On making the world a better place

I just sat and read through 18 Girl Scout Gold Award projects, and as I was reading about the incredible work that these high school girls accomplished, I had a thought.

Why do we not focus on all of the great work that’s happening in our community?

Why don’t we rally around change makers and positivity? Why are we so focused on inciting rage and throwing blame and negativity?

It’s no secret that I find the state of our community to be disturbing. Gun violence haunts us, there’s mounting tensions with many of our international allies and people are more divided than ever.

How did we get here? To a place where you can’t have conversations without insults and anger?

I think it’s because we allow ourselves to be permeated by negativity. We create silos and people who don’t look like us and think like us and act like us are viewed as the enemy. Or we look to what others are doing and use that to further a sense of self-hatred as a country. That’s heartbreaking to me.

I wonder if we focused instead on the positive community impacts from those around us, if we would start to break down those barriers. To see that even those who are different than us share the same values. And maybe then we can have civil, productive conversations that lead to a better world for all of us, instead of hatred and anger.

When I see what these girls are doing, just in my community, it gives me hope. Middle Schoolers and High Schoolers aren’t sitting and playing the victim game. They are standing up and taking action in a thoughtful, community-oriented way. And I can’t help but think that maybe we aren’t so bad off after all.

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What can happen in a decade?

I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. One of the things I really like about it is the On This Day feature, and today reinforced that.

You see, 10 years ago today I graduated with my Masters, and seeing the pictures of all of us grinning with accomplishment (and exhaustion) in our caps and gowns got me thinking about who I was then, where I am now and all the things in between.

I initially thought, “that couldn’t have been a decade ago! I’m not that old!” But it was. And as I sat in exhaustion, with my tepid cup of coffee looking at those pictures, I started thinking about all the things that have happened.

I traveled. A lot. I explored several countries (Italy, Costa Rica, France, Spain, Canada, Turks & Caicos, Mexico, Cayman Islands,  Jamaica) and states (California, Texas, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Massachusetts, Oregon, Arizona, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, North Carolina, Washington, Tennessee, Illinois, New York and Iowa to name a few). And the experiences of each of these trips fanned the flames of my wanderlust more than the last.

I got married to my best friend in Key West, overlooking the ocean and danced the weekend away with our closest friends and family.

I got my hands dirty and gained so much work experience in non-profits, start-ups and technology organizations. Which helped me launch my freelance career.

I paid off my student loans (and was broke as a joke every month until I got that monkey off my back)

I bought a new car (which is now 8 years old and not paid off)

I started saving for retirement.

I got rejected. A lot.

I kept going.

I uncovered a love for cooking that I never knew I had.

I made amazing friends and connected with great mentors.

I earned my sandan.

And of course we had our twin girls, who are growing, thriving and forcing me to keep up my fitness so that I can chase them all over town while they giggle in delight at my exhaustion.

Not so bad for ten years! I have to say, there are many parts of life that I didn’t expect to happen, but I’m glad I experiences every up and down and twisty windy roads that have led me to where I am today.

Are you ready for a pineapple party?

This is the text that my husband just sent me, totally out of the blue.

It’s Saturday, the kids are napping after a busy morning of swim classes, lunch and running around screaming “auto” because they just got new Wonder Woman cars.

I have so many questions. Like, how many pineapples are about to make my house their home? What inspired the pineapple party? And when is he coming home with said pineapple(s).  Because this mama needs a break with cottage cheese and fresh pineapple.

 

Life lately

I’ve been absent from this space lately. I’ve fallen out of the habit of coming to the spaces that I’ve created for myself.

You see, I always wanted to be a writer. I dreamed of having a quiet, carved out nook where I would peacefully inscribe my thoughts upon paper. Little did I realize that the life of a writer is much more chaotic.

Now that I write for a living (among other things) I’ve become much more realistic about life. Instead of quiet spaces and long focus times, it’s quickly jotting thoughts down and then organizing them later. That’s my style at least. And it works.

What I never realized is when you spend your time writing for someone else, you neglect writing for yourself. And my struggle with reclaiming my own creative space has haunted me throughout the years.

I’m finally starting to come to terms with my own balance. With realizing that living a balanced life doesn’t mean doing every single thing all the time. Balance is about constantly shifting. And right now I’m trying to shift back towards myself. And it’s hard. Especially with a family, with maintaining a place we call home. With creating a life that I consider to be full.

I’m also realizing that it takes patience and prioritization. I’m great at prioritizing things for work, for my house and for my schedule. But not necessarily for myself. And if you know me, you know that patience is a virtue that I’m committed to improving. Let’s face it, I want to be able to do it all and right now. And admitting that it’s not always possible is something I still need to work on.

The Frost Science Museum with Toddlers

Now that my girls are older, mobile and all over the place, I’ve been searching out new experiences to entertain them (and wear them out. Let’s be real, twin toddlers are a handful.) So when my friend asked if we’d join her and her daughter for a play date at the Frost Science Museum in downtown Miami, I jumped on the opportunity.

