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My tribe

The gift of traveling

manuelita otero


I still remember as if it was yesterday the first day my daughter traveled. She was bundled up and her dad carried her as if she was a precious package. She  didn’t cry during the whole flight and most people didn’t even realize she was on the plane, but for her that trip was the beginning of one of her passions which has impacted her life beyond our imagination. She was two weeks old. My son’s experience was similar, but instead of a plane ride his first taste of travel was a bumpy road trip the day after he was born since the nearest hospital was far away from our home.

The gift of traveling continued. We moved to several countries, tried interesting foods, met amazing people who lived very differently from us. We learned new customs, appreciated the beauty of nature and loved every minute of it, even the sleepless nights due to jet lag, the many layovers, and the packing and unpacking. Making new places our home had its challenges, like finding a new school every year or so and making new friends, but we loved it all because we knew that our lifestyle was not common and it was a gift that we were grateful to receive. We wanted to savor the season and enjoy it fully.

If new parents ask me for advice, traveling with children is what I always tell them. That, and teach your child to eat everything, to be flexible, to appreciate differences, to think outside the box, to make a difference, to live in the moment… which again relates all to traveling. I can’t explain how traveling has positively impacted our family, how it has gotten us closer, how it has given us a different perspective, and how it has taught us to go with the flow when necessary. The best memories are created when the carefully planned itinerary fails and life happens. I won’t forget after a long flight to India late at night, on our way to Nellore our car broke down and even though we couldn’t see anything around us, we just couldn’t stop staring at the brightest stars we had ever seen. Or when we took a group of friends to Colombia and because of all the flight delays we had to travel in the middle of the night from Barranquilla to Cartagena, we were tired and a little worried, but the bonding that happened during that road trip was priceless. The most beautiful photos are not the ones you take by the famous buildings around the world, but the ones that will take you back to a precious memory and make you smile.  

My children grew, and so did their love for traveling. We just got back from a trip to Colombia with my children and a group of new friends, because when you discover something you love, you share it.  Nikka and Andrei are no longer the small toddlers who needed entertainment for hours during long trips, they are young adults who love to travel alone, with friends and with their mom and that makes my heart smile. Trips don’t have to be to far away places and they don’t have to cost a fortune, they just need to be, they need to happen, you need to make them a reality, whether it’s a day exploring your city or that trip you have been saving for years. Go out there, explore the world with your children, with your family, on your own or with new friends, it will change your life and it may be exactly what you were looking for.


Rato Mariposa

manuelita otero


Do you like to give or receive advice? I do! I started appreciating  tips when I became a mom. Even though I enjoy receiving advice, it’s not as easy as it may seem. It takes a lot from me to make a phone call to a friend and simply open up and ask for help. I don’t know if it is pride, laziness, or maybe I just don’t want to “bother” someone with my issues, but each day I am learning to value and appreciate more these words of knowledge.

I am also trying to share more of my own experiences. Advice is so valuable when we give it or receive it with an honest heart, simple and to the point, without giving the illusion that our lives are rosy and we have everything under control.

Some years ago,  a very special friend gave me some great advice when she found out I was pregnant. She said that once I became a mom, I needed to always separate space for me and for my marriage. She wrote me a beautiful letter called “From mom to mom” and everytime I think about her advice, the word “movie” comes to mind. I felt this word summarized everything she wanted to tell me: “Whatever happens, always take time together, as a couple. Do something, even if it is just going to the movies.” And today, seven years after I received her advice, I keep going to the movies.


That same friend, some years later after my baby was born told me: “Make time for you, even if it may seem impossible as you are taking care of your baby”. When I received this beautiful advice I thought: “Of course it is important to separate time for me, and it doesn’t have to be difficult, it’s just a matter of making schedules, and sticking to them period” and I must confess that it has taken me a long time to implement it. I started two years ago. One day I called my little one, who at that time was five, we sat down and I told her that mami was going to start taking some time just for her, to read, sleep, watch TV, talk on the phone, or do whatever. I asked her to help me make a name for that special time and without much thought she said: ‘Mami, let’s call it “el Rato Mariposa” (Butterfly time). I loved the name because it expressed so clearly what I needed to feel: some freedom as a woman and as a person, even if I was a full time mom.

Finding a name was the easy part, but applying it to real life has been difficult. I did it a couple of times and I loved it, but seeing the great opposition my daughter had every time I would tell her I was going to enjoy my “Rato Mariposa”made it too difficult and slowly I let it die last year.  I tried everything: choosing one day a week, a certain hour, or no schedule at all. Nothing worked. Nevertheless, this year I made the decision that, even if my daughter gets upset for a little while or for a whole day, I was going to have my “Rato Mariposa”. I had to bring it back because it’s important, because I miss having my time, because it’s healthy for me and for my family. I kept remembering my wise friend’s words: “If you do it for yourself today, she will do it for herself tomorrow. She will see your example and will understand its importance.” After several failures in past years, this year I chose Wednesdays as my special days and I am so happy. It’s the type of happiness that costs you, because it comes with all types of challenges, which is why sometimes my “Rato Mariposa” turns into “Reto Mariposa” (Butterfly Challenge). But some things are worth fighting for.

Today, I just want to say a big thank you to my special friend. Thank you for daring to give such great advice, which sometimes may be harder than it seems. Thank you for not keeping wisdom to yourself and for sharing what you knew would help me. Thank you for not judging and for not giving up.

Good advice can change lives, it can save families. I don’t know if you need your own “Rato Mariposa”. I don’t know if you need to go to the movies more often, but I do know that beautiful things happen when you give with love what you have and receive with humbleness what others have for you.  


