kids to daycare when parents have no other choice, but if there's even a chance of having it work out, there's no one like grandma to watch over iddy-biddy-baby when mom isn't around. I was extremely attached to my ama, and I still am very much -- and my grandmother is in her late '80's and I've got my own little one. My ama is like another mother to me. There is just something quite wonderful about the grandmother-grandchild bond and I'm beyond thrilled -- relieved is maybe a better word -- to see my daughter growing up with grandma.
Even though grandma gives her Coke and let's her sip on her cafe con leche.
And gives her Popeye's and KFC fried chicken and french fries.
And McDonald's ice cream cones.
And Cheetos and candy that makes her sticky.
And lets her watch novelas in the afternoon.
Those are grandparent things and I think its just in their DNA to do it, and though I shake my head I'm actually **glad** grandma does it because it makes it easier to stick to my guns about boundaries and all that by-the-book parenting stuff. Even though I own no parenting books and have no time to read books. But I'm still a bit of a nerd so maybe better said, by-the-NYTimes parenting stuff. Yeah, I download waaaaay too much news on a daily basis.
But grandma also teaches her to dance to JLo's 'Let's Get Loud' and carves a pumpkin with her and snuggles with her in the cold morning. And she calls her mi'jita. And she means it.
Sometimes, when there's something going on with the toddler K -- like she's sick or crying or something -- and it's me, the husband, and grandma hovering over her to figure it out I think, she is lucky. We are lucky to have each other to depend on. I still wish we had more family and cousins around, but some family is better than none.
And I haven't even touched on having the other abuelos from Miami around at least a few times a week via Skype (that virtual abuelo relationship is a whole other blog post). They actually just got to my house this evening all the way from Florida and are going to watch the toddler K tomorrow while the husband works. Other grandma gets a day off.
So tonight, I can actually rest well knowing that my little girl is in great hands, her abuelo's hands. I miss her, but I also think that that time she spends with them is so important -- as important as it is spending time with me.