Browsing Category

Uncategorized

Uncategorized

Friday Favorites {2.16.18}

Hey hey it’s Friday! We have a fun weekend planned with a date night, a birthday painting party and a “no-plans Saturday morning” that I’m so excited about.

These right here are some of my favorites if you’d like to see.

Sheet fried eggs– what?!?! If I had known about these years ago it would have saved me from hovering over the stove. We’ll be trying these out Saturday morning so I can hang in bed a little longer while the oven does all the cooking.

My dad was in town last Saturday and we surprised him when he came over with our family Valentine’s party.

Haha! We had this magnificent sign on the porch with a spotlight to greet him when he arrived at our door.

And these ridiculous balloons that my kids picked out especially for the party! Everyone received a gift from the table in the corner.

My son and I picked out chocolates at our local candy shop special for the occasion- here he is sampling them- choices choices!

We buy striped Amazon pajamas for the kids all the time, but this time I bought some for me and my husband too (it was one of his Valentine’s gifts). My daughter was so excited when she saw us wearing them. She ran to her room to change into her pair so she could match us!

I can’t wait to get into gear for spring. Usually on the first nice day I head to Lowe’s to jazz up my patio. Here are some fun ideas to get ahead of the game.

Also if you need a mood boost, check out these fun links…

How The Rock feels about rainbow surprises 😂

I did a post on “work moods” this week and how to take yours up a notch. And this interview, “Why Limit Happy to an Hour” just puts me in a good mood.

This window washer really makes the best of his job!

Toddlers and their bedtime shenanigans… I mean this is my life.

Finally on a more somber note, this school shooting has me just utterly devastated. I just can’t even imagine what these families are going through and my heart pours out to them. It’s hard to know what to say and sometimes we are all left feeling a little helpless. If you’re feeling that same way but would love to take action, here are five ways to help.

Have a fun relaxing weekend and hug your loved ones a little tighter!

Family, Food & Wine, Health, Uncategorized

Friday Favorites {2.8.18}

Happy Friday- Whoop whoop! Work has been insanely busy and I couldn’t be more ready for the weekend! We are still surviving winter in a big way over here- I am particularly over it and we sure are ready for some warmer weather- however it’s projected to be cold and gloomy again this weekend so our plans will be something indoors. We might head to the movie in theatres now- The Greatest Showman- and we’re scoping out a hands-on, interactive, dinosaur show at the Agricenter this weekend.

I haven’t posted favorites in a while but here’s a little bit of what I’m loving.

I discovered these two recipes during my Whole30 journey and they’re on weekly repeat at our house now! If you’re doing Whole30 too just minus beans and rice on the second recipe.

Click here

and here

My new go-to workout is Pure Barre! My back was really killing me due to sitting at work all day. I was going to the chiropractor every month but I have not been back in 3 months due to Pure Barre! It’s a lot of planking, core work and stretching that I think was missing from my life. This workout can get expensive but they always have a special going on that makes it a little more economical. It’s been worth it for me, and my back, to have a stronger core!

My kids are real comedians at this age and I’ve been blogging a lot lately about our life, and our humor.

Click here to read about my son’s 3 medals and here to read all about how my daughter is asking everyone she encounters all about their age!

If you’re looking to create a collection, here are some details to consider.

Plus if you’re interested- I give you permission to nap!

I found these Brazi bites at my local Fresh Market and I’m in love- they had me at cheese and bread. It’s been about 6 years since I’ve visited Brazil, but as far as I can tell these little bits of heaven aren’t too far off the mark from the originals. You can find them in the freezer section. They’d be great appetizers if you’re needing to bring a side for a potluck.

I hosted our dinner club last weekend at my house- apps and game night was the theme. It was so much fun! Everyone brought and app and a game and the food spread we ended up with was something I just would never have accomplished on my own! One of the crowd favorites were these Parmesan cheese bites! One of my friends described them as “little bites of heaven”.

Other than that I’m also loving these two pictures, but I’m partial!

I hope you’re having a great week so far. Be sure to comment all about what you’re loving right now!

Health, Uncategorized

Do You Have a Collection?

