Monday, May 20, 2013

Field Trips and Fun

Last Thursday was a long, but wonderful day full of kid-centric activities.

Natalie and Ahava ready to explore
Checking out rocks
It began with a field trip to the New Mexico Museum of Natural History with Ahava and all of her second grade friends. Although I had planned to work today as I am trying to get two big projects finished before the end of the school year (in four days!), after giving it some thought I realized field trips with my kids are few and far between so I decided to tag along. I got assigned to hang out with Ahava and one other little girl; both of whom were relatively easy to keep track of. I honestly think it was the best visit I have ever had to this museum. That was probably because I didn't have to drag a wiggley two-year-old or an afraid-of-fire-and-scary-creatures 6-year-old around with us (which apparently were both everywhere in the Prehistoric Age... the fire and scary creatures, not 2 and 6 year olds). Generally I don't enjoy spending the day looking at stuffed dead animals as many natural history museums would have us do, but this museum had fascinating displays on fossils, petrified wood, dinosaurs and other ancient artifacts which I thoroughly enjoyed. It seemed Ahava had a great time too. And because she is at an age where she understands the informational placards there was actually some solid learning going on. 

After the trip to the museum we began the typical afternoon shuffle with Ahava at gymnastics, Ziva at tennis and Samuel trying to escape in every way possible. That boy seriously wears me out! Such a good thing he is so cute, otherwise I would spend my days being frustrated instead of cracking up at all his antics!

Mita tries to keep Samuel upright
Samuel laughing and skating
The final activity today was a school fundraiser at Roller Skate city in Albuquerque. It was impossible for me to skate with Samuel to wrangle but I did have fun talking to some of the other parents and watching all the wobbly kids and teachers make their way around the rink. But by far the highlight of the night was watching Samuel trying to roller skate for the first time! He was like a cross between a king-fu fighter on wheels and a pile of jello. My friend, Mita was laughing so hard I thought she might cry. Like I said, Samuel is very entertaining!
Ahava, Samuel, Ziva and me

The take-away from a day like this is that I really like hanging out with my kids. I knew that already, of course, but sometimes the rigors and requirements of parenting take the fun out of it. Now that I have shifted toward being more present in the moment I am starting to see my overall enjoyment of my kids increase too. Win-win for us all!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Baseball, Boston and the Madness of a Mommy's Mind

Signs of solidarity everywhere; like this jacket at a baseball game.

We have all changed. It's just a new reality. Terrorist bombings at the Boston Marathon affected everyone I know. I haven't been able to watch the news for the past month without crying. Although I did not know any of the victims, it all felt too close to home. An 8 year old boy and three others dead (I have an 8 year old!). Runners maimed (I am a runner!). Lost limbs. Brain trauma. Pure evil. Heartache. I cried and cried. It could've been us. A week later, even after the two bombing suspects were apprehended (one dead, one hospitalized after a shoot out with police), my heart still hurt as much as the day it happened. And now, almost a month later it feels like the world is still in mourning.

Recently, on a very busy Saturday alone with my kids, I noticed how that event has affected how we move through the day (actually, that attack and so many other heinous crimes in the news lately; like the horrific murders of Kindergarteners and elementary school teachers in Newtown, Connecticut a few months ago). There is a constant threat assessment running through my mind now. As the day unfolded on this particular Saturday those dark, pervasive thoughts went something like this:

While taking Miss Anabel to meet up with new friends (that she met at the Paella-making workshop!) to take the Rail Runner commuter train up to Santa Fe, I found myself wondering: "What if someone blows up the train?"

Next up, a stop at the Mother Load Children's Consignment Sale. I thought; "Very public. Everyone defenseless. Good opportunity for maximum collateral damage. Women and children."

From there we went to Ahava's gymnastics class. "Full of innocents. What if some crazy man came in here with a bomb or a gun? Unless one of the parents or other spectators is packing a concealed weapon of their own, there would be no one to stop them."

Then on to Ziva's tennis lesson. It felt a little less threatening, with double doors at the entrance and a guy requesting membership cards at the front. "But how easy would it be to overtake someone in the parking lot, grab their membership card and come in, guns blazing?"

Next up, the playground. While there were only a few kids on the playground on that day, I still found myself thinking: "If it were busier here some sicko might choose this park as a target."