Community… What a beautiful thing!

manuelita otero


Doesn’t it feel good to be around people who give you the freedom to be you? But even better, doesn’t it feel good when we give ourselves the freedom to be who we are meant to be? How that happens I don’t know, but when it does it’s magical!

We just got back from our creative retreat to Cartagena. Five days, eleven women, one beautiful city and the best community time we could have asked for. It was so refreshing to spend time with women who initially didn’t know each other, from different backgrounds, different ages, different passions and arrive to one conclusion: we are all amazing. I loved seeing each of them shine in their own way, look beautiful and feel beautiful without the need to be someone other than themselves.

Was everything perfect during our trip? No, it actually started a little rough with flight delays that tried to mess up the whole trip, but the beauty of community is the strength that comes from having people by your side supporting you. When you feel weak, someone is there to remind you how strong you really are. They laugh with you in the middle of crazy moments or simply sit silently holding your hand. There was a high probability for our creative retreat to be cancelled Friday at 5 am even before it started, but no one doubted the possibility of making it happen, we found solutions together and believed together, adapting to the changing plans.

Community is not about hanging around people who look like you, think like you and agree with you; on the contrary, it is about learning from differences, listening to life stories without judging and appreciating other people’s journeys. It’s coming together without masks, without protective barriers and giving ourselves the permission to be vulnerable and real.  

Most likely you are a strong independent woman, that is good, so good, but that doesn’t mean you can’t surround yourself with people who make the perfect community for you. Someday you will need them, someday they will need you and every day is a perfect opportunity to celebrate the friendships you will create. Who is part of your community? Have you found your tribe? The people who help you grow, who encourage you, who challenge you? Find them, cherish them, and thank them!

Manuelita       @manuelitaotero

Children are like sponges

manuelita otero


How often have you heard “children are like sponges”? I can count more than 100 times and I’m not exaggerating! I hear it everywhere: At my daughter’s preschool some years ago and at her school now, from my family, my friends, and even social media. And to be honest, hearing it so much ended up filling me with hope when I became a mom six years ago. I figured “One way or another I will get my point across, through songs, speeches, long conversations… after all children are like sponges, so no matter what she will learn”. Without realizing it I had gotten to the bottom of the issue- us moms, grandmas, aunts, we want our little ones to learn as much as possible from us. We want them to learn to “be good”, to “behave the right way”, to be kind, to listen to their parents, and a list of new topics a younger generation is bringing along like loving each other, noticing their environmental impact and respecting differences.

In my desire for my daughter to be an “ultra absorbent sponge” I never stopped to think how much information I was giving her. Mountains of information, I must add. Good things that I believe will help her have a happy and safe life, important values and principles to pass from generation to generation. If I really think about it, I must sound like a walking book full of “how to behave” facts. But not long ago I realized that I wasn’t really teaching her, I was more like bombarding her. This became clear the other day when we had a mini crisis in which I was telling my daughter so many things at once, “teaching” her so many valuable lessons, but she just couldn’t get them all. She was so confused trying to grasp at least one. Was this “teaching moment” about self-love, respecting others, or self-control? Her face kept showing her frustration as she just couldn’t decipher the message.

Just because children are sponges doesn't give us the right to saturate them. Yes, children are smart and they can absorb a lot. Yes, we are meant to teach them as much as we can, but how and how much is the key. There is a difference between teaching and pushing information and I realized I was walking a fine line. I think I got too excited about my daughter being like a sponge that I forgot some things are learned a different way with time, rhythm, and patience.

If you feel you may be doing the same thing, or if maybe you just want to double check with your children, give it a try. Talk to them, it’s worth clearing up the air. You can’t imagine the difference in our home, the tension has been lifted and we are happy teaching without pushing. We are searching our own pace to educate and we have found some inspiration in Tiempo de Juego, a colombian foundation that has been improving the lives of thousands of vulnerable children through soccer. They use this sport to teach with time, rhythm and patience, one lesson per match.


Parent or Friend?

manuelita otero


Parenting can be a little confusing to say the least, and all the information out there makes it even harder. The guidelines go from the very strict to the extremely relaxed, but sometimes too much information is more harmful than helpful. When I got pregnant with my first child I got the book What to expect when you’re expecting. I read the first pages full of excitement, but after some days I got too busy and couldn’t continue. That was the first and last book on parenting I have ever read. One and a half years later, two babies and a relocation to Australia set the tone… no time for reading about trending parenting advice. We did it our way, which turned out great! Are my children perfect? No, and that’s ok because that was never the intention. They are wonderful young adults and I am so proud of them. The journey has been unbelievable and I have loved every minute of it.

Parenting is no easy task, but you don’t need to make it harder than it has to be. You may feel pressure from every side, worried that you may not be doing everything you are supposed to, when in reality you should be enjoying it as the treasure it is. There is no perfect method. Like everything, parenting takes a lot of love and a lot of patience.  Here are some thoughts about my parenting experience:

-Children need limits. They can’t do whatever they want whenever they want. If they don’t learn limits at home where will they? Online? Their friends? Society? Don’t be afraid to set limits.

-Children need to hear “no” once in a while. They can’t have everything they want because everything they want may not be what they should have and even if what they want is good for them, they need to develop persistence, discipline, and learn to work for what they believe in. Taking things for granted is a great danger.   

-Sometimes children have to do what they don’t want to do, and that’s ok. They may not want to wash dishes, visit an elderly family member, stay off their phone during dinner, but that is just too bad, because sometimes we all do what we don’t want to do because we know it is for the greater good.

