Monday, August 29, 2011

Water for Elephants: It's a book review!

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am book-worm. Reading is easily one of my favorite if not my very favorite thing to do when I have alone time. This has always been the case for as long as I can remember. I was that kid with all the stars on her summer reading list and I used my library card constantly. There's just something about a good story that brings joy to my life, a momentary escape, and a fullness I can't quite describe. Fiction is definitely my favorite but I also like a good memoir. My bookcase at home just doesn't fit anymore books so I was sooooo excited on my birthday last year when I got the NOOK e-reader as a gift from my hubby and friend (they got it together) and it has been put to good use!

Recently, I finally read the book "Water for Elephants" and I'll admit I wasn't really expecting much but this story BLEW ME AWAY! Without spoiling anything, here is a quick synopsis from Wikipedia:

The story is told as a series of memories by Jacob Jankowski, a "ninety or ninety-three year-old" man who lives in a nursing home. Jacob is told what to eat and what to do.As the memories begin, Jacob Jankowski is a twenty-three year old Polish American preparing for his final exams as a Cornell University veterinary student when he receives the news that his parents were killed in a car accident. Jacob’s father was a veterinarian and Jacob had planned to join his practice. When Jacob learns that his father was deeply in debt because he had been treating animals for free and had mortgaged the family home to provide Jacob an Ivy League education, he has a breakdown and leaves school just short of graduation. In the dark of night, he jumps on a train only to learn it is a circus train belonging to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. When the owner of the circus, Uncle Al, learns of his training as a vet, he is hired to care for the circus animals

The story really fascinated me in that it told of "circus life" during the depression era in this country. The author really researched and dug deep into this lifestyle and I was so intrigued! It made me want to jump on a train and join the circus... or not..

She described the animals in great detail especially one of the main characters, the elephant "Rosie" and I simply fell in love with her. It reminded me how precious these creatures are and just how important it is for human beings to appreciate and respect them. I remember going to the Coney Island Circus about 2 summers ago and feeling really sad for the animals, this is exactly how I felt when reading about Rosie.

The love story was a unique one, and frankly a breath of fresh air since I know as a writer that there are only so many ways you can tell a love story. Jacob falls for Marlena, Marlena is tangled up in a mess of her own and his love for her felt so real to me as I read his narrative and got wrapped up in his words. The author also did something that I thought was so clever; she made it so that the story of Jacob and Marlena paralleled the story of Jacob in the bible... and if you don't notice it's totally fine (doesn't take away from the story) but if you do, it is a neat thing to discover.

This was one of those books that really affected me (in a good way) and it's been several days since I finished and I don't know what I'm going to read next. I can't wait for the movie to come out on DVD so that I can at least relive the book in some way and see how the movie measured up =)

I highly, highly recommend Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. Soooo good!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurricane Irene: Reflections during the storm

New Yorkers have gotten a little taste of some things that many in other parts of the country are all too familiar with. We had a minor earthquake (more like a tremor from Virginia's earthquake) last week and people were really freaking out! I'm from California so I've seen a few earthquakes and even slept through one. Earthquake drills were pretty standard in school so I know to take cover and stay put if it's a bad quake. It was kind of crazy to me that people were running outside when they felt the quake. Clearly, New Yorkers are just not prepared for this kind of thing...

And now, here we are waiting for Irene, a category 1 hurricane to come shake things up. I went to Duane Reade and it was a madhouse! The supermarket was even worse. People are stocking up on all sorts of items especially water and batteries. I read in the Times that Pop Tarts are the #1 "emergency food" being sold? Okay, okay, I bought some pop tarts too :) But mostly because comfort snacks really help when I am nervous... and I admit, I am kind of nervous about this storm.

I think the main reason we freak out about natural disasters is that we have zero control over them. We are basically at the mercy of God and we have to do what we can to stay safe and cling to our loved ones and say a couple prayers because in a world where we take so much power into our own hands, nature reminds us gently (or sometimes harshly) that the power is really not in our hands at all.

A friend posted this picture on Facebook of a completely empty Grand Central Terminal... I thought it was beautiful. Beautiful because if anything at all, Hurricane Irene is forcing NYC to just calm down for a minute. Slow down... stay home with your loved ones and slow the heck down already! We've been needing that for a while.

