Sometimes you meet someone and like them instantly. Maybe it is because you recognize that you share a similar outlook on life, or maybe it’s because they are a straight shooter and there just aren’t enough moms out there like that (in my opinion). Denise is one of those moms. She tells it like it is, and knows if you don’t laugh, you will cry. And this smarty mom has been surviving twin boys for the last 10 months. That, on top of raising a percotious four year old daughter makes her a rock star in my book.
I didn’t get to see Denise much this summer, because she was living in Ecuador. But she is back, so I wanted to introduce her and learn more about her transcontinental lifestyle. Now that I think about it, she’s like Angelina or Madonna with their far away houses (but Denise’s accent is real). But, I will tell you something she has in common with these celeb moms – she had a nanny in Ecuador. Everyone in Ecuador has a nanny, so now it is on my list of places I might want to live!
Por favor lee más sobre una mamá internacional, conocida y querida por muchos.
Married to: Marcus for 8 years
Mom of 1 Girl and Twin Boys: (Emilia, age 4 and Andres & Javier, age 10 months)
Originally from Alexandria, VA
Years in Charlotte: 8
Alma Mater: Rockford College, Rockford Il (undergrad), Columbia University, NYC (graduate)
Smarty ‘hood: South Charlotte
Tell us about living in two counties each year?
I’ve been fortunate that I’ve pretty much always lived in two countries. Growing up, my mom would send me home (to Ecuador) almost as soon as school would let out for the summer and come and pick me up just before school started again. I’m an only child, but I have tons of cousins, several of whom lived there, so between them and friends there were tons of kids to play with and I was never bored. I also got to do lots of fun stuff like go horseback riding, travel to the rain forest – similar to what I imagine summer camp would be like (except the ‘rain forest’ part). My mom, extended family, and in-laws live there so it’s important for us to go back on a regular basis because we want everyone to see the kids. We all know how quickly they change from year-to-year. This year I went with the three kids from June to August and it was awesome.
What is the best part about about livining in two countries for the kids?
Emilia really loves it there. She has several cousins her age as well as friends of mine who have kids her same age as well. This year I put her in a summer program at a local preschool. They had a little farm with chickens, a sheep, fish, and bunnies. Since it was a half-day program she ate snack/lunch there and they exposed her to all sorts of food I know she’d never look at, let alone try, with me. We speak in Spanish at home but being ‘forced’ to speak it in school all day with no ‘safety net’ of English really solidified her Spanish. She came back unable to speak in English. It was kind of funny – for the first couple weeks we were home she would keep speaking to her friends in Spanish and they’d just keep talking to her in English. She’s all sorted now and back to speaking both languages.
What is your favorite thing about Ecuador’s culture?
Well, I love the sense of family that exists there – you know that you always have help and support – sometimes even when you don’t necessarily want/need it. We don’t have any family locally so that’s something we definitely miss. And, of course, the food. I think for anyone who has ties to a different country that’s one of the biggest things you miss. In Ecuador we eat a big lunch and then have a light snack for dinner so lunch is a big production – soup, main, salad, dessert. It’s so nice to be able to sit down and actually enjoy a meal and have a conversation in the middle of the day – a true luxury!
What do you love about the US culture?
The freedom and security you feel here. Ecuador is a pretty dangerous country right now so you always have to be on the lookout for someone getting ready to mug you. You can’t leave your car parked on the street because it’ll probably get stolen – you don’t have those same concerns around here.
Do you speak English or Spanish when on a date with your husband?
Spanglish probably – half English, half Spanish. I joke that when we argue I argue in English and he argues in Spanish. Marcus spends all day working in English so for him it’s really hard to switch back in to Spanish.
What is one piece of advice you would give to a stressed out mom of multiples?
Man – I have several pieces of advice.
1. Accept help – ALWAYS. i have had to suck up my pride on more than one occasion and send out an SOS to friends/neighbors for help. Yes, you can try and do it all, but you’re not proving anything to anyone by doing so. Down to the little things like letting people catch the door for you or having them roll your grocery cart out of the HT. I was stupid and for months insisted I could do it all by myself. I finally got over myself.
2. Get yourself a great support system. I’m not a joiner, so while I belong to Mothers of Multiples, I don’t actually go to their meetings. I am blessed to live in a neighborhood where there are about 8 families all with kids the same age and I know I can call any of those moms and ask them for a) a halloween costume, b) a gallon of milk, or c) to rush over with a glass of wine. Ditto our playgroup. When Emilia was tiny we joined a playgroup that has met weekly for the past 3 1/2 years. These ladies are amazing – cooked us meals, picked Emi up for special playdates, came over and did laundry. I literally would be in a puddle on the floor without these two group.
