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Venezuela, Part I

Getting there: Our flights down to Venezuela could not have been smoother. Which was shocking, really, because we flew on Avior, a Venezuelan airline with which we’ve not had the best of luck in the past. The thing is, it’s the only carrier with a direct flight from Miami to Barcelona (that’s the city in Venezuela where Ton Ton’s family lives, not the magnificent metropolis in Spain.) The last time we flew on Avior, when we got to the Miami airport, they informed us that our flight time had changed. The plane was scheduled to leave an hour earlier than our tickets indicated and no one had bothered to inform us. Fortunately, Ton Ton insists on arriving to every flight he takes three hours in advance so we did not miss the plane. Also, last time Ton Ton’s sister flew on Avior, the plane caught fire as she and her husband were boarding. I’m not even joking. They saw the flames and started running in the other direction. Luckily, we encountered none of that. All flights departed and arrived on time (even early sometimes) and nobody caught on fire.

Our first night: So after hugging and kissing the fam and toasting to our arrival, we decided to put Luki to bed. After all, it was waaaay past his bedtime. Ton Ton’s mom didn’t have a crib for him, but she provided us with a toddler bed which included side rails and everything. When we’re home, we put Luki in his crib with his special blankie (don’t forget about this special blankie, it will have a starring role in a later part of the trip) turn off the lights and let him fall asleep by himself. He never cries. And so, silly us, we tried to do the same thing in Venezuela. Except that he figured out how to climb out of that toddler bed in less than a millisecond and began to wander around the room, poking his fingers into every electrical outlet he could find. I laid in bed next to him and tried to sing him to sleep, managing to keep him still, but wide awake and asking for “more” every time I finished a song. I’m still not sure when he dozed off because I was fast asleep by then.

Our second night: We figured that if we could make it impossible for him to climb out of the toddler bed, he would go back to his old habits of falling asleep by himself. Here is our brilliant plan: we moved the bed so that on one side it was right next to the wall, and on the other right next to our bed. Our much taller bed. We put Luki in there, handed him his special blanket, turned off the lights, kissed him goodnight, walked out of the room. Minutes later, he was crying loudly. We opened the door and found him standing directly in front of us. He had climbed up onto the much taller bed, walked across it’s entire width, and climbed down the other side. We caught him trying to figure out how to work the door handle. To escape.

Beach trip #1:

Reunion: So Ton Ton had his 20th high school reunion while we were down there. I accompanied him even though I wasn’t technically invited because I just knew I’d have access to a wealth of embarrassing information. And I did, like the pictures of him at prom in a red bow tie and cummerbund and the story about the time he and his buddies broke into the high school to steal a physics exam. But my favorite part was hearing about how he used to walk around swinging his head back to get his long hair out of his eyes all day and telling people, “don’t call me Tony, please, I want to go by Slash.”

Stay tuned for parts II and III of our trip in the coming days.

Your grandpa was awesome! Week #36

Dear Luki,

Today is your grandpa’s birthday. I woke up this morning disoriented. For the first time in my life I have no one to sing happy birthday to on September 8. No one to wish many more years of health and longevity upon.

And it’s been one of those days when I spend an inordinate amount of time inside my head asking why. Playing it all over. Putting imaginary twists into the story to alter the ending.

I don’t cry about your grandpa as much as I used to. But today I cried. Twice. First in my office. I was on the phone with your grandma, she told me she’d dreamed about him, that she’d wished him a happy birthday in her dream. And I put my hand over my eyes and tried to push the tears back in, but I couldn’t. I didn’t sob though. But I didn’t really say anything to her except goodbye, at the end of the conversation, because I would have started bawling if I’d talked.

I cried again later when I saw some pictures of him. They were on your grandma’s dresser. Pictures of them together on vacation. They both looked so happy, so carefree, so unsuspecting of the huge blow waiting right around the corner. But they only lasted a second, my tears. Grandma was around, I didn’t want to upset her.

And now, I’m crying again. A little. So that’s three times, today.

It’s not the first time I cry on your grandpa’s birthday though. Four years ago, when he turned fifty, we threw him a huge party. We surprised him with a live band and as they came out, singing an old seventies Spanish ballad, I was overcome with emotion. Your grandpa looked so happy, we all did. And I couldn’t help the tears of joy that began to run down my cheeks.

Today, as I think back about that day I feel so lucky that I was a part of it. That we threw him such a grandiose bash. He deserved it.

