Parenting with Positivity

A few years ago I read a book called the Celestine prophecy. It changed my entire outlook on life and made me realize what a profound effect we can have on people in simple day to day interactions. There is the notion that one smile can change someone’s whole day. I believe in this wholeheartedly. Holding a door, giving a compliment, exchanging a joke… With a friend, a stranger or a loved one… The positive energy radiates and effects everyone involved. The basic idea in this book is that everyone has an aura and is energy based. Negative interactions will take your energy away and drain you. Positive interactions will boost your aura. There is a strong tie to nature and becoming enlightened to draw energy from the beauty in the world. This all seems like common sense, but sadly, it is often overlooked. People start bullying to take others energy for themselves or ignore people out of fear and lose out on what could have been a life changing experience. I could go on about the amazing points that this book touches on but I want to drill down on what it and my experiences have taught me about parenting.
As parents, we can bully, yell, threaten and demean when we are frustrated. I’ve done it.. I’m not proud of it, but with three young ones, I will be the first to admit I have lost my cool more than once. The guilt is awful and brings me down. My aura dies a little and exhausts me even more than chasing three kids around does. If that’s how I feel, I can only imagine how my babies feel. I should be the #1 person in their life making them feel good and bringing their aura to its maximum potential. The more I get upset, the more they cry and rebel. Kids are built to challenge but the question is, how do we take the challenge and turn it around into something positive? I have not perfected this, but during really great days with my little ones, I can reflect on what went right and try to replicate it. I’ll list a few ways I have learned to boost good feelings between myself and my children and between them:

1. Affection, smiles, cuddles – during busy days, I try to pause to hug each and tell them I love them. Especially during cranky days – sit on the ground and just hug it out. Having them hug each other is not only freakin adorable but also helps!

2. Go outside – just walk in the grass, stop and look at bugs and plants. Lay in the grass and look at clouds and airplanes. The world is a beautiful place and its good to teach children to appreciate it and what it can do for us. Watching them show each other new discoveries is amazing.

3. Be the bigger person and teach your little ones to do the same – if someone hits, don’t hit back to show them it hurts and don’t let siblings and friends do this to each other. There is no place for revenge and getting even on any level. Be firm and calm. I’ve found comforting the one that was hit and ignoring the nasty deed is the most effective.

4. Eat, sleep and stay centered yourself – a tired, hungry and overwhelmed person is not a good parent. Take a break if you need one and make a little time for activities that keep you sane. When you exude positive energy, your children pick up on it and are much better behaved little people.

5. Let them feel in control when it’s safe to do so – little things like letting them put something away for me when I could do it 10x faster or letting Olivia drink out of a real glass when I know she could very well shatter it… When they feel like you trust them, it brings them up. The other day, I realized, I could cook an entire meal successfully, just by explaining everything I was doing and why. It took a lot longer, but all three were captivated all because I was giving up some of my control by letting them in.

6. Lastly and most importantly: Let their mistakes go and play up their successes – the best example I have for this is during one dance class when Olivia was having a meltdown. I was embarrassed and tried to guilt her into getting up and performing. I got upset and brought her down by giving ultimatums. Obviously, nothing good came of this. Parenting Fail. The following week, all I did was praise her. Everything she did I gave her smiles and thumbs up and told her how awesome she was. I took her to get a balloon and cookie after class. A few weeks of this and she was on stage all smiles and full of confidence. Now it crosses over into all of her activities. She finds my face and gives me the thumbs up and often reiterates her strengths and successes. I see her excelling and in return my efforts have boosted my own aura. If you tell anyone they can’t do something or are making a mistake by trying, you are just reflecting your own fear of failure onto them and it directly effects their confidence.

At the end of the day, guide with love and patience and the rest will come. Thanks for reading – We are heading into terrible twos with the twins and I needed this to keep perspective. 🙂

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Dear Grandpa…

There are some people in this world whose simple presence can make an impact on a full room. My grandpa is one of those people. He is the definition of what a man should be: regal, loving, humble, faithful and hardworking. A true gentleman, he commands respect without needing to work for it.  His heart is devoted to his wife and family and he is the glue that keeps our large family together. Today, this great man passed on. Hearing of the different members of our family all over California who stopped their lives to spend the day in honor of him made me realize, even more, how blessed I am to be Salvador Medina’s granddaughter. 

