Friday, June 29, 2012

Joanne: "The Mommy Monster"

Today, my friend Joanne agreed to share a bit of her story and wisdom with us. Joanne became one of my first friends in South Florida after I joined the Mom’s Bible Study she was leading at CCC. After a short amount of time, she gave me the opportunity to lead the study with her and also embraced me as a part of the Women’s Ministry Team. I loved the opportunity to learn along side other Mom’s and to help contribute, decorate and coordinate some of the events at church. It was an incredible outlet during our transition.
Joanne and I have become close friends in a short amount of time. One of the things I appreciate most about our friendship is that she has earned the right to speak into my life. She is not only a great listener and compassionate friend, but also loves me enough to give me loving correction if needed. Joanne’s heart is big and full of compassion; she is constantly looking for ways to grow in God and is never satisfied with the status quo. This is a woman with many hats: Wife, Mom, Business Owner, Ministry Assistant, Bible Study Leader, Decorator, Event Planner, and recently became a Blogger: "Confessions of A Dirty Christian Woman", that's only the beginning of her list.
Joanne’s journey to Mommyhood was not an easy one, and she never takes the title of “Mommy” for granted:

My name is Joanne Cuchel, I was born in Brooklyn, New York, but have lived in S. Florida since I was eight years old. Two years after high school graduation, I met my husband
Vincent, and we have been married for 16 years now. 
Currently, I am a busy wife and mother of one six-year-old girl, Lexi, whom we adopted in Nov of 2008. Lexi is a very strong-willed child but just as amazing as she is strong-willed.  She is so bright, so creative, and so funny too and she really keeps me on my toes! 
My husband, Vincent and I, struggled to have a child of our own for many years until we decided to adopt. Our first adoption endeavor was to adopt a daughter from China. We anxiously filled out all the paperwork, went through all the grueling processes and then waited, and waited, and waited.  After being on the "waiting list" for two years, we were told that due to the summer Olympics coming to China that summer, the Chinese officials
decided to place a hold on any further adoptions, because they didn't want the eyes of the world to see them as the world's largest exporter of baby girls. As a result we were told that it could be another 5 to 7 years until we go our daughter. Heartbroken but determined we chose to look at other adoption options. 
We worked with a birth mother for several months but she decided to place her baby with another couple. It was then that we found out about Lexi through an estranged relative at the time, and the rest is history. 
Recently, I took a job working part-time at my church.  Additionally, I lead a bible study for Moms once a week during the school year. I also plan and decorate for our church's
women's ministry events, and help my husband run our video production company. In my spare time (insert laugh) I love to read, cook, and enjoy party planning and decorating our home. 
In the future, Lord willing, I hope to become a Christian speaker and author. 
Here are some of my experiences, lessons, and wisdom as a Mom:

A Funny/Embarrassing moment - There are sooooo many funny and embarrassing moments with Lexi. I would have to say a few weeks ago at church, I was talking to a woman I had just met in the ladies room when Lexi came over and told the woman that her Mommy has a fat belly but she's still pretty, just fat.

What would I do differently as a Mom is recognizing that when I first got Lexi, although she seemed older, she was just a two year old baby, and I would not have put such high expectations and demands on her. I wouldn't have been as hard on her or as crazy of a parent as I once was.

My Mommy confession is a character I invented named Mommy Monster. I would tell Lexi that it would possess my body and mind when Lexi was misbehaving and would threaten to eat daddy's brains, never bring back Mommy, and take Lexi to her secret hideaway filled with bugs and spiders and never bring her back if she wasn't good any more. Eventually, I confessed that she wasn’t real and mommy was pretending. I do feel really guilty about doing it…although Mommy Monster was quite effective!

The way I was parented did unfortunately shape how I parent. I find that I am my mother in too many situations...

My Non-negotiables - We are somewhat flexible but there are things that are absolutes like no dessert if you don't eat your dinner...etc.

