Archive | Working Mother RSS feed for this section

Duality of Self

5 Aug

SAM_2481

You are a garden. You are the soil. You choose what to plant in your garden. When you nurture yourself with nutrients, good energy, and love your garden flourishes. You grow, you are happy.

A month or so ago I had the opportunity catch-up over lunch with a good friend. It was lighthearted and heavy at the same time. We shared the latest in our daily lives since it had been months since we had a chance to really connect. I shared with her my recent loss since I know she had been through a similar experience several years ago. She shared with me one piece of advice – don’t underestimate the importance of self-care. I didn’t fully understand what she meant by this and it lingered with me for a while. I kept coming back to it wondering and then leaving the thought when I resisted it. What is self-care? At some moment I realized that I didn’t even know what it meant or how it translated in my life. I’ve been so disconnected from caring for myself for so long that I didn’t know what self-care even looked like in my life.

Over the years I’ve grown to embrace what I thought I understood as selflessness. I’ve tried to live to my capacity guided by the ideology that it is more blessed to give than receive. All these years I had been interpreting that literally, and thinking that giving is only relevant when giving to others. I never thought for one second that giving to oneself is part of the whole equation. This has been one of my greatest challenges thus far. How on Earth could I justify giving to myself physically or spiritually? When there are is so much suffering in the world? It has been incomprehensible to me for far too long. I’ve always projected my giving energy out into the world, be it in my work, volunteering, or in giving to friends and family in different ways. I fully believe that giving to others is essential in building a better world. But what I have perilously neglected to understand is that giving to oneself is fundamentally essential. What I’ve learned is that you cannot sustain a life of giving to others in an effort to build a better world, without routinely, and I mean daily, giving to oneself.

Only recently did I start to take self-care seriously, and accept it. I am not talking about the type of self-care where you get your hair done, get a message, or things like that. Yes, that type of self-care is important too and I neglected it as well. I am talking about a far more basic and essential form of self-care. Simply taking the time to check-in with yourself, time for introspection, time to meditate and connect with yourself. Over the past several years, and in particular the past year, I’ve increasingly neglected setting aside time and space to connect with myself. The past year and a half, I allowed myself to become so consumed and obligated with other people’s needs that I neglected my own. As if being a Mom, wife, boss, and having an aspiring full-time career is not enough. Add on top of that a myriad of other people’s’ lives and needs – and no wonder I found myself completely depleted. My garden was scorched. The soil had no nutrients. It was close to dead.

I have a tendency to lead with my head, 80% of the time. I look first and foremost at patterns and logic. I look for numbers and evidence. I develop and execute logical and clever strategies in all aspects of my life. That is how my brain is wired. At the same time, I am highly creative. I used to paint, draw, and do sculpture. When I was in my 3rd year of undergraduate college I abandoned my niche in creative arts to focus my pursuit in science and math. I found it extremely difficult to switch on and off the two sides of my brain on a daily basis, although I still attribute a great deal of my success in science and math to my creative powers. Why is this relevant to self-care? The logical side of me had asserted that happiness is attained by giving to others. The heart side of me feels deep empathy for the suffering of others. The end result is a person focused almost entirely on the care and feeding of others, with nothing left over to keep them going.

When I look back on the last year of my life alone, I realize now that I nearly starved myself spiritually. I was so focused on caring for others, some that asked for my help and others that didn’t. Sure, I took an hour or so a week to do something for myself like go for a run or take a walk. But those rare moments merely helped me to figure out my next strategy. They were not moments of self-reflection and spiritual connection. I also felt guilty taking those moments, that thing called Mom guilt kicked-in every time. I was constantly running out of time. I found myself physically and spiritually exhausted on a daily basis, to the extent that I was frequently sick with one cold or stomach bug after another. Here I was in paradise, drained and exhausted day-in and day-out.

So there you have it, the duality of self-care and selflessness. The two are so deeply interdependent, true sustainable selflessness cannot exist without the right amount of self-care. So here I am today, bringing my garden back to life day by day.

SAM_2520

 

Why I Don’t Blog Much Anymore

19 May

Over the past year or so I’ve written at least a hundred or so blogs in my head.  In some cases entire paragraphs have been “written” and I’ve taken handfuls of blog worthy photos from so many different big and little adventures we’ve been on. I’ve got a dozen new stories to share from Kai’s Adventures in Mexico City, Tapanti, La Paz, and many more. But at the end of the day, none of these stories have made their way onto the blog.  Why? 

