Tag Archives: Family

My Apologies To Pregnant Women

I need to publicly apologize to all the pregnant women in the world who have walked by me these last 5 1/2 months. I’m sorry for having so blatantly gawked at you. I should have had better manners, since I am from Texas, but it’s just that I feel like a dog at a kill shelter watching my buddy who’s been in the slammer for 3 1/2 months longer than me, and I know where he’s going is where I’m going.  So yeah, I’m scared. Especially before my bump started to show. Back then I felt like I was in hiding, able to observe from a safe distance. I don’t know how the preggos didn’t sniff me out.  I thought being pregnant was like being gay–if you are one you know who else is. But they never caught on and so I watched with mouth agape as they waddled to their cars, picked out baby room decor and asked for the nearest restroom.

But now I’m here and starting to show and I don’t know if I like that people can tell. Especially since I’m in that weird stage of it, where to some it may look like I’ve been drinking too much beer rather than had sex without protection. As a result, karma’s getting the better of me and I’m getting double gawked at by other incognito mother’s-to-be and the security dude at my office. And I understand it, I’m a walking “Morphing-Into-Something-Else-Being” right now. I’m straddling the two worlds of no baby and yes baby and no one can do anything but watch as I drift into another reality and become one of “them”.

“Them” as in couples with babies. Not that I ever wanted to think of them as “them”, but so many families rip themselves from the rest of us. And I don’t think that has to be the case. When my husband and I visited Barcelona a couple of years ago, families were walking around and hanging out at bars and restaurants filled with drunken singles. They didn’t get all huffy when a person next to their baby started smoking or got wasted. Sure they might have moved the kid, but they moved, they didn’t ask anyone else to. To each his own! As a result, all seemed happy. The parents didn’t even look like parents the way American parents do. Something about parents here; it’s like they lose their identity and end up looking like casual fashion ads from REI where the family is dressed to compliment one another so everyone can see they are of the same unit. While overseas parents were just as dressed up or down as anyone else-very much themselves; by chance they had a little one dangling off their shoulders, but they kept talking away with their friends without their kids interrupting or expecting to be the center of attention.

So why is it that the generation that brought pajamas to office attire and tattoos to the mainstream have somehow or other become more obnoxiously sterile and constrictive about what a family should be than those in the 50’s who propagated the Stepford Wife nuclear family ideal? Aren’t we cooler than that? Do we have to be so uptight like a bad rom-com female protagonist? The strangest part about it all is that some have assumed that I’d like to be one of “them” without ever even asking.

Just because I’m gonna be a mom, please don’t assume I want to go to baby conventions and events (seriously I just found out about some). Just because I’m gonna be a mom, don’t think that being a mom is the number one thing on my mind (well except in my blog). And don’t think because I’m gonna be a mom, I’m as excited about joining the mommy club as you might have been.

Thank God we have friends who somehow balance being parents with being people. I know there are ways to make life’s conventional roles your own. In my marriage, we never assumed that we needed to “settle down” and only hang out with other married couples. We continued to surround ourselves with all different people in all different stages of their lives. Of course, I did feel a similar slip into a different reality when I left the world of singles. It was a little scary then to know I’d no longer get to spend a night with girlfriends partying it up to prove that the guy who dumped me made an obviously major mistake (look at me now!); but the change into married life felt reasonable since many of our friends were in relationships themselves. We may have been the only married people for awhile, but not the only couple, so we never felt too different. But suddenly a baby comes on board and I see it in the eyes of my friends–I’m falling off the life raft and slowly slipping into the abyss. As my stomach grows I see their faces grow more distant. I want to say, please don’t let me fall, but I know they’re just waiting to see if I can swim.

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My Eyes Are Up Here

I finally know what it must be like for women with big breasts. Not because I’m getting busty–although I finally do fill an A cup–but because no one can look me in the eyes anymore. Everytime I talk to someone they first look down to see if my pregnant gut is sticking out and then to my eyes, back to my gut and then back to my eyes again. Some don’t even waste their time with my face. From the moment they see me, they zero in on my mid-section and won’t stop until they’ve come face to face with it, measured its progress, decided if it’s a girl or a boy and made a comment on if it looks the right size for my stage of pregnancy. Others act like pervs–being sneaky about it like it’s dirty or something, trying to get a sideways look, or waiting until I look away for a second so I don’t catch them take a peak at the abyss of my belly. But you know what? Don’t trouble yourself…look at my stomach! Here ya go world, it’s yours to gawk at. I won’t get offended. It’s not like it’s mine anymore. I don’t even mind people touching my belly. Hell, I’m grabbing people’s hands and making them feel what resembles a plastic guard in my stomach. Why? Because I don’t want to be the only one going through this!

