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“Aggie in Argentina” Transfer Student Studies Abroad Part 1

The Transfer Student Interview Series continues with Lexie Munevar, past community college student leader and now university transfer student studying abroad.

“When in my life time would I ever be able to live abroad if not now?” How often does that thought cross your mind? For many of our college and university students, the thought of living abroad might come to them when they see a flyer on a campus bulletin board or a tweet reminding them that the deadline for the next study abroad trip is in a week. For my latest transfer student to interview, the idea came from the Transfer Event during her first quarter at university, where she saw the study aboard program.

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If you could do anything.

A story about resilience.

The idea of if you could do anything came to me straight of out of left field when I became a stay at home mom with newborn twins. As crazy as that might sound, it was the first time in my life where I felt my future was a blank slate. You might be thinking “staying home with twins, yeah that would close a lot of doors”, but you know what, you would be amazed what comes to mind when you have to start over.

Job loss, relationship changes, moving, sickness – all of those can put you in a fight-or-flight mindset. The resistance can be huge. It was for me: I was happy. I had direction. I had opportunity. What happened? I learned that life can be planned, but that doesn’t always mean we will stay on the same path, even when we think we’ve got it all figured out. Life moves forward, every day. Life changes, every day. Even if you think everything has stopped, it really hasn’t.

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When you slowly move away from a life you once knew towards the unknown, you discover you have two choices: regret or reflect. When you regret, you block the chance for anything new to come into your life. When you reflect, you find there are other parts of yourself you didn’t even know were there. You start to discover that maybe life is not always work until you retire, or babies come when you are ready. More and more research is showing that Generation X, Millennials, even the new generation of college students will have to build resistance training into their self development because the idea that you can stay in one place of work until you can retire is shifting. Or the idea people live tell their 90.

I’m learning more and more that change is what keeps you going, challenges are what keep you living, experiences is what keep you happy. And this is good.

Because, what if you could do anything? What if a job change or a relationship change or even a new location was what was supposed to happen? That it was always in the plans? What if I told you that life will change. How do you think you would react? How do you think you would live your life? 

For me, having unplanned twins, then relocating to a new town, choosing to quit my job to stay home with my girls and son was my big resistance test. How did I do? Let’s just say low scores out the gate but it was what I needed. It tested my marriage, my confidence, my trust. I experienced depression. I experienced regret. I even exerienced the feeling of loss because I wasn’t used to it. I wasn’t used to not making money or not going to an office. It was all so new to me. And as crazy as this sounds, what helped me build up my resilience was coming back to “if I could do anythig”.

You might be asking, how? How do you get past or even believe you could do anything. Yes, at that time, I wasn’t traveling the world by myself for NBC Nightly News, but I was dreaming of it. I wasn’t in the classroom or a board room but I was dreaming of it. I started evaluating what I could do. What I loved. What I wanted to try. What I already knew I was good at.

canva-pink-dreamy-sky-motivational-nature-desktop-wallpaper-MAB-kvDXsAM What if you are in a relationship?  What do you do if your partner is not interested in moving to Hawaii. You ask anyway. Maybe they are. Or hasn’t asked you about your dreams since the first date. What do you do? You share. You don’t give up.  You pop open some beers, hand them one and say, “I’m thinking of trying this…” That’s what got me through it. If it’s not beer, try two spoons and a case of ice cream. Or in some cases you just go for something you want to do. By the way, I need you to watch the kids Wednesday night. You stand your ground. You keep believing in yourself. You wish it was different and then you do it anyway. Remember that life changes every day. My own relationship is not a “go Vicky go” but I do know that he will make the time to take care of the kids when I need him too. Sometimes, actions do speak louder than words.

What if you don’t have the money?
 
 Try experience, may it be paid or not. Experience is worth more than you will ever know. It will get your spirit moving. Your spirit is what matters. Money fills the gas tank but not always your heart. Experiences do. Time. That’s where if I could do anything becomes your biggest motivator. Your “go Vicky go”. My twin girls were so ready for preschool and I always wanted to try academic advising. At the time, all I needed was enough money to pay for preschool. I reached out to the the chair in Natural Sciences and Mathematics at Dominican University of CA and together he gave me a chance and my twins got the chance to make new friends. Whatever you do, keep dreaming. Keep believing. Keep looking for opportunities. You will surprise yourself.

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What if you are not as healthy as before? Health challenges are huge and life-changing. But they are challenges that can be faced. They can be won. This last year, my family have been with my mom as she heals from cancer. This experience has taught us so much. It can make you stronger than you ever were before. It can make you see what you were missing. It can teach your family and friends to not take life for granted (or anyone for that matter). Let the time you are healing be your reflective time. Your chance to dream.

 What if you could do anything? Trying a new career. Running a marathon. Finding a way to take that trip. Not giving up. Staying home with your kids. Walking to the mail box today, even it it takes all the energy you got. It might be telling your partner something has to change. Whatever it might be, go for it. Life is always moving forward even when it might feel differently. And as crazy as it sounds, when you realize what YOU want to try, you will find away. The free time will come. The peace will fill your home. The trust will happen. The smile will return. If I could do anything..

