Friday, April 30, 2010


I had one of those moments today, when I thought "wow, I'm actually doing just fine when it comes to this parenting thing".

My oldest child is finishing 2nd grade in a few weeks. As most schools, hers also participates in the Accelerated Reader program. They have to meet monthly goals in order to get their grades in Reading, but the kids who achieve 100 points during the school year have the opportunity to go on a field trip.

Last year, we didn't meet the goal of 100 points. We came close, somewhere around the 70s. It was our first year, she was still new to reading, and I was pretty proud of her because getting those points was not easy. You see, most books at her reading level are worth only 1/2 a point. Getting to 70 meant she had to read over 100 books, all while attending dance lessons, music lessons, and playing soccer.

When this school year began, she said she wanted to go on the field trip. I told her she could go as long as she did the work. I cannot read the books for her, nor can I take the tests for her. I explained she had to set her goal and stay committed to achieving it. And I told her I knew she could do it.

Today was award day at school. They were handed out certificates, and the Headmaster read outloud their total points for the Accelerated Reader program. I was so proud when she said my daughter's name and her total points: 178.4

I can tell you getting all those points was all her doing. I did not nag her to read, I didn't have to remind her, or yell and scream at her to do her work. She knew she wanted to go on that field trip and shortly after the Christmas holiday, she arrived at the 100 points mark.

But she didn't stop there. She decided to see if she could get to 200 points before awards day. I once again reminded her she has a busy schedule, other activities to tend to, and that I would be proud of her regardless.

She didn't get to 200 points but that really doesn't matter to either of us. She was beaming, very proud of her accomplishment. I was very proud of her because I know she earned it on her own. Yes, I bought some of the books she read, and took her to the library to get books too. But this was all her doing.

I'm elated that my child got to the experience the pride one feels when accomplishing a goal.

Friday, April 23, 2010


My twin boys are about to celebrate another birthday. Number 4. It's hard to believe they are already 4 but at the same time, I'm glad to watch them become more and more independent.

Growing up, birthdays were a big deal in my family. It was a big reason to celebrate, the fact you had been born. I grew up loving birthdays and loving celebrating them.

I have a vague memory of my 3rd birthday party. I remember the 20+ kids from all over the neighborhood, and their parents all in the front yard of our tiny duplex. It was a celebration of my birth! We had music, food, cake, and even a giant pinata shaped like a rabbit.
I don't remember the details, but I have seen the pictures of me crying, holding on to my pinata as if it was a lifesaving device. My older sisters like to tell the story. Apparently I did not want to share my rabbit with any other kid. Well, pinatas are meant to be hit with a stick until they burst and the candy come out. Imagine being 3 years old and being told the kids in the neighborhood are about to murder your giant bunny.

The fact is we always celebrate birthdays in a big way. As I got older and money became scarce, mom always made sure we had at least a cake. I learned to appreciate the gesture of a birthday rather than the decorations, pinatas and gifts.

I'm now a mother trying to figure out the correct way to celebrate my kids' birthdays. Have you hosted a kid's party recently? You will spend a small fortune in a simple birthday party. I've read articles about parents spending up to $10 grand for a kid's party. Seriously? Are we teaching our kids that putting on a show is more important than having a good time, celebrating with friends and family?

It's a hard balance between being reasonable and wanting your child to be happy. Kids want to have a bigger and better party than the one "Joe" had, a more exciting party. Having a party at home, in your own backyard has become the exception, not the norm.

I'll admit I'm one of those parents who has parties away from home, mainly because I work outside the home, and hosting a party means cleaning the house before and after the party, and trying to keep kids out of the laundry room, my room, or the bathrooms.

I just wish there was a more affordable way to celebrate birthdays. Parties have become exclusive, most places will quote you a price for X number of kids, and you have to pay extra for each child over than number. Depending on the child's age, most kids have more than 8 friends, they want everyone in their class to be there and celebrate.

Affordable celebrations should be fun without a huge price tag, and should bring happiness to the child and to the parents without breaking the bank.