My biggest fear - Lexi being adopted made me that I would not be able to love her as if she were my own. The answer I have found is absolutely yes!!!!

My secret addiction is reading to Lexi! I loooove to read to her and act out the characters. I hate to miss a night when I don't get to read a book, it's crazy but I'm kinda addicted to it....

One thing I do for my kid but dread doing it is confrontation. I have had to do it several times in the 4 short years as a mom.

Something I said I would never do, but do anyway is forcing my kid to eat- but I find myself doing it anyway.

My biggest mommy Aha moment - Once Lexi asked me if I could pray with her to ask God to clean up her room. I told her that God doesn't clean up our messes we have to do that for ourselves. It suddenly hit me that I also need to stop asking God to do that very same thing. Also every time she says she loves me is an “Aha Moment”.

Best piece of advice to other Mom’s would be to forgive yourself when you make a mistake and don't forget to ask your child to forgive you too.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Chelsey:"A REAL Housewife of Glenwood Springs"

Chelsey, a wonderful Texas friend, was so kind to answer a few of my "Mommy Questions". It didn't surprise me at all that she had me laughing through many of her answers. Chelsey and I became Mom's around the same time while we were both on staff at the camp, and found comfort and many laughs with each other throughout some difficult times.
A great memory of Chelsey was when I went to the hospital to see her while she was in labor with her oldest, Aspen. The nurses directed me to her room without hesitation, so I was caught off guard when I walked in. I found her laughing and asking for food as I then had to walk past her legs hiked up and extended with Dr. Edwards down there stitching up "her stuff"- while over in the corner her husband, Michael, was holding perfect Aspen Rose. But, that's Chelsey!
Our girls, Tenly and Aspen, even had their ears pierced together with our friend Kim's little girl, Bella. Because Tenly was about 16 months old, I was terrified to do it, so Chelsey and Kim held her to have them done. Wouldn't it figure that she didn't even cry, I totally underestimated that kid.
Chelsey has always been a very understanding friend who could always make me laugh in the right moments, and keeps me "grounded". It was a sad and happy day when they drove all of their belongings off of the camp road to start their new life in Colorado. But, it has been wonderful to see all the dreams they are experiencing together as a family.
Here are some of Chelsey's insights and experiences as a Mom:

Ears Pierced: Chels & Aspen, Me & Tenly, Kim & Bella
My name is Chelsey and my husband, Michael, and I are originally from Texas, and we moved to Glenwood Springs, Colorado in 2008. We had our daughter, Aspen, in August 2007 and our son, Gunnison, in August 2010. We have been married for 6 years and love living in Glenwood Springs. First, because it's so beautiful here. Second, There's so much to do! We love to hike, bike, swim, tube the Colorado, fish, hunt and many other things! We can do every single one of those things in our own town; we're on a permanent vacation!
Scheduled or Unscheduled Mom? What are the benefits and downfalls to your choice?
The only schedule that we keep is going to church every Sunday morning. I like my kids to fly by the seat of their diapers! I don't keep my kids on such a strict schedule that it can never be broken and the poop hit's the fan. We do eat breakfast, lunch and dinner and take naps around the same time everyday. Keeping the schedule a little loose allows my kids to be flexible in any situation. Man, when Aspen starts school it's gonna rock my world!
 What is your biggest Mommy Pet-Peeve?
My biggest pet peeve is when I see other parents allowing their children to pretty much do whatever they want with no consequence. Like throwing fits in the store, kids not sitting down in shopping carts, running amuck in public places, disrespecting authority, etc. Parents need to stop trying to be their kids friend and start acting like a parent. People wonder why so many teenagers these days are disrespectful and rebellious.