Well it’s actually really simple, time. I don’t have time to blog much. Sure, I could spend some of the time I take out of my day walking the dogs at the crack of dawn or the little bit of extra time I spend cooking a healthy meal for my family. But when I ask myself, the answer is always no.  Those moments of my day are just not worth the sacrifice.  Not to mention, the thought of taking time away from my son to blog does not even cross my mind.

I’ve also been very busy… to say the least. We just completed a highly complex and stressful 3,000 mile move, which I had been planning to “document” on this blog and hopefully will recount at some point.  Since we’ve moved, its been a process getting settled, fixing our house, buying cars, getting insurance, helping my father find a place, and the list goes on and on and on. Oh and I started back working just a week after the move.  Needless to say, any “free” time I do find I dedicate it to spending quality time with my family, especially Kai who is growing like a weed, get some down time, and if life permits I try my best to find 30-45 minutes in my day to go for a run.

I become more and more aware of the concept of time every day.  I’ve mentioned it before, but time is the one thing you can’t get back… it is the most precious commodity.  Nearly everyday I have these moments when I just wish that I could press “pause” and freeze time to savor all the little nuances and intricacies of being with Kai at each of his stages and phases of growth. Listening to him sing with true passion.  Watching him dance, and dancing along with him.  Experiencing his excitement over umbrellas and rain coats.  Playing in the dirt while planting a new gardenia for our patio together.  Painting turtles and trees for his Aunt Kristy and Padrino.  Seeing the wonder in his eyes the first time he sees tadpoles.  These are moments I can never get back.  And that is why I don’t blog much anymore.  Maybe someday I will have the time to blog again, but for now I am going to live in the moment and savor these days that I will never get back.

Baby Culinaire

3 Oct

This is by far one of my more domesticated blogs but egh it is related to one of my favorite topics to write about – FOOD.  And cooking, because I do love to cook.  Over the past month we have started our little guy (at 6 months) on solids and it has been an adventure for us as much as it is for him.  I read a lot about different ways to introduce solids and researched all our options in terms of baby foods.  I really like the concept of “Baby Led Weaning“.  This is where there are no puree or spoon feeding, you simply give the baby a piece of food and let them feed themselves.  Also, I’m not entirely thinking of this whole food adventure as about “weaning” in the first place.  We have a perfectly happy and healthy breastfeeding relationship and I do not see it ending anytime soon.  I should mention that I do work outside the home and pump milk for my little guy every day.  The other thing with starting solids is that I really don’t like the whole baby cereal (mostly rice) bull shit that industrial food companies market so heavily.  Why?  It’s very simple – babies can’t digest grains until they are around 1-year-old when their bodies start to produce an enzyme called amylase which is responsible for splitting starches.  Furthermore, most of the baby rice cereal is found to contain the toxin Arsenic.  I could write a manifesto about why to ditch baby cereal (and formula) but I won’t bore you.  For more on ditching baby cereal check out the Food Renegade – as for the benefits of breastfeeding (and perils of formula) just google it.

Back to the good stuff – so while I like the concept of baby led weaning, I also like to give my little guy the opportunity to try more foods that aren’t conducive to giving him in pieces (e.g, roasted pumpkin, peas, and kale) which is why we are going the “hybrid” route with baby led weaning.  I also stay far away from pre-packaged and processed (shelf-stable) foods for myself and my family.  Pretty much the only things I buy that are pre-packaged are canned beans, pasta, tuna, and bread.  I won’t even buy a package of pre-made tortillas if they have preservatives.  We get most of our food through a Community Support Agriculture (Earth Spring Farm), the local Farmers Market, and the rest comes from a local grocery store (yes, we are one of THOSE families that shops at Whole Foods).  Now, this made it tricky to find baby food since nearly all of it sold in the stores is heavily processed and pre-packaged.   There appears to be one decent line of organic and “safe” baby food – Plum Organics.  But it still seems as though the food is too far removed from the source for me to be entirely comfortable with it, though we will likely give it a try one of these days.  And that is where my adventure began in cooking for baby.

Now, I am a working mom with very little time on my hands so I have had to come-up with some creative ways to cook for baby without consuming the little bit of time I do have with my little guy.  That is exactly what I am sharing with you today.  While making baby food, may seem like an easy and obvious thing to do – it is – there are some neat tricks interspersed here that may give you the edge to give it a try for your baby (present or future).

