Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Unforgettable Moments: Part 2

Took a while to get back and finish my list of unforgettable moments. Sometimes life gets in the way of writing.

6) October 19, 1998. First date my husband and I had. I had seen him at the local gym a few weeks before. I remember him walking in, as I looked up. Our eyes met and a voice inside my head said "this man is going to change your life". Love at first sight? Maybe. The truth is he did change my life for the better. We went out on our first date and have been together ever since.

7) May 20, 2000 Our wedding day. As I was getting my hair ready, it started to rain. I started to get a bit nervous then. Here I was in this puffy white dress, about to walk out in the middle of a storm. The girl doing my hair said her grandmother always told her rain on your wedding day was good luck. In our case, it is true. On that day I married my other half, my best friend.

8) September 12, 2001. Our first born, a daughter was born. She was so beautiful and innocent and I was taken immediately by her. Even though the world was in turmoil over the events of 9/11, my memories of those times are happy and sad. Happy to have my little girl finally here, sad for all those who lost a loved one the day before her birth.

9) May 2003. Master degree. Environmental Engineering. A long way coming. I took classes at night, and finished this milestone while tending to my child and my husband. I was able to share that day with my family and have my daughter in attendance. She may not remember the day, but she will see the pictures and will know she, too, can do anything she sets her mind to.

10) May 1, 2006 The arrival of our twin boys. As soon as we found out I was expecting, we told our daughter. She was happy and said "mami, you are going to have two babies". We tried to explain to her she would get one brother or one sister, but she was adamant there were two babies in there. A few weeks later, we found out we were having twins. They arrived early and stayed in the hospital until they proved to the world they were ready for it.
They are a team, each other's ying yang and their own individual persons. It's amazing to watch them interact, and see the love between each other and with their sister. Our family is now complete.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Unforgettable Moments: Part 1

Blogging helps me release stress. Strange, I know. I've been trying to blog every day and sometimes, I just have nothing interesting to say. So I found this idea generator that helps me on those days when my "rock star life" is not inspiring me to write.

So I give you the 10 most unforgettable moments of my life. Some are happy moments, some a little scary, but all very defining in my life.

1) My first day of school. I remember the anticipation and excitement of finally being able to attend school with my two oldest siblings. I remember my mom taking me out to buy the uniform, my new shoes, my lunchbox. The day finally came, and I was the most excited child in the classroom, at least I'd like to think so. While some kids were crying, I was ecstatic to be there, to finally have a chance to learn.
It was March in Panama, and a beautiful summer day. Once we had met our teacher, they took us out to the assembly area. They lined us up, the principal went up on the stage, and then we sang our National Anthem. I'll never forget that moment, I was finally growing up!

2) The year was 1989. Panama's government was under the command of General Noriega. Things were scary to say the least. I was 15 then and understood most of what was happening. I knew our school had been shut down by the government because it was run by a religious group. Electricity was being rationed so we spent many hours every night without power, sitting outside, listening to a radio station from Costa Rica in a small battery powered radio.
I also knew we weren't allow to congregate on the streets. If more than 3 people met on the street to talk, they could be put in jail under the pretense they were conspiring against the government.

I remember this day because my sister and I were sitting outside, just watching cars pass by and people walking towards town. I remember the men stopping to chit chat, two of them on their way to town, one of them on his way home. They stopped in the corner, right across from our yard. I remember the military jeep stopping right next to them, heavily armed and looking like something out of a movie. They dropped something on the ground, the jeep left, and the men started running, and coughing.

My sister and I weren't sure what was happening but it was scary. We got up and started to run towards the house, that's when we felt a funny taste in our throats. It was tear gas.

It was scary to see how we had lost our right to be free; simply because of the ambitions of one man.

