Monday, October 31, 2011

The Waiting is the Hardest Part?

Joaquin was born on 11/6/09, which was 12 days before his estimated due date (11/18/09). I was just over 38 weeks pregnant, and I went into pre-labor on a Wednesday.

Tuesday was my last official day in the office and we were having network testing for a pilot called THE QUICKENING. The actors testing for the lead roles were all a little thrown to see a very pregnant woman sitting in the room with them and I think many worried I would go into labor during their auditions. Fortunately, or unfortunately, no one's performance was earth-shattering enough that it brought on labor, but we did find people to cast.

The next day I had a meeting in the morning with one of the actors from THE CLEANER, the Benjamin Bratt show I worked on that only went two seasons on A&E. We met at one of my favorite places, The Alcove in Los Feliz, because I'd be working from home that day and wanted to stay on the east side. He had some show ideas he wanted to pitch me so so it made sense to take the meeting on that side of town.

Then I went downtown to meet Kiko for lunch. All the while, I was having contractions, but nothing major. They ranged from being normal Braxton Hicks to being mildly uncomfortable. Still, as a first time mom, I felt like labor was imminent.

That evening, I passed my mucus plug. Yuck! I wasn't prepared for that and freaked out a little when I saw it. Fortunately, our house keeper, Jorgelina was home, and she (a mom to 2 kids herself) reassured me that everything was normal. Now, I was convinced the baby was coming any minute and Kiko needed to get home. (I am strategically leaving out more details of this story for gross-ness purposes...)

That night, we went to bed, feeling anxious and excited, only for me to wake up just before midnight with more consistent contractions. These were the real things, I just new it, so we started timing them. They were ranging from coming between 4 and 7 minutes apart (strange for these early contractions, I know now) and NOW I really knew, the baby was on his way. We remembered from our birthing class that we should try to do something to distract myself in the early stages, so as not to run through our bag of tricks too fast. We watched FATHER OF THE BRIDE 2 on the TV and Kiko eventually feel asleep, but I stayed up all night, not able to ignore the excitement that our baby would soon be here.

At 6 am I called the doctor, who told me I could either come to the hospital to get checked or just wait till my 10 am appointment. I decided to try to wait it out for the office appointment, which gave me more time to clean the house and take care of last minute things. We went on a mad cleaning spree, because my brother and sister-in-law would be coming over to stay with the dogs over night. I needed the sheets to be cleaned, the floors had to be mopped and vacuumed. It was a sudden obsession. We left the house, saying a dramatic goodbye to the dogs and telling them "next time we see you, we'll have a new baby with us." Hospital bags in toe, we left the house.

Well, we were wrong. At the doctor, I was barely 2 cm dilated and she sent me home. I was so disappointed and also completely exhausted. She urged me to rest, which of course was impossible. I waited out the day at home with Kiko, trying to get stuff done and trying to relax, all the while feeling discouraged about when the baby would finally come. How will I know when it's the real thing?

That night, we kept our plans to take Matt & El to see a live taping of the NPR show "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me," mainly because our doula urged us to stay busy and keep my mind off things. We had dinner at Islands and I enjoyed a chocolate milkshake. My brother teased that we needed to call the radio show "Wait Wait, Don't Have Me," since I was having contractions throughout the performance. I think there was a part of me that truly believed Peter Sagal would be delivering my child. It didn't happen.

We went home after a fun night, and Kiko immediately passed out in the bed, exhausted from our "false alarms" the night before...I knew sleep was what I needed, too. If only I could force myself to fall asleep...

I lay on the couch, listening to my Hypno-birth tracks on my ipod, trying to relax and get in the zone, and the contractions kept coming.

Eventually, I started to cry, mainly because of exhaustion, but also because the intensity of the pressure started to really pick up. Not wanting to wake up Kiko, I kept to myself, but the tears kept coming. Eventually, I didn't know what to do and I worried that if I told him "this was it," he would not believe me after our previous experiences....I cried louder, convinced he would have to hear me and he would come to the den to rescue me. No dice.

I slowly walked into our room, leaned over the bed, and called "Kiko, Kiko..." He finally awoke, and rallied quickly to be an amazing support system, and yes, this was the real thing...

A little after midnight, our back-up doula, Joni, arrived at the house. We had never met until that night, but she assured me after going through one contraction together, we'd be like sisters...She wasn't wrong.
(Our original doula and my dear friend, Amy, contracted the swine flu and wasn't able to come near me or within a mile of the hospital, so she hooked us up with Joni.) I was initially skeptical of meeting someone new at this intimate moment in our lives, but Kiko texted her and insisted we get the help. I am so glad she was there.

We labored at home until about 8:00 am, at which time we all felt my contractions were coming fast enough that we could go to the hospital...well, it wasn't until about 5:40 that evening that Joaquin Porter Ochoa was born, so after about 19 hours of active labor, we had our little miracle.

Some day I'll write about the rest of the birth story, but for now what I am fixated on is this waiting...this pre-labor that can last weeks, days, or hours, depending on the individual. I find myself clinging to my experience with Joaquin's birth, replaying the events in my mind like a broken record, trying to remember the magnitude of every early contraction and all the other things my body was doing in preparation for his birth.

I reflect back to this because it is what I know, and there are so many unknowns in childbirth. My rational mind is trying to tell a logical pattern I can follow to help me know how this next birth is going to go. The thing is this - every birth is different and every baby is different. Though I had one type of experience with Joaquin, this one with #2 is already unique and different and I am realizing that no matter how much I try to get ahead of what my body is doing and to guess when she's going to come, it's really not up to me. Other than trying every natural way to induce labor I have read about, I have to realize that all I can do is be patient and wait...

She will come when she is ready and I need to be ready and rested whenever she (and my body and the other pregnancy gods) decide it's time.

In the meantime, it's so hard to just chill and go about with my life. I feel like at any moment, my water will break and it will be a mad dash to the hospital. But that's not the case. Though I am excited and anxious, I know patience is what I need to practice. Besides, today is Halloween, and I am determined to go trick-or-treating with Joaquin. In fact, I'd be heart broken if I had to miss out on it so now I am pleading with her to stay inside just a little longer...

Our plan was to take Joaquin to Disneyland for trick-or-treating one of these nights the past few weeks, but we just couldn't bring ourselves to pay the additional money it cost for the extra Halloween event...

So today we will wait...and we will do our Halloween thing with the soon-to-be big brother, and what will be his last Halloween as an only child...

Now if I can only learn to relax and enjoy this pre-baby time and realize that being pregnant at this stage is still probably easier than having a newborn.

Amen to that! Happy Halloween. Wishing everyone lots of treats...

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Day at the Beach

One of the many reasons I love living in Southern California is the ability to access the beach or mountains with a relatively short car trip. Last week, Joaquin, his auntie and I ventured to Santa Monica for a day of fun in the sun.

The weather was perfect, not too hot and not too overcast, and I had to keep reminding myself that it is mid-October and we are at the beach. Awesome!

I realized that Joaquin hasn't seen real waves since he was a smaller baby, so at first, the waves really startled him. If I would start to walk into the water, he would scream from the shore "Be careful, Mama!" or "Don't fall!" But by the end of our time there, he was gleefully cheering "I want to see more BIG waves!" Our other beach trips to Orange Beach, Alabama, Hawaii, and Marina del Rey all had calm, still tides so the crashing waves were a new thing to him.

Hopefully, we can squeeze in a few more fall beach days before baby sister arrives...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Dear California,

I am realizing now that I am home, I have left you all in suspense, wondering what I am doing with my daily life...Okay, that's probably not really true, but one thing I've been doing is counting my blessings that I live in California.