I'm getting ready to plan my twin's party at home. They are too young to go skating, and such; so for now I'll enjoy the savings of hosting the party. And the "joy" of cleaning the house.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Change and Possibility

I'll be the first to admit I don't like change. Mostly because I like to research, and research, and research some more before I make a decision about anything. So when change happens, and I haven't done my research, it rattles me and leaves me without a map.
But change brings possibility right along with it. It is always there, if I just remain calm, I will find it.

In the last month, our family has been going through many changes. Some of them were planned (by yours truly) mostly, others were a long time coming, and I just had to step back and allow them to happen. I'd be lying if I said I haven't been nervous about it. I have, I'm human, and it's in my nature.

But I've been trying to stop and smell the roses, find the possibilities, the new world that these changes have been opening up for us.

My family has found a new place to worship, together as a family. It may seem trivial to you, it isn't so for me. Being able to worship as a family is one of those "big ticket items" on my list of things families do together. Perhaps it is because I never had that as a child, but I want my kids to grow up believing in something bigger than themselves. I guess I want to lay the foundation, they'll finish building once they get old enough to make their decisions.

This new change hasn't been easy for me. Kids adapt easier, and even my husband has. This change has meant stepping in faith into a new beginning. Cutting ties with what I've known my entire life, and opening up to a world of possibilities in this new life.

We've also found ourselves busier than ever, both my husband and I. Work has been multiplying for him, which is a blessing in these hard economic times. It's easy for me to sit and complain because I don't get to spend a lot of time with him because he is busy. But this too brings lots of possibilities along with it. Maybe we'll get to move into a new house sooner than we anticipated, maybe we'll get to do other things we thought we'd have to put off a few more years.

Changes isn't always easy. But I've found it doesn't always has to be nerve-wracking, bite-your-nails change. It can also be full of possibilities, of new beginnings, of beauty and blessings.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Count your blessings

I'm sitting here, wondering if I should get a new dishwasher and take
advantage of the rebate program that starts tomorrow. Sounds like a
great deal, right?

We haven't had a dishwasher for over a year, and the truth is we've
survived just fine without one. It is a want, not a need.

I guess I need to stop and count my blessings more often.
As the song of my childhood said
Bendiciones, cuenta y veras,
Bendiciones que recibiras
Bendiciones, cuenta y veras cuantas bendiciones de Jesus tendras

When I grow up, I want to be...

I was thinking the other day about so many different jobs I'd like to try. I have a list of things I'd like to do, but what about jobs I'd like to have? Never really thought about it until I walked to get coffee the next morning.

So here is a list of jobs I would like to try, at least once. If money was no object and I could do them all just for the experience, I would. Wealthy benefactor, are you reading this?

1) Chef. I love to cook and I think I'm pretty good at it. I would love to run a kitchen, and spend a whole day around food.

2) Lawyer. Because this has been a dream of mine since childhood, and if money was no object, I wouldn't have to borrow a small fortune to get a law degree.

3) Teacher. I'm not sure why I'd like to be a teacher, they are underpaid, and don't receive the respect they deserve. Still, I'd like the opportunity to open up little minds to an endless world of possibility.

4) Travel Channel host, you know those people who have all those travel shows? Who wouldn't want to get paid to travel and see the world? I would.

5) Operator of the Panama Canal. Just because. It's an engineering marble, it's in my country, what else can I say?

6) Owner of a Coffee Shop/Bakery. I love coffee, and I love bread. I'd love to own a quaint little coffee shop where people could come in, have coffee, pastries, relax.

7) Pilot. Once upon a time, I considered joining the Navy. It wasn't meant to be, but I'd love to learn how to fly a plane.

8) Party Planner/Caterer. I think it'd be fun to plan parties for people, don't you?

9) Artist. I'm somewhat "challenged" in the creative arts department. I don't sing, play instruments, and my paintings won't be on the walls of any museums any time soon. But I'd love to be an artist.

10) Writer. I want people to pay so they can read my ramblings. ha!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


According to Merriam Webster, to respect someone is to "consider worthy of high regard".
As a kid, I was taught to respect, not only my parents, but elders, teachers, coaches, etc.