Trips to K-Mart and Whole Foods had me scanning the parking lot for people acting strangely. "Was that guy really a security guard or just a guy posing as one to plant a bomb?" The parking lots were full; perfect place to create a big explosion for maximum news coverage and general panic.

And finally, the Isotopes' baseball game for a friend's son's birthday party. Talk about public. Perfect for murder and mayhem...
But here's the thing... While those thoughts were real and continuous throughout the day, they were small. Much smaller than the amount of time I dedicated to them in this blog post. They were nowhere near as strong as the other, constant mommy worries that I have been having all day, everyday, for the past 8 years since I became a mother. Running through the same Saturday, a small sample of those worry-filled thoughts went something like this:
Dropping off Anabel; "What if these new 'friends' aren't good people and have ill intentions with our foreign friend?" I'd never forgive myself if something bad happened to her.

At the consignment sale I worried that Samuel would pull one of the clothing racks down on his head or escape out the door and into the street in the 2.5 seconds I turned my head to help Ziva try on a pair of shoes.

At gymnastics I always worry that Ahava will land wrong and break an arm or a leg, or worse.

In tennis; "What if Ziva gets whacked in the head with a ball or a racquet? What if the obscene song that the little girl next to her (Not the little girl in this picture!) was singing or the spitting she was doing or the constant barrage of put-downs she was hurling at the other kids leads to similar bad behavior in my sweet, innocent little girl?"

And, of course, both the playground and bike ride were fraught with worry. "What if Ahava or Ziva lose their grip on that swing-thing and break an arm, or a leg, or worse? What if the graffiti on the slide is legible smut that my daughters can read (now that Ziva can be added to the list of real readers since the reading lightbulb went off for her in just the last month!)? What if that puddle at the bottom of the slide is not rain water but some kid's (or adult's!) urine! What if these new bike riders lose control and barrel into traffic? What if I lose control and barrel into traffic? What if this new baby bike seat I so proudly installed myself with a Swiss-Army knife falls off with Samuel in it, sending him barreling into traffic?"
Bike riding with Samuel (2), Ahava (8) and Ziva (6)
Oh and don't get me started on the ballpark! Just the sign informing us that we were sitting in the foul-ball zone conjured up all those YouTube videos about kids getting hit in the head and seriously injured... or worse.  

Nathan holds hands with the kids at the Isotopes' game...
Which doesn't bother Jayden and Ziva one bit!
Still in carseats. They don't seem to mind!
Ahava and her first love: cotton candy

You get the idea. I worry all the time.

But, thankfully, not in the paralyzing way that prevents people from living. Yes, I worry about my kids' teeth rotting from all the candy they eat. I worry about them getting lost in a crowd. No, I don't allow my 8-year-old to go into the bathroom alone. And, yes, I still keep her in a 5-point harness carseat even though all her friends don't even use booster seats anymore. The reality is, if someone could document the moments of madness that pass through a Mommy's mind when it comes to worrying about their kids moving through the world, it would probably be a volume about the size of "War and Peace."

So, yes, we've changed, and, yes, those awful events make me worry more. But for me, when it comes to worrying I think it's kind of like pouring water into the ocean.

Jayden, Ziva, Ahava and Samuel enjoying the firetruck
As I think about all of this, on the eve of Mother's Day, the word that comes to mind is "Courage." Not the kind of courage that is required to run into a burning building, or toward an explosion, or into battle to protect freedom and loved ones far away. That kind of courage is big, big courage in my mind. And seeing lots of first responders around the ballpark is a big part of the reason that this worried mommy enjoyed the Isotopes' game with my family and friends so much despite the recent sporting event bombing.

What I'm talking about here are the little acts of courage that have preserved our humanity through the worst of times AND the best of times. The courage to stay the course. To teach. To learn. To love. And to let go. The courage to help these little people believe in the good and the wonder and the joy, even as you yourself fear the dark, the cruelty, the pain. That, to me, is the courage that comes from being a parent.

