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Archive for March, 2010

Your grandpa was awesome! Week #13

Dear Luki,

You got your U.S. Passport last week! I have to be honest and admit that it’s not your best picture. Partly because I couldn’t find your brush and your hair is sticking out to the side, but also because, instead of smiling, you decided to bite your lower lip and make sad puppy dog eyes.

But it’s OK, immigration officers don’t care about what your passport picture looks like, what matters to them is that it says UNITED STATES OF AMERICA on the front. As you grow older, that’s probably something you’ll take for granted, but those of us who were born abroad, particularly in Latin America, KNOW what a treasure that little blue book is. And your grandpa knew it better than anyone.

You see, when he qualified to become an American citizen, he didn’t apply right away. Your grandma did, and your uncle Ani and I became citizens through her, but your grandpa didn’t really make it a priority. Mostly because, in order to become a naturalized citizen, you have to pass a test. A test in English.

Your grandpa never went to school in the United States to learn English (he was too busy working hard to provide for his family), so everything he knew about the language, he learned from people on the street. Somehow, he managed to communicate effectively with his co-workers in an English/Spanish hybrid tongue that only they understood, but reading and writing posed a much greater challenge.

The thing is, Luki, that a Cuban passport is about as useful as a your appendix. You need a visa to go anywhere, and renewing it is a long and complicated process that involves traveling to D.C., standing in a hot little room for hours, paying a ton of money to the Cuban government, and then waiting months to receive a document that may contain someone else’s picture.

When your grandpa tried to vacation in Costa Rica and was sent back to the U.S. for not having a visa, he got fed up and applied to become a citizen of the United States.

I wish I could say that I believed he would succeed, but the truth is that I saw his citizenship as a very slight possibility. I remember thinking to myself, “He has never read or written an English sentence in his life! There is no way he can pass that test.”

But your grandpa proved me wrong. As soon as he got the study guide from the immigration office, he began to prepare. Every day, he listened to a tape with the recorded questions and answers in his car on his way to and from work. And on the weekends, he asked grandma and I to help him learn the basics of reading and writing in English. Really simple things, like the sound a “t” and an “h” make when put together.

On test day, he sat anxiously across from a Homeland Security officer and answered every single question right. Then, he shakily read and wrote a sentence in English.

After his exam, the officer asked him a set of standard questions, including some on terrorism. When he later told us the story, your grandpa couldn’t recall exactly what happened, but there was a miscommunication problem. The officer ended up having to ask him, “Did you lie to me?” and your grandpa, in his nervous state, wasn’t sure what she was saying. “Lie. What is lie?” he though. “A light? Like what hangs from the ceiling? Something light? As in, not heavy?” Finally, he was able to make it clear — probably in his English/Spanish hybrid language — that he was, in fact, not a terrorist. The interviewer then congratulated him for becoming an American citizen.

Your grandpa was ecstatic. And the rest of us were incredibly proud.

I know that for for a lot of immigrants to the United States, the citizenship test is not a big deal, but for your grandpa it was a huge obstacle. And he overcame it.

Luki, I want you to understand that you can do the same. No matter how difficult it seems, no matter how many people are convinced you won’t make it, you too can pass any test life throws your way.



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Luki does DC

Luki does DC

Over the weekend we went up to the DC area for my very good friends’ from college baby shower. I was the first of my college friends to get knocked up and, even though these guys say their baby wasn’t planned, I’m convinced that, after they met Luki last summer and witnessed the magical poop missiles, they were like, “We need to get ourselves one of these STAT!”

And really, I couldn’t be more excited for them. Ever since they told me they’re having a boy, I’ve been referring to their fetus as “Luki’s BFF” and planning family vacations in my head for the next few decades.

To all other college friends who may read this blog: Babies are awesome! All the cool kids are having them and if you get on the ball, you could also get invited to one of these awesome vacations featuring diaper changes, Yo Gabba Gabba, and 9:00pm bedtimes! DO IT!

Anyway, now that I’ve gotten my baby crusade out of the way, I’m happy to report that this trip went a lot more smoothly than our (mis)adventures in Atlanta back in October. No strangers banged on our hotel room wall at midnight, Ton Ton and I were able to SIT DOWN to eat in restaurants AT THE SAME TIME, and, instead of screaming his head off the entire weekend, our child smiled, cooed, and even showed off his tricks (i.e. old man face, head slap, and Stop trying to trick me! I know the difference between yummy fruit and nasty chicken & squash puree) to our friends. He is growing up you guys! I mean, yes, he did spill an entire glass of water on the floor at dinner one night and hogged all the banana bread at brunch Sunday morning – but that banana bread was damn good, and, well, I’m 26 and spill food on the floor/myself/others on a daily basis.

Luki gets and A+ on travel.

Ton Ton and I, however, learned a few crucial things about traveling with a completely-mobile-solid-food-eating child. For starters, there’s a whole lot more stuff we needed to keep track of. This was learned the hard way after we left every single one of Luki’s spoons at the table of the Cracker Barrel (I know, classy!) where we stopped to have lunch on the drive up. There were some loud words in the car upon this realization and it all ended with Ton Ton declaring, “I’LL BE IN CHARGE OF ALL THINGS IN THE DIAPER BAG, YOU JUST MAKE SURE WE DON’T LOSE THE BABY.” Easy enough. Except when we almost left Luki’s plastic bib in our friend’s apartment and she had to run out to the elevator to give it to us.

Other than that, we also had to come to terms with the fact that Luki was going to keep standing up on the hotel crib and licking its metal rails — it’s a good thing Big E wasn’t there — and that he was NOT OK with just napping in his stroller as we tried to hang out with old friends past his bedtime.