Is that still the norm? I'm beginning to wonder what has happened to teach our kids respect for other people.

I was chatting with a coworker a few days ago and our conversation navigated into the topic of sports. My daughter plays soccer and his kids do too, so we usually end up comparing notes since our kids play in different leagues. I was telling him about my experience as a coach this past soccer season, and he shared with me the behavior he has seen from some of the kids. For starters, kids openly defying the coaches when given an order, telling them "you are not my parent, I don't have to do what you say", or even sitting out during a tournament because they don't want to play the position the coach has assigned to them.

Whatever happened to teaching your kids to respect other adults besides their parents? Is that teaching outdated?

I certainly hope not. I don't know everything when it comes to parenting. Truth be told, I probably know little to nothing, but there are a few things I want my kids to remember always, and one of those is to respect all people, specially those who have something to offer/teach them: teachers, coaches, pastors.

How are these children suppose to learn how to be a part of a team, when their parents allow them to act this way? How are they to learn camarederie and good sportsmanship when they disrespect the person guiding them through the games, and even their teammates?

Coaching is not an easy job, as I learned last season. We don't get paid, most of us volunteer our time because we want our kids to have the opportunity to learn a sport, remain healthy, and learn how to be a part of a team. I know many of us don't do it because we have "free" time or because we just have endless hours in our days. The last thing we need is a child who is disrespectful towards us.

Coaching is hard. It is not easy to remain calm when your team is not listening to your directions. It is not easy to discipline someone else's child while their parents are watching. It is not an easy job.

So if you are a parent of a child who plays sport, please remind your child to show respect for the coach. Yes, there are coaches out there who makes parents like myself lose their calm, who disrespect the kids in the name of sports. I don't tolerate that. But that's a battle for the parent, not the kid.

I don't agree with children disrespecting adults in any situation, warranted or not. My children know it, and they are constantly reminded when I see another child disrespect an adult in their presence.

So if you ever see one my kids be disrespectful to an adult in your presence, please correct them, I beg you!
And then tell me, so I can make sure they get a lesson in respect directly from me. I don't want my kids to join those children who are growing up thinking disrespecting others is acceptable.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Random Friday

Quitting time is so close, I can almost taste it. So, since it's Friday, and a too-short weekend is about to begin, I'm just going to write about random stuff that's been buzzing around my head today.

*I was driving back to work earlier today, after a quick trip to the store in search of a pair of white shorts for my daughter's softball uniform (which my husband had to pay for when he received it).

I've been trying to figure out why the cost of the uniform (including said shorts) is not included in the $50+ I paid when I signed her up. I mean, I know uniforms cost money. She has played soccer for several years, and the fee we pay includes her uniform and a nice trophy. How come this fee doesn't include a pair of white shorts, or the whole uniform? But I digress. That's just my thrifty self talking.

Anyway, back to my point. This state (Mississippi) ranks #1 when it comes to childhood obesity. I know a lot of it has to do with the fact we rank #1 in adult obesity too, and the link between obese parents, and obese children, and unhealthy foods in school, etc.

But you know what? I think it also has to do with the fact we, the parents, have to pay in order for our kids to play organized sports. Not everyone can afford to pay $50+ for ONE child to play in the league. I'm not naive enough to think that everything is free. I just wish local government (as in the City/County government where I live) would be more willing to fund programs for kids to stay active than to continue funding a crappy school system.

That's just a theory. Prove me wrong, I'm quite ok with that. By next year, I will have 3 kids playing sports. When it comes time to sign them up for soccer, softball, t-ball, whatever, I'll have to write a check for over $100 just so they can participate. Let's not even factor in the shoes, or whatever other equipment they may need. I'm glad we can afford it, and we are willing to pay it because we want our kids to be physically active.

But what if we could not afford it? Why should the children with limited means be kept from participating in activities that would help them develop self esteem, healthy habits, etc? They shouldn't be.

