don't look down

Recently, I was taking the kids and the dog for our morning walk. It's usually a really peaceful time for me. The kids love being outdoors (it calms them), and I get to enjoy a podcast, the sunshine, and exercise while my little guy makes faces at me from the stroller. On this particular day, I really, truly was enjoying the walk, but was thinking about what a stressful week and month it was going to be. Something in the podcast I was listening to suddenly hit a nerve and addressed exactly what I was anxious about, and I just burst into tears. It felt like I was carrying too much on my shoulders, and I just couldn't anymore. I was incredibly thankful in that moment for the oversized sunglasses I was wearing, so the 9:00 a.m. crowd of elderly folks on their adult tricycles with miniature dogs in the baskets couldn't tell I was crying.

The next day, on the same walk, taking the same route, I was thinking about what was causing me to worry so much that I broke down crying on a beautiful day, walking peacefully through a neighborhood with my 2 favorite kids. Out of nowhere, the image of Jesus and Peter walking on water popped into my brain.

It's a Bible story I've known since my Sunday School days. Jesus went off by himself to pray, while the disciples were battling some tough waves on a boat. Before dawn, Jesus went out to meet them, walking on the water. The disciples couldn't figure out what they were seeing, and naturally became afraid.

"27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”29 “Come,” he said.Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”" (Matthew 14:27-33)
In that moment, I knew I was Peter. I knew I had taken my eyes off of Jesus.
Life is full of wind and waves. Sickness, financial burdens, overwhelm, waiting on an answer t
o prayer, job stress, and countless other issues demand our attention. The devil wants us to think we will surely drown because of the wind and waves. After all, humans can't walk on water. It's just not possible.

And yeah, when we focus on how we personally can overcome the wind and waves, we are found wanting. A mere human holds no dominion over such forces of nature. I personally do not have the power to defy gravity or reverse the laws of physics. I'm only human. So I sink.
When Peter focused on Jesus, he had no reason to worry because he didn't even see the wind and waves. All he saw was his Savior who was making amazing, impossible things happen for him. All he had was faith and gratitude and joy. The moment he took his eyes off Jesus, he had reason to doubt and fear, because he saw what he perceived to be an inescapable reality.
But the reality is that Jesus is the Son of God. He was present at the creation of this world, and he holds it in the palm of his hand. And I think he can't help me overcome a little bit of stress? I think he can't provide for my every need? I think he's left me to fight my battles alone? You of little faith. Why do you doubt?
I'm a slow learner. I've taken my eyes off of Jesus before, and it hasn't gone well for me. But my Shepherd is reaching out his hand for me. He's serene, confident, strong. I need only keep my eyes on him.


why I cleanse

Lately I've been loving my cleanse days. By scheduling them on a Monday, I begin my week with a clear and focused mind, and it sets me up to make healthy choices for the rest of the week. Not to mention how energetic and refreshed I feel on the days following a cleanse!

But here's the thing. Up until two years ago, if anyone would have told me they were doing a cleanse, I would have feigned interest by smiling and nodding when appropriate - maybe even an enthusiastic "That sounds cool!" But I would have secretly judged them for doing something that seemed trendy, something I assumed was actually unhealthy. Assumed. Because even though I don't know everything, I like to think I do. And let's face it - there are definitely cleanses out there that are unsafe, high in sugar, that deprive your body, that do more harm than good.

But there are also safe, effective, wonderfully formulated cleanses out there, and I've found one! So before I jump into the reasons I cleanse and love it, I would like to preface with a few points:

+ I believe in real food. I believe in cooking healthy and meal prep. I believe in packing my lunch. I also like baked goods, wine, and cereal. So yeah, I'm about that balanced, mostly healthy, but also fun lifestyle.
+ I don't do trendy. I'm anti-trendy in fact. I don't jump on bandwagons until they're teetering on the edge of out of style. I love to research things before I do them.
+ I'm not a dietician or nutritionist. I enjoy learning about nutrition, but I'm no expert.

So now that we've cleared up that I'm fun, eat a lot of cereal, not trendy, and not a doctor, let's talk about why I cleanse.

I don't feel deprived.

What I love most is that this cleanse focuses on nourishing the body while decreasing calories for a short period of time. No laxatives, high-sugar juices, or frequent trips to the restroom. It's also customizable, so you can complete a 2 day cleanse, a 1 day cleanse, or even half day cleanse if you're not feeling it. I rarely feel hungry or run down during a cleanse day. Quite the opposite, in fact, as the products are designed to nourish and keep the blood sugar up.

Two words - visceral fat.