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Making a Connection in a Digital World

In a time where we quickly text or voice record a message to send, and spend just enough time on Facebook to “like” someone’s status or new photo, are we really too busy to pick up the phone?

I sat there. Counting how many friends I have on my Facebook page and thought, there has to be at least one person I can call. Someone with whom I can have a real conversation. Yes, it is easy to scroll through the newsfeed, to share a bit of my own life, and then turn off the phone. Yet after a few days of this, a few days of minimal conversation with my husband, I’m left wondering, are we really too busy to talk on the phone?

What am I afraid of? Sharing that I’m having fun and that I’m also missing the experience of having co-workers? That it’s not what it’s cracked up to be? What is it that I really need? Laughter, tears, a “totally” or “So, any new gossip?” to help me get through?

We can’t rely on the likes and the status updates people! We can’t rely on texting all the time. We are meant to connect on a human level. If you haven’t called a human being. I mean, really used your  phone for it is original purpose, dial it. Call someone. Hear a human’s voice.

clear-phoneI don’t want to leave it all up to status updates and “screen” friends, only to find myself with no one to talk to on a Saturday night. I know better. I know because I lived before the smart phone. I was that 8th grader, in my room for hours on end, with that phone that you could see all the wires inside and I talked up a storm with my boyfriend, with my girl friends, and whoever would listen. I can’t imagine a young person today, just sitting there on their bed, typing away with acronyms and emojis instead of really talking and listening to the other person’s energy, their laughter and their tears.

Yes, life for most of us is full to the brim right now. Full with more work that we can imagine. Full with children that need our attention every minute of every day.  Full with parents aging and parents passing on. Life goes on, but is really full.

I know you and you know me and you know we used talk on the phone. We used to meet for coffee. Let’s do that soon.

The next time you go to send a quick text, call instead. The twins might be sleeping. Your friend might be on the couch with their partner. They might be at work. It’s okay if they say, “let me call you back”. The key is you reached out. You heard a voice. You connected.

First published in Multiplicity Winter 2016 issue by Multiplicity Magazine

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Best Part of Being a Dad? Showing Them the World

Last month, I asked my mom friends about their favorite part of being a mom. The running theme that emerged from their answers was over-the-top hugs. This time around, for Fathers Day, I found that the dad response carried a huge amount of pride for being their childrens’ dad. These dads reflected on how important it is that who they are to their child matters and what their child teaches and gives back to them.

“Circle of life….. a dutiful contribution to my universe, hopefully resulting in her contributing greatness to hers.”- Nate Campbell

“Cuddling with my kids at night before they fall asleep.” -Kevin Estrella

“The moments my children surprise me and genuinely make me laugh. Also the ever expanding love I feel for my wife as a result of raising children together.”-Chad Elliot Scherbarth

“Being an empty Nester! LOL”- Serge Alexandre

“I’m inspired by this quote from Elizabeth Stone: ““Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ” …Seeing my heart outside of my body, learning, growing, and developing into his own person. Listening to him read, seeing him write, tell his own stories and silly jokes, and make up his own songs!”- Gaurav Mathur

“Introducing Sam to the things I like.” -Matthias Worch

“To be a little selfish, my favorite part of being a dad is seeing the world again through new eyes, and being able to marvel at it all again.”-Seppo Helava

“The best part of being a “Dad”  is watching as your children grow and experience life. The joy of their laughter and learning the consequence’s of their there actions and interactions with other children (and adults). The best part is when you see your children mature and change from being “self-centered” to “other-centered”. When they show they care about other peoples feeling and situations and put them ahead of there own wants and needs. That is when they show that they have learned from your teaching and good example, good religious and moral values to carry them through their life. Just as you teach your children to eat good food you also must teach them good values to carry them in their adult life. I am just as  proud of the achievements of my son’s in their adult life as I am of all that they achieved as children.”-Rick Estrella
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Checking In: Summer Awaits

Reading: With the additional sunlight in the mornings, my favorite part of Summer has returned: reading in the morning sun. When I can, I take my morning tea and my latest book to my blue adirondack chair. Even if its for 10 minutes. I’ve been reading Gloria Steinem’s My Life on the Road. Gloria’s book is not only her sharing her amazing life on the road as a journalist covering the feminist movement of the 60’s 70’s and unto today, (A career I secretly want to do 😉 I love the idea of someone giving you an assignment and off you go!) but how she saw the world. How she found herself in ground breaking meetings and community gatherings. How she was part of history and even in her 80’s she still wants to bring women and men together. Last fall I saw her speak at the university I work for, Dominican University of CA. In her book and in person, she reminds us you just never know where life is going to take you and where you will be needed.

I finished Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest novel Big Magic back in April and loved it too! I have found some really great stuff lately. A while back, I mention wanting to read Hillary Rodham Clinton’s book Hard Choices. With her winning the Democratic Party’s nomination,  yay, it’s next on my list to pick up.

