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My Dearest Equis,

Let's be honest: your antics make me want to curl up in a corner and cry at least once a week. You know, like...
  • That time you drew on almost every wall in the house…
  • The other day when you spilled an entire bowl of macaroni and cheese on my bed…
  • Yesterday when you broke my Ray Bans (okay, they're Dad's and now he won't ever let me borrow his stuff again)… 
  • This morning when you woke me up by screaming "Mommy" over and over again while banging me on the head with your wooden Melissa and Doug toy.

Yeah, those are the times when I feel angry and defeated, and I become my least favorite version of myself. I feel like I'm drowning, and I ask myself, "How am I going to survive one more minute of motherhood?"

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Then, you do something so simple and sweet that my heart melts: you climb on top of me to give me a hug and a slobbery kiss and tell me "I luh-loo." 

You smile at me with your gapped teeth and look at me with your wide eyes, and I remember that being a mom is my favorite job in the whole world.

Those are the moments when I want to curl up and cry because you're growing so fast.

I can hardly believe it's been three years since the day I first held you in my arms.

I'll say it again-- you're growing so fast! Not only are you getting taller and heavier, but every day, you are growing more and more into your loving, mischievous, comedic personality. I love every part of you, from your thick toes to your contagious laugh. I love that you love me so unabashedly and that your favorite thing to do with stickers is stick them all over Mommy.

In these three years, we've been through some difficult times together: 

But we've also had amazing times together, and those pros outweigh the cons anytime. Every day that I get to see your face and hear your voice is a blessing. Every minute that I get to spend with you, whether it's in the park or in the bathroom, is special.

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I thank God for giving me such an awesome kid to be in a lifelong relationship with, and I thank you for consistently teaching me that there is good in the world and life is precious.

I luh-loo too, baby. Very very much. And I always will.

Happy 3rd Birthday.

XOXO,
Your Mommy,
Xiomara


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Do you ever focus so much on the negative happenings in life that you forget to focus on the positive?

I do. All the time. 

Negative thinking can lead to a worsening of my depression, and so this week, I am doing my best to remember the things I'm thankful for. 

Here are just 10 of the things I'm grateful for this week:
  1. My niece and son laughing as I tickle their feet.
  2. Spending quality time with my Grandma and listening to her stories.
  3. Trying and loving Almond Milk.
  4. Being motivated enough to do Yoga and Pilates for the first time in over a year and enjoying it!
  5. Eating out at a Japanese restaurant with my father and sister.
  6. Sunny days!
  7. The upcoming BBQ my boyfriend and I are having in the park.
  8. Comfortable shoes.
  9. Free BzzAgent samples of Dr. Scholls, Chocolate Frosted Flakes cereal and Children's Claritin!
  10. Allergy medicine.

Comment: What's one thing you are grateful for?

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Last Sunday, my boyfriend and I spent the sunny day at the 2013 HOWL! Festival in Tompkins Square Park. 

Founded in 2003, the Howl! Festival was created to honor the East Village's counterculture of artists, musicians and other creative folk.

We had a wonderful time wandering the park, seeing all of the paintings that artists were creating on site and listening to music.

Best of all, there were plenty of great activities for the kids to do for free. Check out all of the fun we had below!

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We started the day off right with a big brunch of chocolate chip pancakes and burgers at Odessa's.
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The boys tested their baseball batting skills!
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There was no shortage of bouncy castles and slides on which to test gravity. No shoes allowed!
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Apparently, there's something very exciting about going around in circles on a tiny merry-go-round.
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Also exciting: going nowhere on a horse and fast.
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Nothing like a little mini-golf to wrap up an exhausting but totally rewarding day with the family!

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1. Screaming doesn't worry you a bit, but let there be quiet, and you're running to see what mischief the kids have gotten themselves into.

2. You feel guilty throwing away your children's artwork so when all those construction papers and finger paintings take over your house, you figure out a way to elegantly hoard your kid's artwork.

3. Your grocery list includes Go-Gurt, Cheddar Bunnies, String Cheese and several gallons of milk.

4. In the middle of a storm, you expertly maneuver a stroller, grip an open umbrella and hold your child's hand across the streets and over high curbs.