Your funniest/most embarrassing "Mom/Child Moment"?
We were in Khol's and my daughter all of a sudden throws up all over herself in her stroller (always keep a spare set of clothes even after potty training- you never know). I had to take her all the way across the store to the bathroom to get her cleaned up. I passed a woman and she gave me the ugliest face when she saw my daughter. I almost told her to take a picture so it'll last longer, but I didn't! It's not like I fed her ipecac so that I would know what it felt like to get myself into strange social situations, it just happens!
Given the opportunity, what- if anything- would you do differently as a Mom?
As a Mom, I am continually learning to have more patience. I'm sure that's every mom, though. My daughter is very strong willed and she knows how to push all my buttons. I love my daughter, but there are many times when I dislike her behavior and I am hoping that when she gets older, she'll use that trait to her advantage. There will be no stopping her and the goals she can achieve. But, in the meantime, she can be extremely hard to deal with!
Did the way you were parented shape the way that you parent your own children?
I think the biggest impact my parents had on me was the way they interacted in their own marriage. They didn't talk about things very much and never seemed to be on the same page. I always told myself that my marriage would be different, and it is. I believe that you need to have a strong marriage before you even think about bringing children into the world. 
I had a pretty great childhood, actually. Both of my parents worked, so I was a daycare kid from the age of 6 months to 12 years. During the summers I was able to go on all types of field trips and things, so I did get to experience more things than what my parents could have ever done on their own.
So, Mom's who must place their children in childcare- don't fret over the thought of leaving your kids with someone else all the time, kids learn a lot form interacting with other people an they'll make a lot of friends.
Did you breastfeed? Did you feel pressured to/not to?
I breastfed both of my kids and I plan to breastfeed the other children that we plan to have. It's kind of funny that with my daughter, I breastfed her until she was 4 months old and had to stop because I stopped producing. So, with my son I was bound and determined to not let that happen again. My goal wa to make it to 6 months and then go from there. When he was 3 months old, I got kind of tired of breastfeeding since it became more of a hassle (it was more difficult being out and about more), so that's when I weaned him. 
I never did feel pressured, but I did want them to have a good strong start. I'm all for breastfeeding, but would NEVER pressure a mom/new mom to do it. I would certainly want them to know all the facts about breastfeeding vs. formula before making a decision. New Mom's have plenty of worries without others adding their expectations- support is the best thing to give to a new Mom.
Do you have a funny "labor" moment?
When I was in labor with Aspen, I had to push for over an hour! My husband was on my right side holding up my head, and then right in the middle of a big push his elbow hit the button to lower the bed (it happened more than once!). Everyone jumping asking, "What just happened?" It is funny to think of now, but not then!
When I was in labor with Gunnison, because of how long I had to push with Aspen, my husband thought it necessary to pull up a stool to sit on so he could be comfortable, too! TOO??!  There was no TOO- I was in no way, shape or form comfortable!
They checked my cervix when I was at 6, so the OB went to take a nap (8:30am) while I was transitioning. I started to feel a lot of pressure and the urge to push, when they checked me I was at 10 (9am). They made me wait to push until they were able to get my OB in the room! I had to "hold him in" for 30 minutes waiting for the doctor- my son was born at 9:42am! I was NOT comfortable!
What is your "secret" addiction or obsession?
I guess I feel like I don't have enough drama in my life, so I watch all of "The Real Housewives.." shows on Bravo..New Jersey, Atlanta, Beverly Hills, New York, etc! I definitely get my drama fix!
One thing that you do for your kids, because you love them, but you absolutely dread doing it?
Brushing their teeth! I know, it's sad, isn't it? But, my husband dreads it, too! I cannot wait for the day when they can brush their teeth on their own, but until then, it's a necessary evil.
What is something you said you would NEVER do with/to your children, which you find yourself doing?
I always said that I would NEVER let my kids drink soda. My daughter is almost 5, and I only allow her to drink clear sodas with no caffeine. My son is almost 2, and he can only have lemonade. My kids drink water, milk, and 100% fruit juice most of the time, but soda and lemonade is something they only get on occasion.
Labor: with drugs or without drugs?
I had epidurals with both of my kids and I plan to continue to do so for my future deliveries. I'm all for women who choose to go all natural...they're more "woman" than I am! HaHa!
What is the best piece of advice you could give to a new Mother?
Some new Mom's know their limitations and want/need help while others are gung-ho "I'm gonna do this without any help" Moms. Please know that there's no shame in asking for help and advice. Don't try to be Super Mom because you'll run yourself ragged trying to do so. Being a Super Mom comes with time, practice, and a full nights sleep (in other words, almost impossible)! 