Listening to: The quietness of our home. Its the one moment in the week where I’ve got the place to myself. Everyone is off and I’ll be off soon but until then I enjoy the silence.

Watching: How we are all calling for love. Over Social Media, through the news, even a rainbow flag waving on someone’s car. What has happen in Orlando, Florida touches all of us. My thoughts and prayers for the families and friends of those lost and hurt, and for all of us as we move forward to choose love over hate. Choose love over hate, always. 

Looking forward to: This Summer, I’m looking forward to Sam learning to swim, to our girls no longer needing diapers, and Summer Sundays. You know how when the warm weather arrives and all you want to do is lay out in the Summer sun, BBQ, be near water, visit with friends and family. That’s what our Sundays turn into and I love it.

Sam Update: Last week, Sam finished Kindergarten. I asked him what his favorite part was, he said having a big buddy. When I asked him what he was most looking forward to in 1st grade he said Math. His big buddy let him know there is lots of Math in first grade. On his last day, I got emotional thinking about this past year. How I loved that they made us come to his classroom door and pick him up. It gave me the chance to see his classroom weekly, get to know his teacher Mr. Cannon, and to slow down. I keep reminding myself, you have your whole life to work. I loved that I had two amazing mom friends to share the year with. We helped each other stay on top of spirit days, homework, and made sure to get our Moms Night Out. But most of all, I loved that Sam learn to be passion about learning new things, laughing with friends, and having a big buddy. Now he wants to be a big buddy. :) Cheers Sam!!

Twin Update: I feel like I need a sign up that reads “Gone twinning.” From sunrise to sun down, we are on the go! Playing, painting, running, singing, dancing, eating. Even, right when its time for bed, they got to get in one more “jumping on the bed”. They are teaching me big time that what I used to do, was awesome, but sometimes we can’t keep doing what we did. Sometimes we need to change it up. Make it happen in new ways. Adapt to what life needs today. I feel like the biggest difference between raising one child and having twins has to be coming to the conclusion, “you’ve gone fishing”.

Friends and family might wonder where you’ve been or why you haven’t been able to call this week or meet up this month. Or if you are okay. The truth is you “got your hands full”. Period. Even more full than you thought you could be. If you are back to work or even home with three year olds. This stage means lots of running around. Lots of moving. Lots of hugs. Lots of playing. I recently got a Fit Bit for Mother’s Day. After the first week tracking my steps with my new Fit Bit, and watching me hit my 10,000 steps not even 3, my husband finally got it when I say,  yeah, the kids keep me going!

Marriage After Kids: Lesson #2 Make time for each other every day. The campus where I work at is located in a beautiful residential area. At the end of the day, when I’m walking back to my car I see the same couple pushing their orange twin bob stroller. A husband and wife. They even have two dogs with them. Their twins have to be just over a year, maybe a year and a 1/2. Every time I see them I want to scream out “from one twin parent to another, keep taking those evening walks!”

It reminds me to make time with my husband. This past year, it has not been easy. Our work schedules are not the same for dinners or even breakfasts. He needs his rest in the morning and kids eat before he gets home. So we are left with a tiny window of 9pm to 10pm. It’s small but its ours. One night he even said, “I won’t go back to working until we’ve sat together.”

But its when I see that twin couple, every day, together, it reminds me you can’t take your relationship for granted. You need each other. Especially when you are raising twins. Two babies. Two toddlers. Its a lot. At the same time. Then you add in the oldest, and the house, the laundry and on and on and its the Never Ending Story. You are surviving until the waters calm and you can stand on both feet. So whatever you do, make time for each other. Even if its for a cup of tea over Skype or Chef Ramsey’s latest show. And be okay with what you can do right now. Life always gets better because you two get better.

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What’s Your Favorite Part of Being A Mom? Hugs of course!

What is your favorite part of being a mom? Mine has to be the hugs. Hugs, hugs, hugs!

There are the I love you mommy hugs. The I’m so glad you are here mom, what are we doing now hugs. The I want only mom hugs that are really tight and pull at your heart strings. Oh and the She is my mommy – No my mommy! hugs. Those ones need all the hugs space you can give.

I’m a hug kind of person anyway, so hugs from my kids fuel me big time. What I didn’t realize is that hugs are huge for lots of moms. I asked my mom friends on Facebook what their favorite part of being a mom was and a big theme that came back was hugs.  The more hugs you give moms, the more we take it all in. The more we love this super hard, super rewarding, super fun journey of motherhood.

Here is what my mom friends shared with me.