Dear Grandpa,

I sit here thinking of you and I can’t believe how the years have flown by us. It seems like just yesterday I was crawling into bed between you and Grandma when my mom dropped me off to go to work.  I remember how proud I felt to dance on your arm at family functions.  I miss you showing off your peppers and tomatoes from your garden. I wish I had spent more time reading with you from the Readers Digest you kept on the coffee table when I was little. I still can’t figure out how you made cream of wheat taste so good.  I never told anyone but I used to put on your deodorant when I was small so that I would smell like you.   I want you to know that the love you and Grandma share has always inspired me. You both have shown me what real passion and love look like and gave me hope in this critical world that soulmates and happily ever afters are possible.  I will miss the sound of her yelling “viejo” at you and watching her hand rest on your arm with the ease that comes from 60+ years of marriage.

It is emblazed in my memory that day you told me how proud you were of me and my family that I had created. How you had watched me go from a little girl to a woman and a mother… those words meant more than you will ever know.  I am sad that my children will not know you like I did, but I promise to keep your memory present for them so that they know what an amazing man they had for a Great Grandpa.  I explained to Olivia that you were in Heaven now because it was time for God to take care of you.  I, without a doubt, know you are an angel.  There would be nobody better qualified than you Grandpa.  Thank you for being you.

I miss you so much and I will see you in my dreams.

Te amo,

Melissa

 

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Where is the balance in work-life balance?

Becoming a parent has made me realize that Americans are ultimately failing at work-life balance. Yesterday I had the joy of taking my babes to the aquarium. Afterwards, we sat at an ocean side restaurant and enjoyed the sun, the food and the view. It is something that is rare for most working parents… to stop and enjoy the day with your family…. on a Wednesday.

Corporate America has instilled this sense of competition and climbing the ladder of success. Honestly, I think we have failed at defining success. The biggest paycheck, the most reports, the fastest promotion rate… the most market share. What does it all matter? Sure, all that money can buy all of the material comforts known to man. But, what about the other stuff? Sitting in the sun and enjoying the view of your children experiencing the beach and sea life for the first time. Taking the afternoon to volunteer rather than just throwing money at a problem and calling it a day. Discovering a new city with your significant other. When you are on your death bed are you going to remember your highest annual salary or how you got promoted over the next guy? No. And if you think that answer is yes, stop reading now and just go on a vacation and get some perspective. You are going to remember those moments that made you glow with happiness outside of working hours.

Americans have the longest working hours and the least amount of vacation and sick days available. Maternity leave is way too short. There is this notion that the more hours you work, the more dedicated you are and thus the more rewards you deserve. There is a fear of leaving before your boss or of not delivering and losing your job. I recently talked to another Mom who would get snide remarks thrown at her by her coworkers (female I must note) if she started to pack up “early.” Early being 5 or 6pm. To those women, I have a few four letter words. I know people that have taken NO vacation in an entire year. We should be allowed to live life and still be successful enough to sustain our lifestyles. With the uncertainty of pensions and 401K balances, the average age of retirement is getting older and older. It’s terrifying and incredibly sad. Why is our world like this and what can we do to change? For the why, I have no answers. To change, I don’t think we can at a societal level. This culture is so deeply instilled in our everyday interactions that it would take a catastrophic event to shift our thinking. Until that volcano erupts and destroys all of the data centers we have to take it down to a personal level and stop caring so much.

I work part time and this is the closest I can get to having it all. The reality of it is, I will never be able to be a part time manager and I will not get promoted as fast as if I was full time. I knowingly took the cut in hours with this unspoken understanding. I am lucky in that my office and coworkers are incredibly cooperative to the change in my schedule. However, there is this trial period sense to my position. A lot of “if it works out” and “when you decide to go back full time.” Like there is no way I would ever choose the quality time at home over getting my career back on track after this brief stint while my children are young. I actually have no idea what will happen in the next few years on this front, but for now, I just smile and nod. At part time there is this incredible pressure to succeed in not disrupting the fast paced workflow that Silicon Valley is notorious for. In that sense, it is almost more difficult to do well while being evaluated against my full time working peers. I value my career and I do my best for a variety of reasons: my self-esteem, my children’s future and for money to spend creating those amazing moments at the aquarium and on the beach. I care for my coworkers and want our group to succeed, but shipping software is not the focus of my life. I ship software so I can live life.

So, I leave you with this: take the time to live life before life passes you by. Of course, we all can’t quit and buy a beach house in Hawaii and live off of the land. The expectation of having no responsibilities at work is not the expectation I’m trying to set. I am trying to encourage a shift in mindset. Max out your vacation to “stop and smell the roses.” Set expectations at your job where you can and if the woman next to you grabs that promotion before you because you skipped out for a parent-teacher conference, just smile and be happy for her. Shut out the people that are not supportive of your choice to leave at 5pm so that you can make it home to have dinner with your family. If you are a manager, take a minute to think about your workers and their quality of life. It should be part of your job description (it is at Microsoft!) to make sure there is a work-life balance where it is due. I personally, always am counting down the hours when I can pick up my daughter and head home to my twins for a group hug. That hug every evening is much more rewarding than any raise will ever be. 🙂

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From Disney Baby: 10 ways to Keep up with the Messes

This was too useful not to share:

10 Ways to Keep up with the Messes

Enjoy!!