And as I go to sleep tonight, I’m going to do my best to drift off to that magical evening four years ago. Because even though he is no longer here, September 8 should always be a celebration of the wonderful life he led.



We're baaaack!

I have so many stories to tell you guys! Venezuela was an adventure and it will take several blog posts to fill you in on all that happened while we were down there. From the time we left Luki’s special blanket at a relative’s house in Caracas (can you guess how much sleep we got that night?) to an incident involving the Venezuelan Armed Forces and a very nervous Ton Ton.

But I have lots of catching up to do first, with work, and unpacking, and getting Luki back into something that resembles a routine. And also, today is Wednesday, aka Your Grandpa Was Awesome Day, but it’s not just any Wednesday, it’s also my Dad’s birthday. So… I’m having a lot of feelings that aren’t necessarily about our trip. But I’ll tell you all about our trip soon, I promise.

In the meantime, here’s a picture of my kid eating fresh fish on the beach.

Your grandpa was awesome! Week #34

Dear Luki,

Even though it’s 10:30 p.m. on the eve of our trip to Venezuela and I haven’t finished packing yet, I made a commitment to write these letters every week and I’m sticking to it! Thankfully, your stuff has been packed for about a week on account of your father, the lieutenant of timeliness, productivity and efficiency. (That’s why today you were wearing a pair of size six month pants as shorts, all your good clothes are tucked away in a suitcase.)

Anyway, here are some things I want you to know about your grandpa this week:

1. The first time I went to Venezuela, your other grandpa (your daddy’s dad) was very sick. Before I left, your grandpa (my dad) casually, but seriously, reminded me to be nice. Simple advice, but it was important because sometimes — and I really think I’ve gotten better since becoming your mom — I’m not that nice to other people. I can be selfish and self-absorbed, I’ll admit it. Anyway, the moment I saw your dad’s dad, I started crying. And I’m not typically a crier, but he looked really weak and frail, and I felt so much compassion for him and the rest of his family in that moment! I don’t know if my reaction had anything to do with what my dad said to me before I left, but I remember thinking, later, that the way I felt about my future husband’s family during that first visit to their home would have made him proud.

2. Your grandma bought you a pair of Crocs this week. I really hope that when you read this in the future Crocs no longer exist, because they are the ugliest shoes in the history of mankind. However! You have hamburger shaped feet and they are the only shoes we can put on them without the endeavor turning into a wrestling match that can only be won (sometimes) if both your father and I take you on. Anyway, she was telling me that it really surprised her that a pair of tiny children’s shoes made of a Styrofoam-like material set her back $27. But then she said, “It’s whatever. Just like your dad used to say, it’s not like you can put the $27 on his feet.” And I laughed. And I thought it was important for you to hear about this. Because you can’t put money on your feet. You can’t put it in your belly. You can’t live inside money or go on vacation to it. So you might as well spend it, even if it’s on really ugly shoes.

3. Since your grandpa’s been gone, I tend to always ask myself what he would do or say in the situations I encounter. Two days ago, your grandma lost her cell phone and when she called (from a stranger’s phone) to tell me, she seemed really upset. Initially, I was upset too. I mean, losing a cell phone these days is like losing an appendage. But after a little while, I thought about how your grandpa would react and knew exactly what he would have said: “Eh, more was lost in the war, it’s no big deal.” And it isn’t, Luki. In the grand scheme of things cell phones and Crocs and unpacked suitcases the night before vacation are no big deal. Being nice, showing compassion, remembering those who deeply impacted your life — those are the things that matter. The people in your life are the biggest deal of all. Always remember that.



Heading out

The past few days have been kind of hectic in my household. Over the weekend, I was out of town for one of my best friend’s bachelorette weekend. It was really fun. The beach, and the sun, and the wine, and the girl talk. All lovely and wonderful things. But, to be honest, my favorite part was driving three and half hours each way by myself. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had so much time just for me. And I listened to my favorite music loudly on the stereo, and talked to myself about some things, and yelled out the window of my car on an empty stretch of highway, and it was really nice to feel like an individual.

When I got home, Ton Ton was feeding Luki his lunch and he yelled out MAAA MAAA as soon as he saw me. Just like that, it felt great to be part of a family again. And, believe it or not, that feeling continued, even after his diaper exploded a few minutes later.

