Bebe

Archie, we made it!

Earlier today I looked up Archie’s birth story. I had forgotten the exact hour and minute Archie made his way into the world. I know these numbers well for Xavi. But Archie? I just had a round number. It was late afternoon, just in time for happy hour drinks.

It’s not that I love him less, but the time goes so fast and my busy brain is slow to catch up.

One moment he was snuggled against me with his little red nose rooting for the breast and now he wriggles away in a flash.

At one Archie is such a joy. He alternates his crawls between an all fours crawl and a silly crawl where he drags one leg behind him. He cruises on anything and everything. He’s not yet walking but is getting braver with unassisted standing.

He bites harder than one would expect with 3.25 teeth. He is a fan of most foods we’ve introduced except egg. This makes breakfast interesting. He’s still having a mix of breast milk and formula. (I quit the pump before he was 10 months old.)

He adores Xavi and anything Xavi is playing with. He loves the swings and exploring his new neighborhood in our arms or the stroller. He claps along when I sing “if you’re happy and you know it.” He gives little high fives and hides behind blankets for peekaboo. Sean says his first word is “dada” but I think it’s “haaaaaii.”

I thought the first year sped by with Xavi, but it’s gone even faster with Archie. Siblings, always in competition.

Happy birthday, Archie!

Standard
Bebe

Xavi’s Fantastic Fourth Birthday

Note: photos to be added later. Still working on importing old posts.

[Photo: On ring bearer duty]

On Monday night, just a few hours before his fourth birthday, I rocked Xavi in my arms like he was still a baby. His long, tanned legs and arms reaching well over my lap. He was crying softly and I had no clue. We had done our normal bedtime routine. We brushed our teeth together, I read to him a bit (lately it’s been a few chapters of the Baby-Sitters Club graphic novels), we said prayers, had a little bit of water and gave each other bedtime hugs and kisses. I don’t know what made him so sad as he couldn’t really speak through the tears to tell me. All I knew was that I couldn’t console him as I had when I was a baby with nursing, rocking, songs and shushes. It almost made me cry.

[Photo: Break from dancing (his favorite) for a picture]

I couldn’t help but think how fitting, that on the eve of his fourth birthday he let me hold him like a baby again. This isn’t rare though, since Archie arrived, Xavi acts like a baby and jumps in to my lap a few times a week. But this was different. The tears and emotion weren’t faked.

[Photo: Thomas hats for all the pre-schoolers]

In the morning, the tears were gone and Xavi was back to his energetic self. He was super excited too because after talking about it for weeks, it was finally his birthday. He was four!

[Photo: They see me rolling]

Despite the momentous occasion, our Tuesday didn’t change much. Xavi and Archie still went to daycare. Xavi wore the same 3T birthday shirt he wore last year. He’s definitely grown, but more in height than overall weight. We took some mini cupcakes and party hats to share with his friends. After work, we came home and had dinner. We FaceTimed with my mom and Lori so they could watch him open some presents (train related, of course). He opened up some Cars toys from me and Sean. And then got the big gift, a new bike from my mother-in-law, Eula. He’s already taken the bike out a few times and I know he’ll make the most of the remaining months of nice weather riding in our new neighborhood.

***

[Photo: Mixtape cover (November 2016)]

As Xavi has grown from baby to toddler to pre-schooler, I keep coming back to this quote that struck me when I read Ruth L. Ozeki’s All Over Creation in 2014:

Time plays tricks on mothers. It teases you with breaks and brief caesuras, only to skip wildly forward, bringing breathtaking changes to your baby’s body. Only he wasn’t a baby anymore, and how often did I have to learn that? The lessons were painful.

I don’t think it’s ever going to stop feeling incredibly relevant.

Celebrating Xavi’s fourth birthday didn’t leave me with that same melancholy of the first, second or third birthdays. I may miss baby Xavi, but I also have a very active and mobile Archie — still baby, at least for four more weeks — to keep me on my toes. I’m also excited to see Xavi make friends in our new neighborhood, learn to ride his bike, starting school and keep meeting more milestones.

[Photo: Archie cameo!]

