9.29.2014

an interesting life


Today I had the chance to chat with an older gentleman at church. Over a classic Lutheran potluck meal, we discussed incredible experiences he had during his childhood and college years. Fighting the selfish and juvenile urge to jump in and share my own stories, I forced myself to sit back and listen. Really listen. He was so happy to give some insight into what his life was like 30 years before I was even born - and I was happy to learn!

Similarly, my sisters and I couldn't get enough of my nana's stories about growing up in London, and more recently, we sat starry-eyed through Nana's best friend Pat's stories about the trouble they would get into together.

Every time I get the chance to hear stories from the another generation, it always inspires me to live an interesting life so that someday I will have amazing anecdotes to share with my grandchildren.

But what exactly is that je ne sais quoi that makes a life worth telling about?

I used to think it came from the items I checked off a bucket list.

Jump off a bridge? Check.

Study Spanish abroad? Check.

Sleep under the stars in Mexico? Check. (Mex04!)

Eat a bug in the rainforest? Check.

Sip wine on the banks of the Seine in Paris? Check.

Watch the sun set in Red Square? Check. 

Survive an attempted mugging in Panama? Check.

The list goes on and on.

I would get so desperate to make sure my life was adventurous, unique, and intriguing. I wanted others to be jealous of my experiences. I wanted to show off everything I had done. I, I, I. Me, me, me. It was all about how I looked to everyone else.

What I have begun to realize, though, is that these stories mean absolutely nothing without the relationships behind them. It is the people with whom I share these memories that make them so meaningful to me. Honestly, the best stories - the stories that have shaped who I am as a person - are about the dear friends who befriended, accompanied, and supported me through ever country and disaster and circumstance, or they are about the people I have met who opened my eyes to a new way of thinking.

My new theory is that the people who come into your life have the chance to change you, the chance to bring adventure, the chance to alter your world view, and the chance to make you feel alive.

Find those people who already exist in your life. Ask questions and really listen to the answers. Then go out and meet some new people. Everyone has something to contribute. Sometimes we just have to dig a little.

Hobbies are great. People with no hobbies besides watching television aren't experiencing everything the world has to offer or using their talents to the fullest.
Travel is amazing. It has given me a new appreciation for cultural traditions and values. It has changed the way I view myself and others.
Reading and learning also make for great conversation and ideas.

All of these things help to shape an interesting personality.

But a truly fascinating life is created through relationships. Some relationships will be there from cradle to grave. Others will crash into your life and be gone in a week. Still others may come in and out like the tide. But each relationship is a story.

Find your partners in crime, and make a great story.






9.25.2014

in the trenches


Fellow humans. There are so many seemingly unpleasant chores, tasks, and duties in this life that actually make us happy in the long run. No one actually wants to do them in the moment, but many-a harvest has been reaped by sowing the unpleasant seeds when it didn't seem desirable.

These things include, but are not limited to:

√ flossing
√ loading the dishwasher before bed
√ getting up early to work out
√ laying out clothes and packing your lunch at night
√ setting money aside in February for Christmas gifts
√ saving for retirement instead of buying more stuff

Some days, it feels like work to raise a bilingual toddler. My brain simply doesn't want to put in the extra effort to find the word in Spanish. I just don't feel like thinking of the subjunctive. You mean I have to look up that turn-of-phrase on the internet? Oh the humanity!

But with much work on the front end comes high reward on the back end. Some days I receive positive reinforcement for this arduous work - like when Pippa started saying "ah-may" (hambre) when she was hungry. Or the fact that she only says agua instead of water. Or más instead of more. These little things make my heart sing, and I'm glad Past Emily put in the work for Present and Future Emily and Pippa.

Perhaps you're tired. Perhaps you have been procrastinating or avoiding something that you know is good for you in the long run. Whatever your Everest is today, let's all support one another in our efforts and gather some inspiration to push through. I promise it will be worth it - whether it's disciplining your young child or getting up at 5:30 a.m. to work out. Whether it's writing a few pages of that books you've been meaning to write, or writing that email you've been dreading. Whether it's avoiding sugar or running that extra mile today. Do. It. Now.

