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Camping, crabs, and dirt

11 May

Last week we took z-baby on his very first camping trip. Sig-o and I love to camp, but it had been awhile since we had actually done it — since I was pregnant with z-baby, in fact. So we were thrilled to finally share this piece of our lives with him.

We decided to stick close to home in case he didn’t take to it well, and camped at a nearby state park. This is what I call posh camping… and it was perfect for z-baby.

We told z-baby what we were doing and he helped us pack up. But when we talked about going night-night outside, he just looked at us like we had lost our minds. But he did have fun playing in the tent as we set up camp… he liked it so much we had a hard time coaxing him out.

Tents

Color coordination not intentional, but kinda cute

We sat around and relaxed, but found lots to do, too. There was a great little playground, and I’m not sure who enjoyed it more — z-baby or the dog.

Playground

No, you go first!

Then the camp hosts lent us some crab pots and we went crabbing for the first time ever. It was so much fun!

Crab pots

Crab pots

We didn’t have meat for bait, but we had some fried chicken. And we all know how much crabs like soul food… right?

Baiting crab pot

Baiting the crab pot... with fried chicken

So we baited them, tossed them in, and waited.

Watching crabs

Watching crabs at low tide while waiting to check the crab pots

And would you believe it? We caught our first crab!

Crab in pot

There's a crab in there!

We caught a few more that we tossed back because they were too small. By the time we were getting the hang of it, z-baby and the dog were ready to move on (go back to the playground, that is). But we did enjoy one crab as an appetizer that night!

Crab on grill

Yum!

Z-baby and I also took a few nature walks. We focused on textures and looked for things that felt different — leaves, pine cones, thorns, marsh mud, moss. He wasn’t so sure about this at first, but picked out some pine cones on his own to take back to Papi.

Luna hiking

Doggie leads the way

Once he let his guard down enough to touch some new stuff, he must have been feeling adventurous. He waited, of course, until he was freshly bathed… and then he became one with the dirt.

In the dirt

Testing it out

Cars in dirt

Driving cars in the dirt

Dirt on hands

Showing off his dirt

And what could be a better way to end our evenings than with roasted marshmallows and smores?

Marshmallows

Double yum!

The first evening it took z-baby a bit to realize we weren’t kidding about the sleeping outside part. But he got over it and had no problem with it. He even slept though our dog obnoxiously whining, growling, barking, and generally being a restless pain in the butt the e-n-t-i-r-e night. We knew it would be rough when some deer came up into our camp area before we were even in the tent. And then all hell broke loose when some raccoons came up and stole the backpack with all the dog food in it because someone (ok, me) forgot to put it up high enough where they couldn’t get it. Oops. She drove us so crazy that sig-o put her in the car to sleep sometime in the wee hours of the morning. And then we went to buy more dog food.

We had so much fun we stayed an extra night. It was a perfect get-away that we greatly needed, and some nice family bonding time before z-baby and I take off for a month-long trip to see family. Can’t wait until we get home and can do it all over again!

800 days

6 May

800 days. Even.

It has been exactly 800 days since z-baby was born. And in those 800 days, we have been separated for no longer than 12 hours.

But tonight, for the very first time, he is sleeping over at my mother’s. His first sleepover.

He helped me pack his bag and reminded me over and over again not to forget his hat. He was so excited as he rolled his bag up to the door. He gave me a little kiss, said, “Bye, Momma!” and was off to play.

It pained me to leave him… and I kept myself busy this evening so that I wouldn’t think about it. But after sig-o got home and we started winding down for the evening, it hit me again.

I miss my baby. I may have cried a little. And I’ve been fighting the overwhelming urge to go over there just to be close to him.

I know he’s with my mother, but I feel like he’s all by himself. He’s still such a baby (only 800 days old!) and I’m still not ready to share him.

Sig-o says he’s just a part of my life, but not all of it… and that I’m not his whole life, either. But I want to be. For now, at least. Is that soooo wrong?

Going with your gut

1 May

For those of you visiting from the Multicultural Awareness Blog Carnival, welcome to The Vaca Loca! I’m so glad you could stop by and hope you enjoy your stay!

I’m originally from Kentucky, and besides Speedy Gonzalez and The Three Amigos, I didn’t grow up hearing much Spanish spoken. I started taking Spanish in high school, and it was there that the universe started opening little windows for me and laying out paths that would ultimately lead me to where I am today — married to a man from Mexico and trying to raise a bilingual baby.

I consider myself fluent in Spanish, but not fully bilingual. I think in both languages, dream in both languages, feel in both languages… but English is still by far easier for me. This became especially apparent after having my baby. I spoke to him in both languages, but when it came time to comfort him, coo at his cuteness, and play baby games with him, English dominated. Complicating matters was the fact that I had postpartum depression, which utterly exhausted me and left me with an abysmal emptiness. And it’s when I’m tired and weak that my Spanish suffers the most.