When I was younger I collected Pez dispensers- I had forgot all about it until my brother sent me a vintage Santa Pez dispenser this Christmas. Other than some coins that my great grandfather gave me when I was younger, I’ve really been out of the whole collection loop for some time.

Fast forward to parenthood, next year Graham will have to build a collection of 100 things for Kindergarten so we’ve been noodling with ideas on what to target. One afternoon he collected acorns in the backyard and we thought that might be the winner, but he left the bucket on the porch and a few squirrels who had been starving over the winter jumped on the opportunity to snack on his hull. Now Graham’s been gathering acorns instead, to feed to the squirrels.

Graham got a Polaroid camera for Christmas and a photo album that fits Polaroid snapshots so lately he’s been taking random pictures of our daily life to place in his memory book. So far that’s the collection he’s stood by and I’m loving that this photo album is completely made by him of his perspective on how he sees life as his younger self. The book includes pictures of his favorite toys, his babysitter, and our family.

Rose from retirement.com says there are 8 benefits to having a collection, one of them being the improvement of organizational thinking- she organizes her Rhino collection by horn length!

Amongst other reasons, James Halperin mentions that people collect things for the competitive challenge, relaxation and stress reduction, knowledge and learning or the desire to control or possess small order to the larger world.

Artofmanliness.com gives this tip when considering the start of your collection:
“Make sure your choice is broad enough to make the hunting fairly easy at first, but niche enough as to not be overwhelming. For instance, you don’t want to collect sports cards as a whole — that would just be too much; focus in on a single sport or a particular team or player.”

I’ve always loved the idea of collecting corks from wine or champagne on special occasions and noting the celebration and date on the cork with a sharpie.

Do you have a collection? Graham’s upcoming poject is making me want to start my own!

Family, Uncategorized

Life Lately {11.13.17}

Well hello. We have been keeping busy lately. October was a good month for us and we were sad to see it go. Here are a few ways we made sure to enjoy the month and the weather.

We started out October with Disney on Ice. I really wasn’t sure if these kids would sit still long enough, but we took a chance and I’m so glad we did because they LOVED it!

We did a little car shopping and well it isn’t always roses with these two. We were chatting with the salesman and we turned around to find these two wrestling on the floor. Sigh.

We finished soccer season with a bang. These two friends just love to hang out!

The weather cooled down and we found this fun hat at our Bass Pro Shop.

I did a little meal prepping with the cutest little assistant.

We attended school Halloween parties….

This Halloween party had a fun crafting station. What a fun idea!

We attended my son’s school Peace Day celebration complete with a dove release. The best part was watching this kid play on his school playground.

We celebrated this guy’s birthday!

We tried a new restaurant.

They had fun games including a Moana board game complete with character figures.

They have a yummy butternut squash soup!

And we enjoyed the cool fall weather riding bicycles and climbing trees and swinging on tire swings.

We visited the most fun farm near Huntsville and picked out pumpkins, rode on hayrides and swam in corn.

We visited family and my sister-in-law broke out their school mascot “The Buck” for the kids. My daughter was not much of a fan- eek! His eyebrows are kind of angry! Fun fact: My sister-in-law LOVES mascots. She filled in as the school mascot when she was in high school. She’s just the perfect size to play the part of a school mascot!

And finally our trip ended with a lot of outdoor time, gator rides, kite flying, a homemade playground (out of chopped tree stumps) and some swinging.

 

Also, our kids dressed in these costumes about 4.2 million times (or maybe just five times- it felt like they wore them all month).

We were sad to see October go and can’t wait to celebrate again next year. These kids are just so fun.

Family, Uncategorized

Friday Favorites {10.12.17}

HELLO Friday! Ah, after six days of being out on vacation and then for a work conference last week it sure is good to be home. I missed my kiddos so much.