Since arriving back here almost 2 weeks ago, I have felt like I am in a state of euphoria. Sure, our state might be going broke, we might have earthquakes from time to time, and some undesirable air-quality in Los Angeles, but I'll take my poor, shaking, polluted-haze of a life in Southern California to that of anywhere else in the country. Everything just seems more beautiful since being back. Even the strip malls seem pristine and nice, compared to their Southern counterparts I visited in Alabama. The weather is gorgeous; Joaquin and I love being able to go outside once again without feeling like we are in a sweat house. Taking the dogs for walks, which was just part of our normal routine before leaving, now feels like a huge luxury, and even the Pasadena heat does not feel that bad compared to what we came from in Alabama.

Before I left, I questioned whether our small-ish house was ready to welcome another resident once the baby comes, and after living in our shoebox apartment in Montgomery, I feel like our house is Buckingham feels huge. Okay, so the closets are still a little cramped, but all in all, it's nice to have some breathing room and it feels wonderful to be home.

I've been on a nesting craze trying to get ready for the baby girl's imminent arrival. We are setting up a playroom for Joaquin (and his future sister) in the detached office, and that is turning out to be a bigger project that I'd originally envisioned. We are also getting a new couch for our living room, so we will have a comfortable place to receive guests once the little one arrives. I think because I am not doing a full nursery this time around (the kids will share a room) I am transferring my nesting instincts to the rest of the house, unfortunately for our budget and my husband...

There is some sort of magical gratitude and newfound appreciation for home that overcomes you when you are traveling. I've experienced it while touring Europe and other countries, on trips when I've been in magnificent places, and yet still home seems like a paradise. Mainly because it's home. It's familiar and it's yours. Our 5 weeks in Alabama ended up being a good experience --- I use the adjective good here, not because my thesaurus is out of reach and I can't come up with more a descriptive, less banal word, but actually because it seems the only way to describe it. It wasn't great, terrible, life-changing, monumental, inspirational, miserable, fabulous, or anything else...It had its special times, and it had its "why me" times, but all in all, the positive outweighed the negative, leaving me satisfied with my label of "good." One other wife whom I became close with, and also struggled at times with their temporary situation, said of being a military-spouse (her husband is former full time Active duty) and of living in Montgomery, "Well, it certainly will make us stronger."

In some poetic way, perhaps it did. I guess doing anything you really aren't choosing to do might make you stronger. I knew we'd make it through, and of course though dramatic adventures we did have, we did manage to have a lot of fun along the way. We were able to visit with relatives we seldom see in Memphis, which was terrific, AND we even met some new relatives for the first time, who of all places, live just outside of Montgomery. (I will post on this later, because this was a highlight of the trip.) The best part was the new friendships we made, and for those, I am extremely grateful. But in terms of me being a stronger person, if anything, it has strengthened my bond with California. Of course this is where our families live, and this is where I've always lived, but there is something about this state that just grounds me here and makes me feel like myself.

Being back in my own bed was one of the best feelings of all...and now it is 4:00 AM, and even though I cannot sleep, I know the cause of my insomnia is not my pokey mattress or my fear that ants are going to crawl on my face while I sleep...(Did I post about the ants in our apartment? Yes, we had 'em.) My insomnia rather comes from the overwhelming thoughts that I am to become a mother once again, that we haven't settled on a name yet for the baby, and other wandering ideas that come in and out of my head when I should be sleeping.

Still, I remain awake, blissfully happy to be back home, even if I will feel tired all day tomorrow, at least I know I will feel tired in California, and that's good enough for me.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011


It's Tuesday morning, and I once again am finding myself shockingly happy to be back in my Montgomery home.

After a truly wonderful weekend in Memphis with Kiko and Joaquin, where we visited with relatives, ate, saw the famous Peabody Ducks, ate, walked on Beale Street, ate some more, etc. I am feeling grateful we made it home safely and unharmed after driving through a treacherous storm last night. The drive home really made me miss my all-wheel-drive SUV that awaits us back in California, because that would have made us feel a lot safer driving through the storm last night. I can't keep track whether Alabama and Mississippi were getting remnants of Hurricane Katia, or if this was that tropical storm Leo effecting the Louisiana and other coastal regions, but whatever it was, there were downed trees, flooding, and accidents all along our 5 1/2 hour drive back to Montgomery from Memphis.

I am anxious to post pictures of our trip, because it was a really fun getaway. But for the moment, I am still shaking off the drive and really feeling happy we are safe and sound in our apartment. I dropped Kiko and Lt. Luongo off this morning at base around 6:30 and fortunately was able to get Joaquin back to sleep.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Back in Montgomery

I never thought I'd be happy to be back in my "Montgomery home" again.
Sure, the floors are still grimy. Yes, we picked up an ant infestation in the bathroom and the kitchen while we were in DC due to a hidden Cheerio or two under the bathmat and one under the fridge. (Luckily, since Kiko beat me home, he got the ant problem MOSTLY under control before we came home.) And yes, there is still that faint smell of musty cigarettes. Now, not only does our TV not work properly, but the dish washer is broken and my bedside table lamp is out of order...however, in the midst of all of these less-than-ideal circumstances, we are back together as a family in our temporary Southern home and I feel I can breathe a sigh of relief.

I never thought I'd be so happy to be in that springy, uncomfortable bed again, but at least now I am next to my husband and more importantly, I made it safely out of DC with a healthy child....Though I actually had a wonderful time in DC, the last few days were rough because Joaquin had a fever of 102 for three days. Sometimes I wonder if I am the only mother that thinks her child is going to die every time he is sicker than the last. Normally, I am a fairly laid-back mom, but when he was sick this time, it was the first time he's been really lethargic and not showing signs of his normal, happy, inquisitive, chatty self. Add to this worry the fact that we are in someone else's home, imposing on their generosity, without a car, 3000 miles away from our pediatrician and everything familiar to us, and I was a basket case. The poor kid has been dragged from time-zone to time-zone, to new, unfamiliar place, to new, unfamiliar place and he has been a trouper!

Fortunately, we went to Laura's pediatrician who was amazing. If I ever move to DC, Dr. FInkelstein will certainly my doctor of choice for my kids. We waited 5 minutes in the waiting room before they took Joaquin and me in. Both Dr. FInkelstein and his nurses were patient, kind, and very talkative, asking us all sorts of questions about Joaquin, what we do, our time in DC, etc. Turns out, Joaquin just had a bad virus and not an ear infection or strep throat, like the doctor first wondered based on his symptoms.

And his last fever (knock on wood) was at 4:45 AM yesterday morning.

So though the beds in our DC hotel and Dan & Laura's were like beds in the Four Seasons, I wasn't getting much rest in them because I was worried about my little guy.

Even though he was ill, and operating on little sleep, Joaquin was still a fairly pleasant travel companion. Sure, there was the two temper tantrums. First, he was upset because he wanted to get on the airplane and wanted to hold his ticket, so he sat down in the walkway repeating "I want to get on airplane...I want to get on airplane...I want my ticket." I could feel the glares of other passengers like daggers through my spine, as they prayed they were not siting near me and my heathen child. Then came temper tantrum #2, when we were seated on the plane and I broke the news to him that he did not get his own seat and had to share with Mama. Luckily, both tantrums lasted about 45 seconds and he quickly recovered. The rest of the flight he was happy, and is slowly grasping the concept of having to turn off all electronic devices until the captain says it's okay to use them. I explained to him about the light above our seats reading "Turn off electronic devices," and how it's not possible to watch Go! Diego Go!, Handy Man, or Mickey Mouse Clubhouse while these lights are on. (We have broken up with Dora, temporarily, after the Swiper incident.) He says to me, "Mama, turn off that light. I want to watch Diego!"
With every airplane he flies on, he's learning he can't always have what he wants when he wants it.