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Tips for the Working Mom

Having a job and raising children is no easy feat.  Here are some tips that help me:

1. Prep the Night Before

I’m totally victim to this. I don’t feel like making lunch for my daughter or prepping dinner for my 6pm return home.  After a marathon work day and getting through the nighttime routine, I just want to plop on the couch and pass out.  This results in rushed, cranky and late mornings.  There are so many easy recipes that you can make ahead and put in the fridge.  I just ask our babysitters to pop those suckers in the oven or start up the crock pot at the appropriate time.   It’s easier for them because they aren’t hunting around for dinner when the twins start trying to climb in their high chairs and it’s easier for me because when I get home my twins are usually fed and my daughter has dinner waiting on the table.  It goes without saying that packing and making lunches the night before = me actually getting time to make myself coffee and brush my teeth. 🙂

2. Get a House Cleaner

I’m lucky that I have the resources to have a cleaner come every two weeks.  I honestly don’t know when I would make the time to really clean the way they do.  It’s good for my kid’s health and good for my sanity.  If you don’t have the funds then do this: whenever anyone asks you what you want for birthdays, Christmas, etc… ask for cleaning vouchers!!!  Or save up and splurge every 3 months or even 6 months for a really deep clean of your house. The other option is to just have them clean the bathrooms, or the kitchen. Whatever you can pull off will be well worth the money to come home to a house that you didn’t clean!!  More time to spend with your adorable babies.

3. Don’t be Afraid to Make Big Changes

I recently went through this dilemma.  I spend a remarkable amount of time and energy getting my Computer Engineering degree.  I have a great job, great benefits and overall am very happy with my career.  The problem is this: the minute I had Olivia, all of that seemed less important than raising my kids myself.  Of course, I had to take into account finances and medical expenses for three babies.  I was not happy with my work/life balance.  I hated being away 10 hours a day for my work day + commute and John’s job is very demanding.  I was scared at first to make a big change and give up the stability I had with my job.  I interviewed at other places just to give me options and actually got other offers that were very appealing.  In the end I realized that it wasn’t my job, it was the little faces that I missed every day.  I decided I would quit cold turkey.  That, for many obvious reasons was terrifying.  But, I had to be willing to take that risk for my happiness and for the happiness of my children.  They were missing me as much as I missed them. LUCKily (and I emphasize LUCK), my managers are AMAZING and were able to put me on part time even though previously it wasn’t really an option.  So far, it has been the perfect balance and already I see a positive change in my relationships with Liv, Ben & Alex.  Anyway, the moral of my story is to investigate every avenue.  If you are not happy, then make a change.  Your happiness will reflect right down to your kids and they will reap the benefits.

4. Be Proud of Your Career

This is a big one.  Your mindset when you go to work will drive how successful you are there and in general.  If you stay positive and take pride in your work, it will be very rewarding.  It is much easier to leave your children day after day if you feel like you are a part of something important.  Your impact as a contributing member of the working world can directly or indirectly affect the future of your babies.  From innovating to change the direction of technology to simply making money in order to get your kids the best education. It all should matter and you should be proud that you have the ability to do what you are doing.  When your children are old enough, they can be proud of you too!

5. Use Online shopping &  Grocery Delivery

Diapers.com & Safeway.com save my life.  I meal plan and it takes me about 30 minutes to order groceries on the iPad. You can shop sales and use coupons just as you would in the store.  Sometimes, it’s easier to compare products from the comfort of your couch as the children are snoring away upstairs.  MUCH easier, than trying to drag three kids through a store.  Diapers.com is amazing.  I find that it’s a little more expensive, but if you keep an eye out they have sales where you can stock up on things.  Shipping is usually free, and it comes within a day or two.  They also have a partner company Soap.com where you can order household items.  I use Amazon all of the time as well for odds and ends.  I signed up for the PRIME membership for free shipping and have ordered everything from curtains for our new house to all of the kid’s Christmas presents. My Mom jokes that I keep FedEx in business.