-Children need to see you do what you are telling them to do. They need to learn manners by watching you, they need to speak properly by hearing how you speak and how you treat others. They are watching every move you make.

-Children need schedules; they need to learn how to create habits and how to organize their time. They learn that at home from the limits you set from the time they are young.

-Children need to explore their talents, know what their passions are and learn to develop them. They need to share their gifts and feel happy being who they are and that starts at home. They need your support.

-Children need to know they are loved no matter what. They need to know that even when they mess up you love them, that way they will open up and speak to you about tough things. They need your guidance even if they don’t think they do.  

So, should we be friends or parents? How about both? Be the friend who is honest, who can say things as they are. Be the friend who tells the truth, who is always available without judgement, but who is willing to guide and correct. Be the parent who is not expecting a perfect child, who is willing to listen to different points of view and different perspectives, who has rules and lovingly enforces them. Be a leader, an example, be vulnerable, and be strong, but above everything,  be you because your child doesn’t need the latest parenting trend, he or she needs you.     

Manuelita @manuelitaotero

What are you investing in?

manuelita otero


These past weeks, Ana has been telling me about her experience teaching her five year old daughter, Manu, at home. One thing is for sure, homeschooling is not for the faint hearted. It requires discipline, time, hard work, patience, energy, creativity, and so many more attributes that it would be difficult to list them all. She says the experience has  been great, but it takes a lot of preparation and dedication, which takes time and she still has her job and Happily Imperfect, which can feel overwhelming. But Ana knows that she is making an investment and a wise one too. She is investing in her daughter.

We have valuable assets such as money, time, and talents. Each day we decide if we are going to invest them or use them up. Investing takes research, planning, and patience because most of the time we won't see the return of our investment until years later. But if we do our homework and invest in the right things we will enjoy the results and be glad we did. So, the question is, who are you investing into? Because investing is not only about money, actually the most important investments we will ever make don’t even require money. They will need time, one of our most valuable assets and it will be invested in people, most likely a long term plan. You may be investing in yourself, studying late at night after a full day of work to advance your career, you may be investing in a neighbor helping her clean the yard, maybe you are investing in a special friend who is going through difficulties, or maybe, like Ana, you are investing in your children.

The tough thing about investments is that sometimes you don’t know if they are going to pay off. You may start full of excitement, but the road is long and the commitment hurts at times. You may have doubts along the way and you may even worry because you just don’t think you will have enough to continue. But when it’s time to collect the fruits of your  investment the difficulties are forgotten and you are glad you didn’t give up. Ana knows this, but it never hurts for all of us to be reminded that there is a time in which we will get to enjoy the fruits of our hard work. I often tell her that everything she is doing right now matters, that it is bigger than she can imagine, not only is she making beautiful memories with her daughter, but she is creating a strong foundation for a relationship that will stand the test of time. Why can I say this with such certainty? Because I have been there, I have invested through the years in my two children. I have deposited and now I am receiving not only double or tripled my investment, I honestly couldn’t put a number to it because the return is priceless. The long drives to tournaments, the waiting at auditions, the going and coming to practice and classes, the long rehearsals, the late nights picking up after parties, the long talks, all of it worth it. I see my children and I am so thankful for who they have become, who they have grown to be. They are not perfect, but they are young adults who want to make a positive difference everywhere they go.

Ask yourself often, who am I investing in?



The Crystal Quilt "I'm not aging, I'm ripening"

manuelita otero

My daughter and I recently visited Denmark and one of our favorite memories is riding around the city on bicycles. It was something different for us since it had been years since we had ridden a bike. We loved the opportunity to be outside, see the people, enjoy the weather, and at the same time do some exercise. Not only were the sites amazing, but the time we spent with Margarita, a family member, was even more precious. She guided us all over the city without complaints or needing to rest. I loved her attitude, patience, and the wisdom she shared with us. Did I mention that Margarita is over 70? But that didn’t slow her down one bit, so when I saw at the Tate Modern Museum in London an artwork called The Crystal Quilt I immediately thought about her.   

On Mother’s Day May 10 in 1987, 430 women over the age of 60 gathered to be part of The Crystal Quilt, the culmination of the Whisper Minnesota Project, a three year public artwork that wanted to empower older women. The artist, Suzanne Lacy, together with the collaboration of Phyllis Jane Rose, Miriam Schapiro, Nancy Dennis, and Susan Stone interviewed hundreds of women. The artist wanted to impact the community in a positive way by addressing the invisibility of older women.

During the performance of The Crystal Quilt, the women wore all black sat on specially arranged seats and engaged in conversations about their future in society while they were doing simple actions with their hands. Every 15 minutes they would hear a sound that would tell them to move the position of their hands so it would look as stitches on a quilt.

As I read about this artwork, heard the conversations recorded, saw the photos, and watched the video I loved the reminder of the importance of older women in our lives- their wisdom, knowledge, and all they contribute to society. I specially liked that the artwork was not a static piece, but a project that lasted three years and involved hundreds of women. It went out of the museum walls into people’s lives and is still doing that today. It made me think, it made me want to share it and it made me want to make a difference starting with the older women who are close to me.

You are as old as you feel. Attitude, kindness, and character are more important than a number, so we need to start seeing the women who have lived more years than us as women of great value who are offering and can offer to society more than we realize.