5. You have a repetitive stress injury in your hand from pushing a stroller and a strained back muscle from lifting your heavy-as-bricks kid.

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6. You've given up on removing the stickers and red marker stains from the walls.

7. Your primary Netflix suggestions are Barney & Friends, Little Einsteins, Lalaloopsy, The Magic Schoolbus, Handy Manny, Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers and Spiderman.

8. Sure there are credit cards and money in your purse, but you can also find crumbled up graham crackers, a toy car, a baby nail clipper and used wipes in there too.

9. Your child has claimed the tablet your loved one gave you for your birthday as his own. You know it's officially no longer yours when most of the memory storage is taken up by games like Angry Birds, ABCs and Dora the Explorer.

10. You can't understand why your friends would invite you to a party that starts at 12:00 am when they should know you're getting sleepy by 8:00 pm.

What would you add to this list?

This post is linked with Six Word Saturday.

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This is part of a sponsored campaign with Latina Mom Bloggers and United Health Foundation. However, all opinions expressed are my own.
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In 2010, 71% of Hispanic persons aged 65 and over resided in four states: California (26.9%); Texas (19.2%); Florida (15.7%); and New York (9.0%).

Last year, my grandmother, who is one of those people, had a stroke and went into a near-fatal diabetic shock. I became terrified at the thought of losing Abuela. She was sad, too, saying things like, "I just want to die already."

Thankfully, Abuela recently celebrated her 82nd birthday, and I'm so grateful that she's around to spend time with Equis, her great-grandson. No words can explain how scared I am right now, though. Abuela continues to suffer from diabetes, high cholesterol, asthma and high blood pressure, and her carotid artery is 95% blocked, which puts her at risk for another stroke. She needs to have a surgery soon to remove the blockage.

Sadly, in reviewing UHF America's Health Rankings Senior Report, which states that older Hispanics (28.2%) were less likely to rate their health as excellent or very good than were older Whites (42.8%) or older Asians (35.3%), I am sure many Hispanic families are experiencing similar health challenges with their loved ones. It worries me that my home state of New York ranks 23rd in the report when looking at rates of obesity, smoking, diabetes and physical inactivity.

Now is a critical time to study senior health at the population level because we know that America’s senior population will grow by more than 50 percent in the next 15 years and that Americans are living longer but sicker lives. Mortality really hits home when a loved one is sick, and such situations motivate us to promote healthier lifestyles for them. 

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Like many other Hispanic seniors, Grandma depends upon her family, especially my mother, to help her with everyday activities such as grocery shopping, paying her rent and bank transactions. Since her stroke, my family has been doing our best to take turns sleeping over her house at night and encouraging her to live a healthier lifestyle. My mother bears the brunt of this responsibility, and I help when I can.

Here are three ways in which we promote a healthier lifestyle for her:

  1. Encourage her to walk and socialize - My grandmother used to be an avid walker when she was younger. Independent woman that she is, she went everywhere by herself. Now that she is weaker and prone to dizzy spells and falling, it's our responsibility to make sure she is safe when she walks around the neighborhood. Being that Grandma hates the winter and essentially refuses to go during the winter, I try go on walks with her as much as I can during warmer weather. During the colder months, my son gives her plenty of running around to do inside! One thing my Grandma never forgets to do is go to church, where she gets her spiritual food and socializes with her best friend.
  2. Encourage her to eat and take her medicine - Grandma is such a strong-willed Puerto Rican woman, that caring for her can be difficult at times, especially when she doesn't want to eat or take her medicine. My parents often take her food shopping to make sure she has the food she needs at home. I gently tell Abuela that eating and taking her medicine will help her and that I want her to continue being around for me and my son. Other times, she genuinely forgets so we must go with her to pick up her medicine and remind her to take her slew of pills or use her asthma pump. One of the biggest obstacles is the fact that her medicine is so expensive. "I don't want to buy it!" she'll say, but I tell her that there's nothing else I'd rather her spend her money on.
  3. Encourage her to keep her doctor's appointments - My mom cracked everyone up with a Facebook status a few weeks ago that said, "My mom is up and dressed at 6:30 am for a 10:00 am doctor's appointment. Why?" Without my mom being there, though, it's likely that my Grandma would forget her appointment. She writes all of her appointments down on a calendar in Abuela's kitchen and is sure to accompany her to them.