[Photo: After Kenton’s funeral, Xavi wanted to play with the soccer ball that Kenton got specifically to play with him.]

What made me emotional was looking at the photos from previous birthday celebrations and thinking about who we have lost in such a short amount of time. This is the first birthday where my father-in-law, Kenton wasn’t there to celebrate with us. For the first birthday, they came to LA to visit us, and we celebrated the second and third birthdays in Long Island at their home.

[Photo: Blowing bubbles for Grandpa Kenton at the cemetery]

So, yeah… I guess those lessons of watching your baby go from tiny newborn to little boy can be painful. Lately, it’s not the child growing, but what is changing around him that hurts.

Still, I can’t be too sad. I have a healthy, happy little boy who surprises me every single day with how much he’s learning.

Happy birthday, Xavi. I love who you are right now, but also can’t wait to see the breathtaking changes to come.

Standard
Familia

Downtown to the Northeast

Still working on importing some of the photos from old posts.

Six weeks ago I posted the following on Facebook with a link to a story about a shooting at the gas station kitty corner to our apartment:

Two years ago if you told me I’d hear more gunshots in Ithaca than I ever heard in 15 years living in LA (Palms) I wouldn’t have believed you. Now, helicopters? Definitely not hearing those here.

I was awake when the shooting happened and the noise woke up Xavi. He asked “what’s that noise?!” before going back to sleep.

I truly wasn’t exaggerating. Palms isn’t the safest area of LA and more than once I saw LAPD on my block. One time they wouldn’t let me back on to my street as they searched for a suspect. I had to sleep somewhere that night, so I crashed at my friend Alfred’s couch. Another time on my way back from a run an officer stopped me and once again I had to wait. I could see and hear the helicopters overhead. I remember the homicide of a teenaged girl walking home from the high school around the corner.

I knew LA, though. I felt safe enough in my neighborhood to go for runs after 10 pm.

[Photo: No accidents on this side]

But Ithaca threw me for a loop. I should’ve done my homework.

When we were planning our move we didn’t have a chance to visit to look for an apartment. Instead, we relied on some new contacts to share leads and info about the neighborhoods. One guy, P, told us he’d ask his landlord if they had any vacancies coming up and shared info on where he lived. The location was just six blocks from the Commons. It was 1.5 miles away from Cornell and close to several bus lines. It was in our budget, furnished (a plus so we could cut down on the furniture we needed to move and thus save some money), rather newly built, had parking, no snow shoveling required, and best of all P didn’t have any concerns about the apartments or the landlords.

Sign us up!

It was fine until I realized we were three floors up without an elevator, the windows didn’t have bars and we were at a major intersection near the ambulance dispatch place and the railroad tracks (a plus for Xavi).

[Photo: This is a diesel. I want to see a steam engine.]

That summer when people asked how we were settling in, I brought up the noise. If it wasn’t the emergency vehicles, it was motorcycles, trucks and speedsters.

Our second year we got used to the noise and kept the windows closed more often. It was cooler that way and they blocked a lot of the noise. That didn’t help the crazy though. There were a couple of shootings, a stabbing and several car accidents. One collision sent an SUV in to the heavy wood planters surrounding the main door. That’s the same door I’d take on my way to the bus stop or to walk the six blocks to the Commons. The people involved in the accidents we heard were all okay.

All this didn’t make us decide to move. I liked living close to all the things. We could easily walk to church, the library, a number of parks, playgrounds, waterfalls, work, and the Commons. But for a family of four, the two bedroom apartment was too small. Plus, I really wanted someplace where the kids could play outside close by. The park a block away was fine for bubbles and kicking around a soccer ball, but it could also be little sketch. I didn’t want Xavi asking “what’s that funny smell?” or “what’s he doing?” if we saw someone smoking weed.

[Photo: Unsure about all this nature and bugs]

A few days ago we traded downtown Ithaca life for what counts as the suburbs of Ithaca.

[Photo: Good thing it’s been a few years since I read Into the Woods]

We’ve been here three days and have seen two deer, gotten a bunch of mosquito bites from being at the playground and local running/walking path, and met two boys close in age to Xavi. He’s complained about kids playing basketball outside and clamored for a bicycle.

