Partner vs Spouse

When I lived in Costa Rica, the first place I stayed was an eco village. I loved the sense of community I felt there when we visited and I thought it would be the best place to start as newcomers to the country and culture. I noticed when I met new people they would say, “You’ll have to come to my home some time and meet my partner”. At first I wondered if everyone in the village was gay.

The word choice here is no accident. It’s a cultural difference I love.

First, let’s acknowledge the use of the word “home”. Very few people said, “house” unless they were referring to the structure. For example, when we were touring houses to rent or stay in, people would talk about the walls, the windows, the doors of the house. But, when referring to an event or gathering, it was happening in the “home”. I love this because a house is worthless without people inside it to make it a home. We, as Americans, put too much importance on the house we live in and how its decorated, but really, the focus should be on how you make the people inside it feel.

Second, the fact that people would invite me, a total stranger, and my two wild jungle babies into their home without first learning what I do (assessing my status), and what my hobbies are (assessing common ground) was shocking. In this culture, people were valued for their character, not what they wore, how much money they make, or where they like to hang out. And, it was generally assumed that you were a good person because if you weren’t a good person, they’d know about you. Criminals in Costa Rica are gossiped about and chased out of town. It’s highly disrespected to hurt others and the system works.

Third, the term “partner”. Now, I don’t remember meeting any gay couples, but everyone referred to their spouse as a partner. Some of them were legally married, some common law, and some lived together and shared children together. What all of these couples had in common was their view of this other person as a partner, and they actually were PARTNERS.

Some of my readers may feel they have a partner in their life, regardless of the cultural title assigned that person (friend, boyfriend, lover, husband) and this post may not apply to you, but I also know many friends of mine don’t feel they have a partner in their spouse and after several conversations we agree that part of the problem is the cultural view of the institution of marriage and the defined gender roles commonly associated with husband and wife.

I’m not bitter about marriage, and I have no judgement on anyone who chooses to get married or chooses to stay single. I celebrate and respect love in all forms. I have people in my life that I love and I tell them I love them; however, if I am fortunate enough to fall IN LOVE again, it will be with someone I feel will be my partner.

After much self-reflection I realized when I got married, my spouse seemed to develop a sense of ownership over me almost instantly. This feeling caused a heap of unhealthy habits on his part that led to our eventual demise. I won’t go into details, because it doesn’t deserve much more of my energy, but the expectations of me as a “wife” and  his views of me as a woman prevented him from viewing me as a partner and treating me as such. That’s not how marriage was designed to be, but unfortunately it is that way in many homes.

Here’s how a partner is different. 

  • A partner hears you and validates your feelings and needs
  • A partner laughs with you, not at you
  • A partner assists you with caring for the house AND the home
  • A partner stands up for you & never inflicts harm
  • A partner cares for you when you’re sick & protects your health
  • A partner shares your dreams and visions…even if they think they’re silly
  • A partner cares for children with you; the good, the bad, the ugly are shared
  • A partner challenges you to be better, but accepts you for all that you are
  • A partner supports you living the life you want and enjoys the ride with you.

When I find this person my promise to them will be that I will never hold them back from living the life they want. I will never ask them to “settle down” or compromise their dreams for me. Their journey is their own. I may like to be a part of it and I’d like them to be a part of mine, but I believe, I can love you and you can love me and we can share a life together but there are no rules for what that life looks like. I do not need a title to know I’m loved, nor do I need a lifelong legal commitment. The hope is to find someone I love being with more than anyone else and that they feel the same. Each day we wake up wanting to spend more time together and take each day as it comes enjoying evey beautiful moment.

This time around, I’m not accepting anything less than a partner to love.

Never Leave Home without Your MiaMily

When I made the decision to move abroad with my twin toddlers, my first thought was, “You’re a dumbass! You can’t take the tots with you on your adventures. You cant hike, bike, or ride an ATV; you have TWO babies. The roads aren’t stroller friendly either. What will you do?” Then, I decided a backpack carrier was the only way to go. Surely I can take the babies on daily adventures with a backpack carrier, right? Well…not all carriers are created equal. 

  • I used wraps and kangaroo shirts when they were babies, but these dudes are pushing 30lbs now.
  • I tried the massive hiking backpack carriers and felt like they were appropriate next time I attempt to climb Everest, but they looked a little silly for a stroll to the farmers market.
  • I tried the ones where you can wear the baby dangling off your front or your back, but I knew that position wasn’t comfortable (or safe) for a baby’s hips.

