Music Choice sings me hit songs
while my son sleeps hind up,
drool dripping from his open mouth.
Exhausted, I type, edit and retype,
intent on expressing long-stuck words
about my apartment, my missing grandfather.

My poem unfolds beautifully, she says -
my best friend - ever encouraging, helpful;
but intense revision and story elaboration
makes poetry messier than this floor
strewn with legos cars and balls.
Frustrated, I firmly finger my temples.

Equis whines, turning in his sleep,
one foot jabbing his VTech laptop.
I reach it after it shouts
"I like music!" and electronically beeps
the tune of Three Blind Mice;
then he's up, crying, rubbing eyes.

I rush to the kitchen, kicking
one of three shape sorter cubes,
half-hurdle the tall wooden gate
and fall into the refrigerator door.
When I return with a bottle
Equis sleeps already, my poem waits.

I'm ready to read!
Running away from Mommy so I can explore the library.
Shirtless, the carpe diem sweats, pulses
hot verse into this window's open mouth.
A silver hymn, beaded with prayers, hangs
like its Christ from the rearview mirror.
Past Riverside, a saline epic shifts, propelling
sewage, a cradle for blue crabs and plankton.
Wailing over the baseball field, newborn graffiti
lyrically claims cliffed Manhattan schist.
The root of a Siberian ode of an elm carries cobblestone 
and tips my toes on the corner of one-tenth street;
and London Planes, green from pilfering pollution,
peel brown haiku to bare white bark within.
Each tentacle a series of circles: fossilized,
an elegy ages in the limestone wall.

Copyright Xiomara A. Maldonado 2011
Our boys with a 2/4 Domino cake! Little J helped to frost the cake while Equis managed to eat frosting right from the container!
"Oh my gosh! That mom has her kid on a leash! That is SO inhumane," I judgmentally exclaimed while pointing down the street at a toddler and his mother.

"I know, right," my sister agreed.

"When I have a kid, I will NEVER treat him or her like a pet!" I adamantly declared.
 I knew what I wanted.

Fast-forward six years to this moment: the one in which I am writing a Mom blog post that features my 16-month-old wearing a harness-- the kind of "leash" I swore I would NEVER EVER put on my child; and I am not the least bit ashamed about my decision.

As Equis' walking skills improved each week of the last months of 2011, I became more and more terrified. Equis became far more difficult to keep track of, wanted to spend less time in the stroller and was a SUPER FAST mover. I consistently thought of my mom's horrifying story about the time my two-year-old self broke free from her grasp and ran into a large street against the light. I did not want to go through a similar experience, but I also felt like I was betraying some sort of ethical code by putting my son on a leash (or putting a leash on my son.) 

In December, I consulted my boyfriend while considering my purchase. "Personally, I don't like those," he said. "I never used one for my son, but if you feel like that's what's right for you and your son, then go ahead."

Taking his sound advice into consideration, I asked myself, "WAS my having Equis wear a harness treating him like a pet?" The more I thought about it, the less I thought so. Whenever we walked outside or around a large retail store, Equis would literally put all his weight into letting go of my hand and FLY away from me. To me, it seemed that holding onto a leash was similar to handholding anyway, and that would make him a much happier kid. Furthermore, I wouldn't have to bend down, hurting my back, while struggling to push a stroller at the same time. 

After resolving that issue, I then worried that people would judge me in the same way I had unnecessarily judged that mom so many years ago. I've heard it said that moms who use leashes are "lazy" or "terrible parents for not knowing how to control their kids." As a mother, now, I find that such remarks are highly unfair. Toddlers, in general, are difficult to handle because they are excited to explore the world. Everything-- the holes in a tree, the mica in the sidewalk, the black rubber of a parked car-- is new for Equis; and I certainly didn't want to stymie his desire to learn, but I did think it was important to limit his wandering to where I could still have access to him.

After considering the fact that I would much rather give in to my concern over my son's safety instead of my concern over what other people might think of me, I decided to try the harness before completely rejecting it. I researched different types of harnesses online and took advantage of my free trial of Amazon Prime to buy the Goldbug 2 in 1 Lion Harness Buddy, a child harness that doubles as a mini-backpack. 