We had yet to visit the museum because of tales of long lines and crowded rooms, but now that the buzz started to die down, we’ve been itching to go.

Now, I’m usually wary  about taking the girls out to places because they are the quintessential definition of toddlers – they shout when excited, run everywhere and attempt to climb the world. So when our playdate fell on a weekday morning, I figured that at the very worst, there wouldn’t be so many people around to get annoyed.

As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about. The Frost Science Museum is amazingly family-friendly.

We met up with my friend and her daughter in the parking lot and walked up the ramp to the ticketing counter – an open space area with the breeze from Biscayne Bay wafting through. The girls happily kicked their feet in the stroller while leaning out to take in the surroundings.  With tickets in hand, we walked through the buildings, past the 6 elevators and tried to get our bearings.

“How do we get into the museum?” I asked a nearby employee. “You’re already inside,” he politely said. “There are six floors, I recommend you take the elevator to the top and work your way down.”  Oops. I felt a little silly, but I’m sure he’s answered THAT question a hundred times (at least.)

Now that we were inside the museum…

We turned our strollers around and pushed our toddlers towards the elevators. We discarded the employee’s advice and started on the second floor. Catching up with my friend as our girls waved at each other, we walked into an exhibit building. Or tried to, at least. My one beef with the Frost is that the doors have to be pulled open. If you don’t push a stroller then you might not realize what a pain this is.

We pulled the strollers up to an animated short, featuring a kid swimming through the inside of a monster fish. It was well-told, and not nearly as terrifying as it sounds, but my girls started to get antsy.  “Get me OUT of this stroller! I want to run and touch everything,” their body language cried. I glanced over. My friend was in the same boat. Wordlessly, we started moving.

This exhibit was neat, but we didn’t see much. These toddlers needed to run around and explore. So we moved on.

Now we decided to take the employee’s advice.

As we waited for one of the six elevators to arrive, a crowd of school kids joined us. “That’s awesome to see because you know this is a place that welcomes kids,” we remarked to each other.

We hopped on a glass elevator to the top floor. The girls quieted in their stroller, staring at the view. As we walked off, onto the solarium, we got our first glimpse of the aquarium on the fifth floor that Frost is so famous for.

We strolled around the rooftop, taking in views of government cut (surprisingly empty of cruise ships), the solar panels and native vegetation.

That’s cool, but let’s be real. We want to see the aquarium.

So we jetted down the fourth floor (the fifth floor only has classrooms and conference space). As we walked towards the aquarium, we spotted an exhibit called “River of Grass.”  But more importantly, this is made for kids 6 and under.  We swerved over and walked inside. And we almost never left.

We stepped into a small room with pictures of native animals on the walls, and the curator informed us that it was nighttime and immediately picked up large, stuffed flashlights.  Nighttime?

We stepped into the main room and immediately understood. The girls wriggled as I unsnapped them from the stroller and they ran into the center of the darkened room with a projected scene of the Everglades on the floor, wall and ceiling.  The “flashlights,” which were almost the same size as my girls, illuminated all sorts of native Florida wildlife skulking around in the dark. As they walked around the room, the water and grass moved with them as they delightedly yelled “gato” as they spotted the Florida panthers and deer.

Then the night turned to day and the flashlights went away. The sun came out, the palms swayed in the breeze and fish and frogs swam around in the water. Or so it was projected. Our three toddlers had the room almost exclusively to themselves and they ran around, staring at the animals, watching the water move with their feet, sitting on logs (and pushing them around) and giggling as rain drops splattered across the water. I’m not sure how much time we actually spent, but according to the day/night transitions, we were there about a week.

After the River of Grass.

As we wrestled our tiring toddlers back into the strollers, I decided I need a membership to this place. And then we walked outside into the daylight to find a water table overlooking Biscayne Bay. So out went the girls because there’s no way we could keep them away.

The water table was multiple levels and showcased the concept of currents and downstream water flow. But my girls just wanted to grab the animal toys, splash their hands and throw the rubber balls around. At one point I looked over and Emma got sprayed in the face with a bit of water from the breeze and she was smiling with every tooth and then some. The pure joy on that girl’s face was indescribable.

But once we saw eye rubbing start, it was time to head out.

Finally, the famous Frost Aquarium.

If you’ve seen any pictures of Frost, you’ve probably seen pictures by the aquarium. And it’s no surprise. The aquarium is 5 floors and pretty impressive.  On the fourth floor, you see the top of the aquarium, as well as the aviary. You can pet stingrays (no thanks), ogle baby alligators, or scream “PEZ” at gigantic fish swimming around. I’ll let you figure out which of these things my girls did.

As we made our way down to the third floor, we saw more of the aquarium from inside the building. Here we were able to see sharks, barracudas and brightly colored fish darting around the coral reef.  Pretty cool stuff but with three tired toddlers, who were starting to get cranky, we didn’t tarry much.

As we got to the bottom two floors, we found the bottom of the aquarium. A giant blue globe that’s made for pictures. It’s pretty impressive and we had to stop to look before winding down a ramp to the first floor.

The Frost gets it’s Miami on.