3) Moving to Costa Rica. The situation in Panama had gone from bad to worse after the military threw out the results of the elections and put a puppet government in its place. The decision was made we would move to Costa Rica. We were to cross the border, undetected, and ask for political asylum. We rode to the border, as many people do, in a bus. People went there all the time to buy things, trade things, so it wasn't suspicious.
We crossed the border in an area that wasn't patrolled. I was terrified. What if we got caught?
Once on the other side, we headed to the immigration headquarters, located right on the "safe" side of the border. I remember my parents doing all the talking, signing papers, our passports were stamped, and we bought our bus tickets. We were allowed in.
That first night in our adopted home was scary. I was terrified "they" were following us. What if they found us? What would happen to us? I hardly slept. I remember being cold. San Jose was at a much higher elevation than my hometown and the nights were pretty cool. I remember walking out of the little hostel the next morning, and admiring the beautiful mountains that surround the city. I knew a new life awaited us.

4) December 1, 1990. Our plane had reached its final destination. New Orleans. So much had happened in the past year and half. Here we were, another country, a new home, and the promise that our dreams could finally come true.

5) May 1997. Bachelor's degree. Chemical Engineering. I had graduated 6 months before, but since there was no graduation ceremony in December, I was invited to participate in the ceremony in May. By now, I had a job so I thought I would go and "walk" to give my mom the satisfaction of watching me graduate.
As we started to walk into the coliseum where graduation was held, the magnitude of the moment hit me. I had to fight the tears, I had come such a long way since I had left my home 8 years before. The world awaited.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Science Fair

This morning I had the opportunity to be a judge at the regional science fair. It was a very rewarding experience for me.

This is the second time I participate as a judge but the first time I've done it at a regional level, with children from the surrounding counties, that attend both public and private schools.

I judged in two different categories so I was able to see many different kinds of projects. More importantly, I was able to see how different kids, from different schools, may present the same idea in two very different ways.

It was easy to see which students had an adult supervising, helping out; and which ones had done it on their own without much parental supervision.

I hope it doesn't sound judgemental. That's not my intention. As the child of a working mother, I know many times I did my projects on my own while mom was at work, with only the help of sisters.

But seeing those kids who needed an adult to help them out made me want to reach out and volunteer some of my time mentoring these kids. I'm glad they have teachers encouraging them to participate and to contribute their talent to the science fair.

Some kids were nervous, others were so happy to talk to me and tell me all about their projects, their ideas, and even their grandmothers! I even had a chance to judge a team from the School for the Deaf. I really wish I knew sign language so I could have interacted with the girls, they looked like a fun bunch.

Some of the kids are in the same age range as my daughter. I cannot wait until it's her turn to participate. I made sure to tell all these kids they are winners already. They won in their schools, and are participating against other schools, they are winners in my book.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Reality of Life

The topic of this blog isn't pleasant for me, and probably won't be for those who read it. It isn't something we like to talk about in civilized society, it's one of the taboo subjects we shy away from at cocktail parties, and social gatherings.

A few months back, there was a case of physical abuse in the news. Two very popular people were involved in a domestic dispute. Her picture was in the news, he was all over the news, sharing his "side" of the events, and telling everyone who cared to hear that he, too, was a victim.
Many took her side, others felt he was treated unfairly because he, too, had been injured.

I, as many people, took the side of the battered woman. What most people probably wouldn't know it's because I have seen abuse up close and personal.

I have not been a victim of abuse, but my sister has. Not once, or twice, but several times, at the hands of two different men.

Abuse isn't pretty, it isn't something people want to talk about, it's something people whisper around and pretend isn't happening. I refuse to do so anymore.

I have seen the results of physical abuse. I have seen my sister battered and bruised, and worst of all, ashamed because she felt maybe it was something she did. I have cried with her and stood up for her.

But there are other types of abusive relationship. When most people hear about abuse, they picture a battered woman, bruises and blood. Most never think about emotional abuse, and how prevalent it is in today's society. Most of us go on about our lives without ever thinking about it.
Most people think the abusers are usually uneducated men, unemployed, minority men, or simply trashy people. I'm sure many fit that pattern but many don't.
Many aren't minority males, many are not poor , or uneducated. They may be the doctor in your town, or the lawyer down the street.

For my sister this time around, the abuse is more than just physical. It's emotional. Funny thing is we all saw it coming but it wasn't until we were staring in the face of it that we realized what we were looking at.

It's not easy to see how someone can abuse another emotionally.
I have seen a confident beautiful woman lose her self esteem. I have watched her give up a successful career simply because he wanted her to. I have watched her lose herself, and her ability to stand up for herself.

