Cooking My Way Out of Fear

I come from a typical Black-American family filled with competitive and hilarious spirits. That means there is NOTHING in your life that they won’t joke about. My father liked to joke about my failures. He thought it would make me stronger, instead it made me retreat from anything I knew I could not best.

Cooking is one such thing. My mother made sure I had dinner on the table every single night. To me, she was an amazing cook. To her nine older siblings, she was the worst cook out of the bunch. They always joked about her culinary skills and my father made sure to join in on the “fun.” He often told me I would never find a husband because I couldn’t cook. I took this all to heart and simply withdrew from preparing food. I learned to do the basics so I would not die. That’s it. I couldn’t pour my heart and soul into something and have people laugh at it, and I certainly did not want a man who based his love on my abilities in the kitchen. In my mind, I had so much more to offer. Heck! I had a college degree and a career, honey!

Now keep in mind, I have always LOVED food. I enjoyed and excelled in Home Economics class. I marveled at my Aunt who could taste something fantastic at a restaurant, deconstruct it in her mind and cook her own version of it for us at home. But I chose to withdraw from it all because I feared the one bad result that would make me, once again, the butt of a joke.

My husband married me despite what I considered to be his mother’s considerable concerns about my lack of skills in the kitchen. The first ten years of our marriage consisted of his home-cooked food and my selection of delectable takeout meals.

One day, I decided I needed to toss my fears out of the window. I would never make the perfect southern soul-food cuisine. That’s not me, but I wanted to make something. I wanted my husband to know I cared about him, his health and what he consumed. Plus, I was out of work and I needed to earn my keep.

My former and favorite boss always told me that if I could read, I could cook. Humph! In my culture, cooking is an innate talent. You can’t read it. You have TO DO IT. It’s IN you. I just felt it wasn’t IN me. However, I had to start somewhere. So I started scouring the internet for simple recipes. One thing led to another and I was making dinner for my husband on a regular basis and LOVING IT.

About 11 months later, my son came home and I finally understood a coworker, who I thought was a bit strange, told me about the joy that filled her heart when she fed her children food she made with her hands. All of sudden, I wanted to really work on my cooking. I found joy in feeding my family.

I started working hard to put aside fears. Instead of saying, “Ive never eaten that before” or “That seems difficult,” I started trying. Heck, I’m making my son’s baby food.

I’ve had some bombs, like the time I threw in parmesan when I should have been tossing in flour. There’s also the time my baked meatballs were raw, and the moment I couldn’t chew the beef in my beef stew because it was overcooked. BUT! No one laughed at me and if they had, it would not have killed me.

Without realizing it, I started conquering a fear. I still won’t cook for my parents, but I’m making strides. I hope tackling this fear will lead me to take on many more. I’m tried of fearing fear. I want to blaze a trail that my son can see so he’ll know it’s possible to blaze his own.

Food Fail!

I thought I had it going on last night. My baby boo was being fantastic. He sat in his high chair as I worked to prepare a scrumptious dinner for my hubby. This shrimp and sun-dried tomato pasta was easy (!! I knew I was going to nail it, until I tossed in the “flour.”

I whisked away, but the sauce wasn’t thickening. In fact, it looked like something melted in there. What the….? Oh yeah. something was melting. I threw in parmesan cheese instead of the flour. My disgust at my stupid mistake sent me into a tailspin. TAILSPIN! Somehow, I completed dinner, while cursing myself in front of my child (mom fail!!!)

I was so crestfallen when my husband walked in the door, but being the kind of guy that he is, all he did was thank me. He thanked me for having dinner ready so he could eat with us while on break from work.

My disaster turned into a sweet moment. The three of us sat at the dinner table and ate together. Well…Evan sat in my lap and attempted to keep me from putting food in my mouth. Still! It was one of our more special nights. Normally, we eat after we put the baby to sleep.