I don't have any solutions, I only have complaints. Hey, it's Friday. What else do you want?

* A couple of years ago, I blogged about needing a parenting manual . That manual still hasn't shown up at my house.
Having kids can be fun, exhausting, and nerve wracking all in one. I'm there, right now. I have a daughter who is turning 9 this year, she will officially become a tween. If you don't know what that is, you are not alone. I had to google it.

So she is getting older and along with that, come a whole lot of changes. She wants more privacy, which her brothers refuse to give her. What's wrong with them barging in the bathroom while she is taking a shower, right? Or (their favorite), let's take our clothes off and run around the house while our sister is screaming to the top of her lungs "they are naked, mom, do something".

Yeah, it's fun. She is starting to discover changes in her body, which means she is growing up. In the meantime, I'm finding more gray hairs which can only mean one thing, this is way more stressful than I anticipated.

* Birthday parties are looming in the horizon. The boys will be turning 4. Of course, they want X and Y for their birthdays. I have told them several times they have the same birthday, so they get one party. I'm pretty sure they know what I'm saying, they are just not listening.
Boys apparently develop that selective hearing early in life.

*Anniversary is also looming in the horizon. TEN years, folks. TEN. We have survived being first time parents, moving to another state, moving back, a hurricane, TWINS and still love each other. It is nice to know there is someone right next to you who knows what is like to hear 2 babies screaming at the same time in the middle of the night.

* Piano recital is coming. I cried like an idiot last year at her first one. I'm pretty certain I will again this year because that's what mothers do right? We embarrass our kids by crying at all their events. Dance recital is also coming, and I'm sure I will need another box of tissue for that one.

I'm pretty certain a few more grays hairs just popped up. Off to find some tweezers so I banish those pesky hairs to oblivion.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


I will be the first to admit I don't like change, and I'm not talking about the loose coins in my purse.

Perhaps it is because I've had to change and adapt so many times, moving from one country to another. I'm not really sure. I'm a creature of habit.

For as long as I can remember, my religion has been a part of my identity, just as the color of my eyes, or the fact Spanish is my first language. Being a part of another religion was something I never entertained. How can one change who they are, right?

I grew up in a home where no religion was practiced. By the time I was old enough to understand what religion and faith were, my father no longer considered himself part of the same religion as the one he was baptized into. My mom considered herself to be, but only attended church on special occasions. I find it ironic that even in that situation, my religious identity because so important to me.

I attended a religious school, where we prayed before every class, attended services once a week and religion was a subject we were required to take. Even though my parents were not actively practicing their beliefs, I was brought in the faith.

I remember being 11 and walking to church alone on Sunday. Service would start at 11 am and I vividly remember leaving my house, dressed in my Sunday best and walking 20 minutes to church. I never felt lonely or out of place, sitting in a pew all by myself. I think about that little girl sitting inside that huge cathedral often. Mainly because I cannot imagine how I would feel if that was my child, attending church by herself.

The truth is I never felt lonely on those days. I enjoyed going to church, even if I was going alone. I never gave it much thought because that was just the way things were. And so my religion, and my way of worship became part of who I was.

It never occurred to me that I could worship in a different way. Could I be born again with blue eyes, or blond hair? Changing that part of me was simply not possible.

Then I grew up. I learned the world is full of people who are so different and yet so fascinating. I met people whose faith was an important part of them and yet, they worshipped in a different way.

So here I am, in the crossroads. I sit here wondering in which direction to go. Do I retrace my steps back to where I began, do I take the new unknown path?

I think I will sit here, quietly. I will close my eyes, and retrace the steps that brought me to this point in life. I will listen to the voice inside my head that usually leads me in the right path, and then I will take a step. In faith.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

10 People who I would love to meet

My list of ten people who are alive today, and I would love to meet.

1) Dalai Lama. His messages are usually about love and harmony and peace. I think a lot can be learned from him. Plus my father is a Buddhist.

2) Queen Elizabeth. She is a fascinating person to me. For decades, she has been in a position of power usually occupied by men. I'd like to know how she really felt about the late princess Diana.

