Having conversations with your Preteen

I spend I good amount of time with my oldest son who is 12 almost every afternoon.  My younger son plays soccer so he is usually gone with my husband to the soccer field and comes home after 7:30 almost every night of the week. That leaves me and my oldest one home alone.  Although we spent all those hours in the same place I find myself sometimes not interacting much with him. I am busy cooking, catching up with laundry, cleaning, and working. My son would usually do his homework in the kitchen so at least we are in the same “space”, but sometimes he goes to his room and I do give him his time and privacy.

However, as a rule, I try to sit with him at least twice a week and talk. I do put myself in his shoes as a 12-year-old. I was a very alert kid, I was never shielded from popular culture and reality, I was always behaving ahead of my age and I am not expecting him to be the opposite of me.

So what do we talk about? Well, he would usually do the talk, I would listen and ask questions when I am not following the story or I am asked for my opinion.  We make ourselves two cups of tea and we sit down and talk it out.

I ask him questions like:

  • What called your attention at school today?
  • With whom you sit down at school during lunch?
  • What is your biggest challenge at school right now?
  • Do you need anything from me or your dad, for school or for yourself?
  • Do you need anything from me or your dad, for school or for yourself?
  • What are you grateful for?
  • Are you having any problems with a teacher or a classmate?
  • What has been bothering you lately?
  • What lesson are you learning that has really caught your attention?
  • What has been inspiring you lately?
  • What lesson are you learning that has really caught your attention?
  • What has been inspiring you lately?
  • How can I make your life easier?
  • What is your goal as the school years is ending?
  • What have you been curious about?

The intention of these questions is for him to talk. To open up. I don’t judge, and I don’t get upset even when the answer is not what I am expecting.  The intention of the conversation is to see WHAT is his mind and WHAT are his thoughts so that I can better APPROACH and UNDERSTAND him.

There are times in which we would go for a run and 45 minutes later I realized he has not stopped talking, that every question I have asked he has answered honestly and a long story along with the answer.  And there are times in which I feel that no matter how open I present myself, his brain and mood are not there, then I give him time and check with him the next day.

The important aspect is to keep the lines of communication open. Understand that no matter how hectic, tedious, tiring, and frustrating our day has been, it has NO relation with our younger kiddos.  They pick up the clues and keys of our behavior and react to what they feel (or assume) is going on. The initiative of communication should come from us the parents so that they understand how important their growth and development is.

As the conversation with my son goes, we can debate (very common), and we can also joke and laugh. I will listen to his long explanation of why this and why that (usually very wrong explanation) which I will follow with… Ok, I understand where you are coming from, do you think you can hear me out to see my point?  Again it is a two-way conversation, no need to be judgmental or shut down the flow of the conversation. The beauty of the moment is what you will learn from your kids and hopefully, the little bit of wisdom that they will learn from you.

Book Review: Becoming by Michelle Obama

Summary:

The book summarizes Michelle Obama’s life, from her childhood in Chicago South Side through her journey to the White House.  It is narrated by her, and making emphasizes her perspective, feelings, lessons learned, and opinions. It is an autobiography and as such we are witnessing her life as she narrates it to us.

Her extraordinary journey is told with a modest voice that is full of hope and optimism.  Her faith and commitment to her self-worth, on the belief that opportunities are not there waiting for you, but are there once you embark on the journey to find them.  A truly inspiring book.

My Personal Opinion:

I truly enjoyed this book. As a wife and mother, and working a full-time job as an engineer, her journey was inspiring because it was real.  From becoming an expert multi-tasker to the realization that multitasking doesn’t really work. The ups and downs of making tough decisions that affect your family and the fierce need to protect those around you always with immeasurable love.  Love for the family and love for this country.

I do recommend this book, especially for younger generations, due to the constant inspiring words that are mentioned throughout the book. Chapter after chapter, hope, self-reliance, self-worth, kindness, compassion, and love are constant as much as patriotism, inclusion, and equality.

Favorite quote

“Failure is a feeling long before it becomes an actual result. It’s vulnerability that breeds with self-doubt and then is escalated, often deliberately, by fear.”