And now, some inspiration for you:

You can do it!

The struggle is nothin' but love.

Have you guys seen this guy? Kid knows what's up!  and he's only in high school!

This book and blog.

What gets you inspired when you're in the trenches and you just don't feel like it?

9.23.2014

on working from home


Enough was enough, I decided one April morning. I was getting nowhere with my incessant Google searches for part-time jobs I could work in the sporadic hours when my husband got home from work. I was already juggling 3 other part-time jobs to help take the pressure off Justin, and was on the verge of seeking out a paper route in the wee hours of the morning or taking the overnight shift in a bar or restaurant.

Sure, the thought of an at-home business with direct sales had occurred to me, but I didn't think I was the type of person who could be successful with it. I hated my retail jobs in high school and college, and the thought of pressuring someone to spend money made my palms sweat. 

But there I was that April morning, knowing I had to do whatever it took to get my family financially sound, but maintaining the feeling that we needed to spend more time as a family. That Sunday needed to be a day dedicated to church and Bible study and worship. That merely passing the baby off to the other parent as one of us headed out the door to work was not doing our relationship any favors. 

So while Pippa was taking her morning nap, I typed up all my concerns and objections, scanned, reread, and edited multiple times, and with a pit in my stomach hit send

Not 10 minutes later a response appeared in my inbox. My stomach dropped as I opened the message, the invitation to talk over the phone. 

I had made up my mind to give this company a fair chance, so the immediate gratification of my need for more information was satisfying. With both of our babies napping, it was the perfect time to make that phone call. We talked for an hour, babies waking up in the background, and motherly duties simultaneously being performed. She was so normal and not pushy. She was like me - someone who was contributing financially her family, but respected her friends and family's boundaries. Someone who worked hard, was humble, and cared enough to form relationships with other people. She showed me with one phone call that I could do it. And that it was a much better and simpler option that working overnight at a bar.

So here I am, 5 months later, committed to working this business from home until I am successful. I am being pushed outside my comfort zone, but discovering how much I am enjoying reconnecting with old friends and acquaintances - even if they don't choose to join me on my health and wellness journey. I am learning new skills to connect with strangers. It's all very thrilling, and frustrating, and inspiring, and emotional all at the same time.

I wouldn't be taking these steps in personal growth if it weren't for the wonderfully supportive women I have met (virtually - hopefully in person someday soon) along the way. They inspire me to not only do this for my family, but to serve other and help them achieve their dreams of health, energy, and financial freedom. They inspire me to be generous with my success. They remind me that dreams are achievable, through persistent and consistent action. 

I love what I do, and I love that I can put the computer away as soon as Pippa wakes up from her nap. I love that I don't have to ask off on holidays or weekends. I love that my "job" is helping others feel their best. I love that email I get every Monday with a paycheck automatically loaded to my card. 

Here's to the Mommies on a Mission. What a wonderful gift we have to share with others! Are you ready to start changing lives?

9.22.2014

adult friendship

As a lover of learning and an educator myself, I have a confession to make: much of the information I learned in high school and college is useless in my quotidian life. 

I wish there were courses on how to be a productive adult member of society. Most recently, I find myself wishing there were a class on how to make new friends as an adult.

Students have it so easy. They see the same people each day in classes or extracurriculars or part-time jobs. They have roommates and dorm mates. They don't have to look very far to find someone who shares their interests or values.

But what about adults with jobs, responsibilities, and families? What about adults who move to a new city? And especially what about introverted adults?

It's not easy out there, guys. I know, because I've been in the market for adult friends since I graduated college 4 years ago. Here are the stages and phases I have gone through in my attempts to make new adult friends:

1. A fresh college grad. Where are all the young, fun, hip "adults"(you know, the 22 year olds who don't actually consider themselves grown up)? In that phase it felt like everyone either (a) had their entire group of friends from high school or college still around, or (b) had a family and kids. As an introvert, there was no way I was going to try to infiltrate an existing group of friends. Interloper is not a position of comfort for me. I also (hopefully wrongly) assumed that anyone with kids and a family had no time for me. In this stage, coworkers were my main group of friends. Thank goodness for jobs!

