Speaking Portuguese in the U.S.

By Ana Rubenstein

IMG_6650 2Almost every day, somebody will ask me how I taught my first language – Portuguese – to my children while living in the U.S. I always answer to them that I didn’t. So how are they bilingual? Well, from the day they were born, I spoke to them exclusively in Portuguese inside the house and everywhere we went. Now, at the ages of 4 and 5, my little ones can speak English and Portuguese with fluency and no accent. Pretty impressive but not as simple as it might seem. 

Raising bilingual children can be challenging and I am afraid that is why many Brazilians and other foreign families living in the U.S. are not able to do it. Some people still believe that children can be confused by learning two languages at the same time, have difficulties when attending an American school and learning how to read and write. Based on my experience, I believe young children have the “superpower” of learning different languages more quickly and easily than any adult can ever be able to experience or understand. For this very reason, I always encourage parents living abroad to teach their first language to their children just like I have been doing for the last 5 years. By the way, I never judge them when they don’t, but I always wish they can change their minds.

english_portugueseIf and when they do though, they will need persistence, courage, and some support from their community. Speaking your first language with your kids around English-speakers only – sometimes your husband, in-laws, and friends – can be uncomfortable at first. In my case, it became easier as the time passed by, and as I shared with everyone how important it was to me to teach Portuguese to my kids. Another thing that made a difference for us is that my husband was always supported even when he felt “left out” of conversations. By the way, leaving somebody “left out” is part of my daily routine and I just accepted it. There is always somebody who will not understand us, but we can always translate some of the words and parts of our conversation.

Also, there is always somebody who will react negatively when they hear people communicating in another language that is not English. I heard comments such as “wait until the kids go to school and just refuse to speak in Portuguese with you”, or requests such as “Can you speak in English with your children when you are around me?” Throughout the years I became immune to those reactions and even the awkwardness I felt sometimes at playgrounds, playdates and public spaces were replaced with a sense of pride for being able to communicate with my children in Portuguese, the language I grew up speaking. For my disappointment, from time to time, my kids try to speak in English with me and I believe they will keep trying forever. As they grow, they keep learning more and more vocabulary especially at school and I am their only source of Portuguese. Not a fair game. What has been working is for me to “pretend” I don’t understand what they say unless they speak Portuguese and to use every opportunity to teach them words they don’t know yet in the language I chose for us to speak to each other.

IMG_5137They might not realize that now, but my first language is the most special gift I can ever give to them. It is a gift that reveals the roots, the culture and the essence of their mother. I like to believe that I am teaching them more than a language. I want them to learn that being “different” from their English-speaking friends and parents is not good or bad, but it is something pretty special. I hope that my children and the entire community can learn from our family and other foreign families in the U.S. that having an accent is more than mispronouncing some words. It is a sign of courage and resilience. My accent will always reveal part of a story that I am proud to share with my children and whoever wants to hear it. I was 27 years old when I moved from Brazil to the U.S. with a basic English level and God knows how much I struggled to communicate and be understood. My English journey includes the successful completion of college-level classes in this country, earning a school teacher certificate in Florida, and the creation of this motherhood blog that I proudly write in my second language.

IMG_5361Among all my accomplishments in life though, I believe that raising bilingual children was and is one of my biggest ones. Yes, my kids speak English and Portuguese, but you know what really matters? They carry a little seed I planted in their hearts that I hope it will grow to be a big tree of love for diversity, different cultures, languages, and accents. I hope this big tree will help them to connect to any human being from any part of this big world without language barriers.

Time for Forgiveness

By Ana Rubenstein

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Last Sunday, I was pretending to be a dinosaur chasing two cheetahs inside the house. My children and I were having a wonderful time when suddenly my son and my daughter collided. His front teeth managed to hit her face and open a cut that I was scared to look at. I rushed to stop the bleeding and drove to the hospital emergency room where she got 6 stitches.


After my adrenaline settled down, I dove into guilt. I blamed myself for chasing them inside the house. Why was I not more careful? Why were we running inside the house knowing it is not safe? The blame went on as I kept asking myself: “Why did I not predict that could happen? I pointed the finger at myself and said: “You failed!” and all I could think about was a scar on my daughter’s face. Somehow I woke up from the nightmare I was in and noticed how I have been so hard on myself not just on this occasion but so many others in my motherhood journey. How many times I have been my worse enemy?

This time though, I chose to forgive myself for this accident. I went further and forgave myself for all the areas in which I felt that I failed as a mother before. I imagined that this mother that I am right now could travel to the past and meet the mother I was at some point in time to offer her a sincere piece of forgiveness and why not a big hug too?

self_loveThis week I revisited myself at last Sunday night, looked into my eyes and said: “Ana, you were playing with the kids, you were having fun with them and they bumped into each other just like they would in any other place. It was an accident and I forgive you”  I went on saying that Sophia hurt her face and this was not my fault. “I forgive you for not predicting this accident and for not preventing the 6 stitches on her face. I forgive you for not predicting she would pick the stitches a day later and compromise the healing. I forgive you for yelling at her when she did that. I forgive you for not always being positive and patient during this process. I forgive you for not always knowing what to do. 

