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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Happy Birthday PJ!

I can’t believe my baby is two years old. I know that every mother looks at their child and wonders where the time went. It feels like just yesterday Carlos and I were bringing her home from the hospital.

But here we are…two years later. So much has changed and yet everything is still the same.

Our days are just as busy as ever, having moved from two hour feeding schedules and nap times that never lasted long enough to rolling over, tummy time, standing, crawling, and now running and jumping in muddy puddles. I can still remember her newborn cries and it surprises me how her cries have changed so much since then. When she was first born she looked so much like Carlos but now she looks like neither of us. She’s her own person with her own distinct voice, traits, and views of the world.

It’s crazy how much has changed in the four~ days since she turned two, as if a switch turned on internally alerting her personality of the “terrible twos.” She started doing this fake cough/cry mix when she wants something where she slyly opens her eyes to see if I’m buying her crocodile tears. Or how about she used to be so good about telling us when she was done eating but now would rather throw everything onto the floor, climb out of her high chair and try to jump off?

Would you believe me if I said that I love this stage though? I love seeing her personality shine through. I love how she laughs at things she finds funny, how fiercely independent she is/wants to be, how fearless she is, and especially how she shows her love. Every time I see her face light up when she sees me, every unprovoked hug or kiss, or even when we’re watching tv and she holds my fingers, those tiny moments make my heart swell and it’s as if I’m seeing her for the first time all over again.

No pictures please.
No pictures please.

This little girl has completely changed my life. I always thought I knew what unconditional love was and that I was the type of person to lay my life down for someone I cared about but nothing prepared me for motherhood. Giving birth to her was the first step in learning the true meanings of grace, patience, love, and kindness. And there are days when I feel like a total failure and have to constantly remind myself that I’m doing the best I can and I wouldn’t change this job for the world.

Happy Birthday to my Dove, my guiding light and peace.

i’ve got the blues

I haven’t written in a couple of weeks due to some personal issues. I’ve debated writing on the subject, afraid of being too honest in such a public forum. 

I’ve been going through an inexplicable wave of depression for the past few weeks. All I’ve wanted to do is stay in bed, watch Supernatural, and sleep. 

At first I thought it was due to the impending arrival of Aunt Flo, but after her usual visit I’m still feeling blue. Then I figured it might be due to the wet weather we’ve been having but on sunny days I feel just as down. 

I suffered from depression as a teenager. I went to several therapists, was put on multiple mood altering medications, suffered from the effects of said drugs, and eventually quit it all. I blocked a lot of that time in my life from my memory. I couldn’t tell you why I started going to therapy to begin with even if I wanted to, but I can tell you that it wasn’t something I had to deal with often after I graduated from high school. 

It wasn’t until recently that I started feeling it weigh on me. There hasn’t been a major catalyst in these feelings. Carlos and I haven’t been arguing. Things with my parents are normal. Vanessa and I are good even with the distance. Paloma has just been her usual vivacious and loud self. But somehow I can’t find a way to get through this period.

I keep getting asked, “Are you okay? You don’t seem okay.” Those are the questions that make my skin tingle, my blood boil, and the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. It’s a ridiculous reason to get upset. They mean well. They’re my family and they love me. However when I’m in this dense fog of depression it’s difficult to see their good intentions. 

The worst part of feeling this way is how I feel when I’m around Paloma. My patience is thin and my temper is roaring. The more frustrated I get, the clingier and more emotional she is, causing me to get even more frustrated than before. I’m beyond blessed to be in a situation that I can leave her with my parents of her dad for a few hours so I can take time to collect myself. It breaks my heart every time I walk away, hearing her cry and reach out to me. But I know that I need to take a few moments to myself so I can be the best mom I can be to her. 

Even knowing that those few moments are what’s best for BOTH of us, I still get hit with mom guilt if I’m not with her 24 hours a day. I feel inadequate as a mom. I see these YouTube vloggers or other bloggers sharing their stories of their life with their littles and I feel like being depressed is something that just doesn’t happen to them. I feel as  if they’re constantly smiling, doing cute activities with their littles and their lives are peachy. I know, logically, that it isn’t true. Logically, all kids throw tantrums. Logically, all moms lose their cool. Logically, not everyone has everything together. Again…logically. 