The other night I was cooking herb roasted sweet potatoes and sautéed garlic green beans for my husband and I for dinner.  While baby is not quite ready to indulge in the deliciousness of my herb sweet potatoes or garlicky beans, I was able to cook him a bit on the side.  This helped reduce my time spent making “special” food for the baby.

First, start by peeling one extra small sweet potato and rinsed it well.

Partially peeled sweet potato

Washing Sweet Potato

Next, I cut the sweet potato into small chunks and then I leave a few pieces in matchstick or wedge shape.  These larger pieces are for my little guy to be able to easily grab with his hands.  Then I take a small handful of green beans (I used 8 green beans to make 4 baby servings) and cut them into medium-sized pieces.

Cutting up sweet potato and green beans

Once they are all properly cut-up, arrange them nicely into a basic steamer basket in a small pot with some water (filtered if living in the city) in the bottom.  Put a cover on the pot and let steam for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes and beans are tender (test with a fork) but not just falling to pieces.  In fact I like my beans still slightly crisp.

Cooking potatoes and beans

Next up is prepping them for baby. Be sure to set aside the larger pieces of cooked sweet potato and green bean so that you can give them to your baby to play with during meal time.

Take some of the sweet potato and begin to mash it up.  I use one of these mash and serve bowls, which I find really easy to use and they are inexpensive.  Add drops of breastmilk (or formula or water if you don’t have breastmilk) to the bowl as you mash so that it gets to a nice consistency like you see below.

Mashing Sweet Potato

Mashed Puree of Sweet Potato

And voila!  Mashed sweet potato is ready for baby!  Now, if you are making extra to freeze some of it, I don’t recommend adding the breastmilk while mashing.  Instead, just mash it up adding just a few drops of water and freezing it as is.  Then, you’d want to add the breastmilk once its de-thawed, just before serving.

Now for the green beans.  Place the green bean pieces into a blender, hand blender, food processor, or mini-prep – whatever you already have – with just a little bit of the cooking water and blend it for a few seconds until it reaches a nice consistency (see below).  Moral of the story is that you do not need to go out to buy anything fancy to make baby food.  I personally use a Cuisinart Mini Prep, which I’ve had for years and I love it.  I use it to make pesto, homemade pasta sauce, enchilada sauce, almond cream for quinoa porridge, and now lots of baby food!

GB_Prep

Once you are done with your green bean puree and mashed sweet potato, you can freeze them in portion size servings.  This is an easy way to make multiple meals in advance.  Regular ice cube trays work great to freeze baby food but I personally love the Beaba Multiportion Freezer Trays, which I only have because I got them as a shower gift from my mom.

Baby Food ready for freezer

And that is really all there is to making baby food.  As I mentioned, I always do this at the same time I am cooking for my husband and I to make life easier and to save time.  I have done similar things with pumpkin, carrots, apple, butternut squash, and sweet peas.  All of which he loves.  I sometimes combine foods too, to make it more fun.  Some of his favorite combos so far (at 7 months) – Pumpkin & Banana, Carrot & Apple, and Sweet Peas with Banana.  Those foods aside, we also give him raw foods, which he loves.  Avocado was his first food (and is still his favorite), which we do daily in both chunks for him to feed himself and mashed-up with a little breastmilk.  He also likes eating hunks of watermelon and banana.  Just today I was snacking on a sliced-up honey crisp apple and he helped himself to a slice while we were playing, which he also loved.

Have fun cooking for your baby (ies)!  And when you do, please share your recipes and stories.  🙂

Conundrums of a Modern Woman

8 Sep

I could not be happier – at so many levels and in so many aspects of my life.  Does it mean that my life is easy?  Absolutely not.  Just the opposite in fact.  But in reality the challenge of my everyday life is something I find deeply fulfilling.  I’ve been thinking a lot about where I am today – actually, where we are are today – and where we will be 1, 3, 5 years from now.  The answer is that I just don’t know.

We are very happy in our urban DC life.  It’s a rat race of sorts with a career tangled-up in posturing, politics, and power – in no particular order.  But a career, a mission, that I am very passionate about.  Did I mention that I am passionate about my career?  Oh yes I am passionate about my career.  I am very grateful for my career, and it also something I have worked incredibly hard for.  Throwing my entire self – heart, head, and soul – for a good part of the time.  I guess you could say, I’ve been “leaning in” for the past 10 years.  I’m afraid to write down the list of “things I’ve done”  in the past ten years because it is far more than I ever dreamed.  I’ve broken down stereotypes and broken through the taboos and glass ceiling of women in leadership. Most importantly, I know that what I do every day helps to make life better for millions of people.  Being a part of that kind of positive change is what makes me tick.