Tonight, I realize how blessed I am to have a place to wait out the storm. My prayers are with those who have no home, no family, and nowhere to go.

Stay safe NYC - XO,

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I get by with a little help from my Friends..

I was reading a friend's blog recently and she wrote something that really stood out to me-- "all the big events in life bring out the best and worst in people... they make you realize who is in your corner for realz versus not at all" -- So true! I have learned the most about my friendships during these big events in my life. Especially my wedding and having a baby.

So I guess this post is just a big THANK YOU to all the special friends in my life. Particularly my girlfriends... I read a Twitter link today about "Girlfriends in God" and can say that I know my friends have been sent by God at times when I've needed them most.

I love the bible verse that this devotion used for friendship:

But Ruth replied, "Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me." When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her (Ruth 1:16-18, NIV).

That is just so powerful to me! Even as Naomi was pushing Ruth away, she was a loyal, determined, constant friend. She rescued her from her own self. Who doesn't want a friend like that? I'm so grateful to have a couple.

Through all the changes in my life this past year... becoming a mother has been a process and at times I have gotten a little crazy and overwhelmed. These specific ladies were there to help me. Doing my hair, bringing me food, cleaning my house, I mean, they REALLY helped me. More than that they were an ear to listen and at times even a shoulder to cry on.

Sincerely, truly, Thank you.

Aspiring "Part-Time Cloth Diaper" Mommy - HELP!

With a more "environment conscious" new mommy club entering the scene, It seems like cloth diapers are all the rage now! My grandma has told me stories of pinning diapers, scrubbing poo out of them, and setting them out in the sun to dry in Puerto Rico - scary! But they have come a long way since then.

When I was pregnant, I was really interested in cloth diapering mostly because it is a way to save money. The two greatest expenses for most new parents are -- formula and diapers. I decided that I would cut both of those by breastfeeding and cloth diapering. Formula is crazy expensive; I know, we supplemented with formula for the first 8 weeks of Aiden's life and boy am I glad that is over. Disposable diapers seem to run out as soon as we buy them and I'm so ready to give this up too!

We got 5 "Q Baby" cloth diapers as a gift and have been using them for about a week now. Overall, they are pretty absorbent and no leaks so far... and yes, Aiden has done some pretty large #2's on them! They are really cheap compared to most cloth diapers I've seen out there, about $43 for a pack of 5 on Amazon. We've been using the Kushies biodegradable liners in the diapers but I'm not really a fan of these. When Aiden gets wet, the liner just gets soaked and since it's right up against his skin, he is uncomfortable and squirmy. I feel like we change the liners all the time! For this reason, I am pretty sure we will stick to disposables during the overnight hours because I need Aiden to be as comfortable as possible and let Mama sleep!

Anything better out there?

So, as I aspire to be a "part-time cloth diaper" mommy I have tons of questions... First, I have read some negative reviews about the diapers we have, mostly because the plastic liners get all funky when the diapers are washed in hot water. We don't have a washer/dryer so the diapers are soaked in a pail in some baking soda/oxy-clean and then washed by hand with detergent. Should I just buy some more of the Q Baby diapers or opt for something else? I really like the way the Bum Genius 4.0 diapers look but they are soooo pricey. Also, is with worth it to buy a wet bag to soak the diapers in? I think hanging them behind a door would be so much better than having a pail in our bathtub. What's a good wet bag to purchase?

Also, what is up with "Chinese prefolds"? These seem to cost a lot less than the other diapers but they require a "diaper cover" also. How does this work? Explain this to me palleesse!

I know it will be challenging to wash the diapers by hand - this is why I can only see myself doing this part-time. But it will be easier once I get a system set up. I need a wet bag, a drying rack and most importantly I need more diapers!

Seriously, between pumping at work to bring home fresh milk every day, cloth diapering, and pretty soon making homemade baby food, I feel like Super-Mama =) Woot- woot!

Still, every Super-Mama needs help - so please, HELP!!!