I'll end with a few quotes about courage that I like, and a few of my favorite photos from the ballpark:

Courage is being scared to death... and saddling up anyway.             -John Wayne
We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.           -Martin Luther King, Jr.
**Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.        - Andre Gide
**This one I had posted in my cabin while living on Hakuna Matata!
Samuel says, "Do it again, Daddy!"
Nathan makes a great catch!
Birthday boy, Jayden, with his family; Jason, Eva and Amanda

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Facebook Withdrawl

A week ago I surprised myself by posting the following on Facebook: 

I awoke this morning and realized that my life is awesome! We are all healthy and alive. My kids are amazing little people who enrich our lives daily, love us like crazy and are growing way too fast! My husband, Nathan, and I have built so many wonderful things together and have so much still to look forward to. So why, I asked myself, have I been feeling so lousy about it all? The answer hit me like a ton of bricks... I spend too much time on Facebook, focusing on what other people are doing, stressing about issues which are not really my own and wishing for more "real" connections. What I love about Facebook is the chance to see family photos, chuckle at my friends' witty quotes and connect with people I enjoy around the globe. But, at the risk of sounding like a kvetch, lately I have really been feeling that I need something more substantial. 

So... after a lot of hesitation (and a bad case of "the shakes!"), I started a shift toward better balance by deleting the Facebook app from my iPhone today. It had become like a nervous twitch for me. (i.e. "Did that person respond yet?" "I wonder if anyone has posted something new in the 2 minutes since I last checked...") Now that the school year is ending for my kids I don't want that constant distraction. I will check in from time to time still, and post updates (like when I have a new episode on New Mexicast or a new blog post on but I'm going to cut back on the virtual connecting and seek out more face-to-face connections this summer.

To that end, we are planning a cross-country trek in the new camper this summer, and several 4 day weekends throughout the southwest. We may even make our way into Canada (and certainly Mexico). So, if you have any desire for a visit from 3 cute kids, 2 large dogs and 1 or 2 relatively interesting adults, let us know and we'll see if we can make it to your neck of the woods. Or if you want to join us for some camper camping, there is plenty of room. And, of course the offer still stands for anyone who wants to meet us at our condo in Mexico (or our home in New Mexico) for one of the most relaxing, inexpensive vacations you could ask for.

If you need us or want to connect with us IRL (in real life) please text, call or email us. Otherwise, have a fantastic summer full of face-to-face connections, giggles and hugs!

Lots of love to you all!

P.S. If you find yourself missing my oh-so-witty social media posts I will post about our summer travels on my blog "Landlocked Boat Babies" on I will also still be posting on Twitter ( and on New Mexicast's Facebook page (New Mexicast - Enchanting podcasts from Rosa Linda Roman) on a semi-regular basis. XOXOXOXO

I may not have been planning to write that exact post that day, or to step away from Facebook right then and there, but the fact is that I have been thinking about this for awhile now. I have been putting energy into maintaining connections on that social media site for quite some time, and it has mostly been wonderful. But I just feel like the kids are growing too quickly for me to spend any of our precious time together feeling stressed about other people's drama (and losing sleep over said drama). I tend to put too much weight into other people's opinions of me. (Actually, if I'm being completely honest with myself here; it's really just my perception of other people's opinions of me.) Perhaps it is the second-born syndrome that makes me want to keep everyone happy and not offend anyone (although my also second-born husband seems to be blissfully unencumbered by this syndrome). Or maybe it is just a remnant of my ratings-centric, mainstream reporting career that makes me chase feedback and approval outside of myself. 

Whatever the reason, the past week of shifting focus from online connections to face-to-face contact has been eye-opening for me. There have been bike rides with friends, kayaking classes with Ziva and Nathan, a PTO meeting, a Mother's Day tea, date night and a field trip to the New Mexico Museum of Natural History, just to name a few. I have been happier about my life, less stressed about other people's problems, more connected to others and feeling like more a part of a community already. 

So far I feel like I'm heading in the right direction. By downshifting a bit from Facebook for the summer I am hoping to gain more of what I truly want... the chance to live in the present moment with the people I love present.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Paella as a Portal

Anabel and me
We have a friend visiting from Mexico for a few months and we are all really enjoying having her here. My Spanish has improved tenfold in the month and a half that Anabel has been with us, and the kids are picking up a lot of the language too. The problem is that we live on 75 acres in "the boonies" (according to my Mom, at least) and she is a young woman who needs more of a social life than playgroups and potty training. Not to mention that the main reason she came here was to learn more English and because I have been so delighted to speak Español with her, I haven't been much help in that department.