The signs the abuse was happening were subtle. At first it was about her job, then it was about her not spending enough time at home with him and the kids. Before long, her family wasn't allowed in the home unless he wasn't there, or unless we had prior approval. And we were ever there and he came home, we knew better than to hang around.
She became isolated, always saying that's just how he was. He is eccentric and wants her undivided attention when he is around her.

I'm sure she isn't the only woman in this situation right now. The statistics are clear. 5.3 million women are abused every single year. 5.3 million.
Those women are someone's daughter, sister, mother. Most of the abuse is at the hands of a domestic partner. And most of the abuse goes unreported because the victim feels ashamed of what happened.

If you are lucky to have never been around someone in an abusive situation, count your blessings and offer a prayer for those who are in an abusive relationship.

If you have seen the ugly truth of abuse, then you know how helpless one can feel when a loved one is in that situation. There is nothing you can do to remove them from that path unless they are willing to get out. And most abused women are afraid to move on.

So say a prayer for all the women, for all the men, for the children who have witnessed abuse, for the families who have to sit helplessly while trying to find a way to help the victims.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Life with Children

Never a dull moment when it comes to my life. My kids have a bag full of "surprises" hidden somewhere, I'm certain of it.

Last night I had a battle of wills with one of my boys. He decided that instead of dinner, he wanted hot cocoa. With marshmallows. I nicely told him he could have some IF he ate his dinner. You would have thought I had sentenced him to torture and death. He started screaming at the dinner table. His twin brother started singing "cry baby, cry baby, suck your thumb" which only prompted louder screams. His sister told him to stop crying, they wanted to eat in peace.

I kept trying to reason with him but have you ever tried to reason with a 3 yr old? Achieving world peace is a lot easier. Finally I told him he could go and cry in his room because the rest of us were trying to have a nice dinner. Off he went, screaming as loudly as he could. 20 minutes later, he came out of his room and told me he was going to eat his dinner. No more crying, no mention of the hot cocoa. He ate half of it (which was more than I expected him to eat), and a few minutes later "reminded me" I had promised he could have hot cocoa if he ate. I made good on that promise and all 3 of them got a cup of hot cocoa with marshmallows.

Back in my day, my parents would have made me sit at the dinner table until I ate everything on my plate and I probably wouldn't have gotten any hot cocoa. I vividly remember the battles I had with my parents over eating my vegetables. I sat many times for over an hour at the table, alone, because I refused to eat what was on my plate.

Considering how stubborn I was (or am, depending who you ask), I know better than to use that tactic with my own kids. I'm afraid they would end up sleeping at the dinner table and the plate of food would look exactly the same as when I put it on the table.

I know they are asserting their independence and trying to see how far it really goes. I guess you could say having newborn twins desensitize me to their cries. I can tune them out and they are figuring out tears do not work with me. But I'm only human, and from time to time, it gets to me and I lose my patience.

I'm not a model of parenthood, I'm just doing what I can to keep my sanity. Having three kids definitely makes things a little more challenging. Had I had only one kid, I may have given in and hot cocoa and crackers would have been dinner. But with 3, what's good for one is good for all of them, at least most of the time. The other two are watching and they will remember how you let that one get away with whatever it was. It could be something as insignificant as sitting at a different chair at dinner time, they will remember it and use it later on to get their way.

Since the owner manuals that suppose to come with these kids was lost in the mail, I'll just continue to use the "trial and error" method and hope my kids won't have to spend too much money in therapy because I refuse to let them have hot cocoa for dinner.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

College taught me...

There are many lessons I received while in college. Not the academic lessons I was there to receive, but lessons about life, about people, about friends.

College taught me sometimes people will surprise you. Unexpected kindness from strangers, a smile when you are feeling down, a shoulder to rely on. Sometimes the nice things people do for you are what helps you face the obstacles along your path.

College taught me some people cannot be trusted, not everyone you meet has your best interest at hand. It taught me not all elderly people are good people, sometimes they are just old bodies with mean hearts.

College taught me I matter, the person I am, not the money I have, or the car I drive. I matter because of what I can contribute to this world. I am valuable.

College taught me family is the most important thing, and they will be there when everyone else leaves.