Becoming by Michelle Obama

“The answer, I’m guessing, is probably the best and most sustaining answer to nearly every question arising inside a marriage, no matter who you are or what the issue is: You find ways to adapt. If you’re in it forever, there’s really no choice.”

When talking about marriage Becoming by Michelle Obama

There are so many other quotes, really my book at the end looked as I was studying for a test, with yellow and orange highlighters all over the book.  It was a constant eye-opening and nodding when reading the book.

The Highlights of the Book

In my opinion, the best part of the books is as she goes in detail with her upbringing.  The honest struggles of her family which were highlighted with deep and profound love, and self-confidence.  The personal commitment to reach higher education. Her perseverance to balance family, her job, and politics.  Her faith in her marriage and her belief that love is ever-transforming and the belief in the ability to adapt to those transformations.

Weaknesses:

At times, politics took a bigger role in the narrative, and although I enjoyed the book during these intense political stories, it was a bit dense for me, and at times, disheartening to read about the conflicts in our country which are not aligned with the political agenda. Fewer politics and more Michelle Obama would have been ideal.

Information as found in Amazon:

  • File Size: 113863 KB
  • Print Length: 428 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (November 13, 2018)
  • Publication Date: November 13, 2018
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English

Goals for the Month of March

As the months roll by us and we start feeling the pressure of how “fast the times go by” it is important to recognize that we are bound to enjoy our “now”, to get the best of it, and to accept our schedules and hecticness as part of our lives.  Having a month based goal is important as it allows us to keep track of what is important for us now (versus what was important to us back in December), it is important that we analyze ourselves at the beginning of every month, as our interest, passions, relationships, beliefs, and habits changes and therefore our goals may change as well. Oh, and it is also fun!

1.Read a self-help book.  I am currently reading the Power of Self-Coaching and I cannot recommend enough! It is truly a great book to jump-start the pursuit of an improved and better life and to learn how to change those bad habits that are holding us back.

My current read

2. To complete an exercise routine. Any routing involving anything that you would like to do. I started today March 2, 2020, my half-marathon training, and my 12-year old started a stretching routine. It can be yoga, pilates, afternoon walks or hikes, just commit for one full month.

WeekMonTueWedThFrSatSun
1off3 m3 m3 moff3 m4 m
2off3 m4 m3 moff3 m4 m
3off3 m4 m3 moff3 m5 m
4off3 m5 m3 moff3 m6 m
5off4 m5 m3 moff4 m7 m
6off4 m5 m4 moff4 m8 m
7off4 m6 m4 moff4 m9 m
8off4 m6 m5 moff4 m10 m
9off4 m6 m5 moff4 m11 m
10off4 m5 m4 moff4 m12 m
11off4 m6 m4 moff4 m6 m
12off4 m4 m3 moff2 m13.1!
My actual training

3. To do a food journal… I am not good at this specific action, but I keep trying to stick with it.  The intention is not to count calories or see how much you eat, but when and how it makes you feel. I do believe that Intuitive Eating is real and a food journal is a window that helps us understand why we eat (and the food choices as well).

4. To make at least 6 new recipes.  It doesn’t matter if it is vegetarian, or for breakfast, or dessert, just try 6 new recipes that can expand your cooking abilities and repertoire.  I usually use the Yummly app, which is pack with thousands of recipes and you can save them in MyYums sections. The website is http://www.yummly.com, but there are others including just asking googles for specific meal you feel courious about trying in the kitchen.

5. To start looking for summer vacation possibilities.  We are currently booked for a Cruise, but last year was a road trip to three natural parks here in Texas where we live.  Start planning. I would usually start with reading travel blogs, then going to expedia bundles and see how much the overall is about to be and proceed to make the final decision by using trip advisor… yes, I am a travel junkie!

6. To accomplish meditation at least 3 times a week. Yes I know, it should not be that much of a commitment, but it is for me. I am sticking with it thought, at least three times a week. I use the app Headspace and works great with me. My husband usually will just put a Youtube video. Whichever way works for you the best, in my opinion Meditation is very personal.