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Real Mom, Living In The Moment: Martha

Let me introduce a college friend, and my cousin, Martha Vasquez Sosa. Although, Martha is my cousin, I did not have the opportunity to really know her until she began going to college at SEU with me (we come from an extremely large family). She has such an incredible heart; it is easy to fall in love with her almost instantly. Martha was even so kind to grace us with her talent by playing her viola is I walked down the aisle on my wedding day. She has, on more than one occasion, encouraged me and given me advice on ways to encourage and teach my children at home. Martha is one of those teachers who teach out of her passion for children and not the paycheck……
Martha: I’m a proud wife, mother to two beautiful boys, and 3rd grade teacher in central Florida. I play viola in a string quartet. I love word games like Scrabble and Words with Friends, and I’ve recently been diagnosed with ADD and I’m finding my groove.

 I haven’t always been okay. Years of counseling and prayer have helped transform me from an abused, depressed child into a somewhat productive, pseudo-normal person.

I grew up in a multi-family setting and moved at least twice a year. With so much instability, school became my safe haven. I poured all my energy into school and was desperate for the encouragement and affection my teachers gave me. Music was my outlet, and I was blessed with music scholarships to fund my college education. God made a way—and here I am married to the kindest man on the Earth, raising 2 precious boys, with the job I've always wanted.

I’ve embraced my past. It’s mine. It formed me and prepared me for the little lives I teach every day. I learned first-hand what NOT to do--and the life altering impact adults can have in the lives of children. I also learned God’s will is perfect and His grace is sufficient.

Are you a Scheduled or Non-Scheduled Mom? What are the benefits and downfalls to your choice?
I'm a proud unscheduled mom! Learning and beauty are found in spontaneous moments and organic living. Yes, for sanity's sake, we have a time to eat and a time to go to bed, but the rest of the day holds a loose "bucket list" of things that need to be accomplished as we get to them. Sticking to a schedule is more stressful--so much my consciousness is focused on the schedule, that I'm unable to enjoy the moments, discoveries and laughs with my kids. It's like a child struggling to sound out words in a story...the decoding is so labored that at the end of the story, he doesn't know what he just read. I never want to allow what is "supposed" to happen steal away the magical moments with my boys. 

What is your biggest Mommy Pet-Peeve?
My biggest mommy pet peeve: parents who do not parent; parents that expect the teachers to teach hygiene, manners, character, etc. It breaks my heart that, on more than one occasion, I've had to actually teach a 2nd grader how to set his/her alarm, how to set out clothes for the next day, how to bathe at night (even if you don't want to), and to put on CLEAN clothes after he/she gets out of the tub, how to make breakfast for themselves and younger siblings and how important it was to make it to the bus stop on time..."yes, honey, I know mommy and daddy are still sleeping, but I'm counting on you to be responsible enough to get yourself clean, dressed and ready for school." ::heartbreaking:: But kids will rise to the occasion. Every time. 

Given the opportunity, what- if anything- would you do differently as a Mom?
One thing I would do differently as a mom was journal. Daily from the time I found out I was pregnant. I wish I could recount each day with my boys and know the smallest, meaningless milestones...alas...