College taught me the friends you make in college will stay with you through the years, for as long as you want them there.

College taught me I will make mistakes, and that's ok. There is no virtue in never making mistakes, it's learning from them that helps you grow.

College taught me to give people a chance. Sometimes you will find a friend in someone you'd never dreamed of meeting.

College was the best time of my life, before marriage and kids. I look back at those years and see the happiest times, with the best of friends. I laughed, I cried, I learned how to be a friend, and I learned how to cherish my friends. I embraced my past there, I embraced the person I was becoming, and I looked ahead to the future with hope.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Losing my religion

I never quite understood the lyrics of that song by R.E.M. But its title seemed fitting to the turmoil going on inside my brain.

If you know me well, you probably know my brain is always in turmoil. There are usually a thousand thoughts racing across my poor brain cells, and making my brain overly tired and overworked.

This time the reason for my unrest is my spiritual life. I seem to be losing my religion.

My faith is intact. I pray daily, I read the Bible daily, and meditate on it. I just cannot bring myself to attend service at my home church.

Until recently, I was one of those people who hardly ever missed church on Sunday. I volunteered, and actually enjoyed being there. I simply need to be surrounded by others who believe and worship as I do. At least I was that person until recently.

I'm not sure when it all began to disconnect, or the reason behind it. At first, I started missing church because I was sick, or one of the kids was sick. Slowly, it began to feel as a chore, not as something I wanted to do.
But only on Sundays. I just couldn't bring myself to attend services on Sunday.

I have been making time to attend daily services near work. I have no issues going to a different church, with a complete group of strangers, and worship during the week. But when it comes to Sunday, my will power depletes and I just cannot find it in me to go.

I have been knowing something was off for a while. I started to notice the "change" going on in my brain. I thought maybe it was a midlife crisis, although my midlife crisis come and go rather frequently and I'm not old enough to have one.

Then I noticed how happy I was to attend daily mass with a bunch of strangers but I simply dreaded the thought of going to church on Sunday with my church family. I have been attending church there almost 20 years, yet I no longer want to be there.
I'm not sure what's happening. No one has been rude or demeaning towards me or my family there.

Am I having a religious crisis? Perhaps. Identity crisis? Quite possible.

Funny how a long drive is the best source of therapy for me. I was driving yesterday for work and started thinking about this particular issue. I often use my driving time to think about whatever is bothering me at the time. Most of the time I simply have a conversation with myself and it helps clear the confusion that's my brain.

A few things popped into my mind as I was wondering what was happening to me.

I'm not questioning my faith or my beliefs. I still feel very strongly about those, so it is not my faith I'm losing.

But I do feel like I'm missing out on something at my current church. I miss not having other people like me there, people I can relate to. Who are these people? Mothers, wives, other people who are going through the same period in their lives. Other women with young children, women who may have the same interests as me. But more importantly women I can worship with.

I am missing the chance to worship with other women like me. I miss not having a group of women who I can attend bible studies with. Not just women, but women who are going through the same stages of their lives as I am, who may be juggling work, kids, husbands, just as I am.

Going to a different church of the same denomination is a possible solution. But the nearest one is 30 minutes away and I've already "tried on" before and it didn't fit. Does that mean I'm the misfit?

And I can always try another denomination. I'm a believer God is the same in every church, we just chose to worship Him differently, so attending another denomination is not an issue for me.

What if I'm the one who simply doesn't fit here, there, or anywhere?

What about my kids? Is my "crisis" going to affect their faith? Strengthen it? Should I start saving for their therapy bill?

One thing is for sure, my spiritual journey has always been filled with roadblocks that turn into road trips. I wonder where this road trip will take me...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Tutorial on Twins

Parenthood is an adventure, no one with kids will disagree. That adventure often turns into an episode worthy of the Amazing Race when you have twins. In my case, twins plus one make life quite unpredictable.

People often makes comments to me about how wonderful it is to have twins and how they wish they had twins. I'm sure they are trying to be nice, but in all honesty, no one knows what is like to parent twins unless you have them. I don't care if your kids are close in age, or if you have 19 of them, twins will throw a wrench into your parenting skills.

