Itchy eyes and the early arrival of a Minnesota spring

Spring has come a month early this year in Minnesota.  After an unseasonably warm winter with hardly any snow to amply cover the ground or build a snowman, Spring has launched full force in what most people consider “Minne-snowta“.

The ice off nearby city lakes such as my beloved Lake Harriet faded into our memories almost a month early.  The trees are in full bloom and the allergy index is high. My eyes are itching, my nose is running and I have desperately scrambled to unpack my summer cloths while the temperatures soar on average 30-40 degrees higher than normal.  The average high for today of 44 degrees F is a long ago memory as each and every day another record is set and it feels like June.

In fact, it seems like we just skipped past Spring all together and jumped into summer.  But the telltale signs of the trees, bushes and flowers in full bloom reminds me that yes it is still spring.  The spectacular showing of brilliant reborn green has been making my eyes water as I marvel at their sensational beauty and watch the world around me come back to life.   It gives me joy, inspiration and miraculous hope for the future as I witness the rebirth of Spring and embrace the phenomenal changing of the seasons that encompass the circle of life.  

Here are some of my favorite photos I took today during my morning walk around Minnehaha Creek and Lake Harriet nearby my home.  


Home at last!

Finally after two days in limbo in two US airports, I made it home. I am utterly exhausted yet of course it is right back to it. As a stay at home mom of two young children, there is not much time to relax or recuperate.

I made it home unexpectedly through a bit of luck. Two amazingly kind United Airlines gate agents, one in Houston and one in Chicago, were looking out for me. After I landed in Chicago, to my dismay things were delayed as well. There were 48 mph winds causing O’Hare to shut down runways and delay and cancel flights.

I used my weary head and immediately went over to the departure gate for the next flight out of O’Hare to Minneapolis. I told the agent my story and she put me on the standby list. The flight was supposed to leave at 2:20 pm but the pilots were delayed due to weather. Thus I ran over a few gates down and put my name on the standby list for the 3:30 pm flight. I was third on the list for the flight when the agent informed us that the plane had maintenance problems! Not knowing what else to do at this point, I ran back to the other gate for the delayed 2:20 flight (it was 3:30 at this point) and the gate agent told me there was no chance. It was leaving.

I turned to walk away not knowing what to do when I heard someone running after me, calling “Young lady!” urgently. I turned around, and it was her. “Come quick!” I started to run and before I knew it I was on the plane to Minneapolis, the doors closed and of course I lost it. I was so incredibly tired at that point that I could no longer control myself. I was going home.

At 5 pm, I landed and nearly raced off the plane to greet my children. Tears poured out of my eyes out of exhaustion and happiness to be home safe and sound. They kept saying, “Mama, why are you crying?” I told them that I’d have to explain it later. It was a long story!

Here are some photos of leaving Antigua on Sunday morning around 10 am. The city of Antigua is surrounded by three glorious volcanoes, in which one, “Fuego” (or “fire”) is active. It has been cloudy most of the day on Saturday so I never saw the peaks of the volcanoes. Yet someone was looking out for me because not only did I see all three peaks Sunday morning I also saw Fuego, the active volcano erupt! Right as I was leaving town, Fuego blew its top. It was a strike of pure luck! Somehow or another I’d make it home safely and in once piece!







The last two pictures above are my first sight Sunday morning of the tops of all three volcanoes surrounding Antigua. I finally saw them!

Per Wikipedia:

Three large volcanoes dominate the horizon around Antigua.
The most commanding, to the south of the city, is the Volcán de Agua or “Volcano of Water”, some 3766 meters (12,356 ft) high. When the Spanish arrived, the inhabitants of the zone, Kakchikel Mayas, called it Hunapú (and they still do). However, it became known as Volcán de Agua after a lahar from the volcano buried the second site of the capital, which prompted the Spanish authorities to move the capital to present-day Antigua. The original site of the 2nd capital is now the village San Miguel Escobar.
To the west of the city are a pair of peaks, Acatenango, last erupted in 1972, some 3976 meters (13045 ft) high, and the Volcán de Fuego or “Volcano of Fire”, some 3763 meters (12346 ft) high. “Fuego” is famous for being almost constantly active at a low level. Smoke issues from its top daily, but larger eruptions are rare.

Stay tuned….I promise I will back up and start from the beginning of my trip to Guatemala, with day one Arrival and my long bus ride from Guatemala City to Xela in the highlands, were I stayed for the week. I can’t wait to share more! Thanks for reading and all the comments! I’m working on catching up and answering them all!


Why I’ll never be a supermom

Sorry kids…I can’t do it all!!!!!  (Max age 7 and Sophia age 5 dressed in their Halloween costumes. October 2011). 

As a product of the seventies, I grew up watching such hit shows as Leave it to Beaver, Little House on the Prairie and other classics that portrayed women and families as an all-encompassing, idyllic unit; as one big happy family.  My TV role models were simple housewives wearing their aprons and huge, happy smiles across their pretty faces while they effortlessly did it all.  Ran the house, cleaned it spotless, cooked fresh homemade meals, took care of the kids, helped them with their homework and had freshly-baked cookies awaiting for them after school (not to mention opened the door at five and planted a warm happy kiss on their husbands dear face).