Depression isn’t logical though. It has no rhyme or reason other than a chemical imbalance. I’ve been debating going to a therapist but finding one that speaks English is going to be difficult. I could attempt to see one but I feel like most of the sessions would be spent trying to make our way through my nervous and broken Spanish. 

I often wonder if this is what postpartum depression feels like. Drowning in a glass of water, feeling completely alone and misunderstood. The more you try to explain the more people look at you with concerning eyes that are secretly saying, “Bless her heart. She has everything she could ever want and she’s here complaining.” Fearful of the backlash of sharing this very real crisis.

These are things that I FEEL. Having them, let alone sharing them, doesn’t make me dysfunctional. It doesn’t make me spoiled or flawed. I am many things: a mom, a wife, a daughter, a friend, but most of all I am human. Like most things in life, my emotions go through hills and valleys. I just so happen to be going through a valley right now. I look forward to the day when I’m back on the hill. I’ll be okay if it’s not today or tomorrow because I know that one day I’ll feel like myself again. 

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.

I think we’ve got an emergency.

Last night was our first middle of the night trip to the emergency with little Paloma.

During dinner I noticed that she was only eating with her right arm, at bed time she didn’t help me get her dressed, and while drinking her bottle she only held it with her right arm. I thought it was a little weird but since she wasn’t screaming or anything I figured she was being particular.

She went down at 8:30pm like normal but at around 10:00pm she started crying in her sleep. Nothing serious at first, just random cries, but as the night progressed her cries got more intense and at around midnight she was screeching. I pulled her into our bed thinking she might be hot from the heater in her room. But after getting her undressed and giving her some water I realized something was up.

When Paloma throws a tantrum she normally gives it her all kicking and punching with all her limbs. But last night I noticed that she only used her right arm. At that point I knew something was odd and we should take her to the emergency room. It was 1:45am and I was dreading the hour drive to the hospital but it needed to get done. After waking my parents to get the car keys and successfully freaking out my mom we headed to the hospital. It was freezing last night. There was ice on the windshield and even Paloma didn’t object to being bundled up in three different blankets.

After a very bumpy and scary ride thanks to my dads driving, we got to the hospital in 35 minutes. We walked up to the window to speak with the secretary about needing to see a doctor. We were quickly processed and taken to triage. The nurse took down all her info and we waited about two minutes before we saw the doctor. Our doctor was hesitant at first to see if anything was wrong but after attempting to play with Paloma she realized that something was bothering her arm. She had me undress her slowly and she noticed that she was definitely having issues moving her left arm. She did a another physical examination and felt that her elbow was dislocated.

Hearing that my heart dropped. I felt like it was something I did. I pulled her arm too hard to get her away from something dangerous or maybe she fell too hard at the park. Why hadn’t I noticed it earlier? I felt like an awful parent.

The doctor was very quick to tell me it was a miracle I even noticed it when I did considering PJ wasn’t crying. After popping it back into place she gave her some Ibuprofen and kept her for few minutes for observation. While she wasn’t comfortable using her left arm all that much afterwards you could tell there was a HUGE difference in how she moved. She slowly started using her arm to hold my cell phone and she used both arms to ask to be picked up.

Once the doctor saw that she had improved mobility she sent us home. I’d say we spent a total of half an hour at the hospital. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of such a short emergency room trip in my life. I have friends with kids in the States and when they tell me of taking their kids to the emergency room it’s literally hours before anyone gets seen by a doctor. It’s moments like these where I’m extra appreciative of being in Uruguay. The healthcare here is amazing, people are treated like people and not like money. I wish that the States could adopt this, that hospitals could be stopped being seen as businesses and could be seen as healing centers.

Today we’re taking it easy at home. Carlos has the day off so we’re at home trying to recoup from a long night. Thankful for that our adventurous little girl is feeling alright.

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.