“Hey mamas! I’m taking a survey! We play so many roles during the day from chef, to dance partner, to advisor to teacher. I’m writing a piece for Mother’s Day and I would love to share what your favorite part of being a mom. “

“When they wake up in the morning and they ask me they want kisses and snuggles, and we all get to stay in bed for “snugglelandia” this is how we call it in Spanglish…;) when they tell me “te amo mama” just out of nowhere and nothing….looking right into my eyes…”- Sole Drago

“It’s all good!”-Nancy Zumwalt

“Being the best snuggler and having the magic kiss that can make any boo boo feel better.;)” – Lisa Pearson Hamre

images“Reaping the reward of having grandchildren.” – Barbara Welch

“Getting outside of myself and seeing the world through their eyes.”
– Erin Geary

“Learning how to be playful again.” – Amy Zumwalt Rhodes

“Hugs!” – Heather Strong

“Coming home from a long day at work to my little girl excited to see my running over with a screaming big hug!” – Amy Adkins

“Living each day through their imaginative, creative and funny eyes.” – Denise DeBattisha Tosti

“Knowing that I am their world and that nothing compares to the love and nurture of being a Mom. Teaching them about the world and their place in it. Being fortunate to be home with them while they’re still young children.” – Catherine Wittenkeller Alsterlind

“When they leave and go off to college do not smother them. Let them go, explore and enjoy college. Hovering doesn’t help them nor you grow.” – Robyn Tornay

“I love all the parts. From playing ninja at 6am (because who doesn’t?), to the snuggles at night. I also absolutely love making great memories with them as a family. I hope they remember the fun times. And frankly, they make me try harder to be better. So I guess that’s a side benefit. Parenting is hard. Another thought: watching them learn new things and ask questions. So many things are amazing and magical and I hope they hold on to that magic for a really long time.” – Kate Bromley

“Cuddles, kisses and breastfeeding.” – Julie Buckle

02d48527e8269a4c6f82a80e544820e0“I’ve always said “When they’re sleeping”. Hahahaha. Not just because they’re asleep…although that’s an obvious piece of it…. Seeing your children asleep is magical – it’s like the ultimate thank you for feeling loved, comfortable and safe.” – Melanie Manchi

“My son is nearly 2 1/2 years old now and there are so many favorites, but I have found that I absolutely love when he needs or wants me when I am the most swamped with my to do list when we get home in the evening. It reminds me to slow down and truly be in the moment with him and remember that everything else will wait. I also love the mother/son bond that we share because I have never experienced a relationship like this. As a single Mom with a full-time career outside of our home, our time during the work/school week is pretty limited, so I try to soak in every minute…including car rides to and from school. :)” – Lindsay Kretchman

“All time favorite… Watching them grow in every stage, but especially watching them as adults putting to use the knowledge that you have taught them. Ohh and the funnest part is joking with the kids and embarrassing them!! (In a fun matter, not hurtful) for those with young kids you will understand what I’m talking about when they are teenagers and adults. Lol. I plan ahead of how I’m going to mess with them when ever they come an visit.” – Chell Bee

“Loving two people (that you made) that much! And seeing the world through new eyes!” – Ashley Eagle-Gibbs

“Hmmm…hard question because there are too many “best” things about being a mom. Most favorite, when he reminds me that he needs me. Awesome feeling.” – Maria Villagomez

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Checking in: Spring Forward

Reading: This month, I joined my first book club. It’s part of my twin club which is really nice. Life has been so full, I haven’t had much chance to visit with fellow twin moms. We’ve picked Susan Mallery’s The Friends We Keep. I finished Elizabeth Egan’s debut novel A Window Opens. Loved it. Loved how I could relate to her story so well. Her novel is about a mom of three returning to work. Being a mom of three myself, who recently to work this past fall, her book fit perfectly with what I was going through. I’m also reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest novel Big Magic. It’s full of short inspirational chapters that have been a great read at bedtime. Thank you Liz!

Watching: Sam playing T-Ball. Awesome!!

Listening to: San Fransisco’s KFOG Live from the Archives Volume 22. The one song that has stays with me the most is David Gray’s “Back to the World (Live on KFOG)”

Looking forward to: Taking better care of myself. In January I kicked off the new year with a yoga membership and to do whatever I can to get more sleep. Proud to say I’ve kept my promise to go every weekend. I’m very impressed and grateful to have found Sukha Yoga of Novato. Getting back on my mat, I’m mean really getting back on my mat, has transformed my sleep and my spirit. These past few months have been difficult. I’m looking forward with the intention that if I’m not healthy then I can’t be the person I truly want to be.

Sam Update: Sam is a math wiz! He loves math. He continues to love building lego sets and is super excited that his best friends Jack and Francisco are on his T-Ball team. Go South Novato Little League Nationals!

Twin Update: “Knock, Knock? Who’s there? Banana! Banana who? Banana in your face!” Lol! AND “No! I want to do it!” The biggest change in the twins is how much they are talking! They are telling us everything they know, what they want, how they want it, where things are, who they are friends with a school and that you look pretty mom :0) The Knock Knock joke is our favorite game to play with Sam and anyone who visits.

(New to my check in) Marriage After Kids: Lesson #1 “Take care of yourself AND take care of each other” With Spring officially here and winter moving on, I find it fitting to change my last check in subject from “Meaning of Home” to “Marriage After Kids”. As I mention before, this past winter has been difficult. Work and family stress has become the norm in our house which has led to sleepless nights, hard talks and self reflection. We know now that how you take care of yourself effects everything and everyone. And if you stop taking care of yourself, then you can’t truly do all you want to do, you can’t fully enjoy the fruits of your labor, and you stop laughing. When you stop laughing, you stop enjoying. And joy is what we are here for.