Children are great traveling partners

manuelita otero

Have you ever met anyone who doesn’t get excited when the word “vacation” is mentioned? When we talk about traveling, some people may smile and let out a deep sigh. It may be a sign of happiness, expectation, or maybe even a little worry. As exciting as vacations are, they can also be a little overwhelming. Adding children to the equation may even make things a little more challenging. 

Some people enjoy traveling with children, even if there is a lot of planning involved. Some families get stressed trying to make their children behave “properly”; while other parents are used to it so they don’t worry at all. There are others who not only appreciate the opportunity, but also enjoy the advantages of traveling with children. They love the spontaneity, the energy, and the curious nature that children add to vacation time. We want to remind mothers, fathers, uncles, friends, aunts, grandmothers, and grandfathers that:

traveling + vacation + children  = magical fun!

It won’t be perfect and it may require a little extra planning, but it's worth it! Here are some tips:

-Be fair with your expectations. We can’t expect children to behave as adults because they are not.  

-Enjoy your child’s company and spontaneity. Try to see things from his or her perspective.

-Take this opportunity to teach your child to be flexible. Sometimes things just don’t go the way you expect them.  

-Train your children to be good travelers, teach them to respect different cultures, to disconnect from electronics, to appreciate museums, and to go with the flow.

-A plan is just a guide and you should not expect to follow it to perfection. Memories can’t be planned, so leave plenty of space for spontaneity, be flexible, and have fun.  

-Remember that you don’t have to travel thousands of miles to discover new places and new experiences. Start with your city. Visit museums with your children, even if they’re young. Go to tourist attractions and also to the less known sites. Take family walks, cook with different spices at home, when eating out, don’t order their meal from the children’s menu, instead, invite them to try something different.  

 -From a very young age teach your children to eat everything. It may be easier said than done, but they will thank you in the future.

Above everything, don’t wait for your children to be older to travel with them. Traveling together is an opportunity to create a strong family bond and to share beautiful things.  Traveling helps children become practical, flexible, and curious, not only during vacation, but every day. It also gives you the opportunity to learn from your children to live the moment, to enjoy the small details and to observe your surroundings. Make trips a family tradition that will keep going through generations.

Ana and Manuelita


What do you see?

manuelita otero

I used to think that a “good” mom focused on her children’s needs first, was always happy, cooked every night, always looked good, and never made mistakes. Being the perfectionist that I was, I wanted to put a check mark on each of the things that according to me made a “good mom.”  I don’t really know where I got these ideas; all I know is that I felt being a mom was exhausting.  My heart was in the right place, I was happy to share life with my two beautiful children, but my perception was definitely based on something unattainable.

Perception is how we see and react to our environment. It’s not a simple gathering of information through our senses; it includes our past, our beliefs, and our experiences. Perception can be based on reality or it can come from an idea that we have created in our minds. It’s real for us and it affects our daily actions.

Illusion is a false perception. In my case I had the illusion of the perfect mom and I had set up all these expectations that couldn’t be met and made me feel like a failure.  I wonder why we do that to ourselves. Why do we define unattainable goals to “motivate” us when at the end they only make us feel insufficient? Why do we hurt ourselves this way? We are affecting not only us, but the people around us that we love.

Take a moment to carefully look at yourself, at your life. What do you see? Be honest. Do you see good things? Are you being positive about yourself? Or do negative comments keep coming up?  Many times we don’t stop to analyze why we think the way we think. What is defining your perception of life? Could it also be the illusion of the perfect mom?

Your perception is not going to change overnight, but paying closer attention to what is shaping your thoughts and decisions is a great place to start.  Many of those beliefs may have been with you since childhood and you may have heard them over and over through the years, so it will be a process. Be persistent and enjoy the journey, take the time to search within and define your values, your priorities, and what matters to you and your family.  

As for me and my illusion of the perfect mom… A lot of things had to happen to shake me hard enough to realize what I was doing to myself.  It may not have been pretty, but it was so worth it and now I know that a great mom doesn’t have to follow a certain set of rules. When my perception changed I found freedom to be the best mom I could be, imperfections and all.


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No Todo es Color de Rosa

manuelita otero

We have a saying in Colombia: “No todo es color de rosa”, which means not everything is pink and perfect. I'm not a big fan of pink but I do like how it combines with gray, and lately I've been thinking about these two colors because I want to make them a part of my life. Not so much in the physical sense, but more in how I live and how I raise my little one.

Last year I had a “primiparadas”, which is a Spanish word that means when a person makes a mistake when they're doing something for the first time. I dedicated two months to prepare my little girl for her “big people school” I’m not going to lie, I was intense. I would tell her stories of all the wonderful things she was going to see and do because, as I imagine every mom would want, I was dreaming her first day of school was going to be one of the most important and happy moments in her life.

The first day was great. She was relaxed, a little shy, but happy. But as the weeks went by she experienced things that surprised her because I forgot to mention them. I focused so much on the beautiful, perfect things of her new school that didn’t even contemplate the not so great things. I could have made her transition even easier if I had told her the pink and the gray. I forgot to tell her that some days she might not want to go to school because she's sleepy or tired, but she would have to anyway. I forgot to tell her that all her classmates didn’t have to be her friends, or that it was normal she wouldn’t like all her classes.

We may be tempted to only tell our children all the good aspects of the changes they will encounter, but gray is a part of life and it's good for our little ones to know that too. I have learned not to put so much pressure on me and on my daughter, to talk to other moms about their experiences, to ask my little girl about her feelings and together prepare for the new phases ahead, enjoying them but also realizing that no todo es color de rosa


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The secret to good relationships?

manuelita otero

Have you ever wondered why relationships seem to be so tough? Whether it’s the people we are close to or a stranger standing in front of us in line, sometimes it’s just hard.  Have you ever asked yourself what is the secret to positive relationships? I don’t think there’s “one” secret, but really lots of things that help make relationships work better.