[Photo: It’s not bedtime yet, is it, daddy?]

And you know what? I think it’s the perfect time.

Standard
Amigos, Blog/tech

Why I haven’t given up blogging

Still working on importing photos.

Almost all of the runners

A few weeks ago I received an email from a longtime reader. She asked if I was done with blogging.

It was a fair question. I hadn’t updated in over six months. I had slowed down a lot in recent years but never just stopped for that long. Like La Profe Chicana, I had a few reasons for my hiatus. And like her, I’d married a blog reader (hi, Sean!) and now had two children.

Enter one of the reasons for the hiatus. Blogging is work, takes time, can be a technical headache (go away hackers!) and is much less easy to do one-handed while nursing a baby than scrolling through Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. I’ve also struggled with how to write about my new-ish identity as a mother while also respecting my children’s privacy.

[Photo]

Blogging didn’t always feel like such a chore. It was fun when I first started in the early-mid ’00s, before I ever even read the word (web)blog. I can relate to Xoloitzquintle who blogged a lot while also writing his dissertation. For me, blogging was a nice distraction from academics. I connected with amazing people and over the years have been lucky enough to meet many of them despite being scattered across the country and abroad in some cases. I’ve danced in Tijuana, run in Carlsbad and shopped at a cute store/coffee shop in Little Village.

I got a lot of validation from blogging and the communities I developed. I think I was good at it, and that mattered to a wannabe writer and someone trying to find a foothold in academe. The topics came easier and the technical stuff wasn’t a headache. People still read and commented and that was an incentive to keep posting. Other bloggers’ posts inspired new topics and so on. The community was still there but the blogs were largely inactive, rarely updated.

[Photo]

Now, the community is challenging me to get back to writing at least two times a week. The trial period is July. I’ve already faltered in the first week, but that’s okay. I can make it up.

Nos vemos en los comments.

Second two photos by Oso/David.

Standard
Bebe, Familia

La Cuarentena, the first forty days

Earlier versions of this post were drafted in September-November 2016. Updated for clarity.

***

The day after Mamá Toni passed away almost two years ago my mom shared an idea with me.

“I was thinking that you, Sean and Xavi should move in to Mamá Toni’s old room.”

She had it all planned out and explained that what we would save on rent and childcare — Xavi would be cared for by a tag team of family members — could go towards a down payment for a house. And we could also have a second child. Possibly a girl.

[Photo]

I have to admit, in my grief, this idea didn’t seem half bad. Then I considered a move to Hacienda Heights would extend my commute at least an hour each way. I had never moved back home after going to college, and now I was considering doing so with a family. It was nuts.

When Sean arrived from his trip to New York to attend our friend Kevin’s funeral, I told him about the conversation. He laughed at the idea.

I never told him that for a moment it didn’t seem half bad.

Less than a year later, we had moved across the country so I could take a new job.

I thought about this a lot as I considered my immediate postpartum experience with Archie.

***
Newborn Archie

Archie was born on the afternoon of Monday, August 29th. On Tuesday evening, my parents arrived in Ithaca. My mom stayed for two weeks, my dad stayed for one. All my worries about how we would manage without our support network nearby subsided. While here, they took care of me, Sean, Xavi and Archie. We were spoiled with delicious food and time to rest while they took Xavi out for fun grandparent dates at the park, library and other places Xavi loves.

At the same time, our muscle memories kicked in and we got back to caring for a newborn. Friends have said it and now I believe it. The transition from one to two kids was definitely easier for us than going from none to one. Both boys were relatively easy newborns. The toughest aspect of newborn life with Xavi was learning to breastfeed and I avoided those issues with Archie by applying the lessons from my rough start with Xavi. It also helped that Archie was a great eater. Despite this we had more frequent appointments with the pediatrician to check weight since they considered him low for gestational age at birth. Through those and his output (read: diapers!), we’ve confirmed that he’s doing just fine.