The hardest part for my husband and I is that we take care of ourselves differently. We can only be ourselves… And that’s okay. But we’ve learned that real partnership truly happens when you know what your partner needs to do to refuel and you support that. “I’ll watch the kids, take that hike.” “The early yoga class works best for me, have fun! Love you in those yoga pants :)” It’s for sure one way to truly be there for each other.

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Acceptance

A Facebook entry I wrote to my twin club during a evening my twins would not fall asleep

The sooner I accept this stage the easier it will get. Repeat. Repeat. It’s the only thing that seems the most positive, the most realistic, other wise I’ll keep thinking about all the things I don’t get to do and will join in the crying that has been happening every night this week while we try to get them to bed. The sooner I accept that I can’t get everything done that I wanted to do because it’s just the way it is right now, the sooner I’ll feel less anger, less sadness, less frustration.

My twins are 2 1/2 and 2 1/2 means they are more aware of mommy being near and when I’m not. They are more aware that they can fight bed time, changing clothes, what they want to eat, where they want to go. We had it so good. What happen?!

And to think I thought I had enough energy when they were 1 and half. Think again. Clear your calendar. Let whatever is extra go for the time being, these twins need you. And accept its only for the time being. That’s the key I’m learning.

Accept its only for a short time. They will get potty trained. They will get sleep trained. They will learn more and more and more. They will eat more. They will explore more. They will hug more. You’ll love it and it will drive you crazy.

Accept and cherish this stage. Just as you did before and will do during the next stage.

Accept and trust. Your not losing yourself along the way. Your discovering a new you. Accept and smile.

Accept and find at least one thing you are grateful that happen today. Hmm.. got my favorite moment. Sweet, feeling much better.

And go in their one more time, sing their favorite song one more time, and know they will fall asleep. They will. Even when they keep calling for you. And so will you. And just like that they fell asleep.

 

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Checking In With a Review of 2015

For this season’s Checking In I went with a Year in Review of 2015. Looks like we have a family Christmas newsletter after all! 

Reading: As I gathered my books for my “2015 In Reading” photo, I found that I only own half of the books that I read! Judging by my past check-ins, I spent the winter and spring borrowing books from the library.

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My year of past and future reading

From what I could tell, I finished a book every month! I kicked off the year by finishing Kristen Gillibrand’s Off the Sidelines, then dove right into my 2014 Christmas gift Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn. His book was a big part of how I got into the practice of Mindfulness. Throughout the year I read different stories that were good for an entertaining read but it wasn’t until Labor Day weekend, at Powells’ Book in Portland Oregon, that I picked up Steps Out of Time – One Women’s Journey on the Camino by Katherine B. Soper and really cherished my bedtime again.

Gloria Steinam rolled into town in early fall for a speech and I was able to see her and pick up her latest book My Life on the Road for free. I haven’t finished it yet but I know when the time is right, I will be glad I did: so far her writing and storytelling take me right back to those intense significant times in American Women’s History. Last month, I entered an Instagram contest and won a signed copy of Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert thanks to Barnes and Noble College. It became my lunch read before I went on Christmas break, but I haven’t finished it yet, either, because…

Ironically, with multiple novels going, appearing I can’t say no to books nothing has grabbed my attention more and made me seek out warm reading spots than my husband’s Christmas gift: Shonda Rhimes’s Year of Yes – How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person. I keep telling people that this book feels like reading monologues from Meredith Grey or Christina Yang of Grey’s Anatomy (my ALL TIME favorite show on television). I’m in heaven! And what better way to end my 2015 year of reading than with the humor and grace of writer Shonda Rhimes.

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Sam at his first practice for team Galactic Empire

I have no worries about what to read after I’m done. Christmas also brought me Elizabeth Egan’s debut novel A Window OpensCheryl Strayed’s Brave Enough and Dintv W. Moore The Mindful Writer. 2016 is already looking up.

Watching: 2015 was the year where I watched my kids become the most active they’ve ever been: the twins were doing gymnastics, Sam played soccer for the first time and the kids were running through water puddles any chance they got. (In hot pink rain boots of course!)

For my husband and I, 9pm became the time in the day we both got to slow down and watch our favorite t.v.shows. We got hooked on The Royals and Master Chef. When Silicon Valley returned for a second season, we were right there on opening night, ready for anything. Through it all we had our constant shows of Hell’s KitchenThe Big Bang Theory, American’s Next Top Model – and my Grey’s Anatomy, which never disappointed.

Listening to: As I write this post, I hear our birds Max and Pete talking away, who have been with us for (I think!) 8 years. If you asked them what they mostly heard in our house last year, they would probably mention that crazy kids show Caillou, and The Chicka Show, along with Sprout‘s awesome new shows Nina’s World and Maya the Bee. When the TV was off, YouTube was streaming Maroon 5’s Sugar and everyone was dancing! Hey that sounds about right!