My children have grown and now my daughter has a boyfriend and my son a girlfriend and I wish I could teach them what I’ve learned from my experience and help them avoid pain. I wish there was a list of things to do and not to do in relationships, but that’s not exactly how it works. We’re complex individuals and we find ourselves in situations where instead of lists we need character and determination. Tips, guidelines, and advice are wonderful and greatly needed, but they can only go so far, we need to teach our children to know themselves, to know who they are so they can enter every relationship with confidence.

Why do I believe confidence is key? Because it’s difficult for a person with low confidence to have a healthy relationship- I’m saying this based on experience. A person with low confidence is afraid of being judged and often feels he or she is not enough. I used to be that person. I would pretend to be fine but even the smallest comment would secretly upset me and could escalate into something bigger. Having to face my lack of confidence was difficult because I felt I had to keep my life “together” to show everyone I was strong. I didn’t want to make myself vulnerable, but I finally realized that accepting my “weaknesses” made me stronger. Recognizing the way I felt about certain things and actually sharing it with others was a great help to gain the confidence I needed.

Confidence in relationships will help you:

-Say what you mean and mean what you say. And give the people around you the same freedom to express what they feel and be accepted. Make your life simpler by being honest.

-Listen to other people’s opinions without feeling the need to defend yours. Take what’s good and let go what isn’t. Everyone has the right to his or her opinion. And remember- It’s ok for someone to disagree with you.

-Make your life a little easier by not taking every little thing personally.

-Enjoy who you are and bring your best to every relationship. You are unique and valuable.  You can share something special with each person you meet. You can make a difference in people’s lives by being you.

I don’t know the “magic” formula to have happy and thriving relationships, I honestly don’t think it even exists, but knowing who you are and feeling good about it makes a world of difference.

I tell my children that before they can have a good relationship with anyone, they need to have a good relationship with themselves. The more they know themselves the more confidence they will have. So I guess relationships are not so complicated after all. Love yourself first and then love others.


Wanting me time doesn’t make me a bad mom

manuelita otero

Being a mom is one of the best things in the world, but sometimes we forget our babies will grow (faster than we we'd like them to) and become adults with their own lives.

When we hold our baby for the first time, our priorities change. We want to protect our child, see him or her happy and in many cases we dedicate our lives to them, forgetting about ourselves.  Our children will always need us, no matter their age, but we can’t forget about ourselves. We are moms, yes! But we are also individuals with our identities, interests, hobbies, and dreams. Dedicating time to ourselves doesn't make us selfish or bad mothers.

Maybe these ideas will help you find a space just for you:

Routine – I know this word may not sound exciting, but children need a certain type of routine. It helps them organize their environment and have a sense of security.  If you can take your quiet moments each day at around the same time, children could adapt faster.

Round up – Explain the objective to your children and why you're doing it. Make a name for that time, ask them for ideas on what you could do during “mommy time.” You'll decide, but they'll be happy to be part of something important for you.

Also, define what they'll do during your time. They could work on a special project, a drawing, a book, or something that will entertain them.

Rules – It’s a good idea to define what it means for you to have quiet time, and that you should not be interrupted unless it’s an emergency. Once you take your first breath they'll come ask you for things and you may be tempted to stop. But if you are constant and respect your space, they will understand and respect it too.

Rejoice – Life is to be celebrated, big and small events. After your time alone, if possible, share some extra special time with your little ones.

Each moment with our children is precious and to be able to enjoy it completely we need to be relaxed and have some time alone.  It’s positive, healthy, and necessary for us moms to take some time each day to be good to ourselves, to do something we enjoy or to do nothing at all. It shows our children how important it is to take time to celebrate who we are and to do what we love and also to respect the needs of others. So get ready to enjoy time with your children and time alone, it’s a win-win for the whole family!


Arguing the Right Way

manuelita otero

Have you ever been in an argument about something apparently small and insignificant that without warning turns into a heated discussion, bigger than you could ever imagine?  Suddenly you are arguing about things that have nothing to do with what you were talking about. You blow up and then stop speaking to each other. You are angry, hurt and confused about what just happened.

The Free Dictionary defines argument as: a “Discussion in which the parties involved express disagreement with one another”. It’s unrealistic to expect to always agree with people around you, especially those closest to you. We could say that arguments are not necessarily a bad thing; they are a part of life. The problem is that often we don’t know how to argue.

If you really care about the people you argue with, then you want to learn how to turn disagreements into opportunities to get to know yourself and others better. This may help get you started:

-Words matter: There’s a difference between: “you are lazy” and “you didn’t pick up the clothes”. The first statement is an attack and if someone is attacking you, you will most likely defend yourself and strike back. Instead of attacking the person, describe the situation or event that started the whole thing.

-All or nothing never works: In an argument, words like “never or always” lead to a bigger dispute.  They are rooted in emotion and deep feelings of being unloved or unappreciated.  They are based on personal feelings that may not be related at all to the cause of your argument.   

-Pause: Many times in the middle of an argument, emotions take the best from you and you end up saying things that are hurtful. Once a word comes out it is impossible to take it back and the damage is done. Know yourself; when you realize you are getting very angry ask for a few minutes to cool down.  

-In it to win: Most likely when you argue you want to win, you want to be right and sometimes you may do anything to achieve that “sweet” victory. But is it worth it? Are you willing to hurt someone you love just to be right?