3. Two words: ziploc bags. I’m obsessed and use them for everything. My diaper bag is huge and I hate having to root around in it looking for stuff. I keep spare outfits for the boys in one bag, snacks/food in another, and a couple toys in a third. Plus, you then have some way to dispose of nasty diapers/bring home pooped clothes.
4. Carve out time for yourself.
5. I go to the Y every morning to workout. Not because I love it, but because it’s one hour in the day where no one is pulling on me or needs me for anything. It’s my time for myself and I firmly believe that hour makes me a better, slightly-less-crazed, more energetic mother.
Favorite lunch spot sans kids?
What is this ‘lunch sans kids’ ? 😉 Can I say ‘standing over my kitchen counter when all 3 kids are napping’? No? Probably Panera or Dean and Deluca… great people watching at both locations.
Favorite place to score kids clothes and shoes?
I’m obsessed with Kixx shoes on Park Rd. E likes to go there because she knows her mother is weak and will probably get her a cupcake afterwards. I also hit the twice yearly Nordstrom sale for stuff like Lelli Kellys. Clothes – we do a lot of Gap/Gymboree stuff with some basics from Macy’s. I’ve also gotten quite a few cute things on etsy for the boys. I’ve found it harder to find cute boy stuff than girl.
Favorite place to take the whole family to dinner?
We have not braved dinner out the 5 of us too often since the boys tend to meltdown around 6 and no one wants to be around one crying baby, let alone two. Luisa’s for pizza is always a fave and it’s super family friendly without being a complete zoo.
Best book you’ve read lately?
As a former English major can I say I’m embarrassed I don’t read more often than I do? I remember my teachers in college saying ‘in a few years you’ll wish you had time to read!’ Ugh, they were so right. I’ve read a lot of the ‘popular’ stuff that’s been out recently – “The Help” and “Little Bee” and the Larsson series – I’m also a big fan of Jen Lancaster – she’s hilarious.
I haven’t been to the movies in FOREVER. But recently we got “The Kids are Alright” on netflix which I loved.
Best birthday party you’ve attended/hosted?
I always love my kid’s birthdays (well, really only Emi’s so far – the boys haven’t had a bday party yet). We do them at home and I love the planning and prepping (even though it stresses me out) and I always get emotional and get choked up when they start singing ‘happy birthday’ because I am acutely aware of what a miracle it is any of my kids are here and how many, many people are out there trying desperately to become parents.
Favorite date-night spot?
Any place with Marcus where we can actually sit and talk. Georges Brasserie is a fave.
Minivan or SUV?
Back when I taught and when we only had Emi I was an SUV girl, but just before the boys were born we broke down and bought a Toyota Sienna. I can honestly say that I love it. I spend a lot of time in my car between preschool, the Y, soccer, ballet, and general errands. I can barely hear the kids screaming in the backseats, I can stow all my gear in it (including my double stroller), can change diapers on the floor of the back with plenty of space. Plus with the sliding doors Emi can get in and out solo and I don’t have to worry about dinging other cars in parking lots.
Favorite Smarty phone app?
The Disney picture book app and preschool lunchbox. Great for keeping the girl entertained while we wait in lines/at a restaurant; epicurious app for helping me figure out what to make for dinner.
Favorite CSP article so far?
I love the updates of things to do for the weekend. It’s so handy to see all my options in one place. Also, I loved your ‘invasion of the body snatchers’ article. Made me fall out of my chair laughing.
I could not live without my…
You rock Denise!!!! Seriously have no idea how you do it!!! Hugs gf!!!
Denise – I have an almost four year old boy and 10 month old boy/girl twins. Seeing this post today reminded me that I’m not out here alone – and somewhere down the road from me – another mom is having the same crazy day that I am. Would love to catch up with you.
Wow! As someone who has lived overseas with only 1 child – I really take my hat off to you doing it with 3. I am a traveler an Ecuador is my “ultimate” destination so I can head to the Galapagos! Enjoyed “meeting” you.
Denise is such a smarty mom. D, the playgroup part made me tear up. So agree, of course. Minivans or bust, I knew it would change you ;). Need to try some of those apps. I love how emotional you get, esp at your birthday parties. Great advice for moms too. You’re doing so great Denise! Glad you shared your “story.” ps cute fam pic!
stop it. but it’s true… w/o you playgroup girls, i’d be dirty, dead, and unfed. mv’s rule! 😉
Holy cow I just got wind of this! Denise is a very good Mom friend/playgroup junky of mine and I can’t think of another more deserving…I never hear complaints of any kind and this year for her has been some kind of crazy ride for her for sure. I feel like I just learned a bunch about you…well at least your about alma mater…can’t believe I never knew your school background…you’re a smarty! what a cool little memorabilia piece to keep and show your kids…congrats my friend…loves:)
stop it. <3 you.