There is something about traveling that always makes you appreciate things getting back to "normal." And, quirky though this city is, I am enjoying my time in Montgomery and want to make the most of our less than 2 remaining weeks here. (Hooray for going to our REAL home in just a short time!)

I know this blog is like free therapy for me and to any of you who actually read it, thank you...I always feel better after I purge my latest adventures on this site and today I am feeling particularly grateful for a healthy baby and a reunited family unit. Oh, and minus our TBD Labor Day getaway, we only have 8 nights more here until we come home....) Cheers!

(pictured below is the charming house I stayed in while stranded in DC...Isn't it awesome? Though, not a great picture...) Thanks again, Dan, Laura, & Siena!

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane Irene

We made it through hurricane Irene, er "tropical storm" Irene....Daddy had to leave us on Saturday night, just as the worst of the weather was coming into DC. Luckily, his whole JASOC class was able to get out on what was one of the last flights leaving DC that night.

Joaquin and I were supposed to leave later and had to connect in Charlotte, North Carolina. So not only did it not seem likely that our flights would not happen, but Joaquin woke up that morning with a fever, which persisted off and on all day Saturday, so the best option seemed for us to stay in DC until Monday and wait out the storm.

Fortunately, we have amazingly hospitable friends in Dan and Laura as Joaquin and I shacked up with them the last couple days. The stranded hurricane house-guests took refuge in Colonial Heights. And throughout the storm, their house never lost power, so we all felt very lucky, as just a block away, houses were dark and streetlights were out. I don't know what we would have done without their kindness and I am truly grateful for their warmth and friendship.

Tomorrow, we venture back to Montgomery to spend time with Kiko while he finishes his last two weeks of JAG school, then it's back to California to get ready for baby nĂºmero dos and to resume our routine. Hooray! Among other things, I miss our dogs so much it hurts...

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Friday, August 26, 2011

Joaquin & Siena

Joaquin giving Siena a ride in her doll stroller. By the look on his face, he takes this task very seriously.

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Joaquin Showing his Teeth

This photo is taken from our favorite lunch spot in Montgomery. It's actually in Old Town Cloverdale, and it's called Filet and Vine. It's a bottle shop, butcher shop, and deli, and everything we've tried has been delicious.

We realize Joaquin often looks really serious when we take his picture, even though in general he is a smiley little boy, so I thought I'd share this shot.

Other notable things about Joaquin right now, at 21 1/2 months, are:

-He can count to ten, but he always skips 4, 5, 6, 7 & 8. So it sounds like "one, two, free, (pause) eight, nine, ten!" He loves to jump in the pool, and always counts like this before he jumps into your arms.

-If he's walking in between two adults, he'll ask for one of each of their hands and say "I wanna woo," which in Joaquin translates to: Please pick me up and swing me, saying "woooo!" while you do it.

-He is obsessed with Thomas the Train. He has two Thomas trains with him, and one is "Thomas," the other is "another Thomas." The same goes for both of his Percy trains. He likes to have Kiko or me "be" one, and he hardly ever offers for us to "be" Thomas. Usually, it's "Mama, you want to be Dash? Wanna be Dash?"

-He likes markers, too. He always offers for Kiko or me to "be" brown or yellow. He is particularly fond of the purple and blue markers.

-He likes to stack all of his markers together so they make a marker sword.

-He loves all animals, particularly dogs, cats, horses, giraffes, and dinosaurs.

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things i am learning from traveling with a toddler

saying "wee!" during take-off and landing makes flying more fun.

you can never have too much chocolate milk stashed inside your purse.

you also can never have too many napkins or shout wipes, because it is highly likely the over-abundance of chocolate milk will end up sprinkled on the outside of your purse, your shirt, or your pants.

there are a lot of kind people in the world; I learned this when a 250 pound retired Marine offered to let Joaquin put either his head or his feet in his lap while he (Joaquin, not the former Marine,) slept in my lap on the airplane. he obviously was a dad and empathized; either way, i appreciated the gesture.

it can be emotionally unsettling to watch someone take your car seat or your suitcase away at check-in, but this sadness is quickly forgotten once you retrieve them at the baggage claim. i look at the baggage carousel with a whole new appreciation after seeing it through the easily impressed eyes of a toddler. it's like a choo choo made up of suitcases that goes around and around...

airplanes are easy to confuse with the Disneyland Monorail.

everyone, even a stranger, becomes a fair target to play Peek-a-Boo with when you're on a plane.

yelling "we're so high, we're so high!" when you reach cruising altitude is perfectly acceptable.

if you wear sandals all day during travel, including on your walk through a dirt path in the park, when you take your shoes off at night your toddler is likely to tell you, "Mama, you have poo on your feet!" I guess that was his way of telling me it'd been a long day and it was time for me to bathe.

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Adventures in Washington D.C.

two californians arrived in washington, d.c. after getting up at 4:15 in the morning, riding on 2 airplanes, and almost losing our car seat at the airport, just in time for the biggest earthquake to hit DC in over 100 years!

our dear friend, laura, picked joaquin and me up at Dulles International airport with her precious 15 month old daughter, Siena. Siena and Joaquin haven't seen each other in quite some time, but Joaquin was sharing his new airplane toy with her in an instant and making eyes at her in the back seat.

joaquin also started calling Laura "Tia," which is what he calls his aunties on Kiko's side because "Tia" is aunt in Spanish. Laura is a dark haired beauty like his west coast tias, `but I am not sure if he was confusing her for his Tia Alana or Tia Livvie, or if he just felt like calling her Tia. Either way, Tia Laura it was and I think she was touched.

Laura drove us to her house, which is in a charming part of D.C. called "Colonial Village." The neighborhood is comprised of period 1930s homes, all with similar colonial architecture, and it's bordered by Rock Creek Park. I immediately fell in love with the neighborhood, and of course, Laura's hospitality made it hard not to feel relieved to be in someone's home after being in hotels and a seedy apartments for 3 weeks.

While we were feeding the kids lunch, all of a sudden the house started shaking and dishes rattled. (Now, Laura is also from California, and between the two of us California girls, you'd think we'd know what to do in an EARTHQUAKE! But we're in DC....there are no earthquakes in D.C.! Or so we both thought....)

We grabbed the kids from their chairs, then stood under one arched doorway then another, then she's like "let's go outside," which seemed like a great idea to me because this house was old...and likely has not been through many earthquakes like California structures.

As we scurried outside, her neighbors were all coming outside also, calling from their front porches, "Oh my god! Oh my god! Is this/was that an earthquake?"

Of course, then Joaquin, being the parrot-child that he is, starts saying "Oh my God! Oh my God!"

I tell him, "we're okay, we're okay," and then Siena starts crying, and Joaquin repeats "we're okay, we're okay." It was very sweet.

So we decide to move our lunch outside and have a picnic on her front lawn, just so we can be ready in case there's an aftershock. I am still not sure if going outside was our best move, but it made us feel a lot safer.

I am glad I arrived when I did, because apparently, traveling in and out of DC for the rest of the day was not easy. Kiko and the rest of his JAG crew got stuck in Atlanta as their plane was delayed, and public transportation and traffic in the greater DC area was a mess well until the evening.

I guess being from California, I felt like a somewhat seasoned earthquake veteran, even though it still got my heart racing and my blood pumping...