-Dig deep: If something is bothering too much or if it is appearing repeatedly in your arguments then you need to find the root of the problem, the real cause of what’s bothering you.

-The waiting game: Waiting and hoping that things will cool down and things will be back to “normal” without an apology or an analysis of what happened is an invitation for it to happen again and again. Don’t wait too long to say you are sorry; don’t let pride get in the way.  

-Fight fair: Don’t say things that you know will hurt the other person. Don’t lie, manipulate or use information that you know makes the other person vulnerable.

You are probably thinking that all these make sense, but you may also know maybe even from personal experience that when you are arguing you won’t remember any of these. It may take several discussions and biting your tongue more than once to stop yourself from saying something you really don’t want to, but you don’t have to do this alone. You can speak to that someone you often have arguments with and agree (before you get mad at each other) to argue wisely, to respect certain rules, and to even help each other recognize certain things you do in the middle of discussions. Be smarter than a discussion and agree to disagree.


Got Problems?

manuelita otero

The other day my children and I had to face some tough news.  It was one of those things that you didn’t want to hear, the type of news that brings down your hope in a matter of seconds. All of the sudden, we felt discouraged and exhausted.    My children were quiet and didn’t have the energy to express what they were feeling. We all decided to have some time alone and try to process what we had just heard.

When my children are hurting my immediate desire is to hug them and tell them it’s going to be ok.   With time I have learned that children, as well as adults, need to allow themselves to feel different emotions and that includes sadness, disappointment, and frustration.  This doesn’t mean that those emotions define or control our actions, but it does mean that they are real and we need to deal with them.   Teaching our children to deal with difficult situations will help them in the future when they face life on their own.  Here are some ideas on how to get started:  

- Time alone and time together:  As parents many times we think we know how our children feel and we are quick to offer solutions to their problems.  But we don’t always know, and assuming that we do is disrespectful to them. Giving a child the opportunity to sort his or her emotions and to recognize what they are feeling is a great tool for their future.  They don’t need someone offering them quick solutions, they need to be aware of why they feel the way they do and then use the help from someone to sort things out.  For this reason, children need some time alone, but not too long because sad feelings can be heavy and drag them down.     

- Let’s talk: Children need to learn to share their feelings.  Relationships are built through time and creating a positive channel of communication may be a long process. Generate spaces where your child feels free to express his or her feelings; the sooner you start this, the easier it will be for your child to open up about any topic.  

- No judging: One of the reasons children may not share what they are feeling is because they are afraid of being judged.  Your children want your approval and if you tell them: “That’s silly, that would never happen” or “Just forget it and move on” they’ll feel judged and  start monitoring what they share with you because they don’t want to feel “dumb” for telling you something.

- Now what: Once causes of feelings have been identified it is easier to define what to do, to see what things are in your child’s power to change and the ones that aren’t.. Focusing on what they can do and not losing their peace over what they can’t will help them get on the right track without stressing about a situation.

-Look at me:  Your children are watching you, especially during difficult situations. They will do as they see you do.  Actions are powerful, so walk the talk.  Don’t be afraid to express what you are feeling, but also try to keep a good attitude through it all.

You can learn from every situation; you can grow and use it as experience for the future and you can even help others as you go through the most difficult times in your life. It all depends on how you decide to tackle them.

After some deep searching, some pouring out of emotions, and honest expression of what we were feeling, my children and I made the decision that we will do what we can to fix this situation, but we will not allow stress or a sense of discouragement.  We used this bad news as motivation  to keep a positive attitude because that’s how great stories are made and we are determined to make ours a great one.

By Manuelita@manuelitaotero

Little things are not so little after all

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Some years ago we went to Kota Kinabalu, a beautiful city in Malaysia.  We saw a completely different culture, beautiful beaches, and breathtaking landscapes, but we’ll all tell you that our favorite memory from that trip was our daily afternoon cake.


Our children were still small so by lunch we were all exhausted; them from running around and us from running behind them. Every afternoon we would go back to the hotel and the four of us would take a nap, and after a well-deserved rest we would head to the hotel’s small bakery searching for cake.  From the moment we arrived we noticed the great variety of cakes. They looked so enticing that we decided we were going to try them all. Surprisingly, we did.  One piece would be enough for the four of us, so every afternoon we were armed with forks, ready to enjoy our family afternoon.  We would talk about the day, what we liked and what we wanted to do next. We just ate and enjoyed our time together. It was such a beautiful memory over something as simple as eating a piece of cake.   

Sometimes we think that the best memories are going to be the big events in life, the expensive trips, or the fancy parties, but in reality, it’s about the little things.   Think about it for a moment.  Which is your favorite memory? What comes to mind and makes you smile? Which has been the best gift you have ever received?   If you are a mom or a dad you’ll probably still have some of the gifts your children would bring home from school: paintings you couldn’t decipher, but melted your heart; jewelry, ornaments or abstract sculptures, which in my case, still decorate our living room.  Or maybe it was a little something a special someone made for you to commemorate a meaningful date for the two of you.  A flower when it was least expected, a card in the mail, a poem, or a sweet note on a mirror.

The little things are not so little after all. They are reminders that life is beautiful and doesn’t have to be as complicated as we make it sometimes. The little things are subtle and can easily be missed when we travel through life distracted with the busyness that each day brings.  Make time for those little things, notice them around you and make them happen with the people close to you.  Change lives, make memories and enjoy each day as the gift it truly is.

