Family Trip to Madrid

My husband, Bobby, doesn’t know this, but a couple of years ago he lost his official vote in helping plan what our family does for vacation.  He shouldn’t be surprised, considering the last time he proposed and planned a vacation, THIS happened: 

However, this year, was the year he found redemption.  Since our oldest, Blake, was a baby (almost 9 years) we have been talking about (dreaming about) spending a summer somewhere else and just living life there.  We would talk about it incessantly in private, discussing what would make for the perfect scenario. What cities could work? What scenarios wouldn’t work at all? How old would the kids have to be?  Some of the fundamental conclusions we came to were: 

  • Time: For us it had to be at least two weeks up to one month.  We want to be in another city and really get the feel for what it’s like to live there and we felt this time period would accomplish that.  
  • Kids Age: We wanted our youngest, Tristan, to be at least 4-5.  We wanted to be able to send the kids to camp. We feel more comfortable sending the kids to a new environment knowing they will be able to clearly communicate what had gone on in the day.  Also didn’t want them to be so young that they would forget this experience entirely.
  • Language: the first time we do this (we hope for more), it had to be a place we felt comfortable speaking the language.  English is preferred but it could be Spanish, as we are both fluentish. We definitely wanted to be able to handle any situation that arose. [This really helped us narrow it down.]
  • Camp: There had to be a camp that all three kids could attend and wasn’t too pricey.  I wanted to live somewhere else, not referee my children all day in another city.
  • Work: I can write from anywhere, but Bobby.  Luckily he had started a business that allows him to work remotely from anywhere.  
  • Location:  After an RV I realized real quick that city life, is the life for me. Also we wanted to be able to have access to great food, grocery stores, gyms, and culture.  No offense to smaller cities, but a girl’s gotta eat.

Back to Bobby’s Redemption Story.  This past January, Bobby came home and had found the key to making all of our discussions and dreams come true.  He found a camp the kids could attend in Madrid. This hits two of our requirements.   After all the talks and all of the day-dreaming, it was time to put up. We had never been to Madrid, were we really going to do this? Hell yes! So we booked it! 

It was one of those things that I was so excited for, but also could not believe was happening.  We had three kids, our lives are chaos personified, how was this going to work?  How would our kids take the news?

Our kids were not thrilled. Blake is already old enough to say things like “you’re making me leave my friends for the whole summer?”

Dylan was saying things like “But I don’t want to learn Spanish on my vacation!”

Tristan’s concerns were along the lines of, “how many toys can I bring? But won’t the toys that stay behind miss me?”

We had a few big talks leading up to the departure. Easing nerves about taking such a long flight (their first), about how long we were going to be away, and how it is ok to feel sad or that they are going to miss their friends and family. If you are considering a trip like this, I would definitely have a plan about how to talk to them about it and give them space to express their concerns. As much as this was our dream, we definitely wanted it to be something they could be excited about as well.

It’s hard to believe that we are 14 days into this incredible adventure. The kids transitioned so well! Tristan however has asked to FaceTime his toys, and asks how I think his Colossal T-Rex is doing almost every day.

I’m so happy to share with you some of the details of how we made this happen: 

Camp

We are in Madrid for 4 weeks, and decided to send the kids for the last 3 weeks we would be here.  We spent the first week battling jet lag, and spending time together being tourists. This also let the kids get used to this new city and way of life before sending them to meet all these new people.  The first day they were nervous, but the teachers were all so sweet and patient. My kids literally ran to camp on Day 2 they were so excited to go back. 

The camp we found for the kids is called LAE Kids. It’s run by a lovely woman, Natasha, and she helped guide us through the process.   It’s a family based camp where the emphasis is on fun, immersive Spanish and getting messy whenever possible.   The children are a mix of nationalities from all around the world. We decided on a language camp, because for being children of Cuban descent, our kids could barely string together a sentence in Spanish.  This camp appealed even more because besides learning Spanish, the kids would meet different kids from all over, and do different activities like science experiments, art, and more daily.  

Apartment

After finding the camp, we researched the best areas to stay in Madrid.   Then we took that list and tried to find a place on Air BNB that was walking distance to the camp but still in a good neighborhood.  

The camp also had a relocation department. They recommended a few apartments, but saved us with their extremely helpful advice, FIND AN APARTMENT THAT HAS AC.  I would also suggest an apartment with a washing machine.  

There were some great options (another perk to bigger city).  In a long term rental you also get better pricing, and are able to negotiate somewhat with the owner.  Our rental so far has been amazing. The location is fairly central, and walking distance to a lot of great food and to Parque Retiro which is a park similar to Central Park in New York, and covered in trees making it about 10 degrees cooler than the rest of the city.  

Transportation and Getting Around

A lot of walking is done in this city.  I mean having lived here for two weeks, and seeing the amount of bread that is fed to you at each meal, I get it.  Cigarettes and walking seem to be huge here. Diet of champions. 

  • Walking is a great easy way to get around the city.  For the most part you can find a great restaurant, pharmacy, supermarket, fruit stand, or really anything within walking distance.  If you want to start venturing out, there are so many options here.  
  • Taxi: There are taxi lanes on most major streets, and it has not been difficult at all to grab one when you need it.  They do accept credit cards. 
  • Uber: Uber works and is just around the same price as the taxis. 
  • Subway: we have been using the subway almost daily and the kids love it.  They are in excellent condition, and I would dare even say clean. We had one mishap where we ended up going the wrong way (for a long time), but besides that it’s been really straight-forward and easy to get around with. 

Nantucket Family Vacation

Nantucket is exactly what you see in the pictures. It’s quaint, idyllic, and serene.  There are flowers growing in every corner, each coordinated and hand picked to match the color of the front door.  Each home is made from the same wood which eventually grays, giving each it’s own shape but same nautical aesthetic.  All the homes display a clever name that tends to have something to do with the island or the island’s vibe. There are warm smiles, cool air, and wine flowing

Nantucket is one of those towns that you don’t find litter.  You know what I mean? It is Disney caliber landscaping and upkeep but without any of the crowds.   The island is magical.  It’s as if you arrive on the island, your collar suddenly pops up, you’re drinking wine all day, and saying things like “fabulous darling”.  Ok, that’s just me. Everything minus the popped collar. It just ain’t my style.

I had only heard about Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket growing up.  I would read about it in books or a headline about the Kennedys. I had never been, as Miamians don’t typically go north for the summer. When our best friends invited us to go, I didn’t see how we could pass up the opportunity.  Shout out to our best friends who are the best humans, and truly know how to vacation.

This summer was our second experience in this magical town.  Both trips were jam packed with amazing spots for both families or just some adult time. If you are on the fence about visiting, I would definitely say bucket list worthy.  It’s a little piece of history, but perfectly mixed with modern luxury. Here are a couple of suggestions from a wine guzzling, mom of 3, and self-proclaimed foodie, and keep we did most all of this with our kids:

Galley Beach:  this beach side restaurant is one of my absolute favorite places. You can grab a drink before you dinner reservation, and watch the sunset.  If you have never seen a sun set in Nantucket, this would be the place. Of all the sunsets I have ever seen, I have never quite seen the sky look so picturesque.  Shades of pink and purple fill the sky as you finish your first cocktail, and head in for dinner after all your selfies (obviously). The food here is delicious, and changes seasonally.  They currently accept reservations 28 days in advance. Check it out HERE.    

Children’s Beach: a small sandy beach off the marina with a huge playground attached.  The best part? There is also a huge grass area with picnic tables so you can sit on the grass as you watch your kids run around and not get full of sand [unless you’re one of those parents that like to play with your kids on the playground- no judgement].  There’s a little shop where you can get snacks or you can bring your own. 

Something Natural: A little house, set on a beautiful green open space, and makes the most insane sandwiches.  Think daily fresh baked bread, freshly cut meat, and the best pasta salad- hands down. You can eat there or pick it up to go (take it to Children’s Beach for a picnic).  We have tried a few of the menu sandwiches, and the specials they have daily.  All delicious.  I also dream about their pasta salad, and may take down a container solo at least 3 times each trip.  There is space for the kids to run around, and even a beautiful trail you can take over a lilypond if you’re up to walk off all the bread.

Critter Cruise:  an hour long excursion on the Monomoy where you and the kids capture different kinds of sea creatures and fish, and learn about each before releasing it back into the harbor.  The kids absolutely loved this cruise and the staff and captain were wonderful and were so patient as they taught the kids about each animal. Check it out HERE.          

Jettie’s Beach: Jettie’s is a family favorite.  It’s a casual beach bar and grill on the beach with a mustard, aqua combination out of your Nantucket dreams.  You can have a delicious lobster roll, Bloody Mary and then just spend your afternoon laying on the sand by the water.  We have also been lucky enough to spend a sunset here with a bottle of rose and that afternoon did not suck. An absolute must.

Juice Bar: homemade waffle cones are not something I take lightly.   They have so many different flavors of ice cream, plus cookies and smoothies for those who don’t like ice cream (or soul).  It is worth the line that goes around the block.

Cisco Brewery: Beer and rose on tap, food stands, and live music what else do you need? My daughter would say a Ring Toss, and guess what?! They have one.  We have spent a couple afternoons here, and each time had to drag the kids away screaming and crying to stay.  The vibe is chill and easy.  You can grab some locally sourced seafood or some quesadillas at another stand and just take in the music.  It’s an easy uber ride away.  

The White Elephant: Another Nantucket staple.  It is set on the marina with a beautiful grass area.  In season they set out corn hole and the kids can play and walk around the greenery as you eat and obviously, DRINK.  The food here is not the best on the island, but it does have a great ambiance. There is an aggressively large white elephant here by the water, and if you don’t take a picture by it- did you even go?  

Maria Mitchell Association:  It is a small quaint aquarium, filled with the animals that you found on the Critter Cruise.  It’s just a couple of small tanks, and two rooms with some fish tanks and microscopes, but it has a great staff and the kids get a real hands on experience.  Your paid entrance also brings with it access to Nantucket’s First House Tour and the other museums in town. Across the street there is a coffee place called, The Handlebar Cafe, and it has the most delicious iced coffee and a secret garden for the kids to check out.

 

Bike Ride: To be clear, I did not take a bike ride.  Exercising on vacation is not a thing I have traditionally done.  However my husband and our friend went and rented bikes at, Young’s Bicycle Shop, and took a 14 mile trip down the island.  Even caught some sea turtles on one of the beaches they went to. They used a great app called The Strava App, to help guide them through.

Walk Through Town: This place is so lovely, that you could have a lovely day just by walking through all the cobble stone streets and going in and out of all the shops.  There are no big chains, just small mom and pop stores that have been there for years or newer stores with locally sourced items. My husband picked up a Nantucket Red Sweater at Murray’s.  The kids loved Nantucket Bookworks, and there is a toy store called The Toy Boat that is charming and fun for them to wander around.  Here I am pretending I like to walk around town.

A Few More Restaurants:

The Nautilus: One of the most delicious meals I’ve had in a while.  You can only make a reservation for this one day of, and you do it by standing in line around 11 and hoping you get a seat.  Sounds like a huge pain in the ass, it is, but totally worth it.  The half chicken was so good one of us actually licked the sauce of the plate, and the wine list was also 100%.  This place becomes a little more of a scene with music and people crowding around the bar.  I would not suggest going with kids.

Cru: A gorgeous modern nautical restaurant theme restaurant on the marina.  The food here was out of this world, for both brunch and dinner.  It’s a little sophisticated but still kid friendly (at least for brunch).  The oysters were so fresh, and the fish and chips were stellar. For reservations click HERE

American Seasoning: it’s an older more classic restaurant just outside of the main square. The menu is a little more rustic than the other restaurants we ate at, but delicious.   

Slip 14: Casual spot located off the marina.  Very kid friendly.  The clam chowder was so good, I wouldn’t share it with my husband.  Also the calamari was a sneaky delicious treat. 

Greydon House: a hotel in the middle of town that has been modernized and is absolutely beautiful.  

Windowsills and Corners:  a few of my favorite corners of Nantucket

Lodging:

Both times we visited, we stayed in the home our friends rented for the week. Information available upon request.

There were the loveliest chicest hotels that you could look into if you would prefer:

The White Elephant, The Galley, The Nantucket Hotel, Greydon House, Harborview Nantucket, The Beachside on Nantucket, The Wauwinet, Cliffside Beachclub and more.

Let’s Just Say NO!

Over the weekend we celebrated my daughter, Dylan’s, 7th birthday with a big gymnastics party!   

I made the controversial decision this year to refrain from handing out goody bags to the kids.  Obviously, this did not make me very popular with the children.  I was the anti-Santa. I had so many adorable little 7 year olds coming up at me.  Each one would hug their mommy’s legs, eyes full of hope, voices timid as they said “um hi, Dylan’s mommy, thank you for the party, can I have my goody bag?”  I would gently come down to eye level with each one of their gorgeous little 7 year faces, and with a warm smile say “Nope!”

I wouldn’t go so far as to say I enjoyed saying no.  I’m not a monster. Did I feel guilty about it? Sure didn’t.  Not even a tiny bit. It was a relief.  I had just nailed this party {Yes- I did!}.  I brought in Mickey and Minnie.  I even had Mal from the Descendants pop in as a special surprise.  There was pizza, popcorn chicken, cupcakes, cookies, and all the pirate’s booty you could ever want.  I drew a line in the sand- no goody bags.  

Goody bags? Why do we do this to ourselves?  Do we not have enough going on as parents?! Why are we adding this absurd “to-do” to our lists that are already endless.  We, as parents, should get a goody bags {I mean vodka} for throwing our awesome little assholes parties in the first place.  We are already coordinating and managing all their school schedules, projects, homework, and the like. Plus their after school activities including but not limited to making sure they do not overlap, driving them, carpooling, buying all the required equipment, and coaching fees.  We plan and get dinner on the table. We monitor whether their shoes fit for crying out loud. We have jobs. We have relationships. Agreeing to take on a party is a bold task in the midst of all of this.

If we so lovingly and generously throw them a party, why do we also have to give goody bags full of cheap little garbage to all the kids who attend? Who started that trend?

Am I cheap? Yes! But that is not the point here.  Let’s do the math:

  • I dedicate  $5 p/kid (which is a lot) for the goody bag.  
  • At 40 kids that’s $200 just in goody bags.  This is a lot of money.

What am I getting for $5 to put in each bag-  It’s going to be either a bundle of cheap little plastic toys in line with the theme of the day, or slime or a lego set that you will inevitably step on because it was too small for them to assemble and they got bored.

The only thing worse than paying and assembling the goody bags, is knowing that inevitably you are going to have a few left over and now what are you supposed to do with all of it? Throwing away always seems wasteful, so out of guilt and obligation you keep it.  This, Marie Kondo, is how we end up with a house full of things that spark no joy!

I not only refuse to hand out goody bags to my guests going forward BUT EVEN MORE IMPORTANTLY I request that you do not give my kids goody bags at your party.  

Am I ungrateful? I guess the argument can be made.  However you want to know the dirty truth- when you give my child a goody bag it has the lifespan of however long it remains in my child’s field of vision.  The second I can throw that away without them noticing- it’s gone. Gone! You read that correctly.

Is it because I am extremely eco-friendly? No! But since I had to give up my plastic straw in my iced coffee, I decided to have a zero tolerance policy for plastic crap in our home. 

What are goody bags? Essentially a cheap bundle of  plastic uselessness, all of which manage to spread into all the random areas of my home, and ending with the inevitable stamp to my couch.  You know what I am talking about those cheap stamps that are impossible to remove from a child’s skin without a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.  Don’t get me started on the stickers, mazes, straws, and candy.  I’m throwing it all away. No matter how nice you think it is. Stop being upset with me, you also want to throw out goody bags. Maybe not as quickly as I do, but you throw it all away as soon as you can.

I want us to stand together and agree we can take this off the list for future parties.  Save your money. Save the to-do. When you throw a party you’re not only entertaining my children for a significant amount of time but you are also feeding them.  They’re having a blast! That is the gift to them. It’s a win-win.  We should stand together as parents. No more goody bags. Say it with me NO MORE GOODY BAGS!  

 

Happy Easter

Have you ever wondered how the mystical Easter Bunny came to be? Why each and every Easter you find yourself scouring Target or Walgreens looking for plastic eggs and candy? As if our lives are not busy enough, we have to take these plastic eggs, break them apart, fill them with said candy, and somehow try to get them to snap back together again to hide around the yard? I asked myself these questions typically in a more vulgar way each and every Easter.   Then, one year, something happened and it led me to a rather strong theory.

I grew up Catholic.  What I mean when I say that is, I attended Catholic private school from 5 years old up until 18.  I went to church every Sunday, no questions asked. My grandfather is a Deacon at our church, and he and my grandmother attended Church every day when I was growing up.  He still does.

The Catholic Church had its rules, its beliefs, its stories and each day in class we were given an hour of religion to learn it all.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved it. Being an over achieving, type A, teacher’s pet- I ate this up. I learned all the Bible passages, recited all the prayers, and on holidays like Christmas and Easter I was the first one to put on the very puffy dress and run to mass.  I took everything the nuns, priests, teachers, and my grandfather said as concrete truth, and never ever questioned it. Would not have even thought to question it. It all happened. Facts.

So imagine my surprise as I was having a conversation with my oldest daughter, Blake, a couple of years back.  It was a typical weekday at this point in time they were 5, 4, and 2 ½ . Our house was in total disarray, toy bins were dumped over and no one was wearing pants.  I had just given the kids dinner and most of it was on the floor, and the rest was all over them. Naturally it was bath time. I wrestled the three of them into the bath and started to fill it with water and toys.  

Easter was coming, and the girls were so excited.  Blake especially was ready. She wanted to know all the plans for the weekend, because like a true competitor she wanted to plan her egg hunt strategy.  However the conversation took a strange turn.

“Mommy, why do we celebrate Easter.”

I had this answer down pact.  Walk in the park. I had basically been reciting this for most of my life.  I looked her right in the eyes and said, “Well baby, we are celebrating Jesus, rising from the dead.” {Nailed it.}

“What? Rising from the dead? What do you mean?” She asks so innocently.

“Yes baby.  A long time ago, no one believed Jesus was the son of God, and they killed him.  Then on the third day he rose from the dead and that is why we celebrate Easter.”

There was a long silence as she kind of just stared at me.  As an adult reciting this story, I do see how someone could have doubts about this.  But hey! That’s the story I had, so I gave it to her. I could see her brain working, and she said:

“So… Jesus is a zombie?”

BOOM!

My entire Catholic upbringing flashed before my eyes.  All the crucifixes. All the reading (and sometimes performing) of the Stations of the Cross.  Jesus is a zombie. Zombie Jesus. How did I never catch that? In all the years of hearing this story, how had I not seen it?

Then I brought myself back to my reality a tiny person staring up at me asking again.  “Mommy, is Jesus a zombie?”

I was now a parent of a child who was not in Catholic school (we can talk about this another time) and here she was barely out of Kindergarten questioning the story behind Easter.  What was I supposed to say?  Then it hit me. I looked right at my daughter and completely ignored the question and said, “Blake how excited are you for the egg hunt? Wow where are we going to look for eggs first?”

It all makes sense.  The whole egg hunt thing for Easter.  If parents put candy in plastic eggs and throw it around the backyard, the kids don’t have time to think about the story behind the holiday.  They definitely don’t have time to question it. They just take it as is and rejoice!

Jesus rose from the dead and now there are Kit Kats and Peeps everywhere.  Bravo to the parents who came before. The distraction method. Genius. Happy Easter!

 

Am I Lori Loughlin?

It’s almost impossible at this point to not be aware of the college admissions scandal going on at USC, Yale, Wake Forest and a few other universities.  When the news first broke, I was shocked. I mean the Aunt Becky I knew would never be going to jail.    “Appalled”, “Disgusting”, “Selfish”, and “Entitled” are just some of the words being thrown around at drop off, the girl’s soccer practice, the gym, and anywhere else I find myself.  I didn’t hear a single person defend her. I mean defending her is not exactly possible. I did try to see and understand her point of view. I mean she’s a parent, she’s a mom.

There is this funny phenomenon that has happened {at least to me} in parenting, in where I found myself doing and saying things I never ever thought I would say or do.  My decision making process no longer includes things for myself, but for these three tiny people that I brought into the world. To say that I lose a grip on what is “fair” or “rational” in the midst of a decision that involves my children would be putting it mildly.  In the name of doing what “I think is best” for my children, I have now found that this includes many things that I would not have imagined prior to having kids or being in that scenario.

In all of our own small ways we “Lori Loughlin” our kids’ lives.  How many of us have given extra donations to our place of worship in an attempt to guarantee a spot for our child at the school or class? How many of us have put deposits down at the “best preschools” in an attempt to reserve spots to the detriment of other people who needed to secure a school more desperately than we did?   How many of us have sent gifts in an effort to influence teachers and principals to make sure our kids got the “good” teacher or “gifted” placing? How many of us have put our noses into making sure our kids got the “best” coach or got playing time? How many of us fight and scratch at each other to get the “most sought out” standardized test teacher? Plumped our kids’ resumes?  How many of use or plan to use “legacy” to get them into a prestigious high school or college? How many of us use the side doors available to us?

Where is the line? We are privileged.  We, as a society of privileged parents, create this culture that our kid must be and have the best.  It’s this unspoken philosophy of doing what it takes for our own children, sparing no expense.  Never stopping to think that the price of these decisions are not just monetary there is a social cost, and no one, myself included, likes to think about it that way.

Is this college admissions scandal too far? Absolutely. Should she and the other 33 parents, 9 coaches, and others be punished? Without hesitation, yes. 

The system has punished other parents for doing far less to help their children advance.   Here is the story of a mother, Kelley Williams-Bolar,  who was  arrested and sentenced to jail for 10 days plus 3 years probation on the charge of falsifying her address to get her daughters into a better school district.  Kelley was also sentenced to pay $30,000 in “back tuition” {for a public school}, for the education her children received.  Can you imagine? This woman just wanted to give her children the chance to receive a better education in another district. Perhaps that is where our disgust should be redirected. We are worrying about booking the most elite standardized test teacher, while other people are just trying to get their children something that we take for granted- a great education.  

Following these thoughts, I started to wonder, if I were put in the position to do what Lori did- would I? The truth is- I cannot know.   How could I know? As of right now, my husband did not create a clothing brand found in every Target across the universe, and I was not the famous aunt on a long running syndicated TV show that just got a reboot on Netflix.  It’s impossible to say that I would not have taken the same opportunity she did if all things were the same (all things defined as access and money, both limitless). I’d like to think I wouldn’t do it. I try to think that I would not cross the line and do something I know to be illegal. I would like to think I would let the cards fall where they may and have my kids attend colleges to which they earned admission, on their own merits.  I know most parents with similar access and money do not decide to cheat. I know a lot of parents stress hard work, work ethic, and determination. We definitely do that here in our house.

However, I return to how rational any person can be when making decisions about a child and his/her future.  When a person has the opportunity to do what she thinks is best for her child, and the means to accomplish it- she takes it. Every time. In whatever facets of life that means to her.  

Perhaps this is the reality check we all needed.  To start being more mindful about how we are parenting.  More considerate of others as we make decisions.  Maybe this allows us to see more clearly the chasm-like disparity in opportunity and fairness in our society that we already knew existed.  Maybe, we can start to wonder what we can do to change it.

 

Family Photo Tradition-ish

December is arguably the busiest time of the year for our circus.  We have birthdays, our anniversary, all the holiday parties at school, and my husband caught the flu this year which really just throws your entire universe into a blender.  So in order to really complicate us, I decided to schedule a family photo session a few days before Christmas.

I don’t do family photo sessions as often as I should.  I aim to do it once a year, but realistically it’s been about every other year.  I do it for a few reasons.  First, it’s my favorite way to document how much our kids have grown and changed from one session to the next.  Second, it’s probably the only time I am going to be in a picture with my kids with my hair clean and with makeup.  Finally,  I secretly like to torture the kids and my husband for an hour by having to be dressed like humans who like to smile at a camera.

I was excited this year to work with Christian Arevalo and his amazing wife, Genesis.  I remember seeing a family session they did for a friend of mine on Instagram, and just being blown away.  You just immediately pick up on his vibe. There is so much warmth and beauty in every one of his photos.  If you have not had a chance to check out his work, I would scroll down below or check out his site, HERE

We spoke a couple of weeks before and decided to do the session in our home to help make the kids more at ease.  We both agreed that in-home sessions always bring more heart to the photos.  From the moment they stepped into the house, the kids were taken to them and he just started snapping. 

He gave us some direction to sit on the couch as a family… Then he let the kids be, themselves…

He captured some pretty sweet moments….

And some pretty funny moments…

 

But most importantly it was just us.  He just captured us, and I’m so very grateful. 

Bustamante Circus 2018

11 Years

Memory is a funny thing.  I can barely tell you what I did over the weekend, but I can tell you what I ate for breakfast the day I married my husband, Bobby.  Smoked Salmon and a bagel, but only half the bagel because God forbid I have too many carbs the morning of my wedding (so young and so naive- you’re 23, eat the carb girl!)  

I was so calm that morning, the entire day really.  I remember my mom and sister asking me if everything was ok- and it was probably one of the first times in my life I would say yes and truly, confidently mean it.  Saying yes to marrying Bobby at 23 was the easiest decision of my life and I could not wait to do it. We had sort of known of each other our whole lives (our families were friends), but only really met 5 years before that.  Once we kissed- I was a goner.

Our wedding was perfectly us.  We kept it simple and beautiful with as little pomp and circumstance as possible.  It had most of our families, all our friends, and two cases of tequila that were gone within the first two hours.  We passed around bottles of champagne while “Pasame La Botella” blasted and we danced until 2 AM. It was one of those nights that I still can’t believe we had- let get to say was our wedding.  

Up to this point we had been living a fairy tale.  So when people would say how hard marriage was, and we saw all these divorces- I thought to myself that could never be us.  I didn’t get it. I couldn’t begin comprehend how that could happen to a couple. Our marriage could never be one of those falling apart or out of love situations.  I would think about our 10 year anniversary and plan where we might go to celebrate, because I knew we would make it there.  Not only would we make it there but we would be spilling over in happiness.  But then life happened.

I graduated law school.  We moved. We had a baby. My husband was in the midst of starting up a new company, and money would fluctuate.  We had student loans. We had bills. We fought. We gained weight. We had a second baby. My husband’s company was doing well.  We moved. We had a third baby making it 3- 3 and under. My husband’s business had to tighten up. We had bills. In-laws. We moved.  I got sick and was in hospital for 2 weeks. My husband sold a company. We had bills. We moved. Arguments with families.  We went to many weddings. We had death. So much death, so close together. We had graduations. We lost weight. I got high blood pressure.  We had soccer games. I got a therapist. We made new friends. We hung out with old friends. We traveled. We fought. We went to therapy. We fought more.

Life.  It fucks with you. It takes no mercy.  There we were on the cusp of 10 years, and we had been through so much.  This man that I so clearly knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with that morning 10 years prior eating my bagel and lox- was the same man that I know could hardly be in the same room with without fighting.  

What the fairy tales don’t tell you- is staying happy is work.  If you don’t work, resentment creeps in. We had some amazing times in those 10 years, but when you’re racing through life trying to get from one place to the next or survive one bump in the road before the next one hits.  It’s so easy to just let the resentment linger there. Rather than really work through it, we ignored it. You’re exhausted. Watching the movie or the latest TV show is easier and way more enjoyable than having yet another talk about feelings, and the he said she said of it all. So resentment grows.

We weren’t talking to each other, and when we were talking we definitely weren’t listening.  Was it too late for us? We brought our relationship up to the edge and we were either going to jump into the Divorce abys or we were going to turn around and try to work through it.  

I wasn’t calm this time.  This time I was an anxiety ridden mess, and I was definitely eating the whole bagel because at 34 I know that you need to YOLO, and also I eat my feelings.  This time I didn’t know what to do. I knew I had the lives of three beautiful kids, kids we made together on the line. I had no idea what was going to happen, because I knew that I was being taken for granted and under appreciated, and this was definitely ALL his fault.  Right?

Long story short, no.  I was not right. I was equally at fault, and equally as ungrateful.  Without accepting my part in this- it could never work. We decided to fight for it.  We started dating again. We started being honest with what we need from the relationship.  We started compromising. We started taking care of ourselves. We started seeing each other again.  We love each other. We are best friends. And soon the calm came over me again, because I knew that we had learned that we needed to work for it.  Being together was the only option for us right here, right now, and hopefully for always.

We are more grown up at this point in our lives.  Life isn’t a fairytale. If anything it’s more like one of those Wayan’s Brothers’ scary movies.  You’re more likely to have to run from some huge scary man trying to kill you in a hilarious way than you are going to find a prince marry him and live happily ever after.  

I can see now how marriage doesn’t work out.  You can’t take it for granted. It’s work. It’s effort. It’s sacrifice. Sometimes people aren’t ready.  Sometimes people are too hurt. Sometimes life just hits too hard. I count us as one of the lucky ones. We were able to find our way back to each other in a time where it is sometimes just easier to quit.

I look at our 11 year anniversary now as the the anniversary I am most proud of.  It is the year we took ourselves to the brink and learned how to fight for it. I fell in love all over again.  We renewed our commitment to each other this year. Maybe not with words, but with action. We grew as individuals and we came back to grow together.   I look back at the 23 year old who so confidently and quietly knew what she wanted and smile. She nailed it.

Thanksgiving: A How to

I know what you’re thinking.  Who the F is this girl to be dishing out any advice about how to host at all, let alone Thanksgiving.  You aren’t totally wrong.  I would think that too if I were you.  You probably have yet to become privy to the fact that I love Thanksgiving.  I love it so intensely and most definitely in a way that totally crossed weird years ago.

I love hosting it.  It’s one of the only aspects in my life that I want to exert complete control over.   The reason I give to people for hosting, I love bringing families together.   The real reason: no house that we visited ever had all the food that I wanted to eat on Thanksgiving.  I look forward to this food all year.  As my best friend Selena says, “The heart wants what it wants.”

Ok, it’s a combination of both of these things.  I love being around family, and I love good food.  Thanksgiving gives me both of these things.  We are all extremely blessed, and at minimum we should take a day to really express that to each other.

I was terrified the first time I was going to make a turkey.   Don’t let the turkey intimidate you.  They are just big chickens! Give them a little love and cook them the right amount of time and you will appear to be a master chef to your guests.  Also, the way the markets sell them now, all of the “giblets” and other things are super easy to take out and very obvious.  Trust me- you will be able to do it.

I’ve made many mistakes over my last 8 years of hosting my own Thanksgiving.  Picked up some lessons and think that at least one of you will find at least one thing useful here.  So here it is, my how to host Thanksgiving crash course.

The Turkey- Go Buy One!

Today is the Friday before our current Thanksgiving (2018).  Depending on the size of your turkey, you may need to go buy it.  In a really hard way- I learned turkeys need more than one day to thaw (correctly).   Most stores are selling you a frozen turkey, and you need to let it thaw out in your fridge (on a cookie sheet or pan to avoid juice spilling).  You need a full 24 hour of thaw time for each 4 lbs of turkey.   I typically do at least a pound a person minimum and always round up about 2-3 lbs- having leftovers is the priority people! If you didn’t make a full on Thanksgiving sandwich the next day- you failed the mission.

Now for all of you who like to live on the edge (or don’t have a ton of fridge space like most of us)- there is a way to thaw it quicker.  I’ve definitely done it this way multiple times, and always say a little prayer of thanks for sending us Martha Stewart.  Click HERE to have Martha’s people walk you through this.

My Favorite Turkey Recipe

It can come from the one and only, Ina Garten.  Not to change the subject, but do you think Ina and Martha are friends? I like to imagine them in Ina’s cottage having BLT sandwiches and Chardonnay swapping recipes…… ok sorry I’m back.

Click HERE for this recipe, it is AMAZING! It requires no extra prep time.  You can literally take your turkey out, clean it, remove all the stuff, pat dry and add these ingredients and the turkey comes out delicious.

People swear by brining the turkey, sounds cool and it really does help keep the turkey juicy- but it’s not necessary at all.  If you have time and like it- great, but don’t stress it.

When cooking the turkey, I like to  baste it every hour.  Set a timer on your phone or with Alexa.   But don’t baste it right before you take it out, you need to let the skin crisp a bit.

Most Important Tip: Let the turkey REST! I once saw Chef Michael Symon (yes, I’m Chef obsessed and I groupie out on them when I meet them).  Either way he gave an entire lecture on this, on The Chew (I’m rockstar cool)- let it rest covered under foil for at least 40 minutes before carving.

If you are Stuffing the Turkey Read This 

The first year- I mastered my turkey.  Now the second year I wanted to get fancy and make stuffing to put into my turkey.  How cool am I? (if you want to unfollow me now I understand).

Important tip- whatever stuffing you are going to put into your turkey.  Do not stuff the turkey with anything warm.  If you put hot/warm things into your turkey’s cavity it could make everyone sick.  Let it cool down, ideally make it the day before and have it completely cold before stuffing it.

Let’s Talk Sides

What constitutes a good side for Thanksgiving is very debatable.  I leave it to you to pick and choose what works for your family and friends.

This year I am hosing 10 adults and 5 kids going with my favorite Mac n Cheese Recipe,  Sweet Potato Casserole, Roasted Corn, Brussel Sprouts and Arroz y Frijoles (because my Abuelo demands it).

Table Top and Serveware

As much as I love cooking and getting all the food ready for Thanksgiving.  I always struggle a little on setting the table.  I’ve gotten much better, and I completely credit my sister-in-law as my guiding light.  She is constantly showing me how to adult.  While I do not come close to her flawless tabletop abilities, I have found a few tricks to make a nice table with minimal effort.

For starters the flowers.  A few different things you can do

  • Beautiful and Cheap: Grabbing a few beautiful flowers at the market and arranging them at home is always your cheapest bet, and will always add a little special touch.
  • Gorgeous and A little more $: I’m actually not the best flower sorter.  I mean, I can get the job done, but it’s aight.  For events like this I typically turn to House of Lilac.  She actually gives great Thanksgiving Decor Tips HERE. I will have a few of her bud vases or small arrangements delivered and put them on the table, and right off the bat my table looks much more polished.  She is also making some pretty outrageous Garlands for anyone wanting to really take it up a 1000 notches.

Let’s Talk Serveware

Having collected a few solid pieces of Serveware really makes everything look more put together.   I love to pick up pieces at either CB2 or Target both have a good range of items that compliment each other, and aren’t too expensive.

YOU MUST Delegate

You’re taking on a lot hosting Thanksgiving! The people coming know that and want to help you.  Let your people help you.  Let them bring an appetizer, a side, desert, and wine.

MOST IMPORTANT TIP: If you’re assigning wine- make sure you assign it to someone who understands the assignment and not the one who will bring the cheap gross shit that no one wants to drink.

Finally- ENJOY!

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!! Hope your family only had a little drama- you know the kind to keep you entertained but not earth shattering.

Love,

Cristina

 

 

 

 

 

Long Live the Big Mac

Moms, we know one thing to be absolutely true: our kids absolutely adore us.  However, they naturally take us for granted, as they should. We wake up, help them get dressed, make their breakfasts, pack their lunch, make sure they have water in their cups, that they have brushed their teeth, do their hair, and hold their hand as we walk them into school.  

Then once school is over we come home and the real work begins.  We have to get the homework done, afternoon snack, referee whatever fight is happening, have them take a bath, make sure that they actually took a bath, dress them, feed them, and also somewhere in between make sure everything is picked up.  So where in all of that do we have the time to be “fun”. Even if we do have time we are so run down and ragged that we would rather sit far away and drink wine and countdown to bedtime.

Enter dad.  He strolls in through the door and it’s like a scene out of a movie.  It’s slow motion, the light hits him just right as he flashes his gorgeous smile, there’s even wind hitting his hair (if he still has it).  The kids erupt! Daddy! Daddy! We are so happy you’re home. Their excitement would almost be endearing if it wasn’t so offensive. They’re hugging him and jumping for joy like they’ve just spent years in an isolated prison cell.  And I call bull shit!

So one day I was watching TV (obviously), and a McDonald’s commercial came on promoting the Mc Rib.  It was going on and on about how the Mc Rib was coming back to the menu, and it was only going to be available for a limited time.  I thought to myself, “gross. Who wants to eat a “rib” from a fast food place.” I what is in this “rib” is it an actual rib or just some sort of rib-ish rib-goo that they have put between two buns.    

I watched as they gave the McRib this elusive status.  Saying this like “available for a limited time”. You know what?  It works. People line up around the block. No seriously, people line up around the block to grab one on opening day.  Something about the McRib really sparks emotion in people that they themselves don’t understand. I bring you exhibit A: remember the lady who became enraged when the lady at McDonald’s didn’t offer her an extra McRib for a $1, well click HERE.

This all got me thinking and really feeling sorry for the Big Mac.  Because what happens to the Big Mac when the McRib comes out, huh? People get all caught up ordering this McRib, that they just take the Big Mac for granted.  Like it’s always going to be there. No one lines up for the Big Mac ever and especially when the McRib is around. No special limited time commercials. No red carpet for their signature sandwich.  Two all beef patties special sauce lettuce cheese pickles onions on a sesame seed bun. People are just ok about eating the Big Mac. “Oh I’m here at McDonald’s I guess I’ll have a Big Mac.”

Boom! I saw the light.  An epiphany if you will.  This entire scenario is our family dynamic. Hear me out.   My husband is the McRib, and I, well I am just the Big Mac.  His limited time availability makes him exciting and fun. He doesn’t have to carry the weight of all the “shit” that comes with raising these kids.  Dad gets home and the homework has been done, the bath has been taken, the dinner typically has been eaten, and the fight to put away toys has long been settled.

By Thursday when my patience is already running thin, and my son is having a tantrum for the 100th time this week over putting on his pajamas my husband can swoop in and say things like “take a deep breath Cristy, he’s just 4 I can help him.”  Then fun dad proceeds to take our son and tickle him and make pajamas awesome somehow.

On the weekend when I am now at my wit’s end, Dad takes them for the morning and they go to Target to buy toys, or eat donuts somewhere delicious. I mean how fun is that?!? If I took them to eat donuts or to Target every time I was with them we would be dead broke with a serious sugar problem.

But I guess this is how it has to be. I am not sure I would change a single thing.  I’m happy to be here to help them throughout their day. I’m happy to be here to tie their shoes, do their homework (sort of) and all the hundreds of little details that go into the day.  If we are being really honest I am also so happy when daddy gets home. Besides just wanting to see him, it may be one of my favorite times of the day watching the kids go jump all over him.  Also it’s nice not to be completely outnumbered anymore.

It can be argued that iIf not for the Big Mac maybe McDonald’s wouldn’t function the way it does year round.  It’s the constant on the menu, that customers know will always be there. Hell it’s definitely my go to when I want to eat my feelings.   But people need a little McRib in their life, a little excitement a little fun. It keeps everything balanced.