I must admit that when it arrived two days later, I was excited because THE LION HARNESS IS ADORABLE. As I type this post, my boyfriend's son, who is a month away from turning 4 years old, is wearing the harness of his own volition IN the house as his "backpack." He is keeping his "boom-boom" toy safe in the pocket of the lion's back, and he laughs every time his dad grabs his "tail." My son also does not mind wearing the harness when we are going for a short walk to the deli or park. I like that he has the freedom to safely explore the world as he can walk no further than three feet away from me. 

Mind you, getting anywhere with my new-walker is time-consuming because his legs are short, and he likes to walk back and forth in the same four squares of concrete. I'm glad to know, though, that's the only problem we will have when wandering the streets since he's not going to get lost or kidnapped or run over by a car while his Mommy holds onto his Lion's tail.

I barely watched the ball drop
before running to cure my sickness.
Though this Sunday was the first,
the year did not feel new;
every day is a new day 
with a hyper sixteen-month-old.

Equis laughed, pressing buttons for music,
and bounced when his madrina visited. 
Dominos dominated the early week evenings
with siblings paired against one another
and glasses clanking in cheerful celebration
of last fichas and confident capicus.

On Wednesday, the birthday cake burned
so my sister made zeppoles instead;
he still smiled at the candles
while we counted one, two... eleven!
"It was the best day ever!"
he said, shocking both his uncles.

Thursday, I cooked ground turkey ziti 
and cleaned maniacally for my parents.
When they arrived, my back hurt
so much, I rudely lied down;
but they were pleased to see
their grandson making a new mess.

An entire year of potential looms before me.  Each day is a blank page to fill, a new writing opportunity, and I intend to make the most of it. You, my reader, give me hope of expanding my site in this new year with every page visit, each click of the "Like" button and every comment you leave on my posts. This year, I want to write more posts and add more photos; and I would really LOVE to create an Equis' Place site button and purchase my own domain name.

In honor of starting a new year on Equis' Place, I am looking back at my readers' top five favorite MOM Blog posts of 2011, based on the number of "Likes" and comments they received. Remember these?
1. I'm a Whore. I'm a Prude. - What Catcalls Teach Me About Myself
[140 "Likes"]

Post ExcerptTwo blocks later, they are still following me. "You fucking conceited bitch, answer me!" screams a man at the back of my head. I press my lips together, working hard to keep my head up and eyes forward. "You're a whore!" one voice calls as we pass the elementary school my cousins went to. "You're a prude!" yells the other when I make it to the front of the local pizzeria. I can see my building from here, but it's still two blocks away. The thoughts speed through my mind: "Will I make it home? I didn't even look at them. If they try to hurt me, could I identify them?" My heart pounds as I start to walk so fast I almost fall into a run. ...

Reader's Comment: "I spent most of my young life dealing with rude men who said all kinds of nasty things as I walked down the street.... It is our job as new mothers to teach our children that women are not to be treated that way under any circumstances. I am glad you set such a good example for Equis. If everyone thought like you, the world would be on it's way to becoming a safer place.... Bravo, for another captivating Mom Blog." -Melissa

2. Monday Memory - Dilation and Contractions: Equis' Birth Part Two
[101 "Likes"]

Post Excerpt: "JUST LEAVE ME ALONE!" I yell at my mom from my seat on the toilet. Startled, my mother looks up from the watch in her hand. I see her face fall, hurt replacing her look of concentration. "Please, Mom, I'm just so hot." I feel like the walls of the tiny bathroom are closing in and the small black and white tiles are lifting towards me. There does not seem to be enough air for me to breathe. ...