We had a little bit of a crazy week THIS week. My daughter’s school had a sewage mishap, caused by the water company. Well the entire place was backed up with sewage overnight, flowing for a good six hours before anyone made it out. So what they have is a good 4 inches of poo poo (literally) all throughout the building. We have been coping with a pieced-together-plan of working from home and a fantastic borrowed nanny that stepped in to support us for a few days. The most amazing contingency has come about as a result of the contaminated building and we are crossing our fingers that the school will relocate to another promising facility next week! The school is having to replace EVERYTHING since items are all deemed contaminated, so parents and teachers are all coming together to outfit the temporary location. This is crazy town!

I love to spend time with my toddler at home, but working from home with a toddler for multiple days is no joke. I know she’s ready to get out of the house and play with her friends and go back to her regular routine.

We also heard a bit of news about our adoption journey. We originally planned to adopt internationally, but due to my preexisting medical condition and our birth order plan, coupled with a few other details, we found that we did not have a risk-averse country that would accept us, so we have decided to switch to domestic adoption. Basically, we could have wrapped up our adoption application for a country, gone down a long road of waiting, paid up to $20,000 in country fees, all to have the country come back to us with a “no”. I don’t have any more info on our new plan other than that for now, because we ourselves are in the dark, but we’ll be sure to keep you updated on our journey here.

So here we are again, where I recap my Friday Favorites with you and share a little bit about what’s been going on.

First, one of my favorites was visiting my new baby niece. I wrote about my trip here. Isn’t she just so precious? I remember that newborn stage being so fun but so exhausting!

I headed to a conference in San Antonio for work. Our speaker, Mel Robbins had fun words of wisdom for us. She wrote a book about the Five Second Rule. Her method motivates her to get “out of her own way” by counting down from five every time she hesitates to do something. She equates it to a rocket launch, and says that it triggers blockers in the brain that keep humans in a procrastination state. She uses it to get out of bed, boost confidence, network, start projects, etc. Basically anything that she hesitates moving forward on. I’ve used it multiple times since I arrived home.

I finally finished Crazy Rich Asians on my trip. I highly recommend it for a fun, light read. And I picked ups JoJo Moyes, Paris for One in the airport. So far, it doesn’t disappoint!

 

This resort in San Antonio was beautiful. I didn’t get to lounge around much, but I did grab a margarita and while I enjoyed the view. It has a water slide, which I definitely didn’t get a chance to take advantage of, a spa, a gym and a TPC golf course along with several restaurants.

This was the view outside my balcony.

Isn’t San Antonio so pretty at night?

I had a little bit of time to grab a manicure on the vacation portion of my trip. Isn’t this green nail color a great transition to fall? A guy asked me at the airport “what is green your favorite color?” I was in such a zone that I did not even realize he was referring to my nails!

Right before I left for travel, we had our Fall Dinner Club. We had our annual scarf exchange and had dinner in this sweet little town square in Collierville (at this little place). Isn’t this town cute? Every single scarf we exchanged was beautiful. We all left with a fun new fall accessory!

My daughter had a fun birthday party a few weeks ago to celebrate 2! Our nephews came up to visit us with their parents and they just had so much fun with my son. They gave him a whole lot of attention. Here he is with our youngest nephew goofing around.

And last week, right after I arrived back from my trip, we headed to Disney on Ice as a family. We don’t spend the money on tickets for these type of events very often- my kids just don’t sit still at this age- but they absolutely loved it!

So that’s a wrap. It’s been a packed few weeks and I can’t wait to catch up with my husband and kiddos this weekend. I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Family, Uncategorized

Friday Favorites {8.25.17}

Hey there. It’s been a while. I have been stuck under mountains of “to do” lists, and trainings, and the first day of school for my son, and all the things that I’m trying to wrap my mind around including a test I need to take for work- eek! I think I’ve made about six lists of things that I need to do, but I keep loosing track of the lists so there are multiple lists with multiple things scattered throughout my life.

BUT I do feel extremely motivated and accomplished that we made a date night to attend the new Crosstown Grand Opening that we toured a few weekends prior. I booked both our fall and winter Dinner Club dates complete with reservations- let it go down in history that I have a reservation at a restaurant for December that I made in August! I also shared this post about tips I’ve gained over time to develop a resume.