My husband and I had talked early on about how we were going to go about teaching both languages to the baby. The one-parent-one-language method felt forced to us. And since we now live in the US we knew the baby would be getting an overwhelming amount of English no matter what. So we planned on just using Spanish in the home and with Spanish-speaking friends and family. The effect that my postpartum depression had on this plan only exasperated me more and fueled my feelings of inadequacy when it came to raising a bilingual baby. But we pressed on, adamant that he learn Spanish. We quit worrying about the “right” method, and just did what felt right in our guts.

My little z-baby is now two years old and his language skills are really starting to blossom. My husband speaks to him almost only in Spanish, and I speak as much Spanish to him as I possibly can. Some days this means no English. Others it means about half and half. And z-baby? He understands both beautifully. And he speaks some of both, though he has yet to string sentences together in either. He picks and chooses the words he uses. For some things he only uses Spanish — the alphabet, numbers, colors. For other things, it’s only English — parts of the body, apple, move, bed. And for yet other things, it’s what suits his fancy in the moment — ball/pelota, agua/water, kitty/gato, comer/eat, basura/trash. He’s let loose a perfectly conjugated verb or two in Spanish (cayó and ¡ya voy!) and chastises the dog in English (Bad gur!). And I’ve even noticed recently that he asks my husband and me to pick him up in Spanish, but asks my mother in English.

My heart explodes as such displays of bilingual communication. And it’s those moments that make all the hard work worth it, and make it easier to put up with the daily aches and pains of what it’s really like to try and teach our baby Spanish and English. So what does the daily grind feel like anyway? Well, a little something like this….

  • It means translating for grandparents and abuelos
  • It means walking through stores and jabbering away in Spanish while you get stares from everyone (both Latinos and non-Latinos)
  • It means actively seeking out books and activities in Spanish (this is the only gift we ever ask for from Mexico now)
  • It means learning the words for things you may never have had to use before
  • It means getting your Spanish corrected more frequently
  • It means learning songs in Spanish and making up new ones
  • It means always being aware of the balance between how much you use each language
  • It means not beating yourself up when you slip into English
  • It means second-guessing e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g you say — “Did I say that right? Is that masculine or feminine? Is my accent off?”
  • It means loosening up, letting go, being persistent, and having patience

But most of all, it means trusting yourself and going with what feels natural in your gut — and isn’t that the ultimate lesson in parenting, no matter what language you do it in?

******

A big Thank You to Bicultural Mom for hosting the carnival!

Unicorn

21 Apr

Z-baby is an early riser. Not too early, but since I’m not a morning person, anything feels early. He wakes up, nurses a bit, and then hops out of bed and plays with toys in our room. Unless I forget to shut the door at night. Then he has free reign of the house while I struggle to heave myself out of bed. We do have a baby gate up in the hallway to reign him in… but that only lasted a few months before he figured out how to work it.

One morning this week he hopped out of bed and promptly headed out of the room. Sig-o and I lay in bed talking and then we heard the crash. From the sound of it, I can only surmise that he was standing up in his big, wooden Mexican truck while cooking at his play kitchen when he fell out and hit the entertainment center? I jumped out of bed and he met me at the door crying. He asked me for a bebo (beso = kiss) for his boo-boo and stopped crying and ran out of the room to play again. I tried not to freak too much and shrugged it off.

By the time we sat down to breakfast, he had a big, honkin’ coco (bump) on his head… and he was so proud of it. It looked like he was sprouting a unicorn horn. Here are some really, really bad pics of the little sprout.

Co-sleeping Blues

13 Apr

Before z-baby was born, we painstakingly picked out the “perfect” pack n’ play/bassinet combo and placed it beside our bed. When we brought him home from the hospital, we would carefully swaddle him every night and place him in it. He woke up every two hours, nearly on cue, to nurse. I would get up with him, nurse him, and then hand him off to sig-o to change his diaper and get him back to sleep. We tag-teamed like pros.

Then when z-baby was almost 7 weeks, a series of events threw us into the world of co-sleeping. First, my gallbladder whacked out and I had to have it removed. Then, that very same day, sig-o got sick with the flu. To complicate matters, we were in the very early stages of what ended up being the swine flu pandemic, and we didn’t want to take any chances with the baby. So I sent sig-o to stay with his mom for a few days.

So here I was, still recovering from the emergency c-section, still recovering from the gallbladder surgery, and alone with a newborn. And barely taking any pain killers for it because of the breastfeeding and my fear that I’d be too drowsy or out of it to care for him.