Did the way you were parented shape that way that you parent your own children? How?
Yes, my parents shaped the way I parent. My dad was in prison most of my childhood and my mom was dealing with her own issues and finding the answers at the bottom of a bottle. I actually made a list of qualities that I would/would not replicate. My dad has a strong work ethic, my mom snuggled with us everyday, my dad is hilarious, and my mom is frugal... I observed not only my parents, but also my youth pastors, pastors, my friends parents, etc. I took notes, prayed and asked for wisdom. I knew I'd never be a perfect mother, but I did want to be a thoughtful, prayerful mother. I wanted to act and speak with purpose. 

What is your biggest Mommy “Aha” moment?
My biggest mommy "aha" moment was realizing that these tiny little people have enormous personalities, complete with their own decision making skills (irrational 2 year olds) and an agenda carved in stone. All those times I said, "My kids will never __________" came flooding back to me. 

What is the best piece of advice you could give to a new Mother?
The best piece of advice I would give to a new mother would be this: Don't compare. Don't compare yourself with other moms. They are crying and confused sometimes, too. Don't compare your baby with other babies. Each miracle is perfectly crafted with God's hands and desperately needs prayerful, wise parents to prepare him for the purpose God created him. Embrace the tearful moments. And if you're exhausted, you're doing something right. Having a child has cemented all I've known about God's character, selfless love, patience, and beauty...

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Oh, The Mess!

The "play-date" mess picture I posted.
The other day, my girls had their friends Lexi and Audrey come over for a play-date after Kidz Camp at church. They were beyond excited, I was going over the list of rules which the four of them agreed to with pleasure!
At the end of the play date, I posted a picture on Facebook of the "damage" our little apartment suffered at the hands of four little girls "creativity". I was honestly a bit shocked at many of my friends reaction to the picture...but, let me back up for a minute...
When my girls were much younger, they frequently made a huge mess- much bigger than the other day. My friend, Annette (who has children the same age as mine), shared with me an article she had read that encouraged parents to allow a modge podge (not to enforce the "one thing out at a time" rule) of all different toys to be played with at the same time because it fosters creativity. After thinking about it, I totally agreed and embraced the huge mess of toys that began to encompass my house daily. My Mom to this day says she was always so proud- and shocked- of my allowing this to happen.
I didn't mind the mess as long as it came with the understanding that they would also clean it up. When they were younger, I of course would help clean it up- but insisted they be right along side me doing it. As they were older, I naturally expected them to do more with less enforcement. Well, let's just say as I starting getting more resistance instead of compliance- I drew the line! I was all for creativity, but not at my expense and sanity every day!
Yes, I am one of "those Mom's" who insists that everything is put away in it's proper place before anyone is in bed every day. Yes, I even pull them out of bed if it's not done right.  My girls are at the age that I do expect them to care for, take care of, and put away there things in an orderly fashion. So, we now implement the "only one thing out at a time" rule. They actually have grown to appreciate it now, because it only takes them minutes to clean up instead of an hour (with constant reminders of "clean up", "get busy", and "you only have 5 minutes left" in their ear). I do have the same expectations of myself, I do not get into bed until everything is cleaned up and put away- neither does Lupe (poor man, lol).
So, back to my picture the other day. I had a few people comment on the picture "that's nothing" or "that's how my house looks every day"- which gave me a little laugh. The next day, I was speaking to my friends Joanne and Joelle- I had an "aha" moment which I feel kind of stupid about, lol.
They were both telling me how they laughed at the picture also because, "that's nothing" they said. Apparently, I am not grouped in the group of "typical Mom's with typical expectations". They informed me that there are times they cannot even walk in their kids bedrooms because of all the stuff everywhere, it is common to wake up to a sink full of dishes, it is common to leave the house with unmade beds, etc. 
Don't get me wrong, I knew that there were Mom's who went day to day like this- but I really didn't realize that it was more the norm than what my "norm" is. I asked other Mom's later that day how they ran there households and what there expectations were. There were a couple who were like me, some fell in between, but 7 Mom's out of the 11 I asked were more laid back like my friends, Joanne and Joelle.
Not that one is right or one is wrong. Sometimes I wish I could just roll with the punches and make other things the priority- but I just can't do it! I do realize it all comes down to balance, my friends tell me they wish  they could be more like me as I am wishing I could be a little more like them.
I say all of that to say this: So, many things are a matter of perspective, awareness, and a willingness to learn and change. This silly little "Aha Moment" I had,has made me want to reach out to others for their perspective because I have a willingness to learn and perhaps make changes. I have some Mom's who have so graciously told their stories and answered questions. It has been so intriguing to see other points of view. I will be honest, there are are certain idea's that I firmly believe in as a Mom- well, reading about a different perspective on those ideas, I now understand much better why Mom's choose to be that way.
I remember when all of Tenly's toys fit in this box!
I hope you enjoy reading and learning from other Mom's, as I know I will, over the next few weeks.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Most Important Decisions You Will Ever Make