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In thinking about UHF America's Health Rankings Senior Report, I'm realizing how important it is that we stay informed about the health challenges seniors face. Did you know that Hispanic older adults are expected to become the largest racial/ethnic minority of those aged 65 and older by 2019

Even though I am only 26 years old right now, I will one day, hopefully, be a senior like Abuela, and I want to live a longer and healthier life. If I want that to be true, I must take active steps now and not later.

How do you address the health challenges seniors in your life may face?

This is part of a sponsored campaign with Latina Mom Bloggers and United Health Foundation. However, all opinions expressed are my own.

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Inspired by Baby Making Machine's "30 Things My Kids Should Know About Me."
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1. You don't know it all about religion. Keep an open mind.

2. Boys are just a piece of the puzzle. Do not use them to find your self-worth. Believe me, it won't work.

3. You will know what true love is once you hold your baby in your arms.

4. It's okay to be the odd one out. That just makes you really cool.

5. The earlier you seek help for your depression, the better.

6. Show your mom and dad some more respect. They've been through a lot and know a lot more than you.

7. Be nicer to your sister. Play with her more. Family is always a worthy investment.

8. Stay away from that new frozen yogurt machine. If you touch it, you'll break it, and people will be angry with you for leaving a huge chocolate puddle in the school cafeteria. If you do manage to break it anyway, don't cry about it so much. It makes for a funny story later on.

9. Keep up with your Spanish lessons so you can learn more from your grandmother and grandfather.

10. You don't need to be perfect to love yourself. You are more than good enough already.

What I'd love for you to do now:

A. Leave a Comment - What's one thing you'd tell your 16 year old self?
B. Link up an original post with Your Place below!


Your Place at Equis Place

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May is Mental Health Month, and even though I've started writing about it late in the month, I wanted to speak a bit on it because of how profoundly mental illness has affected my life.

For the longest time, I ignored the fact that I was depressed and coped in ways that were self-destructive. Many people who battle mental health issues often turn to things like drugs, alcohol and abusive relationships because they think that is all they deserve. 

As someone who is depressed, I understand how difficult it is to think that life can get better and that there may be a time when you don't feel complete sadness on a daily basis.

Some time ago now, I made a choice to cope with my depression by writing about it. Below, is a glimpse into that journey. 

If you suffer from depression, I hope these pieces help you to feel less alone. If you don't, I hope that these pieces help you to understand a little more of what people like me go through.

1. You Hide It Well: My Secret Battle With Depression 

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This post was my "coming out" post for depression. In it, I talk about my experience in the hospital's psychiatric ward.

At the time, I was terrified to share what I was going through. Having battled depression since I was a teenager, I was really good at hiding my issues from everyone. There is an element of shame attached to feeling mentally unhealthy because some people cannot fathom that something they cannot see can cause so much damage and debilitating pain. 

Seeking psychiatric help was a fear-inducing process, but writing about it was so much more scary. The good news is that writing about it was freeing and therapeutic. My favorite thing about this post was the positive feedback I received from readers who could empathize and the encouragement I received from those who believe me.

2. Can You Just 'Get Over' Depression?

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In this post, I talk about how a friend hurt me when she told me to "just get over" my sadness.  This post is my response to her many years later.

3. How I Came to be Depressed and Unemployed 

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This post details the circumstances of working a terrible job. I share the story of spiraling into a depression that was made worse by unemployment.

4. How Depression is like a Steep Hill

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Here, I talk about how a dream I had about trying to climb a steep, slippery hill relates to my experience with depression.

5. Mom of the Year for a Frightening Reason

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In this guest post on Mom of the Year, I write about one of the scariest symptoms of depression--rage--and how it affected my relationship with my son. 
What's the first word you think of when you hear the word "depression?"
What's your own experience with mental health issues?