I think back on the stories that my grandmother shared with me about how she attempted to work outside of the home after her children were all in school.  Her work was a “secret” kept from the family, since it was unheard of and considered unacceptable.  A married woman with children, having a few hours of independence at a job.  I just can’t imagine.  When my grandfather found out, that was the end of that job.  Though he did offer for her to work with him in his business.  Not quite the same, but still considered acceptable.  Now for the record, I am not negative towards my grandfather regarding this in any way.  He was a very loving and involved father and husband, and he and my grandmother lived a great life together.   But in the 1950s and 1960s, it simply was not status quo for a wife and mother from the upper middle class to work outside the home.  I must say, I am forever grateful for my mother, grandmother, and all the generations of women that came before me.  They paved the way for modern women.  From voting rights to equal pay to women in leadership and politics.  We have come a long way, and we still have a much farther to go!

Here I am in 2013 – a passionately loving mother and wife – and a passionate and successful professional woman. And I am torn.  After 10 years of building a successful and satisfying career in the epicenter of World Politics I am questioning how much longer I want to continue down this road.  Six months ago I started writing the next (of many) chapters in our life with Kai, and this has brought forth in my mind so many other things I’d like to do in my life with Kai and Keylor.  But most importantly I’ve come to realize I am passionate about being a mom.  Oh yes I am very passionate about being a mom.  While I am so very grateful that I have the opportunity to do both – be a mom and pursue my career – I’ve come to realize that I really want to spend more time being a mom and less time in my professional career.  It’s a hard reality, especially when you are satisfied in the present moment.  But I dream about all of the other aspects of life – as a mom – that I have yet to fully uncover my passions for…

  • Living Closer to the Earth
    I love gardening and farming.  And for me part of being a mom is also about living close to the earth.  Guiding my children in seeing nature through the birds, bees, worms, and spiders.  Harvesting squash and fresh herbs – and with my children in the kitchen transforming them into dinner’s delight.  Living closer to the earth is at the core of my being – and in my being a mom.
  • Singing & Laughing More
    I spend more time singing now than I have in my whole life.  I sign nursery rhymes and make-up new songs everyday.  But I still need to sing and laugh more.  One thing I learned at Moon Garden that has stayed with me is about the importance of daily rhythms and singing to your babies.  Babies (and children) benefit greatly from the establishment of daily rhythms and through living gentle household rhythms.  Rhythms should not be confused with a schedule.  And further, by passing through those rhythms with song.  I yearn to establish more gentle rhythms and create more song.
  • Nurturing Life
    Our home is filled with life.  Between three cats, 1 dog, and a beautiful baby Kai – there is so much life and love to go around.  And we take in others when the stars align as so.  We are passionate about nurturing life.  And I want to dedicate more hours in my day to nurturing my child(ren) and every aspect of our life together.  This is not new for me and this one comes back to #1 – Living Closer to the Earth.  For me nurturing life also means growing healthy organic vegetables on the farm, raising egg laying ducks, and milk producing goats.  For me it is about teaching our child(ren) how to nurture life by living closer to the earth.
  • Strengthening a Community
    We’ve built a strong sense of community here in the DC area.  I love our friends here and they are like family.  Still I yearn for our child(ren) to grow up in a more tight knit community, one that they feel a sense of responsibility and that the community feels equally responsible for them.  The type of community where young people are empowered to be a part of leadership, where traditional culture coexists with modern, and where everyone is a part of making each others lives fuller.

There you have it, my dream list of some of the “things I still want to do” as a mom to sweet Kai. So much more in life has yet to come. I don’t know exactly when or exactly where this journey will take us but I can tell that it’s likely to take us on a new adventure sometime in the foreseeable future.  And with that – Goodnight.

A Love Letter

26 Apr

Life is a journey. Over the past couple of years I’ve written mostly about my journey throughout life, globe hopping to all these neat untrodden little niches in the World. I’ve recently begun the next diversion in my journey, and this time its not about the physical or geographic ‘places’ I am going that defines my present journey. I recently became a mother.

As we’ve all heard before, “children are our greatest teachers”. I hadn’t really internalized what that exactly means until I was about 34 weeks pregnant and then really when I birthed my baby boy just 8 weeks ago. I don’t really know what my child(ren) will teach me, I only know what I’ve only begun learning. There are a few life lessons that he has already begun teaching me and that I will share with you through a series of posts over the next several months.