6. Don’t Judge and Ignore Judgment

There is a silent battlefield in the land of Motherhood.  On one side are the stay at home Mom’s and on the other are working Moms.  SAH Mom’s don’t have enough ambition and working Mom’s don’t love their children enough to stay home.  It’s a lose, lose. I don’t get it!  Every family is different, every child is different.  I’ll say this once, and I hope you take it to heart: Everyone has their reasons for doing what they are doing  It’s not your place to decide if they are living their life right or wrong.  No one is perfect, so before you cast stones, check out your own glass house.  And if you ever feel judged, be the bigger person; smile, nod and know you are doing your best.

7 . Let the little things go

There is no way you can do it all.  Let some things go! If you never get to hang up your clothes, so be it.  If 3 days out of the week, your meals come from the freezer, it’s OK.  Pick and choose your battles.  You don’t have to be the perfect housewife and the successful career woman.

8. Take Care of Yourself

This is my final and most important tip that I need to remember to follow myself.  Sleep, eat and take breaks.  This goes for ANY Mom, not just working.  Around Christmas when things were getting crazy and everyone was sick, I was about to lose it.  I called in the troops to watch the kids and took a day.  I walked around the mall and saw a movie by myself.  Don’t feel guilty to do whatever you need to do to unwind every once in a while!

I hope this helps… I know it’s tough, but keep up the good work 🙂

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First Time Mama Trauma

No matter what your circumstances, there is no way to be completely prepared for how a new baby will change your life & lifestyle if you are a first time parent. I remember as John & I were anticipating the birth of Olivia, we would often talk about the things that we didn’t want to change about our lives… we still wanted to see our friends, go out on the weekends sometimes… I mean, how hard could it be? It was just one little baby.

Boy were we wrong.

I read the books, bought the stuff, set up the nursery… but the moment where you and your baby daddy go from a couple to a family of 3 is easily one of the most life altering. All of a sudden you are responsible for a whole little person… one second she is in your tummy, safe and warm… the next, she’s out in the cruel world with you as her strongest advocate. The first few days in the hospital are “easy” as you can trust the nurses to help you do your job. Then, you bring the little one home and it hits you: panic, anxiety, excitement, fear… however, your feelings at that moment are about to be overtaken by exhaustion for the next six months. What I realized was that no one had warned me about all of this. People have babies every day, yet not one person accurately depicted what my life would to turn into for the first months of parenthood. Maybe I am naïve and all of this was supposed to be common knowledge. I didn’t have many friends with kids and the people that did have children, probably didn’t want to revive those memories as they were just too painful. My theory anyway, Ha. Here is the truth from my lips: IT IS HARD. REALLY HARD. With my hormones all over the place, I just focused on getting to the end of the day. I could easily see how many Moms slip into postpartum depression, feeling too guilty to speak up. Don’t get me wrong, becoming a Mommy is a miracle and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. However, the reality of the first few months is this: a marathon of diaper changing, feeding, and rocking to sleep. Add onto that, if you are lucky like me, a whole lot of crying. It’s mind numbingly draining.

Olivia came out screaming and didn’t stop for the first 9 months. She had reflux and a temperament that could awake the dead. For those of you with angel babies who slept 12 hours a night after the first week, I hate you. (I don’t really now, but back then in the midst of my transition to Olivia’s Mommy, I definitely would have hated you. LOL.) I breastfed Olivia for the first 10 months. With her reflux, her schedule was all over the place and I could never tell if she was screaming because she was hungry or because she wanted to drink something to lull the burning in her throat. I was afraid to go anywhere public because she would lash out at the drop of a hat. I remember meeting my Mom for lunch once and booking it out of there the minute she opened her eyes. No way was I risking a public meltdown. She was LOUD (still is, but now she sings Disney Princess Songs which are much more pleasant) and once she started crying it took at least a half hour to calm her down. She slept on my chest most of the time. I gave up on housework, on cooking and just focused on getting through the day, hour by hour. I watched a lot of movies… let her fall asleep wherever and whenever. I was at her mercy. We had a ton of family to help, but I was the only one with the boobs and I remember being very protective of her. I call it the Momma Lion syndrome. MINE. (With the twins, by the time I had them home, it was much different. I sent out a plea… ANYONE with two arms and a heart, please come rock and love my children. Help!!) Anyway, it was very overwhelming.