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I'm struggling to stay upright.

My legs feel as if they are made of granite.

Still, I inch forward on my hands and knees, looking for something to grab onto, anything that can help me pull myself up this steep city hill.

Somewhere in the street, though, a main pipeline has burst, making the sidewalk's concrete slick with oil.

The pain is overwhelming.

Up ahead, my best friend finally disappears over the top. I'm proud of her, happy that she's finally made it, but I feel lonely and left behind.

I wonder if I'm ever going to make it, too, or if I'll be stuck forever climbing.

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Throughout my lifetime, I've rarely paid attention to my dreams. Now that I'm on antidepressants, however, my dreams are more vivid and easier to remember, and I'm doing my best to write them down. As I was writing down the dream above, I recognized this situation as a good representation of my battle with depression.

Depression is like a steep, slippery hill that I'm struggling to climb.

Motivating myself to do everyday activities like cooking, showering and brushing my teeth can seem impossible at times. Walking to and from my son's school twice a day can seem like a monumental task. Oftentimes, I don't want to do much more than lay in bed and watch shows online. Doing so helps me to ignore my sadness and numb myself to the fact that I'm climbing a seemingly endless hill of pain.

This month has been really hard for me emotionally and mentally. I'm sure you can tell because I've been writing less. See, one of the worst parts about depression is that you stop doing the things you love to do. So as much as I force myself to take care of all of my son's needs, I still have trouble meeting my own.

"Depression can be cured," my therapist said last week, and I have to believe her even if I don't feel it to be true. 

I have to believe that if I keep climbing, I will someday make it to the top of this difficult hill. As M. Scott Peck says, though, "Problems do not go away. They must be worked through or else they remain, forever a barrier to the growth and development of the spirit."

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Take some time to get to know the issues. They matter.

Do your dreams ever speak to you?


Your Place at Equis Place

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"Equis, can you tell me what that is?" Jessica, the Psych Evaluator, points to a picture of a paintbrush.

"A-EE," my son responds. Jessica questions me with her eyes. 

"I have no idea…" I mutter. "Oh, wait, I know… he said 'painting.'"

She marks something down on the paper before her. I have no idea if she gave him credit for the question or not, but at the end, Jessica said, "He scored pretty well cognitively. But obviously the speech is going to bring his score down."

I nodded my head and smiled, but it pained me that what we've just experienced is exactly the type of guessing that I do daily with Equis' language.

A little over a year ago, I wrote about how Equis had zero meaningful words and needed to begin speech therapy. I was heartbroken at the time. Since then, I've learned that there was nothing I did wrong to affect Equis' speech--he simply has low mouth muscle tone and occasional issues with his hearing--but it still royally sucks.

Every day is a battle to communicate with my son. What sounds like "moon" is really "balloon" and what sounds like "muck" is really "milk." Beyond that, there are many words that I still just can't figure out, and it's frustrating for the both of us when I can't understand him.

I have to say, though, I'm proud of my two-year-old for how hard he is working to form words. His speech therapist says he knows at least 200 words but now it's a matter of getting him to say them clearly and make sentences out of them. We'll keep battling.

Your Place at Equis Place

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Do you think you can win the Mom of the Year award?

There are all kinds of ways moms have earned this title, such as accidentally locking an infant in the car or being the "Yes" Mom at Disney World.

Today, I'm a Mom of the Year!

A couple weeks ago, Meredith of The Mom of the Year asked me to participate in her "Mom of the Year" series. Of course, I was delighted to say "Yes" to my first guest post ever! Woot!

At the same time, however, I was terrified because all I could think about were the many mistakes I've made that make me feel like a terrible mom--like that time I accidentally dropped my son on the floor when he was only three days old. Yeah, I did that. Don't worry, he's fine.

I tried to think of more positive things. Really, I did, but I just kept being drawn to the one thing that I've been struggling with recently--my anger that arises from my depression. From there, my post for Mom of the Year was born.

Check out my "Mom of the Year for a Frightening Reason," guest post and please leave me some comment love! Thanks, folks.

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