Mirror Mirror On The Wall

I spend a great deal of time reflecting on the mirror moments that occur in parenting.  With characters to help build, compassion to instill, and little people to send off into this world – my example frequently becomes their compass.  And more often than I’d like to admit, the mirror reflects the most tremendous catalyst to self improve. 

I often overlook the ways in which I am led by characteristics and responses that are unequivocally my children’s. 

This week I’m thankful for a perspective shift in sporadic storms and heartfelt play between the raindrops. 


Moments Alone In Motherhood

Although my children are no longer tiny babies, there isn’t a whole lot of child-free leisure going on.  My days are usually pretty fragmented with little time for recuperation when needed.  But once in a great while, I find myself alone, seeking solitude within.  Moments of clarity occur in the grocery isle, the shower and the trips home from acupuncture.  Inner silence is often found while walking down a busy street.  And when those fleeting moments in my own space and time are over, I’m convinced that I return to the people I love a better person because of them.

Today took me to a beautiful lunch alone, in NYC’s Bryant Park.

The Vault

It is incredible what our children retain.  Their capacity for reiterating stories back to us at the most unexpected times is extraordinary.  Sometimes I have to remind myself that my children are literally tiny vaults of encapsulated memories, constantly conjuring up elements from days past.

“We’re going to SESAME PLACE!!!!” Adrian screams every time we drive through a certain spot on the BQE.  “Remember when you made me wings, bought me a cookie, blew bubbles in the park, talked to the old lady with the doggie, and read me the story about the glittery mermaids?!”.  How can she possible recall the sequential order of a day that took place years ago? A day that felt rather random to me, yet clearly significant to her.  

I have a handfuls of memories I vividly remember from when I was Lucia’s exact age.  Like when I’d image in Kindergarten that my cubbie had the pretty rainbow painted on it and not the caged Lion that was assigned to me.  I remember that my friend A frequently peed in her pants and didn’t understand why F‘s tush was always peeking out of the top of his jeans.  I remember visiting my mother’s family in Colombia for the first time and begging my Tias to take me to see the movie Annie in English.  But mostly, I think of my mother and her ability to guide me and my brother with steadfast grace and compassion.  Traits I hope to emulate in my own motherhood.

School vacations always have a way of making me reevaluate my role as mama. Free of schedules, our days are fluid, filled with outdoor play, messy crafting and family-time.  I’m reminded of how Lucia and Adrian simply need to be kids and small gestures can make their days feel magical. 

My husband and I are a solid team, but recently, life’s challenges have been getting the best of us.  It feels impossible to practice “calm begets calm” when I honestly just want to scream, and the big girl still doesn’t have her shoes on after asking several times.   It’s been hard for my husband not to be short and stern when external stressors are no longer few and far between.

Then I observe my Lucia mimicking my frustration, and I watch them both be little bosses to one another.  Soon they retreat back to their biggest influence, seeking comfort found in mama’s arms. 

Sometime we need to step back and reassess the roots.  We need to reflect on our collective intentions and the foundation upon which we built our little family. Our future actions will continue to bear flaws, but accountability, and perseverance to amend can be part of our legacy.

We somehow always return to spontaneity and fun, and Marino-style family dance parties.  And we do our best to reflect what we want them to emulate, with remembrance that each new day carries memories in the making.


Healthy Tips for Picky Eaters {Sponsored}

I’m not one to typically dole out the parenting advice over here. I think that many aspects of parenting are simply trial and error, and what works for one bambino doesn’t usually work for the other. But I do have a picky eater, and am happy to share a few of my healthy eating tips on behalf of Tyson.

My oldest child, Lucia has always been a bit of a picky eater, but I definitely think that the corruption sets in as they start to get older. I vividly remember the day that Lucia declared that she no longer wanted green peppers in her snack bag because so-and-so said that they were “yucky”. Which leads to my first tip:

Be Sneaky and Consistent:

I could have been better about continually offering Lucia the food she started to reject as she grew. I learned from my mistakes and make sure that my little guy continues to eat his veggies.  I also continually offer my kids different foods – even when rejected. But sometimes, my only hope is sneaking things in their food.  I often hide veggies and power packed nutrients into my children’s meals. I like to send them off to school with a healthy breakfast, and am a huge fan of steel cut oats (or regular oatmeal when pressed for time). I like to chop up a ton of mixed nuts (Brazil nuts, walnuts cashews and almonds) for extra protein and mix in a bit of ground flax and cinnamon. I also frequently mix chopped veggies into ground turkey meat, and chicken cutlets as it’s a guaranteed way to sneak them in.

Include Tiny Helpers: 

Both of my kids are prone to eat healthy food if they help take part in the process. They love to crack eggs, mix ingredients, and pick things apart (like parsley). We try to involve them as much as we can and also include them in the cleanup!

Offer Different Forms: 

It is highly unlikely that Lucia will devour an entire plate of carrots, but she will gulp down freshly juiced carrots and apples. My littles think that juice is such a treat, and they also love to help make it. When my kiddos first rejected raw broccoli, I found a recipe that they love – which turned them into broccoli lovers. Sometimes a different form or an awesome recipe will do the trick.

Make it Look Awesome: 

Little ones can often be cajoled by a pretty presentation. Fun containers, divided plates and tiny separated groups of food make healthy snacks appealing to children.

Walnuts, fruits, veggies and cheese presented in a glittery Easter egg rainbow, supported by a cut up egg carton.