After forgiveness, I then offered myself acknowledgement. I acknowledged myself for playing and having fun with my kids, for going to the ER as fast as I could when I was so scared and not sure of what to do. When my daughter’s face was bleeding I was there to clean the blood, hold the skin together, give her hugs and keep her calm when she was unsure and also scared. I acknowledged myself for holding her hand and supporting her when the doctor was doing the stitches. I acknowledged myself for bringing her to different doctors including a plastic surgeon and making sure she is healing well and staying safe. I acknowledged myself for taking care of her and making her feel loved. I acknowledged myself for teaching her that her body has the power of healing and that it takes its own time.

IMG_6814 2 Now I want to extend the invite to all the mothers here to forgive themselves, to drop the “mother’s guilt” and the expectation of being perfect. I invite you to accept that we will never have all the right answers and stay away from all mistakes in this motherhood game. Why should we keep insisting to focus on the negatives, in what we didn’t do or what we should have done? The accident we wished we prevented or predicted, the patience we have lost, the time we didn’t have to give them more attention, the advice or comfort we were supposed to give and we didn’t know how, the important thing they had to say and I didn’t listen, that day they wanted to play and we were no available, that day we said no and wished we said yes. The list can go on and on, and before it gets bigger, it is time to stop focusing on our failures because they just make us feel so heavy and take away our peace of mind. It is time to change perspective, let the criticism go and start to acknowledge ourselves for all the positive things we do for our children. It is time to learn from mistakes, to use them as an opportunity to create something positive around us. It is time to let the forgiveness and the privilege of motherhood in. It is time to start this practice until we master it.

So next time mom’s guilt strikes you, ask yourself “What I am doing right?” Acknowledge yourself as fast as you can and ask for help if you are having a hard time to see it for yourself. Put a break on self-judgment and criticism. Make a point to learn from every experience and keep mothering with love, the most important ingredient. Cheers to motherhood with imperfections, forgiveness, and peace of mind.

Patience for Mother’s Day

75285175 - patienceI wished this Mother’s Day I could receive a lifetime supply of Patience with my children! Can you imagine something like a Patience Spray that we mothers could use at the first signs of irritability, frustration, disappointment, or anger? A charming bottle with the following instructions: spray twice every time you feel like yelling at your children or impulsively react to them just to regret later. Side effects: start to respond calmly and respectfully to any daily adverse or upsetting situation.

I am sure that a Patience Spray could have made my stay-at-home-mom days much more pleasant in these past 4 years. I wished I had it when my 3-year-old threw a comb inside the toilet, and we had to spend around $200 for a plumber to unclog it. And when he threw his sisters’ coins inside, again, the toilet. I wished I had this spray when I discovered a small bottle of bubbles inside my toaster and another time when my daughter spilled a milkshake all over my car. And all those times my kids were pushing or trying to hurt each other when I was on the phone or talking to a grown-up or when they interrupted me with a request, a complaint or something they couldn’t wait to share with me. I really, really wished I had the spray when my kids were potty training, especially the day my daughter peed all over her bookshelf and the new rug. I didn’t have the spray and I lost control, and then I felt guilty afterward and I regretted it too.

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If you are a mother, you know what I am talking about and I am sure you have stories like this to share with me. Right? But, before you even start, let me break the news: I am afraid our small children will keep doing things like this no matter how loud we can yell at them, how many times we send them to time out or take away their privileges. Patience on the other hand, even though we can’t receive it as a Mother’s Day gift, we can keep developing just like we can learn a new skill: with courage, practice and repetition, if we choose to.

NotforyelligMy choice is made and I invite you to join me in the “non-yeller mom journey.” Be aware it will surely involve failures and time before we master it. But what will keep us going when we fail and think it is impossible? In my case, I will remember how I am their role model and how I want them to learn with me how to regulate their emotions when facing adversities. My goal is that everybody in my family experiences being upset and angry or disagreeing with each other without the need to yell or raise their voices. You may say I am a dreamer, but would it be amazing to live in a world with people just like that?

So now I invite you to create your personal Patience Spray. For some of us, it might be exercising every day. For others, a daily meditation, mindfulness or breathing exercises. Some mothers will find more balance when attending monthly moms night out or finding a support system to surround them. Others will find that being away from the kids from time to time will be effective in recharging their “Patience battery.” There is no single answer so we can pick and choose the right ingredients of our “spray”, the one that will help us have peace of mind.

I am happy to share some of my ingredients. I hope it inspires you to pick yours, and I request we support each other on this patience journey. If you are already a patience master, please, be our mentor!

Set a Goal and Pick Accountability Partners

I set a goal to be more patient and a non-yeller mother. I found it important to have an accountability partner to help me remember my commitment when I have setbacks. In my case, my own children got this role once I shared with them that I am working on being more patient and not yelling at them. Now, at the first signs of getting upset and raising my voice, they say: “Breath, mom! You cannot yell”. Mom friends and partners make good accountability partners too. Pick somebody and share.