Enter, the Mia Mily 3D Hipster! Hell to the yeah! This is what I’ve been looking for! I researched it ad nauseum, I read all the mommy blogs on it, read through reviews and so on, but when it arrived it was even cooler than I expected. The designers thought of everything!

Badass Fact #1:

Its designed with a baby seat to support baby’s hips whether they’re facing in, out, or worn front or back, or side.

Badass Fact #2:

I can wear my baby 9 different ways OR I can tandem wear! Yep, I can wear BOTH babies at the same time. #twinning

Badass Fact #3:

It comes with a carrying case, teething pads for the shoulders, and a shade to protect your baby’s face.

Badass Fact #4:

Its adjustable; and I mean adjustable to the fullest extent of the word! I’m 5’6 and small framed and my husband is 6’5 and quite the giant. We can both wear the carriers and adjust the straps at the shoulders, across the chest/back area, or the waist. We can choose hos high or low we wear the baby.

Badass Fact #5:

It’s super lightweight! I tried so many huge, cumbersome, bulky versions of carriers and the MiaMily trumps every one of these on portability. I stopped checking in my trunk to make sure I had my stroller, but instead, I never leave home without tossing the carriers in my front seat or in my grocery cart even. God forbid theres a tantrum in the cart while I’m mid shopping. Now, I just strap on the carrier, throw the fussy one on my back and keep on trucking!

I loved my carriers when I lived in Austin for daily life, but I’m in lust now for the way they assist me with adventure life in Central America. I’ve worn my boys at LaPaz Waterfall Gardens, hiking through butterfly gardens, riding ATVs through the jungle, shopping in mountain towns, on the beaches, monkey farms, animal sanctuaries, zoos, climbing down to the Rio Machuega, and even an aerial sky tram in the tropical rainforest 300 ft in the air!

The carriers support babies and toddlers no matter what position is preferred and get them at the right height to enjoy the same viewpoint as the adults they’re with. Whether its 95 degrees and humid in the jungle or 50 degrees in the mountains, the Mia Mily can withstand the journey.

You on live once! Strap that baby to your back and go! #YOLO

Stay Gold, 

That Girl

Central America

Para me? Un orden el ceviche mixto, frijoles molidas con queso y papas tostadas, aguacate, y uno agua…This is my go to order here; essentially mixed fish and shrimp ceviche with mashed beans and chips, sliced avocado, and a water. Occassionaly I mix it up by braving a “casado”, or typical lunch, featuring rice and beans, plantains, a salad, and meat of your choosing. The food is amazing here as long as you stick to plant based options as we’ve learned that ranchers sell their best cuts to the united states; shocker, right? But, despite the limited variety of food at the “sodas” (mom and pop restaurants), we’re loving our adventure and new lifestyle!

And, what an adventure it has been. I researched this freakin’ country ad nauseam for months to find the perfect location for my family. As small as this country is however, there’s damn near 30 microclimates and even more variety in cultures. The country is divided into various regions of beaches, valleys, mountains, and forests. Not only does the climate change drastically every few kilometers, but the animals change, the fruits and vegetable options change, the cost of living, transportation needs, internet access, and so on and so on. After six months of extensive research I chose an area of the country I felt I vibed with and then a community I felt fit our lifestyle needs and then narrowed it down to a house I thought was perfect only to find out on our THIRD visit to it that its infested with mold! Ever stayed up all night holding your baby wheezing, gasping for air? Well, I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. The morning after our first night there I said, “Hell no! We’re not moving forward with this home”.

The beauty of living in such a tight knit community though is this- I posted on our community app regarding the situation and within minutes a neighbor (whom I’d never even met) invited me over to view her home and offered it up to us for six weeks while she travels abroad. What? Are you kidding me?!  This fairy godmother just literally shook my hand and handed me her keys. That would NEVER happen in the US without lawyers and contracts involved lol.

The home is divine, too! It has amazing airflow, which is crucial in the tropics as most places don’t have AC. The breeze off the river that flows behind the property is surreal and our “yard” is covered with lush grass, tropical trees, and the most exotic plants you’ve ever seen. We can hear howler monkeys in the distance and play “I Spy” a yellow bird in the mornings.