Carla’s revenge. HERE

Lessons I’ve Learned As Mom- So Far

Yesterday would be my 6th time celebrating Mother’s Day, as a mom.  I’ve never been much of a birthday person. I don’t love the attention and the pressure of planning something.  However I do love celebrating other people’s birthdays, so what can I say- I’m complicated.

I do really love celebrating Mother’s Day.  It’s just a chance for me to take a day and appreciate the three most important things I’ve ever done.  Besides marrying my husband, which was hands down the best decision I’ve ever made, creating a family with him and bringing these three little people into the world has been an overwhelming beautiful adventure.

I’ve been reflecting back on the last 7 years or so as a Mom.  I sat in a quiet dark room, with my candles, playing Sarah McLachlan in peace on my bed.  NOT come on. I’m a mom to a 4, 6 and 7 year old.   I am never in a quiet room, anywhere. In between wiping butts, making lunch, doing homework, picking up legos, stepping on the legos when they are on the floor again, reading books, and hugs- I have reflected.  In a very scattered way.  This is far and away the hardest job I’ve ever had. There are tiny moments where I want to run away for a day or so to be in quiet, but at the end of every day even at my most exhausted there is always that moment when I’ve read them their books, sang them our song and see a look in their eye that just rocks me to my core.  Being their mom is everything I am here for.

Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned so far:

  1. You are capable of more than you think you are.  Before I gave birth to our second daughter, Dylan, I  remember thinking there was no way that I could love another person the way I love Blake.  How could it be? My heart felt so full. Boy was I wrong. With each birth, it’s like my heart doubles in size.  The love I feel for each child is greater than any love I ever thought imaginable. And yes, after each birth I struggled to find my footing.  But somehow it’s like you gain an extra hand. I could feed a baby a bottle, while reading a book to my toddler and help my other toddler eat.  You just figure it out. It’s not always pretty, or perfect, but you can do it.
  2. I am not always failing. Figuring out how to split yourself up to tend to each child’s needs is definitely my biggest struggle as a mom.   I feel like I am constantly trying to make sure that each of them feels loved and included. Sometimes I am just exhausted, and just play a movie.  It feels lazy and definitely not like mother of the year material. But I got a card from Blake, my eldest, yesterday for Mother’s Day and when asked what her favorite thing to do with me she responded “Just lay down and watch a movie.”  So it hit me that even when I think I’m being lazy or failing as a mom, it’s just the moment when I’m nailing it.  Also I’ve had birds on my person on more than one occasion so technically, I just win as a mother, right?  
  3. Kids are born as they are and we just shape them a little.  Now watching three kids grow up, it is clear that their personalities are formed from inception almost.  My husband and I do things exactly the same for all of them. My oldest daughter is the rule follower, gets straight A’s, wins the kindness awards, and moves more cautiously.  She didn’t walk until she was almost 18 months. Then my second daughter, walked at 9 months, literally jumps from couch to couch, has had stitches 2 times on her face, and told us she wants to leave school to travel the world on boat.  My son is constantly in character whether that’s Tarzan or a T-Rex, and if you ask me his scholastic potential I will say he’s a third kid and 4 so I’m not entirely sure which way he is going to go yet #realtalk
  4. Things may go as planned but most likely it will absolutely not go the way you thought it would.  This has been the hardest lesson to learn, but the one that has granted me the most happiness. I used to try to plan and anticipate every single aspect of our day, and then when things didn’t go as planned I would become so upset or get so stressed out.  I’m not saying I don’t plan at all, but I do allow for flexibility now. No plan or activity or schedule is as important as it seems. Sometimes the beauty lies in the things that weren’t planned at all.  Like you think I would plan to have a bird on my shoulder… no, no I wouldn’t.
  5. Ice Cream Cures All.  I’ve learned that almost any time one of my kids is acting out or not acting like themselves, the root of the problem is they need special time.  For the quick fix I escape with him/her and we get some ice cream together, just us. Sometimes a little one on one time is good for the soul, and not just their soul- definitely mine.                                                      
  6. Never Stick your Finger in the back of a diaper.  I don’t think I need to go any further here. We all understand what happens here, right?
  7. Learn from my mistakes. I’ve made so many mistakes.  So. Many. I’ve forgotten formula, bottles, pacifiers.  As they’ve grown, I’ve forgotten lunches, project due dates, birthday parties.  I’ve said the wrong thing. I’ve reacted wrong. A good example is that time I forgot to pack a change of clothes for the kids, because what could go so wrong at the park? Well there was a very large puddle that day   I guess the other lesson here is that also be easy on yourself when you don’t exactly learn from that mistake. Years later, I also had not packed clothes and well:
  8. Enjoy it because it just flies.  This is something people tell you all the time.  It’s almost annoying how often someone says this to you.  But there’s a reason. One day you are holding this tiny little baby in your arms.  Your hair is dirty, you aren’t sure the last time you showered or ate an entire meal from start to finish sitting down, and you are so tired that you dream about sleeping while you are taking a tiny 15 minute nap.  You think this phase will never end. Then it’s like your thrusted in the future and your daughter is telling you that you embarrassed her at her soccer game because you were cheering too loud. Boom. The phase is ending, and all you end up wondering is if you held her enough?  Did you play with her enough? Did you take it all in? And when you start to panic that you didn’t hold her long enough you will begin to downward spiral and beg your husband to reverse his vasectomy, to which he will obviously reply NO. So I will just look at my 7, 6 and 4 year old and make sure I enjoy this time with them.  As the more seasoned moms keep telling me to do. And although I may get annoyed at times, I know they’re right. It just flies.