As for the pasta, it wasn’t terrible, but it was bland in some places. The shrimp was perfection, the rest of it could have used a little more love. I will tweak a few things the next time I make it. Mainly, I will make sure that I don’t toss in parmesan cheese when I should be using flour. UGH!! I’ll also add more sun-dried tomatoes and salt and pepper.

Flying With A Baby

Flying with a baby can be annoying and it’s not because of the baby. My Little E is perfect. I mean it. A baby can’t be a bad traveller. They do their very best and so do their parents, but people get in the way.

  1. TSA: When I travel alone with my 7-month-old, I have to pre-fill his bottles with water so that we can be easily turned it into formula. However, that means the bottles have to go through extra TSA screening. That wouldn’t be a problem, except TSA has either does not have enough staffing to get it done within ten minutes or whoever is assigned to the extra screening comes sauntering over whenever they feel like it. During my last trip out of Boston’s Logan International, I had to ask if there was a special screener working my lane after waiting more than five minutes. There wasn’t. I asked four people to see a manger. They all lied and I never met a manager. I had to catch a flight, which prevented me from pressing the issue. It’s really a shame, but I’ve grown to accept the process and it no longer bothers me. Some people will say, “take empty bottles then!” Uhm, no! My son starts his “bottle cry” as soon as he sees a bottle, empty or not, feeding time or not. Whatever I can do to minimize that bottle cry, I will do… or would you prefer to hear him wail?
  2. Nosy people: If there is a long sink counter, I will change my son there, instead of the Koala care tables. I know they are deemed safe, but I didn’t install those things. I’m always afraid they are going to give way and my son will crash onto the floor. Not. worth. the. risk! I would rather change him on something that has a base on the ground. I had a woman question my decision. She said, “Don’t they have a changing table or something for you to do that?” I should have said, “who the fuck are you? and why are you talking to me?” or “Are you asking to be a bitch or out of genuine concern?” Instead, I told her, “that I prefer to trust a tabletop with a real foundation, instead of something mounted to a wall.”
  3. Touchy people: For some reason, if people think your child is cute, they think it means they can touch him. I really need to be more vocal about my dislike of this, but I don’t want to make a scene. I know. Just write, “dumb ass punk on my forehead.” If they’re not trying to touch your child, they try to talk to him, while he’s  attached to your chest. For some reason, everyone thinks they are the child whisperer and if your child doesn’t smile at them, they question if your child is ok. YES MY CHILD IS OK! HE DOESN’T KNOW YOU!!
  4. Judgemental People: A woman literally screamed at my husband for taking our empty stroller down an escalator. She didn’t realize there wasn’t a baby in the stroller. She apologized, but do you see how maybe she should have minded her business?
  5. Seating: People clearly see you have a child, yet choose to sit by you (if you’re flying Southwest). Then they are baffled if your child makes a peep. HE IS A BABY! 7 MONTHS! HE DOESN’T HAVE A VOCABULARY. And keep in mind, I sit in the aisle seat, and the moment my child makes too much noise I go to the bathroom. I should be like the folks who just sit there to teach your judgmental asses a lesson.

P.S. After traveling with the Moby Wrap, the original Baby Bjorn, the Baby Bjorn Carrier One and the Tula Wrap, I can honestly say the TULA WRAP IS THE BEST THING ON EARTH. IT IS THE BEES KNEES FOR TRAVELING. I LOVE IT!! (Ugh! Enough with the shouting. lol!)

AND! Thank you to all of the people who polite, curteous and helpful. I did a lot of complaining, but I’ve flown solo rountrip twice. Each time I’ve run into incredible people who have checked to make sure I didn’t need help with bags, held packets of formula as my baby shouted at the sight of me pouring water into a bottle (which is why I now pre-fill) and offered encouraging words.

Musings After My First Mother’s Day

My son leaves me speechless, wordless and tongue-tied. That may seem redundant, but that’s how scrambled my brain is when it comes to him. I am confused, overjoyed, excited, anxious, confused and worried.