Another big difference was my anxiety over going outside or nursing in public. With Xavi I was baffled about how this would work. I didn’t go to church for a month and our car trips were limited to appointments for doctor’s visits because he hated being in the car and LA traffic. This was a huge difference with Archie. On the Sunday after he was born, I was back in church. Nursing with a cover or without was no big deal. He did fine in the car for local trips and road-trips. I even was brave enough to fly cross country with both boys. Solo. I also helped that Archie was easygoing.

As expected, I was (am) tired. However, the sleep deprivation didn’t hit me as hard as the first time. This was likely because I was used to some sleep interruptions after Xavi and through waking up a lot during pregnancy.

[Photo]

The most challenging aspect was definitely parenting a newborn and trying to give Xavi the attention he needed. Xavi became more defiant and moody. I don’t know what part of it was being a three-year-old and what part was dealing with a tough transition. Despite being very excited to meet his little brother, he didn’t show much interest once Archie was home. He said things like, “Don’t hold baby Archie! [Anyone but mom] hold baby Archie.” And more than once he told Sean, “Tomorrow, we go to the hospital and take back baby Archie.”

Abuelos y nietos

Naturally, I worried about what would happen when my parents returned to LA. How would we transition to handling both boys and still doing things like cooking and cleaning? During the two weeks my mom was in Ithaca we didn’t really worry about that stuff as she spoiled us.

Then she left and we adapted, but life didn’t return to a new normal for long.

Mom left on September 13th and less than 2 weeks later I was on a flight to LA with both boys. In the weeks before Archie was born Papá Chepe had battled lung infections and been hospitalized. When Archie was born Papá Chepe had already improved and gone home. However, a week later he was ill again. My parents were honest with me and let me know that I should come visit while I could, while Papá Chepe was still alert enough to recognize me. It was a tough decision to make. The cost was one issue. Time wasn’t as I had the time thanks to maternity leave. However, Sean didn’t have time to take off from work. If I went, I’d be going alone with Archie (definitely) and Xavi (quite likely). Was it even safe to travel with an infant who was only a few weeks old? I called our pediatrician’s office and cleared it with the nurse on the advice line. Air travel wasn’t ideal, but they made exceptions for extenuating circumstances. She just recommended I used common sense approaches to keeping him away from sick people.

And so I went because I knew I would deeply regret not saying goodbye if I had the chance.

[Photo]

On September 25th I flew out from JFK with Archie and Xavi. We spent the next ten days in Hacienda Heights at my mom’s house. Friends and family lent us carseats and a travel crib to make the visit easier.

Chepe & Archie

I was so happy to see Papá Chepe. By the time we visited his health had improved. He was alert, eating well and responsive. Papá Chepe got to meet Archie and see Xavi. During our visit I’d often put Archie in Papá Chepe’s bed so he could babysit. It was adorable, just as when he and Mamá Toni met a four-day old Xavi. Meanwhile, Xavi would play with the collection of toys Papá Chepe had available to help him regain skills he had lost after his stroke.

My parents doted on me and the boys. I was spoiled once again and didn’t have to cook or do other chores. I had plenty of immediate and extended family members around to hold Archie if I needed to eat or shower. My mom invited family over on a weekend to see us and it was like our old Sunday gatherings. And once again my parents took advantage of having Xavi in town to do fun grandparent dates like go swimming at a friend’s pool or visiting the train park.

I realized afterward that this was the closest I would get to a traditional postpartum cuarentena. I wasn’t going to move in to my parents’ home for that period or longer like my mom had proposed in those first few days after Mamá Toni passed away. That just wasn’t practical or possible for anyone involved. But the visits were more than enough.

[Photo]

For most of those first forty days I was staying under the same roof as my mom. I was mothered by by her and it was exactly what I needed to recover well and be the best mom I could be for my own children. And because of the special circumstances of Papá Chepe’s declining health I got to go home and see him again. It was a bittersweet blessing.

***

July 6th marks eight months since Papá Chepe’s passing. A few days ago, I had a dance party in the kitchen with Archie and Xavi. We danced to La Marcha de Zacatecas and I couldn’t help but miss all our dances.

Photos will be added later. Still working on that import. 😀

Standard