After the earthquake, we took a nice long walk through Laura's neighborhood. I enjoyed the architecture and also was amazed at how there is a woodsy park in the middle of Washington, D.C. Our capital city is pretty amazing! It was also wonderful to reintroduce Joaquin into being outside, since the weather in Montgomery has kept us more or less cooped indoors and near the A/C unit.

Side note - I am not the best on airplanes, but if there is anything to get me over my fear of flying, it was the idea of spending 5 days alone at our place in Montgomery, while Kiko traveled to DC with his JAG classmates...I've never been so happy to get on a plane and go somewhere!

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Second Trip to the Zoo

Joaquin & Maddy enjoying their ice cream cones.
Joaquin asking me, "Mama, you want some ice ceam?" (No, that's not a typo. That's how he pronounces cream.)
A far-away shot of the baby bison at the zoo. These animals are amazing to look at. "So cute," says Joaquin.
And here is Joaquin with the baby Maddy loaned him. He was putting her to sleep by pressing her eye-lids closed. Good practice for baby sister!

Things I've Noticed in Montgomery

-There are a lot of billboards for hunting conventions and gun shows.

-There is not a general sense of concern for the planet. If you take a reusable grocery sack to the Winn Dixie, they'll bag your groceries in plastic, then put your plastic bags inside your reusable bags, unless you stop them in time.

-At Wal-mart, the checkers put only one or two items in each plastic bag, unless you intervene.

-They love their fast food restaurants. Some new ones to me are: Sonic, Steak & Shake, (awesome milkshakes, actually), Hardee's (same as Carl's, Jr.), Checkers, Zaxby's Chicken.

-Just like checking your egg carton at the grocery store, check your ice cream carton before you bring it home because someone may have tasted it in the store. Seriously, this happened to us. We got home and our carton of Hagen Dazs Chocolate Chocolate Chip ice cream had been pre-sampled in the store. Gross!

-They call pants "breeches."

- They think L.A. Stands for Louisiana.

-Moms might take kids to the bathroom to tinkle. (This brings back specific memories of my southern mother not allowing me to say "pee" as a little girl. A lady never says "I have to go pee.")
Good think we are teaching Joaquin to say "I need to take a leak." Wink, wink...

-There is a Waffle House at every freeway exit.

-People in general are very friendly and talkative. Whether it's the maintenance man at you apartment, the clerk at Dillard's, or the host at a restaurant, they like to know where you're from, how long you're staying, how old your baby is, etc. They also like to tell you about their new Ipod Nano, their next-door neighbor's dog, and the farm they used to own in Mississippi. They are very warm and friendly, unlike in LA, and it's endearing.

-People drive fast. Really fast. This might be because there is hardly ever traffic.

-They are not used to ethnic-sounding names. "Ochoa" really throws them off, and "Joaquin" might just get you a blank stare.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Dora, Dora, Dora the Explorer...

Okay, so I am not even going to begin to touch on the controversial subject of toddlers and television, but let it be known, we let our 21 month old son watch TV. Now, it's certainly not a babysitter for him, but heck, the kid's been obsessed with Winnie-the-Pooh since he was 8-months old, and that obsession didn't just emerge from the books we read to him...although, we did read Winnie books to him quite often...

His latest TV infatuation is with Dora the Explorer. Okay, harmless enough, right? One of my friend's little girls, who's one very smart cookie with an extremely advanced vocabulary took a liking to Dora at an early age, so I figured what's the harm? She was identifying leather-backed turtles and jaguars by age 2, so something about this show must trigger even the youngest and hungriest of minds.

What I didn't expect was a new insecurity directly inspired from the show...If you're familiar with the program at all, you'll know that there is a pretty rigid formula for all episodes. One component of the show is that Swiper, the fox, "loves swiping," and often, will swipe whatever tool is necessary for Dora to complete her mission. Now, Swiper is not exactly evil, but he doesn't usually help Dora or Boots, her pet monkey, accomplish their goals.

All of a sudden, two nights ago, Joaquin became obsessed with the idea that Swiper is going to "swipe" his choo choos, his "B" (AKA blanket), or even worse, Mama! At nap time, he says, "Mama, Swiper going to get my choo choo trains?"

I assure him, "No, sweetie. Swiper is not going to get your choo choos."

Then he persists, "Mama, Swiper going to take Mama from me?"

It's both sweet and heartbreaking at the same time. How can I explain to him that it's just a show and that Swiper is not really bad? More importantly, he is way too young to understand the fourth wall. But all I want to do is not let him watch anymore for fear that the insecurity will get worse.

Is it because we are away from home, thus his insecurities are peaking because of unfamiliar surroundings? Or is it because he is really attached to certain things? I am no child-psychologist, but I definitely thought I had a few years before movies or TV started to scare him. Watch a horror film when you're older, or even a Harry Potter movie when you're 10, and then you and Mama can talk about being afraid...but now! Ack! What do I do?

(Of course, the worst idea I had was to play on his insecurities to get him to give up his pacifier. Since Kiko left for JASOC in July, he's been especially keen on his "paci." He even will ask for them by color, i.e. "Mama, I want my orange paci..peez!" It's the "please/peez" that puts me over the edge. We figure he'll outgrow it in time, but the thought did cross our minds...Would we be setting him up for a lifetime of insecurities if we told him "Swiper must have swiped all your pacis...." Ha, I think we'll opt out of that parenting trick for now, and just focus on making him comfortable with his boundaries with fictional characters.)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Alternative Housing Arrangements?

Hooray for the weekend! When Friday night came, I felt a huge sigh of relief. Not only had we had a great day at the zoo, followed by a fun afternoon of swimming at the base pool, but now we had 48-hours of uninterrupted Daddy-time ahead of us. Woo hoo!

Friday night, we went out with 3 other couples to a local Italian/Greek place and had a great dinner, (except for the fact that my lasagna didn't arrive until everyone else was finished.) Fortunately, I filled up on salad and tzatziki and our waitress voluntarily took it off the bill.

Saturday morning, we had some errands to run, including stopping by the Air Force Inn to inquire about getting family housing on base. Here's a little taste of our exchange:

Kiko asks the woman at the desk, "Excuse me, ma'am? I was wondering if there is an TFL* available?" *Note, it might be TLF, I am still getting used to the military acronyms, but basically we were asking for temporary family living arrangements. If Kiko was full-time active duty, maybe I'd take the time to learn all the secret codes...

Her response was a terse, "no!"

So Kiko starts to walk away, when I said, "Wait a minute. Why don't you find out if there might be any openings any time in the next week or two."

Then he retreats back to the desk to ask my question, to which she responds: "I don't know. I know handle TFL so you'll have to check back on Monday when the person is here who deals with all of this."

So basically the "no" she originally gave wasn't really correct, but rather it was a "no" I am not going to help you so why don't you just mosey on out of my office...

Great. Nice to know the civilians employed by the Air Force are ready to go that extra mile for you.

Can I Live at the Montgomery Zoo?

In my 8 days of being in Montgomery, my favorite place so far is the Montgomery Zoo. It's great, even as far as zoos go. Now, if you know me even slightly, you know that I love animals. But sometimes zoos give me the willies. Something about seeing all those animals in cages, with people gawking at them and yelling doesn't always sit right with me. But there are a few zoos that I love, including the Santa Barbara Zoo, and now the Montgomery Zoo.

It is clean, small, shaded, and the animals seem to have big places to roam around. Plus, did I mention it was shaded? It was the only time since I've been here I've actually been able to be outside 5 minutes without feeling like I was going to pass out from heat exhaustion. The pathways at the zoo are heavily wooded with trees, and they have misters throughout the park if you so choose to stand beneath them.