Living in the rainforest comes with a few nuances though that can make it feel like permanent glamping. If you can get over those things, it’s paradise! We’ve embraced the no makeup face, dreadlocked hair from the humidity and the jungle stinch that comes from sweating all day long! The surprise cold shower is humorous, the trace ants have become my frenemies, and I’m learning that the low cost of living only applies when you stick to fruits and ceviche from your local fruit stand. In fact, I’ve stopped by this one particular “fruteria” nearly every night and taken home bananas, plantains, avocado, papaya and ceviche for the following day. My “fruit friends” love to play with my babies through the car windows, “Hola guapo” and “que lingo” as they tickle them and bounce their chunky cheeks.

I’m learning alot about my strength as a mother and a woman. I am capable of living without modern ammenities and I can adjust to differences in lifestyle. I’m also humbled by some of the homes I pass each day and the people I’ve met. Their homes do not mirror any Pottery Barn magazine I’ve ever seen and their clothes have no labels, or even tags for that matter. They don’t wine and dine in the five star restaurants of the capital city and most of them have never been outside of their own villages. However, they are kind, warm, friendly, and embrace life every day for each beautiful moment. They try to speak my language out of respect just like I try to speak their’s, both literally and figuratively. I did not come here to teach them my ways, but instead I am here to learn from them. I want to learn the “pure life” and step outside my comfort zone for a cultural awakening!

Pura Vida,

That Girl

 

House of the Seed

An old petting zoo converted into a school in the jungle of a developing country. Children are barefoot, half dressed, and running amuck. There are no teachers, no whiteboards, no computers, and not a textbook in sight. There is no curriculum and no testing. In fact, it’s unclear who is in charge…if anyone.

This is the school my children will be attending and Im stoked! Why? Because, despite how it may appear to the untrained eye (or through the lenses of first-world glasses), this school is the future. This school is based on brain development, rather than content development. Its focused on a holistic view of the child as an independent, spiritual being, and believes the child is driven innately towards creating, exploring, learning, and loving. It is understood by the adults, who have over thirty-five years “teaching” experience”, that play is not only how children communicate, but it is how they learn. They incorporate learning into daily projects led by the children and provide a Renaissance-esque education for them that no public school in the states could ever provide.

I dreamed of this school a while back, which was either me putting it out into the universe, or the universe bringing it to my attention, but either way, we found each other. The past ten years have been bringing me to it’s doors. My years as a teacher in the public school system witnessing children with anxiety, depression, anger, and frustration built up a disgust for our education system. Listening to fellow teachers complain daily about the poor behavior from students, the lack of drive or ambition students had, the minimal parent support, and the bullying amongst peers in the classroom. I knew the drop out rates were increasing and the college attendance rates were decreasing and when I had my two boys I began experiencing my own level of anxiety about their educational future.

No, I don’t want Montessori, where they practice adult skills every day and learn shapes, letters, and numbers before they’re even three.

No, I don’t want a private school where they’ll likely be surrounded by elitist peers who care more about who’s wearing what and what their daddy’s do for a living.

No, I don’t want the Lord of the Flies preschool where they run around like wild banshees and their emotional needs may be overlooked in the “every man for himself” philosophy.

Then, I discovered the “House of the Seed” school via a mom blog and thought I was still dreaming! It exists! It’s real! A place where children lead their own learning and where culture, arts, and logic are all incoporated into the day. Where children learn to think, rather than memorize! A place set in nature that promotes respect for the environment and helps children understand how to be a part of the world, not just use the world. I fell in love and began begging my husband to take me there so I could see it in action.

Last week, I was fortunate enough to visit in person and I cried! I cried because I watched my boy’s faces light up from the inside and I watched the other children welcome them with open arms and show them things, teaching them without even speaking the same language. I felt I was finally at home and I knew they would thrive in a place like this and that my dreams for them could be realized if I could only get them here.

They can’t technically “attend” until age three, but I can take them daily since we will be living in the community part of the year and I can assist them in their transition and support their learning experiences daily. The leaders of the school encourage parent involvement because they understand the parent-child bond and respect the parent’s role in their child’s ability to learn. Parents enrich the experience rather than hinder it and they’re welcomed daily.

Some naysayers will wonder how children can learn without a clear curriculum or schedule. How can they learn history without a history class or learn literature without taking a Language Arts course? Math is so important to brain development and logical reasoning so how can the students be successful without that? The thing is- they’re learning ALL of this and more every day through projects, activities and play.

For example, while I was there I saw students building an organic garden together. They chose seeds from the kitchen to plant, they learned the different levels and types of soil as they used real gardening tools to prepare each row. They studied various insects before deciding which ones were helpful and which ones may be harmful. Some of the students didn’t care to help with the garden, but instead decided to make signs for it. They went to a construction zone and selected materials, measured, cut, and sanded the wood. Not only are these students learning life lessons, but they’re learning (and applying) science and math skills! They’re also learning about cooperation, communication, teamwork, patience, and nurturing the environment.