3) Gabriel Garcia Marquez. He is my favorite author. I love his work and would love to sit down with him and just listen to his life experience.

4) John McCain. Not because I want to discuss politics with him, but because I've always found him to be a fascinating person of integrity.

5) George Bush Sr. Again, no political discussion here. I want to ask him about the whole issue with Noriega. Was he really trained by the CIA? What happened that made him turn against the USA.

6) Jenna Bush. I like her. I think she has a good heart. Ever since I heard about her doing work in Panama with children who are suffering of AIDS, I wanted to meet her. Plus, I want to know what it's like to have a dad who sits in the Oval Office. How do you stay "real"?

7) George Clooney, because he looks like he would be tons of fun. and of course, he is easy on the eyes too. ha!

8) Drew Brees. Do I really need to say why? Not only is he cute, he won the Superbowl, and he has a good heart.

9) The Pope. I want to know why he continues to ignore the pain of the victims and the pain of the millions of Catholics around the world who are struggling with the sexual abuse scandal. Why hasn't he come out and defend himself against the accusations? And why has he allowed other clergy to call the accusations "petty gossip"?
I'm certain this meeting would consist of a lot of yelling by me, and a lot of silence by him.

10) Hon. Sonia Sotomayor. What can I say? She is an immigrant (like me), a latina woman, who has lived the American dream. I'd want to hear about her journey.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

50 Things about me

I'm not sure if I've posted this list here before or not. What can I say? My memory isn't what it used to be.
So I give you 50 random facts about me.

1) I was born on January 22. My parents' anniversary was on January 21 so my mom wanted me to be born on that day. I'm sure she is glad I wasn't, being they are no longer together.

2) I want to be a lawyer one day when I grow up. That's been my dream since 5th grade. Probably environmental law, so I could use all my degrees.

3) Until 2008, I had an irrational fear of the ocean. To the point I couldn't even drive along the ocean without having an anxiety attack. I got over it standing in front of the Pacific Ocean back in Panama.

4) I've lived in 3 countries in my life: Panama, Costa Rica, and now USA

5) I hate peanut butter and mushrooms.

6) I graduated 3rd in my senior class.

7) I chose my career path my senior year in high school. I thought I wanted to change majors when I was a junior in college. After going to career counseling, it turned out I could chose chemistry or chemical engineering. I stuck with engineering.

8) I've worn glasses since 6th grade. I broke my first pair because I hated wearing them. Thank God for contacts!

9)I had my first job when I was 13, wrapping presents during Christmas at a store back home. December in Panama = HOT. The area where I worked was outside so I spent the entire month wrapping presents for $5.60 per day. Yes, per day, it was minimum wage. I thought I was rich.

10) My father is a Buddhist.

11) I have 3 siblings from my father's first marriage, one brother, and two sisters.

12) I absolutely loved school. looked forward to going to school and learning new things. Yes, I know, I’m a geek. I never get tired of learning.

13) I arrived in New Orleans on December 20, 1990. Everything I owned fit inside a mid-size suitcase.

14) I love to cook and try to do so every day. I learned to cook watching my grandmother as a kid. I express my love for others through my cooking. I would love to be a chef.

15) I trained for the Chicago marathon back in 2007. I didn't get to finish it because they shut down the race due to the heat. But I know I could have finished. Longest run I've completed: 22 miles.

16) I want to run the entire Chicago marathon one day.

17) I've been to Niagara Falls in the winter. Amazing!

18) I collect elephant figurines.

19) I'm terrified of snakes. Can't even watch them on TV.

20) I've been camping once in my life.

21) I don't know how to swim. at all. can't even do the "doggie paddle".

22) I don't play any instruments, or sing.

23) I do watercolor painting to relax.

24) My favorite book is One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I've read it more times than I can remember, in both Spanish and English.

25) I've never broken a bone.

26) I love soccer.

27) I love dogs and don't care for cats.

28) Went to Ole Miss for both my undergrad and graduate degrees. I'm an Ole Miss Rebel. Enough said.