No one likes to feel like they have a spare tire around their waist. But worse than feeling self-conscious in your clothes is the poor health associated with the fat that surrounds your organs- visceral fat. Intermittent fasting - especially this kind with nutritional support, has been shown to reduce this type of dangerous fat. And I'm not mad about feeling better in my skinny jeans or more confident at the beach.

Give yourself a break! Treat yo-self!

I love to pamper myself on a cleanse day! Sometimes it's applying a face mask or giving myself a pedicure, other times I let myself read a good book for 30 minutes. The point is, I know I'm giving my body a break - a chance to reset all the way down to my cells - so why not renew my mind and spirit as well?

Don't you know that you're toxic?

And now that you have a Britney Spears song stuck in your head, I'll continue. Our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully designed to get rid of impurities all on their own. Cleansing simply helps that process along. Much needed, as our environment, beauty products, food supply, air, and water are full of chemicals and toxins.

I just feel great!

Even if I didn't know any of the science or research behind it, I would still be a faithful cleanser. Why? Because the way I feel after a cleanse day is how I imagine my iPhone feels when I delete unnecessary data and it starts running smoothly again. Lean, light, clear, refreshed, renewed. This is something I can stick to long term (can't wait to be cleansing when I'm in my 80s), and I'm 100% honest when I say I have never felt this good, healthy, and confident in my life. Even before I had kids. Even when I was a college volleyball player. Even the summer I got married. And that never ceases to amaze me!

*   *   *

If cleansing intrigues you, or you think you would like to give it a try, join my spring cleansing group! We'll have a support group with recipes, workouts, and daily inspiration.

Shoot me a message on my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/emiliaplaya/
Or an email to: emilymaureen13@gmail.com

Wishing you health in body, mind, and spirit!



state of the family update (april)

Wow. It seems the last time I did one of these family updates was in April, so it's high time everyone knew exactly what our family is up to. (Just kidding - these updates are mostly for me to look back on!)

Philippa Florence - 2.5 years old

The biggest change I've seen in Pippa the past few months is how funny she's getting. Not accidentally funny, like when she mispronounces a word, but actually funny, where she's making jokes and well-timed comedic facial expressions. She's also a little too observant at times, playing conscience to her parents when we want to buy something or eat a second helping of dinner. She currently loves "helping" with everything from chores, to feeding Teddy, so I'm trying to take advantage of it. Even when it makes the task take 10x longer.

We also went to Disney World's Magic Kingdom for a day, and Pippa has been talking about it ever since. She begs to watch the parades on YouTube (if you know me, you know one of the things I hate most in life is parades, so it's proof positive I love my child), and she constantly talks about how Tinkerbell blew her a kiss, or how Captain Hook waved to her. Her favorite ride was the flying Dumbo, because we went on it after dark and she could see the castle all lit up.

+ "This is nice and cozy here." This phrase often occurs while snuggling to read.
+ Me: "Oh look! This Mason jar is only $2. Should I buy it?"
   Pippa: "No Mommy. You already have one at home." (shoot - she got me there)
+ "That's enough, Daddy! No more pasta."
+ "So you have today, and be HAAAAAAPPY!" This is an excerpt from one of her "shows" where she talks for about 5 minutes straight and I can't understand most of what she's saying. We happened to get this part on video, and now I can't stop saying it. It's like an inspirational speech.
+ Pippa: "I don't like it." (referring to whatever is for dinner).
    Me: "Well have you tried it?"
    Pippa: "No."
    Me: "We gotta try new food cuz it might taste good!" (Thanks, Daniel Tiger!)
    Pippa, reluctantly: "Ok, I'll tryyyy it." moments later: "Hey! I like it!"
+ Pippa: "Mommy I like black olives. You want a black olive?"
   Me: "No thanks, Pippa."
   Pippa: "We gotta try new food cuz it might taste good!"
   Me: "Oh. Shoot. Yes, I guess that backfired on me. Well, Mommy tried black olives a long time ago, and they weren't for me. But I guess I'll try them again." (Meanwhile I pretend to put an olive in my mouth but feed it to the dog).
+ "Mommy, are you happy, sad, or mad?"
+ "Wow. That's an enormous bee!" (I love teaching her big words, precise words, and using them in context over and over until they assimilate in her vocabulary).
+ "Mommy, let's watch Snapchat Stories. But no silly faces!" (She loves watching snapchat stories with me, but is oddly terrified of the weird face filters - especially face swap)

Theodore Scott - 8 months old

+ Teddy Bear is still sleeping through the night, and has a more consistent nap schedule. He'll do 3 30-40 minute naps/day. I'm thinking of switching him over to 2 longer naps, but it's a bit tough at the moment since I work in the early afternoon.