And finally we’re surprising our kids with a dinner this weekend where they’ll get to meet the Toy Story characters crew. The end of fall is fast approaching and I’m bracing myself for Halloween costumes, fall festivals, cooler weather, and all the things pumpkin (Starbucks starts serving their Pumpkin Latte September 1st)! Also, doesn’t this Caramel Apple Mimosa look AMAZING!?

But through all the craziness and lists and work events good news came- my niece was born! Whoop whoop- I can’t wait to meet her and spoil her, she’s such a beauty and a little nugget! We are all so excited about her arrival.

I’ve been trying to capture some of my favorites in the midst of this crazy chaotic time because it helps me to be mindful of being thankful and appreciative of all the little things. Here are some of my most recent favorites to round out the week.

 


Fall Art Festivals!

My two favorite Memphis Fall Art Festivals are happening in September. If you live in the area mark your calendars!  The Germantown Festival will be held September 9th and 10th and the Cooper Young Festival will be held September 16th. Both have a variety of arts, crafts, pottery, door signs, clothing, baby goods, and all the things you can think of that would be homemade. We love shopping early for Christmas gifts.

 


These Flowers 

Aren’t these flowers from Whole Foods so pretty? I split them up and scattered them all throughout my house.

 


Our Rock Collection

People decorate rocks in our town, they call them 901 Rocks, deemed from the area code. Here’s our more recent collection. Our kids love to look at them. And when they find them in the city (which is like a giant Easter Egg Hunt) they go crazy!

 


Our Yard Day

Our yard was a little crazy. We made a point to cover some ground and involve the kids, because well, there’s no other way! So we bought these yard tools, got some smaller rakes for the kids and bagged up nearly 20 bags of leaves. I’m ready for fall and being able to enjoy our outdoor area again- it’s been so hot here lately!

PS: We love all our new tools and our bag holder for the leaves. The shovel came in especially handy when piling the leaves into the bags.

 


This Necklace

Look how pretty, and the packaging on old library cards- LOVE!


Basketball Season

Basketball season is almost upon us! And that means our hometown Grizzlies will be playing soon! If you’re local, be sure to check out the schedule.


These Two!

They’re adorable and destructive all at the same time. Here’s our art time at one of our favorite places! They were loving the stamps that day and all the colored pencils.

 

And that, my friends, wraps up all of my favorites as of late. What are you up to this weekend? We are hoping the weather dips so we can enjoy the outdoors. We also caught the tail end of this movie last night (insert ugly cry here)- we love us some Morgan Freeman! Have a great weekend!

Family, Health, Uncategorized

Hand Out a High-Five- A Little Tip

Do you hi-five? I mean do you really hold up you hand with the corny gesture to tell someone “way to go” or “hey man good job”?

I gave my husband a high-five today for eating all his corn and chicken at the dinner table (for the pure audience of our children- hey parents will do anything to get their kids to eat). I also gave my husband a high-five for putting a backyard playground together. And you know what, it’s so cheesy. But you know what else, it feels great to hold up your hand and slap some recognition right into someone else’s being.

I don’t remember ever giving my husband a high-five before last week- how sad is that? There are so many missed opportunities. I am going to have to make it up to him! For those of you still here reading on about my kooky high-five banter, here’s the back-story.

My daughter would not eat the other day. This was her regular performance. We would set down her dinner and she’d turn her head and say “I don’t like” without ever trying it. This has been going on for weeks. It started to really concern me sooo I got desperate and did the first thing I could think of. I looked at my son and started giving him high-fives for every single bite he ate. My son was stoked and my daughter felt left out so she started shoveling food in her mouth. Hunger strike over! I was shocked! I mean, yes it was a desperate idea and I tried it out for size, but I never thought it would work!

My little experiment makes me realize how little effort requires to make someone feel engaged and appreciated. We have been handing out high-fives in our house ever since. My daughter is eating better because she doesn’t want to feel left out. She cares about being appreciated.  And what I took for granted is that my son WAS eating well and we weren’t giving him credit for that.

