The Meanest Mama in the World

This year in honor of Mother’s Day, I decided to write something special to the best meanest mama in the world.

When I was young, my sister and I used to pee out the window of the second story of our house.  My mom would reach her limit on how many times she believed us when we would plea for the bathroom, and peeing out the window was the best choice left.  Peeing in the closet was second best (or worst…depending on your view point).  We tried to pee like normal kids, but Mama wouldn’t let us.  We would tip-toe as far as we dared at night after we were sent to bed, and retreat when threats of spankings came our way.

Speaking of spanking, we knew who we had to fear in our house.  Daddy would whip his belt out of his jeans with great flare, but that is as far as he went.  Mama loved spanking us so much she did it ALL the time.  AND she never would let Daddy.  Mama had us pick our own switch off the bushes.  That’s how you know you have the meanest mama in the world: she makes you pick your own torture device.

Other mamas like to take their children to McDonalds for a treat… or say, a Happy Meal.  Not my mama.  The only time I went to McDonalds was with friends.  Furthermore, my mama would sing songs about McDonalds milkshakes being like polluted lakes and french fries between your toes.  My mama insisted on eating at home.  AND she hardly EVER bought us soda.  She was so mean.

My sister remembers this much better than I do, but in the summer, when it was the hottest outside, Mama would lock us out.  (She always waited until it was hot.)  She wouldn’t let us come inside, even to use the bathroom.  AND, when we did, it wasn’t to watch TV.  Nope.  No TV for us.  Mean Mama made us read instead of watching our non-existent TV.  If we complained about being bored, she would say, “I can give you something to do.”  That meant that you better skedaddle.  Because “something to do” really means “chores.”  We were seldom bored enough for that.

If we were lucky enough to go to the pool, Mama wouldn’t let us just run and jump in when we got there.  We had to wear sunscreen THEN wait for hours before we could get into the water.  If we had been fighting before, we would have to wait even longer while our friends and siblings swam.  She never let us swim in the deep end without her watching.  We would have to first go ask, then go to the deep end to jump off the boards.

We NEVER got away with skipping church.  She had to meet all of our friends families before we could play.  We had to do our own laundry much younger than our friends did.  Our pantry was full of homemade canned green beans, tomatoes, and beets.  We had frozen peaches, strawberries, corn, and pickles all winter.  AND she made us help her clean the kitchen.  When it was time to clean our room, she would come check to make sure it was cleaned.  If it wasn’t cleaned good enough for her, she would have us redo it.  Worst of all, she wouldn’t let us say the “b word.”

I can say it now though:

Butt!

Butt!

Butt!

And there isn’t one thing she can do about it.

me and mama

Happy Mother’s Day to my meanie mama.  I wouldn’t trade my horrible childhood for a million dollars.

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The First Thanksgiving

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You know, after you’ve been living in another country for almost two years there are few “firsts” left to experience. So I was surprised when I realized that this was my first Thanksgiving away from home. Then I promptly cried in front of my coworkers.

It’s Ale’s first Thanksgiving, so I made her an outfit that she will some day laugh at.

It’s our first Thanksgiving together as husband and wife (Last year I went home).

It’s the first time I’ve made turkey and dressing.

It’s our first Mexican Thanksgiving–so we had Mexican and Americans dining together in the true spirit of the day.

It’s the first time I’ve had to explain the significance of Thanksgiving to anyone.

Thanksgiving was always one of my favorite holidays. It isn’t the turkey–honestly, I could live without it. While I love pie, it isn’t that either. It’s the whole getting-together-with-family that makes it special!

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A couple years ago my mamaw’s Alzheimer’s won out over our favorite holiday. My mama admitted that the holiday wasn’t as much fun as it once had been. So, I made it my mission to have my own Thanksgiving with my mama. We made all the staples together: and even pulled out Mamaw’s recipe book to make her recipes.

Last night I flipped through my book looking for pumpkin pie, and my Mamaw’s handwriting popped out from one page. I looked on it with love and determination. Love for the amazing women who’ve labored on a day like this–and determination to pass on that same love by being a better mama and wife.

Victor said something that I think is really valid about today. He said, “In the United States, one woman cooks for everyone. She does it because her family is important. She just wants them there with her.” I had more than my family with me today–but I think about the moments leading up to that one meal. My baby crawling around singing a constant hum. My husband telling me stories and listening to me talk about my coworkers. The laughter we shared over something the baby did. Laying on the floor of the kitchen to nurse in between preparing the pie and turkey. Multiple trips to the store for supplies.