By Manuelita@manuelitaotero

Forgiveness is something that can’t wait

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I’d like to think that I’m not the only one who tends to be a little “annoying” with close friends and family.  Isn’t it interesting how the people who are closest to us usually have to put up with our “tantrums” and bad days more often than they should?

For reasons that I still don’t understand, the people we love the most are the ones who usually have to wait the longest to hear from us an “I am sorry”.  It’s as if we have subconsciously decided that they have to guarantee us that they will always forgive our mistakes. They may be our husbands, closest friends, brothers or sisters, parents or children, so why shouldn’t they?

We don’t take the time to analyze how a relationship slowly crumbles not because of one specific mistake, but because of several small instances in which we didn’t take the time to say we are sorry. When we try to understand the pain and suffering our loved ones go through as they patiently wait for us to apologize, we can see that the sooner we approach them with a humble and honest intention, the less they hurt and the stronger the relationship gets.  

When it comes to family and close friends, it’s better to forgive and ask for forgiveness as soon as possible.  Maybe the perfect words are not at hand and maybe there is not a nice way to adorn the event, as long as we don’t take longer than needed to be courageous and say “I am sorry”.  Make sure the people you love the most know that you are not taking them for granted, that their feelings matter and that their forgiveness is important to you.

By Ana




Are you taking your child's talents seriously?

manuelita otero

Wouldn’t you like for your children to work a job they love when they grow up? Don’t you want them to be happy every morning because they are dedicating their time to doing what they feel they have been created to be doing?  Loving what you do is a great feeling, and we can teach our children from a young age how to achieve it by helping them recognize their strengths and using them. 

However, sometimes we don’t take our children’s talents and abilities seriously.  We even discourage them from continuing, because we think they could use their time focusing on something that will “benefit” them in the future.  We may discourage them from discovering what they love and what they are good at when we invite them to try to fit to what society has labeled as “good” traits to have a “good” job. 

When I finished high school and I was trying to figure out what to study, I remember not knowing my strengths.       When it was time to make a career decision, I chose to become an international economist.  I don’t regret it, since I have learned a lot of interesting things and the education I have received has opened several doors, but I really dislike math.  I really, really, really don’t like numbers, and I had to dedicate a lot of time to them. I worked very hard to understand them and to make good grades, and I did, but it was difficult for me.      Why didn’t I choose another field? One in which I could still work hard, but at least enjoy it? Honestly, I didn’t know myself and I wanted to please my parents.  This was a great lesson. Now I am the first one to support my children’s “out of the ordinary” career paths.  My daughter wants to be an actress, singer, and entrepreneur; my son’s dream is to be a professional tennis player.  I see their talent and the hard work they put into their passion.  I am their biggest fan, doing what is in my hands as a mom and a guide so they can achieve their dream using their strengths. Will they be rich and famous? I don’t know and it doesn’t matter, as long as they are enjoying their work.  Of course they need to be realistic and have clear ideas on how to make a living, but I want them to be creative and find ways to achieve it by using the many talents they have been given. 

As parents we can know our children better than anyone and we can be the first ones to help them discover their strengths.   Here are some ideas on what we can do as parents to help our children use their strengths: 

- Listen to your children.  Hear the excitement as they discuss certain topics or share the things they have done. 

- Record special moments in which you notice their strengths at work, even at a very young age. They will love to see it later and it may help them make decisions in the future. 

- Don’t shoot down their ideas, no matter how difficult it may seem to achieve them. Listen and support.  Mention that it may not be easy. 

- Let them be children.  Many times our mature “parent mind” stops our children from letting their imagination fly.  

- Encourage creative thinking, study sessions, sport activities, involvement in the arts… expose your children to different things from an early age so they can discover their talents 

Enjoy your children’s talents, be a part of their world, encourage them, enjoy the journey with them.  Whether we realize it or not, children, no matter their age, want to make their parents proud, so be by their side as they travel through life developing their talents and enjoying who they are and sharing what they have been given. 


Don’t spend your life trying to be a copy

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Every person is unique and imperfect; so are families. That is, in part, the great joy of life: the diversity, and genuineness… not the impossible perfection or the boring copy.

Have you ever spent a long time visiting friends and ended up discovering unique characteristics about them?  I don’t mean the easy labels that many times we give families, like: “The Smiths are so funny”, or “The Rochester are so snobby”. As if every member of the family could be described with just one word. I am talking about a more in depth description that takes time and can only be done as part of a process which makes each family unique.

I dream with giving “wings” – even if it sounds as a cheesy phrase – to that wonderful feeling of being  unique and achieving something important in the world.  And as any dream that deserves respect, sometimes it keeps me up at night.  I decided to try to understand and find what is that something that could make each person in my family feel free to be who they are meant to be so they won’t lose their identity or spend their life trying to be a copy of someone else. It is easy to fall into the trap of wanting to imitate the achievements, dreams and style of other people. But thanks to experience, I finally found that the key to allow my family members to be themselves is to understand that being ourselves is a step by step process.  In that journey some steps will be in the wrong direction, some we wish we could forget, and there will be some that will be small and yet important.  We can’t wait until the end of our life to applaud and celebrate our achievements.  It is not fair to only enjoy and value the final results.  Just imagine how much more fun life would be if we celebrated small steps… ours and other people’s too.  This is how we keep the authenticity of our family and of each member in it.  This is how we stop obsessing over comparisons and we finally understand that we are traveling at our own speed; therefore, who cares how fast others are going?

Maybe I will never be able to describe my family with specific words or phrases, but nothing could compare to the life we live and how much I enjoy our step by step journey.  This is happiness.  

