Scrubbing the Tub

As I knelt in the bathroom today, scrubbing the tub, my roots came to mind. I’m one of those Latinas. Not the ones that were born in a Latin country, but one of the ones that were born here. My parents were born in Puerto Rico and raised in 2 worlds, there and here. I, on the other hand, was born here. Only visited the island once in my life. Our familial ties to the island having long been stretched too thin by the hands of time.

My parents were progressive. My father being the first in his family to graduate college, law school and go on to become a lawyer. My mother graduated high school and went on to work full time in Corporate America for 30+ years. My father was the primary nurturer to us and my mother cooked, sometimes when she felt like it anyhow. Other times, it was every person to themselves to find dinner. I am no stranger to cereal and eggs for dinner. That was normal, part of life. My mother washed her own clothing and at some point so long ago that I can’t remember when ceased to wash all of ours. I washed my clothing. My sister washed hers. And my dad washed his and my brother’s.

My husband is one of those Latinos. Not like me, but born on the island. He didn’t come here until he was 19 years old. He still struggles to speak English. His mother doted on him, his father, and the rest of his brothers and sisters. She never worked outside of the home as far as I know. Her days were filled with nurturing their family. Cooking, cleaning, washing, she does it all. When my husband came to the US, he had never lifted a mop, washed a dish, or his own clothing to say the least.

And somehow, my husband and I met, fell in love, and got married. If he had known how un-domestic I was, he would never have married me. He sees me “serving” him as an act of love and devotion. I see “serving” him as being demeaning to me. So we often get mired into the same vicious circle of an argument. Him questioning my love for him because I don’t want to jump up and serve him dinner. I mean for God’s sakes, I’ve been taking care of the kids all by myself all day. Could he serve himself and give me a break? And me questioning whether he appreciates the sacrifice and the commitment that being a Latina wife and mother every minute of every day entails.

I was raised to be independent and now here I am being forced into a mold that I wasn’t built for. How do you just become the quintessential Latina when you were not raised by one? No one else seems to understand how I feel belittled, how I feel less worthy when my husband comes home and I have to jump up to serve him. Then continue to clean, help the kids with homework and so on while he sits in his boxers scratching his balls on the sofa watching ESPN. And I’m supposed to be happy. How do you find happiness in that? I look at my daughter, who is only 2 and being formed now for her future, and wonder what the future holds for her. A life of servitude for her family under the guise of nurturer? A husband who pitches in and cares equally for the children and the house? And my sons, will they do the same that they see my husband doing to their wives one day?

In the mirror, I see the marionette strings tied to my back and wait for the familiar pull of my husband’s hand. For him to guide me in the direction I should be going. For me to jump up, the happy puppet that I am, to cook, to clean, to smile, to laugh, to be reigned over. A lump forms in my throat; I swallow a tear and go back to scrubbing the tub.


Styling your Curly Child’s Hair

Bonding like no other…

Before I had my own daughter, I used to dread one day having to style a little girl’s hair if I ever were to have a girl. I knew that my own curly hair in combination with my husband’s super curly hair that any daughter we would have would face a lifetime of trying to tame unruly curls. I always thought that God had given me my 2 boys for a reason, because he knew that I wouldn’t be able to deal with doing a little girl’s curly hair, especially since I had fought for years to tame my own hair.

But a few years later, I was lucky enough to find myself pregnant with my own little girl. During that time, my niece came to stay with me for a few days while my sister went away on vacation for a couple of days. During that time I had to brush and style her hair. I was so excited but a little apprehensive too. But with some patience and creativity, my niece who typically hated getting her hair brushed let me style her hair. And it turned out beautifully! It made me so excited for the impending arrival of my own daughter. I also learned what a unique bonding experience hair styling a child’s hair could be. I did some research shortly afterwards to see if I could find any cultures that did believe that hair styling created a special bond between women. But the only article I found was by an Indian woman who talked about hair oiling, which was customary in her culture. And how one day she suggested hair oiling to her new family that she had married into and by the end of an hour or so she and her new inlaws were smiling and laughing and so much closer. So although it’s something that is not documented or researched as far as I could find, I definitely believe that hair styling can build up a special bond between mother and daughter or between any two females.