Here’s my challenge to you. Try out your high-five. Start with your kids, your spouse and your family and move to co-workers. Throw in a stranger for good measure. I promise you, most people can’t leave a high-five hanging. Plus, showing appreciation for other’s efforts with a high-five is totally cheesy, but strangely rewarding.

Side bar: We also tell Alexa to set a timer for a five minute count-down when our kids just take forever to eat- it drives my son BONKERS! (I can’t give away all my wonderful parenting tips in one post!) But the high-five approach has much better results around our table.

Cheers to high-fives (if a cheers and a high-five at the same time is even possible)!

~Ashley

Uncategorized

Friday Favorites {8.4.17}

Friday, Friday, Friday! I hope you’re having a great week. If you’re new here, take a look around and be sure to follow me on Facebook or Instagram or both for all the things Better with Beale.

This week and last week I have been stuck in work training and I’m so ready to move around and get back to my regular schedule because I’ve been SITTING and EATING and SITTING and EATING on repeat! We’re in the back to school boat. My son enters his 2nd year of preschool the end of this month. Finally, we’re trying to squeeze out the last few weeks of summer. It’s been hotter than hot (think 100’s), but we know the cold is coming soon so we’re trying to do all the summer season things (pool, water yard play, sprinklers, etc.).

I’m sure glad you’re here. Below are the highly anticipated favorites!

Bacon| This was the snack provided at my work training. Need I say more? A fantastic example of how Memphis does summer. It’s watermelon on a stick coupled with candied bacon. Let me repeat that: CANDIED BACON!!!! So now you know why I need exercise in my life- eek! (PS: I’m not sad about it. Just sayin!)

 


Sibling Love| These two! She can’t give out enough hugs and my son is like, really? He’s such a good sport though. She kissed and hugged him the entire walk! (PS: We do all our walks in matching jammies!)


Kicks| These red kicks match more outfits than I ever imagined. I want some for myself. They’re kids converse and I got them at a buy-one-get-one store, but I also found them online. I just love pairing a dress with tennis shoes for school. This kid’s face- she’s too much!


This book| I mentioned I started reading this book. It’s so good and a great light read so far. I haven’t finished it, but so far I recommend it.


Fail Fast| I posted all about my speeding ticket this week- yikes. That’s NOT my favorite, but I shared my perspective and that is to fail fast and how I’ve learned not to dwell on mistakes. It’s one of my favorite growing pains.

 


Praying for Others| Our women’s group at church closed one night with this exercise: trade prayers.

List a prayer you need for yourself on a sheet, throw it in the pile, and take a prayer home. I can’t post the group shot of all these beautiful women, but gathering around the prayers was so powerful that I took a quick shot of our prayers scattered all over the floor. It reminded me that everyone has something going on in their life. Every single person. We all need encouragement and grace from others.

 


That wraps up Friday Favorites for the week. I hope you are enjoying the rest of summer- have a great weekend and thanks for stopping by!

Uncategorized

From Trash to Treasure- Getting Organized

Happy Monday! It started pouring Sunday evening after a nice sunny, but very hot weekend. We found ourselves grilling under our overhang and watching the rain come down. It’s been in the high nineties and even hit the 100’s a couple of times so we’re hoping it cools things down a bit.

I’m not one to get rid of things. Well except for lately. We have a smaller home and this doesn’t mesh well in achieving my simplistic lifestyle goals. As of late, I discovered how an old trick can help me get organized, keep frequently used items at my fingertips, and make all the live-long junk look like a masterpiece. Well maybe not a masterpiece, but it keeps things from piling up and looking like, well, junk. Here’s my latest trick. It involves old spaghetti jars, Moscow mule mugs, delivery flower vases and planters.

We have been using our Moscow Mule mugs as vases when we’re not drinking up Mules!

I have been keeping our old spaghetti jars. I usually peel most of the label off and throw them in the dishwasher after they’re empty. After the dishwasher has steam cleaned them I take a razor and remove the rest of the label and sticky from the jar. I usually throw away the lid, but if you need a jar that closes you could also throw the lid in the dishwasher and spray paint it once it’s clean to hide the previous spaghetti logo and add a pop of color.