My mom had come to help and before she left, she had tucked the baby neatly away in the bassinet. But when he woke up, I realized that I couldn’t get him out. I could either 1) bend over or 2) pick up the baby (from the bed, say), but I couldn’t bend over and pick up the baby from the bassinet. After 20 minutes or so of him crying I must have had enough adrenaline or whatever pulsing through me that I just gritted my teeth and hefted him out of there.

I collapsed on the bed with him and it was that day that we finally were able to get the hang of nursing while laying down. And we’ve never looked back. I remember the sheer elation I had that night… just the two of us in a big ole king size bed. Never had to get up to nurse. Slept better than I had for a long time.

Sig-o eventually came home and was like WTH? He had had to sleep in the guest bed for probably the last half of the pregnancy. Partly because I was uncomfortable and wanted to sleep diagonal across the bed, and partly because my (big) dog never wanted to leave my side while I was pregnant and insisted on sleeping diagonally along with me. So it was like a little honeymoon for us after the baby was born and we could sleep in the same bed together. But that day he immediately knew he had been trumped again.

Fast forward two years. We both love co-sleeping and regret not bringing him into the bed earlier. But this kid isn’t seven pounds anymore. And for a kid who is in the low percentiles for both height and weight, he can really take up some real estate in what now feels like a tiny, itsy, bitsy, king size bed.

Two years. Two years that sig-o and I feel like we haven’t been able to just… touch. Sure, we’ve managed to get him down in his crib (also a painstakingly picked-out waste of space) a few times and could sleep in each other’s arms until z-baby woke up wanting to nurse. And a few times we’ve put him off to one side in the bed and hoped he doesn’t fall off. We tried to sidecar the crib, too, but that never worked. Z-baby insists on being sandwiched right in between us. Two years is a long time.

And I’m not even talking about sex. Which is also a huge issue. Between the co-sleeping and just plain old parental exhaustion, it hasn’t been easy. Lately, I’ve literally resorted to setting the alarm for around 3am so we can wake up, grab a quickie while z-baby is fast asleep in the other room, and collapse into bed again… each of us on either side of the bed, not touching. But at 3am, who really cares, right?

Through it all, sig-o has been fine with it. There’s been a little whining every now and then. Even some pouting. But tonight it clearly moved beyond pouting. He’s actually… despondent about it all. He’s mentioned from time to time that he’s ready to start transitioning the baby to his own bed. But I had no idea he felt so dejected, so sad about it.

As I sit in the baby’s nursery writing this, z-baby is asleep in my bed and sig-o is snoring in the guest room on the futon. He refused to go to bed without me tonight. He’s basically waiting on me to… put him to bed. I’m talking about my adult husband here. I mean, I miss him too, but really? I think he’s just overtired and cranky and exasperated (sounds like I’m talking about a toddler, right?). And I get that. And it’s not always easy for me, either.

One day this will all be behind us and we’ll be pining away for the days that z-baby slept sideways between us, toes in his papi’s ribs, head in his momma’s. In the meantime, though, I have a 32 year-old I need to go put to bed.

Remembering eggs…

12 Apr

Today we colored Easter eggs. We’re a little early, I realize, but since Mamaw and Papaw are going home tomorrow, I figured we should go ahead and get started.

Coloring eggs were always my favorite part of Easter. I remember doing them with my Mamaw and can still see the little cups we used, the bright colors, the unwieldy little wire spoon, the smell of vinegar (I still love the smell of vinegar!). So I was very touched to see Mamaw and z-baby carry on the tradition. Still feeling a bit sentimental, so I thought I’d share a few photos.

Staking claim to their eggs

Coloring eggs

Can you smell the vinegar?

Coloring eggs

Coloring eggs with a little help from Mamaw

Coloring eggs

Pushing Spring to its limits

22 Mar

As if a plethora of fresh, juicy strawberries wasn’t enough to celebrate the arrival of spring, sig-o suggested we go to the beach on his day off this week. I was thinking he was crazy. It’s March. March is not a beach month. But since it was his only day off this week and I’m practicing going with the flow, I was all for it.

We lounged. Z-baby played in the sand. Shovel, bucket, dump truck. I was amazed. Last year he wouldn’t walk on the sand. Six months ago he would walk but wouldn’t touch it with his hands. Now he’s a little beach bum. The water was c-o-l-d. But we all walked in it and then z-baby kicked and splashed enough to get himself thoroughly wet. Ni modo. He had a great time frolicking around and we drank it all in, drop by little drop.

Going with the flow? Good. Beach in March? Even better. We may have to make it a weekly trip already. Spring rocks!

A day at the beach

Trekking to the beach