The best part was that Joaquin had a blast with his new friend, Maddy. Maddy will be 3 in October, and they became fast friends the first time they met at Saza, a restaurant in downtown Montgomery. Joaquin shared his Peter Pan figure with her, and since then, they are inseparable. He was especially impressed when I took her to the potty the other day and he saw she was wearing Dora the Explorer underwear. I don't think she could be much cooler in his eyes after learning who is on her skivvies. Thank goodness he's still in diapers, or I know what he'd be wanting me to buy on our next Target visit.

The pictures above show Maddy and Joaquin feeding the giraffes; I was amazed at how friendly and docile the giraffes were. The baby, Rafael, was especially cute. You can see his long, black tongue pictured above.

Now, if only our apartment made me as happy as the zoo did...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Day by day...


Day by day, things are getting better in Montgomery.

On Friday, we had a play date at...Chick-Fil-A. Now, I am not sure about you, but I've never made plans where a Chick-Fil-A fast food restaurant, or "Mormon Chicken," as it is affectionately called by some of my friends, is the destination. It's usually a stopover en route to another destination. However, in Montgomery, AL, it is a destination in and of itself. This is mainly because it has an indoor playground with A/C, which is a rarity and a huge plus in the south.

I met two other JAG wives and their kids there and we had lunch, chatted, and watched the kids play, just as if we were at any park. Our trip was a success, and after three hours of play, 2 boxes of chicken nuggets, one fruit cup, one apple juice, and one chocolate shake, Joaquin and I left feeling exhausted. And it was the first day he actually took a nap close to his normal "Calif." nap time! Momma was able to get some writing in, and Joaquin , covered in the grime from his Chick-Fil-A playground romp, took a 2 1/2 hour nap. Hooray!

So all in all, our fast food play date was a success. And while it's not something I would like to make a habit of, when in Rome with a 21-month-old, you will do anything for some air-conditioning and a playground.

Maybe next week we'll try (gasp) McDonald's.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Sweet Home Alabama?

Originally drafted in an email, 8/8/11.

Well, I am here. I am settling into my new "temporary" life as a military wife in Montgomery, Alabama. I reunited with my man Saturday night at the airport, just in time for his birthday on Sunday. The flight was surprisingly easy, and Joaquin had a great time on both flights...I stress JOAQUIN had a great time...Mama has a different song to sing. Being 6 months pregnant and traveling with a 21 month-old, with a bunch of carry on bags including a big camera and a laptop, does not rank at the top of my list of fun things to do. But at least he didn't throw up on me like he did on the flight to Hawaii.

The reunion with Kiko at the airport was wonderful and tear-filled, as Joaquin squealed with delight when he saw him. He then ran up to him and proudly said, "Daddy, I have money," showing him the quarter I'd given him earlier. If only a quarter will make him that happy in the years to come...

It was late so we pretty much just drove back to the apartment (more on this later) and went to bed...I was so happy to see him that the reality of our living conditions didn't really sink in until sometime later the next day.

His birthday was nice. He arranged for us to have lunch with some of the other couples so that I could meet some other JAG wives and not feel so alone. Then we came back to the apartment so he could finish an assignment and Joaquin could nap. It was during this time that I started to go into shock about where I was and what I was about to do...But, since it was Kiko's birthday, I bottled up my emotions and my longing to be home in our own house in Pasadena, and put on a happy face. We had a great dinner at a soul food restaurant named Mama Nem's...It was one of the only places open on Sunday. Apparently, in the south, most places are closed on Sundays, even the drive-thru liquor stores. Fortunately for us, Mama Nem's was open for business, and though they ran out of banana pudding, the mac n' cheese and cornbread stuffing were as plentiful as they were delicious.
Once the birthday celebrating was over, Monday came and Kiko left for class at 6:30, I opened up the bottle of emotions and they pretty much kept spilling out at all the wrong times. (Like, when we were parking at the JAG school to go have birthday cake during his lunch break, and one of his classmates walked up me as I was bawling and feeling particular out of place and like I was a big nuisance....Great first impression of Lt. Ochoa's wife...At least her response was, "Fucking military sucks and Alabama isn't much better....I suggest retail therapy.") Though I was embarrassed, it made me laugh.

The tears kept coming at various times, mainly because I suddenly felt like I have no identity. Since leaving my job, I have had my own share of personal pep talks with myself about who I am and what I want from my life, but suddenly, feeling like a "tagsy-alongsy" military wife, who doesn't even have an ID, so is not even recognized by the military as a wife, has left me feeling shallow, lost, purposeless, and very, very alone...

I am also emotional because I am hormonal and have not been sleeping. I couldn't sleep Sunday night because our bed is not that comfortable and I had anxiety about what the week would bring. I don't yet have my military ID (we've gone twice to get it, but such is the military that they don't actually tell you everything you need to bring, just MOST things you need to bring, because apparently I am an "unusual" case...) The other reasons I couldn't sleep were because I was:
-worrying if second hand smoke inhalation transfers to a fetus through couch upholstery
-a bed spring was poking me in the left thigh
-the A/C is great and powerful, but blows right up my nostrils and makes me sneeze (although, it's better than being hot)
-and I really had to go to the bathroom, but didn't want to walk on the bathroom floor without my shoes on, and my shoes weren't accessible.

So, you might have guessed our apartment leaves a bit to be desired. Kiko warned me that it was small. Small I can deal with. But the residual smell of smoke from the previous residents and the 1/2 inch of grime left over on the linoleum flooring in the kitchen and the bathroom, um, not so much. Call me a a princess, but I feel like Motel 6 might be a step up. This is the apartment the guy you had a huge crush on in college lived in and you tolerated it because he was so hot and he played football, or was at least a red shirt...This is not the apartment you want to spend time with a toddler and 26 week-old fetus with...Okay, so it's not that bad, and after a trip to Wal Mart to buy new sheets, a whole lot of Lysol, some Febreeze, and scented candles, I decided to make the best of it, and now it's a lot better. At least if I forget to put on my flip flops, I don't feel like I am going to get some foreign fungus on my toes. We have a small kitchen, an A/C, a dishwasher, and there is a Starbucks not too far away, so I guess things could be worse. One of the wives said to me yesterday, "Oh, we looked at your apartments. They were nice, but we saw 2 cop cars outside so decided to stay somewhere else..."

Thanks for telling me that. Now, my fears are not only validated, but escalated...

Kiko attempted to make me feel better by saying "Yes, I've seen cop cars here, too, but I think the cops live here."

Um, I am not up on my Alabama state laws, but at least in LA, cops DO NOT drive their cars home. I am pretty sure these cops weren't inside one of our units with their families watching The Big Bang Theory (BTW - does anyone else think that show is totally overrated?), but I am going to tell myself they were here visiting "friends" and leave it at that. The minute I spy one or hear a siren, I am checking into the Drury Inn & Suites around the corner.

For now, I'll tough it out, and quietly keep my eyes open for alternative living arrangements. Surely there are other options. And now, if this ever happens again, I know that I'll need to play a more active role in the search for where to live.

I am anxious to get on a routine, to get Joaquin back on his schedule so I can resume my writing, and to find someplace other than a Wal-Mart to shop. Not sure if they have Farmers' Markets or any non-chain anythings in Montgomery...

If there was anything I ever needed to make me appreciate living in California, this trip might be it. Oh, how I miss the weather, and everything else. Where is my adventurous spirit? Well, I hope to find it somewhere. I am sure it's there...