Looking forward to: So far, 2016 looks steady and calm. I’m imagining a year in which my husband’s game Mafia 3 finds its way to the masses and doesn’t disappoint. My son Sam finishes kindergarten ready for the world of reading. My daughters have said goodbye to diapers forever – and hello to a new independence. And I am still writing all about it and more! There is a wedding planned in the spring on my side of the family, my in-laws will be returning in the summer, and my dad will be celebrating his 70th birthday on Labor Day weekend. Looking forward to another great year!

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Sam’s favorite new Skylander: Spyro

Sam Update: 2015 was the year Sam went from preschool to kindergarten. We went from watching him like hawks outside the house to letting him roam through the neighborhood with his friends. 2015 was the year Sam discovered Skylanders and Lego Ninjago. He got this first jobs around the house like making his bed to setting and clearing the dining table. As the year comes to a close, he continues to make us proud. This past week, between building Lego sets and finishing Skylander video game levels with his dad, his saw his first Star Wars film, The Force Awakens. He did pretty well for not being quite 6 yet! There were some scary parts but I think what he loved the most was being out with his mom and dad.

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Twins on their first day of preschool

Twin Update: The twins started the year running through the gymnastics halls, and finished the year running through the halls of preschool. They filled our walls with their love of colors and drawing. They blessed us with so many hugs and so many kisses, I’m amazed more and more every day that we are raising twin daughters. Lily, my artist and Ellie my dancer remind me every day how much I love my life now more than ever. They also remind me that taking care of them is a daily job that can only be truly recognized and appreciated when I also take care of myself.

Meaning of home: This year I added a section on the meaning of home to my Check-In posts. Looking back over these posts, I talked about finding that favorite spot in your house or how there is a difference to be made each day, both inside and out in the world. I discovered that regardless of whether you live by yourself, with friends or family, you’ve got to be there for each other and yourself. Home is your place in this big world to feel safe, loved, and be at peace. Some days that will feel harder and further out of reach than others.

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From my collection of #blackboardquotes

On other days it will be right there like water in the ocean, ready to fuel you. 2015 taught me that when it comes to the meaning of home, the most important thing is to have no fear when you leave the house and to always bring the best of you back home.

Cheers to 2015

It’s amazing to think that in 2015, between doing the Leadership Novato program, taking three kids to the library/Target/local parks and getting my twins to nap at the same time, I still found time to write. Writing became my time. I continued to write for the national twin website twiniversity.com, Multiplicity magazine, and for my own blog Cafevic.com. When I had a deadline, I noticed that writing gave me a reason to ask for help. And without writing, I wouldn’t have taken a break from my kids! The one piece that I am most proud of was Stay-at-Home Parenting, A Vocation Worth Receiving, an interview with seven local stay-at-home parents. It received more blog visits than any other post I’ve ever written and showed others what it’s truly like to be a stay-at-home parent in 2015.

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Me at Marta and Dan Le’s wedding in Getaria, Spain

I started 2015 with one personal goal: to make it to Spain for my closest friend’s wedding in June. In May I had almost lost faith: I wasn’t getting hired and I didn’t know how I was going to afford the plane ticket. Then, right at the last moment, a new friend made the ticket happen and my in-laws agreed to watch our kids for me.

For this mom-of-twins-plus-one, having that chance to travel by myself for a week not only gave me the break that I needed; to this day it still fuels my soul and made me a better mom and partner. My husband and I celebrated 8 years of marriage and continued to learn that through it all, it is important to give each other space while finding time together, both with and without our children.

As we say good bye to 2015, I can’t help but think back to how the year started. My closet friend was living across the pond in Cambridge. New neighbors had just moved in across the street. I was in full swing of being a stay-at-home parent, taking my twins to gymnastics with my neighbor. I remember how in January I was applying for jobs in student life at the local community college, thinking that a job interview was surely on the horizon and that I would be back to work by March. Instead, I discovered, that it would not be until mid October that I would return to work – not in student life but in academic advising at a private liberal arts university known as Dominican University of CA. Which is an area of student development that I’ve always wanted to try!

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With my husband Matthias at Relief Reservoir – 7600 feet high at the end of a horseback ride from Kennedy Meadows (near the Pacific Crest Trail).

I end this Check In with one of my favorite moments of the year: our good friends Anne and Thomas decided to make their annual summer desert trip a Bachelor/Bachelorette party. We were only able to join them for the first night, but those 24 hours away from the kids made all difference. It also was our first time camping as a couple. Best advice in relationships:try new things together.

Thank you 2015 – for all you gave and taught me, my family and our friends. Danke. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Return to Campus: How one Student Affairs Pro returned to work, transferred her SAHP skills, and found what worked for her

Interview with Susie Becker, Stay-at-Home Parent now Residential Life Area Coordinator who returned to work for her former campus after six years being home.