And now the baby and my husband are by my side. Our bellies are full of sweet potatoes and turkey. We are snuggled up and ready to beat the cold desert night together…

It’s my first Thanksgiving with my family, and we kept the family tradition alive. I’m thankful for my 28 Thanksgivings with my Mama and Mamaw–and for this, our first, as a Mama and daughter team. The Thanksgiving tradition will continue…

20131128-222529.jpgMamaw’s dressing–as dictated by my Mama and made by me.

My Lofty Goal

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I’ve often said that I married my dad, but what I want to talk about today is how much I’m like my mom. Before I get started, I will preface by saying I inherited some of her amazing qualities. She’s a loving and amazing woman…who sometimes yells.

I’m not saying anything we haven’t already talked about. In fact I asked why we do this.. Why do we begin yelling when we get frustrated or angry?. She said this: “Because I did.”

My poor husband.

Now before you start feeling sorry for him, you should know this doesn’t happen a lot. In fact, it’s happened twice. That’s two times too many. The first time, I became a mad woman. I started killing ants with my fists while hollering. The last time I started cleaning and and hollering.

I’m just going to stand up for myself and tell you this house doesn’t bring out the best in me. The ants are the biggest problem. Now that it’s getting colder there is a steady stream of them right across the floor–out of one wall they come and in one wall they go. I try to be patient with these wise creatures, but then my rage takes over.

So, without a blink, I made myself (and my husband) a vow. I’m really going to try self-control. I know it can be done. I’ve learned how to stay calm at school–now I’m going to practice being calm at home.

Wish me luck, people. We’re still looking for a house and it’s getting cold. That’s a recipe for disaster breathing in and out while counting to ten and self-talking my way back to peace…

My Mama’s Daughter: A Tale of Cookies

When I was young, my Mama would make cookies. If you’re imagining chocolate chip cookies, stop right there. My entire childhood, Mama NEVER made chocolate chip cookies… Mama’s favorite cookie is a chocolate oatmeal cookie-you know, the no-bake kind? She usually made two batches: one with raisins and one without. Yummo!

It was always a very exciting time. It went something like this:

First, in a bowl, she mixed oatmeal, peanut butter, and vanilla. My friend and I affectionately dubbed that “Kitty Litter.”

On the stove top, she added milk, butter, sugar, and cocoa powder. The trick is to bring it to a boil and allow it to do so for one minute. Once it has boiled, with the timer blaring in the background, Mama began hollering.

“Girls!” she yelled, “Help!” Put down more wax paper! Move out of the way! Careful, this is hot! Now, git! Stop messing!” We would look on as she spooned out cookies with gusto. Careful to not get in her way, we eyed each splatter with glee. After all, those were free. We could eat around each cookie while we waited for them to cool.

Fast forward twenty years to my kitchen here in Torreon. Without all the proper ingredients, but close enough to make it work, I began cookies the other night. I’ve made these cookies almost as many times as I watch my Mama make them, so I know the drill. I am, however, my mother’s daughter…

“Victor!” I said, quietly (but urgently) as to not wake the baby. Here I was, elbows deep in chocolate and oatmeal, stirring furiously at my bowl. I wasn’t too pleased when he strolled through the kitchen a few minutes later. He obviously has not learned the drill. Cookies can’t be made without hollering for help.

“I needed more paper!” I immediately blamed him. “I yelled for you, where were you!?” I continued accusingly. Oblivious, I had to made it work without him, and I laughed to myself. But my immediate thought, Gosh! He is just like Daddy! was followed with a more honest reflection: Could I be more like Mama?

Oh, sweet cookies. I am doomed.

Home Visit

Maci and Ale

I watched my baby last night–she was laying on a blanket in the floor, and Mama was “gettin’ her.”  In the South, that means that she was tickling her tummy all the while saying, “I’m gonna getcha, getcha, getcha!”  Alexandria laughed and laughed.  The sound makes my heart so happy.

During the night, she snuggles up to me like never before.  I can’t decide if this is because she’s extra snuggly (being away from her daddy and home), or if it has something to do with the pillow-top mattress we sleep on.  Hard Mexican beds don’t allow for a lot of movement during the night.  She cuddles up beside me, and I look down to see her cubby little arms tucked between us.  This morning Mama took her and played with her–letting me get a few extra winks.