By  Ana




Giving starts at home

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Some of the best memories we have from traveling as a family are not related to the places we saw, the exciting things we did or the hotels we stayed at. The best memories involved giving. 

Giving abroad is a process; first you make the contacts to visit orphanages, hospitals, churches,  or jails. Then, as a family, you buy all the things you need to take. You see the joy in your children as they make necklaces or cards to give away Once you reach your destination, you drive for hours to reach the place and share a game of soccer with orphans, read a story with sick children, or simply share a smile and some food with special people who greatly need it. Giving abroad is priceless and it is the best part of your trip.

There’s something powerful about giving.  There’s so much joy when we make someone smile and make a difference in someone’s life.  Does it mean that to be able to give I need to travel to exotic locations or go on mission trips? I think deep inside we know that to give all we need is to open our heart and make ourselves available.  Once we do that, we will see opportunities as close as our neighborhood, our city, our children’s school or our workplace. 

But we don’t even have to go anywhere to start, because giving starts at home.  That’s where we set up an environment in which we give a lot, but we also receive a lot.  As a mom I can tell you that many times we show our children that we, moms, give a lot; but we forget to teach them that they also need to too. Many times without realizing it we are teaching our children that for them to give they have to receive, creating a feeling of entitlement.  In some cases children will not do anything around the house unless they get something in return. Family members need to be attentive to the needs of others, not because they are expecting something in return, but just because. 

The more we give, the easier it is, so here is a list of giving ideas to get you and your family started.  Keep adding to the list and notice how giving will become an essential part of your life:

  •  Give honest compliments. Who doesn’t love to hear something positive? You will be surprised by how easy it is to make someone’s day.   
  • Give encouragement in different ways:  Little surprising notes, texts, positive words, e-mails, or cards.
  • Give together time at an organization that works in a cause you believe in.  
  • Give kindness, polite greetings to strangers, and smiles to those who provide services for you.
  • Give love in different ways to those closest to you.  Be creative.  Making little surprises doesn’t take a lot of time or money; it just takes the desire to do it and they could become the best memories for those you love.
  • Give your family a break from the routine and do something unexpected.
  • Give everyone you speak to or listen to, your undivided attention.  Don’t let electronics take you away from the moment.  
  • Give gifts to those who add to your life.  Give cookies to the mail person, a special treat to your child’s coaches, a thankful note to someone who helped you.
  • Give at a local food pantry, at church, or at an organization that is fighting hunger in your community.
  • Give babysitting time to a couple who needs a little break.
  • Give a listening ear without any judgement to a young teen.
  • Give yourself a break and do something you love every day.
  • Give experiences, open your home to friends and family.  Share laughs, words, and good food.

Cultivating a giving environment takes time and lots of practice, but the effects on your family, and on society will make the challenge worth it, it becomes part of the legacy we want to leave.   

 Manuelita @manuelitaotero



My past doesn't define my future

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Life is made up of experiences and memories that we gather as days go by. Many of those are from our childhood, and even if we don’t remember the actual events, the impacts last a lifetime.  Most of the initial memories come from the closest people to us, our family.  Sometimes a positive word can set a determination to succeed in a child and a negative one could stay imprinted in a child’s mind, building walls and low self-esteem.  Even though we can’t choose what happened to us as children, we can do something about the feelings we have now.  Build on the positive and let go of the negative.

Have you ever stopped to think how memories from the past affect your everyday life? Even if you only see that family member who hurt you once a year, you try to ignore their comments and avoid confrontation. Tough issues need to be dealt with because anything in our life that we leave unresolved will come up when we least expect it.   Problems have to be faced, no matter how hard it may be and the sooner the better. 

Who wants to go through life carrying unneeded negative stuff, weighting our journey down and affecting our relationships? The following are some ideas to help us get rid of those heavy feelings that are stealing our joy:

- Enjoy the silence: Sometimes we keep busy on purpose so we won’t have to be silent with our thoughts, but taking time to think and analyze the things that are bothering us is necessary. How can we fix something if we don’t know what  we need to fix? Take time to think and write down your thoughts, it is step one towards inner de-cluttering.

- Be honest: Facing tough memories is hard, painful and scary; that is why many times we prefer to do everything else but that.  When we finally accept that we are not perfect, and no one else is we can bring down the walls that we have built to pretend that we have it all under control. That is when we start to be honest with ourselves and with others.  

- The blaming game:  Blaming someone for all our problems is not going to make them better, it only perpetuates heavy feelings and never allows for true healing to occur.  When someone hurts us deeply our initial reaction is to blame them and make them feel the same pain we have felt, but the feeling that “justice” has been served doesn’t last long.  True healing only comes when we forgive, let go, and we take control of our life. 

- Letting go: It is important to face the people who hurt us, if possible, letting them know what they did that affected us.  But this can only be done at the right time, when we have dealt with issues on our own so we won’t be talking out of anger but out of the desire to have closure and be able to move on.   We can’t control how others are going to react, but we can control what we do and what we say.  The goal is to face the issue and finally let it go.  The past is gone; we have our present and our future ahead and we don’t want anything negative from the past to get in the way.

- Step by step: Be patient, letting go of heavy feelings takes time so we can’t expect to be able to unpackthe unnecessary stuff in our life all at once in just a few weeks.  Some issues are going to be easier to get rid of, others will take some time, but dealing with them and defining strategies that will help us finally get over them is a step in the right direction.  

It helps to remember that no one is perfect, and sometimes people hurt because they have been hurt.  Issues from our past don’t have to define our future.  We decide what stays and what goes.

Manuelita @manuelitaotero