As time passed and I grew older, of course I realized that this reality was not true.  There were plenty of families who did not follow these rules or were “traditional”.  Divorce rates soared as did secret affairs and the whole meaning of the word family seemed to change significantly across the nation.  No longer were married, one-working parent families the norm.  Instead, double incomes, single-parents and out of wedlock families became more prevalent.

Some critics have argued that the entire meaning of a family has changed and this change has negatively effected our society as a whole.  Whether or not this is entirely true, it is for you to decide.  However, what has also been happening is the other extreme of the spectrum:  The growth of the supermom mentality.

“What on earth is she talking about here”?  you may wonder, perplexed.  I’m talking about the moms who are over the top in their pursuit of being the best mom out there.  Those moms who feel that they have to do it all and do it without complaints.  The moms who are overly successful in their careers or as a housewife, while cleaning their house, caring for their kids, keeping in shape and looking good for her husband.  The perfect wife.  But is that really possible?  

I decided before my first child was born that I would be a stay-at-home mom.  Before having children, I was all about my career.  I worked extremely hard in college and killed myself to get those A’s.  I wasn’t a necessarily gifted student.  I just worked harder at getting perfect grades.  Sometimes I worked so hard that I got sick.  I stressed myself out silly just over trying to do well and feel proud.  I graduated with a 3.7 out of 4.0 which made me feel pleased.  But once I got a real job, I realized why on earth did I kill myself over those grades?  It didn’t even matter.  Yes, it helped to have a nice GPA on my resume but aside from that, no one really cared about the A’s except me.

Fast forward to my working years in the business world, I never truly seemed to find a job that I enjoyed.  I tried and tried and worked hard.  But every job I ever did left me feeling empty inside and unsatisfied.  I was able to pay for myself at 23 years old which felt like quite an accomplishment.  Yet, I realized what a disappointment the real world really was.  I was accustomed to always hearing “the world is your oyster” from my motivating parents.  Yet, was it?  I felt trapped in one unhappy job after the other.  It was almost a blessing in disguise when I got laid off from my job at 32, went on a trip to Australia, got home and decided….”hmmm….isn’t it about time to start thinking about having kids”?

I’ll never forget the comments I received from my working friends about my decision to stay at home.  Perhaps the most offensive one was “I won’t think bad of you if you don’t work”.  That was from my ex-bestfriend.  I knew I’d face a lot of criticism as well as encouragement by others.  For some strange reason, deciding to stay at home and raise a family is sometimes looked down upon by other professionals.  But it was my choice.  A choice that I will never ever regret as long as I live.  The best choice I could have made in my life was to stay at home with my children and I feel lucky to have been able to have this choice.  I realize many mothers can’t stay at home with their children, even if they wanted to.

The first three years as a stay-at-home mom were brutal.  I had severe postpartum depression with my first child and then had a new baby girl four days after my son turned two.  Exhaustion haunted me.  I gave 100 percent of me to my children and there was nothing left.  Nothing for me or my husband.  I believe that caring for young children is perhaps the hardest job ever.  We are without a village as they like to say.  In the past, families weren’t so isolated and you had a ton of other family members around to help you out and get through it.  Nowadays, life is different and families are spread out, like mine, leaving a new mom completely on her own to care for a demanding newborn baby.

I look back at these days in disbelief and astonishment wondering how on earth I managed to survive when even taking a simple shower was a struggle and a reward.  But being there for my children to see their first smiles, watch their first steps and marvel at them in wonder as they grew, has been a true gift.  Perhaps the greatest gift I’ve ever received.

Now that the kids are in school my life is beginning to change.  My son is away all day at first grade while my daughter is away four mornings a week at preschool.  Windows of time are opening up.  My mind is coming out of the mommy fog and my life is coming back to me.  I’m getting to know myself and my husband once again.  I am once again doing the things I love.  It feels good but also a little intimidating.

You see, there is this huge pressure in life to be a supermom.  That over-achiever, that always the best mom.  I try so hard to not follow that path.  To not be the mom always volunteering in class, making the best, healthiest meals, looking perfectly put together and being at every single event in my children’s lives.  But it is hard.  Very hard.  Perhaps I put too much pressure on myself.  I want to achieve and be loved by my family and admired by my peers.  But sometimes (like now that I’ve worn myself out so much I’m stuck at home with a terrible cold and have to go out of town tomorrow) I need to step back and realize that I’ll never be a supermom.  I can try my best to be a wonderful mother, wife and citizen, but I’ll never be perfect.  I’ll always be just me and I’m only one person.

So perhaps it is time to stop chasing rainbows and learn to relax more.  Enjoy my downtime.  Take advantage of being sick.  Let others do the work for once instead of feeling like I’ve got to do everything.  The world won’t disappear.  It will all be waiting for me when I return, refreshed, healthy and ready to seize the day!