Make It Fun: 

I certainly don’t have Pinterest perfection going on all the time (and think it would be problematic if children’s meals always looked like elaborate art). But I love to get creative with meal presentation on occasion. The process of creating is so much fun for me, as is the pint-sized excitement over my arrangements. My husband (an artist) is also a master creator and has been making fun food art since the pre-Pinterest era. I also always try and incorporate a little fun into my kids school meals with creature-shaped cookie cutter sandwiches, the addition of an eyeball and a special hand-drawn love note.

Mango, orange, cranberry, and strawberry sun. Dino mold turkey and cheese. Kale chip tree. Roasted seaweed, green bean, broccoli, Brazil nut, blueberry, mango and kiwi grass/flowers.

If all else fails, my worst possible tip *bribery* may work wonders if used in excessive moderation. My daughter may or may not be a salad lover due to a singing, light-up, Rapunzel doll.

To make mealtime more fun, learn how to get a free colorful plate and share your healthy-eating success story for a chance to win $1,000!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Tyson Chicken Nuggets. The opinions and text are all mine. Official Sweepstakes Rules.


Expert Potty Training Tips {Sponsored}

In parenting, I often thinks it’s helpful to combine expert opinions with our own philosophies to figure out effective approaches to help our children gain independence, especially when it comes to things like potty training.  I know that many parents want practical guidance, and I’m happy to share a few expert potty training tips gleaned from a teleconference that I took part in last week. 

I had the chance to consult Dr. Alberto Andres Cotton, a well-renowned Miami based pediatrician and Jeannette Kaplun, a parenting expert, author, speaker and award-winning journalist, about common setbacks, approaches and potty training guidance. 

Potty training in today’s society can be unusually demanding and challenging, especially when dealing with things like pre-school deadlines.  I often hear parents searching for some sort of sign or marker within their child to indicate that they are ready to be potty trained.  Some parents believe that there is a correct chronological age to begin training while others examine the child’s developmental stage.  Dr Cotton spoke of the importance of acknowledging the child’s current stage for potty training readiness.  If the child is not bothered by a wet diaper than it may not be the best time to begin the process.  I think that one of the most important messages gleaned is that each child is different – the key is not found in starting at a set age but beginning when the child shows readiness.

I also know that many parents often face regressions.  When my daughter was 27 months old her brother was born, and her potty success hit a significant plateau.  As Jeannette Kaplun explained, regressions often go hand in hand with stress or change in the child’s environment.  Although I knew it was normal when my daughter regressed after her brother was born, it’s always comforting to get expert reinforcement.  Dr. Cotton reminds us that potty training can be stressful for the child and regressions are normal and often happen.

Perhaps the most powerful word repeatably spoken by both experts was patience.  Children often absorb what their parents reflect, and it’s crucial to help maintain a positive association with going to the bathroom.  This involves praise and celebration for every flush  (i.e clapping hands or a sticker on a chart) and never reprimanding accidents when they happen. An attitude of patience also needs to be reinforced with extended family members and care-takers.  Engaging and educating family to work cohesively (about rewards, Pull-Ups and potty training approaches) will help to make the process successful.

To learn more about Pull-Ups and their Every Flush campaign visit their Facebook Fan Page and check out this video.

This is part of a compensated campaign with Latina Mom Bloggers and Pull-Ups.  However, all opinions expressed are my own. 


Potty Training Tips with Pull-Ups {Sponsored}

I’m by no means a potty training expert (or expert in anything parenting related for that matter).  I am simply a big believer in figuring out what works best for my family.  Pull-Ups is motivating moms to stick with Potty Training, and I’m sharing some of my own tips over the next few months, on behalf of their Madrinas del Baño campaign.

Potty training and many aspects of parenting often come with (well intentioned) advice from others.  Some of us know a friend who trained their kid in one week with absolutely no regressions, or come from cultures that preach training well before the age of two.  I believe in listening to my littles!  For me, that meant introducing a potty when my kiddos started to tug at their diapers or talk about going to the bathroom. It also meant only absorbing advice that truly resonated with me, and that I perceived to be suitable for my child.  I also believe in approaching this milestone with compassion and the understanding that each child is incredibly different. 

When it comes to potty training, the adage it takes a village to raise a child is true.  If your child has an older sibling – put ’em to work!  I partially credit my 5 year old daughter for my son’s potty training success.  Adrian loves to imitate his older sister and she encourages him to go on his potty whenever she needs to go.  When Lucia was in nursery school, I believe that she benefited from her group bathroom trips.  While she was working on her potty training success she knew that all of her little friends were too.  I’m also big on enlisting the help of family, friends and caretakers.  If you have a method that’s working for your child – it is important to stick to your plan and ensure that all support systems are on board.  

Perhaps my favorite tip is enthusiastically embracing the potty talk (at home). I honestly think that it helps to normalize the potty training process if children can lightheartedly converse and giggle about it with their parents and siblings.  One of our favorite books at home is Everybody Poops by Taro Gomi.  We’ve talked about the bodily functions of our children’s favorite characters when the situation calls for it, and many of our favorite songs have been modified to cater to our potty training adventures.  When it comes to potty training – humor helps! 

Just like Pull-Ups Every Flush Campaign, I believe that every try deserves a little celebration! Little ones are built to thrive on praise and encouragement.  Celebrating their efforts (and never reprimanding potty accidents) are huge components of potty training success.  So bring out the bells and whistles, the stickers and rewards.  Check out the below video (and Pull-Ups facebook page) and make your littles feel like cheerleaders, acrobats and virtual balloons are serenading them in the middle of Times Square.  Celebrate every flush!

This is part of a compensated campaign with Latina Mom Bloggers and Pull Ups.  However, all opinions expressed are my own.