Reader's Comment: "Holy canoli!!! The suspense is killing me girl! The way you describe everything reminds me of how I was feeling & just wishing you were where you were supposed to be & comfortable already. Oh man! Sounds to me like you cut it pretty darn close there missy. ;0) Already at 9 by the time you were checked. WHEW! Must have been all that walking. Can't wait to hear about Equis entrance into our world! :0) I love the picture of you holding him. The look of love & happy is priceless! :0)"  -Siouxsie

3. My Bi-Ethnic Child
[64 "Likes"]

Post Excerpt: Ultimately, I agonize less over the impact that people’s “knowing” will have on me than about the social, emotional and psychological impact it will have on my son. Questions about how Equis will fare in this society as a Puerto Rican-Yemeni / Yemeni-Puerto Rican plague my mind. Will people with a disdain for Muslims physically assault him because he is Arab? (Apparently, idiots still confuse the two.) Will the police want to question him, as they have done to American-Arab friends of mine, because of his heritage? Will people teach Equis to fear his father? I also worry that those who proclaim to “walk in the ways of righteousness” will view Equis as an illegitimate child and tell him so. I don’t want Equis to feel the need to vaguely move his head, smile and lie to people when they ask him about his origins. ...

Reader's Comment: "Xiomara, what a fantastic post! You cover it all -- race, identity, shame, love, and resistance. I admire your determination to help your son grow up as a free individual in a world where it's not easy to be free. I am struck by your honesty about religion and the way it fails us, sometimes. You SHOW so well.... You show us with your words the unintended consequences of their words. Often times, we can't see or anticipate the consequences of our actions. It is good to be reminded, lovingly and truthfully. Your post is illuminating. It's got the power to change minds and hearts. Thanks for sharing. Equis is blessed to have such a loving, wise mother." -Naima

4. Happy 1st Birthday, Equis! (Top Five Friday - What My Son Taught Me in One Year.)
[55 "Likes"]

Post ExcerptA week ago, my son turned one. ONE! As in one whole year of breathing and growing and being alive. I cannot imagine my life without Equis' smile, laugh, voice or feet in it. (I mean, I could... but that is an unhappy and unwanted thought). Baby Equis has brought a renewed sense of purpose to my life because I know that I no longer live for myself only but also for him. My son has shown me the true meaning of what it means to love someone unconditionally, without reserve or expectations. In fact, my son has taught me a lot in these past twelve months about the value of life, of laughter and of courage. ...

Reader's Comment: "Beautiful, my love. Especially lesson number one. You have moved me to tears because you've managed to touch a sensitive, inexpressible appreciation of the beauty of creating a unique soul that, although eternally a part of you, doesn't belong to you. It truly is the miracle of mundane existence to procreate a masterpiece through a simple act of sex and birth. Through your observations as a mother you've illuminated the phenomenon of love that transcends time and spirituality and could offer humanity the most meaningful insight to learning about and understanding our world. Our children are precious as you so eloquently demonstrate through your observations of Equis. Thank you for reminding the masses about the beauty of loving someone so deeply and showing that in the process we learn how to live life meaningfully. I love you and your beautiful soul." -Janene

5. Why the Hell Not? - WHY Mom Blog Exists
[36 "Likes"]

Post ExcerptI MISSED WRITING. When I learned I was pregnant, I stopped blogging at The Song of These Streets. I am not sure exactly why, but I think I felt like my life was over. I WAS HAVING A BABY! AT 23 YEARS OLD! Thankfully, I did not stop writing completely. All throughout my pregnancy, I wrote letters (in those phenomenal Moleskines I could keep easily in my purse) to Little Star - my nickname for Equis while he was in the womb. In these letters, I detailed my love and hopes for him, my fears of and excitement for motherhood, and the physical joys and tribulations of carrying a child. I wanted to share these thoughts and stories with others. Starting a Mom Blog seemed like the perfect way to continue keeping a record of my life and feelings as a mother and sharing them with others. ...

Reader's Comment: "Xiomara , you have no idea how much your mommy blog is getting me by. I've been in hiding for almost 2 weeks now. I am pregnant by the way and the reactions of others have been confusing. Some are happy and others very angry with me. I to fell like my life was over. But this baby deserves a chance at life. I'm at tears with what you write because literally it's helping me keep my head up and stay positive, along with constant prayer and faith in God. Thank you so much. You have also inspired me to start my own Mommy2Be Blog. To write about my entire journey. Thank you." -Cynthia

Reader, I am grateful for you, for the time you take out of your lives to connect with me by reading, sharing and commenting on my posts. Thank you for your support of my work. Our interactions are invaluable to me; and I am excited to spend 2012 with you.
Equis loves holding onto his baby cousin.
Caressing her head.