29) I like taking showers, not baths. Don't care to sit in a tub full of water.

30) I love walking around the house barefoot.

31) I read all the books in the Twilight Saga and loved them. Yes, not exactly a literary gem but I enjoyed them all the same.

32) I was married "twice" to the same man. sort of. We got married in the Baptist church, and a year later, in the Catholic church. Long story, for another time.

33) There are no plants inside my house. All of my plants die, even cactus.

34) I love flowers, specially carnations.

35) I love coffee. Gotta have a cup every morning to start my day the right way.

36) Wheat beer, chardonnay, and merlot. I like them all, but not at the same time.

37) I dream of moving back to Panama one day.

38) I have no regrets in life. Every choice I've made helped me become who I am.

39) I'm shy when I first meet people.

40) Aside from Panamanian food, I love Italian food.

41) I never dreamed of being a mom. It just wasn't part of my "life plan". Until I met my husband. Then I realized I wanted to bring life into this world. I'm glad I did.

42) If I could invite one person to dinner, dead or alive, I'd like to meet Mother Theresa. Her life was so inspiring, not just to Christians, but to all people.

43) I'm allergic to narrow minded people. They make me want to hit them so I avoid them at all costs.

44) I have a list of things I'd like to do before I leave this earth. It is a work in progress.

45) I know how to drive a manual transmission car. I traded mine for an automatic when I had kids so I could "reach in the backseat".

46) I hate, hate, hate to spend money on myself. I have no issues spending it on my kids, or on other people who need it. But myself? It can always wait.

47) I hope to write a book one day about my family. So many great people, and lots and lots of dysfunctional drama. ;-)

48) My first car was a 1979 (baby) Yellow Montecarlo. I loved that car.

49) Making this list was a lot harder than I thought. I realized how boring I am.

50) I hope to revise this list next year and hopefully have more interesting stuff to say.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Remembering Abuelo on Good Friday

Lately, I've been having a "spiritual crisis" of sort. I have been questioning my beliefs, and those of my ancestors. You see, my family has always been Catholic. I was born into a Catholic family, in country where the vast majority (90% or more at that time) were also Catholic. To worship differently was to be an outsider.
So, 36 years later, I'm questioning where I am spiritually and where I'd like to be when the day comes to depart this earth.

Wow, that was deep, wasn't it? But this blog isn't about my journey, or my crisis.

For as long as I can remember, Good Friday has been a day of mourning. Even before I really understood what Christians were celebrating during these holy days, I just knew it was a special day.
The whole world would shut down once the Tridiuum began. Holy Thursday marked the beginning as we prepared for the days to come.

As a kid, I was taught on this day, we were to reflect and pray on the sacrifice Jesus made for mankind. There was no secular music on the radio stations, no fighting or shouting at my house. It was a day of prayer.

Abuelo (my maternal grandfather) was a spiritual man but not a religious man. That's not to say he wasn't a believer. He was a man of faith, and he prayed. His temple wasn't a building, it was simply nature. He loved being in nature, and cherish all the things God had given him.

On Good Friday, Abuelo didn't work. He always said it was a day of prayer and reflection. He would rise early, as always, and without saying a word, he would go outside for his Good Friday ritual. I'm not sure what the ritual was about or what exactly he did. All I know is this was his quiet time with God and he took it very seriously.

Abuelo grew up in the mountains, where the nearest church was at least a day away, and you had to ride a horse to the main road before you could find a bus to ride to town. So attending church wasn't something he did regularly, even when transportation became more available.

But he lived his 93 years of life by the Golden Rule: Love your neighbor as yourself, and God above all things. He helped strangers and family alike. He was kind to people, and thankful of the blessings God gave him. He didn't need to be in church every Sunday to know that God was just a prayer away.

So today, on Good Friday, I'm thinking of Abuelo. He knew that his salvation was not coming from a building where a man presided over the service. He never doubted his salvation would come from the one who died on the Cross. I miss Abuelo. But I'm certain he is finally home and rejoicing in the presence of his Savior.