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Otter & The Beaver

The month of August is coming to a close soon and September is upon us... where did the summer go? I am really excited about the Fall though... the fall season is actually one of my favorite things about living on the east coast. The leaves change color, the weather is perfect and fall fashion is my fave! Give me riding boots, give me sweaters, and FINALLY I can straighten my hair and get rid of my "poof"... the summer poofy hair I mean.

The fall is also my 2nd favorite season (summer is #1) because it reminds me of the most important day of my life aside from the day I had my son; my wedding day! October 5th will be my 3rd wedding anniversary and apparently my hubby is planning our celebration... stay tuned for that bit of news and I'm sure I will walk you all down memory lane sometime soon.

Marriage has really been an amazing experience and I'm really grateful to have a partner in this thing called life. It's nice to know that no matter what, you are not alone and I have been in some really awesome company. Still, it's always a challenge when trying to unite two different people and the first years of marriage are all about getting that blend going.

Becoming one is not just something that magically happens on your wedding day... it is a process and like every process it isn't always easy. We have to make our own decisions as a couple, decide how we want to live, and create our own traditions. Now that we have a child, the challenge of these decisions has only intensified and we are learning to put aside the notion of "my family does it like this" and ask "how will OUR family do it?"

Thankfully, we go to a pretty awesome church that has a marriage connection group meeting once a month. It's nice to sit with other married couples in various stages of their relationships and feel that support. Last month, we took Dr.Gary Smalley's personality type quiz to learn which animal we identify with -- Lion, Golden Retriever, Otter or Beaver. If you get a chance, head over to the website and take the quiz for yourself, the results are so accurate it's crazy!

The idea here is that many times, opposites seem to attract and there is a reason for that. Husbands and Wives, we are supposed to be a team right? So we are supposed to compliment each other. Most times, our opposite attributes tend to frustrate one another but once we can get a better understanding of our partner's personality type, we can use our differences to make the most of our relationships... as in, "use powers for good and not evil".

In the personality test, I found out I am a "Beaver" while my husband is an "Otter". I can totally relate to the traits of the beaver. I am kind of Type A-- I like things done in a very specific, organized manner... this has really gotten me far as a student and in my professional life... but in relationships it can get a little intense. Okay, okay, A LOT intense. It annoys me when people say things like "we'll cross that bridge when we get to it" or "let it happen naturally". I see that as laziness and people with this philosophy just seem unmotivated or disinterested to me. I'm a planner, I make lists, I obsess over the details... it drives my husband crazy! Here are the traits of the beaver:

like to research
good student
high standards
hard on themselves
can get depressed easily
avoid noise and confusion

A lot of these really stand out to me! Both the strengths and weaknesses of these traits. It's especially true that I do not like noise or confusion, am hard on myself and can get easily depressed. When in large gatherings or parties, I tend to retreat to a quieter area and tune out the rest. I love to have fun and love people but it can overwhelm me after a while. I do not like being the center of attention. I'm a perfectionist and I chase my goals carrying them out exactly as I envision them. No one is harder on me than ME. I research anything and everything, I am artistic in the musical and literary sense (can't draw or paint for beans) and very task oriented.

My husband is the Otter. He is opposite in that he is usually the more playful, fun, life of the party kind of guy. He doesn't mind being the center of attention, he is very social and outgoing. His views on things are much more care-free and light. Here are the traits of the Otter:

love people
love attention
life of the party
fun loving
hate isolation
love to entertain
love to talk

For me, it means that he is disorganized and that is a criminal offense in the world of April. On my birthday he planned a get together and didn't even bother buying paper ware or plastic cutlery. We cut the cake and he realized "oh, there are no paper plates" and it was no big deal. He would have a good time regardless while I agonized over the travesty of it all. In all honesty, I wish I was a lot more like my husband... he is optimistic and seems to always have peace in even the most uncertain circumstances. And I don't mean denial either! Some people claim to be optimists but they just ignore reality and he isn't at all like that.

The personality test and the talk we had at our marriage connection group was really helpful and I'm really glad we did it. I'm learning so much more about myself and becoming a better me a little more every day.