What is Causing Me to Be Impatient?

Sometimes I am upset at other things or people and I end up taking it out on the kids. I found it helpful to ask myself “What I am really upset about?” and practice to distinguish it. Is it tiredness, sickness, unrealistic expectations (kids will be ready in just 30 minutes to go to school), failure to plan and organize my day, displaced anger? I can identify it most of the time but sometimes it is too late. The goal is that, with practice, I can catch it right away and avoid going from 0 to 100 just to regret it later.

Saying Sorry and Recommitting to the Goal

I have been saying sorry to my kids when I yell. Sometimes, I fear that after so many “sorries” they will stop forgiving me and just label me as a yeller, grumpy mother. But I am also hopeful that, with time, my ability to regulate my emotions and remain patient will become stronger.

I share with them that I am learning this new skill and that from time to time will be making mistakes. When it happens, though, I will apologize and recommit to patience or chose a different way to respond in the future.

Creating a Tool Box and an Emergency Plan

When the kids push my buttons I like to breath, pay attention to my physical reaction and identify why is that triggering me. I tend to share how I am feeling with them and how what they do makes me feel or the impact on other people. I have tried to ROAR instead of yelling but it didn’t work well. Now, I have been trying to say the word “Bubbles”. It is our secret sign that things are about to get ugly.

Taking about ugly, PMS is a time of the month that things get out of control for me, so I tend to have an emergency plan for those days. Might be a movie day at home or more time in front of the TV. It can be a good time for a neighbor or grandma to hang out with the kids a couple hours, or invite a close friend for a playdate, go to the gym and let the kids spend a couple hours at the kids care. Whatever is available to avoid yelling situations.

Good luck, mamas! I hope someday I can see all of us living in a non-yeller world. There, my baby boy throws a comb inside the toilet, clogs it and I calmly say: “Let’s use another bathroom until the plumber can fix it. And remember, my love, that toilets just like pee, poo and toilet paper.” And when he throws a bubble container inside the toaster… “Toasters are just for bread, my love.”

Full-Time Travelling With 3 Kids

Interview by Ana Rubenstein

cover_travellerHave you ever thought about leaving everything behind and becoming a full-time traveler with your family? I personally fantasize about it sometimes but not sure I have what it takes to live this lifestyle. Brittany Kirby and Chris Horn though are two of these courageous human beings. Since October of 2017, they have been traveling full-time around the USA in their RV and so far they have covered 18 states along with their three little explorers Fisher (6), Boden (3) and Miles (8 months). Brittany recently shared with me a little bit about this experience, and I hope you enjoy learning about it as much as I did. Maybe you will even feel inspired to join this lifestyle? Continue​ on reading

22 Days of Non- Stop Decluttering


By Ana Rubenstein

At the beginning of 2019, I made the commitment of bringing organization to my life but I had no idea how to start. At first, I was overwhelmed and even afraid of telling people in my life about what I was up to. “What about if I fail again or can’t keep up?” This thought was always in the back of my mind. I finally found the courage to share my 30-Day-Decluttering Challenge with my friends and family, with readers of this blog, and with my followers on social media. As I did it, some of them became my accountability partners by asking me how my project was going, and, most importantly, by sharing how I inspired them to organize and declutter their own houses. Wait? What? Me? My mother would never believe this actually happened. It did and my community keeps encouraging me to become what I always wanted to be but never thought I could: an organized person with a house that sparkles me with joy. Continue on reading

The Organization Beginner and The Declutter Challenge

By Ana Rubenstein

8d541208-4bba-48ae-95b4-da6663f226edI am not naturally an organized mother. I am not an organized person. Are you? I wonder if organization is a skill you develop over time or something you are born with? I think it is something you can learn, but, honestly, I have been too busy with other things in life that I skipped this subject altogether. Shame on me as I have been called disorganized many times over the years and even felt bad about it. After I had kids, disorganization reached its peak and I started to justify to whoever wanted to listen. “I have no time to organize the house. I am always chasing the kids around or they are always taking everything out of place.”

If you entered my house right now, you would find clutter, things out of place, unfolded laundry sitting on my couch, my kids’ toys laying on the floor, dishes in the sink, and, honestly, an unmade bed. If this sounds familiar to you and resonates somehow, stay with me. Should we keep accepting the “disorganized label” and feeling overwhelmed by the clutter in our house or should we do something about it? Continue on reading

What Are YOU Bringing to 2019?

By Ana Rubenstein

man with fireworks
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I am starting my year doing something that I love, writing, and something I often feel uncomfortable doing, making requests. So, here it goes, today I request you make time to do something that you love or that brings you joy, and something that scares you even just a little bit. Are you up to it? The second request is that instead of using the expression “I want 2019 to bring me….”, you start sharing with people in your life what YOU are bringing to 2019. Maybe more patience with your kids? More organization to your house? More time for yourself? Better relationship with time? Better nights of sleep? Passion to your relationship with your partner? You name it! The sky is the limit. Continue on reading