Cutting our evenings short was not our favorite part of the trip, but that cramp in our style was totally counteracted by the flood of “HE’S ADORABLE! WOW, HE SEEMS SO SMART! SO ALERT! SO FUNNY! LOOK AT THOSE EYES!” comments from everyone who met our son.

Yep, this kid has definitely become my most complimented accessory. I just hope to never leave him behind at a Cracker Barrel.

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If you’ve been reading this blog from the beginning, then you probably remember this post. It’s the one where my crazy mother redesigned her laundry room to accommodate her unborn grandchild. After purchasing a special washer and dryer with a “baby wear” function, she commissioned my dad to install a giant sink next to them: the perfect bathtub for the baby.

Unfortunately, my dad didn’t have a chance to put in the last element of “Luki’s Spa” – a detachable faucet that can function as a shower. So last week, my brother, who was home on spring break, took on the task of connecting the faucet by himself. And even though he’d never done anything like this before and Big E had her checkbook ready to pay a professional plumber, ANI TOTALLY GOT IT TO WORK! …Further proof that my brother is a genius. And a superhero.

So here you have it ladies and gentlemen, the inauguration of Luki’s Spa:

After seeing that face, I have to admit – maybe Big E is not all that crazy after all.

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Your grandpa was awesome! Week #12

Dear Luki,

While you were in my belly, your grandmother bought your grandpa a box of exfoliating salts in an attempt to make his hands smoother. “You’re not going to be able to hold my grandchild with those rough and calloused fingers!” she announced. “Newborns have very sensitive skin and your hands feel like sandpaper!”

It’s true. Your grandpa had very rough hands. When I was a little girl and I’d get a muscle ache, I always preferred to have your grandmother rub ointment on me because his palms felt too scratchy against my skin. And even he had to be careful with his own appendages. One time, he tried to wipe his brow and ended up cutting his face with one of his dry, tough fingers.

But I think it’s very important for you to understand, Luki, that your grandpa had rough hands because he used them all the time. They hammered nails and washed dishes; they did oil changes and sanded sheet rock; they built toys for his kids and laid tile on the kitchen floor. Your grandpa was always busy and his hands were a testament to his diligence. In their cuts and callouses, in his discolored fingernails and dry palms, remained the evidence of all his handiwork. A physical affirmation of all the efforts and sacrifices he made for us.

He tried the exfoliating salts a few times, but they couldn’t wipe away all his years of labor. And when you were born, despite your grandma’s warnings, he held you with those same rough, calloused, dry, and, most importantly, loving hands.

Grow up to be a hard worker, Luki. It’s much more valuable to be diligent than to have soft fingers.



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One hundred times

I know it’s Wednesday and on Wednesdays I usually write about how awesome my dad was. Don’t worry, I’m totally going to do that later in the day — probably tonight, right before midnight. I thrive under pressure.

But right now, I just need to write a quick note to talk about how awesome you guys are. Yes YOU. Because…guess what…?

Ok, I can’t really hear you guessing through the Internets, so I’m just going to say it:

This, this post you are currently reading is the 100th entry to Everybody Loves Baby! I have overshared and told inappropriate stories about my family 100 times!

I know, I can’t believe it either.

I’m going to be honest with you. I love to write. It’s cathartic and has helped me tremendously during this very difficult time in my life, but I’ve lived with myself long enough to also know that I’m an incredibly competent quitter (i.e.: that new year’s resolution which devolved from cooking everyday to the vague and non-committal “cooking more” has further devolved to: I Haven’t Been Near the Stove in Over Two Weeks).

Yea, I suck at follow through.

But not with this blog! And it really is because of you. As much as I like to write, I would have probably quit a long time ago if I hadn’t gotten so many encouraging words about this project — at first from friends and family and, more recently, from complete strangers.

So Thank You. You are all full of awesomeness.

And to those of you who have been telling me that I should also blog in Spanish, I invite you to go here and have yourself a virtual margarita at the launch of the Spanish version of this site.

Here’s to a hundred more — now bilingual — stories of flying poop!

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In a few days I’m going to be rolling out the Spanish version of this blog so I’ve been really busy getting that ready — you know, putting accents over vowels and trying to find an adequate translation for “shart” in the language of Cervantes. Also, the most interesting thing that has happened to me since I last blogged is that I got a sty in my eye. And do you really want to hear about a pus filled gland on my eyelid? I didn’t think so.

I say all this to say, I’m busy. And ailing. So all I have for you today is this picture:

In an effort to bond with his son, Ton Ton is trying out Luki's favorite pastime.

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Of spring and swing sets

Of spring and swing sets

The darkest winter of our lives is officially behind us. For the past couple of days we’ve had beautiful, Garden of Eden weather and yesterday, Ton Ton and I took Luki to the playground for the first time.

As I was pushing my son on his maiden voyage in the swing set, I remembered…

“Push me harder daddy,” I’d shriek. “I want to fly.”

Every day he’d come home from work and take us to the park. First in Havana, to the run-down playground with the chainlink fence and the metal swings that would scorch our thighs. Then in Miami, to a playground that to us — freshly arrived Cuban children — seemed like an amusement park. The playground with the giant swirly plastic slide I was afraid of until he talked me into it. “I’ll be waiting for you at the bottom,” he promised. And I closed my eyes and hurled myself down, into his arms. I wasn’t afraid anymore after that.

One day, I didn’t need for him to wait at the bottom of the slide. I learned to push, to swing, to fly…all by myself. And he’d smile and cheer and watch me from the sidelines.

Yesterday at the park, I felt him watching me. Watching us. And in the screeching swing set, and the comforting breeze, and my cooing baby, I heard him. I heard him promise — spring will be a brighter season.

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