Overall, I'm learning to appreciate our differences as we balance each other out a little more. I'm grateful for how far we have come in our relationship and hopeful for many, many years of wedded bliss ahead :)

So... which animal are you?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Fun Family Weekend

Since having a baby, there is definitely a different dynamic, something that makes our time together (the 3 of us) so special. The past few months have been a whirlwind to say the least and we've had constant visitors to see the new baby - which is awesome, I love to show him off! But, our alone time is so important and I love when we have days together as a family.

This weekend, we decided to hang out and take Aiden to the zoo. He has reached the stage where he is interested in everything around him and I do my best to make the most of that and give him as much stimulation as possible. He LOVED all the new sights the zoo had to offer! We took him to each animal and I read some of the info to him as he stared at them. He seemed most interested in the monkeys and started "talking" to them which was so cute! Whenever J.J. pulled out his camera to take a picture though, Aiden's focus would shift from the animals to the camera immediately... I sense he will be a techy geek just like his Daddy.

Aiden getting his 1st look at the monkeys

Aside from his favorite (the monkeys) he got to see a live seal show, the world of birds, and a full Madagascar exhibit. We sat on a bench and nursed, and then he napped in his stroller while Mama and Daddy checked out the Lions, Tigers, and Bears (oh my!) We are definitely going to purchase a membership so that we can take Aiden back to the zoo frequently. I love helping him explore!

On Saturday we took a trip to the supermarket and ran some errands together. We spent some special time just playing with Aiden, reading him books and making him laugh. His sleep schedule is working out really well. He is usually in bed between 7pm and 8pm and won't wake for his first feeding until about midnight. Our friends the Lopez's came over for dinner and a movie and we were able to hang out while Aiden slept the whole time.

Sunday was a rainy day so we just lounged around the apartment. Our friends the Agbai's came over for dinner and we got take-out from my favorite Chinese spot... yum! Aiden got to see their adorable 1 year old Nia and it was cool to see him interact with her.

Overall, it was an amazing weekend and it made leaving for work this morning pretty tough :(

Ohh before I forget; we also started using cloth diapers this weekend. We only have 5 diapers that we got as a gift and they've been too big for Aiden to use until now. Since we don't have a washing machine in the apartment, I have been apprehensive to give this a try but I found some great online resources and blogs of other mommies who have made this work washing the diapers by hand. Stay tuned for my follow up post about the weekend of cloth diapering. Not sure if it will stick, but it could be really nice to at least do it part-time and save some money. We'll see =)

Aiden having tummy time in his cloth diaper. They are really cute!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

5 Things I am so over ...

My friend Quiana inspired me to list 5 things I am just so over...

5.) Jeans worn way too low (Sagging): And then they actually have the nerve to put a belt on! You can't even walk and trust me when I say this -you look ridiculous! I'm tired of seeing your dirty boxer shorts.

4.) Silly Bandz: Well, I should really call this one "adults wearing silly bandz". Okay here is the rule-- if you are 15 or older, you should NOT be wearing silly bandz. It isn't trendy, it's a kid's toy! What's next, exchanging ring pops instead of platinum bands at weddings?!

3.) Smoking while walking: Here in the city, people smoke like it never went out of style. I say, if you wanna kill yourself slowly, that's up to you but would you stand outside and just smoke in one place? Walking down the crowded streets of New York is annoying enough without someone exhaling their gross cigarette and all the smoke hitting me in the face as I walk behind you. When I was pregnant, I would hold my breath because surely cutting off the oxygen for a few seconds must be better than inhaling that crap.

2.) $10 Salads : I just want to eat lunch! It's some lettuce in a bowl with maybe a cucumber, shredded carrot, and a little chicken tossed in. I'll even skip the chicken and take a hard boiled egg... It's a salad, geesh! Does something that simple need to be "Manhattan-ized" too?

1.) My Blackberry: Okay well I am not completely over it... I will definitely miss BBM. But my husband got me the super cool My Touch 4G slide in the khaki color and I have to say, I really like it! I'm not great at touch screens so I love that this phone has a keyboard since I am a compulsive texter/blogger/social networker and I need to be able to post my updates! It has a really good camera and I can use it for work and play! As my husband would say "Welcome to the 21st Century"

Old / New

That's all folks! I do enjoy putting these things in writing =)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Baby Dedication

You must know by now, that faith is a huge part, if not the centerpiece of my life. What gets me through time and time again is knowing that my life is in God's hands and not just that I believe in God, but I believe God. I believe that he will take care of me, I believe that he is always here with me... I just believe. Since having my little boy, I am even more in awe of God's presence in my life and I am even more determined to share this faith with my son.