We weren't first time parents when we learned twins were on the way. We have a daughter who is wonderful in every possible way. She is funny, sweet, beautiful, outgoing, a dream come true. We wanted to give her a sibling, and ended up giving her two. We figured our experience as parents would pay off. How hard could it be? We had been through the midnight feedings, diaper changing, reflux, etc.

I wish someone had given me a tutorial before the twins arrive. Better yet, I wish they had given it to me the minute I walked out of the doctor's office, eight weeks into the pregnancy and with the news of double trouble on the way.

So this is my attempt at preparing future mothers (and fathers) of twins. My tutorial on how to parent twins.

1) The minute you find out you are expecting twins, run out of the doctor's office screaming. People will stare but that's ok. Their stares will be nothing compared to those you'll get every time you step out of your home with your twins.

2) Invest in a recliner if you don't already own one. Not only will you need it when you get too big to lay in bed comfortably, it will come in handy during those all night feedings.

3) Speaking of feedings, get used to eating cold food. Once the twins are here, you will seldom get a chance to eat a hot meal. When they are babies, they will start crying the minute you sit down to have a meal. Once they start talking, they will call your name the second you sit down. Most of the time the voice will be coming from the bathroom.
When you decide to eat out with the kids, ask for a box to pack your dinner before you start eating. By the time you are done cutting their dinner, telling them to sit down, making sure they don't pour water in their sibling's food, your food will be cold and they will be ready to go home.

4) Invest in earplugs. I know, sounds harsh unless you've heard the cries of two babies at 2 AM.

5) Throw out all the preconceived notions you had about how you'll deal with twins. You may think think you'll put them on a schedule and they will be sleeping through the night by the time they are 3 months old. It may work, it may not. Not only did my twins decide they didn't like the same schedule, they didn't start sleeping through the night until they turned one. And yes, we tried everything. Better to go in without any expectations.

6) Every time someone says "oh, how I wished I had had twins", ask them for a donation and their phone number. By the time your kids are of school age, you will have a very nice trust fund set for the kids, and you'll have tons of babysitters.

7) Speaking of babysitters, once you find one that actually enjoys babysitting twins, pay her well so she'll keep coming back. You'll be surprised how many will hesitate at the thought of watching more than one child of the same age.

8) Twins are individuals and they rejoice in reminding you of that fact. They will like different foods, different toys, even different sides of the car. And once they are old enough to undress, they will take off the clothes you picked out for them, and find something else to wear. This usually happens as you are trying to walk out the door.

9) When it comes to twins, silence is NOT golden. It just means they are probably in the bathroom, flushing everything they can down the toilet.

10) Enjoy every second with your twins. You will be amazed at how strong their bond is, how connected they are, and how much they love one another. It doesn't matter if they are identical or fraternal, your twins will have that special bond forever.

There will be times you'll be so exhausted, all you can do is cry. There will be times when you'll go outside, sit in the car, and enjoy a few seconds of silence. Many times you'll wonder how you will ever make it until they are old enough to go to college.

But there will also be lots of laughter. Kisses and hugs, and I love you's that will melt your heart. Enjoy the moments when you are all snuggled up in bed watching cartoons on Saturday mornings. Rejoice in knowing they chose you to be their parent. I know it won't be easy at first but the best things in life often aren't easy.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Slave to technology

I'm not sure how this came to my mind. I was driving home from dropping the kids off at school and realized I'm probably addicted to my cell phone, to some degree. I don't sit around and text message people all day long. I don't go to lunch with friends, only to pull out the phone and check my Facebook every so often. I can still enjoy normal human contact without having my cell phone interfere with my life.

Still, I remember the simpler times when I could avoid phone calls simply because I was not home. Now, I can't even go to church without being contacted by people!

We have given people access to our lives 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, simply by getting a cell phone. And it gets worse if you happen to have a smart phone, because not only can they text you, they can also send you emails and Facebook messages, and expect you to answer them.

Don't get me wrong. I love my iPhone and it has made my life easier. I can keep my grocery list, my calendar, and my checkbook balance, all in one handy place.

But sometimes, I wish I could use the "sorry, I wasn't home when you called" excuse.

Are you addicted to your phone? Tivo? Computer?