2. Ain't nobody got time for that! Once I started working full time as a teacher, with coaching duties on the side, it didn't even matter to me that I didn't have many close friends in the area. As an introvert, I was ok with that. I shouldn't have been. Human beings need a social network (and not just on the computer). We need to socialize and have fun!

3. Sweet - had a baby, got my "in". I'll be honest...it got a lot easier to make friends once I had a baby. You have an instant "connection" with other parents. If you meet another parent at the park, you have some built-in conversation starters. "She's so cute! How old is she? What a fun age!" You have play dates and get-togethers with other parents.

Making new friends comes so naturally to some - those lucky people! Personally, I tend to choose my social interactions so carefully because they are draining to me. Not draining in a bad way - it's just that I need my alone time to recharge, and alone time is hard to come by when you're married with a child. So when I do choose to socialize with others, I want it to be worth my energy. Ask my husband how much I have to mentally prepare myself before going to a party or gathering, especially if I know I'll have to make awkward small talk.

I am working really hard on relaxing, making an effort to smile more, and simply being a friendlier person to those around me. This is easier said than done, because when I enter a new situation, I like to observe until I feel comfortable enough to speak up. News flash: observation is often mistaken for being aloof or unsocial. Whoops.

I'm working on it. Here is what I have learned so far from my great friendship experiment:

- Nobody will ever replace my childhood, high school, and college friends. They know me so well, and though we may be far apart, we share so many memories and common experiences. It's important to have those.

- I don't have to be friends with only people who are my age. Right out of college I thought that was the most important thing. Now I'm looking for people with a sense of humor, and people who are kind.

- Not everyone is going to be a good "friendship fit." That doesn't mean we can't still be friendly and share a social circle.

- Making new friends, dating, and networking are all eerily similar.

- Meetup.com = online dating for friends?

- I may have to give up my vision of having a friend who just drops by to chat over coffee unannounced. Or a friend I go walking with while we push the babies in strollers. Why does TV make it all look so glamorous?

- I am so thankful for the women I have met in my area who have been kind and welcoming and friendly. It took a few years, but I finally feel like I have roots and a social circle here.

Well, this is starting to feel like an after school special. Kids, to have a friend, you have to be a friend. The more you know.

How do you make friends in a new situation or location?

9.15.2014

the power of your mind

-or-
"What the French and the Dog Whisperer have in common."

When I was pregnant, one of my favorite books to read was Bringing Up Bebé by Pamela Druckerman. This was because it offered a laid-back perspective on pregnancy and raising children that most of the other books could not seem to capture. In fact, I'm fairly certain the majority of books aimed at informing expecting parents were written by an evil troll living in a dark cave whose sole purpose is to fear-monger the crap out of everyone about every possible scenario that could go wrong. 

But that's neither here nor there.

Druckerman presents a world where parents are confident and relaxed. They don't feel the need to do mountains of research. They don't feel the need to compare their decisions with others, fretting what others will think. They actually enjoy the process of child bearing and raising their children. 

(Honestly, a ton of the parents I know in the United States are actually a lot like this.)

Anyway, Druckerman posits that the trick to parenting with ease and confidence is to realize that you are there to educate your child, and to set limits and stand firm in them. Among other things. But those were my big take-aways.

From Day 1, you are your child's tour guide and teacher. You are teaching her how to fit into your family. You are showing him how to eat, sleep, and behave in an acceptable manner. You are in essence civilizing a wild beast. 

It's also important to set limits and be consistent with them. When you say no, you mean it every single time. You don't get upset, you don't rise to the child's level of emotion. You model patience for them. My favorite line from the book which gives confidence and authority is, "It's me who decides." Sometimes this phrase is more for the parent than for the child. You have to remind yourself that you are in charge, and you make the decisions. You have faith in yourself as a parent, a teacher, an adult who knows better than a child. When you start doing these things, you almost carry yourself taller.