I recently returned to work on a university campus after being home with my twin daughters and son for two and half years. As I prepared for my first day, I reached out to one of my own graduate school cohort members Susie Becker. I’ve reached out to her before when I first became a stay-at-home parent. She too had worked in student affairs, then became a stay-at-home parent. She is now the Area Coordinator in Residence Life at Seattle Pacific University. We both think about life experiences in similar ways. When she returned to work last year, I knew I wanted to interview her one day. With myself returning to work, I decided now was the time. This past week, she took sometime to reflect on her experience of returning to campus after being home with her children. They are now six and three. She was able to be home for six years and work last two of those six at home.

In my questions to her, I was looking for that reassurance that I wasn’t the only one who had a career in student affairs, decided to stay home with their kids, and then return to work when I was ready. That even though I feared what others would think of me since they had moved further along in their careers, she let me know there was no reason to worry. Everything works out. Her responses assured me and I know other stay-at-home parents would agree that our time at home brings new knowledge and skill sets. That where we arrive next is where we are meant to be. And the best way to tackle the lunch fiasco with three kids is on Sunday, aim to pre-pack all the fruit and veg for the week.

CafeVic: Susie, so great to hear from you. My first question for you is how did you know you were ready to return to work or did an opportunity come to you? 
Susie Becker: I didn’t really make the choice to stay home. It was a financial decision. Childcare costs are very high in our area. I would say that I was always ready to return to work, but the right position had not come along yet. When the area coordinator position came along it was a perfect fit for my skills and interests.

CV: You returned to the university you worked at before you stayed home. What was that like and how had it changed? And then, how had you changed?
SB: 
I was very excited to return to work at SPU. I had already worked in residence life there and the area coordinator position had recently been created, so I was excited for the opportunity for a new challenge, but at an institution that I already knew and loved. It was the perfect opportunity to take the next step up in my career after being out of the field from several years.

I would say that missing out on opportunities to advance my career weighed heavily on my mind during the years I was working in the home. I feared that it would be nearly impossible to get back into the field, so I feel extremely blessed that this opportunity presented itself.

Having worked at SPU off and on for the last 15 years, in someways many things had changed, but a lot had stayed the same. Most of the people from within my department had changed, not only just different people, but I was all of a sudden the oldest person in my department! Many people from other departments were almost the same. That was nice when entering back in and settling back into working relationships with those folks. It was nice to know who to call when something needed fixing or if you wanted to do a program with someone you had already worked with previously, it just made the transition back a little smoother. It also made my learning curve a little less steep.

Student culture had shifted, but for the most part a lot was the same. Relating with students was a little different then before. Think about how Facebook has changed in the last 7 years. 7 years ago Facebook had just replaced Myspace as the social media site. Now Facebook has gone through several changes and is competing with other sites for students attention. All of these sites do practically the same thing, but how it is delivered is always changing.

CV: What lessons do you take with you from being a stay-at-home parent?
SB: Becoming a stay-at-home parent changed how I think about the experiences in my life, a much more multifaceted approach. I’m a little less worried about controlling all of the details of a project. Think about when you are cooking or crafting with your kids. It’s about that experience and not always about the outcome. Appearances matter a little less. Once you’ve had that screaming toddler in the Target cart or walked around town with spit up on your shirt, you are a little more immune to the judgement of others. I will say that getting dressed for work is both a blessing and a curse. I love getting dressed in clean clothes everyday and at least attempting to look professional. At the same time, I miss my mom uniform of yoga pants and sweatshirt. Especially having worked from home for a few years. Having a phone meeting in my pajamas was nice!

CV: What was the first day like? 
SB: I was very excited, but it was hard to leave my family. Luckily, my husband was able to do childcare when I first returned to work. The actual first day in the office felt oddly like I had never left. I already knew where the copy paper was and who most people were. I got a lot of hugs than most people probably get on their first day at a new job.

CV: What is it like now?
SB: Now I can see how things have changed since I was away. It is nice to see how some of the things I helped to implement are still being used and have had a positive impact. It is also great to be a part of the future of the institution and be able to give context as we think about changes that need to be made

CV: What are your top 3 pieces of advice for anyone who has taken a break from working in higher ed and is now returning?

SB: 1. Don’t worry if you are the oldest person in your department or feel self conscious because you missed out on opportunities to move up in leadership. This was the biggest issue I faced when returning to work in higher ed.

 2. Use everything you gained in the years of being away from higher ed. Encouraging creative problem solving, teaching emotional intelligence, offering choices and explaining consequences for behavior are all things that I have been able to use both in the home and in the work place. If you were a SAHP, then you will have experiences that will add to the knowledge of your students and colleagues. Not that they are children, but think about how you might transfers these skills to the work place.

3. If you haven’t stayed current on literature related to the work of higher ed, take some time to familiarize yourself with what is being published. You also might look into the professional development plan your department offers and utilize that to help freshen up your skills or knowledge base.

CV: What is your special advice for the stay-at-home parent who is returning to work?
SB:

A few practical tips that I have found helpful:

– Pack lunches for the week on Sunday night! It doesn’t need to be some fancy Bento Box creation. Baggies of pre-packed veggies, crackers (etc.) that you can pop into a lunch box.

– Set out their clothes the night before – this has been a HUGE time saver! No more arguing about what my 3 year old will wear and she knows that she needs to get dressed without my nagging her – seriously a game changer!