I am anxious to find the Alabama that Lynyrd Skynyrd sings about in his song "Sweet Home Alabama, where the skies are so blue," or to find the quaint southern town in To Kill A Mockingbird.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Trip to Kissy & Ta's house

One of Joaquin's favorite things to do at his grandma and grandpa's house is to feed the "neigh neighs" carrots or apples, or whatever treats he can find. Since he was about 11 months old, he's been obsessed with finding the nearest adult (usually it's Ta, AKA Grandpa), to take him "outside outside" to see the "neigh neighs" AKA horses. Now he knows he cannot go outside with his shoes on, so his pleas will usually start out with "We need shoes ON. Go outside." Then he'll proceed to scan the adults in the vicinity to see who is wearing shoes, then he'll decide who he's "chosen" to take him outside.

The trip from the house to the barn is not met without it's own unique challenges for a 20-month-old. First, you must make it past all 6 dogs, which usually are either blocking the pathway, eager to find someone to play ball with them, or they are already running around, creating a stampede across the walkway every 6 feet or so. So just making it past the 6 rambunctious dogs is a feat in itself.

Sometimes Ta helps navigate the sea of dogs, parting them just enough so Joaquin can pass safely and make it to the barn.mail.jpg


On this particular feeding of the neigh neigh trip, we gave Geoffrey, the horse, an apple instead of a carrot because we'd already given him 4 carrots that day and we thought he might want a change. Apple or carrot, I think Geoffrey is satisfied. We are always careful to hold the apple or carrot at the bottom, away from Geoffrey's eager chompers.



Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Joaquin would like to announce...

Most everyone already knows, but I am posting this on my blog for posterity.

Never Lie to your Mother...

Boy or Girl

Yesterday I learned an important lesson: Never lie to your mother. Or your mother-in-law, etc. It's sure to backfire.

Here's the situation: I am 20 weeks + pregnant with my second child. Yesterday was our doctor's appointment, the one where we were supposed to find out the gender of the baby. Now, I suppose if we'd already made the decision to be surprised at the birth, then I wouldn't have left the doctor with the supreme disappointment we did yesterday when the doctor could not say 100% whether it is a girl or boy growing in my stomach. (apparently the hand was down there - hmmm, makes me think boy - and we were on an OLD machine - argh, more on this later...) But when you are planning on finding out a significant piece of information, then get denied, and are told, well, you can find out in a month, it can feel as disappointing as the day you learned the truth about the tooth fairy.

To make matters worse, my hub leaves for more military training in just under two weeks, meaning he will not be able to attend the next appointment. He might have been more disappointed than I was, proclaiming with a serious expression, "I really don't want to find out what my baby is over Skype."

Okay, let's digress for one minute to acknowledge that no actual tragedy occurred yesterday. We are very blessed that we have healthy baby, and for the most part, it's been a pleasant pregnancy. But we have a small house and lots of things to plan and want to know if Joaquin is having a little brother or sister, damn it!

It was also one of those situations where the more I thought about it, the more it irked me. Our OB's regular nurse, Linda (whom we love), was on vacation, so we got the new girl. New girl not only scared me about my blood pressure, (it's fine), but also apparently took us in the wrong room, so as our doctor is trying to check out the baby's goods, she is saying to us, "Well, I can't tell because we are on the old ultra sound machine and it's not a good picture."

Excuse me! OLD machine! Well, take us to the good ultra sound machine. I can walk. I don't even mind if you have to squirt more of that gross clear jelly on my tummy again, I just want to find out TODAY what we're having...It's not OUR fault your machine sucks and makes our baby look like a grainy jelly bean on an old black and white Zenith TV from the 50s. We want the good stuff!

We have a great tradition from our first baby, thanks to a friend's recommendation. At the doctor's office, we looked away when she zoomed in on the goods, and then she wrote it down on the ultrasound, tucked it into an envelope, and we left with the information burning a hole in our hot, sweaty hands. Then, we went to our favorite restaurant. Husband had a margarita and I had a Coke, and we opened up the envelope. It felt like the anticipation of Christmas when you're 8. Few moments in life have been that memorable, other then maybe dancing at our wedding, and when Joaquin was born. We loved it so much, it was our plan again.

Only yesterday, we were going to the doctor at 3:30, taking Joaquin to music class at 5:00, then going to our favorite dining spot to open up the exciting information sometime around 6:00. Here's where the lying to your mother comes into play. I deceptively told my mom (and other family members) that we weren't finding out until today, because I knew if she knew our appointment was yesterday, my cell phone would be buzzing incessantly for the rest of the afternoon and I would not be able to relax until I talked to her. We wanted to do something clever and cute to share the news, so at the time telling a little white lie didn't seem harmful. Then of course, my lie set off a karmic chain of events that left us still in the dark yesterday.

Enter the Glendale 3d Ultrasound Store to the rescue. Sounds totally cheesy, I know, but we have made an appointment, and are planning to shell out $50 for the Gender Notification package so that we can find out while husband is still in California. Yes, we are paying for something that we should have found out for free, and it is on the day that I lied to my mom about finding out in the first place. Who says your mother doesn't control your universe?

So this whole thing has taught me 2 important lessons:

1. Don't lie to your mother about important stuff. (Little things like when your baby went to bed, how much you spent on that dress, and if you liked the pot roast she made are still in the approved-lie- zone.)
2. Put up more of a fight at the doctor about demanding you get the best machines, the best care, etc. After all, she may deliver dozens of babies every week, and share the good news of "boy" or "girl," all the time, but to us, it was a really big deal...and we should have been more vocal about what we wanted.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Disneyland for Toddlers?

(This photo was taken at about 9:00 am, after an early "Magic Morning" in the park. He is 16 months old here.)

(Picture above is from his 3rd or 4th trip (who's counting) last August with Daddy's cousin, Donna. He is about 9 months old here.)
(The pic above with the castle is from his 2nd trip in April of 2010. He is approx. 5 1/2 months.)

Hey, I know a lot of you Disney-doubters question whether Disneyland is really a good place to take a baby or a toddler, arguing that it's either germ-filled, over-stimulating, or that it's just plain pointless because the little kids just won't remember spending the day at the Magic Kingdom when they're that little. But I beg to differ. I think Disneyland is a great place to take young children, especially if you live close to Anaheim, or if you have an annual pass, thus can justify taking several shorter trips rather than one big trip, where you feel the need to pack everything into one day.

Here are some of the reasons why I love taking my toddler to Disneyland:

It's Kid Friendly. What place could be more kid friendly? So your child is crying or better yet, screaming with delight over the sight of Mickey Mouse. He's in good company, because chances are, there are at least 10 screaming kids within shouting distant of your loud & vocal tot, so scream on. He's not alone.

There are myriad food options, even for picky eaters. What I love is that most restaurants in the park not only have kids' meals, but toddler meals, and for a mere $3.99, you can get mac 'n cheese or chicken & rice, etc. with apple sauce and a milk. Our favorite options are either at The Hungry Bear restaurant, which serves the best mac 'n cheese in Disneyland. (Yes, the different restaurants serve different versions of the cheesy goodness.) Or the Pollo con arroz from Zocalo. It's always a hit!

Disneyland is super-convenient when you have babies that are nursing or kids in diapers. Bathrooms are always close by, and they all have baby changing stations.

There is even a Disneyland Baby Care center, which offers a private area for nursing, super clean changing tables, and even sells essentials like diapers, formula, etc. in case you find yourself in a jam. They even have a sink where you can wash bottles or sippy cups out with Dawn dish soap and steaming hot water.

Another great reason is that it's free admission for kids under 3. Of course, adults have to pay and parking is not cheap and neither is the food. But hey, how many places give you anything for free, right?

If you stay in one of the Disneyland hotels, they offer what are called "Magic Mornings," which means they open the park an hour earlier than normal to hotel guests. This is awesome, especially with little kids because you can hit all the Fantasyland rides, which often get crowded, before the park even opens and the rest of the crowds come. Truly magical.