Everything seems to indicate that the explosion was caused by a tooth. It’s like Luki’s body says, “if my mouth has to endure the discomfort of a bone protruding from its gums, then I’m going to do everything in my power to bring discomfort to others. In the form of the nastiest, smelliest, stickiest poop you have ever seen.”

It’s perfect timing, really. Toxic Poop is just what we need on the plane when we’re on our way to Venezuela.

Wait, have I failed to mention?


That’s in ALL CAPS because I’m super excited. And also because I have yet to pack a single item of clothing. The best kind of excitement is the one tinged by intense pressure, methinks.

We are going to visit Ton Ton’s family and it’s great because they live in a city near the water so we get to go to the beach. And it’s not just any beach, it’s a Latin American beach where every twenty seconds a vendor walks by selling empanadas, or oysters, or corn on the cob, and I just lie there and say yes! yes! yes! and more please!

The water is crystal clear and the sand is like powder, but the food….THE FOOD IS WHAT MAKES IT TOTALLY WORTH IT.


To which I can only say, yes! yes! yes! and more please!

I plan to take my laptop, but I’m not sure how much posting I’ll be doing from abroad. And the reason for that is totally the limited Internet access in Mamacita’s house. It’s got nothing to do with the wine.

Your grandpa was awesome! Week #33

Dear Luki,

I started writing you these letters because I wanted you to become intimately familiar with your grandpa; I didn’t want him to just be a picture hanging on the wall and a few casual anecdotes. Little did I know that, throughout this process, I would become intimately familiar with him too.

When someone is around all the time, you don’t really stop to analyze his character. To appreciate all of his qualities. You take him for granted and become exasperated with his flaws. You kiss him hello and goodbye out of habit. You only make him feel special on the pertinent holidays and birthdays. And you don’t see the inspiration his life can bring to your own.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the letter I wrote to you last week. About your grandpa’s work ethic. His devotion to always doing things right. And I’ve been thinking about myself. I often try to get away with the minimum effort. I give up on projects when they pose the smallest challenge. I rarely take on new initiatives in my life.

And as I wrote that letter to you last week, I felt like a hypocrite. How can I ask you to try your best if I am too lazy to get up when my alarm goes off in the morning? Too complacent to expand my horizons? Too scared to aim for a better version of me?

After your grandpa died, I felt jolted. Like I was taken by the shoulders and shaken until things were clear and in focus. But that feeling was waned. Things are cloudy again. Blurred by a desire to sleep in, wander aimlessly, do nothing.

But these letters? They give me a little nudge. And I am finding the inspiration I never accepted when your grandpa was here to give it in person.

Because I know that all the letters I write to you about him won’t come close to impacting you the way my example will.

And I don’t want to just tell you what kind of man should be, I want to show you.

I promise to try harder.



On pets

After writing my last post about Luki and his encounter with a puppy, I feel that I should admit something to you guys:

I don’t like dogs. Or cats. Or pets in general. Neither does Ton Ton.

I guess this is something we will reconsider if Luki grows up to love furry creatures and requests we share our home with an animal, but I’m really hoping it doesn’t have to come to that.

My aversion to pets probably has to do with growing up with a mom who believes animals are the root of all manner of deadly diseases. After all, you can’t disinfect a dog’s tongue with a Clorox wipe.

But listen you guys, if you are pet owners, I want you to know that I still love you. Really. I do. Let me tell you a little story to prove it:

(Setting — A housewarming party at my house, I am talking to a group of friends and family. Included is my brother in law. He has two dogs. The dogs “sign” my birthday cards and pose for professional family portraits with him and his wife. In matching sweaters.)

A friend who knows how I feel about animals: I think I’m going to get you a puppy for your new house.

Me: Ha ha ha! Yea. No way.

Brother in law: What? You don’t like dogs?

Me: No.

Brother in law: Oh. But you like my dogs, right?

Me: Honestly?

(At this point my younger, yet infinitely more mature, brother, who has been watching this exchange from a safe distance, turns around and walks as far away as he can. As if to say, “Just because I’m related to her, doesn’t mean I will be associated with her complete lack of filters!”)

No. I don’t like your dogs.

(I suddenly realize I basically just insulted what he considers to be his offspring. Quick, must find a way to pull my foot out of my mouth!)

But, um-ahem-cough-cough, I LOOVE HOW YOU LOVE YOUR DOGS!!

See? I told you. I still love all you pet owners out there. Especially the way you love your animals.

Just don’t bring them to my house.