+ Is now on formula and eating 3 solid or pureed meals/day in an effort to help him put on more weight. He fell below his growth curve, so we're working with our pediatrician to get him back on track. He loves avocado, banana, rice cereal with coconut oil, sweet potato, and Puffs. He didn't love my homemade apple puree or pureed carrots.

+ I think I can officially say he said his first word! Whenever we talk about Pippa, or many times when he sees her he says "Di-da." He sure does love her!

+ He also frequently says da-da, but I can't tell if this is for Dad, doggy, or just babbling. We're working on bye-bye and waving, too!

+ He is *so* close to crawling. He pushing himself up on all fours and rocks back and forth. Any day now! He also pulled himself to a standing position in the pew at church this Sunday. We're in for it soon!

+ Love to play with the fire truck he got from Nanny for Easter, bounce in his bouncer, roll around on a blanket grabbing toys, and pulling the dog's ears.

+ Still in size 3 diapers, 6-12 month or 9 month clothes.

Justin + Emily

+ Justin is finishing out his school year strong, and is managing all the end-of-the-year activities. School play, field trips, and concerts - life sure gets busy as summer approaches, but he loves watching his students doing things they love.

+ I am also buried in a pile of correcting and lesson planning, but having a blast teaching my students about poetry. (I NEVER thought I would say that). We're doing limericks - so fun, and haiku to start with. The students are so creative! In Spanish we continue to use the storytelling method to learn new vocabulary words. My drawings on the board to illustrate are...less than stellar.

+ Our family got the chance to do Magic Kingdom for a day with my parents and one of my sisters. Pippa was basically enchanted the entire day, and Teddy took about one 10 minute nap because there was so much to see and do. It was so fun to watch them experience the magic of meeting characters, riding the kid-friendly rides, and seeing Cinderella's Castle.

+ And finally, Justin turned the big 3-0 in March! We celebrated with a party on the beach ending in a bonfire. It was absolutely perfect, and such a fun, low-key way to mark the occasion.

That's a wrap for April! I can't believe my next few updates will include our firstborn turning 3, Teddy turning 1, and our 6th wedding anniversary. It's going to be one amazing summer!


just your average day

I wanted to take a moment to capture in writing what this stage of life is like for our little family. I will never claim to have it all together, but there are sweet pockets of time in life where you start to feel like you're getting the hang of something, and that's where I'm at with being a mother of two! I have so much to juggle on a daily basis (who doesn't!?!), so something I've been working on is allowing myself to sneak in a few minutes of work, chores, or reading when there is a moment where both the kids are occupied or sleeping. I used to think it wasn't even worth it to start something if I didn't have time to finish it, mainly because it takes time to get into the flow of work. But long blocks of uninterrupted time is a luxury I don't have at the moment, so 5 minutes here and there will have to do for now!

An Average Day in our Household

I currently don't set an alarm to wake up, because I hear my husband's going off to get him up early for school. Plus, Pippa usually ends up in our bed at some point during the night, so there's almost no hope of me getting up before the kids to get things done, since she would hear me and wake up too. Generally Pippa and I roll out of bed at 6:30, make the beds, empty the dishwasher, make our shakes (batidos in Spanish, so Pippa calls them tebows), and get set up for breakfast. After she eats, I bribe her to wear her eye patch with a few episodes of Daniel Tiger or Little Einsteins on Netflix. This syncs perfectly with Teddy's wakeup time, as he is ready for his first bottle around 7.

He happily bounces in his exersaucer and watches Pippa watch TV, or plays with the dog for a solid half hour after eating. I'm learning to use this time to get my biggest chores out of the way. I get ready for the day, wipe down counters, throw in a load of laundry, and generally declutter the main living area. Once I hear Teddy squawking, I know it's time for his morning banana + rice cereal combo, and he and I get some bonding time. Pippa is likely playing Little People at this time, or stacking every toy, blanket, and pillow in the house on a "boat", which some might call a "couch" or "sofa".

After Teddy Bear eats his breakfast, he's ready for his morning nap. This chunk of time is really a wild card for me. Ideally, Pippa is still playing by herself, and I get a few minutes to sip my coffee, read some articles or blogs online, or even write a little bit for my own blog. Since she's two, though, I definitely can't count on that time being my own. Some days we get sweet snuggle time and read books together, some days we do flash cards of sight words, and other days we FaceTime with a family member. I also try to take this time to get Pippa's lunch packed, make sure she's dressed, has her hair done and teeth brushed, and is generally ready for school.
morning coffee and work time

Recycled picture from October, but basically what our morning walk looks like
When Teddy wakes from his nap (around 9:30), we take the dog for a walk. Pippa gets a cup of cereal  and a cup of water, Teddy gets his taggy blanket, and I pop my headphones in for some quality podcast time. We log about two miles, and I'm usually sweaty from pushing the double stroller while holding the dog's leash. Let me tell you, though, that Florida sunshine is a dream compared to slogging through the slush during "spring" in the Midwest. By the time we return, Teddy's ready for his second bottle of the day, and Pippa destroys any semblance of a clean house I accomplished in the early morning hours.
(Alternate post nap activities include the park, the library, or running an errand).
ready for school!