My son is 18-months, and while he was only 4 months at his first trip to the Happiest Place on Earth, every time he goes, he gets something new and different from the experience. It also makes a difference that his favorite characters (all Disney pals) are Pooh, Tig-Tig, Eeyore, Mou-mou, Woody, & Buzz etc. From the time he was about 10 months old, he would wake up in the morning and ask for "Pooh." So a trip to Disneyland for him is like going to his best friends' house, where all his best friends live together in the coolest pad ever.

We love exploring Toon Town and playing at Goofy's playground, a great place for young kids who need to get out energy by climbing or playing on the slide. His favorite rides right now are the "Neigh neighs" (merry-go-round), Dumbo, Small World, and of course, the Winnie-the-Pooh ride. (Side note about the Pooh ride: I really think that ride represents a lousy effort on Disney's behalf. They took out the Country Bear Jamboree (a personal fave) to do a poor job re-interpreting some classic Pooh stories into a ho-hum ride that really should be called "Pooh on Acid," because when Pooh has the heffalump nightmare, the whole ride turns into a neon-colored world with scary, psychedelic images.) The only redeeming quality about the ride is they left the familiar faces of the deer, moose, and buffalo from the walls of the Bear Country Jamboree, so at just the right moment you can spy Max, Buff, & Melvin beaming down from above. Also, the cupcakes in the Pooh Corner shop right next to the ride, or a photo op with the Pooh characters, make a trip to Critter Country infinitely worth-it, even if you skip the Pooh ride.

Disneyland means different things to different people. For me, it's a place I enjoyed visiting with my family as a child. We didn't take a lot of fancy vacations, but we always went to Disneyland, at least once a year, and for that I felt very lucky. It was a place I enjoyed with my older brothers, who were quite a bit older than me. So now as an adult, having an annual pass and taking my own family is really special for me, too. Sure, there are fun rides and plenty of tasty food options, but it also provides a momentary escape from normal life. It's a time to take a different view on the world and let yourself dream a little bit, just like when you were a kid.

I know over the years, my toddler will only get more and more out of his Disney trips. Even though he won't remember these early adventures in the park, his parents will remember and tell him about how cute he was when he was boiling over with glee at the sight of Winne-the-Pooh, or how a simple balloon made his day...

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Caught Red-Handed?

There are so many firsts in a baby's new life: first smiles, first steps, first words, first time to eat ice cream, first time to use a potty, etc. With many of these firsts bringing great joy and a sense of accomplishment to a young life, I've discovered how magical it can be to share these firsts with your baby. While I've anticipated a lot of milestones, there was one first that I wasn't quite ready to's first time to shoplift.

I've made it 30+ years without ever stealing so much as soda with a water cup from a fast food restaurant. (Hey, don't laugh. This is serious. A football player I went to college with got arrested for filling up his water cup with Root Beer at In 'N Out. Don't mess with the soda fountain!)

So is it a bad sign that my young son (almost 17 months) has already shoplifted? Is he destined for a life of crime and breaking the rules? He does share a name with famed outlaw, Joaquin Murietta, after all. Hopefully, this was just a flash in the pan incident and we'll all be able to move on.

It all happened so innocently. Joaquin was riding in his stroller while Mom browsed the latest affordable fashions at H&M (remember I recently quit my job, so shopping is definitely what I should be doing.) Occasionally he gets a little antsy in clothing stores, so I handed him some bangle bracelets to play with, which he loved. They make noise and he can stick his arms through them; what's not to love? Then we were standing in the checkout line, near the hair accessories, and I guess that's when the "slip" happened. All I know is that 20 minutes later, we were in line at Coffee Bean, when something blue and sparkly caught my eye in his stroller. Upon closer inspection, I saw that tucked under Joaquin's left hip was a light blue lace headband with a large sequined butterfly adornment. Oh no! I definitely didn't pay for that, and here we are, blocks from the store, with something we didn't buy!

"Don't panic," I thought. There is a perfectly logical explanation. My mind racing, I fantasized for a minute about Joaquin saying to me, "What, Mom. It's just a headband. They'll never know!" My worst nightmare! Because I'd know. The rest of my life, I'd know I have a son that steals things! I couldn't bear the thought. Barely taking the time to put the straw in my ice blended mocha and to hand the thief his chocolate milk, we raced out the door, back to H&M to return the stolen goods.

Thank goodness it would be something I would never buy -- it was quite ugly and not my style -- so if it came into question I could swear to the store's manager that it was all a big accident. Fortunately or unfortunately, when I walked back in the store, the queue was really long, so I decided to casually slip the hideous headband back on the rack, and walk out as if nothing happened. My heart raced as I approached the hair accessories stand. I looked left and right to see if our rogue ways had been discovered. Ah, safe. It was back with its other sparkly, tacky friends, and we were innocent once again.

After all good had been restored in the world, I walked out of the store, still feeling slightly uneasy. I didn't know why I felt this way, but I guess I couldn't stop thinking about how easy stealing could be and how it probably happens all the time. Then I thought if I felt this guilty over an accidental hairpiece hi-jack, how would I sleep at night if he'd actually stolen something worth over $10?

Then I retracted that thought. The worse part about the entire incident might be was how ugly the headband was. It was sparkly and lacy. What does this say about his taste or fashion sense?

From now on, I think I'll stick to shopping solo, and we can save other "firsts" for places other than retail centers.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

My Own Toy Story Sequel

My son is like most spoiled American kids in that he is not suffering from a lack of toys. He has cars, trains, stuffed animals, puzzles, blocks, balls, etc. But of his plethora of toys, none bring him more joy than his most prized possessions --- the 7-inch-plastic Woody and Buzz figures that Uncle Rob bought him in January.

He calls them by name. First, he could just get out "Woo" and "Buh," but now most of the time, he gets out their whole names. When he gets the "zzz" out on "Buzz," it's especially endearing.

I am not exactly sure when his infatuation with these two toys began. He has seen snippets of the TOY STORY movies here and there, but not enough to really understand the roles these two characters play. All I know is that if he has a security item, it's these two dudes. He wakes up in the morning and calls out "Mama," then quickly follows "Mama" with "Woo-ey, Buh-uz?" If he didn't fall asleep with them in his crib, he must find them within minutes after waking up. He takes baths with them, feeds them, and has story time with them.

I wonder if part of his bond with Woody & Buzz happened when we took two cross-country trips. On both trips, Joaquin was accompanied by these two friends. They rode with him on two flights to Montgomery, Alabama. They were there for him when he stayed on a strange military base in 30 degree weather. All of his surroundings were new and unfamiliar, but one thing remained constant --- the companionship of Woody and Buzz.

Following Alabama, we ventured to Hawaii, again with Woody and Buzz in toe. When Joaquin got sick and threw up all over Mom on the airplane, Woody was there to comfort him and Buzz was there to clean up the mess with his space ranger strength. (Mom only wishes this were true. Fortunately, we were seated in the row right in front of the restroom, so clean up wasn't that difficult.)

He played with Woody and Buzz in a tropical paradise, enjoying the sunshine and the sand on his feet. But when it was all over, and he was back home, he still had Woody and Buzz.

Well, last weekend, during a trip to see both sets of grandparents, it happened. We were about 1/2 hour south of Santa Barbara when I wondered, "Did we get Woody?" Kiko's face turned blank as he struggled to remember.

He remembered when we ate dinner, Joaquin stuck Woody's face in his rice saying "nummy, nummy, nummy," and he remembered that Joaquin sneakily dropped Woody behind the couch cushion only to call out his name so everyone would join in the search to look for him.