We go to a Christian Non-Denominational church called "New Season Christian Center". If you are ever in the Bronx and you want to check it out, you should! It's pretty awesome. Their Facebook page is here.

Anyway, we do something called a "Baby Dedication" ceremony which is a lot like a christening except baby doesn't get any water splashed on him. It is just a way of saying "Hey God, thanks for this child, he belongs to me but in reality he belongs to you and I promise to teach him all about you and leave him in your hands." It is a beautiful occasion but more importantly, it is a commitment that parents make along with any Godparents, family, and the church community. Last Sunday, we had Aiden's dedication ceremony and it was such a memorable experience.

I wanted him to wear all white because it is traditional and I think it looks really beautiful and is symbolic so I searched all over for the perfect outfit. I didn't want to get him one of those christening outfits with the satin pants and bow-tie because our church is pretty casual and we are more of a "preppy" style family. So I found some really nice white trousers, a button down that we rolled the sleeves up to the elbows and a white v-neck pullover sweater vest. He was adorable!There was a slide show with pictures of Aiden and our family shown during the ceremony... and then we repeated some promises ... "vows" to our baby about how we will always love and protect him. His Godparents; our dear friends Esteban and Caroline were also a part of the ceremony and it was really beautiful. At the end, our Pastor prayed a blessing over Aiden while I cried and cried tears of joy.

After the service, we had some of our family over to our place for a small celebration. Aiden's Godmother baked a cake and we shared food and fun. Aiden must have known the party was for him because he simply refused to take his nap while everyone was there. I'll never forget this day! Here are some pictures:

Godmother, Godfather, Prince Aiden, Daddy and Mama :)

Pastor Phil about to pray for Aiden

His first certificate! I'm going to hang it next to his Honor Roll awards and College Degree :)

A beautiful gift from his Grandma Mimo (my mom) - a baby dedication photo frame.

Awesome gift from his Godparents :)

The end of his special day; Aiden Kyle and Mama

"I prayed for this child and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him." 1 Samuel 1:27

Monday, August 8, 2011

April Island

I enjoy a nice getaway as much as the next person... okay, maybe a little more than the next person... I love, love, love to get away especially if there will be a beach. Now, just to get in the mood, I'd like you to navigate away from this page and take a small musical break with Lenny Kravitz -- click here

Welcome back! Isn't that a great song? Anyway, lately I have been craving a tropical getaway and with work and a 3 month old baby to take care of, that really hasn't been possible. I am in such a need of cool, salty breezes... sand between my toes and a frozen drink with a little umbrella. I need to lay out with a good book and soak up the sun... (don't worry I won't send you on another musical break but that is a GREAT song by Sheryl Crow)

I have resorted to taking little imaginary getaways and have found a cool place I like to call "April Island". Yes, that's right - it's named after me cause it's my friggin island okay? There is a small, beachfront villa where I am staying and I sleep right on the beach in a hammock under the stars. There are no people on April Island except for the occasional massage therapist, hairstylist and gourmet chef. I spend mornings sipping my coffee indoors and afternoons sunbathing and swimming... I spend evenings reading, writing and eating great food. I don't need to get there by plane or by boat - I can just teleport there because let's face it - if I can have my own island I can also have super-powers. My 3 month old is always welcome on my island because he makes the vacay that much better. We spend countless moments just staring into each other's eyes and life is pretty darn great.

Here is a list of things April Island is certainly not lacking:
*Chocolate covered strawberries
* A library full of books
* White wine
* Good music
*A huge water slide
*Beautiful tropical fish
* Anything else I can imagine up from thin air

Just writing about it makes me want to take a break and go there right now... So that's it for this blog post. But seriously, do any of my readers know good baby-friendly getaway locations? Until then I'll be on April Island :)