Thankfully, along came paella.

Knowing I had no connections that would help a 24 year old meet other young, single people without kids (yes, the exact opposite of me!), I turned to the internet and connected with a Meetup group I had once attended. The group's home page reads:
"Meet local Spanish language and culture lovers for conversation and fun!" 
Perfect! And, as luck would have it, they had a Meetup scheduled for tonight! Here's how it was described:

"Do you picture yourself cooking Paella? If you always wanted to know the secrets of making real Spanish rice, you will now have the opportunity. We’ll meet chef Antonio Luna who was born and raised in Seville, Andalucía, inside the kitchens of the National Hispanic Cultural Center. All the necessary ingredients will be provided. We want you to learn new cooking skills that you can practice at home, and that’s why we will only use local products. But not everything will be about learning ancient Iberian kitchen secrets. After we cook an amazing Paella, we will sit down and savor all of its flavors."
I thought: Great, let's sign up! 

Of course, there were two problems with this plan:
1. I don't cook
2. I don't eat shellfish

Still, this Meetup happened to be on a night where I had a great childcare option and I knew Anabel didn't come to the United States of America just to see what fabulous juniper and piñon trees we have here (which is pretty much all she sees up where we live). So, I called the organizers, who called the chef, who agreed to make a vegetarian version of his paella. I was thrilled for Anabel, but for me that just meant that I would get to eat the food. I had no illusions that I would participate in the actual cooking of said food because, as anyone who knows me can attest to, in case I haven't mentioned it... I don't cook.

Fast forward to tonight, and as we were getting ready I could tell Anabel was not very excited about the whole thing. Plus, just getting the kids out the door in time to make the class was no small feat. On the drive there I finally said "you know, if it's terrible, we can just leave." She seemed relieved to hear that, since I didn't think she fancied herself as much of a student of the culinary arts either. She cooks just fine in general, but when she was thinking about meeting new people, I imagine a cooking class may not have been top of mind. But I had already paid in advance and the kids were already in childcare, so we went.

Anabel cooking with Chef Antonio Luna

Well, it was a fantastic experience! We spoke Spanish and English. We met new people. And we cooked paella with Antonio Luna. And when I say "we cooked paella" I am including the "me" of "we!" In other words, this non-cooker, made Spain-inspired paella... from scratch! (I made sure they took a picture because I don't think my husband will actually believe me!) 

 As is the case so often, I found my assumptions being challenged tonight. I went into it expecting that I would have to nudge the quiet, seemingly reserved Anabel into participating but quickly discovered that she was the one who was pushing me! You can imagine my surprise when she volunteered to make the second pan (or "paellera" as Antonio called it) full of paella in front of the whole crowd (after seeing the chef cook the dish only once). But that surprise paled in comparison to what I felt when she then volunteered me to do the same. I was really hesitant to step up to the stove, but the peer pressure got the best of me and before I knew it, I was really cooking paella! And, at the risk of sounding like I'm bragging... which I totally am... I think it tasted delicious!

Cooking with Chef Antonio Luna (and hungry onlookers!)

Yes, I cooked that! (With my new friend, Kristina.)

We ate some great food, learned some new skills and Anabel met several friends who invited her to other social outings. (Yay!) Also, as I found myself translating for several people with minimal Spanish skills, I discovered that my own Spanish skills really have improved a lot lately.

In the end it was a delightful, surprising and delicious night which filled both our stomachs and our souls and made me aware of, and grateful for, the amazing diversity which surrounds us.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Exercising is Easier Than Parenting

(**This was written on February 7th. I thought I posted it then. Amazing how different my perspective is just two months later, in the wake of the Boston Marathon terrorist attack today. Right now the world cries for a much heavier reason than a 6-year-old's tantrums. Still, the emotions expressed here were genuine at the time, so I'm going to post it, if for no other reason than to give my Mom a chuckle on this sad, sad day).


I am sitting in my quiet living room, crying. It is quiet because my daughters made it to the bus on time, barely. I am crying because it was yet another brutal morning of getting them out the door and down the hill and onto the bus, after chasing the tail lights before it drove away.