So yes, I understand. You just want to see if my pregnancy this whole time has been real, or be the first one to catch the bump, or revel in the progression of your friend looking like all those other women called mothers that you’ve only heard about but never known in person outside of your own mom. It’s all just weird. Of course you gotta look. I look at it every morning and every night. This week in particular it popped out further than ever. It’s official…I’m pregnant and I’m freaking out! My clothes are no longer fitting and I’m looking like all those women I see at the malls and grocery stores with basketballs in their bellies. I’m one of them now and I can’t stop looking! So go for it. Look. Or take a picture–it’ll last longer. No wait, I already did.

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Shut-up I’m Pregnant!

I’ve been learning over the course of the last few months that once you get knocked up the general female neuroses are expected to get knocked out of our lives momentarily. I’m a woman as many of you know, so that means I’m always worried about my weight and I love talking about my feelings–two nearly destructive obsessions that have taken me years to develop with the help of family, friends, dating and the beauty industry. But since entering this bizarre pregnant world of THE BUMP and never-ending doctor appointments, I have found two things to be true:

1. Pregnant women must restrain themselves from announcing their pregnancy until after the first trimester.

2. Pregnant women are supposed to love their big gut.

WAIT TO TELL

So I found out I was preggers about 2 months ago and my husband and I thought we should tell our family right away. Then I remembered some weird thing I had heard–don’t tell anyone you’re pregnant until after the first trimester to make sure the baby’s in there. So at the most womanly time in a woman’s life, going through something only a woman can go through, I’m being advised to completely abstain from my womanhood and not tell everyone everything going on with me? Sorry, I am not that kind of woman. In fact I don’t know many women who are.

Is there anything more unnatural for a woman than to not express the good or the bad in her life? In general we women like to talk–A LOT. If we stopped doing so half of the male stand-up comics wouldn’t have an act. So it throws me for a loop to know that women are made to feel scared and superstitious over wanting to announce their pregnancy as soon as they find out. We don’t wait to announce when we’ve been accepted to a college of our dreams even though something tragic could happen that could prevent us from going. When we get engaged we’re expected to run around and show off the ring seconds after it gets put on our finger, even though there’s still time for things to go sour during the engagement. So why is it that with something even more life-altering, out of your control, and just plan crazy are we told to keep mum?

Well you could have  a miscarriage.

Oh happy day, sunshine. Yes, and if you did wouldn’t you want people to know about it so you can have some shoulders to cry on? For those who are terrified of saying anything in case something bad happens, I understand. Fear is a powerful motivator. But why do we allow it to grip us when it comes to having a baby? Aren’t negative thoughts also bad for your kid? Besides, in all honesty something bad can happen with the baby at any point in the pregnancy, so why do we have to focus on the one period of it when you still don’t look pregnant and people are going to want to know why you’re suddenly on a health kick of not drinking coffee, not drinking booze and staying in on Saturday nights. “I’m just taking a break,” only works as an excuse for so long.

I think we’re getting into the habit of not announcing the big news more for the sake of others than for ourselves. As if we need to add anymore anxiety to our lives by making sure our pregnancy is a good-time gig with only good news for others. But how does that make sense? The people around you are not the ones going through this momentous time, you the woman are. And so what if a miscarriage happens? That’s a part of life that people should be aware of and be comfortable in accepting. It’s like growing a plant from seed. Some of them don’t make it, some of them do. You never know, but you don’t not show off your seedling just because it might not take. I say us ladies take back this major event in our lives, stop being scared and tell the world the minute we find out… if we feel like it. Of course there are other things to keep us from telling the world: work, not ready to be besties with other mommies and not wanting the pregnancy to be the central point of conversation with friends so early on. I’m still not ready for any of it, but I figure besides our family and some close friends (who we enjoyed telling after the official test at the doctor’s office week 6), it’s about time everybody knew why I won’t toast with a proper cocktail, why I can’t step into that jacuzzi and why I so desperately want to go to a dance club while I can still dance.

Next up…THE GUT. 

To be continued.

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Christmas Cooking Challenge – Part II Lost in Translation

Rene and Mom

Rene and Teri battle it out

By December 23, I was so ready for this Christmas Cooking Challenge. Oh sure, my mom had tradition and flan on her side, but after weeks of stressing over what to make, I, the next generation, finally came up with a menu that would be delicious, could be eaten by a vegetarian and a dad with gout, and that paid tribute to some of our heritage while steering clear of Cuban Noche Buena dinners (so I wouldn’t step on anymore toes and find myself having to cook again). While my mom enjoyed her holiday vacation relaxing as I would have, watching Korean Soap Operas with my dad, I cooked for two days to make the following recipes (most from www.epicurious.com):

Delicious Onions with Cabrales

Roasted Sweet Onions with Cabrales

Roasted Sweet Onions and Cabrales (Spanish Blue Cheese)
Parsnip Bisque
Ground “Beef” Collard Green Bundles with Hazelnuts and Golden Raisins
Roasted Beets with Onion Marmalade and Parmesan
Manchego and Membrillo (Quince Paste) Napoleons
Cranberry Brandy Jelly
placed in a can as an homage to my mom
No Knead Bread
And for Dessert: Flan
–which thankfully my mom made after much begging from my nephew, myself and family. Some things are just too precious to give up.