* * *

A few months ago, Justin and I got sick of our normal rotation on Netflix. We stumbled upon a few episodes of the Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan, and decided we needed a refresher course on training Pablo. He's been getting pretty rude lately, counter-surfing and begging for Pippa's food. 

We quickly realized that we had started out as great pack leaders when Pablo was a puppy. We trained him, we set boundaries, and we enforced them religiously. But once we got him to the point where we were happy with his training, we grew lax. We let him do things that we used to be strict about, and he started to act out.

He needed  us to be confident pack leaders. He needed those limits and daily training to feel secure. And we were not providing that. 

Lately we have been working on re-training him with calm, assertive energy (a phrase Cesar loves to repeat). He advises you picture yourself as someone powerful you admire (Cleopatra, Gandhi, that teacher you were always scared of, etc.) and project that energy to your dog. 

* * *

So what do the French and the Dog Whisperer have in common? They carry themselves tall, they project confidence, they have faith in what they are saying. One can't help but follow someone with these qualities. It's inspiring to see in others, and energizing to try yourself!

Currently I'm working on applying this principle to all areas of my life. Pippa is developing more each day, and with that growth comes an emergence of her personality. She is so funny and vivacious - but she's also stubborn and willful. I am enjoying the challenge of teacher her patience.

I'm not as much enjoying the challenge of teaching Pablo patience and boundaries. We're getting there.

I'm also applying this concept to my work with Isagenix. I'm working toward some big and exciting goals, and every day I must build my confidence anew that I can and will achieve these goals with God's help, persistent and consistent action, and the support of my close family and friends. I am carrying myself tall, projecting confidence, and having faith in what I am saying and doing. 

* * *

Our minds are a powerful thing. We can use them for good or evil. Positive thoughts attract positive results, while negative thoughts attract negative results. Do you have faith in what you are doing? Are you confidently working toward a goal? How are you using the power of your mind today?

9.01.2014

things I learned traveling abroad with a toddler


Travel is full of adventure and the unexpected. It's pushing outside your comfort zone and learning how to problem solve in creative ways. It's eye-opening and mind-opening. It can be stressful. It can be exhausting. It can also be unforgettable.

Traveling is not for the faint-of-heart.

Traveling with a one-year-old is definitely not for the faint of heart.

The internet is full of tips and tricks to make traveling with a toddler easier. Go ahead and do a Google search. You'll find scores of information on the subject.

But there are some things you don't figure out until you experience them for yourself.

Here is what I learned from traveling for 10 days in London and Paris with our own spirited and spunky 14-month-old.

1. You will change diapers in strange and sometimes unsanitary places. Bring a light-weight changing pad to lay down on unclean surfaces. Bring a metric ton of hand sanitizer.

2. Moms who live in big cities with little ones are rock stars. Carrying the stroller up and down the stairs of the Metro was a 2 man job. It was stressful enough with 9 other adults to help us out. I can't imagine trying to do that by myself on a daily basis!

3. Strollers make great purse/sweater/water bottle carriers. Consider bringing a stroller even if you don't have a toddler. Just to carry your stuff. You do a lot of walking on a Europe trip - why lug your own stuff around?

4. Adjusting to time change as quickly as possible is the best idea. Our flight was overnight, so when we arrived in London it was just after noon. After buying our Oyster card for the underground, heaving our suitcases through said underground and up and down countless flights of stairs, and walking a mile to our rented house, all any of us wanted to do was chug a gallon of water and collapse into bed. Instead, we planned a low-key outing for that evening (the London Eye!) to keep us awake until at least 8:00 p.m. London time. We all went to bed early that night, but adjusted very quickly to the time change - Pippa included! Besides one half hour crying fit that first night, she slept soundly through the night the rest of the trip!