Besides attempting to keep my sanity as a sleep deprived new Mom, the most testing part of all of it was resolving who I was, with who I was becoming. Olivia was born in December. I remember vividly, John & myself going out on a date night for Valentine’s Day at a trendy restaurant that we had previously frequented as partygoers. We were both in shock. We could only eat, stare around at a crowd where we used to fit in and return home to our little bundle of … JOY. (I’ll keep it at that just in case she reads this later in life.) Maybe it was because of her reflux, or the fact that I was tied down breastfeeding, or maybe that I had such a dramatic change in lifestyle. But, for some reason it was very tough for me to try to find my place in the world that was still moving forward without me. People’s lives went on while I was stuck at home most of the time. I watched as old friends went places we used to go and stopped including us in invites after a while. When I did join, it was like I was from another planet with little to contribute to the conversation. “Oh well, yesterday I pumped 6 ounces from one boob!!! It was a record!!” Yea… no one wants to hear about that. I’m pretty sure I made an awkward comment just like that here and there and scared some people.

The good news is, it’s over quickly. I think once you see the first real smile that you know isn’t gas and hear that first infectious baby giggle, then you know you are starting to see the light. For all you first time parents out there, the first months are just a speck in the timeline of parenthood. When you are in the middle of it, it’s difficult to see a way out. It gets easier in most ways, and harder in many others. I promise, you will get to a point where you remember who you are and have reconciled yourself with your Mommy identity. You will reconnect with friends and find new ones. Sleep deprivation will never fully cease, but definitely will improve. The second time around (even with twins!) was significantly easier in the sense that my mindset was in the right place for the challenge. Recently, John & I went back to that same restaurant where we went that first Valentine’s Day after Olivia was born… we drank sangria, ate too much and headed home eagerly to see the kiddos who greeted us with huge smiles on their faces. Thank God.

Here is one of the first pictures of my adorable little bundle of “joy.” 🙂 Love you Livie!!!
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Easy Indoor Solutions for Keeping your Toddler Busy

I have recently gone from a full time working Mom to a part time working Mom. It is a glorious two days “off”. No lunches to pack, no commute or kids to drop off and some extra time to get odds & ends done around the house. Sounds serene… Then there’s the fact that I have two 1 year olds and one 3 year old… we aren’t very mobile and I’m not brave enough to go anywhere with all three of them except for the gated park. So, what do we do all day??? Plus, these days the weather has been no good to go to the park. They get sick of most of their toys and we all are subject to cabin fever. Here are a few of the tried & true activities that will always make them smile:

Curtain Peekaboo: We have floor length curtains. It’s amazing how much fun we have running from one to the next hiding and playing peekaboo. You can also do it with a sheet tent on the floor.

Kitchen Band: Pull out all of the utensils, pots, pans and bowls you have in your kitchen. Let them explore each for a while… when they get bored, show them how to make noise with each. Hit different objects to make different kinds of sounds. Not recommended if you have a headache!!

Dance Breaks: When I notice they are starting to get ants in their pants, I turn on some music. I have made a playlist on Spotify of some upbeat kid’s songs. I dance around, they dance around. They are too young to judge my silly moves. I remember my 5th grade teacher used to have dance breaks with us after a long, boring lesson. It was awesome then and it’s awesome now!

Melissa & Doug Magnet Puzzles
They love these. It’s one of the only toy that keeps them occupied every day for more than 5-10mins. I make them round robin with the little magnet and it helps them learn how to share and take turns.  There are a bunch of different kinds to choose from on Amazon.

Mommy Workout: I have not seen the inside of the gym in about 3 years now. Yet, my arms are toned. This is why: I throw them, put them on my legs in the air and do sit-ups, crawl around with them on my back, etc, etc… You can really make anything up!

Little Tikes Pillow Racers:
They got one of these for Christmas and we had to buy a second since it was in such high demand.  They take turns as I push them around on it. I’ve also tied them together and taken them on a “train ride” around the house.

Happy Birthday!: I bought some trick candles that relight themselves. The kids LOVE them! After every meal, while they are still safely in their seats, we sing Happy Birthday and give everyone a chance to blow out the candle. Olivia LOVES waiting for the trick candle to magically relight. On any given day, we have sang Happy Birthday at least 10-20 times. 

Bubbles: Cheap, easy and fun. If you blow them inside, make sure you wipe the floor afterward to avoid slippage!

The key is to stay creative and engage. Sometimes, if you just let the kids explore, they will find something new on their own… it is then your job to expand and make it into a fun activity or game!  I find that anytime I try to set up some elaborate activity, they are over it before it has even begun.

The other piece of important advice I can give is to not stress about cleaning up or doing chores during non-napping hours. Of course, tidying up here and there is necessary; however, young toddlers are dying for your attention. Most of the time they misbehave, or act out, it is because they are trying to get that attention back on them. In about 10 years, when they are slamming the door in my face because they want alone time, I will be glad I left my house messy in order to wrestle around on the floor with them.

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