7. Take the time to find new musicians and their music.  So much talent out there and great songwriters and singers are not truly recognized. My goal is to support new musicians this year. I use the google and pandora stations to guide me through music I have never hear of before and then find out more about the artist and their music. Also there are plenty blogs and music website trying to showcase new talent coming up.

8. Just like with music in Number 7  above, my goal is to find at least 3 solid Podcast specifically about Soccer (my passion), that I can listen during my driving time. I do search podcast also for improv, comedy, blogging, and even quilting. However, the goal this month is to find and follow Soccer dedicated podcast.

I challenge you to create your short term goals for March 2020. It can be 3 goals or 10 and can be as simple as drinking more water to more complicated as to complete educational courses, the important is to find motivation within ourselves to start and complete a goal within this month.

A poem from American poet Adrienne Rich

I have been reading The Norton Anthology Literature by Women (from when I was in college) it is a huge book and once in a while when I fill down or deflated (had to cancel my next week Mediterranean Cruise trip due to the ongoing Coranavirus outbreak) it is the best companion to get lost in the minds, hearts, souls, and creativity of amazing women whos poems, short novels, novels, essays and more, are full of hope, power, courage, sensitivity, sentiment, and just beauty.

Among the pages of the book, I found myself loving again the poems of the American poet Adrienne Rich.  Ther poems do speak to my soul, to my heart. Her writing is real and yet delicate, it is honest, and has so much sentiment.

Below is one of my favorite poems from this book:

From Twenty-one Love Poems

XI

Every peak is a crater.  This is the law of volcanoes,
making them eternally and visibly female.
No height without depth, without a burning core,
though our straw soles shred on the hardened lava.
I want to trkeavel with you to every sacred mountain
smoking within like the sibyl stooped over her tripod,
I want to reach for your hand as we scale the path,
to feel your arteries glowing in my clasp,
never failing to note the small, jewel-like flower
unfamiliar to us, nameless till we rename her,
that clings to the slowly altering rock -
that detail outside ourselves that bring us to ourselves,
was here before us, knew we would come, and sees beyond us.

As I read it over and over again, I could not help staring at my husband, my love may be at times overbearing and overwhelming, but I am mindful of our path together with the infinite source of energy that propel us forward. 

Below are were you can find the book I have and the other one that I would recommend. Yes, this is an affiliate account so I would get some comission in ordered from the links.

Lo Mein with Steak and Veggies

Since I was 5 years old my parents had the tradition of eating out EVERY Thursday!  No matter what was happening during the week or the weekend, the three of us knew Thursday meant going to a restaurant (most of the time to a new one or one we have not gone in a while), it could be Italian, Spanish, Chinese, Panamanian, Seafood, or it could be a fancy restaurant or a diner, Thursday was a day in which the three of us will sit down and act like a family who enjoyed eating dinner out.

As I grew older, and my friends started getting together on Thursdays nights, I did not break the rule. I would go out with my parents and THEN meet my friends to study for a test, or to go to a party, or just to hang out. On Thursday’s family came first.  Even today, after 20 years of not living in Panama, I still call my parents on Thursday’s night to ask them where are they eating? Yes, they still go EVERY Thursday.

So usually, as a rule, on Wednesdays I take it easy for dinner. I would usually make one of my Buddha Bowls with whatever veggies or meat I have available, but Thursdays… I try hard to make it special.  We cannot go out to eat, truly the logistics between one kid’s soccer practice and the hectic school schedule of the other one would make it impossible. So I cook on Thursday and make it special by taking my time to make something delicious.

Today, Thursday’s menu was Lo Mein with Steak and Veggies: And this is how it was done: 

First cook the noodles. I have been using this brand ________ and I am in love with it. I will put a link at the bottom of the post.

After the noodles are cooked, we move on to the veggies, for this particular one I am adding carrots, cabbage, snow peas, garlic and shallots

The steak is next and I cooked in high heat for 3 minutes on each side and then I cut them in small pieces

Then I make the sauce by adding: 2 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp of rice vinegar, 1 tbsp hoisin sauce, 2 tsp of sugar, 1 tsp sesame oil, 1 tsp Sriracha, 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger, and 1/4 tsp of red pepper flakes.

Putting all together

Enjoy your at home (but could be a Restaurat) Lo Mein. From my kitchen to yours.