Flowers are stored on our bookcase in spaghetti jars. Having a large quantity of “vase” options allows us to buy a large bouquet of flowers from Costco and split them up throughout the house.

Measuring spoons, chords, clothespins, and loose screws are stored in spaghetti jars and pens and notepads in a flower planter.

Dish pods and sponges and bottle cleaners are stored by the sink in an old flower delivery vase and a spaghetti jar.

Finally, our front porch holds inviting toys such as bubble wands stored in a flower pot and chalk stored in a spaghetti jar. It makes me smile every time I embark on our doorstep after work. It reminds me we can still be summering even in work days.

What ways do you stay organized and re-purpose the old? I’d love to hear. Have a great week!

Family, Uncategorized

Hola and Hey Mon!- An interview with Nicole Marley

I am happy to introduce you to my long-time friend, Nicole Marley. We met in Miami through work, but we’ve kept in touch ever since and I’ve always admired her, her family dynamic, her cultural upbringing and her overall good-natured spirit. She had such a positive impression on me back in the good ‘ole days when she was juggling work and tiny little humans; I was very young in my career trying to find my way in a multi-cultural city managing projects in a region I’d never visited before. Here’s a peak into her life including her background, her upbringing, one famous relative and some of her life philosophies.

Nicole, can you tell me a little bit about your background and upbringing?

Although I was born in Jamaica to Jamaican parents, we moved to Dominican Republic when I was only 3 years old.  It made for a very fun and interesting upbringing.

I went to a bilingual school until 2nd grade to help me learn Spanish (even though the best Spanish lesson I got was hanging out with the neighborhood kids).  In 3rd grade, I transferred to an American school, where I stayed until I graduated high school.  The funny thing was that when we were home, my brothers and I would speak in Spanish but turn around and speak to my parents in English.

My life was a mixture of Jamaican culture (and food) with the Dominican lifestyle that surrounded us.  The Dominican lifestyle was not only the language, but also the food, people and culture.  I have great memories of my childhood.  We lived in an apartment complex that was packed with kids.  Afternoons were spent outside playing tennis, tag, roller skating, hide-and-seek, to name a few.  I never went to summer camp as we spent all our days outside playing.  This was during a time with no cell phones.  So your parents couldn’t find you until you decided to go home for dinner.  It was definitely a very carefree and relaxed upbringing.

Now that you’re a parent, have you thought about what that might have been like for your parents to make such a big transition and did watching them inspire you at all in your own life?

It was definitely an incredibly brave thing for my parents to do.  They landed in a new country with 3 very young children, no family support, and couldn’t speak any Spanish at all.  Back in the 1970s, you didn’t come across many people in Dominican Republic that spoke English.  As an adult, I can now recognize that, as difficult as they knew the move would be, it was in the best interest of the family.  I am so impressed by how well they adapted to their new life.  They made it a priority to learn the language and make sure that my brothers and I did too.  They didn’t let fear dictate their decision.  It definitely has inspired me as an adult.  Whatever challenge I face, I don’t let fear of failure or of the unknown dictate the decision/outcome.

What brought you to the US?

Growing up my mom would constantly tell me how important it was to get an education.  She wanted to make sure that I could stand on my own two feet and not have to depend on anyone.  She also believed that the Dominican Republic offered very limited growth opportunities and she wanted us to study abroad to broaden our horizons.

After graduating from high school, I came to the US to get my undergraduate degree.  Upon completion, I returned to Dominican Republic for 3 years to work.  Then in 1999, I left again to go get my MBA.  I never returned to Dominican Republic after that as I was offered a job in Miami once I graduated.

You have a daughter and twin boys. Tell me a little bit about your daily and weekend routine.

Victoria is now 13 and Nicolas & Sebastian are 11 years old.  7 years ago I made the decision to leave my full time job to focus on the kids.  I wanted to spend as much time with them as possible and make sure that I was there whenever they needed/wanted me.  I joined the PTA at their school and spent countless hours volunteering.

