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Monthly Archives: August 2015

Lies Our Parents Taught Us

When my father retired, I asked him what he would do with all his free-time. Habitat for Humanity could use someone like him, I told him, someone with a lifetime of experience in the building trades.

He shook his head bitterly.

Whenever I called my mother, she said he was listening to Bruce Williams – the radio call-in show host – on his headphones, eyes closed, feet up. Not a “shock jock,” Williams addressed each finance-related question with respect. Even though my father didn’t need financial advice, I think he needed Bruce Williams’s calm voice and rational approach to problem-solving.

Even at his age.

My dad was only four when his father – my grandfather – walked out door, leaving a wife and five children to fend for themselves during the Great Depression. Mechanically talented, my grandfather had built the city’s first radio, as well as cars and an airplane. Ultimately he made a break for California, where the aviation industry beckoned. Keystone Patrician Airplane

I’ve only heard stories about my grandfather, how my father feared him. At night, the man had only to raise an eyebrow over the top of his newspaper and the children scrambled off to bed. As a young child, my father developed a serious stutter (they tried to “correct” his left-handedness) but overcame it with sheer will-power. Otherwise, he said, he would have been punished.

Under such stress, children’s brains have tremendous difficulty functioning.

I’m sure his early childhood trauma, especially being abandoned by his father, caused changes in his brain. His entire life my father had difficulty reading. Continue reading

Confessions of a Green Chile Addict: I Weaned My Babies Onto Salsa

It’s Hatch chile season again! Time to get those smokin’ hot Sandias and Big Jims in the freezer.  In honor of our family’s longstanding chile tradition, I’m featuring a Family Field Guide post from a few years back on that very subject.

“Confessions of a Chile Addict: I Weaned My Babies Onto Salsa.” 

Here’s the truth: My children were weaned right from the breast onto green chile. They’d sit in their cute little high chairs, point at the bowl of salsa on the table and grunt, “Unh, unh, unh!” And anyone with half a brain knows “unh, unh, unh!” means “want some.”

So around 18 months, I figured it was time. The rest of the family dipped. Why shouldn’t they? Continue reading

Confessions of a Booby Know-Nothing

This was my very first Family Field Guide post, published March 2011. It’s titled, “Confessions of Booby Know-Nothing.” Enjoy!

At age 24, I was a disgrace to womanhood.

Far removed from the oozy, drippy world of babies – having vowed at age 16 never to have any – I believed human breasts were vestigial organs, like the appendix, which Darwin suggests may have been used to digest foliage.

Besides, being only a 32-A, I tried to ignore them. My breasts, that is. All though high school and college, the tiny mounds had done little for  my sweaters, except create a couple of bunny slopes.

I can’t tell you how depressing it can be, trying on band-aid size bras in a department store fitting room. When the foundations lady asked, “How’s that one working out for you, honey?” I wanted to cry.

The bras were all so…pointy, as though custom-made for Nurse Diesel, the crazy nurse from High Anxiety.

And then –  without ever having witnessed a baby at the breast, or having read anything in my biology books about breastfeeding (at least not in humans), and certainly never having been lectured by a single female family member about the value of mother’s milk – I got pregnant.

Before long – and quite out of the blue – my husband hit me a question. “How are you going to feed the baby?”

I was stunned. I couldn’t think. “Bottles,” I told him. “That’s what my mother used.”

After all, hadn’t women evolved? Didn’t we have Ms. magazine?

Blessed with preternatural patience, my husband calmly – and most irritatingly – told me that his mother had breastfed all three children. Him for nine months. And then suggested I visit the public library.

The library!

Resentment gnawed at my ego. It was clear my husband knew more about breastfeeding than I did.  Worse yet, I didn’t even want to know.

My own mother had breastfed only one of her six children. Me. For a total of four weeks.

Still, I couldn’t accept the fact that I knew zip, nil, nada, about breastfeeding. Continue reading