The scalp is one of the places on the body that is often used for sensory pleasure. So it doesn’t have to be a tense or painful experience to style your daughter’s hair. The most important aspect of helping your daughter to remain calm during the styling process is to be calm and patient yourself. There are also other things you can do while brushing and styling your daughter’s hair to help her remain calm. Here are some of the things that I have done:

• Brush your daughter’s hair while she’s watching her favorite tv show. Dora the Explorer helps me out tremendously at home

• Give your daughter a snack to eat while you’re styling her hair, my favorite hair snacking foods are raisins, honey nut cheerios, simple foods that she can pick up easily with her fingers

• Letting my daughter hold the hair barrettes basket and pick out the barrettes that will go in her hair. She absolutely loves doing this. She’ll play with the rubber bands, reorganize or jumble them up and show me the ones she wants in her hair.

So don’t worry, although doing a curly haired child’s hair can be daunting, it can be done and be a wonderful pleasant bonding experience for you both.

Getting prepared

Before you sit your daughter down to do her hair, you must make sure that you have all of the essential tools within arm’s length. I like to keep everything in a clear plastic container to make them all easier to find.  The one in the link I’ve included is in a set of 6, but you can purchase these seperately at WalMart or even a Dollar Store.

Here are the tools that I use routinely:

Rat Tail comb – this is critical for making neat straight parts. Although it is still hard to get a really straight part in my daughter’s hair. The rat tail comb makes it much easier! You can find these in any store, I’ve bought a few in the Dollar store. Just be sure to test the combs out on your own scalp first. I bought 2 once that were much too sharp and painful to my own scalp. I never use these on my daughter’s hair because I know they would be even much more painful for her tender toddler scalp.
• Smoothing brush – this is a great tool for grabbing all those little fine hairs and smoothing them into a nice neat little ponytail. The smoother the ponytail hairline, the neater the style will look when complete.
• Soft pony tail holder Goody has a wonderful line of pony tail holders for girls.  The majority of these will work wonderfully well for your daughter’s hair.  You wantand her hair gets thicker, you can get the larger size bands, but for now the smallest are the best. It  the bands that have no metal clasp and are smaller than normal for your toddler girl’s hair. As she gets older means less times that you need to loop the hair through the band.

• Small rubber bands -these are made of rubber, and they come in black or in multiple colors. I do not like to use these as you need to cut them out of the hair to ensure they don’t pull or break your daughter’s hair. This always makes me afraid that I will cut a bit of her hair so I avoid them, but my daughter’s babysitter loves them and they are the only rubber bands that she puts in my daughter’s hair when she is doing her hair.

• Headbands these are absolutely an essential for your daughter when they are babies and their curls are becoming more voluminous until the time that her hair is fuller and you can brush her hair softly into neat little ponytails. They help give that special touch so that everyone can see you took extra care with your daughter’s hair although her curls may look a little tousled.  Get them in all colors to coordinate with many of her outfits.
• Any cute colorful hair accessory that you like – You can never have enough of these and I buy new ones every chance that I get.

Maintenance of your daughter’s hair

The second step in style your daughter’s hair, once you have all your tools in place is taking care of her hair. This means treating her hair extra special so that when she becomes a teenager it’s not already dried and frizzy from overuse of hair gel and other drying products.

• Shampooing – I use Johnson & Johnson Shampoo/Condition combo on my daughter’s hair. They now have different kinds of shampoos that vary depending on the hair texture. I will usually buy the shampoo & condition combination that is for curly hair. In addition to using the combination, I will use a separate J&J Conditioner for curly hair on her hair once done with the Shampoo/Condition duo. Curly hair is naturally more porous and thereby naturally more dry, so I love to moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.