Our daily routine, which by the way changes as they get older, is a bit hectic, as you can imagine.  I have to wake up at 6am to get Victoria ready for school.  She gets dropped off at the bus stop at 6:45am.  Then it’s back home and time to get Nicolas ready, as he needs to be at school by 7:45am (he’s a safety patrol).  Sebastian is the last to leave as he doesn’t have to arrive until 8:30am.  Once everyone is in school, this is now time for me to work out, volunteer at school or the classrooms (I was room mom for Sebastian’s class this year), supermarket, and run all house related errands.  The boys arrive home from school at around 3:15pm (Victoria arrives an hour later).   This will change the next school year as the boys will be switching to a new school and will leave home earlier.  It appears that I will now have to drive Nicolas to school and probably pick him up (we will see if I can work out a carpool).  Now that they will be gone for a longer period of time, I am looking to start getting back into some flexible work and maybe take some classes (cooking or photography for example) and I started exploring being a travel agent.

Once the kids are home, the craziness begins..  All 3 of them participate in different sports/activities and schedules vary by day.  Victoria dances 2-3 hours a day, Nicolas has water polo, tennis, robotics and piano and Sebastian has tennis, basketball and dodge ball (it would be too easy to have any of them participating in the same activity at the same time, right???).  Getting everyone to their classes means a lot of driving back and forth and making sure I remember who is where and what time they finish J.  It gets a bit tricky when two of them have to be at different places at the same time.

Once I was sitting in the kitchen with Sebastian and Victoria around 9 pm.  I asked Sebastian to please call his brother down for dinner to which Sebastian replied, “But he’s not here.  You never picked him up.”  OMG!!!  Can you believe I had completely forgotten to pick him up from tutoring (the tutoring was in preparation for a standardized test for their new school and it was not part of the normal routine).

Marcelo and I try to have a least one adult outing a week.  This could be something as simple as a dinner or a movie.  It’s always great to just have time to have a quiet conversation.  We also used to take a yearly trip for a couple of days without the kids.  The kids loved that trip because my dad would babysit and he would give them ice cream every day!!!

I definitely also try to have lunch or dinner with friends once a week; girl time is always such an energy recharge for me.

I heard that you have some pretty fun family reunions. Does your family go on vacation once a year together? Where are some of the places you’ve been?

My brother Paul and his family live in Canada, my parents still live in Dominican Republic and my brother Brent and I live here in Miami.  We always try to get the family together at least once a year.  It is so wonderful when all 17 of us get together.  The kids have such a wonderful time playing with their cousins and building unforgettable memories.

We have been to Dominican Republic (Punta Cana), skiing in Canada, Mexico, Miami, Orlando, and North Carolina. It’s always fun to watch all the kids playing with each other and with my parents.  During our last trip to Canada, the kids decided to have a snowball fight with my dad.  It was too cute because they would run up behind my dad pelting him with snow and he was fighting back.  One of the favorite things that the kids love playing with my parents is monkey in the middle in the ocean.  It definitely becomes quite competitive.

When we get together, we always try to take a family picture.  The last time we were in Canada in December, we decided that it would be nice to take a picture outside in our pajamas.  We were freezing but the kids were such good sports about it and all smiled on cue.

You have kind of a fun family tree and some famous relatives. Tell me how that has made your life interesting and any how this background has influenced your upbringing?

Our colorful family tree includes Bob Marley.  Believe it or not, he was my grandfather’s cousin.  His father and my great grandfather were brothers.  People have a hard time believing we’re related simply because of the color of our skin.  The thing is that Bob Marley’s father was English (the Marley’s were English) and his mother was Jamaican.  I have met people in person (after speaking with them over the phone and them learning my name) that are surprised to see that I am light skinned.  They assume that I would look more like the famous singing Marleys.  I definitely didn’t inherit the singing or performing talent J  Being related to Bob Marley honestly didn’t influence my upbringing.  I never met him or any of his children.  We left Jamaica when I was very small and never had contact with that side of the family.

Funny story:  Can you believe that once I was in Jamaica buying something and they asked me for my full name.  When I said Nicole Marley he answered, can you please spell your last name?  Really?  In Jamaica???