Sure enough, moments later, Nana called to say we'd left a loyal friend behind.

"Uh oh," we thought. "Do we turn around?"

Had it not been pouring rain on the 101 and after 10:00 pm, we probably would have turned around. This was a serious leave-behind. Instead we thought, maybe we'll go to Disney tomorrow and get a replacement Woody...Realizing that was a little crazy, we tried to wait it out.

Well, the three days without Woody were a growing experience, both for Mom and Dad, and for Joaquin. The first night, he woke up in the middle of the night, dutifully calling for "Mama" and then "Woody..." Of course, Mama was there, but I could not help him with Woody. He went back to sleep and Mom stayed awake, wondering what would happen tomorrow when the realization that Woody was gone (temporarily) sunk in. Of course, with an older child, you might be able to reason with them and explain the situation. But he's still a baby. He won't understand.

Days passed, and in Joaquin's world, Woody was no where to be found. He'd pace around the house, calling his name, with Buzz in one hand, and the other hand empty. We'd tell him that Woody was at Nana and Papa's, safe and sound, and he soon would be traveling back home. He'd then go the front door, point outside and say "Woody, woody, woody" with hope and longing.

It's heartbreaking and precious at the same time. Maybe this is a great time for a life lesson in acceptance and understanding. Or in not getting emotionally attached to material objects. But really, I just want him to have his friend back and to be a happy kid once again. He has the rest of his life to learn those lessons.

I am sure Woody is enjoying his adventure in the mail, as he makes his way back to us in Pasadena. It brings a smile to face to think that he is having his own "Toy Story" moment; hopefully, Woody is anxiously anticipating his reunion with his kid as much as his kid - Joaquin - anticipates seeing him again...

Until then, it's all on you, Buzz...

Thursday, March 10, 2011

2nd to Last Day at A&E

Here's something I was thinking about on 3/10/11, my second to last day at A&E...Not sure why I didn't publish it here goes...

When I went back to work after my "sabbatical" while Kiko was at basic training, it was like my re-emergence into a foreign universe. Only, actually, I suppose when I left and had a taste of "full-time mothering," that was really my foreign universe. For 10 years, I have been immersed in the TV industry. So things like meeting celebrities, watching shows and movies before they've been released, etc. didn't seem like a big deal to me.

My first day back, the first thing my assistant asked me was what Oscar nominated movies I needed him to track down for me so I could be ready to watch the Academy Awards. We went over my call sheet, and my lunch appointments for the next several weeks.

I couldn't help but think to myself: Enjoy having an assistant now because who knows when you'll have one again.

So I went from being consumed with all things industry related, reading the trades and Nikki Fink ( to reading City Mommy and Baby Center and back again, in just a couple of weeks. It's amazing how the two worlds become so separate, yet really they aren't that dissimilar. I mean, being a mom and being a TV executive shouldn't be that different. After all, the demographic that every network wants is that of the 25-54 year-old-women. Hello! How many of those women are mothers, too? So in some ways, keeping working mothers employed should be a priority so they can keep in contact with their key demographic.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Week One - (originally drafted 1/12/11)

Day 4 of being home with Joaquin was awesome, except for the fact that I didn't sleep last night...This was the first day I actually had to get up and dressed and out of the house by 8:40 to make our 9 am music class. To think, just last week, I was dressed, ready for work and out of the house by 8 am, and this morning it was the amazing race and an almighty miracle that I actually had Joaquin dressed and fed in time to get to class.

Music class was a lot of fun, if not slightly silly. It was exactly like what they make those classes look like in the movies --- a cheerful and goofy teacher with a friendly face and a nice voice singing songs in a highly animated form...It was amazing, she knew all the kids names and worked them all into the "hello" and the "goodbye" song. Joaquin's favorite part was when they got to choose their own instruments from the box. He chose a drum and did not want to part with it when it was time to put the instruments "to bed."

Our day of fun continued when after a morning nap, we went to the Disney Studios lot to see Uncle Rob for lunch. I don't know what he liked more - the fact that Uncle Rob took him to the studio store to buy toys, or the really docile squirrels that almost let Joaquin pet them.
We finished off our activities by going to the post office to send Daddy a care package. Hopefully Kiko has earned the privilege of receiving his mail.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Teething Bites - (originally drafted 1/11/11)

Okay, so my husband is going through basic training and sleeping 4 hours a night while marching all day and studying his officer handbook, blah blah blah, BUT I AM THE ONE CHASING AFTER A 1-year-old! Who's more tired? Me or him?

Seriously, I feel like I have no right to complain about being tired when I think about all he's going through, but man, am I beat! Two nights of a restless, teething baby and tonight I am a zombie. Not to mention all the work-stuff I've been cramming in while he naps and once he goes to bed. Being a full-time mom is hard work. And the teething...does it really last until they're 2? Yikes. Poor baby...he's like a drool-monster with icicles of drool dripping from his mouth and the big teeth he already does have protruding out from his little gums. It's cuter that I make it sound, but he really does channel Chunk from the Goonies and convinces me that any minute after the drool he's going to break out into the "truffle shuffle."

Monday, January 10, 2011

Looking on the bright side...

(Originally Drafted 12/30/10)

My husband soon will be leaving for basic training, or COT, which stands for Commissioned Officer Training. He has joined the US Air Force Reserves and will serve in the JAG Corp. So basically, he has to go to lawyer bootcamp for a month in Alabama. We have been married for 3 1/2 years and we have one child, a son, who's almost 13 months.

I have had to explain to my family that his joining the JAG Corp is actually an amazing honor for him and a wonderful opportunity to serve without making the full commitment of going into active duty. He gets to have his cake and eat it, too, to be trite. Deployment overseas is unlikely, and most of the year, he'll work his "regular" job at a law firm and not be subject to the whims of the service, with all do respect to the military. So some of my family members seem to think it is like he is going to race-car driving school or fantasy football camp or something like that, but then I must defend the decision saying it will be full of sacrifice for him and the rest of of the family, but that in the end it will be worth it for all. I keep telling myself this, hoping I will actually believe it. What helps is knowing how much it means to him to do this and knowing that I am doing everything I can to support my husband in his dreams and goals in life. But selfishly, I will miss him. I like having him around.

I try to look on the bright side and think of the positive things that come from having your husband gone for 5 weeks on the other side of the country. Here's what i have come up with:

1. I won't have to shave my legs as often as I normally do. Especially in winter, this is a plus because of all the goose bumps you get in the shower when you shave and there is a cold draft in the bathroom.

2. I will miss him. This fact goes on the positive and negative list because of course I will miss him very much and it will be hard not to see him, although sometimes the longing to see someone can be romantic and make you appreciate each other more. I am hoping this goes both ways.

Well, that's pretty much all I've got now. The most important positive thing to come out of this is I will have a happy husband, who is also an officer in the US Air Force. I know he's going to look damn fine is his uniform, so that could be a potential "positive thing #3," except for the fact that he just as easily could have bought a JAG costume and worn it around the house without all the fancy training that goes with, so I am not convinced this belongs on the list.

Basically, it is going to suck the big toe to have him gone. But life is an adventure and I am a big girl. I will miss him every day, (well, mainly at night because during the week, I don't really see him except for at night anyhow.) So, every night I will miss him like mad, but I will relish in his accomplishments and feel proud of him for this achievement and this sacrifice he's making.

But if I had it my way, we'd be like Paul and Linda Mc Cartney, and never spend a night apart...(of course until she died of cancer, (sigh). ) So, I am content just being us...and I know the best part of all of this will be when I get to see him again at his graduation. He will be in his sexy uniform and I will shave my legs for the occasion.

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