• Bedtime Hair – Bedtime hair styling is VERY important with the curly haired child. Depending on how you style your child’s hair at night will dictate how her hair looks when she wakes up and how much time you need to spend on her hair in the morning. After I bathe my daughter, and shampoo and condition her hair I have a routine for the bedtime as well. I typically like to towel dry her hair. But I don’t blow dry it as that can sometimes be harsh and drying on the hair when done too frequently. I will then put a moisturizer in it, whatever I happen to have on hand at the time. I will use any organic moisturizer on my daughter’s hair that does not contain alcohol in it, even if it is not marketed for just children. I usually will put about the size of a small golf ball amount in my palm and rub it around in my hands until it’s evenly dispersed; I then begin rubbing it through her hair from the roots to the ends. To finish the bed time style, I grab the smoothing brush and smooth all of her hair into one loose ponytail on the top of her head. This style helps to prevent her hair from becoming too tangled overnight and more difficult to brush in the morning.

Morning Routine

So your dear little one wakes up and frightens even you when you see what her hair looks like. You thought straight bed head looked scary? Try CURLY bed head! The hair will shape itself into forms that look alien to even the most loving and devoted mother. How to tame the wildness? Well, first things first, don’t panic. Get your hair basket that has all of your hair tools in it. I love keeping all of my tools in a basket for her hair because it makes it portable. This means I can do her hair on the sofa, on the bed in my room, in the bathroom, pretty much anywhere that makes it easier for us in that moment.

Dip your brush in some water and tap off the excess on the sink. If you are in another room, you’ll want to bring in a cup with you with warm water in it. Brush her hair beginning at the roots. Once the water touches the hair, you’ll begin to see it taming down right away. NOTE: remember not to use excessive amounts of water during the colder winter months. You just want to use enough to be able to get the hair in control. After the hair has been brushed, I like to re-moisturize the hair (remember you can never over-moisturize). Take another small golf-ball size amount in your palms, rub it in your palms, then smooth it through her hair beginning at the roots. A moisturizer is essential for the curls to hold their shape through the day and to reduce frizzies. Frizzy hair is usually what makes curly hair look unkempt.

One thing to be sure of when you put a product in your daughter’s hair is that it does not contain alcohol. Today there are lots of detangling sprays that even Johnson & Johnson sells. I don’t use these products on my daughters hair, no matter how tangled as they contain alcohol and after extended use will only make her hair more difficult to style in the future. Increased dryness means increased friziness which translates to increasingly sloppy unkempt looking hair styles.

I recently found this Olive Oil Hair Gel in Sallys Beauty Supply that I use for my daughter.  It’s 100% natural and alcohol free!!  I definitely recommend  this for your daughter’s hair.  Typically, I will go to Wal-Mart or CVS and scour each and every product until I find one that I like for her hair. I’ll usually use the product, once I’ve bought it and brought it home, on both of our hair. I did find some really great looking products on line that you can try out. I haven’t used these products and so I’m not endorsing them, but I would love to try them in the future. If you do purchase them, please let me know your thoughts on them.

Once you have finished moisturizing the hair, and then added a little gel if you like, use your rat tail comb to section the hair off. I like to make two little ponytail s in the front and one in the back. Each day I vary it. I play with the different style parts, slanted, swoping, etc. These all change the look of the hairstyle. Play around with it and just have fun with it. And see what creative styles you can come up with.

Time in a Cocoon

 I’ve been thinking again about blogging and have been wanting to pick it back up. Not to continue my diatribes on my relationship, but to talk about LIFE, my LIFE to be more exact. Life as a Latina in 2009. Today. While President Obama is in the White House. And the first Latina ever has been elected to the Supreme Court – Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor. I’m living right now amidst change! My life every day is in a changing world. And if we don’t stop to smell the flowers, and appreciate that, sometimes it can slip right by you without even having noticed it. It’s been a while that I’ve been searching for some place on line that I could come to. Some place where women are like me. American Latinas, caught in the center of 2 completely different worlds and struggling to maintain their place in those worlds. I still haven’t found that blog, that website that is by Latinas for Latinas and that answers all of those questions. So I decided that this will be the place. It will be a place for me to bare my soul or to not bare my soul to the world. To talk about cooking, struggles, with weight, sex, work, marriage, children, family. Everything.