All of the materials I saw in the school were designed to provide concrete experience, and reach every type of learner, whether they were visual, kinestheic, or auditory learners. The students were engaged, happy, and self-directed. I loved every magical moment of my time there and can’t wait to go back.

Bonus? When the director noticed my son’s interest in animals and invited us to visit the stables so they could feed and pet the ponies. Winning!

Where is this place? I can’t tell you! I’ll keep this gem a secret in hopes it inspires people to create one in their own community all over the world and ignite change! It’s time to unschool and raise children to be lifelong learners who know how to think rather than memorize.

Stay gold, 

That Girl

We finished up our day with a dunk in the Rio Macheuga! Feeling the earth on your skin is so therapeutic! Dirt, water, sun, air…

Let it Aeroflow

When I found out I was having twins I wasn’t at all surprised. My doctor had told me I had an 80% change of twins before I was even pregnant. I was shocked; however, to find how difficult it is to get everything needed to care for two babies. What do I need? What do I need two of? What can I skimp on? What should I never skimp on? What might I get at my shower? What should I get now so I can have it ready? The nesting and prep for babies is endless of although much if it is fun, much of it is also tedious. One thing I did NOT like dealing with was securing a BREASTPUMP.

First, I crowdsourced a few times on facebook and noone tells you which one is really best, they just recommend the one they used and for all you know it could be super shitty.

Then, I decided dealing with an insurance company is about as much fun as pluking your eyelashes out with dull tweezers so I tried to sidestep that landmine and just buy one off craigslist. It sucked!

Finally, my mother told me I should qualify for one that I could pick up on Target and this is the route I ultimately went although the experience was not as easy as it sounds. Emails, phone calls, forms, standing in line, rejection, and doctor’s Rx needed. No thank you!

I’m kicking myself for not doing more research and finding Aeroflow! Let it go, let Aeroflow!

The Aeroflow Breastpumps Process:

Aeroflow Breastpump makes the process of getting a breast pump covered through your insurance as easy as possible. Our dedicated and informed Breastpump Specialists are here to help you navigate insurance by taking care of all the paperwork, phone calls and prescription requests so you can take it easy. Our team is available by phone, text, or email to answer any questions you have during this exciting time in your life.

To get started, Aeroflow’s qualify through insurance form asks for a few bits of information such as address, due date and insurance provider. Once you submit the form, a dedicated Breastpump Specialist will process your information and give you a call to discuss your options. Aeroflow offers a huge selection of breast pumps for you to choose from, and our Specialists are trained on each and every pump to help you choose the best option for your lifestyle.

We take care of everything, including:

  • Contacting your physician for a prescription
  • Recommending breast pump options based on your lifestyle and breastfeeding goals
  • Informing you if certain resupply options are available under your insurance plan
  • Billing and processing insurance claims for a breast pump
  • Shipping your breast pump to your door, free of charge!

Once you choose your breast pump, we process your order AND ship it to your door. The entire process is totally free! Some insurance plans require that a mom is at a certain point in her pregnancy before she gets her pump, but your Breastpump Specialist will let you know exactly when you can get order placed and will even remind you about your eligibility and benefits when your due date is near if you end up having to wait a bit before ordering your breast pump.

Currently, the Affordable Care Act requires that insurance providers provide breastfeeding support and supplies for lactating mothers. This includes a breast pump! Aeroflow makes it easy to get your pump covered for free under your specific insurance plan, and we also ensure that you get the most out of your benefits. This often includes extra accessories like milk storage bottles.

Here are just a few of the breast pumps offered by Aeroflow:

  • Spectra S2
  • Lansinoh Smartpump
  • Medela Starter Set (That Girl strongly recomends this!)
  • Evenflo Advanced Double Electric

Good news! Aeroflow is currently the exclusive provider of the Motif Duo — a lightweight, super quiet, double electric breast pump that is now available through insurance and cash-pay!

Breast is best, but having a human or two hanging from your boobs ALL day long just ain’t happenin’! Mama needs a break. Pump it, girl! Reach out to Aeroflow now!