Before I get started on that, I wanted to begin with a letter that I started to compose for my son just a couple of weeks after he was born. I have waffled on how to go about keeping a diary for him. I acquired a paper journal and attempted to write to him but the words just didn’t flow from the pencil as smoothly as they do on the keyboard. So I started a folder of word documents as a “diary”. And in the end I’ve decided to use this blog as the medium for my diary to Kai. The relationship between a mother and a child is an intimate one and I debated whether or not I should share it with the world, but really it is one of the most beautiful aspects of being human and if the intimate journey I share with my son can inspire just a little something in someone else – or even do so much as make someone smile – then I know I have done right by sharing it with the World. I may not ALWAYS post blogs that comprise my diary to Kai but from time to time I will, and likely most of what I write over then next year will largely be characterized by him and my journey as a new mother. I hope you enjoy the ride with ‘us’!

Color image of sweet baby Kai

Dear sweet baby Kai,
I write this on the day that you turned just four weeks old – and have come back to finish it on the day you turned just eight weeks old. Over the past several months I have “written” hundreds of letters to you but this one has finally gotten my physical fingers on the keyboard. I have so many things I want to share with you and I am so very grateful that we have a lifetime to share together.

You are the child I have wanted and dreamt about my whole life. You are the baby that your father and I have daydreamed about having together for the past 9 years. You are beautiful in every way. You are perfect in my eyes. The moment I felt the crown of your head and your hair as you came through the birth canal, I knew I’d be forever in love with you. When you were brought up onto my chest with the umbilical cord still pulsing I was so overcome with happiness… words can’t give justice to the vastness of emotions and love that I felt at that moment and that I know will be with me forever now that you are a part of my life. To have felt you skin on skin the moment you were born was so incredible. Today I held you in my arms skin on skin and felt completely fulfilled and content – and you were just so happy drinking warm sweet milk, that moment could have lasted forever. I love you.

You came into this world with your eyes wide open and your voice being heard. The world is a magical place – sweet, beautiful, sour, and scary albeit. You will need to use your third eye, intuition, to survive and also to realize all that you desire to become. You will need to use your strong voice as you actively work to make way for a better, more just and equitable, humanity. I am already proud of you regardless of all you’re yet to share with the world in a lifetime. I love you.

Your father and I have so many little dreams of the things we will do together and share with you. You make our life complete in a way I never could have imagined. We can’t wait to play with you in the front yard at our home in Costa Rica, play with the butterflies and show you the hummingbirds and toucans around the yard. We will dig into the Earth together in our gardens here in DC and at our other home in Costa Rica. We will smell and taste the Earth together. We will sow seeds together, and we will nurture them into fresh organic foods. We will cultivate harmony and balance. I love you sweet Kai.

I can’t wait for you to interact, engage with, other babies and children – as we can show you the way to kindness. We are already sharing with you our kindness – and both your Nanna and Grandpa have shared their love and kindness with you. We could see how deeply you already trusted them in your first moments in their arms. You already have a special bond with both your Nanna and Grandpa that will last a lifetime. They could not have been any happier, for them becoming grandparents is a new diversion in their life’s journey as well. And your Great Nanna just can’t wait to hold you in her arms! Just a couple more weeks!

We can’t wait to take you to the beach for the first time, put your gorgeous little toes in the soft sand and introduce you to the ocean, tropical palms, and almond trees that surround the sea. We can’t wait for you to meet your Abuela Lissette, for her to give you all her love… which she can hardly contain when we video call Costa Rica. You have a very proud and incredibly loving Abuela – and family – waiting for you a few thousand miles away. I love you sweet Kai.

There are also so many moments we can’t wait to share with you in the United States, here in DC and elsewhere. Your daddy is itching to get you on the soccer field and teach you all he knows, there is already a soccer ball waiting for you! Everyday we talk about all the adventures you two will have together over the next year, and beyond of course. Reading stories, learning to smile, laugh, and play. Learning the ways of gentle play. Cultivating kindness with the other babies at Moon Garden. Infancy is heaven on Earth sweet Kai. I love you.

We are so deeply grateful that we have the means and opportunity for you to spend the next year with your daddy during the day, it is just so amazing and I couldn’t be happier. I promise to give you my undivided attention when I am at home in the morning, evenings, and weekends. Our time together is so very precious and I feel so much joy in giving you my love. My greatest promise to you is to give and teach you love, kindness, and peace.

I love you sweet Kai, forever and with all of my heart.
Your Mama

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: