Do unto others…

As I was driving on the highway to take PJ to playgroup this afternoon I saw a few people hitch hiking. Nothing out of the ordinary. Hitch hiking is pretty normal for Uruguay.

I don’t normally stop. Especially if I have PJ in the car. But it got me thinking about this time when we were still living in Miami and I gave this older man a ride home.

It was a Saturday morning and I had just finished dropping Carlos off at work. Instead of taking my normal route home, I went the long way. It was a bright, sunny, but cold winter morning. I had my sunroof open, blasting music and just enjoying the time alone. As I was driving down Coral Way I saw an elderly man sitting at a bus stop with a shopping cart FILLED with bags. I felt a pang in my stomach and a tiny voice inside my head telling me to go back and talk with him.

After debating with myself for what felt like forever, I turned around, pulled into the gas station next to the bus stop and got out of the car. I approached the man and asked him where he was heading. We talked for a bit and I offered him a ride home. As I helped put his groceries in the back of my car, a man in a brand new BMW approached me and told me that he wished more millennials would be so kind and said, “God bless you.”

Instead of feeling shy or honored by his praise, I was angry. I wasn’t giving this guy a ride because I wanted to be patted on the back, I did it because, well I felt God was calling me to. And if it was really such a great thing then why didn’t HE do it himself? He was at the gas station before I was. He could have easily offered the man a ride home. I ended up just smiling modestly and saying, “Oh it’s nothing, thanks.” Got in my car and left.

The drive home was uneventful. It turned out the man knew my dad when they worked at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach back in the 90s. He was just a lonely man living in a section eight apartment by himself. I was genuinely happy I was able to help him, I was able to do something kind and put a smile on his face. From them on I looked out for him every Saturday at that bus stop but I never saw him again.

Being reminded of this made me wonder if I would ever do something like that again. I think about it often enough but I haven’t. Since I’ve become a mom I’ve put other people on the back burner. I’ve been too worried about my daughter and family to focus on people on the outside.

Sure, whenever I’m on the bus I’ll offer my seat to an elderly woman or if someone has one item at the grocery store behind me and I’m buying a whole cart I’ll let them in front. But I haven’t really gone out of my way to be KIND to someone. I haven’t gone out of my way to sacrifice for someone.

Of all the things going on in my/our life/lives right now, I want to make it a point to forget about us and worry about others. I want to be a blessing in other peoples lives even if it means putting myself on the back burner, even for a little while. Stop waiting for other people to bless you and stop waiting for people to put you first. But don’t do it for other people, do it for yourself. Don’t be that guy in the BMW, fully aware that people NEED help, kindness, and love. Don’t wait for someone to do it in your place. If God, the stars, the universe, etc. places someone in need in your path, help them.

Motto for the week: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. (Again, not because you’ll get something in return but just because).

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Hospital Blues: My Week of Unwanted Mommy ‘Vacation’

The past week has been a total whirlwind. I don’t know where to start.

I’m pretty sure I mentioned a few posts ago that Paloma caught a bit of pink eye and I thought it had rubbed off on me. After about a week of eye pain, I went to the eye doctor in my town to get it checked out. After a quick but thorough exam, the opthamologist sat me down and told me I had what she thought was optic niuritis and should head to the ER right away.

I honestly thought she was exaggerating but decided to just heed her advice and get rechecked just incase. Carlos and I left the baby with my parents, we made dinner plans and thought we would be home by bed time. No big deal, right?

Wrong. Within two hours I was checked in and on a corticosteroid drip to ease the tension on my optic nerve and a team of doctors checking me on all fronts. The first doctor told me I should expect to stay at least three days. The next doctor told me five. And the next one told me seven. I was a wreck.

I remember looking at them and saying, “No, I’m sorry you’re wrong. I have a two year old at home I need to get back to. You’re going to have to find a way to fix me in the next few hours.” I realize now how dumb it is for me to have thought that but in that moment my only thought was PJ.

The doctors started spouting medical mumbo jumbo at me; optic niuritis is a condition that happens when the optic nerve becomes inflamed. It can cause temporary partial blindness and intense pain. And at its worst it is commonly seen as a precursor to multiple sclerosis.

Hearing that I was stunned. How did we go to an inflamed optic nerve to MS? I’m 25. I’m generally healthy. I exercise, I try to eat right, and I’ve lost a lot of weight. I swore the doctor was joking but considering his next plan of action was a lumbar puncture I was pretty sure this was pretty serious to them.

After several painful attempts at collecting the spinal fluid, the doctors had everything they would need to run their tests. Our main job would be to sit and wait. Sit…and wait.

I spent most of my days telling Carlos to stay home so that PJ wouldn’t really notice my missing. The ladies I shared a room with would pity me, whisper things like, “I can’t believe they would just leave her alone like this. Poor girl.” But of course my main priority was making sure PJ was okay. I would try to FaceTime as much as I could just to see her laugh and play but it would kill me.

Can I point out that you never actually realize how fast your kid grows until you’re forced to NOT be there? I came home and this kid was running and jumping and saying things like “NO!” and putting her toys away before bed on her own. Crazy how much kids grow in just a week…

I’ll spare you the boring details but just know that the tests all said I had a massive inflammation of the optic nerve which caused my temporary loss of vision (duh) and that I tested NEGATIVE for MS. I can’t tell you the immense weight that was lifted off my shoulders when I heard that. The doctors feel positive with how I responded to the medication and are planning on keeping me on the steroids for a bit along with biannual check ups with the neurologist.

I’m feeling pretty rough on the meds and the after affects of the lumbar puncture but obviously happy to have my vision back and a relatively clean bill of health.

But moments like this always bring on the awareness of ones mortality, don’t they? I started freaking out picturing what my marriage would look like in the future, my daughter having a ‘disabled’ mother, a diminished quality of life for all of us. Then you feel guilty for thinking things like that, knowing that you are one of those people that always thought it happened to other people but never to you.

I’m feeling blessed/lucky right now that everything turned out the way it did though. It really made me think and reevaluate how I’m living my life, how I want the rest of my life to turn out. I need to start focusing on the future. Set goals and try to make them happen.

Change is coming. I don’t know who, what, where, or when. But I know that I need to shape up.

A break through the clouds.

Keeping Paloma entertained is hard enough when I have tons of different options but with the dead of winter upon us it’s getting harder and harder to keep her entertained. Our days usually consist of emptying out the toy box, placing things back in, emptying it out, screaming, running, and trying to trip me in the kitchen.

You would think that living on a farm PJ would have a sufficient amount of free space but until we fence the houses off from the animals her grass space is pretty limited. The animals poop any and everywhere, the dogs are constantly tripping her and the ground is uneven. I try to take her to the park in town at least once a week but I haven’t been able to do that in awhile. I also get a break during CAIF but July is vacation month in Uruguay so no playgroup until August.

The last week we’ve been dealing with cold rain but today we were blessed with SUN! Sure, the wind was brutal but we had sun making it the perfect day to head to the park for half an hour. Luckily today was Carlos’ day off and I didn’t have anything major on my to-do list for him so we got to go as a family.

Ever since I posted about putting my phone/computer away while enjoying time as a family I’ve been able to really take in the little moments. I notice the small things, the quiet moments. Like when Paloma plays with her Little People and gives them little kisses. Or for instance the hilarious moment we had yesterday at breakfast. I was playing music from the iTunes radio on my iPhone when Maroon 5’s Sugar comes on. Paloma drops what she had in her hand, gave me the dirtiest face and slowly raises her fingers to her ears to cover them. She didn’t move them until I changed the song. I got a stitch on my side from laughing so hard.

Anyway, while at the park I made it a point to take pictures with my DSLR as opposed to using my phone. I knew that if I had my phone out I would be distracted by social media or tempted to play a level of Dots.

I was surprised how Paloma now LOVES to go down the slide by herself. She normally wants us to go down with her or hold her by her waist as she scoots down. But today she was a big girl! It made my heart hurt but simultaneously swell with joy seeing how much she’s grown.

I love days like this. Days where smiles and giggles flow freely.It’s these little moments that I live for. All the tough to get through moments are worth it when I get to experience days like these. My family is my everything.

Climbing the stairs to get on the slide.
Climbing the stairs to get on the slide.
Moments like these melt my heart.
Moments like these melt my heart.

*I wrote this post on Tuesday before we took PJ to the hospital. Didn’t have a chance to post it then.

Mom, put down your phone and live this moment.

I love my family. The sweet intimate moments that only we get to share in. The ones that I can’t really capture in a picture or video. Her sleepy breaths, her tickle monster giggles, the way her cheeks get red after laughing for too long, the smell on the top of her head, and especially her little arms wrapped around my neck. These are things I wish I could keep in a box forever.

But sometimes, a lot of the time, I forget those things.  Continue reading Mom, put down your phone and live this moment.

Learning that it really does take a village…

It may just be me but I find that the general thoughts on parenting in the States is kept between the parents. You don’t normally involve yourself in how a stranger chooses how to parent their child–duh unless you’re on the internet. You silently judge a parent that is on the phone when they’re at the park with their kids or give them the “should you really be doing that?” look when they give into their screaming toddler at the check out line. Social protocol dictates that when in public there should be no touching, no grabbing, no scolding of other peoples children and definitely not picking them up to comfort them. I’m talking the child could literally fall and break it’s head and you know that your main job in that moment is to NOT DO ANYTHING.

However, in Uruguay things are a little different. People reach out and kiss random babies or play peek-a-boo with them at the check out line. Older ladies are always sure to give you their two cents about how to comb curly hair or how often they should be taking naps. Sure in the States you get a random person here or there that will do the same thing but that’s not the norm. My mother taught me never to interact with another persons baby no matter how cute or irresistibly chunky. If I wanted to express my adoration for said child I should simply smile at the mother and say, “Your son and/or daughter is beautiful” and go about my business. Based on that I know that I probably give off putting looks whenever someone tries to touch Paloma while we’re at the grocery store but I don’t mean anything by it. I’m just not USED to it. I’d rather someone be nice to my baby than look at them as if she were a rabid dog.

As I mentioned in another post Paloma and I have been going to CAIF once a week. It’s been great for her to run around and get crazy while I get to be around other moms. It never fails that at least once a meeting our cultural parenting differences are brought up and I really start to notice that while I may speak the language I really am a fish out of water here. The differences in individual parenting are irrelevant because let’s be honest, no two women or men are going to parent exactly alike. But the differences of raising your child in a community is remarkable.

Last week at CAIF, PJ was running around and fell on another moms foot. Instead of getting annoyed the mom just laughed and started bouncing PJ up and down before I got the chance to shoo PJ away from her. After about ten seconds of feeling weird I ended up shooing her away anyway but not because I didn’t want this woman bouncing my kid but I didn’t want my kid to eventually become a nuisance. The woman was like, “Oh no don’t! She wasn’t bothering!” but my anxiety levels had already risen. Another little girl had fallen and bumped her head while her mom had her back turned. My first instinct was to get the moms attention but everyone else carried and comforted the child. The mom didn’t even flinch when she noticed, just stared and smiled at her daughter telling her everything would be okay. If that would have been PJ I’m pretty sure I would have grabbed her and comforted her, smiled at those trying to see if she’s okay, and been not-so-secretly annoyed.

Those two experiences got me thinking and reflecting on how my view on parenting was conditioned. Is it really bad for your child to feel loved and cared for by non-relatives? To view strangers as potential friends as opposed to potentially harming serial killers? Yes, teaching your children the importance of not going off with strangers is important–hello, haven’t you seen Criminal Minds?–but isn’t instilling that fear and apprehension just as damaging in the long run? Isn’t there something wrong with me that my instinct wasn’t to comfort a weeping child, but rather run far away from it?

I grew up in a neighborhood where I only knew one neighbor. I’m talking about my grandparents owned the house we lived in, when they passed we moved in, and the neighbors we did have had all been living there before my grandparents moved in. Sure we waved hello and goodbye but other than that there was no communication. We didn’t have a neighborhood watch and we didn’t have block parties. Our one unspoken rule was keep to yourself. That’s not the kind of life I want for my children. Since I moved to Uruguay I have gotten to know more people in our town than I did in my 20 years in my childhood home. I know my butcher, my water delivery man, and the woman who owns the pañaleria (diaper store).

I don’t think that my acknowledging that there is something wrong in the way that I view these things means it’s going to change overnight. I’m looking forward to seeing how living here and being a mother causes me to grow. Hopefully I can develop friendships with the mothers at CAIF and be able to experience their children grow up, allow them to experience my daughter growing, and further building this community I have joined.