At gospel meeting yesterday, she sat up on my lap.  It makes me sad that her papi couldn’t see her.  She was (is) so big!  Her cousins (from the youngest to the oldest) wanted to play with her during meeting.  I remember that, you know.  I loved sitting with my nephews in Omaha.  It gave me something to do other than listen…  Hence the reason why I said, “No” when my very capable niece wanted to hold Ale.

Oh, sweet Ale!  She is so loved!  My suegra (mother-in-law) loves it when her son tells her everyone loves our baby.  It makes me so content and proud to see everyone loving on my baby.  She’s got an important role, I just know it.  There’s a place that she’ll fill someday–maybe just giving unconditional love to God’s children!  Only he knows, but I hope he empowers me us to raise a beautiful, strong, kind, and helpful young woman.

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Dear Mama

One of my favorite songs by the Carter Sisters and Johnny Cash  video

Dear, Mama, now that we’re older
We can see the load on your tired old shoulders
Mama you’re a trooper, Mama you’re a soldier
Mama, you mean a lot to me

She always got me out of bed early Sunday morn’
And took me out to church
where I could learn about Lord
Mama tried to tell me how my life was gonna be
But I was young and wild,
and it was hard for me to see

Dear Mama, now that we’re older
We can see the load on your tired old shoulders
Mama you’re a trooper, Mama you’re a soldier
Mama, you mean a lot to me

Mama, I want to tell you one thing for sure:  you always taught us right from wrong when we were younger. And if we had listened to you then i know we would have saved ourselves a lot of problems. Now that we’ve grown up and we’re all so much older, we realize that you always knew exactly what you were talkin’ about, Mama. And you sure do mean a lot to all of us.

Dear Mama, now that we are older
We can see the load on your tired old shoulders
Mama you’re a trooper, Mama you’re a soldier
Mama, you mean a lot to me
Mama, you mean a lot to me

‘Nuff said.

The Mamas and the Papas

I’ve been thinking about this miraculous family unit–and how the gears all work together to make things run smoothly.  One gear out-of-place and things get rough.  Squeaky gears need a little attention to get going.  When everything works together–progress can be made.

My little squeaky is really growing up so fast.  I’ve heard people say that all my life, “They grow up too fast.”  I never knew how true those words were until now.  Her six weeks  are literally just around the corner, and this mama is heading back to work.  It’s a good thing I really love my other job (teaching)–because I might start squeaking too.

I was thinking about an event from a couple of years past.  My ex and I were at a church convention, and were playing with all the kiddos.  Suddenly, he picked up a little girl and began swinging her wildly around by her arms.  Well, my sister’s arms popped out-of-place when my uncle swung her like that–and I began freaking out.  The mama of the little girl said to me, “Jania, this is why God gave us a Mom and a Dad.”

I suppose I could twist that to mean that God gave us Mamas to keep the Daddy’s on the right track…  But in all honestly, she proceeded to tell me that kids need a little rough play every once in a while.

Kids also need time alone.  This is what my husband has taught me this week.  The Mama in me wants to cuddle, love on, and snuggle my little bug all the time.  I want her naps to be beside me on the couch–not out of my sight.  I want to jump when she says, “Wah” and fix everything wrong in her little world.  I want to make sure that she doesn’t get hurt by padding everything around her.  I want her to have music and sweet sounds to sleep to.  I want her to get to rock while she still fits inside the swing.

This is why she has Papi.  Papi said to me the other day, “She really needs some time alone.  She’s going to get used to being in your arms.”  I forget the word he used to tell me that she would be spoiled.  I let him take her, change her diaper, and he returned without the baby.  And guess what?

Her world didn’t crash.

She didn’t cry in outrage.

My heart didn’t break in two.

And I learned a lesson.

My baby doesn’t really need to be with me every second of every day (and night).  She needs peace and quiet just as much as you or I do.  Logic (and my Mama) tells me that if she were unhappy, she would have let me know with more than “Wah.”  Because when that
Wah” becomes “Waaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!” you bet we both go running.

Since then, I’ve tried to let little Sugar Bug do a little exercise on the floor–even when I am yearning for cuddles.  She is becoming stronger–lifting her head and looking around.  She’s learning to touch with intention, and loves to tickle her toy that jingle-jangles.  And Mama is learning to give a little growing space to her bebita.

See, God really does know what he’s doing.  He gives us Mamas to cuddle and love on, and Daddys to help us grow.  (That doesn’t mean that Papi doesn’t get his cuddles in there too, or that Mama doesn’t have words of Advice for growth…)  Mamas dresses us up pretty every morning.  Papi wraps diapers in a no-frills-this-will-leak-soon way.  Papi settles us down at night with no nonsense.  And Mami hums a tune as she climbs in bed beside baby–her body rocking even though her baby isn’t in her arms.  Mama scrubs baby up in the kitchen sink.  Daddy worries that baby will be hurt from leftover pepper juice and germs.    So how does it all work if Mama and Papi are so different?

Mami and Papi and learning to keep mouths shut.  This is allowing that machine of a family unit to get moving the way things were intended by a higher power.  Because the minute we start tinkering–trying to change the way things are done–it all will fall apart.

Being A Mom

Family picture March 2013

Wow.

No one told me how hard it is to be a mom.  I am guessing that’s because it’s totally worth it–so moms just ignore the fact that time has gone out the window.  They put on the same smelly clothes (baby doesn’t mind), and slap on more lanolin.

Or they climb on a plane and spend spring break consoling their grown daughter on her ability to produce milk…

I’ve barely been on the computer–much less on my blog updating everyone on life.  I guess that’s what happens when you’re learning how to live.  I have quoted my Mamaw before, “You haven’t lived until you have children.”  And I reckon she’s right.  Although my mom and husband have pulled out the stops to keep me breathing–short of hooking me up to a liquids line.

I guess she said that, because it’s  hard to  describe how it really feels to have children.

I feel like upon bonding with my little girl, part of me became incomplete.  Now, she has to be there for me to feel whole.  It scares the heck out of me, to be honest.  I lay beside her, and stare at her sleeping–close to tears, waiting for her to need me.  When I finally sleep, the slightest movement or whimper wakes me up in a state of panic.  The best night of sleep I had was last night–in my mom’s bed.  I think I must have slept harder knowing she was there to take care of Alexandria.  Her sad/upset face breaks my heart in two, and when she smiles, I feel like I’ve won the lottery.

There’s nothing like nursing her (even when it’s hurting).  She stares up at me with big brown eyes.  As she drifts off to sleep, her eyes open and close quickly as she attempts to figure out sleepy-time.  Her little hands have become more controlled in two short weeks, and she curls one up on my chest.  The other is tucked away.  Sometimes she holds my fingers as I guide her to her source of life and happiness.  Her body relaxes, and there she goes again: stealing my heart away.

I try to share her with her Papi and her Grandmama.  Daddy comes to get her for diaper time without a word from me.  He stands by as I give her bath, singing to her describing my actions, unconsciously mimicking my mama.  Papi likes to carry her around too–and I refrain from warning him to watch her head, hold her tighter, or comfort her whimpers.  I have selfishly watched him feed her from a bottle for a week, as I had to pump my right pecho to allow it to recover.  Today we took back feedings–and I proudly listen to her swallow loudly, gulping as much leche as she could.

I watched my Mama leave us today at the airport, and I cried.  I cried because of my own needs, but also with a strange new awareness for what she’s warned me of:  a mama’s love for her baby.  A piece of her heart gone from her body–keeping her from feeling completely complete.
Mom and Me

A photo from convention 2010

Thinking of You This Sunday Morning

My mom has given me some great advice over the last several years (really over my lifetime, but I am only willing to admit the good advice I have received since I realized how smart she really is…), but there is one thing she told me that I am really pleased with today.  See, a couple years ago, I was really bummed because some baby didn’t like me.  I think it was my niece Dyana, but I can’t really remember.  Mama said, “Just feed her–that’s how you get babies to like you.”  Spoken like a southern woman.

So for the last several weeks, Victor and I have been bribing the kids at meeting.  They are the grandkids of one of the ladies, and the youngest is two.  She is a beautiful little Mexican who cuddles up to her abuela and her uncle.  She’s really the one I am after.  Her brother is four, and isn’t quite as shy as she seems to be.  We’ve taken candy from the presents my students gave me.  Mexicans love weird candy with chile on/in it.  She’s quite the mess, and last week when I tried to help her take the wrapper down off her candy–you would have thought that I was sneaking a taste.  Today, however, she gave me a sweet smile when I gave her a kiss (the chocolate kind).  Yes!  It’s working!

I am reminded of a sweet lady and her husband who used to bring us candy and treats on Sunday mornings.  Laura, my elder’s late wife in Tennessee, always remembered us!  I remember her bringing heart shaped lolipops around Valentine’s Day.  She was an amazing woman, and I can’t imagine being at her home for meeting without her being there!