5. Stay close to the action or rely on naps in strollers. So something you should know about how my family vacations is that there is no relaxing on vacation. We started our days at 9 a.m., and usually stayed out until around 5 p.m. That's a full day of touring, walking, sight seeing, riding the underground or metro, posing for pictures, shopping, and fighting crowds. With the expensive (so expensive!) transportation in London, we tried to avoid taking the underground whenever possible. That meant there was no chance Pippa was getting back to our rented house for a nap. That turned out fine for us, since Pippa will actually nap in the stroller. If we had a toddler that wouldn't, we would have been better off staying in a more central part of the city, or suffer the wrath of an overtired toddler.

6. Plan ahead for snacks (and maybe bring a cooler). Pippa still needs whole milk, so we brought our mini cooler along with with a sippy cup full of milk each day. Since we had no idea if we would be near a grocery story when lunch time would roll around, it seemed the safest way to avoid a meltdown. Also, those little fruit puree pouches are amazing as an on-the-go snacks.

7. Museum tours and 14-month-olds don't mix. We tried. No one can say we didn't try. I'll always have vivid if not nightmarish memories of Pippa squirming out of my arms in Westminster Abbey and running to touch as many strangers as she could in the back of the knee, while shouting, "Hi! Hi! Hi! HI!" Which leads me to lesson #8:
sprinting through the British Museum

8. A lot of people are really nice. Ah, the kindness of strangers. Their benevolent smiles at our high-energy girl, the kindly folks on the underground and metro who played along when Pippa wouldn't stop saying hi, the looks of solidarity from other parents of small children, and all those who help open doors or helped with the stroller on the stairs were so, so sweet. Most of all, the thoughtful workers at the Ampersand Hotel blew me away. We chose this elegant destination for high tea, and while the boys went off the tour the cricket grounds (and probably grab a pint), we brought the toddler along to sip tea. She definitely generated more crumbs, noise, and activity than their average customer, but not once did I feel unwelcome or judged. One woman even gave Pippa an Ampersand Hotel rubber ducky to keep her occupied! Pippa loved her new toy, and I was one thankful mama.


9. Let the kid stretch her legs. Pippa did so well in the stroller, but she could only take so much before wiggling and squirming to walk. It helped to take short breaks when we found parks or places she could safely run around.
Kensington Palace gardens

10. Don't analyze, over prepare, or schedule too tightly. Be flexible... and just do it! There are lots of aspects of travel that are super uncomfortable and exhausting with a small child. If I thought too much about the logistics of diaper changes, milk, naps, etc, I don't know if I would have the energy to face it all. But just taking each day, each moment as it came, and following Pippa's signals, we were able to have a (mostly) meltdown-free trip!


Ok...now to plan where her next passport stamp is coming from...

8.27.2014

spanish songs for toddlers

About a year ago, around when Pippa was nearing 3 months of age, I made the decision to start taking her bilingual education seriously. I always knew I wanted to speak Spanish to her, but I don't think I truly realized what a commitment it would be for me.

I assumed the Spanish I speak with other adults would work just fine for speaking to a baby. Rookie mistake. Apparently I had a huge blind spot in my Spanish knowledge for words like burp cloth, high chair, and car seat. I found the easiest way for me to put those words into practice so that I would remember them was to tell Pippa whatever I was doing for her. "Let's put you in your car seat so we can go visit Daddy at school!"

But the very BEST way for me to learn new words to speak on her level was through books and songs. Children's songs are actually pretty catchy and easy to pick up, as they tend to repeat a lot. Of course, I also love to dissect the grammar, just for my own edification.

I found Spanglish Baby to be a wonderful resource for finding songs in the first place, but I also browse Spotify, YouTube, and the iTunes store to find even more!

So far our favorites are:

Pin Pon

Hola Don Pepito

Disney Presenta Cantar y Jugar

Huitzi Huitzi Araña - Latin Kids Hits

Soy Una Taza

I am currently on the hunt for a good version of the alphabet en español. Any other suggestions for authentic children's songs?