What come to mind when you think about the most important decisions you will ever make?
When talking to various people, and researching what others consider to be "Life's Most Important Decisions", majority gave several of the same answers:
- Whom you will marry.
- Religion.
- Your career.
- Where to further your education.
- How many children you will have.
- Where you will live.
I absolutely agree with this list. Of course, "religion" moves to number 1 with me- and it goes beyond just "religion"- but rather a choice to invite Jesus into your life to be your Lord and Savior. There is no question, that this is the most important decision one will ever make, it effects the quality of your life today, tomorrow, and in the "hereafter"- and every other decision you will ever make.
There is a decision that Lupe and I had to make recently that is not on this list. To be honest, I am not that surprised that it wasn't listed or said- but Lupe and I both agree (as I'm sure many others would) that it is an extremely important decision that should never be taken lightly.
The Church you choose to attend.
I honestly believe this is one of the most important decisions one will make. The Bible tells us many times how important it is to surround ourselves with other believers (Heb 10:25) and to use our gifts within the body of Christ to minister to others (1 Cor 12:7). 
The church you commit yourself and family to should provide a place of rest and refuge when you are facing pressures and temptations, a place of encouragement when you are down and out, a place of hope and help when you are in need, a place of learning and instruction to help you become the person God wants you to be, and a place to find lifelong relationships with people that can love and befriend you. Nothing is more precious and valuable and fulfilling than to worship the Lord with fellow Christians, to see your children brought up in learning about Jesus, to spend your time doing things that will count for eternity.
Lupe and I found a great "fit" at Community Christian Church when we first moved to South Florida. A few things we loved about this church is how approachable and caring the pastoral staff was- especially for such a large church. CCC has MANY opportunities to be involved, from Bible Studies, Women's Ministry, Children's Ministry, and the numerous outreaches to the community. They truly love people. I think that was Lupe, our children, and I needed most at that time, just to sit back and be loved on and accepted. We were not just a number, we had a name and the staff made it a point to know us and love on us.
Recently, Lupe and I both started feeling like it may be time for something new, something more. We were happy at CCC, but there was something pulling at us. One day at work, Lupe was connected to someone who gave him a card introducing him to Save The Nations Church. That card laid on our desk for a couple of weeks, finally one day I went to their website and was intrigued by what I saw- we decided to visit.
The service at STN was wonderful, we walked in feeling the tangible presence of God and left feeling challenged in our spiritual walk. I'll be honest- it would of been easier if we wouldn't of liked it. It would of been easier just to stay where we were- NOT to make a change. 
We new God was bringing a change- and as difficult as that can be- it comes with MANY benefits to be in His perfect will. A few weeks ago, we both felt God had released us from CCC after my commitments to the Women's Ministry were fulfilled.
PEACE! We are so at peace with our decision, and the Pastoral staff at CCC were so loving as we let them know we were making a move. We are excited- and a bit nervous- to begin at Save the Nations Church. I can't wait to see what God has for us next.