Below is the noodles I use, they are organic and come in many varieties, for this recipe I used the ramen, but the udon is delicious too.

Memories from an “all girls” Catholic school

My son, following the public education of where we live, will go through four schools before graduating from high school. He is truly unfazed by the system and is already looking forward to going to his third school, I,  on the other hand, cannot help but feel anxious that he is not creating roots and love for the “alma mater” the way I did. You see, I went to the same Catholic School for 13 years, 13 years in the same building, with the same teaches, with the majority of my classmates year after year, simply growing up together like sisters.  It was an “only girls” school, and it was awesome!.

My school logo

After spending 13 years in the same school, an immense love develops for the building that saw us grow, for the teachers who witnessed year after year our development. We learned to admire the Patron Saint of my school: Santa Rafael Maria, who we knew her entire biography from beginning to end, and to which we prayed and sang during our religion classes. We grew up in an environment of love, servitude, and peace, and above all, of friendship.  It was as if each of my classmates had something special and specific to offer, we all together, all 72 of us, were a unit. A unit of solidarity, of understanding, of acceptance, of complicity, of fun.

me in the circle!

We still in contact, through Facebook, and and we are currently 66 in our Whatsapp group. We congratulate each other when one marries or becomes a mother, and we support each other when illness and pain knock on the door. The school joined us for 13 years and 25 years later we still have the ability to remember our adventures and pranks with love and with the tenderness that great memories of the past can make us feel.

The picture below is in our 20 year anniversary. We were almost the entire group including the ones that live outside of Panama, like me. We did our effort to show up and catch up after 20 years, it was an amazing night!

My hope is that my son will develop the same loyalty to his high school, that his schoolmates will become an intrinsic part of his upbringing and he will have is own wonderful, long-lasting, and honest group of friends with whom he will learn that no matter what life throws your way, you have shoulders to lean on and a strong core of values that the school has also planted in his heart.

Last minute winner…Teriyaki Stir Fry

Monday afternoon rolls in and dinner needs to be served.  I get you, we are tired, we are hungry, we are overworked and our minds keep thinking we “deserve” to take off our shoes and put the feet up on the sofa… but that will not happen… your family needs to eat, so we roll up our sleeves and get going with dinner.

I have a fast solution… Teriyaki Stir Fry!

The best thing about this recipe is that the only constant is the Teriyaki sauce, every other ingredient is already in your fridge.

For the Terikai Sauce, we put the following in a saucepan and let it simmer until it thickens

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup of soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1/4 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp of garlic
  • 1 tsp of fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp of sesame oil
  • 3 tbsp of rice wine vinegar
  • 3 stp cornstarch
  • 1/8 tsp of red pepper flakes

Once the sauce is done, you can move to do the stir fry.

You can use noodles or rice. In this recipe, I used quinoa and rice (the leftovers of the previous weekend).  I cooked the onion first until translucent. Then remove them from the pan and cook shrimp and baby scallops (again leftovers from the weekend).  Once cooked, I removed them and add a bit of oil to the pan and added the napa cabbage and bok choy and cooked until soft. Add the quinoa and rice and combine it with a bit of salt and black pepper. Bring back all the ingredients to the pan (the shrimp, scallops, onions, bok choy, and napa cabbage and stir in the sauce until all is coated and fragrant.

Enjoy!!!

Quick and Easy Cucumber Pickle

Ingredients:

½ cup white vinegar

2 teaspoons of sugar

1 teaspoon of salt

½ teaspoon of coriander seeds

½ teaspoon of caraway seeds

¼ teaspoon of red pepper flakes

1 garlic smashed

1 English cucumber (or any cucumber) thinly sliced

Step 1:

Mix all the ingredients except for the cucumber, in a small saucepan at medium heat.  Cook until the sugar is dissolved.

Step 2:

Let it cool for about 15 minutes (if you are in a hurry) or until it reaches room temperature

Step 3:

Mix the liquid with the thinly sliced cucumber.  Let it marinate for at least 20 minutes. Enjoy!!!

Step 4:

Refrigerate any leftover… if you have any left…

One of all time favorite quotes “Not all those who wander are lost” by J.R.R. Tolkien and how I interpret it

I constantly think of phrases or quotes that have impacts in my life, when doing my life manifesto or weekly journals, I am always looking for inspiration on these timeless phrases that can so well summarize our thoughts and feelings at any given time.

Over time, this phrase has remained constant in my thoughts, every time I read it, every time I write it, every time I think about it, I feel as if the phrase is calling me, touching my soul, making me reflect on my life, on my journey.

If I think about my life, I can believe that in its natural state, I am lost. Always and simply lost. Maybe because I was born in another country and not having my family or friends close has always made me feel that I walk with my eyes closed. It may be that sincerely reflecting, I can admit that ever so often I wonder how I can be a better wife. It may be that sometimes I am afraid to think that as a mother I can do more, listen more, learn more, give more. Or as an engineer, my career has continued but there are many moments of doubt on how to set goals, and how to pursue them, without putting my family in second place.

As you can see, Not all those who wander are lost ”gives me comfort. Comfort that although I feel that I am walking in the dark while I try to do my best in every facet of my life, feeling that I am lost is part of the journey. Having doubt is part of the solution. Knowing that I am scared, makes me grateful.

Not all those who wander are lost gives me hope that in those moments when I don’t know where I came from, nor where I am going, much less where I am going, I can focus on enjoying my now, what I have today, what I am today. Holding my husband’s hand, hugging my children, talking with my family, being kind to myself I am sure I will continue to feel lost through the wonders of my path, through the wonders of my life.

The Long Haul Flight Essential Checklist

We are three weeks away from our Mediterranean Cruise and Barcelona Trip and we have pretty much all tied down (as much as possible).  We are starting to look into packing our clothes, finishing our excursions selections, and getting to know more about Barcelona. So as I start packing our bags and getting ourselves ready, I wanted to share our packing list for both the airplane flight and our small backpack we will be using when we walk around Barcelona and during the excursions at the port.

Airplane Back Pack: We will travel with three backpacks (one for my husband and two to be shared between me and my two sons). I will focus on the one that I will be sharing with my sons since the flight will be a long one (Houston to Frankfurt and then a two-hour flight to  Barcelona). I like to make sure that we will be able to be comfortable in the airplane and therefore I will be packing:

  • Passport and Flight Tickets Holder
  • Tablets (yes we each get one)
  • 3 headphones
  • Chargers
  • Portable Chargers (just in case)
  • Hand Sanitizer 
  • Wipes
  • Small hand cream
  • 3 small books (one for each of us)
  • 2 neck pillows (I am skipping on this one)
  • My notebook (journal)
  • 2 pens (yes, I always travel with two)
  • Passport holder 
  • Wallet
  • Very small make-up bag: stick foundation, lip balm, lipstick, blush stick, sample size perfume)
  • Gum
  • (3 underwears and 3 lightweight shirts)
  • Headache and allergies medicines

We will be wearing comfortable light sweatpants (for me it will be leggins) and comfortable cotton shirts with light jackets, socks, and tennis shoes.

For our days in Barcelona and our excursion days we will be carrying:

  • Small backpack – We are getting one for the four of us.  Big enough to carry at least 2 bottles of water, but small enough that my 9-year old can easily carry it too.  
  • Portable Battery Charger
  • Passport Copies – We do not walk around with our passports, but a copy of the passports and we leave the originals in the hotel’s safety box.
  • Anti-bacterial Gel 
  • Pre-paid tickets receipt (hop off hop on the bus, or museums)
  • Camera (yes we still travel with one)
  • Phones
  • Small wipes
  • Wallets
  • 2 bottles of waters (at all time)

If it is going to be a rainy day we will be wearing our rain jackets.

Hopefully, these two lists help you when doing your own checklist and help you make sure that you and your family are comfortable during the flight and when doing tourism in an unknown location.  It is important to keep it short as we will be doing the same packing every day we get out of the hotel or cruise ship so it should be easy to put all together in a matter of minutes. Please take note that when doing the excursions on the Cruise we will NOT be going to beaches, but cities where we will mostly walk around or be in bus tours.

Just wondering… what am I missing???