I want to be the best mother FOR him. I want to raise him to be a good citizen, a respectful human and a person who knows he is loved. I feel like I am already failing. I freak out when people touch him public, yet I can’t get the guts to tell them, “DON’T TOUCH MY SON!” If I can’t do this simple step to protect him, how I will protect him from predators, racists/prejudiced teachers and overzealous coaches?

I need an intervention. I need my fear of being percevied as the angry, aggressive black woman to go away. I need to embrace being the stereotype. I’ll be whatever is necessary to help my son succeed, at least that what I say. DAMN!

Alright. Enough about my shortcomings. Let’s talk about my boy. He is 7 months old with a beautiful smile, but he is not crawling, sitting up or holding his bottle. He is however eating like a champ, babbling and making me laugh. I think the kid is going to be the bored genius type. I’m going to have to work hard to keep him motivated and living up to his potential. That will be hard since I can’t even tell people that I don’t want them to touch him. Ugh! I’m so frustrated with myself.

My first Mother’s Day was beautiful. I don’t have the words to describe it. The day was hard for me. I wanted to focus on my Mother and not on myself. I spent so many years just holding myself together for her on that day. I was surprised that I was on the receiving end of the celebration. My cousins and aunties sent me special messages and it really made my heart swell.

Eric nailed the day, of course, with a beautiful card, coffee mug and my much-desired dutch oven. He treated me like a queen. He knows how hard Mother’s Day has been for me. He knows about the times I spent the day crying, unable to get out of bed and barely able to remember to honor my own glorious mother.

I know people would expect me to write some gushy description of the day, but when fertility digs its nails into your soul, sometimes it is hard to escape the scars left behind. However, don’t mistake this for me being ungrateful or negative. I’m being honest, but I thank God for my son and my family. I am so absolutely overjoyed at being a mother. I just hope I am as wonderful as my mother and I hope when they place my ashes in an urn, Evan says, “she did right by me.”

5 Things you need to know before bringing home a newborn

I spent ten years chasing motherhood. TEN YEARS. My husband and I completed multiple rounds of IVF and IUI. I had four surgeries to combat fibroids, endometriosis and an ectopic pregnancy. After all of that time, pain and money, we were still childless. We ultimately completed our family through adoption. I spent so much time daydreaming about motherhood that I was grossly underprepared for what really happens when you bring home a newborn.

I had people giving me bad advice left and right. Thank goodness I like to read. Through the glory of books, I managed to cobble together my own philosphy for getting through infanthood. it was the most amazing, stressful, loud, draining and beautiful time of my life.

I’d like to tell new moms five things before they leave the hospital with their child. Here they are:

  1. Throw your plans out the window. Your child is not the perfect child from TV, the bus or wherever you saw the well-behaving baby after which you modeled your unborn offspring. Please let this child come into this Earth, meet the child and figure out what works for this particular person.

2. Sleep. Forget about it. I know people tell you this, but you truly have no idea. I don’t care that you have the perfect plan for making sure your child does not usurp your much-needed sleep. YOU. ARE. NOT. SLEEPING.

3. Sit in the turmoil of those first three month. Enjoy the incessant crying, the required cuddling and the liquid, projectile poop (yeah. It shot out like a bullet). In the moment, you will wish, pray and covet the self-sufficiency of a four or five month old baby, but stop yourself. You will never get these beautiful moments again. Your baby will never need you this much, this way again because at four months they start solids. WTH? I was just getting the hang of this infant thing…but I digress

4.Use YOUR mind. Listen to YOUR baby. If someone is offering you advice because they think you’re being too hard or too soft. You can listen if you want, but you know your baby and you have to spend the most time with him or her. Use what’s best for your household, not someone else’s.

5. Ignore images of perfect mommies who have it all togehter. Most of them took those pictures when their children were 6 months (or the first two weeks when the child isn’t firing on all cylanders). They had time to adjust. Don’t put impossible timelines on yourself. That doesn’t mean let everything go. It just means everything doesn’t have to be together two months post-pardum.