What really got me thinking about Laura and other amazing women I’ve been around who nurtured me (naturally and spiritually) was a verse in Titus.  I know I have read it a billion times, but there is something about reading it in another language that really has made it real to me.  I think it’s because I have to read so slowing and really search for meaning.

That the aged women likewise, that they be in behavior as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;  That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

Oh! what I’ve learned from you, women in my life!  How to take my service to God seriously!  To love my husband as a helpmate–not the bossy britches I tend to be.  To allow God to work in my family’s life–rather than instruct and preach.  To love this unborn child and want what is best for him–spiritually, as well (if not more than) naturally.  To love others despite their faults–and maybe even more!  To recognize my shortcomings when I begin to judge others harshly–and even to fear the lessons the Lord steers my way after I’ve been particularly stubborn.  To realize that my children won’t be perfect, but that my love will be unyielding.  To understand that a word in season can lift the weary and downtrodden.  To pray, pray, pray for others as you’ve prayed for me!  To recognize a need and seek to fill it–without a show or desire to have reward.  To make sacrifices.  To bite my tongue when it’s hard.  To forgive.  To remember the saints and servants.

Oh!  I could go on forever…  But I’ll end with this:   If ever you doubt the place you have in God’s kingdom, know that this young mama in Mexico has benefited beyond what words could ever explain from your life.  Thank you. 

Five Things I Would Like to Blame on My Pregnancy

It’s become clear to me as I continue to go through these wacky hormonal changes, that I really have no idea what’s up with my body.  I keep thinking, “Maybe that’s because I am expecting.” Then reality comes knocking, and I remember that I had the same problems quirks before I conceived.

1)  My Attitude.

Remember when I told you about me chewing out the clerk at the Oxxo?  I really would like to believe that it was because I was hungry and in need of a snack.  And maybe it was!  But the truth is–even before this little guy took up residence in my uterus, I got crabby when I needed a snack.

2)  My Sweet Tooth

Before I get any lectures, know that I really do eat soooo much healthier than I have pretty much my whole life.  But the other day, I bought a six-dollar box of Captain Crunch Peanut Butter cereal.  Yummo!  I just said, “This is my favorite cereal in the whole world!” And when the girls encouraged me to buy it because I am pregnant, I said, “Okay!” Sigh.  I also now drink two glasses of chocolate milk a day.  In the morning, it makes me feel less like throwing up.  In the evening, I just really like it before bed.  This might ACTUALLY be a pregnancy thing.  I was never crazy about milk like my other sisters.

3)  My Memory

I forget everything.  In the last week, I have forgotten to take my kids to music, to take my kids to Computer, to send home reminders from the office, and to assign passwords for a reading program.  I want to claim “Pregnancy Brain”–and perhaps it really is worse.  Or maybe I have always been like this.  Probably…

4)  My Emotions

My mom tells this story about when she went to read to my sister’s kindergarten class.  She cried in the story, and a little girl sneered at her.  We used to always laugh at Mama when she cried.  Just the saddest little song or story would set her off.  Well, kids, let this be a lesson:  Don’t laugh at your Mama.  You never know when you will become just like her.

With that said, today I cried.  I was teaching a lesson on both writing personal stories and making connections to literature.  Who better to demonstrate those qualities than Tomie dePaola?  So, with a little Nana Upstairs Nana Downstairs action, the fun began.  I laughed off the tears, but made sure that I emphasized that sometimes when we make connections to text, we laugh.  Or cry.

The problem?  I also cried two years ago when I read When I Was Young in the Mountains to the kids.  I’ll admit: the baby had little to do with this.  This was karma paying me back.

5)  My Sleep Schedule

They say pregnant women get tired.  I know it’s true.  It was pretty much my first clue that I wasn’t alone.  I remember taking my little travel blanket (it was given to me when I came to Mexico by a friend who said it was her favorite travel accessory–I seriously use it weekly…) to school and curling up on the tile floor away from the video camera to take a little nap.  But then again, little naps are my forte.  And if that is all you need as an indicator, well then, my dad, Master Napper, has been pregnant my whole life.

I’ve proudly crawled into bed by nine o’clock three nights this week.  And when invited to birthday parties or soccer games, I have to plead tired-pregnant-women-needs-her-rest.  (It works…)

With that said, I guess it’s safe to say that this mess of a woman has always been a mess.  With or without a baby-to-be, some things will never change.