On the first floor there’s a dance floor that lights up as you step. Upbeat dance music was playing and once again we let the girls go.  Zoey immediately starting dancing, jumping and running around the floor as Emma gazed at her feet in a mixture of exhaustion and fascination. Harper, my friend’s daughter, ran and danced around the floor. And I wondered how it was possible for that much energy to come out of such tired girls. But then again, who can resist a light up floor and dance music? Come on.

We’ll be back.

This time there was no fight to get the girls back in the stroller. They were spent. And I definitely need a membership. Watching them all play and explore was my favorite part of the entire experience. It more than made up for the ridiculously expensive parking and the annoying door situation.

But as I payed the $16 parking fee, I committed to street parking the next time. Because we absolutely will be back.

 

 

 

Flying with twin toddlers

We did it. We took our first flight with our twin toddlers. I won’t lie – leading up to the trip we were anxious about the flight – what if they cried the whole time? What if everyone around us was going to throw shade? After all, the internet is filled with horror stories of people being hateful and nobody likes sitting next to babies.

It turns out that the flights really weren’t bad. There were a few moments of fussiness but overall the girls were entertained and happy. I attribute this to a combination of my prep and a new environment.

How we keep our twins happy on our 3.5 hour flight

Leading up to our flight to Colorado, I obsessively researched ways to keep babies entertained on planes. I queried my mom groups, my travel groups and my friends. I surfed on Amazon and I quickly realized that there’s a huge, very expensive industry geared towards travel toys.

I was not about to spend $30/per toy per baby just for a flight. That’s absurd. As I was getting ready to head out one day, I noticed that Zoey was playing at my feet with my husband’s toiletry bag. She was hyper focused on unzipping the side pockets and pulling things out. Which gave me an idea, so I headed to Target and raided the dollar section, school supplies and party favors. This is the outcome:

Because we were flying with so much stuff, I wanted something compact. I also wanted things that weren’t going to cost a lot of money in case the girls broke or lost things (inevitable).

I originally was looking for makeup bags, but found that pencil cases were cheaper and had much more fun prints. Inside each case, I put in the following things:

  • 1 Indestructible book
  • 6 soft, shiny poofs
  • 3 Clothes hangers
  • 2 sticky felt letters/numbers
  • Teething toys
  • A koosh ball
  • A plastic spoon
  • Linky loops
  • 2 Balls with suction cups all over
  • Post-it notes

Outside of the bag, I also had a roll of colorful tape that we tore pieces off and stuck to hands, tray tables, etc.

Each item was new (except for the teething toys and linky loops) and had different textures. While they didn’t play with the pouches exclusively, they did enjoy sticking their hands inside and pulling out everything.

The biggest hits were the Koosh balls (they liked pulling the rubbery strings), Post-It notes (all my seat mates were “gifted” Post-It notes on the way there), the clothes pins and the suction cup balls. Noted.

What we ate on the plane

When we booked our flights, we intentionally booked early flights to try to capitalize on naps (for the record, Zoey was way too excited to sleep on the plane on the way there). But I know my babies – they love to eat. Milk was not going to be enough for an almost 4 hour flight, and I didn’t want to rely on crappy plane snacks. So on the way there I packed food for all of us, including:

  • 8 oz bottles of milk for the girls
  • Homemade oatmeal bars with apples and raisins
  • BBQ Turkey meatballs
  • Snack packs of granola for El Hombre and I
  • Baby teething crackers

We gave the girls bottles at takeoff and landing for their ears. As we were flying, we broke off parts of the oatmeal bars for the girls for their breakfast. As we got close to landing, we switched to the BBQ meatballs. This way we had full bellies with real, homemade food. Because full babies are happy babies.

What we learned

Flying with babies isn’t as bad as it seems if you plan in advance. Also, everyone around us was nice and supportive. Several people asked if we needed help, offered to share food, etc. Instead of getting static, we were told lots of stories about our seat mates’ children and their first flying experiences.  I’m sure there were some anti-baby people on that plane, but we didn’t feel any rudeness from anyone.

 

Every day I’m hustlin’

I’ve had my nose to the grind for the past couple weeks. I’ve been writing, editing and planning non-stop. During nap time, after the babies hit the sack, when the sitter is here.

It’s time to rest for now. I’ve just wrapped up a ton of content for one of my projects, I’ve got my action plan in place for another, El Hombre ran out and the kids are still napping. I’m set to finish a ton of work in the next two weeks and then take a break for a week (as much as any freelancer can take a break that is).

Now I’m daydreaming of crisp mountain air, being outside in tolerable heat and exploring. We head to Colorado in two weeks and I’m ready for a change of pace. I’m excited to be outside without feeing smothered by humidity. I’m nervous about two wriggly babies on a 4.5 hour flight.

This is why I freelance… to be able to strike out on adventures when we want to. When you can work from where ever, and whenever it opens up the world. It allows you to meet new people, to forge new relationships (which can lead to more business) and open up your worldview. I never feel more creative than when I get a different perspective and there’s nothing like travel to spark that fire.