– Get up an hour earlier – This gives me a chance to read a book, have a cup of coffee and get my brain and energy going.

These are three things I didn’t do last year, my first year back, and I truly struggled with my mornings getting out of the house. Doing these three things has made our mornings a lot easier!

Think about time at work differently: Before kids you might have thought, I’m on a roll, I’ll just stay at work and crank this out. Now, you might have to stop working to go pick up kids. Even if someone else is picking them up, you might need to make yourself stop so that you can go home, be with them and hear about their day! Now, you might have something that is a true work emergency and you need to stay after hours to respond, and that is part of the job. Just make sure that you are really saving those long nights of work for those times that really matter!

Feelings: Guilt – stick with the guilt you already got! People feel so bad about their guilty feelings and work so hard to rid themselves of guilt. In my experience, once I have gotten over one guilt, then another guilty feeling comes in to take over its place! For example: not able to volunteer in the classroom, can’t braid hair (darn you, Elsa!), and of course let’s not even talk about meal time. I’m NOT saying feel guilty or wallow in guilt. It’s more of a “accept whatever is making you feel guilty as just a part of the process”. I have a suspicion that once you just acknowledge the guilt, instead of being consumed by it, it looses its power over you. (I feel so Brene Brown right now – get Oprah on the phone!)

 The School Drop Off: The first few weeks of dropping my kids off at school or childcare were HARD! (Let me add that we are blessed to have an AMAZING childcare center on campus – but still). The hardest part was having to stay strong in front of my children who were crying and reaching for me. I realized that I had to put on a brave face in front of them. Of course, as soon as I turned around my face would crumble and I would be walking out of the daycare center in tears! Somedays were determined by how well my children did a school or daycare drop off. Over time things got better during drop off and I would swell with pride when I saw my son hop out of the car and run off to start his day or watch my daughter go through the routine when arriving at her preschool classroom. I realized that part of the going back to work process had benefits to my children as well. Lessons that aren’t exclusive to families with two parents who work outside of the home, but lessons in resilience and social engagement that my children benefited from.

 Concern about how colleagues will perceive you after being away from work for a while: Maybe this isn’t a concern for everyone. It was for me. While I was away from work, my peers were moving up and some of my co-workers got younger! I work in residence life, and it hit me like a ton of bricks when I realized that I was the oldest person in my department, of course nobody else talks about it but me (note to self: stop bringing it up). I value the lessons I learned while being a SAHP; an opportunity not everyone gets. There were unique learning opportunities that do add great value to your knowledge and skill set. I also worked from home for a few years before returning to work outside of the home full-time. I learned from that experience as well. All these things prepared me for working outside the home. I do miss the meetings in my PJs. That was nice.

Partner/Spouse: It is very important that you and your partner figure out a new normal for how you will balance home tasks. Lunch making, drop off/pickup, meal making, cleaning, etc. For a spouse who has had a partner taking care of the home tasks, it can/should be a shift in their responsibilities as well. I love that my children see both mom and dad going off to work and caring for them at home. Not that stay at home parents vs. the work outside the home parent can’t also demonstrate this, but for me it felt significant.

 CV: Thank you Susie!

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Checking In As Fall Arrives

Today, the wind is cool and you notice the leaves more on the ground than in the trees. A sweet reminder, Fall is upon us.

Reading: I recently went back and finished The Secret of Happy Ever After by Lucy Dillon. Loved how she ended it. Before that I was able to finish The Cake Therapist by Judith Fertig and passed it on to a friend who bakes cakes. Now I’ve dived into Steps Out of Time One Women’s Journey on the Camino by Katherine B. Soper, and I’m at peace. Over Labor Day weekend, I got to visit Powell’s Independent Books in Portland, Oregon and found her book on display. I must still have Spain on the mind. Camino pilgrimage stories to me are great ways to remind yourself to carry only what you need and to believe things always have a way of working themselves out.

Watching: Sam play soccer. It’s the first time he is playing for a local team. Love it!

Listening to: Five A.M. latest album Broken /// Beautiful

Looking forward to: Decorating the house with pumpkins :) One of my favorite times.

Sam Update: Sam has been in kindergarten for over a month now and you can see a huge change in him. I think its because everyone in his class gets their own desk. He now comes home and tells me what he is learning about. How important it is we prepare for an earthquake (last week’s lesson). And he wants to write more. It’s amazing.

Twin Update: The twins started attending preschool. They go twice a week and the biggest lesson they are learning is they too can be away from mom. Today, I could tell Lily was trying to hold back the tears but they came and it was okay. I gave her a big hug and she smiled, and started playing with the letter blocks.

Meaning of home: I live in Northern California and over the weekend, a fast moving fire took a small town just less than two hours north from me. Us Californians have been used to forest fires all summer, but now it is getting even more serious. The drought is very real and fire is now finding its way to peoples’ homes. Losing your home has to be one of the hardest things to experience. My thoughts and prayers go out to the families who lost their homes and to all the firefighters fighting fires across our state. Thank you.