I have been around you long enough to know that you have a very neutral English dialect and I have heard your Spanish dialect is also pretty neutral. Are people surprised when you explain your background and how has this provided for fun opportunities?

The funny thing about my accent is that it does change depending on the person I am speaking with.  All my friends know that my accent when speaking with my parents is totally different than if I’m speaking with you, for example.  It was hard when I worked at FedEx in the Caribbean and had conference calls with my mom on the other end (we both worked for the same company for a time).  I tried to avoid speaking directly to her because I just can’t control the change in the accent.  My kids get a kick out of it.

People always assume that I don’t speak any Spanish.  I guess because of the way I look, everyone always assumed I was American.  Once I was standing in a line at the airport and this group of girls standing behind me started talking about me in Spanish.  They obviously assumed that I couldn’t understand.  So I just waited for them to finish and then turned around and calmly asked them, in Spanish, what time it was.  The look on their faces was priceless.

FedEx was looking for someone with a neutral accent to record the messages for the call center in Dominican Republic and they asked me to do it (free labor).  It was funny because I had friends calling and listening to the messages and then they would realize it was me; I was getting calls asking me if I had a new job.

What languages do your kids speak? What language does your family speak at home?

My kids speak English and Spanish.  We have made it a priority to make sure that they learn to speak, read and write in Spanish.  My husband Marcelo is from Uruguay, so Spanish is the only way the kids could communicate with his family.  We also wanted to make sure that they were fully bilingual.  At home you will hear both Spanish and English being spoken.  I really try to speak to the kids only in Spanish but that never happens. The conversations are a mix of both.  Victoria is the one that will speak the most in Spanish.  The boys understand everything in Spanish but will always answer in English, unless they are forced to speak in Spanish.

What advice would you give someone in integrating more culture into their family?

Our house is not only a mix of Jamaican, Dominican, Uruguayan and American cultures/traditions but don’t forget that we also have 2 religions in the house.  I am Catholic and Marcelo is Jewish.  We decided to also raise the kids Jewish. This makes for a very colorful household.  Marcelo has never asked for me to stop believing in my faith or to stop following my traditions.  So, for example, we still celebrate Christmas in our house.  The Christmas tree goes up, with decorations and all, but you will also find Hanukkah decorations.  We light the candles every night and the kids get their little gifts every day.  My brother Brent’s kids are Catholic, so my kids have participated in their family’s first communions.  We always make sure to explain to the kids what they are doing and the beliefs behind it.  I feel that it is important for them to grow up knowing and accepting that we are not all the same and we don’t all believe in the same things but that doesn’t mean we can’t get along or love people that are different from us.

The most important element to making this work is respect and open communication.  We discussed the religion issue at length and how we would raise our kids, even before we got married.  It was a deal breaker. If we couldn’t reach an agreement, then both of us knew that we couldn’t continue the relationship. This is something that has to be discussed and decided BEFORE you have kids.  At the end of the day, we both agreed that we wanted to instill our kids with the same values.  If we as a society could learn to respect others and accept that we are all different, it would make the world a lot happier.

Do you have any fun plans coming up for your family?

This July we traveled to Ireland (my parents, our family and my brother Brent and his family).  My maternal grandmother was Irish and I had never been there.  My mom has always made fun of us because we all hold Irish passports, yet we had never set foot in the country.  It was a fun to visit to the country to see where my grandmother was born and where she came from.

Marcelo, the kids and I will also be visiting Croatia and Scotland.  We have tried to expose the kids to many cultures and let them explore the world around them.

I have a cruise planned with just myself and the kids through the Western Caribbean.  They are really looking forward to this trip, as they are excited about the ship and visiting new Caribbean islands.

Our summer will then end with our annual visit to Dominican Republic.  I try to take them once a year to spend some time with my parents.  We will also include a visit to a very poor area of the country to give 50 kids much needed school supplies for the upcoming school year. This will be our second year doing this.  I wholeheartedly believe that they need to learn that they have a responsibility to help others that are not as fortunate as them.

Thank you Nicole! What an inspiration you are! Your background, your family, and all the cultural aspects of your life have definitely had a beautiful impression on me and I’m sure others feel the same!