My Mom’s Flan Christmas 2011

End result: all plates licked-clean! That’s right! Different with dietary restrictions was still delicious. I proudly asked my mom what she thought of my multi-course meal. She replied in an unusually delicate high-pitched Cuban accent, “Eeet was good.” She seemed hesitant to say much of anything else so I asked her if she needed me to interview her for the blog to help her sort out her thoughts. Without hesitation she responded in not so high a pitch, “No.” The next day I reminded her that I needed her blog post by Wednesday or Friday at the latest, so if it was easier for her, the interview process would take no time. “No,” she said as she put on her reading glasses and headed to her home office. She told me she wanted to write her thoughts down and assured me she would get it done. I explained that I wanted it before the new year because afterwards people no longer think of Christmas. She shot me a look and then reminded me in great detail, why that way of thinking is wrong since Christmas season continues past December 25. Noticing that she was going off course I immediately veered her back into her home office to write and left to visit my husband’s family for the remainder of the trip.  I couldn’t wait to hear what my mom had to say and on December 30th I received her response to my dinner:

“O.K .So now I get to defend my wonderful cuisine after my sweet daughter spent her time the other day criticizing it, saying horrible things that seemed funny at first, but then, when I realized each one of the words or better said, adjectives she used referred to my cooking or food, it dawned on me!!!!…….how serious an issue this is.

But before I get into the food part, I will remind you that even though it is December 28th, we are still in the Christmas season which started on the night of Dec. 24th and ends on January 9th or the Baptism of the Lord’s day, so please do not let yourself be guided by the materialistic culture which starts throwing away Christmas trees even by yesterday the 27thIn between, there is the wonderful day of Epiphany or the Three Wise Men’s Day that brought you all your Christmas gifts.  Do you remember Rene? That is why the Nativity set with the Holy Family, the little sheep, shepherds, donkey and cow, stay put beside our Christmas tree until the “real” Christmas season ends. I am not getting away from the subject but Rene this is just a reminder…….

I told you.

“This ties up with our Christmas meal tradition.  Ja Ja [Spanish for Ha Ha]….yes, when I read your comments about it, at first I laughed but as I finished reading it …….it dawned on me!!!  Hey, she is criticizing not only me, but “my” wonderful Cuban culture smelling food!!!!

First, you have to be grateful for the most wonderful Cuban mom the world has ever known. Second, be grateful that I fed and pumped B vitamins into you to prepare you for any future hard times that might come your way (not all moms do that), or in case you would marry a vegetarian thin guy with no understanding of roasted-pig-loving Cubans (which you did).  Third I was such a perfect mother, that I was very aware not to let you or your siblings have too many sweets, saving your future husband hundreds of dollars in dentist’s fees. 

And you did not get fat on account of my cooking, you had milk, eggs or meat, bread, etc. everyday as the pyramid of food suggests.  What more perfection do you expect from a mom?

Stop saying that my food smelled too much……and if it did, it was because it was the “real” thing, not the fake meat you eat now.  No wonder it does not have any kind of smell at all!!!!  Mine had that great smell depending on how I felt that day: if I was happy I would use more garlic, if not I would use maybe more onions, if I was angry I would overlook taking out the bag of giblets in the “American turkey,” but that was what made my cuisine “unique”.

Dear daughter, that is what tradition is all about, the same smell, the same ingredients, the same cook, the same food …..the Yuca, the roasted pig (better with an apple in his mouth), the ripe sweet plantains, and the black beans CUBAN STYLE (only Cubans do them right, and I do them better right from the can, but I know how to dress them up the right way so they come out YUMMY).  Then the salad could not be left out. Even though your grandfather thought that was horse’s food, that along with the yams had to be part of our Cuban Noche Buena as a way to acknowledge the place of you and your siblings’ birth place…the U.S.A. 

The only thing missing in our Noche Buena most of the time, was not being in Miami with the rest of the family and having the same old good, loud, energetic and democratic conversation where everyone has the same right to talk over the other person’s loud voice.”

I beg to differ. Though the clan in Houston is small, it is just as loud and proudly opinionated.

“One thing I can say about you cooking the whole meal this year as my punishment for all your criticism…….is that it did not smell one bit, and that my dear daughter, does not help to make memories, where your family one day can blame you for all their “natural”  imperfections or for that matter start a TRADITION.  One last thing I will say in favor of my smelly, same old same old food for Christmas, is that you will always remember it no matter where you are on Christmas Eve.   Chao Chao.”