At this point, we drop Pippa off at school, and Teddy and I get some uninterrupted bonding time while we both eat lunch - a shake for me, and rice cereal with coconut oil for him! When he goes down for his post-lunch nap, I run around frantically for 5 minutes because I have no children to entertain, and I don't know whether to read a book, work my business, take pictures for Instagram in the beautiful afternoon light, or fold laundry without a toddler present (the ultimate luxury).

I almost always have to wake him up from his nap (I know, I know, don't wake a sleeping baby), because I have to get to school to teach, and he needs his third bottle before we leave. I dread the next part of my day, which involves slinging 3 heavy bags over my shoulder (one for work which contains my laptop, one bag with all of Teddy's things, and my purse with a full water bottle), scooping up Teddy's carseat (strength training), and barreling out the door in the midday Florida heat. Any hope I had of my hair and makeup staying on point is gone as I deteriorate into a puddle of sweat.
one-on-one time with Teddy

I get the privilege of teaching middle school aged kids in the afternoon, and it feels good to be a professional for awhile. It also makes me even more excited to go home and cuddle with my own kiddos when I'm done! The afternoons are a blur of reading books, snacks, Teddy's third and final nap, all the laundry I folded getting dumped on the floor, and more stacking things on boats. Once Justin gets home, either he or I whip up dinner (I'mma be honest, it's either pasta with meatsauce, burrito bowls, or tacos) while the other one tries to keep witching hour at bay, which is a fruitless task. Then it's dinner, baths, pjs, prayers, and bed. Once the kids are in bed and sleeping, Justin and I get work done for school (lesson planning or correcting), and I work on building my business or writing for my blog.

Whew. That's it! It's crazy trying to fit in raising kids, teaching, building a business, writing a blog, and keeping the house running smoothly, but it's the life I chose, and the life I love. I find that approaching all areas of my life as though they were a job (including being a mom and keeping house), I am much more productive, and I feel better about what I've accomplished that day. I try to remember that whatever I do, I'm doing it to God's glory and not to impress others. Some days that involves exciting things like leading Bible study or delivering a lesson on limericks, while other days it means cleaning up accidents and refolding the laundry for the 4th time. Así es la vida, friends. The beauty is certainly in the mundane. 


speaking spanish at home: an update

One of the original intentions of this blog was to document how I use Spanish at home with my kids. When I resigned my job teaching Spanish in a high school, it seemed natural to take my passion for foreign language and share it with my daughter. Fast forward 2.5 years, another baby, and a part-time job back in the classroom, and it's a bit tougher to prioritize foreign language fun at home.

I still want my kids to be familiar with the Spanish language, though, so I've found a few ways to incorporate it into our everyday life without much effort. Here are my favorite 3:

1. Bedtime Routine in Spanish

Since Pippa was a baby, I have been singing Jesus Loves Me to her en español right before bedtime prayers. She can now sing the first verse and the chorus along with me! I also like to throw in a few other Spanish children's songs and Jesus songs that I picked up on my mission trips to Mexico.

2. A fully stocked Spanish library

Over the past few years I've been slowly but surely adding to our collection of children's books in Spanish. Some have come from Barnes & Noble, some from Amazon, and others from a trip to Mexico to visit family! We make biweekly trips to the public library, too, and ours has a nice little Spanish kid's section.

Reading books in a foreign language is one of the best ways to learn, because kids can hear the rhythm of the language, discover new words in context, and see pictures to help them figure out what's going on.

3. Favorite Spanish Songs for Kids by Jose-Luis Orozco

We can't get enough of this album in the car! With favorites like "La Araña Pequeñita" (Itsy Bitsy Spider) and Las Ruedas del Camión (Wheel on the Bus), there are enough familiar songs to get my toddler's attention. Many of the other songs are simple enough to understand, and teach things like colors, animals, time, and numbers. My personal favorites are "Compadre Compare un Coco" and "El Chocolate." I even hear Pippa get some of these songs stuck in her head and sing them quietly while she's playing!

I may not be perfect at making sure my kids hear anywhere close to an equal amount of Spanish as they do English, but I do want to make sure that Spanish language resources are available to them, and that time spent en español is fun and relaxing so that they have a positive association with language learning.