Random Thoughts that Stick in my Mind…

So it’s been a while since I’ve blogged and it still feels weird doing it here. I’m not sure why, maybe because it’s different. For those of you who didn’t know, I had my tubes tied on Friday. A tubal ligation actually is the name. And I’m still recupperating. It hasn’t been that bad, but it could have been easier. Ever since, I’ve been kind of sad. Just knowing that I can’t ever have any more children, no more babies for me. It makes me feel sad. Not that I want another one, mind you. i don’t want to be pregnant again. Who would want that? The fat hot hungry misery of pregnancy… You see these women on TV and they speak of pregnancy like it’s art, some miraculous Mona Lisa hanging on the the wall. But it’s nothing like that at all. It’s like having an alien come and set up residence inside of you for 10 months and then at the end you’re hazed into infant boot camp through a tortoruous delivery of some type. So, that’s the furthest thing from my mind. Who would want that? So then why does it make me so sad knowing I will NEVER have it again? Ugh. Sometimes I exasperate myself with my thoughts.

So just yesterday, as I was driving back home to relax after I dropped off the kids the weirdest thing happened. Standing at the corner, waiting for the bus, was my 1st boyfriend ever. His name was Luis. And he looked just the same, but older. Same haircut, everything. I stared at him and inched my car closer so that I could get a better look. It was him. But he was a lane away from me, so conversation was impossible. As I was pulling away, he saw me and stepped out to get a better look at me and my heart dropped. I kept on going. What would I have said to him? Should I have given him a ride? Should I just have thanked my lucky stars that I wasn’t still with him and standing next to him on that bus stop as I did? I don’t know. But it made me think. Not of endless love, but of puppy love, and letters, and poems and sweetnesses that was our relationship. I can’t help but think that I missed my chance. For what I don’t know. I guess to be nosey and find out what he was, how many kids he had, was he married. Yeah I guess that’s it. I wanted to know about him today. But I missed the chance, cause the light turned green and I just kept on going. Anyhow, I’m leaving early to go home and rest. Just a bit of my random thoughts today. Hope you enjoyed the window into my mind.

Being Selfish…

I miss my life from a long time ago. My life before I had kids and got married. I miss that life. Lazy mornings of uninterrupted sleep. Days and nights disappeared while I rushed through finishing books that I couldn’t put down. Late nights with friends. Dancing until dawn. Drinking until my head would pound in the morning and force me to sleep even more. Weekly trips to the beauty and tanning salons. My nails were always freshly manicured. My life was about me. ..
Now, things are different. It’s trips to the barber shop that I have to schedule now. And little nails on 3 sets of hands that I have to gently cut. Sunblock with 50 SPF instead of suntan oil. And books that are chosen by my little ones for bedtime reading. Instead of dancing at the club, we dance in the kitchen while I’m making dinner. Hangovers? Things of the past, you don’t get those from drinking too much water and juice.

I wouldn’t trade it all in for anything. Because one day, my little ones that need so much from me now, one day they’ll spread their little wings and fly the nest and they won’t come back, because they’ll be too busy building their own nests and starting their own lives. And when that happens, I (ME) I will be back. My life will be about me again. But it won’t be the same as when I was young and my life was all about me. It will be different somehow. Too quiet. Too empty. Like a house that is a home one day and the next if the family moves out and takes everything, it’s different. The walls echo when words are spoken within them. No longer is it a warm place, but a hollow shell of what once was, it’s just a house. Oh sure, my nails and my hair will be done, but no one will be around to wake me up in the morning. And cuddle in next to me in bed. There will be no little boys standing around idly rubbing my back while I pick up a broken glass and when I ask what they’re doing telling me “I’m just rubbing your back Mami cause I love you”.

So yeah, I guess I do miss the simpler selfish days of old, but one day, I’m going too miss these days oh so much more than those. Because these, although they are so crazy and filled with so much constant commotion and demands, these are days that will hold me while I’m old and alone at night. I’ll look at the photos and I’ll remember it all. The sounds. The smells. The laughter. The love… And then I think one day all of the lonliness of my selfish existence will be erased when my little grandchildren wallk through my door and directly into my heart. Oh, Lord, I just pray their not as bad as my kids are!! But you know, I think maybe I won’t even mind.

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