Where did she get the idea that I thought her food smelled bad? I reread my blog and found the sentence she took to mean that I thought her food stunk:

“What I especially find interesting about the family TDay meal is that it somehow always reeks a little of the same dishes mom used to make almost every day of the week.”

Although my mother and I speak the same languages, some things don’t translate well–especially the word “reeks.” I felt horrible. Already I felt kinda bad when I heard that my Thanksgiving blog offended my mom, but I felt bad the same way you feel in an embarrassing moment, like forgetting to lock a bathroom door and getting caught with your pants down–it’s awful but in the end it’s kinda funny. That’s what I thought the plane of emotions were for this whole Christmas Cooking Challenge, until I read her retort. Do you know how insulting that is? A cook can be told something tastes bad, fair enough, but smells bad? When food tastes bad you think of other foods that taste bad, but when food smells bad you don’t even think of food, you think of every disgusting odor in the world that has nothing to do with it: Port-O-Potty’s, litter boxes, dirty laundry, that dude on the bus. In her mind I might as well have kicked her in the gut and posted a photo of the kicking in action on the internet. She was so upset she didn’t even get to writing about my food. Man, oh man. Needless to say I spent the rest of 2011 hugging her, kissing up to her and trying to explain the different uses of the word “reeks.” After awhile she finally started to sort of believe me and has been calling me ever since to get the recipes I used for Noche Buena, one by one.

So what did I learn from all this? 1. Talking sh** causes wars. 2. Remember when you were fifteen and irritated and you told your parents that they didn’t understand you? Guess what? You were right, so it’s best not to mess with them.

Happy New Year everyone!

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Thanksgiving with Friends or Family

My friend Dionne hard at work in the kitchen

Can everyone’s younger sibling that still goes on about the tragedy of celebrating Thanksgiving please leave the room? We’re talking Thanksgiving–the All-American feast of food where we reap the rewards of our abundant produce and edible imports from around the world, so that at no given time throughout the year our people are never without avocados or strawberries. Food–it’s our national obsession. To become a citizen it’s required you overindulge in it and watch hours of TV shows watching people eating it, preparing and eating it, and eating it and commenting on eating it. Food is what brought our nation’s people together before killing each other and ripping one group of people from their homes. We don’t even care if food is good on this foodie day, until you’re halfway through a bland mash of green beans and potatoes.

If you’re staying home for the holidays and celebrating with a bunch of “orphans,” your taste buds will most likely be graced with a meal prepared by the best cook, who is most inspired and who resides in the coziest setting. If it’s family, the host is usually the worst cook but she/he is dependable and does it every year and we call it tradition. Of course in this day and age there is also the TDay Potluck or TDay Wild Card/Bi-Polar–as some dishes may turn out heavenly while other recipes cull from a guest’s family’s tradition.

I myself give thanks this year for not having to spend it with family.  If I did, my husband and I would travel to Houston, where my mom takes over cooking duties and as a guest, I can only sit back and give thanks. As someone who loves to cook, it always makes me a little crazy to hand over a holiday with such exciting produce options to my mom who prefers to make everything from a can or box. Not that I blame her too much–the woman has always hated cooking but loves that she has to do it or else…EVERYONE WOULD STARVE TO DEATH!  Obviously this has always been of critical concern:

What I especially find interesting about the family TDay meal is that it somehow always reeks a little of the same dishes mom used to make almost every day of the week. Difference of course being the turkey, cranberry sauce from a can (my mom must have the can-formed rings around the jelly), and the yams from a can covered in marshmallows (as wrong as that is I admit it’s yummy). The rest was same ol’ same ol’.  I’m Cuban so what we had was most likely different from what you had, but trust me when you have the following at least 3 times a week in some kind of random rotation, even if it tastes good, it is not exotic or exciting: picadillo–a kind of Cuban chili my mom would make use of on TDay to stuff the turkey, boiled yuca, mashed potatoes from a box, salad of greens and tomatoes, black beans and rice, tostones (smashed fried plantains–not the sweet kind) or platanos fritos (fried plantains–the sweet kind), a so-called baguette from the grocery store bakery, and for dessert, flan. Now the flan was a thrice yearly thing my sibling and I actually got excited about because as opposed to what you might think from that picture above, my mom never had anything sweet around the house except for maybe frosted corn flakes which we coveted.

My Mom's holiday flan one year. She couldn't find a platter big enough.

No this year, I have chosen to spend it with friends, where the food is always different and tastes festive. Where conversation do not mirror super committee political debates that lead to nowhere and wine always flows. I give thanks this year to staying put and keeping my eye on the food prize. I am American and I will be stuffed!

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