Stay gold, 

That Girl

What to Do with Toddlers in Texas

Anyone who follows me on Instagram knows that I’m not exactly a “stay-at-home” stay at home mom. I don’t work in the traditonal since and yes, I’m “at home” with my boys, but…we are NEVER at home! Life is too short! We’re adventure seekers and we treat everyday like a new opportunity to see and do. I’ve visited every major city (and many small towns) in Texas with my boys so I can tell you the best things to do and places to go with little ones. 

I’ve done nearly all of these with my twin boys, who are almost eighteen months. We started really enjoying these things around nine to ten months, and even more so after they turned a year old. Many of these tings are perfect for toddlers all the way up to early school aged. My best advice is to look up the place you want to go to, make note of prices & hours, and then decide if you’ll need a stroller or carrier. Then, will you need a lunch, water, or just cash. Pack a few diapers and hit the road. Pura Vida! Enjoy.

My favorites in Austin include:

  • Barton Springs
  • Zilker Zelphyr & Zilker playground
  • Austin Natyre & Science Center
  • Lions, Tigers & Toys train table
  • The Dino Park (Bastrop)
  • Liz Carpenter Fountain at Butler Park
  • Botanical Gardens at zilker
  • Westbank Public Library
  • Graffiti Wall on Baylor
  • Ricky Guerrero Splash Pad
  • Twin Falls or Sculpture Falls
  • Thinkery
  • Toybrary
  • Mount Bonnell (hike)
  • Belterra (splash pad, trails, parks, and ducks to feed)
  • HCG splash pad
  • Catch Air (only ok, a little overwhelming)
  • Locomotion (ghetto, but worth a stop)
  • Founders Park (Dripping Springs)
  • Enchanted Rock (hike)
  • Pease Park
  • Circle C playground, trails and creek
  • Treaty Oak Brewery
  • Little Land Play Therapy
  • Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center
  • Austin Zoo

New Braunfels/San Marcos

  • McKenna Childrens Museum
  • Schlitterbahn
  • Wonder World
  • Float the Guadalupe
  • Wildlife Ranch

San Antonio

  • Doseum
  • Sea World & Aquatica
  • Rainforest Cafe

Marble Falls

  • Horseshoe Bay
  • Sweet Berry Farms
  • Park & ducks by Mamas Kitchen

Grapevine

  • Great Wolf Lodge
  • Grapevine Vintage Railroad
  • Nash Farm
  • Botanical Gardens
  • Sea Life Aquarium
  • LegoLand Discovery Center
  • Vetro Glass Blowing on Main St.

Dallas/Ft. Worth

  • Dallas World Aquarium
  • Dallas Zoo
  • Ft. Worth Zoo
  • Childrens gardens at Arboretum
  • Watermark Church indoor playground
  • Ft Worth Childrens Museum
  • Berger’s Lake Ft. Worth
  • Perot Museum
  • Klyde Warren Park
  • Ft Worth Water Gardens
  • Botanical Gardens Ft Worth

Chappell Hill/Brenham

  • Blue Bell Ice Cream factory
  • Fireman’s Park
  • Public Library (toys and play space)
  • Oil Ranch
  • Antique carousel at Firemans park

Waco

  • Cameron Park zoo & splaspads
  • Magnolia Market
  • Mayborn Childrens Museum

Houston

  • Discovery Green
  • Houston Zoo
  • Houston Childrens Museum
  • Kemah Boardwalk at Galveston,
  • Dewberry Farm
  • Houston Aquarium
  • Houston Nature & Science Center
  • Splashway Family Waterpark

Lets be real, here! What are you really doing everyday?

Laundry: Laundry takes about 5-15 minutes total. Less than a minute to drop it into washer or dryer and about 5-10 minutes to fold. Add a few more minutes to put away.

Dishes: I don’t have a good dishwasher so I hand wash ALL of my dishes. THREE times a day. I can get a sink full of dishes, including pots and pans done in about 8 minutes. So, let’s say I spend about 20 minutes a day doing dishes.

Cleaning: I can clean my entire house in about 20-30 minutes including sweeping and vaccuuming which I don’t do everyday. Your house is probably bigger and if so…put cleaning off and go have fun! It can wait.

All of the above adds up to about an hour. Add in 15-20 minutes for meltdowns and blow outs. Add about 15-20 minutes for getting you and your crew dressed, bags packed, and loaded in the carseats.

If you’re awake 12-15 hours a day, where does the rest of your time go? Get up, get out there, and do something! There are so many beautiful, wondrous places to explore to provide rich learning experiences for your children. Take time to meander, play, and enjoy every moment with your sweet kiddos.

Stay gold, 

That Girl