Stay tuned….instead of organizing my thoughts on my upcoming New Zealand posts or going on a run or cleaning the house or packing for DC or making dinner….I’m going to take a nap and try to beat this cold! 


An afternoon snowshoeing around the frozen falls

Yesterday was a gorgeous winter day here in Minneapolis.  The sun was shining brightly, launching its powerful, magical rays across the glittering white snow-packed ground.   The birds were chirping cheerfully and it was unseasonably warm.  Almost 40 degrees F which is considered balmy in Minnesota (if it is above 20 in January or February, we are considered lucky).  It was the first morning in a long time that I woke up and literally sprang out of bed to the call of my children greeting me “Mama.  Mama.  Maaaaaaa-maaaa!”  I instantly opened their bedroom shades and jumped with joy.  Yeah!  The sun is here!  I was so happy to see my long lost friend.

My kids thought I was a bit crazy but they don’t understand my need for sunshine and vitamin D.  It is said that most people living in northern climates are highly insufficient of vitamin D in the winter months.  This can lead to intense fatigue (check), lethargic behavior (check) and sometimes depression (hmm….I have been feeling a bit blue).  In winter months, our days are short and the nights are long.  Although it can be quite sunny in the winter, the sunshine often brings bitter cold forcing you to hibernate and be trapped inside your home staring longingly outside your window wishing for spring.

Yesterday was different.  Not only was the sun shining brightly, but our typical January thaw had arrived!  For a few days we would get this nice warm weather (you know I’m from Minnesota when I’m calling 40 warm!).  Thus, I decided to take advantage of the day and spend as much time outside as possible.  The morning started with a run around the lake and in the afternoon, I took my daughter snowshoeing by the Minnehaha Falls.

Here are some pictures of what we saw at the falls which freezes into a magical display of ice during the winter.

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The Daily Run: Strategizing for the new year

Photo above taken last Monday, January 1st in Tucson, Arizona. A family walk through Sabino Canyon with Grandma, Grandpa, me and the kids.

After nine days in sunny, warm Arizona and two weeks off of school, we are back in balmy Minnesota (it has been record highs lately making me wonder what month it truly is) and off to another new year.  The kids are back in school.  My son started today and my daughter will resume preschool tomorrow.  The weather has been uncanny and odd.  It reached 50 degrees today, we have absolutely no snow and for the first time I can ever remember, the lake is not frozen solid.  Either we are in for some serious payback in February or global warming has landed hard.

Today was unseasonably warm, a high of 50 degrees (normally it is in the teens and that is considered warm).  My daughter and I went down to the lake where she rode her scooter, unbelievable for January!  There is no snow (last year we had a few feet by now and 82 inches by the end of the season).  And, as you can see on the picture below, the lake is not completely frozen!  There is a huge hole in the middle!  

Normally Lake Harriet and the other metro lakes are frozen solid by early December.  The ice is so thick that cars, yes that is correct, can drive across them and ice fisherman drill their holes into the ice and set up their ice homes across Minnesota lakes.  There are skaters, nordic skiers and snowshoers galore.  Not this year!  At least not yet.  

The odd weather has left me confused and thinking that the Gods Must be Crazy!  But as I know, having lived in Minnesota and the Midwest for almost all of my life, that I don’t have to worry one bit.  Winter will come, and when it does decide to show up, it will be long, brutal and cold.  For Minnesota is notorious for harsh, long winters.  That is what makes us Minnesotans such hearty souls.

As I get back into my daily routines, it is time for me to start focusing on 2012 and all the exciting things coming ahead.  Tomorrow, my post on my upcoming involvement with the UN Foundation’s pilot program, Shot@Life will be posted on World Mom’s Blog (I will add a link tomorrow on my blog).  At the end of the month, I’m headed to DC to be trained as a grassroots advocate for this exciting program that focuses on providing immunizations to millions of children in developing countries.  After that, the fun begins with blogging and hosting events to raise awareness of the dire straits of children around the world who don’t have access to life-saving vaccines.

In February, my daughter and I are going on a big ski trip out west to Taos, New Mexico to meet up with my dad.  Both of my children have been learning how to ski this winter and we’ve spent every weekend at the ski hill (except of course when we were in Arizona).  It has been a wonderful way to be together as a family and to see my children learn to ski.  I grew up skiing and love the sport.  Thank goodness they have the equipment to make snow on the hills here!  The balmy weather has been ideal for weekend skiing.

In March, I am off on another adventure to volunteer and learn Spanish in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala.  I’ve been dusting off my old spanish grammar books and have started my evening lessons at home reviewing, memorizing and praying that I will be able to communicate with the locals when I’m there!  I have no idea what to expect but that is what will make the experience so fun.

Other than that, who knows?  I find that life is always an adventure and I look forward to what 2012 will bring. 

Stay next series on China will be about the different neighborhoods of Shanghai.  Then, I will take you on a trip to a nearby water village dating back hundreds of years.  Thanks for reading and comments welcome! 

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