As I write this, I know it may seem ridiculous that I would call a morning with my kids "brutal" or cry over getting these sweet little faces out the door, but that's probably true only if you have never had kids. For the rest of you who, like me, are struggling to "keep it together, keep it together, keep it together" (yes, I'm quoting Eddie Murphy from that weird movie, "Bowfinger" here) I think you completely understand. I am living with a 6-year-old teenager, complete with all the hormonal drama regarding wardrobes, but without the hormones. She royally kicked my emotional butt this morning and I am feeling like a big, fat, failure.

The only thing to do in the aftermath of the morning storm is pick myself up and go kick someone else's butt; virtually, that is. When I let my frustration get the best of me and raise my voice (never my hand, thankfully) at my child or my husband, I know the best way to come down from the ledge is to workout. When there's snow on the ground (which contributes to my lousy mood) and I can't easily go "run it out" I turn on Billy Blanks' Tae Bo DVD and work through my emotional demons. Working out helps me find my calm place and clears my head so that I can find new, creative ways to approach problems. I believe it makes me a better wife, mother and person in general (although, admittedly, this morning there was evidence to the contrary).

As a matter of fact, I have worked out every single day for 24 days straight. Some friends of mine and I are doing a fitness challenge. The idea is to challenge each other to work out at least 40 minutes a day. The prize, which keeps us all pumping iron, pounding the pavement and kicking butt is childcare and meal delivery. The losers will provide the childcare and meals. Needless to say, not a single one of us has missed a day and we are likely headed to an 11-way tie. When you consider that the overwhelming majority of us worked out 3 days a week or less before this challenge, it seems a little crazy. But, while I can't speak for the other ladies, as I walked back dejectedly from the bus stop this morning I realized, for me at least, this fitness craze I'm on makes perfect sense. It's not just the promise of childcare and not having to cook. That's a sweet bonus. For me, it is that in the fitness arena, I am not a failure.

Compare that to how I'm feeling about my parenting skills, and you can see why exercising is easier than parenting sometimes.

When I began running, for example, I started from nothing. Worse than nothing, actually. Back then, running one mile seemed ridiculous. But by simply putting one foot in front of the other, and doing so on a somewhat regular basis, I started seeing real, tangible improvements. Soon I was running 3 miles, then 5, and just last month I actually ran a full half-marathon. And every time I ran, I was rewarded with endorphins and a little victory in my head. Then, if I really pushed myself I would get that "good sore" feeling the next day, reminding me of my awesomeness.

But with parenting, the sore feelings are not the good kind. The heartache of feeling like I'm not getting through, that I'm doing something wrong, that I keep running into the same wall over and over again consumes my mind and fills my heart with worry. I love these kids so much. So why can't I move through mornings (and bedtime, and just about anytime we are trying to get them to go somewhere or do something in a timely fashion) in more loving ways? I feel like I'm living the so-called definition of insanity (which, depending on who you ask is attributed to Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain, Alchoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, just to name a few): "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."

So, why do the same thing over and over, if I see that I'm not getting the results I want? Well, good question. When I'm in the heat of the moment, I think that I am approaching it in new ways. Instead of yelling at my daughter to get dressed, for example, I try asking her nicely. I have tried bribing her. I have tried recruiting her as my "helper" and offering to pay her a salary to get the job done. I have tried ignoring her and letting her not get dressed. And on each of those mornings I fail miserably to avoid the inevitable melt-down and subsequent yelling that happens before we finally run at top speed to the bus stop, stressed, crying and miserable.

And, as I analyze it with the gift of hindsight, I do realize that the thing I am doing over and over is letting it beat me down. I let the anger wash over me. I let the frustration color my day. I let the feelings of failure take up residence in my heart.

Those are all things I would never let a fitness challenge do to me. Instead of letting it beat me down, I would push through it. Instead of letting the anger wash over me, I would listen to self-improvement tapes and repeat empowering mantras ("Everyday and every way I'm getting stronger and stronger"). Instead of frustration I let the feeling of accomplishment from having worked out in spite of myself color everything.

So, the big question is, how do I make that same, positive shift with my relationships? I wonder if there is a place I can sign up for that kind of challenge?

Oh, that's right... I already have. It's called "Parenthood."